Am I unwise to accept their first offer?

In the June 18, 2013 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a job hunter worries about asking for more money:

My dream position with my dream company has just come through! The offer is good — a bit lower than I would have liked, but very good. My question is this: Do I even bother haggling over a couple thousand dollars?

I read somewhere that you should always go through at least one round of salary negotiations and that the employer actually expects it. I think I have a very good chance of getting what I ask for (especially because it’s such a small amount), but I don’t want to risk coming off as ungracious or rude.

Truly, if they don’t budge an inch, I’m still taking the job. Is it worth negotiating, or should I just accept?

Nick’s Reply

you_are_hiredI believe in enjoying happiness and not worrying whether other people think you’ve been given enough of it. Who cares what others say about “one round of salary negotiations?” If you’re happy with the offer, accept it and thank the company.

Some companies make their offer, and that’s it — they won’t budge. This company might be willing to negotiate, but you must consider what happens if they don’t. If they balk at the extra two grand, then you’re going to look weak coming back and saying, “Well, okay, then I’ll take what you offered anyway.” It says something about your request: You couldn’t justify it. And what does that say about your credibility? Remember: You’re going to work with these people. How you handle negotiations can affect how they will view you — and treat you — once you’re on board.

If the extra money really means a lot to you, then go for it. Here’s an example of how I might approach it:

How to Say It

“I believe I’m worth $2,000 more than you’re offering. But please don’t misunderstand. This is not a large difference, and I have already decided I want this job. To show you my good faith, I’ll accept your offer as is. But I’d like to respectfully ask you to consider raising it by $2,000. There are three reasons why I believe I’m worth it… But either way, I’m ready to start work in two weeks.”

It’s your judgment call. If you try this, you’d better be ready to prove your added value. By making a commitment to the company first, you establish a level of credibility that goes beyond any negotiating position.

(Some people have a hard time thinking and talking about what salary they’re looking for. This may help: How to decide how much you want. You can’t negotiate or interview effectively unless you have an objective.)

Remember that the ultimate goal of negotiating a job is not to get every last dollar you can. It’s to set the groundwork for the best possible work relationship — which is not limited to money — for the long term. That’s why it might be better to accept an offer that you’re clearly pretty happy with, and plan for how you could get that extra couple thousand as part of your first raise when you have your first review.

Congratulations on winning a good offer for a job you really want. I hope all goes well!


An expanded version of this Q&A appears in

Fearless Job Hunting | Book 9: Be The Master of Job Offers

Be ready to deal with:
 Rescinded offers, non-competes, salary surveys, counter-offers, vacation time,
Bait-and-switch, oral vs. written offers, requests for old pay stubs


Post your comments!

Do you rely on a resume to get you in the door? Does it work? What do you think makes a hiring manager invite you for an interview?

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How (not) to use a resume

In the June 11, 2013 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a job hunter wants a resume template:

I need a template for a two-page resume that will help me get in the door at a company I want to approach. Can you help?

Nick’s Reply

Resumes are a weak, passive way to get in the door (or to represent yourself). Using a template or any kind of boilerplate to demonstrate your value to a company is the worst thing you can do to yourself when job hunting.

resume_packageYou’re supposed to be uniquely qualified so the company will choose you instead of some cookie-cutter drone — right? Do you really want a “template?”

But you asked, so if you insist on distracting yourself with resumes, I’m going to offer you my suggestions. If you’re going to use a resume, here are two things to think about. Understanding these points might help you see the distinction between the resume itself, and what’s behind a truly effective resume. (In the end, this distinction should reveal to you why you don’t really need a resume.)

Talk first.

First, have a substantive discussion with the person you plan to give your resume to. That is, the manager must already know you and you must know the specific needs of the manager. So, the person you give the resume to should be the hiring authority in the company you want to work for — not someone in HR and not some unknown contact. Your initial personal contact with the manager prepares you to produce a relevant resume. (Does that sound backwards? It’s not. Read on.)

Tailor to fit.

Second, the resume should accomplish one thing: Show how you’re going to solve that manager’s problems. That’s a tall order. (I’ll bet you’ve never seen a resume that does that. Few managers have, either. That’s why most of the hires they make come from truly substantive personal contacts.)

The resume needs to be tailored to the specific employer and job. That’s why job hunting isn’t easy — and it’s why you need contact with the employer first. Obviously, we’re no longer talking about resumes as a “marketing tool” but as a tool to prove you can do a specific job. This essentially voids your question and puts us into a different ball game. I never said I’d support the mindless use of a resume; just that I’d give you my suggestions.

Tailor to fit exactly.

When you write the resume, sit down and describe as best you can how you’re going to help that specific employer, and do your best to provide proof that you can pull it off. That’s hard to do in writing. There is no boilerplate (or template) that’s good enough, because every person and every employer and every job is unique. Writing such a resume is hard work, and there’s no way around it. If it were easy, every resume would produce an interview, but we know that doesn’t happen. (Have I talked you out of it yet? Maybe I’ve talked you into a whole new way of looking at job hunting without resumes.)

A resume can’t answer questions (especially if it’s muffled under the weight of 5,000 other resumes sitting on top of it). And a smart manager will be full of questions. This is why I don’t like resumes as a job hunting tool. (See The truth about resumes.) I’d rather go straight to the hiring manager and have a talk with him — but only after I’ve done my research so I can demonstrate how I’m going to bring profit to his bottom line.

The magic words are not in a resume.

How does anyone get to that manager? Well, it’s sort of a Zen thing. You can’t approach the manager until you have something useful to say to him. Heck, you don’t even know who he is. So do all the necessary homework. Talk to people who know the industry, the company, its business, the department, and other employees. FJH-3Follow this trail to talk to people who know the manager. You’ll learn a lot. And that’s how you’ll identify and meet the manager, too — through people he knows. The big bonus: After all these dialogues, you’ll know a lot about the manager’s business, and you will actually have something to say that he will be eager to hear.

Where does a resume fit into that? Why waste your time trying to figure it out? Why submit a resume when the research you must do will put you in front of the hiring manager?

Get In The Door (way ahead of your competition) is one of my 9 new Fearless Job Hunting books. It’ll take you where no resume can and get you there in person.

Do you rely on a resume to get you in the door? Does it work? What do you think makes a hiring manager invite you for an interview?

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Fearless Job Hunting: How to start a job search (+ 9 new books!)

In the June 4, 2013 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader complains about the nagging fear that “the system” will blow up in his face:

I follow all the proper steps throughout my job search, and inevitably I hit a snag that I don’t expect. Getting a job is portrayed as this system everybody follows — employers, job hunters, personnel people, recruiters. But the truth is, even if I do what I’m supposed to do, it just blows up in my face.

I do my part, but employers drop the ball. It seems the salary range fits me, but then I find out it doesn’t. I’m ready to answer all the questions they could possibly ask about the job, and they throw me some stupid curveball! At the end of the interview, they promise an answer next week, but next month they’re still not returning my calls.

No matter how prepared I think I am, there’s this nagging fear that around the next corner is yet another surprise that’s going to blow up in my face. How is anyone supposed to use this system to get a job?

Nick’s Reply

BIG-FJH-PKGI’ve been burning the midnight oil, working on Fearless Job Hunting, a brand new set of 9 PDF books — the very best myth-busting answers from 12 years’ worth of ATH newsletters. But it’s not just reprints of Q&As.

I’ve re-written, edited, enhanced, and beefed up each Q&A. I’ve added sidebars, articles, and extra examples. I’ve created How to Say It tips. Each book delivers my very best insight and advice on the 9 toughest topics you keep asking about. So let’s get on with this week’s Q&A — and then I’ll explain how Fearless Job Hunting will help you ovecome the daunting obstacles that stop other job hunters dead in their tracks.

I’ve been saving your question for this special edition of the newsletter, because there’s no simple answer to it. The solution starts with an attitude and a strategy for landing the job you want — but it’s not in this week’s newsletter. Please click here for my advice about How to start a job search.

What you will find is a sample section from one of my 9 new PDF books in the Fearless Job Hunting series — Book One: Jump-Start Your Job Search. I hope this sample — How to start a job search — helps you orient your job search so you can stop fearing those curveballs.

Fearless Job Hunting™

I’ve published almost 500 editions of the Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, and I get lots of requests for reprints of old editions about the toughest job hunting obstacles.

My goal with these 9 new PDF books is to make you a fearless job hunter — I’d like to give you an edge, and help you anticipate and overcome the intimidating roadblocks when you’re trying to land a job, so you can stand out as the most profitable hire. (Here’s a list of the titles of each of the 9 new books.)

The question in today’s newsletter merely highlights what troubles job hunters: The broken-down employment system that every day fails employers and job hunters alike.

Success in job hunting isn’t about chasing job postings, sending resumes, and filling out endless online application forms. If any of it worked, you’d have the job you want. It’s not a step-by-step “process” for landing a job. There is no such process that works! If you’ve been participating on Ask The Headhunter, you know exactly what I mean, because it’s what we discuss every week!

In the real world, “the steps” lead to failure when you encounter daunting obstacles — the inevitable obstructions that trip you up. Either you know what to do to overcome them, or you lose.

The 9 Fearless Job Hunting books help you deal head-on with what drives you crazy. They deliver hard-core answers to the in-your-face questions no one else dares to address. Success in job hunting is about knowing what to do when you hit the wall:

A personnel manager rejects you.
Should you walk away? (Book Four)

You’re unemployed.
How do you explain it? (Book One)

A friend gives you a contact.
How do you make it pay off? (Book Three)

An employer wants your salary history.
How do you say NO to protect your ability to negotiate? (Book Seven)

It’s between you and Candidate #1.
How do you show that you’re the more profitable hire? (Book Six)

You received an offer, but a better one is pending. The first employer wants an answer now.
How do you keep your options open? (Book Nine)

The interview went well, but they’re not calling back.
What now? (Book Eight)

How you cope with these obstacles will make or break your job search, no matter how good your resume is, how clever your interview answers are, or how many jobs you’ve applied for. Learn how to be more assertive and how to maintain control in today’s insane job market.

Be fearless. Dive into your job search armed with myth-busting methods to deal with the most daunting obstacles. Get the Ask The Headhunter edge, and say hello to total control over your job search.

Think about the handful of “hit the wall” challenges I’ve listed above. Then please share your experiences: How have you dealt with one or more of them? Let’s compare your methods with some of the tips I’ll discuss from the 9 new Fearless Job Hunting books. And don’t miss the sample section of Jump-Start Your Job Search!

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Fearleass Job Hunting™ is a trademark of Nick Corcodilos.

Who says 58 year olds can’t get a job?

In the May 14, 2013 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader tells how he landed a job with more money, more vacation, in short order — at age 58:

I just wanted to tell you that I got a new job. Though I got this job by responding to a posting on LinkedIn, I used some of your methods during the process.

over-50This employer required a personality test, a cognitive test, a panel interview, and a puzzle test. I had to figure out a problem during the panel interview. I also had one extra interview with the vice president. Your typical HR-centric process.

So, what did I do that followed your advice? To be honest, I was a bit upset at the testing process, but this seemed a little useless since it was a requirement and I passed all the tests easily. I decided that I would make a quick package to show how I would do the job.

  • I created an outline of how I would approach the job.
  • I defined a process called a “Business Intelligence Baseline” that I would do on my first weeks on the job.
  • I enclosed a sample of a similar project I had done for another employer.
  • I also included a quick summary of a conference I went to on Big Data, because I knew that this firm was looking to get into Big Data.

I sent it to the VP.

I was offered the job with a slight raise and twice as much vacation time as my previous employer. (I should have gotten your salary book to help me with negotiations!)

Well, I don’t think that is the “it” job. It is the “for now” job.

Now I am going to start doing the process you recommend. I am going to do the networking and the other things you suggest. I like the point you make in How Can I Change Careers? that a person should be doing this all the time. When I need to move on, I will be ready.

To put this all in context, I was laid off from my job on March 22. I contacted these people on April 9, and got a formal offer on April 30. I just want to thank you so much. I will continue to follow you online and via subscription. I am not expecting a response. I just want you to know that on this pass I have been only a fair disciple of your methods. I promise next time I will do better. Thanks again.

Your “only fair” disciple,

Andy Hoyt

PS — September 14 is my 59th birthday!

Nick’s Reply

Your story needs no reply, no advice from me. Just a hearty congratulations! Thanks for sharing it. Readers sometimes ask me for a “template” they can follow to their next job offer. You’re 59 — theoretically almost unemployable. Your template works! (Those looking for more about this, please check The Basics.)

I wish you the best, and I hope you’ll stay in touch to tell us about your next job offer…!

I’d love to hear from job hunters who try an approach similar to Andy’s. The steps closely follow what we discuss on Ask The Headhunter. Andy showed how he’d do the job! Do you know anyone who made a deal like this one happen?

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Job Boards: Take this challenge or F off!

In the May 7, 2013 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a job hunter gets fed up having to pay to “access” jobs online:

I have been job hunting for three weeks now and each time I come across a job that I would like to apply for, I get directed to a website that demands payment. Can you comment on this in your next newsletter or blog? I want to know how to get around it if possible.

Nick’s Reply

Websites that demand payment for jobs should deliver jobs and paychecks before they bill for sf-off-2ervices — or they should F off.

The only people who charge to match a person to a job are headhunters, and headhunters (at least the real ones) charge only the employer. They never charge job hunters. And they charge only if they actually fill the job. That is, no match, no dough.

Who is charging you for jobs?

If you can find me a website that charges money and guarantees you a job, I’d like to see it. Otherwise, it’s important to understand what you’re paying for, because there’s an entire industry that will take your money (and your personal information, which is worth money) and guarantee you only one thing: database records.

Let’s consider what you’re encountering. If we Google “headhunter,” we get two paid results at the top of the page: One for TheLadders and one for Monster.com. Neither is a headhunting company, so there are no guarantees about putting people into jobs. These are job boards that want lots of personal information before they will even show you a job description. (How many employers demand all your personal information before showing you a real job? And what’s up with Google? TheLadders and Monster are headhunters? Give us an F-ing break, Google!)

TheLadders (which is being sued for running multiple scams) wants money for access to jobs.

When you click on the Monster.com result, Monster thinks you’re an employer and wants money to post a job.

Another result is CareerBuilder which, when you sign up, tries to sell you education at The Art Institutes — before it shows you any jobs. If you want to “make sure employers see your resume,” CareerBuilder wants you to pay for an “upgrade.” Pay enough, and you’ll “triple the number of companies who see your resume posting.” (Are you feeling stupid enough yet? I wonder if those sucker HR executives feel stupid enough yet — after paying for resume searches and getting your resume “FIRST” because you paid to “stand out.”)

You think the much-ballyhooed LinkedIn is any better? Like CareerBuilder, LinkedIn wants hard cash up front to to bump your resume to the top of the database. (Say what? Well, it works just like CareerBuilder, because now LinkedIn is just another job board.)

None of these job boards will guarantee you a job (or, if you are an employer, a new hire) if you pay them.

So here’s my challenge to all the job boards:

TheLadders, Monster.com, CareerBuilder, LinkedIn, and every other “jobs” service that wants money up front should bill the customer only after the customer starts the job and gets their first paycheck. Job first, pay later.

Otherwise, they should all F off. Because in today’s world, access to databases with jobs in them is worthless. If you pay for access to jobs, you’re a sucker.

So let’s get back to your question:

How can you get around fees for access to jobs?

Here’s the first answer: Deal only with employers. They are the only guys with jobs and the only guys that decide who gets one. (Not even personnel jockeys, or “Human Resources people,” qualify. They don’t decide who gets hired, either, unless the job is in HR.)

Here’s the second answer: Don’t give your personal information to anyone in exchange for “access” to job listings, because your personal information is worth money. Why do you think they want it? They sell it. (Don’t understand what that means? Most of the “job boards” aren’t even job boards. They’re “lead generation” magnets that use phony job listings as bait to get your contact information, Dopey! Then they sell it to anybody willing to pay for it.)

If someone or some website offers to connect you directly to an employer without a fee and without asking for any personal information, well, go for it. Just make sure there’s no catch.

Headhunters can take you to a job, because an employer will pay them for the match. There’s no cost to you. First, learn How to Judge A Headhunter. But remember: Headhunters find people, not jobs. So don’t chase headhunters.

Likewise, when an employer shows you a job on its own website, there’s no cost to you. As soon as somebody asks you for money for access to jobs, you’re being scrubbed up for an unnatural act. Run.

Have you ever used a jobs service that doesn’t ask for money or personal information? (Newspaper want ads are an example — they lead you directly to the employer.) Should you ever pay for a job? Is America’s job market F-ed up, or what?

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Is it ethical to go on this job interview?

In the April 23, 2013 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a loyal employee wonders whether it’s honest to go to a job interview:

I’m working for a great tech company on the west coast in a job I enjoy, but I was approached by a recruiter from a large company in the midwest for an interesting job. It would be a significant move up in management in a bigger and more well-known company. My concerns are these:

  • I like my colleagues and current employer, so I’d feel bad about leaving this role after being here only a year.
  • There are budget cutbacks and delays in bonuses that worry me a bit.
  • I’m not sure whether there will be layoffs or more austerity in the future.
  • I’m not sure that I want to leave this job and move, or that the new job is any better than the one I have now.

My question is whether it is unethical for me let them fly me in to interview if I don’t feel 100% sure I’d take the job. They approached me and seem to think I’m a good candidate, so they’re moving a bit faster than I’d like.

Nick’s Reply

I admire your integrity, but exploring the unknown doesn’t subject you to a higher ethical standard.

This company is recruiting you. As long as you have a sincere curiosity and interest in exploring what they want you to do, I’d go. When we meet someone and ask them out, we don’t explain, “Well, I’d like to go out with you, but I’m not sure we’d ever get married.” Of course you’re not! The only question is, are you attracted enough that you’d like to get to know one another better?

ethical-choices-signThat’s where pleasant surprises come from.

Keep this big fact in mind: No one has asked you to marry them yet. I mean, no one has made you an offer.

Some companies (and people) move faster than others. Frankly, among employers that’s rare and it’s a good sign. If the new company seems to have good people, a good reputation, and exciting new products in its pipeline, then I think it’s a solid potential employer. But you’ll never know what might stimulate you to take it very seriously unless you show up.

In the end, if they make you an offer, it’s still all up to you. You’ll never figure out what weight to assign to each of your concerns until you have a real choice to make. It’s better to have a new choice than not to. Even if you say no, you can still be friends. And if you say yes, you can still be friends with your old company. Remember: People leave companies, and companies lay off people — it’s called business. How the personal and social sides of it play out is really up to you. And I get the sense you’d make it okay either way.

You might not be sure why you’re interviewing with this company, but I am. Your list of concerns tells me you don’t feel safe. That’s reason enough to explore other gigs, and there’s nothing unethical about it. The Wall Says It’s Time to Go may be a helpful map through your concerns.

What triggers you to consider another job? What stops you? Can you have an honest interview if you’re not sure you want the job?

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New Grads: How to get in the door without experience

In the April 16, 2013 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a parent asks how her son, a new college graduate, can get a job when he’s got no experience.  How can he get experience when he can’t get hired? He’s done internships and earned good credentials in school, but keeps losing out to other applicants. How can he get in the door for an interview without experience?

Nick’s Advice

It’s difficult to guess at the problem, partly because I don’t know what your son’s degree is in and what jobs he’s been applying for. But in general, he’s encountering the age discrimination problem: He’s too young!

hire-new-gradIronic, isn’t it? Either older workers are “too experienced” and “over-qualified,” or younger workers lack skills and experience. Here’s what has become very clear to me, and we’ve discussed this in other columns: Employers demand job applicants who have done the exact job before, and who will take less money to do it.

It makes me wonder what Human Resources departments mean by, “Our company offers exciting new opportunities!” — when they offer no new opportunities at all. Why would anyone aspire to a new job doing the exact same thing they’ve been doing for years already? Why would they take a salary cut to do the same old job? (Peter Cappelli at the Wharton School of Management has documented this in his short book, Why Good People Can’t Get Jobs.)

When you hear the CEO of a corporation proclaim, “People are our most important asset!” it seems what that really means is, “People are a depreciating commodity at our company — and you’re next in line, so take a salary cut to do the same work you did last year!”

Sorry to rant, but I get fed up with companies that pretend they’re offering careers when all they offer is the same old grind. But back to your son: What can he do?

Substitute personal recommendations for experience

New college grads do get jobs, so your son needs to reconsider “How to Start A Job Search.” (Few schools teach effective job hunting to their students.) He should also consider what is an acceptable substitute for experience and skills. I think the most compelling substitute is a personal referral for a job — from someone the employer trusts. This doesn’t mean your son will get hired because he knows someone. It means he may get hired because someone will vouch for his intelligence, for his work ethic, and for his ability to learn a new job quickly. Even a cold-blooded employer realizes it can hire talent at a lower cost if it starts with a new grad who shows promise.

“Promise” is the key, and the lynchpin is the personal referral.

Work backwards

Your son should carefully select the companies he’d like to work for, and then proceed “backwards.” Before applying for any job, figure out who he knows that knows someone at the company. This may require multiple steps — but it’s a time-honored way to get in the door for a first job. He will have to spend time talking with each person along the path, to make them comfortable that he’s worth their recommendation. After all, they’re putting their names on the line for an unknown entity. (Sorry, but a new grad is usually an unknown in the job market.)

Your son should:

  • Contact the alumni office of his school, and identify people who work at his target companies — and then contact them.
  • Talk with parents of former schoolmates — ask for their advice.
  • Ask former professors for introductions to people they know in business and industry.

Then keep talking. Trust is the coin of the realm, and your son must build it if he wants a referral.

Learn to talk shop to get help

In How Can I Change Careers? I offer some tips about “getting in the door” that are perfect for new grads. (After all, shifting from college to the work world is a career change, right?)

Don’t worry if you’re not good at introducing yourself or making cold calls. Write a little script and use it until the words start to come naturally. After a few calls, they will. For example,

“I’ve been considering a move into the widget industry and I want to learn more about it. What books or articles have you found helpful in your work?”

This phone call should have nothing to do with asking for a job. Make it a casual but intelligent discussion with an expert who can educate you. This is a great way to make insider contacts. I know it’s not easy to make such calls, but if you’re asking for advice and insight rather than a job, you’ll find that some people will talk to you for a few minutes. Some may take you under their wing. Why? Because people love to talk about their work with others who are interested. When you demonstrate your willingness to invest time and effort to learn about their business, you’re not likely to be shrugged off as another desperate job hunter.

In short, learn to talk shop!

One problem many new grads have is taking advice from people who might help them. Please see “How to Get Coached.” Don’t waste those new contacts!

We can all cry that this is unfair and that employers should hire more rationally. But there are 27 million people actively looking for work in the U.S. Employers seem to think the perfect worker will come along, so why take a chance? Employers do hire new grads. But with so many new grads looking for work, the personal referral makes a crucial difference.

Are you a new grad looking for a job? What’s standing in your way? What are you doing to overcome the obstacles? Got advice for new grads? Join us in the comments section below!

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Skip The Resume: Triangulate to get in the door

In the April 9, 2013 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a transitioning military officer asks how to break through:

I have spent the morning drilling through Ask the Headhunter. Thank you for the time and effort you put into that forum. I especially appreciate the reasoned, personal responses you give to select comments on your posts.

I would like to ask you for some advice if you have the time. I am retiring from the U.S. Army after 24 years as a senior commissioned officer and rated aviator, but I want to work outside the defense industry. My skill set is very broad and leadership-focused. I’ve been looking for jobs at the executive level, and over the last three months I’ve selectively submitted resumes for jobs (7 total) that I think would rock my world. My evaluation of these job postings put them right in my round-house. I’m not getting any responses to my resumes, though, and I don’t know how to break through. Any advice you have would be appreciated.

Nick’s Reply

Thanks for your kind words about Ask The Headhunter — glad you’re finding it helpful. And more important to me, thanks for your service to our country and to all of us. I’m particularly troubled by how difficult it can be for military folks to transition into the commercial world.

I’ll try to offer a few suggestions.

First, please keep in mind that the average manager spends an average of 30 seconds reading a resume. That means you need to tell managers quickly how you’re going to address their specific problems and challenges. Here are a couple of short articles that might drive this home:

Tear Your Resume In Half

Resume Blasphemy

triangulateI recently gave a presentation to Cornell’s Executive MBA Program — these are managers who’ve been running companies for 7-15 years who invest about $145,000 for a two-year business degree. I’ll tell you what I told them:

When you hand your resume to an employer, what you’re really saying is this: Here’s everything you need to know about me. My education, my credentials, my work history, my accomplishments, my skills — Now, you go figure out what the heck to do with me!

Managers suck at figuring this out. Just consider that they’re looking at hundreds of resumes — not just yours.

In How Can I Change Careers?, I talk about how show a manager that you’re the profitable hire for his or her specific organization. This process can be used to produce a “blasphemous” resume — but the work involved essentially eliminates the need to use a resume to get in the door. It’s all about doing your homework on the problems and challenges the manager faces, by talking shop with people connected to the company. They will educate you and tip you off on what to say to the manager. The objective is to let these contacts lead you directly to the manager, while your competition is sending in resumes.

This set of articles may also help you get started: The Basics.

You have already selected your target companies, so you’re already ahead of the game. Most people can’t do this. They insist on applying for jobs they find.

Please also check this article: Pursue Companies, Not Jobs. Having specific targets is more than half the challenge. Honing in on them is the rest. If you do it this way, it almost doesn’t matter if they have open jobs. Believe me, managers open up jobs when they meet someone who can drop profit to their bottom line. It’s what a consultant does when pitching services to a prospective client. She shows up with very specific solutions.

One caution: Don’t deliver so much up front that you’re doing free work they can poach from you. Offer a plan for solutions, but leave them hanging a bit, until they make a commitment to you.

The best way to “break through” is to triangulate. Find and talk to people near the manager: customers, vendors, other employees, consultants — anyone who touches the operation. Never ask for job leads or to “take my resume in.” Instead, ask for advice and insight about the manager and his operation. Then close by asking if there’s someone in the operation you might talk to, to get more insight and advice: “I’m trying to figure out what I need to do to get ready for a job in this operation.”

Finally, avoid HR at all costs. See last week’s column: Why HR should get out of the hiring business, and this audio segment from KKSF talk radio: What’s HR got to do with it?

I hope you land the job that rocks your world!

How would you advise this military officer in transition? Please post your suggestions in the comments section below.

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Why HR should get out of the hiring business

In the April 2, 2013 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a job hunter complains about HR:

Throughout my career I have gotten new jobs by meeting and talking to managers who would be my bosses. Now I keep running into the Human Resources roadblock in companies where I’d like to talk to a manager about a job. Honestly, I just don’t see the reason for silly online application forms or for “screeners” who don’t understand the work I do, when companies complain they cannot find the right talent. I really don’t get it. Why do companies even have HR departments involved in hiring?

Nick’s Reply

Good question. Better question: Should Human Resources (HR) be in the recruiting and hiring business? My answer is an emphatic NO for three main reasons, though there are many others.

this_way_outFirst, HR is qualified to recruit and hire only other HR workers. HR is not expert in marketing, engineering, manufacturing, accounting, or any other function. HR is thus not the best manager of recruiting, candidate selection, interviewing, or hiring for any of those corporate departments.

Second, HR takes recruiting and hiring out of the hands of managers who should be handling these critical tasks. Finding and hiring good people are two of the most crucial jobs managers have. I offer employers three simple suggestions for improving recruiting:

  • Don’t send a Human Resources clerk to do a manager’s job,
  • Put your managers in the game from the start, and
  • Deliver value to the candidate throughout the job application process.

I think companies suffer when they subject applicants to the impersonal and bureaucratic experience of dealing with HR.

Which brings me to the third reason HR should be taken out of the recruiting and hiring business: HR has no skin in the game. It virtually doesn’t matter who is recruited, processed, or hired because HR isn’t held accountable. It’s hardly HR’s fault, but it’s a rare company that rewards or blames HR for the quality of hiring. HR is typically insulated as a “necessary overhead function.”

Don’t get me wrong: There are some very good people working in HR, and there may be a legitimate role for HR in many companies. But HR’s domination of recruiting and hiring has led to a disaster of staggering magnitude in our economy. In the middle of one of the biggest talent gluts in American history, employers complain they can’t fill jobs.


Don’t miss Harvard Webinar Audio: Can I stand out in the talent glut?


 

talent_shortageAccording to PBS NewsHour estimates, there are over 27 million Americans looking for work, either because they are unemployed or under-employed. (The U. S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reports there are 12 million unemployed.) I prefer the NewsHour figure because it tells us just how big the pool of available talent is. Concurrently, BLS also reports there are 3.7 million jobs vacant.

HR has a special term for this 7:1 ratio of available talent to vacant jobs. HR departments and employers call this 7:1 job-market advantage “The Great Talent Shortage!”

While the economy has put massive numbers of talented workers on the street, HR nonetheless complains it can’t find the workers it needs. That’s no surprise when HR’s idea of finding talent is to resort to database searches and keyword filtering, which are disastrously inadequate methods for finding and attracting the best hires.

The typical HR process of recruiting and hiring is most generously described as hiring who comes along via job boards and advertisements. It’s a rare (and precious) HR worker who gets up from behind the computer display to actually go find, meet, and bring home good candidates.

“The typical explanation for why HR recruiters have no time to recruit actively is that they have too many resumes to sort. This very real problem is solved easily: Stop soliciting and accepting resumes.”

Go recruit!

I could write pages about corporate maladies that arise from employers’ over-reliance on HR to recruit and hire. Instead, I’m just going to list some of the ways HR can kill any company’s competitive edge by interfering with these management functions:

Wasting money
Last year, almost a billion dollars was sucked up by just one online “job board,” Monster.com, which was reported as the “source of hires” only 1.3% of the time by employers surveyed. HR could be advocating for the personal touch in recruiting, but blows massive recruiting budgets on job boards with little to show in return.

Hiring who comes along
Job boards and similar advertisements — the high-volume, passive recruiting tools HR relies on — yield only applicants who come along, not those a company should be pursuing.

Wasting good hires
Good candidates are lost because database algorithms and keyword filters miss indicators of quality that are not captured by software. And highly qualified technical applicants are rejected because they are screened not by other technical experts, but by HR, which is too far removed from business units that need to select the best candidates.

Mistaking quantity for quality
HR has turned recruiting into a volume operation — the more applicants, the better. This results in impersonal, superficial reviews of candidates and quick, high-volume yes/no decisions that are prone to error.

Excusing unprofessional behavior
Soliciting far more applicants than HR can process properly results in unprofessional HR behavior, angry applicants and damage to corporate reputations. HR routinely suggests that the high volume of applicants it must process explains its rude no-time-for-thank-yous-or-follow-ups behavior — while it expects job applicants to adhere to strict rules of professional conduct.

Failing to be accountable
Because HR does not report to the departments it recruits for, it tends to behave inefficiently and unaccountably with impunity. The bureaucracy grows without checks and balances, and the hiring process becomes dull, rather than honed to a true competitive edge.

Marginalizing professional networks
HR tends to isolate managers from the initial recruiting and screening process, further deteriorating the already weak links between managers and the professional communities they need to recruit from.

Bureaucratizing a strategic function
The complexity of corporate HR infrastructure encourages isolation and siloing. Evidence of this is HR’s over-emphasis of legal risks in recruiting and its administrative domination of this top-level business function.

Wasting time
With recruiting and hiring relegated to an often cumbersome HR process, managers cannot hire in a timely way. Good candidates are frequently lost to the competition. (HR doesn’t have to deal with the consequences, but when a good sales candidate is lost to a competitor, the sales department loses twice.)

Killing a company’s competitive edge
HR owns two competing interests, further dulling a company’s competitive edge: the hiring process and legal/compliance functions. Because hiring is a strategic, competitive function, it deserves its own advocate. If business units and managers took full responsibility for recruiting and hiring (while HR handled compliance) the daily abrasion of these competing interests would strengthen a company’s edge.

take_a_hikeThis catastrophe didn’t occur overnight. It crept up on business in the form of a smothering shroud of red tape. Today this HR bureaucracy is propped up by an industry of “consultants,” “professionals,” and “experts” who advise corporate HR departments about how to maintain their administrative stranglehold over the key differentiator that defines any company — its people. And in turn, HR funds the database-induced job-board stupor and online-application-form addiction that’s killing employers and job hunters alike.

It’s time for HR to get out of the recruiting and hiring business, and to give this strategic function back to business units and managers who design, build, manufacture, market and sell a company’s products. Who better to decide who’s worth hiring? Who better to aggressively go find the people who will give the company an edge?

In the meantime, job hunters have no choice but to outsmart the employment system.

Should HR relinquish its recruiting and hiring functions? Have you experienced related problems with HR, either as a hiring manager or as a job applicant? What do you think should be done about it? (And if you think I’m wrong, please tell me why.)

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Headhunters Are Harassing Me!

In the March 26, 2013 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader complains about troublesome headhunters:

What’s your advice to someone who is dealing with unwanted cold calls from headhunters?

Somehow my name has been shared around as someone who is looking for a change. (I’m not. If I were, I would be the one making the calls.) I seem to get cold calls at work every other day. E-mails come about once a week, and I get cold calls at home about once every other week. I don’t respond to the e-mails, and my standard answer to the phone calls is, “Sorry, but I’m not currently interested.” Most people accept that at face value so the phone call is all of 30 seconds, but some have become downright rude, saying things like, “Well, if you don’t want to double your salary, that’s not my problem.” Yes, that is a direct quote.

Other than keeping notes about who is acting in an unprofessional manner, do you have any other suggestions? Thanks in advance.

Nick’s Reply

What you’re experiencing is partly a reflection of the economy and partly an display of poor headhunting practices.

harassingphonecallsReal headhunters — those who actually work on specific assignments from clients — really are looking for good candidates. If you’re good at what you do and people in your industry know it, these headhunters are getting your name from people they know and trust. It’s possible that several headhunters who are working on a handful of the same positions have all heard about you. That may be one reason you’re getting a lot of calls.

However, my guess is that only a few of those calls are from good headhunters. A good headhunter’s job is to entice, cajole and steal a good worker for his client. But, a good headhunter won’t be rude or pushy about it — and he won’t bother you. If you politely say, “No thanks,” he’ll respect you and leave you alone. He will also ask your permission to stay in touch periodically. My advice is to keep such connections open, and judge the headhunter on how he behaves.

The other class of headhunters — the ones who play “dialing for dollars” — don’t have legitimate search assignments. Their approach is to get someone like you interested in the idea of a new job. All they want is the resume of a good professional. Once they’ve got it, they call companies that may or may not be hiring, and use you as bait to get an assignment. Yours won’t be the only resume they will submit. Their hope is that they might get a hit here and there.

Now, there’s nothing inherently wrong with this. Call it supply-side headhunting, or call it desperation. Some people love it. But, when these guys become a nuisance, it’s time to cut them off.

I like that you keep a list and make notes about who’s good and who’s not. Once you judge someone to be rude, you should have no qualms about just hanging up. This works as well with nasty headhunters as with telemarketers. (If you argue with them, they’ll just keep calling.)

Make a list of questions that you want any headhunter to answer before you’ll even jot down his name. Here’s an important one from How to Work With Headhunters… and how to make headhunters work for you. Put it at the top of your list:

“Can you give me two clients and two candidates as references I can check before we talk further?”

Headhunters who are looking for a warm body will decline, then you hang up. (Some are not even really headhunters.) The ones who provide references are worth putting on your A list. Don’t worry: You won’t get enough legitimate calls that you’ll have to devote much time to this. The hang-ups will be quick and much more frequent. Your A list will be correspondingly short.

You can of course just hang up on everyone soliciting you. But that’s not a great idea — especially in today’s economy.

Do headhunters harass you? How do you decide which ones to talk to, and which to hang up on?

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