Ask The Headhunter Secrets in a Nutshell

In the December 19, 2017 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader wants the short version of secrets to landing a job. Okay… here we go!

secretsQuestion

I’ve been reading Ask The Headhunter all year long. I read The Basics, but as a year-end favor, would you please summarize the Ask The Headhunter secrets and highlight some of the most important parts? Help me understand the main differences between ATH and the traditional approach to job hunting? Thanks and happy holidays!

Nick’s Reply

Anyone who’s been around Ask The Headhunter for a while knows this question often comes up around December. But there are no secrets! The ATH strategy is spread across this website, in the free weekly e-mail newsletter (This is the 700th edition! Please subscribe!) and in my PDF books. But I’ll try to summarize by sharing some of my tips, in the form of reprints straight from the books.

I’ve selected sections that should be helpful by themselves, and I hope they get you off on the right foot. If you’d like more details that are beyond the scope of this column, please check the links.

Here’s Ask The Headhunter in a nutshell:

You want secrets? Find the right job!

1. The best way to find a good job opportunity is to go hang out with people who do the work you want to do — people who are very good at it. Insiders are the first to know about good opportunities, but they only tell other insiders.

To get into an inside circle of people, you must earn your way. It takes time. You can’t fake it, and that’s good, because who wants to promote (or hire) the unknown? Here’s how the distinction works.

From How Can I Change Careers?, pp. 27-28, “A Good Network Is A Circle of Friends”:

Don’t speculate for a job
The way most people network for a job smacks of day trading in the stock market. The networker has no interest in the people or companies she’s “investing” in. She just wants a quick profit. She skims the surface of an industry or profession, trying to find easy contacts that might pay off quickly.

When you encounter an opportunistic networker, you’ll find that she listens carefully to the useful information you give her, but once you’re done helping, she’s not interested in you any more. She might drop some tidbits your way, but don’t expect her to remember you next week.

Invest in relationships
Contrast this to someone who reads about your company and calls to discuss how you applied new methods to produce new results. She’s interested in your work and stays in touch with you, perhaps sending an article about a related topic after you’ve talked. She’s investing in a potentially valuable relationship.

This initial contact might prompt you one day to call your newfound friend for advice, or to visit her company’s booth at the next trade show and introduce yourself. Maybe it never goes beyond that or maybe one day you’ll work together. The point is, after a time you become familiar to one another. You become members of one another’s circle. You’ll help one another because you’re friends, not “because it will pay off later.”

The methods in How Can I Change Careers? are not just for career changers — they are for anyone changing jobs that wants to stand out to a hiring manager as the profitable hire.

Get the interview… but there are no secrets!

2. The best way to get a job interview is to be referred by someone the manager trusts. Between 40-70% of jobs are filled that way. Yet people and employers fail to capitalize on this simple employment channel. They pretend there’s some better system — like job boards (or secrets). That’s bunk. There is nothing more powerful than a respected peer putting her good name on the line to recommend you. Deals close faster when the quality of information is high and the source of information is trusted. That’s why it takes forever to get a response when you apply “blind” to a job posting.

How can you get interviews via the insiders who have the power to recommend you? I once gave some advice to a U.S. Army veteran who had just returned home from overseas duty and wanted to start a career in the home building industry. This method works in virtually any line of work.

From Fearless Job Hunting – Book 3: Get In The Door (way ahead of your competition), pp. 15-16, “How to make great personal contacts”:

Pick the two or three best builders in your area; ones you’d really like to work for. They may not be the biggest, but they should be the ones you have a real affinity for. Find out who finances their projects. This is pretty easy — the name of the bank is often posted at the work site.

Then go visit the bank. Ask which vice president handles the relationship with your target company. Then sit down and explain that you are evaluating various companies in your town because you want to make a career investment… After you make your brief statement, let the banker talk. You will get a picture of the entire building industry in your area. Your goal, at the end of the meeting, is to make a judgment about which companies are the best. Ask the banker if he could recommend someone for you to talk with at each company. Then, ask permission to use his name when you contact them. This is how you pursue companies rather than just jobs.

So, don’t just send a resume. Figure out who the company’s customers, vendors, consultants and bankers are — and talk to them. It’s how smart business people do smart business with a company: by talking to people that the company trusts.

Stand and deliver

3. The best way to do well in an interview is to walk in and demonstrate to the manager how you will do the job profitably for him and for you. Everything else is stuff, nonsense and a bureaucratic waste of time. Don’t believe me? Ask any good manager, “Would you rather talk to 10 job applicants, or meet just one person who explains how she will boost your company’s profitability?” I have no doubt what the answer is.

The idea of showing how you’ll pay off to an employer intimidates some people. But it’s really simple, once you get out of the mindset of the job applicant and start thinking like a business person.

From Fearless Job Hunting – Book 6: The Interview: Be The Profitable Hire,
pp. 8-9, “How can I demonstrate my value?”

Estimate your impact to the bottom line If the work you do is overhead and mostly affects costs: Do you shave two minutes off each customer service call you handle? Have you figured out a way to get projects done 20% faster? Multiply this by the hourly wage or by the salary. The savings are just one part of the profit you contribute. Get the idea? I’m simplifying, but few of your competitors will offer any estimates at all. This gives you a good, honest story to tell the employer about how you will contribute to the success of the business. It gives you an edge.

If the job affects revenue, try to quantify the impact. Your estimate may not be accurate, simply because you don’t have all the relevant information at your fingertips, but you must be able to defend your calculations. Run it by someone you trust who knows the business, then present it to your boss or to your prospective boss. You can even present your estimates in the interview, and ask the employer how you might make them more accurate. This can be a very effective ice breaker.

If you can’t demonstrate how you will contribute to the bottom line, then be honest with yourself: Why should the employer hire you? Or, why should your employer keep you?

Employers don’t pay for interview skills. They pay for your work skills. The rare job candidate is ready to discuss how he or she will do the job profitably. That’s who stands out, and it’s who gets hired.

Profit from headhunters

4. The best way to get a headhunter’s help is to manage your interaction for mutual profit from the start. Hang up on the unsavory charlatans and work only with headhunters who treat you with respect from the start.

If you’re not sure how to qualify a headhunter, when the headhunter calls you, here’s how to say it:

From How to Work with Headhunters… and how to make headhunters work for you, p. 30, one of 34 How to Say It tips:

How to Say It
“If we work together, you will check my references and learn a lot about me so you can judge me. But likewise, I need to know about you, too. I’d be putting my career in your hands. Would you please share a few references? I will of course keep the names you provide confidential, just as I expect you will keep the names I give you.”

Don’t waste time with headhunters who don’t demonstrate high standards of behavior. Sharing references is test #1.

Then, instead of “pitching” yourself to the headhunter, be still and listen patiently to understand the headhunter’s objective. Proceed only if you really believe you’re a match. Then show why you’re the headhunter’s #1 candidate by outlining how you will do the job profitably for his client. Headhunters adopt candidates who make the headhunter’s job easier, and who help the headhunter fill the assignment quickly. (Coda: If you follow suggestions 1-3 carefully, you won’t need to rely on a headhunter. But if you’re lucky enough to be recruited, you need to know How to Work with Headhunters.)

That’s Ask The Headhunter in a nutshell.

Why ATH works

You ask what is the main difference between ATH and the traditional approach. It’s pretty simple. The traditional approach is “shotgun.” You blast away at companies with your resume and wait to hear from someone you don’t know who doesn’t know you. Lotsa luck. (ATH regulars know that I never actually wish anyone luck, because I don’t believe in it. I believe in doing the hard work required to succeed.)

ATH is a carefully targeted approach. You must select the companies and jobs you want. It takes a lot of preparation to accomplish the simple task in item (3).

Please read my lips:

  • There are no shortcuts.
  • No one can do it for you. (Nope, not even headhunters, not even job boards, not even algorithms created by database jockeys.)
  • If you aren’t prepared to do it right, then you have no business applying for the job, and the manager would be a fool to hire you.

How to be the stand-out candidate

I’ll leave you with a scenario that illustrates why the traditional methods don’t work well. You walk up to a manager. You hand her your resume — your credentials, your experience, your accomplishments, your keywords, your carefully crafted “marketing piece.” Now, what are you really saying to that manager?

“Here. Read this. Then you go figure out what the heck to do with me.”

Managers stink at figuring that out. You have to explain it to them, if you expect to stand out and to get hired. Do you really expect someone to decipher your resume and figure out what to do with you? America’s entire employment system fails you every day because it’s based on that passive mindset.

The job candidate who uses the Ask The Headhunter approach keeps the resume in his pocket and says to the manager, “Let me show you what I’m going to do to make your business more successful and more profitable.” Then he outlines his plan — without giving away too much.

That’s who you’re competing with, whether he learned this approach from me or whether it’s just his common sense. Long-time ATH subscriber Ray Stoddard puts it like this:

“The great news about your recommendations is that they work. The good news for those of us who use them is that few people are really willing to implement what you recommend, giving those of us who do an edge.”


In the meantime, if you’re working on your job search, check out these resources:
The Basics
The Q&A Archive
I hope Ask The Headhunter helped you get an edge in 2017. The newsletter and the website will be on hiatus for two weeks while I take a vacation! See you with the next edition on January 9! Meanwhile, here’s wishing everyone a very Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays (no matter what you celebrate or where you celebrate it), and a Happy, Healthy, and Prosperous New Year!


How have you used the ATH methods to land the job you want, or to hire exceptional employees? What other methods of your own have worked well for you? (Did anything you did shock, awe or surprise an employer?)

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Job boards say they fill most jobs. Employer says “LMAO!”

In the December 5, 2017 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, an employer questions the claims job boards make about how often they fill jobs. 

Question

job boardsI’ve read many of your posts about job boards, including Job Boards: Take this challenge, but it was one about The Bogus-ness of Indeed.com that really got my attention because it has over 200 comments on it, and because now I’ve seen how Indeed works for employers — and I’m LMAO!

My wife runs a popular retail chain store and recently took to Indeed.com to find qualified applicants. In Los Angeles, at a high profile new location opening (it’s in the news), she received just three applicants, all of whom had simply uploaded their resume and clicked any title that closely matched their interests. None of the three even knew who the company was, or what the details of the job posted were, they simply clicked “send resume.”

Two didn’t speak high-school level English, the third had never heard of the company and wasn’t sure where it was located, but applied just the same.

I’m sure there are people really looking for work. Are they using the potential of Indeed? Glassdoor? Monster?

I know what you think of the job boards, Nick, but I doubt you’ve had to look for a job recently. I wonder what your readers think. Can you ask them what their experiences have been with the big job boards like the ones we’ve had such bad luck with?

Nick’s Reply

I’m happy to put your question to our community. They love red meat. (That’s a joke, vegans and vegetarians among us!)

Do job boards really fill most jobs?

Thanks for your story about your wife’s problems with job applicants from Indeed and other job boards. It would be interesting to hear from more employers, who don’t seem to say much (at least in public) about how effective the job boards are.

  • Indeed cites a report from SilkRoad (“the world’s leader in Talent Activation”) that claims “Indeed delivers 65% of hires and 72% of interviews from job sites.” (The actual report is free but must be downloaded from SilkRoad.)

What’s not to like? Game over. Problem solved.

  • A few years ago, while I was researching a story I wrote for PBS NewsHour (Is LinkedIn Cheating Employers and Job Seekers Alike?) a CareerBuilder spokesperson claimed the job board accounted for nearly 50% of all jobs filled by staffing and recruiting firms — but told me the study behind the numbers was not published.

So, what’s the problem with all those vacant jobs?

  • Year after year, job-board watcher CareerXRoads has reported that around 25%-30% of external hires come from job boards.

Closer inspection of the data suggests about 10% of hires were being made during those periods through all job boards combined. (I have not looked at CXR’s reports recently.)

Truth or tricks?

Now go back and read those claims about where employers find their hires one more time. I’ve been watching these numbers for over two decades and I’ve learned the code. Can you find the tricks in those claims?

I’m really glad to get a question from an employer (well, from her spouse) on this topic. And I’m glad you’re asking Ask The Headhunter readers for their experiences and opinions — rather than me.

Okay, employers — big and small — are job boards delivering the hires you need?

You don’t have to be an employer to play. What do you make of Indeed’s (and SilkRoad’s) claims? I think there’s a deft sleight of hand — and some clever word play — in how SilkRoad, Indeed, and other job-boards characterize their “findings.”

Let’s get at the truth about job boards, folks. And if you’ve got some expertise in big data analysis, I’d really love to know your take on these reports. Do job boards really fill most jobs?

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Benefits: The employer trick that lowers your job offer

In the November 28, 2017 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader interviews for a job at an acceptable salary, only to learn the employee benefits would mean a 20% reduction in compensation.

Question

Well, thanks for hitting me between the eyes… again. I’m talking about your recent column, More Money: What to ask for in a talent shortage. I was rationalizing a pursuit of a job offer. 

benefitsIt’s a great fit. I “did the job” with the Chief Information Officer and Director. The 30-minute phone interview turned into a 90-minute great discussion on where they want to be in 18 months. Now I have the technical interview. 

The problem is that I misunderstood the benefits. Originally I thought it was a wash in salary, and that the cost of living, benefits, retirement, and bonus were going to be a 20% bump. With relocation to a warmer climate, it was a win-win. Then I got the benefits package. 

I completely misunderstood. Once the benefits are factored in, it’s effectively about a 20% pay cut. There is no way I can absorb that. It’s a small shop and moving up would not be possible for a while given the staff they have in place.

(By the way, the recruiter for this company is absolutely amazing. She completely vetted me before she passed me to the company. She asked for my resume and then recommended that I change the wording on a couple of things. She never had me fill out an application. Then she set up the preliminary phone interview. We discussed salary but I think I heard what I wanted to hear. Fortunately, after that first interview, I asked for the benefits package. She sent it to me while I was on the phone with her.)

So here is my question for you. Do I go through with the technical phone interview and see if I can work with these folks? Then, before we put in any more time and money (and airfare), do I see if they can pay what I think I am worth? Or do I call it off now saying that it is a waste of our time if they are going to stick with their current salary range, given that the benefits are actually going to cost me money?

Nick’s Reply

The recruiter tells you: “The salary range is $X-$Y and the benefits are industry-standard.” Once upon a time, that meant you could decide to go on the interview based on the salary range. Today, it’s a common trick to lead you into a series of job interviews that result in a job offer far lower than you expected — after you realize that a lousy benefits package has effectively lowered your total compensation.

There are many other reasons to decline a “job opportunity.” See When job interviews are bad for you.
It seems you learned an important lesson: Get the compensation facts before you dive into a time-consuming interview process. That means understanding all the bottom-line terms, including benefits — up front.

Benefits are compensation

Make no mistake: Benefits are part of compensation. Lame HR managers like to say, “Oh, our benefits package is industry-standard,” as if you should be impressed. Really? A company’s benefits package should be as competitive as the salaries it pays — that’s what gives a company an edge!

(Note to HR managers: Learn to use your company’s benefits as a tool to get the best candidates to accept your offers! That means you must construct great benefits packages. That’s a key part of your job.)

Benefits and bonuses are components of compensation. Until you can tally up the total, you don’t really know what the offer is — or whether the company is worth working for.

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Why are benefits a secret?

But don’t kick yourself too hard. Companies generally don’t hand out benefits details before interviews – though they should.

Many employers consider employee benefits a company secret that’s not disclosed until you show up for orientation. (Imagine a car dealer saying, “We’ll tell you what the warranty is, and how many wheels the car comes with, after you pay for the car.”) As you’ve learned, benefits are a critical part of any compensation package. Meager benefits can undermine a seemingly good salary.

So, ask about the benefits and the salary range before you invest time interviewing.

Look under the rug

When a company’s lousy benefits have such an adverse impact on a compensation deal, there’s probably something wrong with the company. There’s dirt under that fine-looking rug. So turn up a corner and look underneath.

Is the employer a cheapskate? See WANTED: Top talent to work for dog food.
Good employers offer good benefits. And they don’t hide such information. When they do, it’s the oldest sales trick in the book: They count on you to rationalize a bad deal because you’ve already put so much time and effort into it.

I don’t see any evidence that you misunderstood. If you didn’t have the benefits information in advance, how could you really judge whether this was a good opportunity or a waste of time? How could you have judged the whole compensation package?

The recruiter’s role

What’s “amazing” about the recruiter is that she did not disclose up front that the company’s benefits package is lousy.

Is that really a good recruiter? Use these tips to decide: How to Judge A Headhunter.
I assure you, she knows, because other candidates have experienced the same shock you did. While I give her credit for some of the things she did (and didn’t do — like demanding an application), if she’s a really good recruiter, she reviews all compensation components before she recruits people like you. I’d never pitch a company with lousy benefits to any potential candidates. I’d wind up wasting their time and mine. My guess is she’s lost other good candidates late in the process, after all the facts came out.

Ask to see the benefits

Job seekers rarely ask to see benefits, retirement, vacation, bonus and commission details before agreeing to interview. That’s a mistake. Employers don’t like sharing such information until they make an offer, but that’s disingenuous. Any company with great benefits is more than happy to use them to entice good candidates to interview.

One of my favorite HR ruses is this statement: “We offer the same benefits to all employees. We cannot change our benefits for just one person.” People hear that and they shrug. Of course they can’t change their benefits just for me. That would be unfair to all the other employees. Then an applicant rationalizes that there’s no choice. If I want this job, I have to settle for what everyone else gets. Wrong. If the employer really wants to hire you, it can improve other terms of the offer to compensate (remember that word?) for poor benefits. (We’ll get to that in a minute.)

Companies with lousy benefits hide them, and HR managers try to make job applicants feel it’s “unprofessional” to ask for the information in advance. What’s unprofessional is luring people into dead-end interviews.

Don’t kid yourself

I see it again and again. Job applicants get offended and angry about the details of a job offer at the end of a grueling interview process — because they failed to ask about all the terms before they invested all that time and trouble to interview. Of course the terms matter! Don’t kid yourself! Understand the fundamentals of the deal before you work so hard to get it.

Many career experts recommend proceeding with the hiring process anyway. “Hey, you have a shot at a job! Why blow it by bringing up money?” They will tell you to wait until the offer stage to convince an employer to do what it already told you it will not do. Don’t kid yourself. That kind of advice reveals the advisor doesn’t have an answer for your predicament, because the advisor believes in fairies and miracles.

It’s up to you, but I would not rationalize any more, or move further into this process, now that you know the benefits are a deal breaker. Talk to the recruiter. Tell her your concerns. Tell her you’re very surprised and dismayed at the benefits package.

How to Say It
“Thanks for sharing the company’s benefits package. Unfortunately, it’s not competitive and would represent an effective 20% pay cut. I’d love to continue our interviews, but first I need the company’s commitment to compensate me for the significant difference in benefits they are proposing. It would be a waste of our time to keep talking about the job if the compensation terms — and that includes benefits — aren’t acceptable. Will your client make that commitment?”

What to ask for next

Don’t be too hard on yourself. If the salary range was acceptable and you based your decision to have a preliminary phone interview on that, I think you took a reasonable risk to explore the job. While you should have asked to see all the benefits up front, 99% of applicants don’t ask until after a job offer is tendered. At least you asked early in the process.

What troubles me is that the recruiter didn’t disclose the problem with benefits when she first spoke with you. I put that on her. So I’d let the recruiter know what’s wrong immediately.

Don’t say no to proceeding. Instead, tell her what the terms need to be so they’re acceptable to you. Don’t worry about whether the employer is likely to accept your terms. The point is to establish what it will take before you are willing to proceed. The details are up to you. Here are some possible gimmes:

  • Higher salary, commensurate with the loss of benefits value. I think this is the best offset because it will fund the difference.
  • A starting bonus, but keep in mind this would be a one-time payment that does not affect future pay. I’m not a big fan of this, unless you can’t negotiate higher salary. Then you must decide whether it’s worth it.
  • A higher bonus structure that effectively makes up for the loss in benefits. Just keep in mind that bonuses are not guaranteed. So ask for a guaranteed bonus.
  • Other terms that might satisfactorily compensate you.

Clearly, they are impressed enough with you to go the next step. They want to pursue this with you. That gives you leverage. Don’t be afraid to use it wisely and appropriately. Hey — if they have no qualms about offering you poor benefits, don’t worry that you’re asking for too much! Let them say no, or let them fix the problem.

Manage the recruiter

It seems you’ve found a pretty good recruiter — she’s done a lot right. Take advantage of that.

I’d tell the recruiter that if this deal doesn’t work out, you’d like to work with her again, if she commits to vetting these deals more thoroughly for you in the future, before setting up even phone interviews. Like this employer, she has recognized a good candidate. She is likely to work harder for you in the future because you represent a really good chance for her to impress another client — and to earn a good fee!

Make the employer work for it

Don’t get tricked into dead-end interviews by an employer that uses crummy benefits to effectively lower a job offer.

An employer uses interviews to test a candidate, to determine whether it’s worth proceeding with the hiring process. Job candidates should do the same. Test the employer. Will its compensation package, including benefits, bonus and other terms, measure up to your requirements? Then determine whether to proceed. Make them work for it, just like you do in your interviews.

I’d love to know how this turns out. My comments and suggestions are obviously limited to what I know. You’re the one that must live with the choice you make – so please use your best judgment.

What information do you demand before you agree to interview? We’ve covered only a couple of things here — salary range and benefits. What surprises have you encountered only after you’ve invested a lot of time in an “opportunity?” What else should this reader assess before going any further?

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Job applications are the biggest recruiting scam

In the November 7, 2017 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a careful reader gets recruited to fill out a job application. Welcome to recruiting today.

Question

recruitingEarlier this week a recruiter contacted me. The salary was stated as a maximum only, and it would mean a 20% raise from my current salary. Even though I am not looking, I went ahead and applied. Following your advice, I asked who the company was and the recruiter told me “in confidence.”  I disclosed that I know someone there, but didn’t give a name. The recruiter said he could still submit my name, so I gave him a PDF copy of my resume.

Things changed fast!  First, he said I would be required to fill out an online application for the HR department. But I couldn’t proceed with the application unless I put in a numerical value for salary. I asked about this and he said whatever I put in could be discussed later. I put in $0. There was also a short “personality test.” I completed all this by mid-day Friday. By noon on Saturday, I got a rejection notice. BAM!

Could it be my salary expectations were too high? The recruiter recommended I come down, but because I’m not desperate I did not. Could it be that HR was totally offended that I was non-compliant? My feeling is that a junior HR person went over this and saw one thing out of order, and eliminated me. I seriously doubt that this application got further.

The bottom line is that I would not want to work for these people anyway, but I will admit that such a rapid-fire rejection hurts. Maybe I will hear from the recruiter as the week begins, or maybe not.

Next time I will ask if the recruiter’s contact is a hiring manager or HR. If it’s HR and not a manager, I will pass. So this was a good lesson learned. It cost nothing. Insofar as missing out on the raise? No problem there because I am not yet vested with my current company and I would lose the equivalent of the raise if I moved now.

Two last questions: Why does just about every recruiter who contacts me seem like a slime ball? How can they sleep at night?

Nick’s Reply

Welcome to the biggest recruiting scam going: job applications. Thousands if not millions are victimized daily. They don’t even realize it. You didn’t get recruited. You got scammed. And it’s legal. Employers encourage recruiters to scam you every day.

A recruiter contacted you to recruit you. That is, he’s out scouring the world for the right candidates for his client. He identifies the best, and then he goes after them — he pursues them. He and his client still need to interview you to be sure you’re right enough, of course, but they chose you and now they’re approaching you, enticing you, seducing you, cajoling you, trying to convince you — the guy they selected to go after — to consider a job there. They’re trying hard to impress you with an opportunity so you’ll invest your valuable time to talk with them.

Is that how this process felt to you? Of course not.

Recruiting you to fill out a job application

You were not recruited for a job. You were recruited to fill out a job application.

You were recruited off the street to do what anyone does to apply for a job they found posted on a job board. My guess is the employer is not even the recruiter’s client. I doubt they have a contract. The recruiter is hoping to throw enough job applications at this employer, in the hope one might “stick” so the employer might pay the recruiter a fee.

The recruiter led you down the path every other job seeker takes on their own. Like every other job seeker that is summarily rejected instantly, you got rejected. No surprise!

The only difference between job applicants who go through the process and you is this: If by some miracle you had been hired, the recruiter would have earned a big fee for doing nothing but ushering random people through the application process.

I’ll say it again: You were recruited not for a job, but to fill out a job application.

Recruiting to fill a job

Here’s what recruiting really looks like. Last week I finally reached a person I’ve been trying to recruit for almost a month. She’s a good candidate for my client. The president of the company and I carefully selected her because our research showed she fit our carefully defined criteria. I knew exactly why I was reaching out to her.

When I finally reached her, it was to set up an interview with the president of the company. No forms. No online links. No personality tests. No obstacles.

My job for a month was to eliminate obstacles so my client could talk to her. I never asked her for her salary information. I still don’t know it, and I don’t care what it is. When I finally got her on the phone, I spent most of the time trying to impress her. I didn’t want to let her get away.

My goal has been to pursue and persuade her to talk with my client about a job — and to impress her with the opportunity so that we’d have a good chance of hiring her. Why would we risk offending her by making her jump through hoops? That would not have impressed her!

How to test a headhunter

  • Who are some of the headhunter’s clients? Get the names of companies and managers.
  • Who has she placed? Get the names of a few candidates placed recently and a year or two ago.
  • What firm does she work for?
  • Where is she located?
  • Who owns the firm?

From How to Work With Headhunters, pp. 28-29.

Why they do it

Recruiters like this one sleep at night by mentally counting all the lottery tickets they’ve acquired — job seekers they’ve convinced to fill out job applications. Then they dream that a company will pay off on one of them.

The daily recruiting scam is a numbers game. Recruiters play it because sometimes it pays off — just like everyone else plays the lottery.

How to save loads of time

The recruiter’s trick is to get you to spend loads of time applying for a job that pays “20% more than you’re making!” It’s a simple rule of behavioral psychology: The more the recruiter can get you to do, the more you will then rationalize doing even more to comply. So the recruiter’s goal is to get you to start complying.

You ask what to do next time. Here’s a quick and sure way to save loads of time. The next time a recruiter contacts you, ask this question:

“Why does your client want me?”

Then ask this question — and nothing else:

“When does your client want to talk with me?”

For more on this topic, see Why do recruiters suck so bad?
If the recruiter answers with a list of tasks for you to do first — submit your resume, complete online forms, take a test, disclose your salary — tell the recruiter to take a flying leap into a cactus bush.

It takes a mental re-set to realize what that guy did to you. He made you apply for a job. It’s the daily recruiting scam.

How do you sort out the recruiters? What percentage of contacts from recruiters have resulted in face-to-face job interviews for you? At what point should the reader above have recognized what was going on?

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Mom wants a new career

In the October 17, 2017 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a successful mom wants to be a successful job seeker.

Question

I’m a mature woman and I have to reinvent myself after a midlife divorce. I spent my prime years raising seven wonderful children. I home schooled my children over 20 years. I developed many skills that cross over into the work force: Organization, Punctuality, Customer Service, Training/Teaching, Computer Skills, Microsoft Word and Outlook, and more.

I have worked in a research analyst job for almost two years now and have gained vast office skills. The company I work for has very little room for growth without a two-year college degree. I can’t afford college. I am barely getting by on my meager salary. What can I do?

Nick’s Reply

mom

My compliments for raising seven great children! Getting the right job has much in common with what you’ve done, but today’s job market tells you to find a job by splattering your resume on the wall like spaghetti and waiting for some employer to figure out what to do with your myriad skills.

The truth is, employers are largely incapable of choosing hires effectively via resumes. This failure is the true source of the so-called “talent shortage” employers complain about. (See News Flash! HR Causes Talent Shortage!) They need your skills. They just aren’t good at understanding what you can do for them, so you have to mother them through it.

Mom credentials vs. needs assessment

Consider what would have happened if you handed your kids a multi-page list of all your knowledge, skills and credentials and asked them what they wanted you to teach them during home schooling — and whether they should “hire” you as their teacher.

That’s what happens when you hand an employer your resume. It really doesn’t help to enumerate all your qualifications and qualities. It’s simply too much for the employer to process.

More likely, when you stepped up to educate your kids, you assessed what they needed to learn, then you organized your skills (your “resume”) to satisfy those needs. That’s why you succeeded so marvelously. You based it all on your accurate assessment of what your kids needed.

Make choices first

You must do the same to find the right job: Assess what a particular employer needs before you decide which of your many credentials and skills to present. Employers say they want a comprehensive resume, but any good headhunter will tell you that the less you tell the employer at this juncture, the better — as long as the information you provide is 100% on the mark. (See Resume Blasphemy.)

First, select a handful of companies you’d like to work for. Pick the best ones that make products (or deliver services) you’d like to work on. Then set about to discovering what they need to be more successful, just as you assessed your children’s needs.

This takes careful thought and a lot of research and work, and considerable time. There’s no way to rush this. The alternative is to splatter your resume all over the job boards and wait even longer for some random employer’s algorithms to pluck your resume from thousands of others.

By choosing companies first, you take control of how well you can address their needs. There is simply no way to thoughtfully address the specific needs of 100 companies you find on a job board. So don’t apply for jobs that way.

Be A Wise Mom: Understand a manager’s specific needs

Do not rely on a company’s job postings. They’re produced by over-worked personnel managers, not by the managers who need to hire someone. Job postings are one of the biggest rackets in America today. They hinder hiring; they don’t help it. They ask for ridiculously extensive credentials, skills and experience — and for the latest buzzwords HR has heard about.

  • As a good mom, I’ll bet you ignored many requests for in-ground swimming pools, puppies, and the latest toy heavily promoted on TV. You determined what would make a material difference in your kids’ lives and invested wisely in that.
  • Did you know how to teach your kids every necessary topic when you started? Of course not. They’d never have “hired” you for lack of such skills! But you learned as you went along and figured out how to tackle each necessary task. If your kids had to hire you based on your skills, they’d never have hired you!

That employer needs a wise mom who sees past ephemeral wish lists. It needs someone who can see the desired outcomes. You must rely on personal conversations with the actual managers who would hire you — and on people who work with them — so you can assess what they really need in a worker. Only then can you possibly produce a brief plan showing how you’d do the work profitably for the manager. Your plan will of course include some notes about what tools, training and learning curve you’ll need.

Doing the job vs. doing the keywords

Having all the perfect skills won’t get you hired. The manager will hire you because you’ve demonstrated that you know how to assess his or her needs, and how to address them honestly and effectively. That is, you can demonstrate that you can do this job — and that you can learn quickly as you go.

The trouble is, personnel managers and “applicant tracking systems” which analyze your “keywords” are incapable of assessing your ability to do a job. That’s why people get rejected out of hand again and again and again.

You must go around the personnel managers and hiring systems to find the manager. Don’t enumerate the keywords requested in the job posting. Show how you’ll do the work the manager needs done. Have a conversation. Talk the manager through it like you talk your kids through a scraped knee. What any manager really wants is for you to make the pain go away. But first you have to have a heart-to-heart to learn where it really hurts. That kind of talk beats a “job interview” about your resume any day!

Some tips

Here are a few core Ask The Headhunter articles to help you get started:

Ask The Headhunter in A Nutshell: The short course

Pursue Companies, Not Jobs

Resume Blasphemy

Employment In America: WTF is going on?

You’ll find hundreds more helpful how-to articles on this website, all for free. (I also offer a few PDF books that organize my advice around specific topics.)

You raised seven wonderful children. You can find one great job. But you won’t find it by broadcasting all your skills and waiting for one company to “find” you.

Start by picking a good company, learning what a specific manager needs, and then organizing your skills into a short document (or presentation) that shows how you will do what the manager needs. Don’t expect any manager or employer to “process” all your credentials and figure out “what to do with you.” Most managers aren’t very good at playing Mom.

I wish you the best.

What advice would you give this mom, who clearly has considerable skills but little experience in the workforce? If you’ve made the transition from raising a family to getting a “regular” job, how’d you do it? What problems did you face? What obstacles did you overcome?

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Interview Me: How to Say It

In the October 10, 2017 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader fell off the wagon after mistaking a job form for a job interview — and asks for help.

Question

interviewI need an intervention. I almost filled out an online job application today that requires that you select a target salary from a drop-down menu of salaries in increments of $10K. How am I supposed to put a value on a job until the manager and I talk about it?

Maybe I also need an intervention for even thinking about doing an online application at all.

Is there some version of AA [Alcoholics Anonymous] that supports those seeking work who relapse and try playing the game according to corporate Amerika’s HR czars and czarinas?

Nick’s Reply

I dunno — maybe we should start Job Seekers Anonymous? It’s time we worked up a way to address employers who claim to want “exceptional talent” but expect you to turn off your talent and apply-for-jobs-by-numbers.

Stop messing around

In Job Assessment Tests: Don’t jump through hoops we discussed what to say to employers who make outrageous demands of job applicants before a face-to-face interview is even scheduled.

But this is different. You’re looking for a way to get an interview after you almost swallowed an online interrogation form.

I’m going to keep this Q&A column very brief, because what we need is loads of ideas and How to Say It suggestions from other readers. What can you say to an employer to get an interview?

The key, as you might suspect, is to talk directly to the right person in the company. So, why mess around? I’ll start. Try this. Send a note to the CEO or, better yet, call.

“Interview Me”

How to Say It:

“Hi, I’m Bill, a seasoned pro in [your field]. I’m interested in working for your company because it’s a shining light in our industry. But I’m puzzled by something. As a very busy [programmer, marketer, whatever] I don’t have time to waste with impersonal cattle-calls and online job forms, so I’m surprised your company is advertising rather than recruiting only the right people thoughtfully. I select potential employers very carefully. I’m ready to meet with your [marketing manager] to show how I can do the job to bring more profit to your bottom line.

“If you’re serious about hiring great [marketers] who know enough about your biz to have a working meeting with a hiring manager, I’d love to get together — but please, no personnel screeners who aren’t experts in [marketing]. There is indeed a talent shortage, and the talent doesn’t waste time on bureaucratic processes. I want to talk shop with someone at your company who’s qualified to talk shop with me. I’d be happy to fill out your forms later, if there’s a match. But I hope you respect my time and intelligence as much as I respect yours. If you want to talk with the best [marketers, etc.], interview me and I’ll interview you.”

That’s it.

Who else can you talk to? What else can you say? Who else can you talk to? What else can you say? (You’ll find more tips in this article, but let’s hear yours! Getting in the door.)

The recruiting, screening and hiring processes companies use are crap. We all know that. How else can you say, “Interview Me!” How can you avoid gagging on forms that peel off of HR’s toilet roll?

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Job Assessment Tests: Don’t jump through hoops

In the October 3, 2017 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader doesn’t like doing assessment tests for employers who put no skin in the game.

Question

I really enjoy your direct and honest feedback to job hunters each week. I’d like to get your thoughts on jobs that make you do “assessment tests” to prove you are qualified.

assessment testsI do not work in the tech field where I know these are common. I’ve worked in marketing for 15 years, won awards, and worked for some top-name businesses. But recently I have encountered many recruiters that want you to prove your worth.

My favorite was for a company in the San Francisco Bay Area that needs to fill a marketing and web content position. Two hours before the phone interview, the marketing director sends me an e-mail saying that I need to prove my research skills and she will send me a question 10 minutes before our interview time. I have to research the question and have it submitted before the interview.

I was ready to walk but did it just to see if I could. (I succeeded). After the talk, I was unimpressed with her abilities and withdrew my application.

Recently, during my first in-person interview for another job, I was asked to write a five-page press release by the next day. I politely told the manager that my extensive work experience speaks for itself and I would be happy to send links to my previous press releases. She said that wasn’t good enough and I said, “I’m withdrawing my application.”

As you can tell, I’m ready to walk away from imposing situations like this that, for the most part, waste your time. What is the proper way to say “no” to these assessments? Thanks!

Nick’s Reply

My compliments for walking away from these kinds of abusive hurdles. Such employers undoubtedly think what they’re doing is a clever “pre-assessment” of job applicants. That is, they want to assess whether it’s worth their time to meet and assess you. They lay the burden on you, while they avoid putting their own skin in the game.

My guess is they add this step because some HR consulting firm charged them a bundle for “best methods” in recruiting. But there’s nothing “best” about abusing the job candidates those same employers complain are in short supply! Talk about trying to appeal to a candidate!

Assessment tests are often bogus

For an in-depth look at this topic, see Dr. Erica Klein’s Employment Tests: Get The Edge.
Job assessment tests come in many flavors. Tests and assessments can be useful tools for employers and job seekers. But more often than not, they’re misused. Some assessment methods are transparently ridiculous and unreasonable — and they’re not assessments at all. They’re bogus.

I think the way you’re dealing with unreasonable demands is just fine. And I don’t think anything you say to employers or recruiters is going to make them stop insisting that you jump through hoops, participate in totally one-sided “interviews,” and do free work. These employers have established a policy and a process. You’re not likely to change any of it. But it may be fun to make a point to them — a point that may hit home after they lose lots of good job applicants to their competitors.

I love your story about the marketing director. I wonder if she instructs her company’s salespeople to pre-assess potential customers by making them submit a five-page statement about “Why I’m worthy to listen to your sales pitch.”

But you asked me how to say no to these “assessments.”

How to Say It

When you’re asked to jump through hoops that you think are unreasonable, be ready to respond. Here are my suggestions about how to say it, ranked by snarkiness. Decide how far you want to go.

Meet or beat it.

“I’d be happy to invest my time to meet with you so we can determine whether we should work together. If there’s serious mutual interest, I’d be glad to show you how I’d to the job profitably. But without a corresponding investment of time from a serious employer, it’s just not prudent for me to do what’s essentially a one-sided assessment. I’m currently in discussions with three other employers and I expect to choose one in the next X days. If you’d like to meet to explore working together, I’d be glad to come in on one of these dates and times: [list 2 or 3 dates]. If those are not convenient, please suggest some others and I will look forward to talking shop.”

That’s pretty assertive, but so’s an employer’s demand that you do work before just a phone interview. I’m a big believer in showing how you’ll do the work to win the job — in a face-to-face meeting. But if the employer isn’t investing its own time and effort, it’s presumptuous of them to expect you to do so.

Pay me to do your job.

Sometimes it helps to put a price on what the employer is demanding:

“Just as I’m sure you don’t charge prospective customers to do a sales call, or to provide product samples for their evaluation, I don’t charge for interview meetings or samples of my work. I’d be more than happy to meet with you. But if you want me to work solo while you attend to other matters, my hourly rate is $X. If you’re willing to invest a couple of hours of your time, I’ll invest mine, too — no charge.”

I’ll do it if you’ll do it.

Sometimes it helps to put the shoe on the employer’s foot. You’ll win only the most honorable fans with this, but please understand that this is the shoe the employer is trying to get you to walk miles in:

“Attached is a psychological assessment test to be completed by the manager I’d be working for if your company were to hire me. If you’ll please have him or her complete it, to help me ensure I’d be working for a properly qualified manager, then I’d be glad to take your assessment, too. Since you already have my resume, kindly forward a copy of the manager’s resume so I can review it. Since time is of the essence, please be aware that I’m at the offer stage with two of your leading competitors.”

I don’t do tricks.

This one’s pretty snarky but, hey, would you go on a blind date with someone who’s not going to show up?

“An interview is called that because inter- means between, mutually, reciprocally, together — not one-sided. I’m looking for a good employer, and that means one that respects me enough to invest time together and reciprocally. I don’t jump for treats. Do you really have so many great candidates that you can afford to ask them all to do tricks before you’ll interview them? I’m ready to interview you if you’re ready to interview me.”

You’re not worth my trouble.

This one requires no explanation.

Talk to the hand.

Why do they do this?

You know such jump-through-the-hoop job assessments are inappropriate and usually offensive. So do I. Why don’t employers know it?

It’s pretty simple. These are employers that don’t know how to recruit job candidates. They want you to do the work, preferably with no investment on their part. These employers want you to incur costs before they do. They want you to pay for hiring managers’ (and HR’s) ineptitude. They’re all telling you one thing: “You don’t want to work here because we have no idea how to hire.”

What are the most ridiculous or offensive assessment tests you’ve been asked to jump through? How have you responded? Is there a way to say no that keeps you in the running? If you’re an employer, how do you justify asking candidates to perform — before you invest any time in them? (That’s not a loaded question. We’d really like to know.)

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Revealing my salary earned me a lower job offer!

In the September 12, 2017 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader succumbs to an employer’s demand for his salary information and pays for not keeping his mouth shut.

Question

salaryNick, I need your help. I’m in a very tough spot with salary negotiations. HR told me the salary range for the position ($65K-$70K) on the phone before our interviews. They also asked for my salary expectations, and I told them $65K-70K. So we had the interviews knowing we were all on the same page. Or so I thought.

After the first interview, I was contacted by the HR rep and was explicitly told that I would need to provide my current salary or we would not be able to proceed further with the process. So I reluctantly gave my salary away ($53K, which will be $55K in five months when my annual merit kicks in).

After the second interview, which I knocked out the park, they made an offer. It was only $60K. On the phone, I told the HR rep that there is no deal but I would like to continue to try to negotiate the best compensation package, and we will revisit the offer in a couple days.

What do you suggest I do here? I don’t want to turn away more money, but they are $5K-$10K below my expectations. Is my only recourse to risk the offer as a whole? Thanks.

Nick’s Reply

You ought to charge them $5,000 for helping them negotiate a lower salary, because that’s what you did. Congrats on getting an offer, but I agree with you – you ruined your negotiating position by strengthening theirs.

Never, ever, ever disclose your current salary to an employer. (See Keep Your Salary Under Wraps.) They will use it to put a cap on any offer they make to you. Now you’re stuck.

You must decide one thing: What’s going to make you walk away from this deal? That is, what’s the least amount of money you’ll accept and still be happy?

They may offer you a bit more, or they may stand pat. If they raise the offer, my guess is it will be by one or two thousand dollars, to make you feel you won a concession. But that’s no concession. It’s still lower than the range they agreed to. They will still save money, and you’ll lose money. You have already made a concession, by considering less than the top of your range ($70K). The kicker here is that both parties plainly agreed to the same salary range before proceeding with interviews.

They screwed you.

What they did is bait-and-switch. They agreed to one thing but switched to something else. They screwed you. Now you must recover or walk away.

Once you decide what is the minimum acceptable offer is, the rest is easy – even if it’s not a happy thing. You cannot negotiate unless you know in advance what will make you walk away. Then you tell them this:

How to Say It
“I can do this job profitably for you, and I want to join your team. I make that commitment. But I told you very clearly when you asked me what salary range I would require: $65K-$70K. And you told me your range was the same. On that basis, I did the interviews with you. If you can meet the range you committed to and that I asked for, I’m ready to accept.”

The rest is up to them. Just be ready – they may say $60K is as high as they’ll go. Are you ready to walk away? If you agree to the $60K at this point, be prepared for lower-than-promised raises in the future, and other broken promises. These people have made it clear from the outset that they say one thing but do another.

The offer is based on your salary.

“HR logic” about salary goes like this. If you make $A, you don’t deserve more than about $A + X%, where X is some small percentage. Why does HR do this? Here’s what one HR executive wrote to me in response to my advice that job applicants should never disclose their salary to employers:

“Employers want your salary information because they believe that if you apply for a job that starts at $50,000, but you made $30,000 in the same sort of job at your last company, they’d be overpaying. They’d want the opportunity to buy you for $35,000 to start, saving them $15,000.

“The HR person who does that gets many kudos for their shopping moxie from their boss, and gets to keep their job and go on many more shopping trips.

“I’ve been a vice president of HR, a recruiter, a labor negotiator and a candidate, so I know from which I speak… I am so dismayed that someone pays you to hand out this kind of information.”

[Excerpted from Keep Your Salary Under Wraps]

If they try to “explain” that their offer is based on your old salary, your response can be only one thing if you want to negotiate with strength.

Tell them to go pound salt.

If HR gets pushy or threatens to “end the process,” tell them I said they should go pound salt. Your salary is none of their business. Will they tell you their salary?

Here’s what an Ask The Headhunter reader posted recently on LinkedIn:

“To anyone who wants to maintain their salary history confidential in a way which no prospective employer can hold against you, I utilized Nick’s technique at one point in my career and was very successful — including getting the job I was interviewing for. Nick has a foolproof technique on how to address previous salaries which actually makes the company respect the candidate.”

Here’s what another said:

“The hiring manager more or less offered me the position on the spot and indicated a salary range that is roughly 40-50% more than I make now. Your two biggest lessons (at least for me) at work in the flesh: (1) Never divulge my current salary, and (2) Talk about what I will do, not what I’ve done.”

You can decide for yourself how to proceed. Here’s my advice:

How to Say It
“My old salary is irrelevant. I told you my required range and we agreed to do interviews based on that. Will you make an offer in the range we agreed on?”

Once you decide your position, the rest is up to them. If they insist on judging your value on what your last employer paid you, it’s their loss, not yours. Move on. This is a company that admits it doesn’t know how to judge value for itself, or that cheats.

But please – this is your decision, not mine. If you decide $60K is good enough, then do what you think is right for you, not what I think is right. Only you have all the facts about your life and needs. I’d never criticize you.

Also keep this in mind: You killed the interviews. You impressed them. You pulled it off. Don’t let their negotiating tactics make you question your attitude, behavior, or worth. Do you think you can impress another employer? My guess is you can. But you must make that judgment for yourself.

We have of course discussed this topic many times before. See Goodbye to low-ball salary offers and Salary History: Can you afford to say NO?

How do you negotiate? Do you disclose your salary? What should this reader have done, and do next?

Coming next week

In the next edition, we’ll discuss a topic that may have headhunters (and their clients!) up in arms: Why a headhunter should never disclose her candidate’s salary to her client.

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Giving & Getting Information: Mistakes Job Seekers Make

In the June 27, 2017 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, we consider two mistakes job seekers make. One is about how much information readers give to employers, and the other is about how little information they expect to get.

mistakes

Question #1

One of the mistakes I think I make is I give employers too much of my information. How far back (in years) should you go when constructing your resume or your LinkedIn profile? For example, when you list dates and years, is it important to include the years that you attended each university?

Nick’s Reply

You can include as much as you want in your resume or LinkedIn profile. Some persnickety HR people want to see everything – and that just reveals incompetence. They don’t need everything.

Information mistakes

In fact, too much information on a resume easily leads to confusion, mistakes, and decision paralysis. Very often, personnel jockeys are so unfamiliar with the details of a job that they have no idea what information about the candidate is important and useful. So they ask for too much, which gives them more basis to reject the applicant. (See How HR optimizes rejection of millions of job applicants.)

If you think listing certain dates will hurt you, leave them out. Is that risky? With some employers, yes. But relying on your LinkedIn profile or resume to get you in the door is a fool’s errand, because it’s just one of millions floating in an ocean of job applicants. The chances that someone will even read it are slim — most of the time an algorithm will reject you with no human review. So when you’re deciding what to put on your resume, you’re gambling.

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Take 30% off all Ask The Headhunter PDF books! This week only! Order now and save on every PDF book in the bookstore!

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Help them ask you for more

Give an employer specific information about your skills and abilities — information you’ve carefully selected to show how you will help the employer tackle its problems and challenges. Tease the employer intelligently. That will trigger a request to learn more, so they’ll call you in for a meeting. No matter how much information you provide, if you don’t address the employer’s specific problems and challenges, they won’t see any reason to bring you in. So tease them with just enough of the right information to make them want the rest. That’s where interviews come from. (See Tear your resume in half.)

Please: Don’t count on your LinkedIn profile or resume to get you interviews. (Don’t help employers make mistakes about you.) Most interviews come from personal contacts that you initiate. There’s no way around that.

(Here’s my own teaser: I’ll share some interesting statistics about the value of personal referrals in the next edition — July 11. Ask The Headhunter will be on vacation for the July 4 holiday!)

Question #2

In Forget Glassdoor: Use these killer tips to judge employers, you give job applicants a list of questions to ask in interviews, including “What’s it really like to work here?” You also advise asking to meet people you’d be working with, as well as key managers in the company. But how many companies will allow you to make requests of that nature? Maybe in smaller towns, but certainly not in large metropolitan cities.

Nick’s Reply

“Allow you?”

Who cares what they allow you to ask? As the applicant, you can and should ask anything you want in an interview. A company reveals a lot in its response (or lack of one), and your goal is to learn all you can so you can make an informed decision about working there. Unfortunately, once most job seekers make their way into a job interview, they forget that. Suddenly, their prime goal is to get an offer — when it should be to vet the company.

From Fearless Job Hunting, Book 8: Play Hardball With Employers, p. 12:

“Job hunters don’t often think to check the boss’s (and department’s) reputation inside the company, or how that department interacts with the rest of the organization. Likewise, job hunters usually fail to carefully inspect a company’s reputation on the street. Investigate, and avoid disaster.”

A job interview is business

I find it troubling that job applicants are fearful of asking questions that any good business person would ask a prospective business partner, customer or vendor in the normal course of vetting a deal. This is your life and career we’re talking about! And a job interview is a business meeting.

Being in a big metro area doesn’t give an employer a pass. This is important stuff! Serious job applicants must realize a job interview is a two-way street. Hence the prefix “inter-“ as in “between.” It’s not a one-way interrogation where the employer holds the upper hand and unilaterally decides what’s allowed. (While vetting an employer is critical, as far as the job itself goes, I think there’s one general-purpose question both the employer and the applicant should ask — and not much more!)

Get the information you need

To make an informed judgment about an employer, ask anything you need to, and if you don’t get good answers — or if the employer gets annoyed — then tell them you’re not going to make them an offer to work there. They’ve been rejected. They made a mistake. They don’t meet your requirements.

Ever wonder why employers ask for the kitchen sink — your entire resume — rather than just certain, specific information they really need to determine whether you can do the job? Who cares what you did 15 years ago? How much information do you give to — and get from — an employer? Do employers go overboard, while job applicants don’t ask for enough? What information is reasonable to request?

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HR’s Submission To ZipRecruiter

ZipRecruiterJust how much can ZipRecruiter insult its HR customers and still get their business? And how many arm’s lengths away from federal employment law violations can employers get?

HR: We pay ZipRecruiter to insult us

ZipRecruiter, a venture-funded, privately held company, markets itself to employers as “The Fastest Way to Hire Great People.” It lets HR departments “Post to 100+ Job Boards with One Submission.”

What’s so insulting about that? In a long-running Bloomberg radio ad, ZipRecruiter features an employer who says:

“Hiring people is probably the worst part of my job. It’s such a hassle — the searching. The sorting through resumes.”

      Radio Ad Excerpt

Man, doing HR work really sucks. Is that an HR manager grousing? Or maybe it’s a hiring manager? Imagine a sales rep at your company complaining about what a hassle it is to sell.

HR executives ponied up over $100 million in 2016 to ZipRecruiter for help filling jobs so Zip could cast them as dopes who hate the most important part of their work — recruiting and hiring talent. That’s submission.

According to USA Today, “Zip makes most of its money by charging $249 monthly to employers to post [their job] listings.” That’s a lot of job ads. That’s a lot of passing the buck.

What’s it like when the vendor you rely on to do your job for you blares to the world that your job is one big bother? Do HR execs love being insulted? Well, they keep paying for it. “Revenue is up 270% since 2013,” says USA Today.

HR seems to love being abused.

“We started using ZipRecruiter about 3 months ago. Right from the start you could tell it was going to make hiring a lot easier.”

      Radio Ad Excerpt

HR also loves getting millions of job applications that no human ever needs to touch. Candidates “roll in.”

“One click and my job was posted to 100+ job boards — all the top sites.”

      Radio Ad Excerpt

One click and a job is sprayed all over kingdom come. Says one job seeker:

“I heard an advertisement for ZipRecruiter on the radio. In short, you can post a job on this site and it simultaneously posts it on other job boards and social media outlets. Does HR really need that many applications? Especially in these times?”

The challenge is not picking good hires. The challenge is wiping away the mess of unemployed lemmings dying for interviews. Who needs to learn how to recruit when you can have “all of the candidates” from all of the job boards in your “dashboard”?

What do you do with them?

“All of the candidates came to my dashboard and it’s easy to compare them. Thumbs up if I liked them, thumbs down if I didn’t. No e-mails and attachments, printing up docs, phone calls, none of that.”

      Radio Ad Excerpt

Imagine: None of that. No “docs” — no resumes, no application forms. No communications with applicants — “no e-mails, attachments… phone calls…” Nada. 100% keywords, no humans need apply. And HR can go home.

Zip takes care of everything — including turning job applicants into your own private digital beauty pageant.

Except really ugly stuff happens in beauty pageants when there’s no regulation. And while some venture-funded firm sucks up the profits, humans submit and are sent home to clean themselves up for the next opportunity.

What job seekers are saying about ZipRecruiter

While ZipRecruiter’s investors are cleaning up, job seekers are left drowning in the mess.

One job seeker says it for many:

“My Gmail inbox is littered with e-mails from ZipRecruiter, Indeed.com, and others. It is so frustrating to go through the daily search and submission only to get the robo-e-mails from ‘Phil@ZipRecruiter.com’ — the Job Seeker Advocate — and similar messages from Indeed and others. Sometimes I think it’s all one big bizarre video game and I am the hapless mark helping to feed the Monster(.com?). At first, I viewed them hopefully, but now I see them as a part of a giant ruse.”

Another job seeker peals out:

“Things have changed too much for the worse. The old, tried and proven Agencies have gone to wayside and replaced with kids calling me…Saying, ‘Hey, I saw your resume on Indeed or Ziprecruiter or LinkedIn, etc.’ If you put enough monkeys in a room with keyboards eventually semblance of a word will be achieved. If this is how Americans get a decent job nowadays….OMG.”

And then it hits the fan.

H1-B Only: No Americans wanted

Employers operate in today’s “employment system” at arm’s length, enjoying seeming legal insulation by using “third-party” employers — known as consulting or contracting firms — to avoid violating labor laws. And these third-party firms in turn use services like ZipRecruiter to “recruit” at arm’s length while pretending they have no idea that the machine is cranking out Soylent Green.

Now here’s the backlash employers have exposed themselves to. My good buddy Suzanne Lucas, aka The EvilHRLady, just reported that the veil has been “accidentally” parted to reveal what’s really going on: legal violations.

What would you say to a job posting for a “Java Developer – H1-B Only?”

In her Inc. column last week, Iowa Company Accidentally Says No Americans Need Apply, Lucas turned up the heat on IT consulting firm American Technology Consulting, which posted the job. “In case you’re wondering what the problem is with the ad,” writes Lucas, “it’s that it violates one and possibly two laws.”

Lucas reported that Tara Jose, the president of ATC, said, “a third-party vendor recently used language when posting an advertisement on our behalf that was inappropriate and absolutely unacceptable to American Technology Consulting.”

Uh, “a third-party vendor?” (By press time Ms. Jose had not responded to an e-mail query for details.)

 

Jose told Lucas that her firm “did not write, condone, or authorize this language in the ad.”

So who wrote and authorized it? (An e-mail to Jose well before press time yielded no response.) More important, this ad is on ZipRecruiter. And as Lucas points out, it’s illegal. Possibly twice.

Was this an accident?

Is this accidentally at arm’s-length illegal?

When we were kids we’d walk up to a buddy, smack him, and chortle, “Sorry! I did it accidentally on purpose!” After we got smacked back a few times, we learned you can’t do that and get away with it. But in today’s employment industry, you can.

A company wants to hire Java developers on the cheap. As Lucas points out, it’s illegal to misuse the H1-B visa program to hire foreign labor cheaper than American labor.

But, can you “hire” a consultant from a “consulting” firm that in turn uses “a third-party vendor” that finds the Java developer by posting an illegal “H1-B Only” ad on ZipRecruiter — an ad that’s not written, condoned or authorized by the consulting firm? And besides, ZipRecruiter’s written policy says all ads must follow the law.

How many arm’s lengths from the l-o-n-g arm of the law are we now? Was that ad an accident? A one-off mistake?

Chatting with ZipRecruiter

I opened a chat with ZipRecruiter. Here’s what they told me.

The chat with Jason timed out. So I asked Taylor.

Is this accidentally on purpose?

I could have ended the chat there and we could have had an ad just like ATC had. But I kept asking the question in different ways. Finally, I was told it was up to me to make sure my job posting complied with “OFCCP and EEOC regulations.”

But here it was, three days after the Inc. article appeared, and on one screen I was chatting with ZipRecruiter and on another I was looking at that “H1-B Only” job posting — it was still there. The fastest way to hire H1-B Java Developers.

Sometimes Zip can also be the fastest way to scam people: Job seekers on ZipRecruiter being targeted by scams via email and text. Zip’s representatives blame it on “the front-end” and “the back-end.” But that’s just how the employment industry works — nobody’s fault. It’s all accidental: “No system is perfect, no matter how sophisticated or well intentioned,” says Zip.

Is this accidentally on purpose?

Are American employers using services that are largely unregulated to manipulate the job market? I don’t think there’s any doubt.

While state and federal legislatures feign interest in equal pay and equal opportunity, they condone a seemingly l-o-n-g arm’s-length chain of “contracting” relationships that seem to add no value to America’s employment system. How many middlemen can collect a fee to put you in a job working for someone other than who signs your paycheck?

This tawdry chain of consulting pimps seem to be sucking value out of the employment system and the economy — while government looks the other way. (See Consulting: Welcome to the cluster-f*ck economy.)

Notable companies that trade in profitable key words, profiles, resumes, and job postings are the front-facing businesses that are highly admired by a stock market that doesn’t give a rat’s ass about who’s getting a job, who they actually “work” for, where they came from, and who’s getting screwed by salaries that are manipulated in an international game of  “How low can you go?”

“All Candidates In One Place”

Joshua Brustein, writing for Bloomberg, exposes the state-of-the-art in the nebulous jobs cloud: The Secret Way Silicon Valley Uses the H-1B Program.

Far from some of the transparently political H1-B conspiracy mongering that’s become the click-bait of the blog world, Brustein takes us on a wild tour that exposes the systematic manipulation of the job market being practiced and vaunted as a laudable “industry.” These are the consulting and contacting companies, and the slimy job boards, that big tech firms hide behind.

“Contractors are also submitting many applications for foreign visas for work at other large American technology companies, according to a recent analysis of Department of Labor records covering eight major tech businesses between October 2015 and October 2016. Applications submitted by contractors accounted for half of the H-1B visa applications for jobs at PayPal Holdings Inc.’s headquarters, 43 percent of those on Microsoft Corp.’s campus, 29 percent at EBay Inc.’s headquarters, and about a quarter of those at the Googleplex.”

Brustein outlines the work of one researcher who “found that American tech companies are also utilizing large numbers of H-1B workers that are not highly skilled — they are just doing it through intermediaries.”

Do you need a pedestrian Java programmer — but prefer a lower-cost “H1-B Only” variety? Someone’s willing to write an “unauthorized” and illegal job ad for you under yet someone else’s name — but nobody knows who exactly we’re talking about. But we know where to find that ad — it’s posted on an intermediary. Or, as ZipRecruiter’s crack marketing team likes to say: “All candidates in one place.”

LinkedIn? Indeed? ZipRecruiter? The applicants just roll into your dashboard, and they answer your secret questions before you have to interview them. How’s that for arm’s-length?

No “docs” — no resumes, no application forms. No communications with applicants — “no e-mails, attachments… phone calls…” Nada. 100% keywords, no humans need apply. No need for HR.

And the candidates? Scrub ’em up and get ’em ready.

      Thumbs Up Thumbs Down

Nobody knows

ZipRecruiter says job postings must follow the law. ZipRecruiter says you can post jobs for foreign applicants only. An “H1-B Only” ad appeared for a reason — somebody approved it. Who? Nobody knows.

The impact on pay is dramatic. Bloomberg’s Brustein makes it clear. Businesses use H1-B to save money. Imagine you could tell your board of directors you’ve cut your costs by a third. Well, now you can.

“They paid an average of $88,500, which is about two-thirds the average salary for visa applications for jobs the companies submitted directly.”

“Hiring people is probably the worst part of my job. It’s such a hassle — the searching. The sorting through resumes. We started using ZipRecruiter about 3 months ago. Right from the start you could tell it was going to make hiring a lot easier. One click and my job was posted to 100+ job boards — all the top sites.”

Who needs more regulating?

When a privately held company like ZipRecruiter can knock the HR profession entirely out of the recruiting and hiring process, and HR both swallows the insult and relinquishes its job entirely, it’s game over for job seekers, employees, and managers who actually produce value to create profit. (Should HR get out of the hiring business?)

When HR funds the radio ads that reduce the profession’s most important functions to “a hassle,” and ZipRecruiter’s representatives tell you in a chat that you can post jobs for “foreign applicants only” and for “H1-B Only,” none of this is an accident.

What needs more regulating? Employers and HR execs who let an industry of digital job-board pimps sell out American job hunters? Or vendors that insult and abuse them all the way to the bank? How many arm’s lengths away from federal employment-law violations can employers get?

Are we all nuts, or what? There’s an emperor running around buck naked, and the hue and cry is that there’s a shortage of clothes. Or is that a talent shortage? One click, and it’s all going to be a lot easier. You’ll just roll right into the dashboard head-first, and it’ll be no accident. It’s one great big submission. What do you think? What do we need to do to fix this?

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