4 Fearless Job Hunting Tips for Thanksgiving

Filed under: Changing jobs, Fearless Job Hunting, Interviewing, Job Search, Negotiating, Q&A, Salary, The job offer

In the November 25, 2014 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, there’s no Q&A. Instead…

pumpkinI used to take a break during Thanksgiving week and skipped publishing an edition of the newsletter so that I could cook, bake, and fill the larder with goodies for the holiday. But last year I started a new tradition and cooked up something different for you with the Thanksgiving week edition. Rather than normal Q&A, I’d like to share four tips from the latest Ask The Headhunter publications. If you find something useful in them, I’ll be glad.

The idea behind the new Fearless Job Hunting books is that finding a job is not about prescribed steps. It’s not about following rules. In fact, job hunting is such an over-defined process that there are thousands of books and articles about how to do it — and the methods are all the same.

What all those authors conveniently ignore is that the steps don’t work. If they did, every resume would get you an interview, which would in turn produce a job offer and a job.

But we all know that doesn’t happen. The key to successful job hunting is knowing how to deal with the handful of daunting obstacles that stop other job hunters dead in their tracks. Here are some excerpts from Fearless Job Hunting — and if you decide you’d like to study these methods in more detail, I invite you to take 20% off your purchase price by using discount code=GOBBLE. (This offer is limited until the end of the holiday weekend.)

4 Fearless Job Hunting Tips

You just lost your job and your nerves are frayed. Please — take a moment to put your fears aside. Think about the implications of the choices you make. Consider the obstacles you encounter in your job search.

FJH-11. Don’t settle

From Fearless Job Hunting Book 1: Jump-Start Your Job Search, p. 4, The myth of the last-minute job search:

When you’re worried about paying the rent, it seems that almost any job will do. Taking the first offer that comes along could be your biggest mistake. It’s also one of the most common reasons people go job hunting again soon — they settle for a wrong job, rather than select the right one.

Start Early: Research the industry you want to work in. Learn what problems and challenges it faces. Then, identify the best company in that industry. (Why settle for less? Why join a company just because it wants you? Join the one you want.)

Study the company, establish contacts, learn the business, and build expertise. Rather than being just a hunter for any job, learn to be the solution to one company’s problems. That’s what gets you hired, because such dedication and focus makes you stand out.

2. Scope the community

From Fearless Job Hunting Book 3: Get In The Door (way ahead of your competition), p. 6, It’s the people, Stupid:

FJH-3You could skip the resume submission step completely, but if it makes you feel good, send it in. Then forget about it.

More important is that you start to understand the place where you want to work. This means you must start participating in the community and with people who work in the industry you want to be a part of.

Every community has a structure and rules of navigation. Figure this out by circulating. Go to a party. Go to a professional conference or training program. Attend cultural and social events that require milling around with other people (think museums, concerts, churches). It’s natural to ask people you meet for advice and insight about the best companies in your industry. But don’t limit yourself to people in your own line of work.

The glue that holds industries together includes lawyers, accountants, bankers, real estate brokers, printers, caterers and janitors. Use these contacts to identify members of the community you want to join, and start hanging out with them.

3. Avoid a salary cut

From Fearless Job Hunting Book 7: Win The Salary Games (long before you negotiate an offer), p. 9: How can I avoid a salary cut?

FJH-7Negotiating doesn’t have to be done across an adversarial table — and it should not be done over the phone. You can sit down and hash through a deal like partners. Sometimes, candor means getting almost personal. Check the How to Say It box for a suggestion:

How to Say It
“If I take this job, we’re entering into a sort of marriage. Our finances will be intertwined. So, let’s work out a budget — my salary and your profitability — that we’re both going to be happy with for years down the road. If I can’t show you how I will boost the company’s profitability with my work, then you should not hire me. But I also need to know that I can meet my own budget and my living expenses, so that I can focus entirely on my job.”

It might seem overly candid, but there’s not enough candor in the world of business. A salary negotiation should be an honest discussion about what you and the employer can both afford.

4. Know what you’re getting into

From Fearless Job Hunting Book 8: Play Hardball With Employers, p. 23: Due Diligence: Don’t take a job without it:

FJH-8I think the failure to research and understand one another is one of the key reasons why companies lay off employees and why workers quit jobs. They have no idea what they’re getting into until it’s too late. Proper due diligence is extensive and detailed. How far you go with it is up to you.

Research is a funny thing. When it’s part of our job, and we get paid to do it, we do it thoroughly because we don’t want our judgments to appear unsupported by facts and data. When we need to do research for our own protection, we often skip it or we get sloppy. We “trust our instincts” and make career decisions by the seat of our pants.

When a company uses a headhunter to fill a position, it expects [a high level] of due diligence to be performed on candidates the headhunter delivers. If this seems to be a bit much, consider that the fee the company pays a headhunter for all this due diligence can run upwards of $30,000 for a $100,000 position. Can you afford to do less when you’re judging your next employer?

Remember that next to our friends and families, our employers represent the most important relationships we have. Remember that other people who have important relationships with your prospective employer practice due diligence: bankers, realtors, customers, vendors, venture capitalists and stock analysts. Can you afford to ignore it?

* * *

Thanks to all of you for your contributions to this community throughout the year. Have you ever settled for the wrong job, or failed to scope out a work community before accepting a job? Did you get stuck with a salary cut, or with a surprise when you took a job without doing all the necessary investigations? Let’s talk about it! And have a wonderful Thanksgiving!

If you purchase a book,
take 20% off by using discount code=GOBBLE
(This offer is limited until the end of the holiday weekend.)

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The Do-It-Yourself Interview (for managers)

Filed under: Uncategorized

In the November 18, 2014 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, we take a look at what managers need to ask themselves, before they ask job candidates anything:

You’re a hiring manager

Your human resources department just handed you a list of questions to use when interviewing job candidates. Put it aside. We can do better.

tell-meThe problem with such questions is that they quickly make their way into hundreds of books with titles like Top Interview Questions & Answers! Any job candidate with a decent memory can recite clever rejoinders to the Top 10 Stupid Interview Questions:

  • If you could be any animal, what animal would you be?
  • Why are manhole covers round?
  • What’s your greatest weakness?
  • How would you handle a difficult boss?
  • Gimme a break!

Before you decide what questions to ask job candidates, interview yourself.

Managers are not ready to interview

As we saw in HR Pornography: Interview videos, a recent survey of 600 HR professionals by McQuaig Institute, which develops talent assessment tools, found that 65% of respondents said their company’s hiring managers are not very good interviewers.

I find that most managers conduct rote interviews because they fail to understand what they really want out of a new hire. (See Don’t conduct junk interviews.) They don’t ask themselves, What am I really trying to accomplish for my business?

More common than the failure to assess a candidate properly is a manager’s failure to understand what’s important to him. Once you can get a handle on that, you will be able to develop your own interview questions without help from anyone. (Just what does your HR department really know about your department’s business, anyway? Enough to come in for a few days and do the job you’re trying to fill? If HR can’t do that, then what qualifies them to pose legitimate interview questions?)

I think most managers aren’t ready to interview anyone because they haven’t interviewed themselves first.

I’d like to suggest some questions for you — the hiring manager — to answer before you meet any candidates. I hope this exercise leads you to expect a lot more from the interview process. Perhaps these questions will give you food for thought, and you’ll think of more of them.

Questions for managers

  1. What’s the one thing you wish you could quickly figure out about every candidate in an interview?
  2. A year from now, how do you want your department to be different as a result of filling this job?
  3. If a candidate were to go up to the board and draw a detailed outline or flowchart, what would you want him to draw?
  4. At what point in your search for the perfect candidate will it start to cost you more to keep interviewing than to hire and train a talented person in the necessary skills?

man sketch a bulbI’ve got lots more of these questions for a DIY interview for managers, but I’d like to invite you — Ask The Headhunter subscribers — to suggest more good questions managers should ask themselves before they ask you (job applicants) anything at all. I’m sure you’ve been in enough interviews that went south for lack of productive discussion — and you probably could have helped the interviewer. (Not doing so might have cost you a job — so, maybe, next time you should nudge the manager back on track for your own good!)

It never ceases to amaze me. Managers can ask job candidates for almost anything they want — so, why do they ask for a resume, and about where you see yourself in five years? Why don’t managers address the really tough stuff? For example, why don’t they ask all candidates to show how they’d do the work, right there in the interview? (See The Single Best Interview Question Ever.)

I think the employment system is broken because employers use a worn-out, one-size-fits-all script when they decide to add people to their teams. Managers simply don’t know what they want much of the time, and they don’t take time to think about it. Consequenty, they conduct ridiculous “interviews” and wind up rejecting outstanding job candidates who never get a chance to really show what they can do.

The manager and the job candidate both lose.

Don’t you think managers could do a much better job of deciding what they want before they ask for anything?

What questions should managers ask and answer before they ask you to apply for a job and go to an interview? What can managers do to make interviewing a more productive experience?

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LinkedIn Users Sucker-Punched by Wrong References

Filed under: Job scams, Job Search, Q&A, Stuff I worry about, Stupid HR Tricks

In the November 11, 2014 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, we examine yet another questionable LinkedIn “feature” that could cost you a job.

Question

The New York Times just did a story about a group of people suing LinkedIn for selling possibly invalid references to employers. Now LinkedIn has gone too far. This is causing employers to reject job applicants, and the applicants didn’t even provide the references! What do you think of this career sucker-punch?

Nick’s Reply

Here’s the bottom line: There is zero integrity in LinkedIn’s “Trusted References” sales pitch. While LinkedIn sells employers a reference checking service, it defends against the lawsuit by saying it’s not really selling a reference checking service — it’s just selling a list of names.

And LinkedIn thereby throws its own integrity into the toilet. I don’t see how any employer could even contemplate using such a “service.” in-your-faceIt really is a sucker-punch — LinkedIn connects an employer with wrong “references” and you can’t even defend yourself.

I’ve got over 500 LinkedIn connections — most of whom I’ve never met. Some may have crossed my path at a company with thousands of employees. How irresponsible is it of LinkedIn to sell those overlaps as my
“trusted references?”

What are references?

What if I’m a food critic and I write a newspaper column that tells you a restaurant is no good? You buy the paper and avoid the restaurant. Can the restaurant sue me for loss of business? Even though money changed hands for “data,” do you really think a restaurant critic could go to jail?

I think the New York Times did a poor job covering this story, because it confuses several issues and fails to clearly point to the real problem.

Before we get into that, let’s remember that references make commerce possible. They are an important part of business. People’s opinions and judgments about us — and about products, services, brands and companies — are the coin of the realm in any economy. When smart employers hire and when good headhunters recruit, we check relevant opinions and judgments first, to make sure we know who (and what) we’re dealing with. That’s why your reputation — and any company’s reputation — is so important.

It makes no sense to suggest that checking references before hiring someone is inappropriate, or that rejecting someone for a job because of poor references is wrong. It’s due diligence. The Times seems to confuse seeking and sharing opinions with privacy. I think the lawsuit does, too.

But that’s where the controversies start. The Times doesn’t address certain questions, and I’m not going to, either, because this isn’t an analysis of references. Nonetheless, I’ll bait your confusion by posting some of the questions I think need to be answered:

  • What is a reference?
  • Who owns references?
  • How far can an employer go when checking references?
  • Can you buy a reference?
  • What does an employer pay for when using LinkedIn to check references?
  • For that matter, what do you pay for when using LinkedIn to make contacts or to get a job?
  • Are people free to ask about you and talk about you if they want?
  • What if someone decides not to do business with you based on what they learn from others?

America’s employment system has become such a jumble of promises, marketing, expectations, data and databases that everyone seems incredibly confused about what’s right, wrong, possible or legal.

Disclaimer

I’m not a lawyer, so this is not a legal opinion or legal advice. I’m a headhunter and my comments are based on (I hope) my business sense. What others say about your professional reputation matters a lot, and it does — and should — influence whether someone wants to hire you. But, what if a fencepost is checking your references?

Reference checking requires integrity

Headhunters — like homeowners looking to hire plumbers — check opinions and judgments all the time. We’ll make discreet inquiries to find out who you are, how good you are at your work, and what you’re like to work with. If we hear something out of the ordinary — positive or negative — we must have the good sense to double- and triple-check the information before we risk our own reputations by referring you to our clients. Like good restaurant critics, we realize that opinions we gather will have consequences.

Trureferences-glassst and integrity are the hallmarks of our business — which is why I say about 95% of headhunters aren’t worth spit. Too many are in the business for a quick buck, and their own judgment stinks (to say nothing of their skills). It’s up to you — the consumer — to use your head before you rely on a headhunter, whether you’re a job seeker or an employer.

Likewise, it’s up to employers to judge what LinkedIn is selling them when it delivers lists of references. And it’s up to employers to ensure that their own in-house recruiters know how to select, check and evaluate references properly. In my opinion, 95% of in-house recruiters can’t be trusted with the task, and no one is the wiser. Worse, many employers outsource reference checking and have no idea whether the results are valid or reliable.

(See Automated Reference Checks: You should be very worried.)

My point is, you have no idea where your references will come from or who is checking them — any more than a restaurant does. So be careful.

What did LinkedIn do?

According to the lawsuit in the U.S. District Court of the Northern District of California:

“LinkedIn has created a marketplace in consumer employment information, where it sells employment information, that may or may not be accurate, and that it has obtained in part from unwitting members, and without complying with the FCRA [Fair Credit Reporting Act].”

The problem, plaintiffs say, is that:

“any potential employer can anonymously dig into the employment history of any LinkedIn member, and make hiring and firing decisions based upon the information they gather, without the knowledge of the member, and without any safeguards in place as to the accuracy of the information that the potential employer has obtained.”

In other words, plaintiffs claim LinkedIn is selling information that leads employers to inappropriately rejecting people for jobs. They also suggest that there may be some violation of privacy. I asked employment lawyer Mark P. Carey about the privacy issue. He says:

“Everyone who maintains a LinkedIn account should expect that their information is public.That’s why we have these personal/professional marketing pieces. There is no privacy issue as far as I can see, especially if you signed the user agreement before gaining access to host your own page.”

But I do think LinkedIn has a problem. First, LinkedIn takes money for what it advertises as “Trusted References for Job Candidates.” In so many words, LinkedIn suggests the references an employer pays to access about you are accurate — “Trusted.” That’s where I think LinkedIn crosses the line, whether legally or with regard to its own integrity. LinkedIn cannot possibly know whether those references are trustworthy. So how can it pitch them with impunity to employers — or defend them to job seekers?

When people are rejected for jobs because of questionable references, we’ve all got a problem. LinkedIn especially.

Elsewhere in its Help section, LinkedIn says:

“A reference search locates people in your network who can provide reliable feedback about a job candidate or business prospect.”

That is, LinkedIn represents that an employer can rely on the references to justify hiring you or rejecting you. In fact, it uses those words to lure employers into buying those lists.

However, LinkedIn spokesman Joseph Roualdes tries to alter LinkedIn’s own representations when he tells the Times, “A [paid] reference search… simply lets a searcher locate people in their network who have worked at the same company during the same time period as a member they would like to learn more about.”

Suddenly, LinkedIn isn’t selling anymore. It’s covering its ass. The truth is on the web site: LinkedIn promises that the references employers are buying are “Trusted” and “reliable.”

References or just a list of names?

Here’s where I think the going gets dicey for the plaintiffs. Regardless of what LinkedIn sells and promotes — references — LinkedIn does not seem to really deliver references. It apparently delivers only a list of names. It’s up to the employer to talk to those people and ask them for references.

It seems to me that if the plaintiffs were rejected by employers due to bad references, the plaintiffs should be suing the references themselves for defamation — or the employers.

defamationLawyer Carey fleshes out the defamation issue for us:

“The real underlying issue here is whether and to what extent an act of defamation occurred… There is no legal claim there for anything, not even defamation. The article and the lawsuit dance across the fringe of privacy and defamation, without any substance. Only when a search adds content that provides a qualification uniquely driven at the particular candidate, then someone crosses the legal line of what is neutral and what is defamatory.”

But it doesn’t seem LinkedIn is “adding content.” That is, it doesn’t deliver the text of a reference, so there’s no defamatory statement.

Perhaps the employers who paid for those names have an action they can bring if the names yield inaccurate references when LinkedIn promises otherwise — but I don’t see how a job seeker could sue LinkedIn successfully because it sold names. That seems to be covered in the company’s terms and conditions.

The Times compares this suit to one against Spokeo, an online data broker which “agreed to pay $800,000 to settle accusations” that it marketed reports to recruiters and background screeners without providing consumers with protections afforded by the law.”

But LinkedIn doesn’t seem to sell reference reports about anyone. Again, I don’t see how LinkedIn can be liable for a bad reference. The data that employers rely on to make decisions did not come from LinkedIn; only names came from LinkedIn.

LinkedIn’s Customer: Fencepost, Inc.

The larger problem is that mindless employers believe ridiculous advertisements by LinkedIn that claim a list of names are “Trusted References… who can provide reliable feedback about a job candidate.”

(Remember, we’re talking about the same “professional networking” company that charges employers for lists of the best job candidates — while it sells high rankings on those lists to job applicants! We’re talking about the same employers that know this yet still pay LinkedIn to find job candidates! See LinkedIn Payola: Selling out employers and job hunters.)

fencepostSays the Times: “Sophisticated recruiters would not waste their time contacting people who clearly had no connection of significance to a job candidate.”

But they do, and if the New York Times is going to skate over this key fact, then it’s drawing the wrong conclusions, because most HR recruiters are fenceposts. Just ask any job seeker that deals with them. (See Why do recruiters suck so bad?)

Those same recruiters stupidly waste their time interviewing candidates simply because LinkedIn represents that the “profiles” it sells are “accurate.” Is it any surprise that recruiters are suckered into making hiring decisions based on “references” that may not be accurate?

A law professor cited in the article concludes, “A company can now decide which people associated with you can be curators of your reputation in situations that matter.”

But companies have always done that. The trouble is, now there’s no need to verify that a reference is legit — that is, valid or reliable. Because LinkedIn ensures us that it is.

What’s the real problem?

LinkedIn does not sell reference reports or reference information, so I don’t think anyone can hold it liable when employers reject applicants based on comments made by a list of people LinkedIn sells.

I think the wrong plaintiffs are suing. Employers should be suing LinkedIn for its failure to take reasonable measures to ensure that the lists of references it sells are in fact “Trusted References” and that they “can provide reliable feedback about a job candidate.”

Just how stupid are recruiters who “trust” LinkedIn references? The Times reporter says the plaintiff’s lawyer showed her that recruiters have no idea what they’re buying — or whether they’re calling real references at all. The lawyer ran a “LinkedIn reference search” on the reporter:

“The search produced a list of 43 people in his network who currently work or have done work for this newspaper — including a former I.T. consultant, a freelance contributor and two former interns. I had met only four people on that reference list, and none of them had direct experience working with me.”

Just imagine: A recruiter uses LinkedIn to search his network for people who are your “Trusted References” — but the recruiter has no idea whether any of them had any direct experience working with you.

You get rejected, because someone who never worked with you provided a questionable reference. (As I pointed out, I don’t know most of my connections, thanks to LinkedIn’s marketing mission to link everyone. What if a personnel jockey gets hold of an overlapping contact and trusts it as a reference about me — and I get screwed?)

The underlying question — and concern — is, how skilled is the reference checker, and is the check done properly and with integrity?

The recruiter’s purchase of a list from LinkedIn becomes the faux justification for one potentially bad decision after another — and one unemployed LinkedIn user after another.

Have you been sucker-punched by wrong references?

LinkedIn’s “Trusted References” service is a cheap sucker-punch straight to your career and reputation. Now any personnel jockey can “check a reference” on LinkedIn without having the faintest idea what she’s doing — and you get screwed out of a job. For that reason alone, I hope LinkedIn gets its ass sued sixteen ways from Sunday. I’m not sure this suit will succeed, because I think it focuses on the wrong issues. But the legal issues are for the lawyers and the courts.

The business issue is, LinkedIn is talking out of two sides of its mouth. It markets a references service to employers, while telling the judge it’s really no such thing. And employers buy both stories.

Perhaps more to the point, since it’s consumers suing LinkedIn, those consumers need to admit that they bought into a marketing machine that uses their personal information to make money at their expense — and they agreed to the terms. When someone walks straight into a sucker-punch, it’s hard to sympathize with them.

Lots of questions remain. Whatever happens with this suit — or others that I hope it spawns — the thing that’s clear is LinkedIn’s marketing strategy: There’s a sucker born every minute, and we’re going to sell them all anything they’re willing to swallow.

Has LinkedIn’s reference service interfered with your job search, or cost you a job? How does LinkedIn’s credibility rate with you?

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How to tease a job interview out of a manager

Filed under: Getting in the door, How to Say It, Job Search, Q&A

In the November 4, 2014 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a job seeker’s mail to a hiring manager winds up routed to HR:

Question

What if the hiring manager forces you to deal with the personnel department?

My friend’s mom works at the company where I want to work. She came through with the name of the hiring manager for the job I want. I’ve learned from your articles that it’s best to go straight to the manager. So, I wrote a good letter demonstrating how the strong points of my background would make me the right person for the position and sent it to the manager. Now I find out the manager just passed it on to the recruiter for review!

So, what do you do when the hiring manager forces you through the recruiter?

Nick’s Reply

passing-along-the-resumeEvery time I hear that someone had a friend “get me a manager’s name” I want to laugh uncontrollably.

You went to a lot of trouble to develop a good inside contact, but then you squandered it. No offense, but I’ve got to say this: You’re acting like just another job candidate, and the manager is treating you that way.

When you get a personal referral to a hiring manager, you don’t write a letter. You use that referral to establish a more personal level of contact.

(For an example, see How to get the hiring manager’s attention.)

You would have gotten the most mileage out of this by having your friend’s mother actually go talk to the manager. She should just poke her head in the manager’s door and make a clear referral:

How to Say It

“I heard you’re looking for someone to do XYZ, and I thought I might be able to help you out. There’s someone you should talk to who would be great at this job. His name is… Would you be interested in talking with him?”

This is a preemptive reference. If your friend’s mom isn’t willing to go the extra mile to help you, then you’re wasting your time and hers, too. To boost the mom’s willingness to help, first get your friend to introduce you to her mom. Make it personal.

Here’s the key to this approach: There is no resume. Offering the manager a resume — or even a letter — is the best way to make him ignore you. (And that’s exactly what happened.) If you ever want to recommend someone to a manager, tease the manager. You read that correctly. Tease. It’s what every advertisement does to make you want to try or buy a product. Make the manager crave an introduction.

If the manager is interested, what your friend’s mom says next is crucial.

How to Say It

“He’s being pursued by a couple of companies and you’d have to move quickly if you want to interview him. If you’d like, I’d be glad to invite him over for lunch in the cafeteria and you could drop by to meet him.”

This builds the tease to a higher level. It forces the manager to make a choice immediately. Does he want to meet an in-demand job seeker, or not? Does he want to beat his competitors to the punch, or not? This is how to Get past the guard.

One way or the other, you’ll know immediately. Inserting a letter or resume into this process merely drags it out. But you want a clear indication now about whether the manager is really interested. So, force the manager to take an action now. Having lunch is an action. Passing your resume on to HR is a cop-out for you, your friend’s mom, and the manager.

If your friend’s mom’s pitch works, and you get to talk to the manager, here’s how to get an in-person meeting.


How to Say It

“My name is John Jones. Ellen Smith suggested I give you a call, after she explained that you’re facing some challenges with doing X,Y,Z. I’ve put together a brief business plan. If you have a few minutes to meet, I’d like to show you how I could tackle those challenges and related problems you’re facing, to help make your business more successful.”

Reprinted from “Pest or manager’s dream?” (pp. 18-19) in the PDF book, Fearless Job Hunting, Book 3, Get in The Door (way ahead of your competition).


If the manager doesn’t invite you in after that, then anything else you do will be a waste of time because the manager simply doesn’t get it. In another section of the same book (“Drop the ads and pick up the phone,” pp. 9-11), a successful job seeker tells how she got an interview without providing a resume at all.

It’s very common for a manager to route all resumes to HR. Here you had a great inside contact, but you still relied on an impersonal approach that made it easy for the manager to ignore you. If your contact had gone a step further, you’d be talking directly to the manager (whether in the cafeteria or on the phone) while your competition wallowed in that stack of resumes on HR’s desk.

What should you do now? Ask your friend’s mother — do this yourself, not through your friend — to go tell the manager he’s going to miss out on a great candidate. “I suggest you call him directly yourself as soon as possible. He’s in demand and won’t be around by the time HR calls him. I’m not sure he’d even talk with HR at this point in his job search — I believe he’s got offers.”

Yes, this is assertive. It requires a strong referral, or the referral is worthless. (Most referrals, like the one you’re using, are weak.) In the meantime, move on to something else while you wait. But please: Do this differently next time. Don’t send letters or resumes. Call. Job seekers who rely on documents usually see those documents routed around while the assertive applicants are having interviews.

Of course, it could be that this particular manager just won’t talk to candidates until they go through HR. I’d think twice about working for such a manager. (See The manager’s #1 job.)

How do you get in the door? Have you learned the art of teasing managers, or do you let managers tease you by “passing your resume along to HR?”

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The Indeed.com Game: Are you as dumb as HR?

Filed under: Job scams, Job Search, Stuff I worry about, Stupid HR Tricks

Pssst! Want a job? You might have to relocate to… Anonymous Proxy, Ohio (???)… Read on to learn how!

In The Bogus-ness of Indeed.com we discussed phony success metrics published by “the world’s #1 job site.” The point of that column is that Indeed implies it fills lots of jobs and finds jobs for lots of people (“140 million”) — yet never actually claims anything of the sort.

Bob, an Ask The Headhunter reader who uses no surname, just sent me something interesting — more bogus-ness from Indeed that’s worth a laugh. You can play along, too!

I call this game…

Are you as dumb as HR?

Bob suggests we visit I got a job! at Indeed.com. (Please open a new browser so you can play along without closing this page.)

indeed-i-got-a-jobWow! Look at all the millions of  success stories people have posted! Now click the button at the upper right of that page, labeled “Add your story.” Indeed gives you a form:

indeed-form

Cool form, eh? Well, to play this game, you don’t have to do any more work than the good folks at Indeed do to find you a job. Don’t enter any information. Leave it all blank!

Just click the button labeled “Share your story.”

BAM! You’re done! Indeed will congratulate you on your new fake job and add one to its counter.

indeed-total-stories-shared

Did you win?

You just helped Indeed fake out the next person that comes along!

Bob says, “What this means is that robots can actually click this and increase the job count automatically.”

Boy, those robots must be indeed-anonymous-proxyawfully tired! Indeed is helping people get jobs… where? Why, in Anonymous Proxy! (Hey, is that in Ohio?)

One of Indeed’s big marketing lines is about “How the world works.” Now you know how Indeed works. It doesn’t claim it filled all those jobs. You claimed you got all those jobs!

But wait a minute… You’re not as dumb as the HR departments that dump billions of dollars into job boards like Indeed every day! Yay!

But if you keep playing this game, you still lose — because you’ll keep wondering why you can’t find a job online!

Is there another way? Of course there is — don’t play games! There’s no faking it. There’s no automated shortcut to the job you really want. Check Ask The Headhunter In A Nutshell: The short course for 4 tips that include no shortcuts — or dumb online forms.

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How can I go back and ask for more money?

Filed under: Job Search, Negotiating, Q&A, Salary, The job offer

In the October 28, 2014 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, two job seekers make one very wrong assumption. One gets burned, the other still might learn. These two readers made the same mistake–they bungled their salary negotiations. Could they have handled it better?

Question

I got an offer from a prestigious company and accepted it two months ago. During my notice period of three months, I got one more good offer. It was higher than the first offer. After careful analysis, I have decided to join the first company, where the salary is lower. This is my first job, and I accepted the offer without negotiating the salary. Now I would like to ask the employer to increase the offer. I still have 15 days before I start work. Could you please suggest how to proceed? Thanks in advance.

Nick’s Reply

want-moreCongratulations on your offer, and on having a job with a company you really want to work for. If you’re happy with this new job, don’t try to grab a few more dollars. Rather, earn them in your first promotion and performance review. (Here’s the first thing that I think everyone should learn about this topic: That’s why it’s called compensation.)

Now I will caution you: You said you have already accepted the job offer. That means negotiations are closed, over, finished, done.

If you go back now and ask for more money, there is a chance they will become justifiably upset with you and withdraw the offer. After all, you accepted what they offered. In my opinion, what you are contemplating is inappropriate. I think it will suggest a lack of character to the employer.

(However, if you were to rescind your acceptance so you could take the higher-paying job, I’d have no issue with that. I discuss this in Juggling Job Offers, an article that is now expanded in the PDF book, Fearless Job Hunting, Book 9: Be The Master of Job Offers.)

It is common to have second thoughts about salary, especially when another company offers you more. It is also common to feel we could have negotiated a few more dollars. But consider this: You chose the lower salary job for a reason–apparently it’s a better situation for you. That’s a form of very valuable compensation in itself.

I have a rule: When you negotiate, always leave a few dollars on the table. It makes the other guy feel the negotiation was a success, and it makes him regard you and your new relationship more highly. Those few dollars are worth a lot in good will. To put it another way, never be greedy. Negotiate as best you can during negotiations–but when you’ve agreed to a deal, negotiations are done.

Read on to see what happened to another reader who changed her mind–too late–and tried to ask for more money.

Question

I had an interview last week with a professional office, and I told them my desired salary range. My mistake. I quoted a lower amount than I needed. They checked references and they called to offer me the job. I explained that I had made an error and quoted them a range for a 30-hour work week rather than a 40-hour work week. I did not mention a new salary amount.

The hiring manager told me he was “put back by the lack of communication” and wanted me to come back in and speak with them again. I responded with, “It’s not a problem. I will accept your offer and I’m ready to start work.” He seemed frustrated and said he would call me back after talking to his partner again. He did not call back. I called yesterday and left a message, but he has not called me. I don’t want 25% more. What’s your advice?

Nick’s Reply

I’m a big advocate for negotiating the very best compensation possible. But as I pointed out in the Q&A above, you can’t change a deal after it’s struck. (You can walk away from it, but that’s another story.) The problem is clear: You destroyed your credibility by changing your salary range. I understand you made an error. But when you called to explain it, all they heard is that you want to change the terms. That worries them. Now they don’t trust you to be up front and accurate with them.

You introduced uncertainty. I think that’s what turned them off. I’d send them a short, handwritten letter. I’d apologize for causing confusion, thank them for their time and interest, and tell them you understand why they may have decided to drop the matter. Sign it with best wishes and forget about it. There’s a small chance they’ll consider this a classy action and call you back. But if they don’t, I’d leave them alone, chalk it up to experience, and move on.

This is a hard lesson. I hope it’s one that the person who asked the first question above takes to heart. I don’ t think these are greedy people; I think they are naive negotiators. Never go into a negotiation without knowing exactly what you want. (Here’s some very simple but very powerful help: How to decide how much you want.) Once you state what you want, you kill your credibility if you change your position after the deal is settled–and it’s perfectly understandable if the other party withdraws the deal altogether.

Can you go back and re-negotiate a settled deal? I think there’s a difference between rescinding your acceptance of a job, and re-opening negotiations to get a better deal. What advice would you give these two readers?

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Should I have returned the job offer?

Filed under: Job Search, Negotiating, Q&A, The job offer

In the October 21, 2014 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a job seeker gives back a job offer:

I had an offer for a great new job a few weeks ago. Before accepting, I had to resolve some issues regarding my relocation. The company was great during this time and worked with me to make it agreeable for both of us.

no-thanksHere’s the dilemma. It was taking longer than expected to resolve my personal issues. I felt uncomfortable delaying my start date further, so I returned the offer letter. Two days later, my personal issues were suddenly resolved. I called the company and said I was now free to take the job, but they were lukewarm and said they might want to consider other candidates.

I’m left with no job because I resigned my old job of 10+ years. The new company had remarked on numerous occasions that they would not pull the job offer from the table and I was free to work out whatever issues I had.

Although I felt I was doing the right thing by letting them move on, I feel somewhat betrayed by their treatment at this point. Did I handle this wrong?

Nick’s Reply

First: Never, ever, ever resign a job until you have accepted another.

But there’s more to this: Please read When should I tell my boss I’m resigning? It’s too late, but please remember this next time, and I repeat it for everyone else: Never, ever, ever resign a job until your new job is nailed down tightly.

Now to your main question: If anyone should feel betrayed, it’s the company. You made a decision that forced this company to deal with the situation in a way they didn’t expect.

You rejected an offer that was left wide open to accommodate you. When you returned the signed offer, you terminated the hiring process. Now, they quite reasonably want to turn to other candidates. I’m afraid you may have damaged your credibility with the company. (See Do what you say you’re going to do. This company gets credit for doing it right.)

The better choice would have been to let the deal sit on the table until they withdrew it, while you tried to resolve your personal issues. I realize you were trying to be considerate about this, but in the end you hurt your own position, without giving any real benefit to the employer.

At this point, all you can do is go straight to the hiring manager and make a clear commitment. (See Do I have to say it?) If you don’t act, then nothing at all happens. Offer a firm start date; something the company can bank on. I think this is worth a shot. But don’t be surprised if they look at you like you’re crazy. In that case, apologize and move on.


For more about how to handle job offers, see Fearless Job Hunting, Book 9: Be The Master of Job Offers, which includes these sections:

  • FJH-9The company rescinded the offer!
  • Non-Compete: Did I really agree to that?
  • Am I unwise to accept their first offer?
  • Can I use salary surveys to goose up the offer?
  • The bird-in-the-hand rule of job offers
  • Juggling job offers
  • Give us the pay stub
  • Vacation Time: What’s good for the goose
  • How do I decide between two offers?
  • How to decline an offer
  • Does a counter-offer include pay-back?
  • Am I stuck with this non-compete agreement?
  • How do I ensure the job offer matches the job?
  • How to avoid a “bait and switch” job offer

The lesson in all this is that a company is perfectly capable of looking after its own interests. It was indicating its strong interest in you by keeping the offer open and giving you the time you needed. You should have kept the offer.

Would you give back a job offer? It’s one thing to decide to reject an offer. But to return it? How should this reader have handled an awkward delay? Now put yourself in the employer’s shoes — what would you do?

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HR Pornography: Interview videos

Filed under: For Managers, Hiring, Interviewing, Job Search, Q&A, Recruiting, Stupid HR Tricks

In the October 14, 2014 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a job seeker won’t make a video:

My wife, a veteran in her field, began a search for a better job and company. In the past, she used the broken and traditional job hunting methods. After showing her the Ask The Headhunter website and purchasing the companion books — and with a little coaching from me — she landed two job interviews with hiring managers within three weeks.

watching-computerSuddenly, a personnel jockey injected himself into the ongoing discussions with the hiring manager. The recruiter insisted that my wife submit herself to a one-way, online digital video taping, answer a series of pre-selected “screening questions,” and upload it to who knows where for “further review and screening” by who knows whom.

She found the request creepy, impersonal, presumptuous, Orwellian, exploitative, voyeuristic, unprofessional, and perhaps even unethical. (I’ve attached HR’s e-mail.) She declined, instantly prompting an automated “Do Not Reply” rejection e-mail. She was not worthy because she wouldn’t subject herself to a dehumanizing “HireVue Digital Video Interview.”

This new wrinkle in HR practices seems like the most unsettling and counterproductive yet. It not only removes access to the hiring manager, but also live, human interaction. It sounds like “HR pornography,” where perverted personnel jockeys huddle around a monitor to gawk at videos of “virtual job candidates,” picking apart perceived blunders while they screen you out.

Would you please share your comments and advice on this new and bizarre interviewing phenomenon?

Nick’s Reply

This HR department cheapens itself, the employer, and everyone it subjects to automated interviews. “Talk to the camera by yourself” is not an interview. It’s stupid. Your wife is right to say no, and she’s smart to move on to a better employer.

A recent survey of 600 HR professionals by McQuaig Institute, which develops talent assessment tools, found that 65% of respondents said their company’s hiring managers are not very good interviewers. Meanwhile, HR says its job is to train managers to interview. Is it any wonder HR cuts itself and hiring managers out of interviews and farms the task out to a video company?

A 2013 ADP survey found that, “Consistently across the globe, employers have a significantly more positive impression of how they manage their workforce versus what their employees experience in the workplace.” ADP concludes that “as a whole, HR does not have a handle on the asset it is hired to manage.”

In short, HR is doing a lousy job at interviewing, and HR seems to think it knows what it’s doing — while employees disagree. HR has cornered the market on stupid.

If your wife has already decided not to “make a porn with HR,” I suggest she call the hiring manager and say something like this:

“What’s up with your HR department? I’m glad I spent time talking with you about the job and how I could help your company. But I don’t make videos. I’d be glad to come in for an interview with you. If we decide there’s a match, I’ll fill out a form for HR, but I don’t talk to imaginary interviewers on camera. I find that insulting. I leave the rest up to you.”

Of course, use whatever expressions you are comfortable with. But let the manager know you’re interested in further discussion with him, but not in solo videos for HR.

  • An alternative is to offer to do a Skype interview with the manager. HR may not realize that Skype is basically free, while video interview services can be pricey.

Managers who relinquish control of job interviews to HR likely also let their mothers vet their dates. The culprit here is HR, but the real problem is the hiring manager. Will he stand up and do what good managers do — make his own decisions? (For more about how HR’s missteps can cost you a job, see 7 Mistakes Internal Recruiters Make and The Recruiting Paradox.)

I reviewed the e-mail instructions your wife received — all boilerplate. It’s pitiful and sophomoric:

“One of our Recruiters will review your information and if there is a good match, you’ll be contacted either via e-mail or phone to schedule additional time to speak live.”

But the hiring manager has already decided to spend “additional time speaking live” with your wife. So what’s up with this? How is a “Recruiter” (capital R) going to judge whether there’s a good match better than the manager who has already been interviewing her? Stupid.

“This is a real interview! Be sure to treat this interview as you would an in-person interview.”

Bull dinky, not it’s not! It’s a fake interview with no interviewer.

  • An alternative is to offer to meet with the hiring manager again, rather than do the video. There is no need to say no if you offer a sound alternative.

If anyone fears saying no means “losing an opportunity,” the far bigger risk is having your video rejected by HR — and then having it float around the company forever — if not in some video-interview vendor’s database. (How do you know it won’t be shared with other employers?)

“Feel comfortable to be yourself. We want to see your personality.”

What they mean is, we don’t want you to see the personalities of our personnel jockeys because, face it, they’re a bunch of data diddlers that we don’t want talking to anyone. (I wonder what they’d say if you asked for a video of HR answering your questions? For more stupid HR tricks, see WTF! Inflatable Interviewer Dolls?)

If I were your wife, I’d want to talk with the manager one more time, to find out what he thinks about all this. If he tells her he has no choice, my reply would be, “I’m amazed. I left our discussions very impressed, but I’m going to be blunt with you. I’d never take a job in a company where managers don’t manage the hiring process. It says a lot about the operating philosophy at your company. I wish you the best.”

Is your wife taking a risk by talking to the manager like this? I think there is little, if anything, to lose when you are forced to the back of the line by the HR department and the manager concedes. A professional community that does not call out questionable behavior is not worth living or working in.

watching-computer-2To see the punch line in all this, you have to visit HireVue.com, the company that handles video interviews for this employer. Scroll to the bottom of the homepage, where HireVue offers a “success story” from a leading customer — Rodney Moses, VP of Global Recruitment at Hilton Hotels. But Rodney doesn’t tell his story in a video; it’s a slide show hosted not on HireVue, but on SlideShare.net. Video interviews are good enough for you, but not for HireVue’s best customers. HireVue and HR need to eat their own dog food before feeding it to job seekers.

More important, HireVue reveals the real problem employers face, in the introductory video at the top of its homepage.

HIREVUE AUDIO: “In a sea of candidates that all look the same, how do you find the ones that stand out? Since 2005 the number of applicants for any given job has increased four-fold, making it impossible to properly screen and assess each individual…”

No kidding! And what do you suppose caused that increase?

HireVue’s business model is predicated on employers blindly soliciting staggering numbers of applicants — far too many — via indiscriminate digital advertising. The results overpower any employer’s HR resources, so HR needs a video screening process to deal with a job posting process gone haywire. The real solution is to turn off the firehose and eliminate the flood of inappropriate applicants.

If HR would stop drinking from a firehose, it wouldn’t need to throttle its candidate pipeline. Besides, it’s unbecoming to do either.

A manager talks to a candidate again and again, only to have HR demand that the candidate make a video in front of an unmanned camera so HR can decide whether to continue discussions.

Just say no. But it’s the manager who should be saying no — to HR — about making inappropriate requests of job applicants.

Your wife did the right thing. Is it worth letting top management know what’s going on down in HR’s playroom? If HR is busy playing digital spin-the-bottle, HR should get out of the hiring business.

HIREVUE AUDIO: “Your best candidate could be the 100th to apply, yet you’ve only got time for the first 25.”

Ah, the promise of being able to view a hundred or more candidate videos!

How many videos can HR watch before it goes blind? How does HR explain its disrespect of hiring managers’ interview skills — and its own failure to teach them? Would you make an HR porno? :-)

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News Flash! HR Causes Talent Shortage!

Filed under: Changing jobs, Job Search, Making money, Negotiating, Q&A, Salary, Stupid HR Tricks

Hold the presses! I’m going to show you how HR created “the talent shortage.”

I recently did a Talk to Nick consultation that illustrates why employers aren’t filling important jobs — while they complain there’s a talent shortage. The real talent shortage is in corporate management, where hiring is treated as an expense rather than an investment. Here’s what crummy job offers cost employers.

In the October 7, 2014 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a job seeker turns down a lousy job offer:

I heard from my old employer today. I got an offer that’s approximately the same amount I was getting paid when I left five years ago!

Background

low-offer“Mark” (not his real name) is a successful engineer who asked me for help in 2012 — to land a better-paying job elsewhere. He succeeded, and since then his engineering skills have grown and he has developed expertise in operations and quality assurance. This talented R&D engineer can now convert technically challenging concepts into products ready for production. His skills and abilities are far more valuable today than they’ve ever been. He contacted me again a few months ago when a manager at his old company encouraged him to apply for an R&D engineering position — in other words, to return.

After an hour’s consultation with me, Mark had a series of interviews, including a meeting with the manager who knew him so well the first time around. Here’s what Mark reported happened next.

Mark’s Story

I heard from my old employer today. I got an offer that’s approximately the same amount I was getting paid when I left five years ago! I declined to state my current salary in the screening interview, and instead explained the salary range I’d expect for an engineer with my experience. The personnel jockey replied that, “You know you will have to provide this at some point to move forward.”

I suspect the HR people pegged me based on my last known salary. If I had stayed with this company for five more years, I would be making more than the offer — a figure around my current salary.

I negotiated with the hiring manager, but HR handled the offer. There was some motion on their side, but only in the form of a one-time check that had large strings attached. The deal fell through. Companies succeed in spite of themselves!

The reasons why they could not improve the offer were as bizarre as some of the excuses I used to hear on my personnel reviews about why I could not be rated higher. In my conversations with the hiring manager, he stated that they recently lost a good employee in much the same way they lost me. I just chuckled. Thanks again for your assistance.

Nick’s Reply

The McQuaig Institute (a developer of talent assessment tools) recently polled over 600 HR professionals. The #1 reason they lose job candidates — reported by 48% of U.S. companies — is because the offers they make are too low.

HR knows where the talent shortage comes from: Lousy job offers.

Peter Cappelli, a human resources and labor researcher at the Wharton School, confirms that “employers can’t get candidates to accept jobs at the wages offered.”

Employers know exactly what the problem is, but they play dumb.

Cappelli points out, “That’s an affordability problem, not a skill shortage. A real shortage means not being able to find appropriate candidates at market-clearing wages. We wouldn’t say there is a shortage of diamonds when they are incredibly expensive; we can buy all we want at the prevailing prices.”

loserEmployers today refuse to pay market salaries and wages, then blame the labor force. (See How to decide how much you want.) That’s how HR — which took control of your job offer — lost you, along with other employees, and created the talent shortage at this company. This is how HR turns companies into losers.

It can be hard to swallow the reality that a company just isn’t going to make a prudent decision when it makes a ridiculously low job offer. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve advised clients to raise offers — after I’ve shown them what it’s going to cost to leave work undone. Crummy job offers also cost employers their reputation — in their own professional community when word gets out that their offers are too low.

Many just don’t get it. Employers incorrectly view hiring as an expense rather than an investment with an ROI. The great irony is, the actual extra dollars spent on higher offers are almost irrelevant when compared to the value the new employee will create. The more subtle lesson that some companies — but not most — learn is that enhancing an offer can make a new hire happy, more loyal, and more productive. Money doesn’t buy love, but it can buy better work.

However, Cappelli points out that corporate accounting systems do not track the cost of leaving a job vacant, making it appear that the “cost savings” of leaving the job empty translate into “profit.” (Yes, I’m still laughing my A off at that one. Call it revenge against the bean counters!) A crummy job offer costs an employer — and our economy — quite a lot.

Employers are shooting themselves in the foot when they make silly job offers. An engineer plus five years’ more experience, plus expertise translating designs into buildable, quality products, plus the maturity to work across corporate departments is worth more than the same engineer five years ago.

Except to a cheap employer with a serious talent shortage in the executive suite.

Good for you for rejecting a lousy offer. I realize not everyone can afford to do that. (See Turn down that job offer.) I think such jobs get filled because employers wear applicants down and convince them that “this is the way it is, and you should accept it.”

In Pursue Companies, Not Jobs, I suggest that you (or anyone) should pick a good company, take the best job you can get there, and navigate the company once on board to get to the jobs you really want in time. It’s all about the quality of the company and the people. Salary is such a small component of a company’s business, yet HR is so focused on it that enormously bad business decisions are made over a few bucks. (Meanwhile, HR blows billions on job boards, applicant tacking systems, and other automated “tools” to help it make more low-ball offers to save money… gimme a break!)

Your old boss confessed to you what crummy salaries and job offers do: They make talent disappear. So you don’t need a news flash — you already know.

Thanks for sharing the outcome. Seriously – move on to a better opportunity. Start picking your next target, and be ready to express your desired salary range, and to negotiate a fair compensation package. You’ll learn more in Fearless Job Hunting, Book 9: Be The Master of Job Offers, and in Book 7: Win The Salary Games (long before you negotiate an offer).

Have employers created the talent shortage? Are they paying for crummy job offers in ways they don’t realize? Have you been smacked with a ridiculous offer? What implications do you think this has for our economy?

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Say goodbye to your psychopathic boss

Filed under: Heads up, Q&A, Stuff I worry about, Success at Work

I couldn’t make up a story like this if I tried. This week’s newsletter is based on a comment posted by a reader on the Ask The Headhunter blog, edited gently. It’s still long — but I’m publishing the gory details because it’s the sort of story I’m sure many of you have heard from a friend. Worse, it may be a story from your own work life. While many employers cry there’s a talent shortage, this is how some treat their employees.

In the September 30, 2014 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader recounts a story no one wants to experience:

After four years with my company, I made a choice to abruptly quit (even before I have officially secured a new job). I know that’s idiotic and irrational, but ever since new management took over last year, I’m mentally drained. They are a twisted bunch of jerks, to be quite frank. One incident in particular was the final straw for me!

psychopathI’m open-minded and actually enjoy change and new routines. However, I can’t function at a job where bosses let their authority get to their ego and judgment. Last month, one of my new managers flat-out bullied me. I’ve never had a full-on issue with a boss or co-worker ever, so it was devastating to be a target for no apparent reason.

There are two sides to every story, so I’ll admit… I was having an unusually horrible day (personal life, etc.). As I was walking back to my department, one of my managers ignored my friendly hello and then hastily asked me why I had gotten disorganized so suddenly with my workload. She said it in a confrontational way. I thought I was being over-sensitive, so I politely smiled and told her what my plan was to fix the problem shortly and I walked off to my destination.

Suddenly, she yelled at me over the P.A. system to go to her office pronto. I was annoyed, but sucked up my pride and did as I was told. She was seated like a high school principal about to expel a mouthy, troubled teen. I knew she looked angry, but I passively tried to discuss the issue she seemed to randomly have with me.

She barely let me say one word. Instead, she yelled at me that I had answered her in a rude, sarcastic manner. I told her: “I am having a pretty bad day. Maybe I came across as rude, but I didn’t mean to be.”

To rub salt into the wound, she paged another manager to join her in scolding me. She exaggerated everything to the other manager and got her upset at me, too. Obviously, my adrenaline was starting to flow now. I was in that fight-or-flight mode. It’s extremely rare for me to get upset in public or at work, so I was about to have a panic attack from the stress.

I quietly told her that I needed to walk away and use the restroom. I was fighting tears at this point, so I excused myself. She then yelled over the P.A. system again for me to go back to the office. So I did. Mistake! She was straight-up cutting me down this time. I snapped and said shakily: “Let me get back to my f***ing job and stop micro-managing me.”

I know, how unpredictable of me, however I was feeling threatened. She and the other manager then cornered me and yelled at me that I needed to go home immediately. I thought I was being fired so I cried as I walked past my co-workers. I went to my car and drove home crying. Really, I’m not normally a wuss, I just felt animosity towards the situation.

The next day I called to see if I had gotten fired. The HR lady said, “No, of course not.” After I explained to her what happened, she barely seemed to care at all. After four years of being a proactive and well-rounded employee, I felt appalled by her “whatever” attitude. I then wrote out my resignation notice and dropped it off on her desk within an hour.

I finished out my last day yesterday. I have a potential new job tomorrow (interview). I’m optimistic that I’ll land it with no problem, considering my slightly above-average resume. I’ll never tolerate that level of drama at any job, ever.

Having read “How your old boss can cost you a new job,“ I am afraid my old employer will not give me a good word for my potential new job. I’m hoping my possible new employer won’t find it necessary to call my old job.

I could have fought harder to maybe get my wrong-doers in trouble, but with the complexity of their office politics, it wasn’t worth trying. Sometimes you really do have to simply… quit. We are creatures of habit, so it takes guts to break routine and start fresh! But I feel a person’s mental well-being is more important than almost anything else.

Nick’s Reply

Never apologize for psychopathic managers.

I very rarely tread in the waters of clinical psychology, but it’s worth putting a name on what you encountered at your company: a psychopath. Don’t let the term intimidate you. Understand what it means so you can recognize it sooner next time. A psychopath is marked by:

“…a personality disorder characterized by enduring antisocial behavior, diminished empathy and remorse, and disinhibited or bold behavior.”

Sound like your boss? Read on.

“Lacking affect and urge control, demand for immediate gratification, and poor behavioral restraints… Lacking empathy and close attachments with others, disdain of close attachments, use of cruelty to gain empowerment, exploitative tendencies… and destructive excitement seeking.”

I had a psychopathic boss myself during a long year in my life. This company president abused and terrorized individual employees in company meetings, held them up to ridicule, and encouraged others to attack them verbally, too. He held himself up as a godlike figure whose opinions were law. I didn’t realize what was going on until I heard a company customer dress him down and abuse him the same way — while he physically cowered, “Yes, Sir-ed,” and did exactly as he was told. A classic case of the abused abusing others. I quit soon after, to save my own soul.

In cases like this, as the verbal violence increases, your mind tries hard to rationalize it. (Maybe I should learn to accept such behavior. After all, we have such big-name customers, so my boss must be doing something right. Look at how much money he makes. Maybe this is what it takes to be successful, and so on.) But it’s not alright, ever.

No matter that you don’t have another job to go to. You preserved your self-respect and integrity. You were right to quit. It was the smart thing to do. Here’s the thing: You will quickly recover. Your former employer will not. Rest easy knowing that.

My one criticism is that, although I understand why a person might “go off” like you finally did, cursing in front of your boss is never acceptable. She succeeded in bringing you into her sick little world. In the future, avoid getting baited like that.

As far as references, I guarantee you that any reference from that company will be worthless or toxic to you. The business community already knows the company and its management for what they are. All you need say to any prospective employer is, “I don’t disparage anyone I ever worked for. I look forward. I want to work with a good company that encourages me to use my skills to produce profit in a healthy environment.” Then provide excellent references from everywhere but your last employer. (See Take Care of Your References.)


I show how to “launch” your best references so they’ll really pay off, no matter how negative one reference might be, in Fearless Job Hunting, Book 5: Get The Right Employer’s Full Attention, pp. 19-21. This PDF book also shows you how to get the truth about private companies, how to figure out whether a company is a “Mickey Mouse operation,” and how to pick worthy companies to apply to.


Please remember a piece of advice my mentor gave me many years ago — advice it took me a long time to understand: Never work with jerks. (It’s not the first or last time I’ll cite that advice.) As you learned while facing the sick wrath of your boss, It’s the people, Stupid. (No offense intended. We all need to think about that.)

When I resigned from my employer, I did it on my terms, like you did. I compliment you for not resigning on the spot in anger. It’s critical to take time to think, and to act with forethought and grace.

I wish you the best. Leave that illness you survived behind you — it’s a sick company. You’re healthy. Go work with healthy people and let the past go.

Have you ever had a psychopathic boss? What were the signs? What did it take for you to escape? How would you advise the reader in this week’s Q&A?

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