Too rich to land a job?

Filed under: Fearless Job Hunting, Job Search, Q&A

In the May 20, 2014 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader with a trust fund just can’t get it in gear:

I got a Ph.D. in Comparative Literature three months ago, and I’ve been unemployed ever since. The only job that my Ph.D. would lead to directly is an academic one, but I was so tired of the academic world that I had to do something else.

trust_fund_babyI come from a wealthy family, and they’ve set up a trust fund for me, so I’ve had enough money to survive on, but just barely. I thought I’d use this time to figure out what I’m going to do with my life. And guess what? I haven’t. I thought at first that I’d like to be a freelance journalist writing commentary on current events and the arts. But it’s very difficult to break into that business.

So I’ve decided I’d like to get a normal job. My family really wants me to get a life, and they’ve got a lot of money, so they’d pay for any kind of training. And so that leads me to my question here: What kind of training is the most likely to get me a middle-class job as soon as it’s done?

Personality factors are important here. I’m intelligent and hard-working, but I don’t really have people skills. I can usually be polite with people, but not friendly. I’m not good at small talk. At a recent dinner, I was talking over a career in financial planning with my family, but they said that I don’t have the people skills for it. They’re probably right. I need anonymity. I would not be good at anything that required a great deal of schmoozing.

Probably a lot of the other typical job tracks for humanities people, like editing and publishing, would require a lot of schmoozing, too, so you’ll understand why I’m leery of them.

So, what would you recommend for a person like me?

Nick’s Reply

Your candor is a good sign, so I’m going to be extremely blunt with you. Sorry if I sound like I’m punishing you for your family’s wealth. I’m not. It’s clear that you could not live on your trust fund anyway, but I want to help you get past it, because I think your money is stopping you from moving on with your life.

You need to work. Any kind of work. If you didn’t have the little bit of money your trust fund provides, you’d be tackling any job you could get to pay the rent. The outcome of that would be a process of exploration and elimination. You’d quickly learn what you like and don’t like — at a very fundamental level — about the jobs you’ve taken.

Get a job

Flip burgers. Wash floors. Wait tables. Work on a production line. Do some typing. Answer phones. Crunch spreadsheets. Anything. I’m not suggesting that any of those might turn into a career, but rather that the experience of working would illuminate life and work in general for you. In any of the jobs I’ve listed, you’d be part of a larger company that encompasses all kinds of work and jobs. (For a good start, try Fearless Job Hunting, Book 1: Jump-Start Your Job Search.)

For example, crunching spreadsheets at a public relations company could illuminate editorial, marketing, finance and other kinds of functions. Working a production line could teach you a lot about working with your hands. Like a rock band once sang, life is a minestrone. There’s a lot in that bowl, if you take time to look, and it’s all quite filling.

Get to know everyday people

Once you start working at any job, you will also meet your biggest challenge: dealing with people. Forget about anonymity. It’s not an option, especially at your age. If you let your lack of “people skills” be the excuse for not doing certain kinds of jobs, you will die half a person. You need to get close to other people if you want to find yourself. Trust me: You are one of us, and us has nothing to do with wealth.

Know where I developed my people skills? While I was in college — a shy, introverted, relatively asocial kid — I worked summers and holidays in a factory. My co-workers had third-grade educations, fast cars, long knives, drug habits, crazy girlfriends, very spicy food in their lunch bags, mean streaks, happy-go-lucky attitudes, and very high standards about who they called their friends.

It took a while, but I finally lost my holier-and-more-educated-than-thou attitude and learned to pay attention to the people around me. By the end of my first summer, I had friends who would take a bullet for me. (I mean that literally.) I don’t think I’ve ever felt so proud to be accepted by other people. I graduated from that factory with a lot of people skills. And I learned a lot about what I didn’t want to do. I passed many hours doing menial, repetitive work fantasizing about things that interested me. That’s how I found some direction — by working very hard, getting lost, and taking time to think while I collected a paycheck.

Start your life

Your bit of money is killing you. I’m not suggesting you throw it in the river. I’m suggesting that you get a job — any job. Learn to work with people, no matter how awkward it feels. (Don’t worry. If you’re rude or inattentive, they will slap you into shape, literally or figuratively. We all need that sometimes. I know I did.)

Your experiences with others will bring your real interests and motivations to the surface. And that will drive your choices. If you come up with something you’d really like to do, don’t do it. Make yourself wait until you’ve had a chance to change your mind. If you’re still focused on that one thing, then go do it. If it doesn’t work out, don’t be afraid to move on to something else. (For help getting in the door, try Fearless Job Hunting, Book 5: Get The Right Employer’s Attention.)

The first rule: Make choices now. No sitting around trying to figure things out. No waiting for your family to bless your choices. Work.

Second rule: Be honest with yourself about what you’re doing and why. But don’t feel you must explain it to anyone, least of all your family.

This is not career counseling. It’s life. Don’t let “the world of opportunity” bog you down. Don’t be too rich to land a job. The opportunity you need is to see yourself work with other people. You’ll learn a lot about yourself — no matter what the work is. Sometimes menial work is better. Sometimes you can learn more by working with laborers who are closer to “work” than white-collar “professionals” are.

Please start your life now. Don’t let yourself develop a disdain for the world that is matched only by your fear.

By the way. I, too, was a Comp. Lit. major for a while. The result: Today, my friends are puzzled by my reading habits, but they have no idea that Turgenev, Nabokov, Dickens and Flaubert have influenced my writing style as much as Lenny Bruce. :-)

Never let any of this boggle your mind or make you despair. A fine mind can have a good time with any kind of work if it stops worrying. No more education — at least not yet. The best training for you is on-the-job-training. Go work anywhere to start. But go work.

(Beware of career counseling. For many, its sedative properties can be lethal. To get on your own path, try the short version of Pursue Companies, Not Jobs. The full version is in one of my PDF books.)

Did you discover yourself (and other people) through an unlikely job? What kinds of work have you done that shaped your work ethic? Which job taught you how to be a successful human?

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Desperate: No degree, can’t get interviews!

Filed under: Fearless Job Hunting, Getting in the door, Interviewing, Job Search, Q&A

In the May 13, 2014 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader says she can’t get interviews:

My husband works for a recruiting firm and suggested I reach out to you. I have been actively searching for a job for almost two years. I built my own firm from nothing to one of the largest in my city and sold it for a modest profit, and I was named a finalist for a local Business Woman of The Year award.need-job

I received one call for an interview a couple of weeks back, but was passed by for the position because I do not have a college degree. I usually don’t get a call, just a letter in the mail or an e-mail stating that I was not selected for an interview because I do not hold the basic requirement needed for the position: a bachelor’s degree.

I have explained this to my husband several times, but he thinks I am being lazy and refusing to work. I have attached my resume for you to review. If you can shed some light on why I am not getting interviews, I would greatly appreciate it. However, if the reason is simply because I do not have the bachelor’s degree, please, let’s not waste an hour of each other’s time, or $225 for a Talk to Nick session that I will have to ask my husband for. That will create yet another fight in my household. I look forward to your response.

Nick’s Reply

I’m not contributing to a domestic fight. I accept Talk to Nick clients only when I’m sure I can help. (I judge this by asking for a 50-word description of what exactly you need help with and how you think I can help. It must be very specific.) I don’t take clients who start out worrying it’s a waste of time or money.

I looked at your resume. Your experience is stellar. But no one’s going to give you a job, because nowadays they’re not giving them out. Even to people with college degrees. You’re not getting interviews because you’re doing it all wrong. So I’ll offer you some advice because it seems your husband is a fan, and I love my fans even if I don’t know them.

(I suggest you read my PDF books, How Can I Change Careers? and Fearless Job Hunting: The Complete Collection. Together they cost far less than the $225 for an hour’s consultation on the phone with me. Each suggestion below comes from one of the books.)

  • Pick 4 companies you’d love to work for. Forget about whether they have jobs open. Research them in depth. What’s their problem? What challenges do they face? Then prepare a brief business plan about how you’d help them. Don’t send it. (See How Can I Change Careers? It’s not just for career changers. It’s for anyone who wants to stand out as the profitable hire to an employer.)
  • Track down a handful of people who are somehow connected to each company — employees, customers, vendors, lawyers, bankers, consultants. Call them and explain you’re considering doing business with the company and you’re doing research. (If you’re considering a job at the company, this is a true statement.) Can they give you some insight about the business and the people who run it? (Also in How Can I Change Careers? — the section about how to network.)
  • One of those conversations will be good enough that you can ask for an introduction to the head of the department you want to work for. DO NOT ask for a job lead. People hate that. Instead, say, “Is there someone, preferably a manager in the X department, that you’d suggest I talk with to learn more?” (See Fearless Job Hunting, Book 3: Get in The Door Way Ahead of Your Competition.)
  • Contact the manager that you’re referred to. Say that so-and-so suggested you call — and that you have a business proposition about X that you’d like to discuss. Briefly outline what’s in your biz plan, but not all of it. Request an in-person meeting. (See Fearless Job Hunting, Book 6, The Interview: Be The Profitable Hire.)
  • Present your ideas in the meeting. (How Can I Change Careers? shows you how to “Put a Free Sample in Your Resume” — which in turn serves as the script for your in-person presentation.)

That’s how you’ll get a job, college degree or not. Managers sometimes create jobs for people who can show how they’ll drop profit to the bottom line. But managers don’t figure that out from resumes. You must present a plan.

One last piece of advice. Stop fooling around, pretending a degree doesn’t matter. Go get a degree. I don’t care how old you are. I recently met a guy who is 62 who just completed his B. A. A degree is not necessary, but it matters. If you think not having one is hindering you, find the time and earn it.

Job hunting and hiring are the two biggest rackets in America. Employers don’t know how to hire, and job seekers follow silly rules that don’t work. It’s why America is unemployed, degrees or not.

You can tell your husband you got a bunch of advice from me for free. Don’t have any more fights. I wish you the best.

What does it take to get a job interview nowadays? Do you need a degree? Or, what are employers really buying when they demand a degree? 

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I’m still waiting for the job offer!

Filed under: Fearless Job Hunting, Interviewing, Q&A, The job offer

In the May 6, 2014 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader wonders what to do while waiting for the job offer:

I went in for an interview and all went great. I met with the personnel manager and the division manager. They called me back in a few days later to meet with the regional manager since he was in town. It also went well. The discussion was more general and laid back. I went back today to take a test.

I am trying not to get too fired up about all of this. But, I have to think that no company would subject an applicant to all of this without leaning toward the hire. When should I expect an offer? I figure that there can’t be much more for me to do than meet with some more top-level managers and take a personality test. Do you agree?

Nick’s Reply

Great expectations can leave you high and dry.

“I have to think that no company would subject an applicant to all of this without leaning toward the hire.”

Never, ever, ever get into this mindset. This is the point where people start to build unreal expectations because they feel they’ve “invested so much.” They’ve been invited back for lots of interviews. Everything “has gone well.” They start to believe the employer is now “heavily invested,” too. They wonder not whether an offer will be made, but how long it will take. The outcome is obvious, right?

Absolutely not.

Twaitinghe truth is, you have no idea what a company’s threshold is for taking action. Some companies will string you along — often unwittingly — for months, then take no action at all. As a headhunter who has dealt with more interviews than any job hunter ever will, I can tell you that most job opportunities go south.

In my experience, there is little correlation between how well the interviews have gone and whether a hire is made. Of course, when the outcome is positive, we can look back and see that everything clicked in the interviews. But much more often we’re left scratching our heads, wondering what went wrong.

For reasons that are usually clear as mud, a seemingly positive interview process often stalls and dies. You never find out why. And you couldn’t have predicted the result.

So what is my point? Manage your expectations so you can manage your job search. Don’t get sucked into foregone conclusions, because that will lead you to waste your time. While you’re counting on that “sure thing,” you’re missing other opportunities. There is no sure thing.

You should do your best with every job opportunity. Follow the process through to the end. Remain motivated and enthusiastic. Ask for feedback as you proceed. (That’s legit and important.)


What can you do to optimize your chances for a job offer? See “Playing hardball with slowpoke employers”, pp. 15-16, in Fearless Job Hunting, Book 8: Play Hardball With Employers.

Excerpt:
How to Say It: What should you say to the hiring manager before your job interview ends? This question baffles job hunters, but the answer is simple. Say: “I want this job.” Just four words. If the employer is on the fence, expressing this simple commitment can lead to a job offer.

You’ll find this and more tips in Play Hardball With Employers:

  • Do they owe me feedback after an interview?
  • What’s the secret to the thank-you note?
  • How can I push the hiring decision?
  • Thanks is not enough
  • Get an answer at the end of the interview

But don’t build expectations that distract you from your larger goal. Always have another opportunity on deck because most deals go south.

Don’t let my advice discourage you. Use it to strengthen your strategy. Motivation and a positive attitude are crucial. But never start believing, “I can tell they’re going to make me an offer.” Because you can’t. While you’re waiting for that offer, set the next opportunity in motion. That’s the only way to control your job search.

Where’s the job offer? What holds up job offers? How have you dealt with delays? Is there anything you can do to force a decision to hire you?

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Rutgers Business School Webinar – Q&A Overflow

Filed under: Fearless Job Hunting, Job Search, Q&A

This evening I presented a webinar to the Rutgers Business School Alumni Association, co-sponsored by the University Alumni Association: Fearless Job Hunting: Be The Profitable Hire.

rutgersThe Q&A section of the presentation was great — but of course, there were so many questions that we couldn’t get to them all.

So I invited attendees to post their questions here — and I’ll do my best to respond to as many as I can. And don’t be surprised when other Ask The Headhunter “regulars” chime in on these topics — and offer you even better suggestions than I do!

Congratulations to those who won copies of Fearless Job Hunting: The Complete Collection.

If you didn’t win Fearless Job Hunting but would like to purchase the collection, I invite you to use this $10 discount code: OLDQUEENS, which will be good through May 15. (Please note: This discount is good only when you purchase Fearless Job Hunting: The Complete Collection.)

Thanks for joining us this evening, and special thanks to the Business School Alumni team for their kind hospitality!

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Why employers should pay job applicants

Filed under: Employment Tests, For Managers, Hiring, Interviewing, Job Search, Q&A

In the April 29, 2014 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader suggests getting paid before getting hired, or why waste time interviewing?

Again and again, companies waste my time while they “assess” me in endless interviews and with employment tests. They’re wasting my time and theirs, but they don’t care because they are getting paid. I’m not.

The problem is not hard to see: The managers and HR people don’t select their candidates very carefully to begin with because it’s no skin off their backs. If they had to pay for my time, I’d bet they’d be a lot more accurate. Do you think it would be wise for employers to pay for the privilege of assessing job applicants, as a way to make hiring more efficient and productive? (And to stop wasting my time!)

Nick’s Reply

I wrote a column about a related subject last year: Why employers should pay to interview you. I’m even going to crib from it a bit.

pay-applicantsJob applicants devote hours of unpaid professional time to an employer, and then wait patiently for a hiring decision by the promised date. Inevitably, employers interview way more applicants than they can justify and ignore their own timelines without any updates or comments to the applicants. Why? Because job candidates are free.

That’s wrong. I agree it’s time for employers to put some skin in the game, if only because it would make them think twice about the costs they impose on applicants. More important, I think it would improve the quality of the selection process and of their hires.

What if employers had to pay to assess candidates for jobs? What if one employer started doing the right thing? Would others follow?

Matt Mullenweg is the creator of the most popular website platform in the world: WordPress powers over 60 million websites, and 66% of all English-based websites. The Ask The Headhunter blog runs on WordPress, and I consider it one of the best software tools I’ve ever used. WordPress is an open source project, but Matt’s company, Automattic, is a for-profit business.

Earlier this year, Harvard Business Review published a short article by Mullenweg: Hire by Auditions, Not Resumes. Automattic’s interview and hiring process is unusual: The interview isn’t over, and you’re not hired, until Automattic pays you to complete the process.

Now, let’s be clear: You don’t get paid to show up for your first interviews with Automattic. But once the discussion gets serious, so does this employer. According to Mullenweg:

“Before we hire anyone, they go through a trial process first, on contract. They can do the work at night or over the weekend, so they don’t have to leave their current job in the meantime. We pay a standard rate of $25 per hour, regardless of whether you’re applying to be an engineer or the chief financial officer.”

In my first book, The New Interview Instruction Book, I called this “doing the job to win the job.” That is, if you want a job, show up and actually do the work to show you’re worth hiring.

But if you’re going to invest that kind of time and effort to be evaluated hands-on, you shouldn’t be doing it for free. The employer should put skin in the game, too — and Automattic does. The ROI for the company is tremendous.

“There’s nothing like being in the trenches with someone, working with them day by day,” writes Mullenweg. “It tells you something you can’t learn from resumes, interviews, or reference checks. At the end of the trial, everyone involved has a great sense of whether they want to work together going forward. And, yes, that means everyone – it’s a mutual tryout. Some people decide we’re not the right fit for them.”

Automattic hires about 40% of people it tries out. Turnover is ridiculously low. Paying job candidates while Automattic assesses them pays off. In virtually every other company, the hiring process is rote, stupid, and inaccurate because it’s automated. Human review of applicants is the last thing any employer wants to invest in.

Around the world, hiring is a massively screwed up process because business doesn’t make any meaningful investment in it. Buying resumes from job boards and paying personnel jockeys to scan applicants’ keywords isn’t an investment — it’s a joke. But paying for the benefit of assessing people on the job, inside your company, on your time — that’s an investment. I doubt Automattic selects candidates lightly.

Mullenweg says, “It’s a huge time commitment, coordinating the short-term work being done by job applicants.”

Of course it is. And it should be. It’s costly, so a lot of care goes into the process up front, and this limits errors markedly. Mullenweg personally spends a third of his time on hiring. That’s more than even I recommend. (I suggest managers need to spend 15%-20% of their time recruiting and hiring, and I know few managers that do.)


What if you’re the job hunter?
Would you ask an employer to pay you to check you out? If that’s too much, then at least consider Conrado Hinojosa’s provocative The No-Nonsense Interview Agreement instead. It serves a similar purpose: It adds a measure of thoughtfulness to the experience.


I challenge any HR manager to explain why it’s okay to take hours and hours of a job applicant’s time without paying for it. I also challenge them to show me how their hiring methods are more accurate than Mullenweg’s. If your company does what Automattic does, I’d like to hear about it. In fact, I’ll gladly highlight your company in an upcoming column.

In the meantime, I think employers should start paying job candidates to assess them. My bet is that it would improve their business and operations dramatically.

What is a job applicant’s time worth to an employer? What are hiring errors worth? Would paying job applicants pay off to employers?

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Deal-breaker questions to ask employers

Filed under: Fearless Job Hunting, Interviewing, Job Search, Q&A, The job offer

In the April 22, 2014 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader wants to ask an employer tough questions… and just can’t seem to get answers:

I’ve done my research on the company, and the interview went well, but there are some things that I just couldn’t get information about, even in the interview. I want to know just how long the average individual stays in this particular job before moving up, as well as what other opportunities could be expected in the future. Also, who are the people I would be working with? How good are they? What kinds of tools and support would I have? Finally, I am a little vague on what the salary level might be.

My question: Is it okay to ask these questions in the interview? Thanks for your help.

Nick’s Reply

hidden-informationI’ll go you one better: Don’t accept this job until you get your answers. Your questions are excellent, especially those about the people connected to the job. (See It’s the people, Stupid.) If the answers are unsatisfactory, these are deal-breakers.

Many applicants are afraid to ask questions that seem “forward” in the job interview. I don’t know where this hesitation comes from. Perhaps it’s part of a deeper feeling that the job candidate is some sort of supplicant whom the employer steps down from heaven to talk to.

“You dare to ask The Great Oz…?”

Your questions are not only reasonable, they are very important. If the interviewer can’t answer them, ask to talk with someone who can. If the company won’t make any effort to answer you, you need to reconsider whether you want to work there.


Here’s another make-or-break question to ask the employer, after an offer has been made to you: “May I see the complete benefits package so I can study it along with the rest of your kind offer?” Many employers will decline to share the benefits details. Find out Why companies hide the benefits.


Don’t be shy. Interviewing is a two-way street. They want to know a lot about you, and you need to know a lot about them. Interview them. Don’t lower your expectations because they own the job. Remember that you own the solution to their problems.

Part of my work as a headhunter involves preparing a candidate to interview the employer effectively. I’ve found that good employers don’t react well to a candidate who just sits and answers questions. A good candidate probes for information, too. A good candidate expects candor and full disclosure.

  • Be polite and diplomatic, but also be bold and assertive.
  • Get answers to every reasonable question you have, or don’t take the job.

What’s a reasonable question? It’s one that, if left unanswered, might lead you to reject an offer. If you’re left feeling uncertain about something now, it’s going to be much worse once you’re on the job. Trust your gut: Get answers to every question that matters.

What’s the best time to ask your questions? Before, during, and after the interview. I’m not trying to be cute. It’s a judgment call. You wield the most power after you receive an offer and before you accept it. It’s really the only time you have great control in the interview process. That’s a good time to call the manager and explain that there’s some additional information you need. Can they meet with you briefly one more time? If they decline, that suggests a lot about how they may treat you later. (Is it possible they’ll be offended and rescind the offer? Sure, though I think it’s very unlikely. But, what would that tell you?)

A final note: Make sure you’re talking with the person you’re going to be reporting to. While the personnel department can answer questions about benefits, company policy, and the like, you’re not going to be interacting daily with the personnel staff once you’re hired. Your key questions are about the work, and it’s the boss who can tell you what you need to know — if you ask. And don’t be afraid to ask, ever.

If something is a make-or-break issue, it’s better to get answers before you accept the job. The best employers will be happy to share the information you need.

(If you need more detailed help assessing an employer, see “Due diligence: Don’t take a job without it” in Fearless Job Hunting, Book 8: Play Hardball After The Interview, and “How do I ensure the job offer matches the job?” in Fearless Job Hunting, Book 9: Be The Master Of Job Offers.)

What tough questions do you ask employers? Has an employer ever refused to answer? Are there questions that are off limits for job applicants? I’d love to hear from employers, too.

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How your old boss can cost you a new job

Filed under: Changing jobs, How to Say It, Job Search, Q&A

In the April 15, 2014 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader worries about how much “notice time” is enough when quitting a job:

I’m a licensed professional working in a small firm. During lean years a few years ago, my boss arranged for me to do some other work so that he wouldn’t have to lay me off. I even did some dog and house sitting for him. So we are close. Nonetheless, now it’s time for me to move on. I will not consider a counter-offer or any back-and-forth negotiations.

I’ve heard my boss say that if anyone leaves the firm, he’d like a month or two notice. I’ve read your thoughts on this, and I agree a long notice is a bad idea — potentially a trap for being abused during the transition period, and who would wait one or two month’s for a new employee to start work? Frankly, I’m hoping to give two weeks’ notice and to take a third week for vacation between jobs.

When I leave, I’ll do all I can to leave my desk in good shape for my replacement, but the firms I’m interviewing with will want me to start quickly. Is there a good way to go about this?

Nick’s Reply

Your boss’s wishes are one thing. Reality is another. As you’ve clearly realized, your own career safety is paramount, no matter how friendly you feel toward your current employer. Your old boss can cost you your new job.

quittingHere’s the message you need to deliver to your boss when — and only when — you have a bona fide, written job offer in hand and you’ve accepted it and have a firm start date:

How to Say It
I’m afraid i It’s time for me to move on. I’ve accepted a job at a firm where I can continue growing my career in directions that are important to me. I’d like to give you two weeks’ notice. Of course, I will devote that time to helping organize my work to facilitate the transition to someone new – anything you need.”
[Note: I've modified this suggestion thanks to a comment from GEM below.]

Stop there. Your boss may not ask for more time. Or, it’s unlikely but I’ve seen it happen, he may ask you to leave immediately. (There’s no guessing at how an employer will react, so plan for the worst.)

If he presses you to stay for more time, try this:

How to Say It
“I wish I could do more, but in today’s economy no company I’ve talked with permits the kind of transition time I’d like to give you. My job offer is contingent on a quick start date.”

Don’t complain and don’t explain in any more detail. Do the right thing within the constraints you have. And let your old employer deal with the rest. Don’t let him turn your business with your new employer into his business. Don’t fool around with requesting an extension on the start date for your new job. The answer might be a withdrawn offer. (Be sure you’re Starting a job on the right foot.)

Again, be prepared to be shown the door immediately if your boss gets upset. (Now I’ll shock you a bit: If you have personal belongings in your desk, get them out before you announce your plans.)

There’s a standard for doing the right thing, and that’s two weeks’ notice. I know it sounds cold, but you don’t owe anyone any more, even if they cut you a break during hard times. If you want to try to return that favor, do it in a way that won’t cause problems at your new job. Offer to recommend a candidate for the job, if you can. Offer to help write the job description and to help interview applicants during your notice period. Offer to work late during those two weeks, if necessary. (The guy did you a solid; do one for him to the extent you can.)

Part friends if you can. And when you get that new job offer, remember that there is no sure thing. I wish you the best.

What do you owe your employer when it’s time to move on? I’m sure you have more ideas and even some personal policies. Should this reader try to extend the start date at a new job?

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What to say to a stingy boss

Filed under: Job Search, Q&A, Salary, Success at Work

In the April 8, 2014 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader says her boss “gave her a raise” by hiring another employee:

I have been with my current employer for six and a half years. I was promoted six months ago from administrative assistant to assistant manager. I got the title but no pay increase. Since being employed with this company I have not received any type of raise, only an occasional small bonus (less than $600). I recently asked the owner about a cost of living raise. His answer: “I did give you a raise when I hired a new person for your department. This took a large work load off you and that in turn was your raise.”

underpaidI almost fell out of my chair. I try very hard to be an optimist, but I am still trying to wrap my head around his response. I have proven that I have been very committed to this company. I have streamlined daily duties to save time, and I have found ways to save him thousands of dollars in operating costs. My boss informs me often that his clients compliment him on my professional skills and follow-up. I have a file of examples, but still I am not worthy of even a cost of living raise. My new co-worker was hired at the same time I was given a promotion in title only. She managed to negotiate $8,000 more than I am paid, with two years of experience against my six years. The only benefits that I receive are three weeks vacation. No retirement, no health insurance.

My boss also made this important statement: “I don’t believe in giving raises. People should learn to live within their means.”

My fire was ignited. A still small voice inside me is screaming saying, don’t settle, have courage, and as my father would say, go out there and shake those bushes.

I do apologize for the roundabout explanation. Do I stay and accept no pay increase ever, and just accept that maybe someday I can possibly make an increase in salary when my current manager retires in 10-15 years?

Or should I just go for it and test the market and just see what might be on the other side of that door? I will admit, I am old school when it comes to changing employers often. I tend to be very loyal. What makes me stay? I really do enjoy my work and I enjoy finding ways to save money. It’s a challenge for me. But now that I realize there will be very little compensation in my efforts, I feel defeated to say the least. My resume is ready. I’m the only one holding myself back.

Thank you so very much for all the information you have put together for people like me. I greatly appreciate any insider tips to help me navigate my way in a southern good ol’ boys business world.

Nick’s Reply

Your note reveals to me that you are a class act. A bit naive, but classy.

Loyalty goes two ways. If you’re giving your employer your best and he’s failing to recognize your increasing value to his business, then he’s not being loyal to you. I’m not trying to stoke the fire of discontent, but I don’t think you have anything to feel guilty about.

You’ve invested six years of your life in this business, and your boss has acknowledged your value to his customers. Now he’s given you a higher level job to acknowledge the growth of your skills and abilities. You are delivering much more value to him than you were when you were hired. (You’re a walking example of How to Build Value on Your Resume.) But he’s delivering no more value to you.

stingy-bossHis statement that, “I don’t believe in giving raises. People should learn to live within their means” tells you all you need to know about this man: He’s taking advantage of you. My guess is that he’s earning far more today than he was six years ago, in part thanks to you. He’s not sharing that success. And as a boss, he’s not grasping a very simple but important idea about salary: That’s why it’s called compensation.

His statement that hiring a new person is his way of giving you a raise is a ridiculous insult. All I see here is a man with a very small mind who thinks he’s clever. But don’t begrudge your new co-worker her higher salary. Good for her for negotiating it. Her success is no reflection on you. (I discuss how to handle salary disparity in Fearless Job Hunting, Book 7: Win The Salary Games, pp. 16-17, “Why does he get paid more?”)

I’d take your boss up on his advice – live within your means. And your “new means,” with six years’ experience under your belt, include greater skills and abilities, and a higher value. Find an employer who recognizes that, respects it, and is willing to pay for it.

Keep in mind that searching for a new job always poses a bit of a risk. But I think doing nothing but accepting this man’s edicts is far, far riskier for you. If you stay, in another six years your self-respect and self-confidence will diminish, and you will indeed be worth less.

Your boss is wrong. Your father is right. Do it carefully and intelligently, but find yourself a better employer. (Let me caution you: Don’t look for a job.) Life is short, and as my best mentor told me long ago, “Never work with jerks.”

When you say goodbye to that fool, remember: Never complain, never explain. Do not express your dissatisfaction or explain why you are leaving, except to say, “It’s time for me to move on. Good luck.” (Nothing is gained by venting to an old boss except the venom he will spread about you.) So keep your standards and your head high. Rest assured that this man’s comeuppance will appear to him every morning when he looks in the mirror — while you earn what you’re worth.

When is enough, enough from a selfish boss? How do we know it’s time to say, so long? Have you been abused longer than you should have permitted? What pushed you to finally move on? What are your suggestions for this reader?

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The Bogus-ness of Indeed.com

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

In the April 2, 2014 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader asks me to stop dissing job boards:

You claim that job boards don’t work. Yet virtually every job in the world is advertised on job boards, and employers use job boards all the time! Just look at all the traffic they get. I think you’re missing the boat — please admit that there’s plenty of evidence the job boards do work!

Nick’s Reply

Here’s the problem with job boards today: None of them offer any evidence that they work.

What does it mean that “they work?” It means they actually match people with jobs. You know: find jobs for people and find people for jobs.

Indeed-infographicAbout.com says, “The best sites for finding job listings in 2014 will help you find the most current job openings fast” (about.com). Finding job listings is one thing. But if job boards actually work, they should be able to show they are the cause of hires. They claim they are, but they offer no evidence.

Let’s look at Indeed.com, which is referred to as “arguably (and probably) the largest job search engine” (DigitalTrends).

On March 27, 2014, Indeed published an article and infographic titled “How 140 Million Unique Visitors Use Indeed to Find Jobs.”

On its face, the title seems clear — it’s going to tell you how people found jobs using Indeed. But the infographic shows nothing of the sort. In fact, contrary to the misleading title, the graphic seems to be very careful not to claim Indeed actually fills jobs. Let’s look at the data presented in that infographic (click here to follow along). It tells us everything except whether Indeed works:

1. 140 Million unique visitors each month. So what? What does tracking unique visitors have to do with actually filling jobs? All this tells us is that lots of people go there.

2. “Traffic on Indeed has increased by 40% over the past year.” Again, so what?

3. “Each month, 72% of online job seekers in the US visit Indeed.” But, how many get jobs there? There’s no mention of that. I’m still waiting for how all those people use Indeed to actually find jobs.

4. “There are 25 million resumes on Indeed that employers search for free.” Those employers could be printing resumes to line bird cages. Where are the stats on how many people they hired? All this statistic tells us is that employers might be stupid. Judging from the rising complaints about “a talent shortage” from employers, it seems “free” is worthless. And employers are indeed sometimes stupid.

5. “Job seekers use the 4 million employer reviews to research companies.” So what? They use Google to do the same. Does Google claim it fills jobs? Do we see a trend here? Lots of data showing big numbers, which seem impressive by themselves — but no outcomes analysis.

6. “45% of Indeed searches come from mobile.” Yah, so? Every marketing program today includes the obligatory reference to “mobile.” But how many of those searches yield hires?

7. There are 16 million jobs on Indeed worldwide, and 8.2 added per second. But how many are filled by people searching for jobs on Indeed?

8. Indeed is available in 50+ countries in 28 languages. Perhaps translators are getting jobs. What are the success rates by country?

The infographic slams us with impressive statistics about web traffic, numbers of job postings and resumes, percentages of job seekers that visit — all kinds of data. Indeed concludes that “More people find jobs on Indeed than anywhere else.” After scanning the clever infographic, you probably believe it.

Well, I don’t. I think it’s all b.s. All I see is that lots of people find job listings on Indeed. (Oops, could that be what Indeed really means?)

In the midst of all this promotional “info” there is not one shred of data that tells us how many people actually got jobs on Indeed, or how many jobs employers filled on Indeed. “People find jobs on Indeed” clearly means they found job listings in Indeed. So what?

The infographic is bogus. Those numbers do not indicate success rates. It’s classic deception by distraction that convinces people to keep patronizing job boards.

My challenge to job boards

I challenge Indeed.com, and every other job board: Show us your job fill rates and the success rates of job seekers who use the service, and point us to your data. Indeed’s revenues are not public, but they must be staggering. The company clearly spends a lot on advertising and promotion. You’d think that if Indeed had a shred of evidence that its service actually works, it would be prominently displayed in the infographic.

Why isn’t it?

I can’t find one word about Indeed’s success metrics on its website. Can you? Indeed features an “Engineering Blog” on its site — posts about database technology — but nothing about outcomes analysis or success metrics.

My guess is that Indeed’s dirty little secret is that human resources departments dump billions of dollars into an empty hole, and that nobody really cares how many jobs Indeed (or any job board) actually fills — as long as the cash keeps rolling in.

The job boards “show us the money” because they’re making it hand over fist. But they don’t show us results.

My challenge to employers:

I’ll make a second challenge to employers: Pay a job board only after you make a hire through that board. Suddenly, job boards will be able to accurately track who got hired from where. And you’ll know where your money is going. (This is no different from this challenge to job boards that charge job seekers.)

Funny thing

Every job board executive I’ve ever talked to claims that “there’s just no way we can track actual hires — it’s too complicated.” Gimme a break. Web analytics is rocket science today — we can track virtually everything you do online — and there’s no way to figure out whether a job board was the cause of a job being filled? Wouldn’t the very best job service be designed to ensure it gathers the necessary data to prove it works? I mean, what are all those “data scientists” for, anyway?

I think the truth is simpler: Indeed.com and most of the other job boards (the bigger, the worse) use deceptive marketing tactics to imply bogus benefits. Certainly, they fill some jobs, but just because millions of people gamble doesn’t mean enough of them win to justify the practice. All it means is that the house wins.

While you keep job hunting, you generate more visits to Indeed.com, which yields dramatic increases in “the data” — and in the number of suckers born every minute.

Do job boards work? I’d love to hear from employers who actually know where their hires came from. Did you get a job through Indeed? What’s your best source of hires — or jobs?

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How do I prove I deserve a higher job offer?

Filed under: Interviewing, Job Search, Salary, The job offer

In a recent edition, we discussed what to do when an employer makes you a low job offer for a job you plan to take anyway. Now it’s time to boost the employer’s opinion of what you are really worth, well before an offer is ever made to you.

In the March 25, 2014 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader asks how to get a bigger offer:

I think you’re right: To get a company interested in me, I need to show what my value is to them. But if I’m not a salesperson or entertainment star (in which case it should be very obvious), how do I quantify my value to an employer’s bottom line? How do I actually prove I’m worth a higher job offer?

more-moneyNick’s Reply

Here’s my general approach: Estimate as best you can how your work will produce revenue or reduce costs for the company. Then explain it to the employer. Your numbers will be off; that’s okay. What matters is being able to have an intelligent discussion about how you can do the job in a way that pays off to the employer.

Virtually no one does this in a job interview. I’ve had people tell me it’s presumptuous to talk about how they’d contribute to the bottom line. Others claim it’s impossible to calculate one person’s impact. Again, what matters is that you’re telling the employer you care about his success and how you’d fit into the equation. Don’t lecture; have a discussion..

I address this challenge in Fearless Job Hunting, Book 6, Be The Profitable Hire. Here is an excerpt from the book:


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?

Rather than demonstrate their value, job hunters hand over their resumes and wait for the employer to figure it out. Employers are not good at figuring out your value… The particulars depend on the job and the situation. I can almost guarantee that when you discuss a job in such profit-based terms with management, they won’t care so much about your actual numbers. But they’ll be impressed that you cared enough to try to work it out. (Just make sure that you do the necessary homework before you go to the interview!)

Reprinted from Fearless Job Hunting, Book 6, The Interview: Be The Profitable Hire, “How can I demonstrate my value?” pp. 8-9. The book includes “How to do a Working Interview,” “What’s your business plan for this job?” and 10 other methods to show you’re the profitable hire — plus 8 How to Say It tips.


You’ve already guessed this is not an easy way to boost a job offer. But why should it be? Why would anyone offer you more money if you can’t show them what they’ll get in return? This is how the best headhunters coach their candidates to get the best offers.

Job interviews have become so rote that applicants just show up, and employers think they’ll be able to make a hiring judgment based on a bunch of worn-out questions and answers. That’s to your advantage. Your competition is not likely to attempt what I’m suggesting. To be the applicant who stands out, be ready to show why you’re the profitable hire. Do the work, win the job.

How do you get bigger job offers? What advice would you give this reader? Have you tried and failed to get more money?

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