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May 2, 2018:  Why You Never Click On the APPLY HERE Link

The APPLY HERE! link on a job posting is usually a trip to nowhere. Here's a tale that illustrates why, and what you can do to avoid going down that sinkhole.

When someone tells you that all of their jobs are posted on the internet and that you absolutely must apply there or you won't work at their company, they are lying to you.

Radagast, a college student I know who is about to graduate with an engineering degree, had a friend arrange a job interview for him at a local company. Beforehand, Radagast was told that it was company policy for him to enter his information on their company web site, so he did that.

He went to his interview for a quality engineering position.  While he was there, he was also asked to meet with another manager who had seen his work a few days before, when the mechanical engineering students had made their final presentations.  He talked to him about a design engineering position that he was in the process of getting approved.

The next day, his caller ID blinked with Blintzers, the company name, and he got excited. Seemed like things were really moving fast.

It was someone from human resources. Sounded good. He thought that they were going to go further with the interviewing process, or perhaps even make him an offer.

Until Ms. HR asked him if he wanted to interview for a loading dock position.  Disappointed, Radagast asked if that meant that they were no longer considering him for the two positions he had interviewed for the day before. HR said, “You interviewed here yesterday?”

Ms. HR had no idea that he had interviewed there yesterday, and knew nothing about those two positions (she only was responsible for manufacturing and warehouse personnel, so she wouldn’t be trying to fill those positions anyway).

She had found out that Radagast existed when he applied online, and was obviously just looking for bodies that she could put on their loading dock, because we’re at full employment in 2018.  Why she was trying to hire fresh college graduates shows how desperate and disconnected from the world she is, because only a desperate engineer (this country has a huge shortage of engineers) would take a job like that and the likely outcome is that he or she will quit after only a month or two.

The moral of his long, rambling story is do not apply online.  Somewhere between 10% and 25% of the positions that are filled from the outside are filled through online postings. Yet research indicates that most job hunters spend over half of their time searching for positions on line, spending endless hours searching for jobs, filling out online forms and sometimes completing 45-minute personality quizzes, only to click APPLY HERE. If they’re lucky, they get a confirmation email that their application has been received and will be reviewed. Then they hear nothing else.

Radagast's story is far from atypical.  At least 75% of the positions filled from the outside are not advertised. 

But … should you skip all ads and never apply at all?

No.  But never click on the APPLY HERE button.  If you do that, your application will go into a slush pile which mostly contains resumes from people who are not in the least bit qualified, so you are tainted just by being in that pile.  These are skimmed through by a low-level human resources person who will screen those down to perhaps 25, pass them on to a higher-level human resources person who may either phone screen them or pass them on to the hiring manager – your potential boss.

You can skip all this by doing some detective work, and determine who in that company is the hiring manager.  If they are advertising for a Regional Sales Manager, find out who the VP/Sales is. Plant Controller?  Identify the VP/Finance and the Plant Manager. Then, if you can’t arrange an introduction with some oomph behind it, snail mail your resume to that person (or if there are two potential bosses, like the Corporate VP/Finance or the Plant Manager, mail to both of them), and then follow up with a phone call.  Do not under any circumstances mention that you saw their ad.  Send them a normal cover letter, acting as if you're approaching them randomly.

Years ago, when I was in another field and wanted to change jobs, I mailed a resume and cover letter cold to the president of a small company.  Soon after, I got a call from that company, and they said that they wanted to talk to me about the ad to which I had applied.  I said, truthfully, “What ad?  I simply sent my resume to you because we’re in the same industry.” They interviewed me, I became their National Sales Manager, and later on, the President told me that they were impressed that I was out there selling, didn’t need the prompting of an ad to get me in action, and that had been a plus for me in the hiring process.

If you go direct to the decision maker, you’ll be three steps ahead of those who clicked on the link, and your chances will be much, much greater.

How do you identify these names?  Internet web sites.  Linked In.  Company databases (some of which have free trials of as long as a month).  Or simply by calling the company, and asking who holds that position.

Don’t be the typical job hunter, spending your days scouring the internet for ads, following the rules and clicking on the APPLY NOW link. Don't send your application to be reviewed by Ms. HR.  Unless you want to wind up working on the loading dock.

March 13, 2017:  How to Crash and Burn:  Interview While Driving

More and more people are trying to talk to me on their commute home or while on a long drive.

This is a lousy time to be interviewed. You’re being compared with others who are sitting at a desk and not distracted.

You have a busy schedule.  A great time to talk to a potential employer or recruiter about a position is when you’re driving home, or on a long distance drive, right?



In real life, you could be bouyant and enthusiastic.  But I can tell you from experience that most people  make a poor impression when they’re driving.  They’re distracted.

You also can’t take notes.  The call quality is usually poor (I can virtually always tell right away that someone is driving, and usually ask if there is a better time to call).  There are invariably gaps in the conversation as the interviewee/driver starts paying attention to the highway.

And if you get really engaged in the conversation, you can wind up getting rear-ended by a semi.

Sometimes I learn that these conversations are taking place while a spouse is in the car, or even their kids are in there.

If it’s a cold call or an initial call from someone to whom you’ve sent your resume, you can either let the caller leave a message (recommended), tell them that you’re driving and will call back, or pull over and talk.

But most of the time, when I speak to people while driving, they are talking to me at a pre-arranged time.  This tells me something about their judgment, method of doing business, and their interest in the job. A job change will make critical changes to your life. From my end, if the job is important to a candidate, she will find a place where she can pull over. Or better still, she’ll get to a landline, so she can be sure that I can clearly hear her.

April 7, 2015:  The Interview Close:  Show Interest, But Don’t Tell Them How Great a Match You Are

I was listening to the John Tesh Radio Show the other night, and heard some advice on how to end an interview.  I usually like John Tesh’s advice, although it tends to be a bit nave when it comes to job hunting.

In any case, and I’m going to paraphrase, because this I don’t have his comments word for word, but the advice for ending the interview from Tesh was something like this:

“I’m really interested in this position.  It seems like you have a great company, and I feel that I have the relevant experience and skills to be a great fit for the position.”

Once again, the second part of that sentence is self-aggrandizing – self praise – and at best is ignored by the interviewer.  At worst, it makes you  look nave or pompous, and hurts you.

The interviewer doesn’t want to hear your self-evaluation of your skills compared to what she is looking for.  She has already developed an impression, and hearing you say that you’re a perfect fit won’t influence her opinion. All interviewers have heard candidate after candidate say that they have the perfect skills for the position, and usually, the interviewer doesn’t feel that way (sorry, but I’ve interviewed countless people, and that’s the facts – very few candidates have everything I’m looking for, personally and professionally.  Bear in mind, I’m interviewing many people for the job, and know what all the cards in my hand are, while you don’t).

The best way to close the interview is not to go for the close, like a vacuum cleaner sales rep. Instead, say, “What are the next steps?” Your interviewer will then give you anything from a wishy washy answer (“We’re interviewing four more people and are still waiting from the results from the ad in The Chronicle of Higher Education,” which probably means you’ve bombed) to something that is very encouraging.

You can also say something like, “I’m really interested.  I’ve been trying to get back to Tennessee since I graduated from Vanderbilt. What are the next steps?”

Anything more than that is too much. Remember, no one likes to be sold. The best salespeople sell in a way that makes the customer unaware that they are being sold and closed.

If I’m really interested in a candidate after an interview, you won’t have to try to close me. I’ll try to ascertain your interest, and will ask fairly pointedly what your level of interest is.

July 23, 2014: Led, Lead and other Misspellings / Grammatical Errors

Many and perhaps most employers look for executives with strong written communication skills. The first place they see these are in your resume and emailed (or printed) cover letter.

The word that I see misused most often in resumes is the word lead. Lead is either a present-tense verb, or a metal. Yet resumes are filled with the word lead describing positions they held ten or more years ago. If you were the VP/Marketing at a position you held from 1998 to 2003, your resume should read:

Led a staff of 17 product managers, analysts and graphic designers …

Rather than (as most resumes describing previous positions read):

Lead a staff of 17 product managers, analysts and graphic designers …

This may seem like nitpicking, but some employers will skip over candidates with spelling or usage errors in their resumes or cover letters, especially in a function such as marketing, where words and writing are critical. One resume error may not be the kiss of death (although it might), but several might be and numerous errors probably will be.

That means that you must have someone else who is picky and literate proofread your resume before you start sending it out. It’s difficult for anyone to proofread their own work.

Secondly, you need to ensure that your email covers or cover letters are perfect as well. The best way to ensure this is to not only run a spell check / grammar check after you’ve written one of these, but also to save them after you’ve completed them, and send them later, after you’ve given them a second thorough review. 

June 18, 2014:  Avoid Text Babytalk When Job Hunting


Compny state?

Will calll 2PM

These are typical messages I’ve received from prospective candidates that I’ve emailed (I periodically send out cold emails to prospective candidates who look interesting before giving them a call).

I know it can take you a long time to compose a text message when typing with your thumbs. Regardless, a babytalk message like the ones written above make a terrible first impression, and also make lousy second and third impressions with a prospective employer or recruiter. Spelling errors in an initial contact can be the kiss of death. Text abbreviations (BTW, IMO, DH) are improper (and often confusing) in business communications – save those for texts to arrange bowling night.

If you were selling, you wouldn’t respond to a new customer inquiry in such a terse way. When you’re job hunting, you’re selling. Even if you’re not on the job market and a recruiter contacts you, you still need to act interested even if your interest is only lukewarm. Recruiters and employers rarely pursue people who display only lukewarm interest.

You’re always better off getting to a keyboard before responding to anything relating to your job hunt. If you can’t,  you’ll have to take your time and compose a full, multi-sentence coherent email on your mobile device that demonstrates that you have strong written communication skills (a critical part of any executive job) and that show that you understand business etiquette.

December 23, 2013:  Calls That Will Get a Recruiter’s Attention

“My name is Swain Zifflehoff, and I heard you were working on a VP/Operations position. I’d like to talk to you about the position. Can you please call me at 617-555-2689?”

Retained recruiters get countless phone calls like these.  Why should they return them? 

There are numerous variations: 

“This position sounds like it’s right up my alley.”

This one is right in my sweet spot.”

”Improving plant operations is in my DNA.”

“I recently sent you my resume, and wanted to see if you received it.”

“I’d like to talk to you about the position on your web site, and any others that you’re working on that might fit my background.”

What’s missing in all of these is a reason for someone to call you back. Every applicant says (and fully believes) they are well-qualified. If you were in my shoes, having met with the client, seen their operations and spoken to countless other candidates, your view would be different. Most candidates are poor fits, for reasons ranging from having backgrounds in the wrong industry, to being too junior for the position, to being way too expensive for the position, to being a job hopper.

Clients usually retain a firm to find someone from their industry. You have a great operations background, but your career has been spent populating electronic boards. I need someone with experience in making exotic plastic subcomponents that will endure the rigors of semiconductor manufacturing.

To get a call back, you need to give the recruiter a reason to call you, other than your name, or some vague self-aggrandizement. Try mentioning the following in your message:

Drop a name. Mention a name that the recruiter knows, or that the recruiter has contacted on the search.

Mention your industry. Few retained searches are filled with people from outside the industry. Mention the industry or industries you’ve worked in, customers to which you’ve sold, or something else that narrows you down. Do this even if your experience isn’t a match for the position that you’re pursuing. The main reason that a person calls and leaves no information about themselves is because they usually are poor fits for the position. The caller is leaving a vague message because she knows that she’s a longshot.  The recruiter assumes that is the reason – he’s been down this road a million times – so he’s not going to call back people who leave vague messages. The best candidates send a resume first, unless they’ve gotten a referral, and even those who are following up on their resume should assume that the recruiter didn’t read the resume or passed it by.

Provide some details about your background.

A better message would be:

“This is Preston Portobello, and I have a background in leading plants of from 300 to 800 employees in the manufacture of axle bearings sold to General Motors, Subaru and heavy equipment makers like John Deere. I heard you’re working on a VP/Operations for a maker of custom-machined metal components in Birmingham, and most of the products we make go through at least six machining operations. In addition, I’m from Mississippi, and would like to move closer to home. I’d like to talk to you about this position, and can be reached at 312-555-2954. Thanks, and I look forward to hearing from you.”

June 7, 2013:  Don’t Be a Used Car Salesman

When buying a car recently, I sent out internet inquiries to a few dealerships. The evening after I committed to buying my car, I received an email from a car sales rep at a different dealership asking if I had received their quote (I hadn’t).

I responded with an email saying that I was sorry, but I had made a deal that day to buy a car from someone else.

He responded with an email asking me what price they would have to hit to earn my business.

I reiterated that I had already signed a contract to buy a car from a different dealership.  He countered with, “What do we have to do to make that deal null?”

I had to send him an unsubscribe email to get him to stop emailing me.


On a search for a VP/Sales, one unemployed prospect learned that I was working on the search from a friend, and emailed his resume. A few hours later, he left me a message to follow up on his resume. The next morning, he again left me a message. He followed that up with an email to see if I had received his resume and phone messages.

Of course I had – there are no creatures eating phone messages. When I received his first call, I hadn’t even opened up his email yet. The first call got me to open his email. The second call made me kick him completely off the list (he was a marginal candidate, anyway). One email and phone call would have been enough.

Another candidate did pretty much the same thing, leaving me a message after business hours one night, and, despite that my voicemail that night said that I would be out of my office until the following evening, left me a voicemail again first thing the next morning. I found out through other sources that he truly was desperate and had a lousy reputation in the industry.

Sorry folks, but this is too much, and it happens all too often. Leaving repeated messages doesn’t make you seem eager and aggressive. It makes you seem like you’re desperate, crazy or a pest, and someone who should be on the bottom end of the used car salesman ladder.

Few buyers will buy from someone who pesters and irritates them with a barrage of emails and messages. Almost all are turned off by this approach … aren’t you?

When you’re job hunting, you’re selling. Follow up as a good salesperson would (especially if you’re applying for a sales-related position). Hiring managers are looking to learn everything they can about you, and telling them that you’re desperate (which means you may take any job you can get and keep looking for the one you want, or may mean that you’re no good and no one will hire you) or a pest (the office pest isn’t enjoyable to be around) will do you no good.

A good salesperson knows when the right time to follow up is.  Here are the rules:

After an interview:

- Always snail mail a thank you note right away.

- If they gave you a decision date, wait until a few days after that date if you haven’t heard, and then call. Many managers get 150 to 300 emails a day, so your follow up email is far less likely to get noticed.

- If they didn’t give you a decision date (and you should always ask what their timetable is at the interview), then wait 10 to 14 days after the interview before following up.

If you learn of a job opening:

- Do your best to get networked in. If you can’t, send your resume to the hiring manager, and if you don’t hear, you can call a few days after it’s been received. If you don’t hear after that, your best bet is to move on, or perhaps to again try to find someone who can connect you. If you do want to continue to follow up, wait 10 to 14 days after your first phone message before doing so.


When you’re unemployed, time ticks by slowly. Your job hunt is the most important thing in your life. Your job hunt is not the highest priority to potential employers, who are dealing with delivery problems, bank financing, budgeting, enterprise system crashes, and the Euro collapsing.  They get to recruiting and hiring when they can.


One candidate actually did something the right way.  He left me a message today, following up on a resume he had emailed a week earlier. I hadn’t received his email, and called to ask him to resend it after he left me that message (which was his first message).

February 11, 2013:  The Right Way to Answer an Ad

  • The worst way to apply for a job via an ad is by clicking on the apply here link.
  • The best way is to find some way to get right to the hiring manager, and if you can get someone to personally recommend you to that person, so much the better.

Josh Nova (pseudonym, of course), a job hunter, saw an ad I recently ran on Ladders for a position in his backyard. Rather than apply through Ladders, he went to my Linked In page, and found that we had a connection in common – his former boss’s boss, whom he emailed.

Josh didn’t know it at the time, but he had emailed a retired former client of mine, and one whom I respected.  I received a LinkedIn referral from him, telling me in a few sentences how positive he felt about Josh, and then forwarded Josh’s original email to me.

TheLadders: Find a Great Job Today!

Fortunately for Josh and unfortunately for most, I’m generally prejudiced against ad respondents. Few people who respond to ads are even remotely qualified – most are just blasting out applications to anything that remotely matches their title, even if they are a consumer products sales manager, and I have a mandate to find someone with experience in selling chemical processing equipment. Rather than being buried in the morass that I received from the ad, Josh stuck out. He came highly recommended, so I took some extra time reviewing his background. Turns out he had experience related to my client’s industry, and lived within a half hour of my client’s headquarters. I had even visited one of the facilities that Josh had run in the past. I had recruited his direct boss at that company to a sister company owned by the same holding company 12 years before.

After speaking to Josh, who sounded fantastic, I called his former boss, with whom I have been in regular contact for the past 12 years. I asked about Josh, and his first words were an enthusiastic, “Great guy!”

I interviewed Josh a couple days later, and my client chose him out of the three candidates presented.

Josh got himself referred in. That’s the best way to get in front of someone, whether the position is advertised or not.

If, however, if you see an ad that closely fits your background and you can’t find someone to connect you, do what you can to figure out who the hiring manager is, and send your resume directly to her. Snail mail is actually better here, because it is way too easy to get lost in the sea of 150+ emails that most managers get a day. If you apply via the ad’s link, your resume will go into a pile mixed in with plumbing parts sales reps, dog food sales managers and some candidates who actually are probably more qualified than are you. These are read by a low-level screener in human resources, or are sometimes sorted via keywords before they get read by a human. Your chances of emerging from that pile are very low.

I’m a bit of an exception here – I read all resumes myself – but many only get a 30 second review.

It’s possible that the hiring manager will simply forward your resume to human resources, or think you’re unqualified. But your chances are far higher of beating the odds (an ad or series of ads can attract 100 to 1000 respondents) if your resume lands directly on the hiring manager’s desk.

How do you find out who the hiring manager is? This can be easy or hard, and certainly requires some work. You could find out from a web search, by checking Linked In, or a phone call, asking who oversees the chemical processing equipment division. Don’t spend an hour doing so – few ads are worth that kind of time investment.     

September 18, 2012: Why Covering up Unemployment on Your Resume Will Hurt You

  • Many people fear that they will be passed over if they are unemployed. That may be true in some cases, but it is more often dangerous to cover up being unemployed. 

If you were laid off from a 13-month job, covering it up by writing, "2011 to present," as your employment dates will usually hurt you.

Unless I know the person very well, I skip prospects who have been at their current jobs for less than three years. I see no end of resumes from people who are looking as briefly as a few months after taking a new job. I can’t take the risk that this candidate will do the same thing to my client – be out looking for a new job right away, or in a year or two. If a candidate lasts only 18 months, it’s an embarrassment to me, and a lot of training wasted by any employer.

One thing that I have heard from job hunters in new jobs, unbelievably, is, “I just took this job so I could have a job, even though it was a step down. Now I’m trying to get back to the level of my previous position.” That doesn’t make anyone want to forgive you for taking a quick powder on your new employer.

If you took a new job and were laid off after a short time, better to write, "VP/National Accounts, Anthill Industries, 2011 to 2012," than make someone think you’re disloyal. Assuming that you’ve had long job tenures prior, unemployment is forgivable.

If you worked at or are working at a contract position, then clearly label it as a contract job. No one will hold that against you.

It’s not quite as dangerous for an unemployed person who had been with their previous employer for ten years to write, "2002-present," on their resume. However, it’s still not the best way to start a conversation off by having to explain that you lied, and were let go four months ago.

In addition, if your Linked In profile lists you as still working at your previous employer, I can’t find you. Since Linked In doesn’t allow me to send a message to anyone outside my 1st round network, my normal method for reaching a prospect I discover there is by calling them during business hours at their office. If the switchboard operator tells me that there is no Elmer Ozgot at their company, I more than likely give up (this is why you should always put a direct way to contact you on your Linked In profile, preferably a phone number and a throwaway email address).

If you’re unemployed, you’ll probably be happy to consider a position that was at the same level as your previous position. I’m far less likely to call you if my job is a lateral move for you if you’re listed as employed. Most people want a step up to get them to move.

Believe it or not, honesty helps you here. Don’t hide your unemployment.

August 18, 2012:  Never Send a Job Hunting Email From Your Cell Phone:

A few hours after I wrote my last blog entry (Beware of Being Too Casual With Job Hunting Emails), I received another bizarre response to a Linked In ad:

Hi Magician,

I am available now .



(His name and phone number have been disguised for this article, of course)


This one confused me.  Was he telling me that I could call him at that minute, or that he was now available for a job?

I checked his Linked In profile, and noticed that he was in England. My job was in New England, and I emailed him back, telling him that I wasn’t sure what he was trying to tell me with this message. I also added that the position was based in the United States, that foreign candidates needed to have US citizenship or a permanent visa, and would have to pay for their relocation – we weren’t interested in obtaining a visa for a foreign national, or in paying for the costs of a foreign relocation.

He responded with the following (the misspellings and other errors are Hobart’s):

Hi Magician,

Sorry for the confusion - i have travelled and worked in USA/Canada since 1985 from a European base but i dont have a US visa and would be looking for the US company to arrange ( togerther with relocation costs ) . Since this is not the case with this role then i wish you well with the search and if anything interesting that fits my spec ( maybe a US company looking for a european subsiduary MD ? ) please give me a call .

Best regards


This simply is no way to make first contact when you're selling (which is what you're doing when you're job hunting). This kind of message is not likely to make me want to give him a call. In fact, something this poorly written automatically will make me preclude the person from any current or future assignment.

It took me a while to figure out what he meant by MD – my first thought was, “Is this guy a medical doctor?”  Eventually I figured out that he meant Managing Director, a common European term that in the U.S. is rarely used outside of consulting and investment banking. And that is a good reason to avoid abbreviations in your emails that aren’t clearly, 100%, understood by everyone.

I doubt if this guy is illiterate – I’m sure he sent his message from his phone or mobile device. But, quite simply, this makes him look awful. Incomplete sentences, uncapitalized letters, poor grammar and misspellings may be common when people use these devices, but these kind of mistakes are absolutely inappropriate when looking for a job. 

If you see something appealing, wait until you can get to a keyboard. A two day wait rarely will make a difference.

July 21, 2012:  Beware of Being Too Casual With Job Hunting Emails

I posted a position on a Linked In Job Discussion for a VP/Sales & Marketing for a small metal products manufacturer, and among the responses, received this one (the formatting is unchanged):

Interested in learning more about this company and growth needs/opportunities. I have extensive business, metals and engineering background; can find me on Linked-In. If this is a ‘pass thru’ chair for the organization I am not your guy and don’t want to waste your time. However, if this company is seeking a committed team player and leader with proven marketplace success then let’s talk.

#1:  For an unknown job hunter, this style is a bit too casual. This is instant message style, and it may be OK to send emails like this to your daughter or to someone you’re going to meet for bowling tomorrow night. My impression is that Barney is hurried and doesn’t think that this is very important, or he would use complete sentences and proper punctuation.  He’s trying to be a VP/Sales, and if this is an indication of how he makes first contact with the VP/Engineering at a $2.2-billion manufacturer, he’s the wrong guy.

#2:  The comment about a ‘pass thru’ chair is bizarre. I assume he’s asking whether my client has retained me and is paying me a retained fee of one-third of his first-year’s compensation to find someone who will be their VP/Sales on an interim basis. He may be trying to come up with a cute way of saying that he stays for the long haul, but I can think of about a thousand better ways of saying that. If that’s what he means.

I've never spoken to this guy, and he may be wonderful. But the first impression he’s made is that he is arrogant, and that he is so great that he doesn’t need to try very hard to impress me. He may simply be doing sprint job hunting, but employers (and remember, you have to treat recruiters like employers - click here to learn why, if you don't already know) aren't usually interested in people who won't take the time to give them what appears to be individual attention. A quick look at his Linked In profile (I did look) told me that his industry experience wasn’t right for the position, by the way.

The message here is that emails are business communication, and that emails involving your job hunt need to be business-like at all times, especially the first one.

May 20, 2012:  How Quickly Should You Change Jobs?  Beware of Getting on Board the Job Hopping Treadmill.

The phone rings, and a retained recruiter is describing an enticing new job to you. Or you saw a couple of ads for fantastic jobs.

You’ve been on your new job for 11 months, and you’re finding it to be so-so. You took a lateral move in the depths of the recession when the future of your job looked really sketchy. It’s kind of boring, and upward mobility is questionable. But it’s stable, and they seem to like you.

Should you throw your hat in the ring?

 Most likely, no.

I see no end of people who have gotten onto the job-hopping treadmill, and they wind up paying for it down the road. You can get away with one 12-month job, and perhaps a couple of two-year stints. But after that, people will start bypassing you, and only the B and C companies will hire you  You’ll then learn that the C companies pay low salaries and are filled with instability, unenthusiastic employees and wacky owners, which is why they can’t hire the A players.

One candidate sent me her resume and followed up with a quick phone call. She had the industry background I wanted, but had been at her current job for only 9 months.  Her previous history showed a bunch of two-year stops in the past ten years.

I told her that my client really required longer job tenures (my gentle way of saying she’s a job hopper).  She became defensive, and said that most of her 30 years in the industry had been spent with only three employers; however, she had also made three job changes (all short-term) to follow a visionary leader. That doesn’t excite me. I want the candidate who'll work for my client for a long time, not follow one visionary leader place-to-place. The companies she left also probably weren’t that excited when she left after a year or two. It takes at least a year before an executive can figure out what is going on and make any kind of a mark, and usually more like five years to see the long-term results of the changes he or she implements.

Another job hunter said that during the hot economy (pre-2008), “They were just throwing jobs at me – I couldn’t turn down the money they kept offering me.” He spent much of the recession unemployed, in between consulting gigs.

Every job hopper has a unique story to tell.  Some of them may be legitimate, but I’m not going to risk presenting that person to a client (or usually even take the time to hear the story), and most of the A employers aren’t going to risk hiring that person, either.

So think twice before you jump back onto the job market. Have you been at your job long enough? Is the new job going to be stable, and is the grass going to be truly greener there?

Five years from now, you don’t want to be telling any employer who will even bother to listen to you why you’ve had four jobs in the past five years.


If you’re already faced with conducting a job search with a resume that may make you look like a job hopper, read this article:  Job Hoppers Need to Use Different Job Hunting Techniques

March 14, 2012:  Be Prepared for Videoconferences

Many companies are replacing the phone screen with a videoconference.

Be prepared for a videoconference. That means you need to have a good webcam (the biggest problem with videoconferences are slow-moving webcams with poor resolution). I have a 1.4 webcam built into my laptop that is not very good, and have found that the $60, 2.0 Logitech that I plug in produces a video stream that is more real-time.

After you get a good webcam, get a Skype acount (Skype is free if you go Skype to Skype) and do some testing with a friend, so you can be sure you are looking into the camera properly and that everything works. It is a bit odd speaking to a camera at first, so get some practice.

After that, make sure you go to another computer, and have a videoconference with someone sitting at your computer and talking into your webcam. That will give you a look at how things wil appear to a potential employer. They will be able to see everything, and I mean everything (even the stuff way in the back of the room - these things will show up clearly on a full screen). They will also be able to hear everything that is going on in the background. Make sure you are in a soundproof room that appears to be well-furnished and clean.

With a videoconference, you're essentially inviting someone into your home, so make sure the impression you're giving is one of a successful executive.

March 6, 2012:  Being Reachable on Linked In - Include your Email & Phone

Job hunters are putting a lot of effort on their Linked In profiles. As they should. Employers and recruiters use Linked In to find candidates.

The frustrating part (and most job hunters are frequently shocked when I tell them this) is that Linked In doesn’t have a mechanism for you to be easily contacted by an employer or recruiter who wants to reach out to you.

Getting introduced by a second or third degree connection is unlikely. And I find lots of people on Linked In who I am not connected to at all (anyone skilled with internet search techniques can find your Linked In profile, even if you’re not one of their connections). I can send a Linked In Inmail, but I get a limited number of those, and those aren’t necessarily forwarded to the person.  It depends on their Linked In settings – they may have to sign in and check their Linked In page’s messages before they see my Inmail.

If the person says they’re working for General Electric, I’ll try to track him down, but I’m not always successful. If he’s unemployed, sometimes I can find him on one of those internet Yellow Pages, but Linked In only tells the closest major city, so there may be seven Oliver Fransworths in the Greater San Francisco area. And that’s if I think the person is worth the time to do some digging.

The easy way around this is to simply put an email address, and preferably your phone number on your Linked In page. Some people are terrified that this will unearth all kinds of phone and email monsters that will hound you, but do they really? You can use a throwaway email address, and will that many, I don’t know, vacuum cleaner sales reps or franchise sellers start discovering you exist because your phone number suddenly appears on Linked In?  Your phone number is already on the internet.

Be findable. Put your email and phone number on Linked In

An added note:  Once in a whlie I get a resume from someone who is so paranoid that they include only their email address - no phone number or address. This is bizarre to me. Not only is your location often germane to whether I'll call or not (and no prospective employer, let alone a retained recruiter is going to show up at your house unannounced), but often I don't want to send an email and wait for a response, or risk that my email winds up in your spam filter or never makes it there at all, which happens more often than you realize.

January 13, 2012: More Embarrassing Video Resumes

I just watched a couple of video resumes that were emailed to me by a career coaching / outplacement firm.

The candidates all were looking at the camera oddly. Considering that none were located near the firm’s headquarters, I’m guessing that these were all done from the discomfort of the candidates’ homes, using their computer’s webcams, without even a cameraman to comfort them.

The job hunters all sounded like they were reading from a script, and using buzzwords to praise themselves.

“I’m relentless in the pursuit of new business.”

“No one, no one, regardless of experience, is more committed to producing results.”

“I thrive on challenges and the thrill of the hunt.”

Were they impressive?  Absolutely not. 

Were they damning?  Probably not.  I just figured they were people taking bad advice, because job hunters are frequently lost in the process of finding work.

There are several lessons here:

The first is to skip the video resume, as I’ve said before. They can only hurt you. I rarely look at them; I only read these because I wanted to see how this firm promotes candidates. Video resumes can only hurt you, unless you have movie star looks and movie star camera charm.

Second is to avoid using buzzwords and self praise. They add nothing. Did I believe that this guy was relentless because he said so?  Even if he had said it convincingly, and didn’t sound scripted?

Third, be careful to investigate career counselors and outplacement firms. This firm did an extremely poor job with their video resumes. Encouraging their candidates to do their own by webcam is irresponsible. They were of terrible quality, even as video resumes go. One candidate even had an awkward look on his face on the webshot lead photo, as they had probably taken the first shot produced by the webcam and uploaded that. These job hunters had probably been sold a bill of goods about how effective video resumes were, along with how this firm’s services would give them that needed lift in today’s job market. Their price for their marquis service was $24,000, which sounds like a lot to me for homemade videos and amateurish resumes that were filled with self-praise and hid more than they revealed (the type that I ignore because they tell me so little).

November 10, 2011:  Sound Right On the Phone:  Get a Job Hunting Landline Installed

“Can I speak to Howard Ackerman?” asks Job Magician.

> “Daddy!,” a 6-year-old's voice booms.  “Somebody’s on the phone for you.”

An alternative:

“Myrna Eggleston, please.” says Job Magician.

> “Hargle crackle mrrrph.”

“Hello, is anyone there?”  says Job Magician.

> Higgleglmph … click.

5 minutes later …

> “Hi, this is Myrna.  Sorry, I can only get cell coverage in one corner of my house, and even then it’s not reliable.  What did you say your name was?”

Neither of the above scenarios are atypical.

How you sound on the telephone is crucial during your job hunt. The person calling you may not call back if they get a dropped call or two on your phone. And you won’t sound as lively and energetic as you are in real life if your voice is mixed in with static and crackles. I hate having to ask a candidate to repeat themselves because their last two sentences were garbled.

Yet people frimp and use their home phone (great when your teenager ignores the call waiting beeps, or your 10-year-old forgets to write down the message) or more likely their cell phone as their job hunting line.  Even though cell phones are commonplace in business these days, cell phone sound quality really doesn’t compare to an old-fashioned landline and is rarely as consistent.

If you’re on a serious job hunt, and especially if you’re unemployed, get a separate landline installed. Have someone call you to test the quality of your phone, because some phones, especially cordless or headset phones, sound awful. Then have your friend get on your phone, and call him. Make sure what you’re hearing sounds businesslike.

November 2, 2011:  Location, Location, Location – Prove to Me That My Location Is Right for You

You may feel that your tremendous skills are the only thing that an employer feels are important, but location is also crucial.

Every company has been burned by someone who has rejected their location after starting the job. In most cases, this was by someone who promised to
move and then wound up returning to their distant home on weekends. Or by someone who moved into the area and their spouse hated it, and they departed soon after.

For that very reason, I start my searches by looking for people living locally, and then in the general region (I rarely go to the big city to find someone for a job in a small town, or vice versa).

If you contact me about a job in Wisconsin and you’re a lifelong Florida resident, I’m not likely to seriously consider you (they have winter in Wisconsin).  Especially if you’re unemployed – my fear is that an unemployed candidate pursuing jobs in foreign (to them) locations will tell me anything to get a job, any job … and then keep looking for one closer to home.

But what if you really are willing to move?

  • Instantly email your resume to all major Retained Search Firms
  • Search 10,000 six-figure jobs
  • All for only $94 a year

You've got some convincing to do.

You could convince me that you have always wanted to work for my client – you know their work, you’ve heard about the CEO and everything about the company is great.  If so, you better be prepared to tell me a good bit about my client.  Telling me that you’ve always wanted to move into their industry won’t help – I have tight mandates that rarely permit me to move outside of my client’s industry.

Or you could convince me that you know the location and are willing to move there.  You’ve vacationed there.  Or your wife’s sister lives 75 miles away.  Your husband went to college there. 

Or the activities there fit your lifestyle.  Many candidates do want to move to the South (but – fear strikes – have they spent much time in New Orleans in the summer, when the pavement heat goes right through your shoes, scalding your feet?).  I included a candidate from California in a the group of four candidates presented for a position in the Catskill Mountains when I learned from him that he had a second home next to a ski area in the California mountains, loved skiing, and used to live in Utah and Denver.

Bear in mind as well that I need to find out about your fit to the area in your resume or cover letter (preferably both, because I read cover letters only after the resume looks interesting), or I will probably never call you.

To do this in your cover letter/email body:

  • I heard about the VP/Engineering position you’re working on in Sandusky – I got my Mechanical Engineering degree at Case Western in Cleveland and have a lot of friends in Ohio, so I thought I’d contact you about it.
  • My mother-in-law moved three years ago to Alexandria, and my husband and I have been talking about a move to the DC area to be closer to her.

In your resume (which you’ve customized just for me and my position in Boston):

  • Personal:  Sailing, Fishing, Vacationing in Cape Cod and Martha’s Vineyard
  • Personal:  Two children: Ignatz, 19, Boston University, and Gertrude, 24, Belmont, Massachusetts

Now I’m starting to believe that you’ll really move.

June 23, 2011:  Following Up … or Pestering?

You’ve spoken to an employer or recruiter by phone. Or had an interview.

You’re unemployed and anxious. And it’s been three days. Time to check in, right?

My God, please don’t.

Your job hunt is the most important thing in your life. Your job hunt is not the most important thing in the life of the employer or the recruiter.

I spoke to a candidate recently, who had been earning over $300,000 a year in an international sales position with his previous employer, and he asked when our next contact point should be.  I said, “Two weeks.” He called in two days.

In my phone conversation with him, I had already questioned in my mind whether his abrupt manner would make him well-suited for a senior sales leadership position, and whether he was a good fit for my client, which is generally filled with mild-mannered ladies and gentlemen who work in a collaborative, scientific environment.

The call in two days was the final nail in the coffin for him.

Asking when the next contact will be when you speak to someone is a good idea. Calling before that is annoying.

In addition, it makes you seem overanxious and desperate. Desperate job hunters do things like accept the first job they can get, and then keep looking for the one they want.  Don’t come across as desperate, even if you are.

Avoid doing the following:

Calling in less than 10 to 14 days, unless you’ve been told to do so before that.

Emailing several days after you’ve sent a resume to someone to see if they’ve received it.  If it’s someone you’ve spoken to and they’ve requested your resume, you can always request a read receipt. If it’s a cold resume, then call in two weeks to follow up. And don’t call to see if they’ve received your resume. Start off by telling them who you are and what you’ve done, just like any sales rep would.

Constantly email a retained recruiter with whom you've had a courtesy interview (one with no particular job discussed) for updates on your status.

Always do the following:

Send a written or typed thank you note by snail mail after an interview.

If you’ve been told that you will hear in two weeks, wait for the employer/recruiter to call you. If you don’t hear by the date specified, wait three days, and then call (don’t email – execs get 300 emails a day, and you can be so easily lost).

Follow up as a good sales rep would do. Sales reps who come on too strong turn people off. Those who take too long to follow up or don’t follow up at all seem disinterested. Find the balance.

Keep stirring the pot. You need to keep developing new leads, rather than waiting for the ones you’ve developed to percolate.

May 31, 2011:  Dealing with Relocation:  How to Shoot Yourself in the Foot

I received an email and resume from a candidate recently who had been unemployed for a year. He had worked in my client’s industry for 20 years, with the last three spent in a position that was roughly equivalent in responsibility to a position I was working on for a company in a medium-sized city in the Northeast.

He added this in the cover letter:

Although I am open to relocation for appropriate and exceptional opportunities, I would request consideration that if this position required frequent travel, to stay based in the Nashville, Tennessee, area and commute as necessary.  I am accustomed to travel, both domestic and international, and willing to do so extensively.

This immediately put an end to his potential candidacy.

That may sound harsh, but my position absolutely requires relocation.

And what he told me is that he really doesn’t want to move, will move under duress if at all, and most likely, if he gets the job, he’ll continue to look for a job that will keep him in Tennessee while he does everything he can to delay his relocation to the Northeast.

Every company has been burned by someone who didn’t take to the area and moved back home. Employers are particularly afraid of the unemployed, because unemployment is so scary and painful that the unemployed have the reputation for saying anything to become employed again – and then leaving after a year when they find something closer to their real home.

This guy had gone to college at the University of Florida, had never lived in the Northeast, and made it clear that he wanted to stay in Tennessee. Way too risky for me.

Don’t mention relocation at all, unless you’re unwilling to do so. If you have some past connections to the area where the job is located, that’s great.  Make that clear to the employer – after qualifications, relocation is the biggest issue in any executive search, and you want to make it known that you (and your family) will comfortably and happily relocate.

May 23, 2011:  Tide to Go:  Bring Instant Stain Remover When Interviewing

A ketchup stain on your shirt is an instant interview killer.

Here’s a silly commercial about a talking stain during a job interview that is not that far off from how you would come across with a spot on your shirt:

I just heard of this product called Tide To Go, and from what I’ve heard of it, would recommend that anyone who is interviewing carry it with them.

It’s an instant stain remover.  You can never tell when you’re going to stain your shirt. 

I keep an extra dress shirt, tie and t-shirt in my car at all times now, and recommend that you do, as well. But there are times when you can’t change shirts, but do have time to quickly clean the stain.

May 11, 2011  Beware Internet Advice and Comment Boards

Be wary of the comments sections that follow internet articles, along with the advice-from -members-boards on various web sites.

These are the places where What’s Happening Now, Bush’s Folly, Obama’s Disaster and Tech Jobs Are Hopeless hang out, anonymously handing out venomous, negative advice backed up with absolutely incorrect (and unsourced) data to job hunters and other lost souls with nowhere else to turn for advice. 

I saw one self-proclaimed expert commentator on Dice say today that only 30% to 40% of Cornell’s Information Technology graduates find employment. Cornell’s job placement website for their I.T. Class of 2010 ( reported a 74% placement rate as of their May, 2010, graduation, and we can assume that at least a few (and probably most) of those without jobs at graduation found jobs after they graduated.

Bear in mind that anyone can post a comment on these sites, regardless of credentials, and most of the regulars are angry negativists who haunt these boards because they have no one else to play with, or because they have forgotten to take their medicine. They’re miserable, and want to discourage anyone else from being successful or happy in any way.

The Monster Board and Dice both have active member-helping-member boards that are filled with people who have been out of work for years, doing their best to throw a bucket of water on job hunters who post questions.

These same people or their closest inbred relatives seem to haunt the comments sections of any news article about the job market (and any other subject, probably – I tend to read a lot of articles about the employment market, I guess).

Do your best not to get sucked into this garbage, and never take an insult from an internet troll to heart. Some find reading this trash entertaining and even addicting, but more likely, following these things will get you depressed. Look for advice from sensible people you know, books, and if you go to the internet, find sites written by reputable publications or by people who clearly identify themselves and provide proof of their expertise on their web sites.

April 26, 2011   Career Counselors – Caveat Emptor

  • Career Counselors vary enormously in quality, ability and knowledge.
  • Scrutinize them carefully, because while some are excellent, others can do you more harm than good.

A career counselor who I didn’t know recently called me out of the blue. 
She was counseling an unemployed former CEO of a billion-dollar-plus consumer products company.
She told me that her client asked her to find out what he is worth in today's marketplace, and that he is also interested in potentially relocating to Vermont (where I’m based).  She wanted me to tell her what her counselee is worth in today's recession-affected marketplace in general, and in my state in particular. The first thing I told her was that there are no consumer products companies in Vermont that have a $1-billion in sales, so there was no job in the state that would be comparable to his previous job.
I then told her that I couldn't give an exact answer about his worth in today’s market without spending a significant amount of time with her client, and then researching the exact industries in which he’s worked, because each is different.
I said that the best way to find out what $1-billion companies are paying is to refer to the published financials of public companies in that size, since most in that size range are public. 

Then came the shocking part:  she asked me where she could find that information, and said that if she went to the library to find it, the information in the publications there would likely be several years old. She wanted current information, because she knew that the recession has had an effect on compensation.

It was news to her when I told her that up-to-date information on officer salaries was freely available on numerous web sites, ranging from the Investor Relations sections of company web sites to Hoovers. She was unaware that public companies were required to publish officer compensation.
I also suggested that her client contact private equity firms to find a job, because many of these firms were replacing the CEO's of underperforming portfolio companies.  “What’s private equity?”, she asked.  "Is that the opposite of a public company?"

This Career Counselor obviously had extremely limited knowledge of the business world, and had no business counseling a million-dollar-a-year executive.


If you decide to hire a career counselor, choose carefully. Their quality varies enormously.  Bear in mind that the best ones in the big cities charge $500 an hour or more; most clients pay for only a morning, and perhaps some occasional follow up.

You’ll find that others will charge as little as $2,000 for their full range of services. Don’t expect much for this little - $2,000 pays for a carpenter to do some minor home repairs, not for a professional capable of guiding a six-figure executive through the long haul of a job search.

March 13, 2011:  You're Suspect When You’re Job hunting

  • Any time you’re applying for a job with someone who doesn’t know you, you’re automatically suspect. That means you’re going to be held to a higher standard than someone who is known to the employer.
  • The best way to deal with this is to behave normally and professionally in all ways - as if your job hunt is simply a business transaction, rather than the most important thing in your life.

What I’m about to tell you may not sound fair, but put yourself in an employer’s shoes when you read what I’m about to tell you.

You’re unemployed. The employer wonders:  Are you unemployed because of something completely beyond your control? Or were they happy to get rid of you when it came time to cut?  Does this guy have trouble playing with others? The employer has no way of knowing which category that you fit into.

Another fear of hiring an unemployed candidate is that you’re so damn scared that you will do anything to get re-employed, take any job you can find, and then continue looking until you find the job you want.

You’re employed, but you’re answering an ad. Is that because you have a boss who is 44, not likely to leave the company, and your career progression is blocked? Or is it because you screwed up your department or division so royally that you're about to get shot in the head? Once again, the employer doesn't know.

If you look scary on paper, then chances are an employer is going to be scared ... and won’t be willing to spend time trying to find out if you are truly scary or if there is a good story behind all this.

A few people are even under the odd impression that employers should be giving special attention and preferred treatment to the unemployed, because times are tough. Employers are not social services organizations. Whether an employer is a for-profit or nonprofit, their purpose is to get something done – make a product or provide some service. This is even true for a government agency. The head of that agency can’t wander into the governor’s office and ask for more money, and excuse the reason that they are over budget by telling the governor that this project got messed up because they wanted to give a chance to a downtrodden unemployed guy she hired to lead that project.
Sorry folks, but equal opportunity laws exist to protect people from prejudice against race and age, but don’t exist to ensure that job hunters who are unknown get the same hearing and are held to the same criteria as someone who is known.

So now that you know this, what can you do about it?

1)  Do your best to get your job through people who know you.  That means networking, but you already know that. A good job search includes more than networking.

2)  Have a straightforward resume. All those resume tricks people use to obfuscate, like functional resumes or dropping off dates and early job histories, make you look like you have something to hide.

3)  Make no mistakes. If you appear sub-standard, they’ll figure that is the reason that you’re job hunting. If you dress improperly and then show up late for the interview or have typos, spelling and grammatical errors in your emails, you’ve just provided evidence that proves that you’re not so great.

4)  Avoid coming across like a desperate job hunter. Even if you are desperate, you simply cannot come across as appearing desperate. Otherwise, you’ll simply reinforce all the questions the employer has about why you’re looking for a job.

And that means:

Behave as professionally as any sales rep or senior executive would be during a normal business transaction.

Don’t act overeager. Be enthusiastic, not annoying or nagging. The pest who calls every other day for a status update looks desperate. Ask yourself the following before doing anything:  “What would a really good sales rep do?”

Have a good reason why the job or the location represents a good next step for you.  If you make it seem like the job is going to be a step down for you, or will take your career in a direction you don’t want to go or is in a location that is unappealing to you, the interviewer will figure that the job will be a stopgap, and if they hire you, you’ll be a short-timer. 

Concentrate on solving the employer’s problem. You’re sitting in front of someone because they have a problem, and you could potentially bring the solution. Concentrate on determining what the problem is (listen a lot and talk less), help develop a solution, and the interviewer will think less about whether you should be suspect, and more about why she should hire you.

February 12, 2011:  Skip the Video Resume

  • A new trend is the video resume. You stand in front of a camera and tell the world about yourself, like on a dating site. Or you make a pseudo commercial, complete with music, airplanes whizzing through the air, throw in some self-aggrandizing, and hope the employer believes that you have these tremendous skills because you say you have them.
  • I think they’re a way for someone to take money from desperate job hunters.

An employer or recruiter scans a resume in 15 seconds, perhaps less.

A video resume takes a few minutes to download and watch.

No one has time to watch a video resume. Job hunting isn’t the same thing as a dating service. No one is scouring the internet looking for video resumes.

The only time I would take a look at a video resume is after I have thoroughly reviewed a resume, and decided the person was worth further review.

At that point, what could you add in a video resume that would make me or another employer want to call you?

Most of us aren’t trained to be in front of the camera, and few come across well when speaking alone to a camera, which is a strange experience. In a previous job, I went on a home shopping channel.  At first, I had no idea what to look at – there was no audience to react to – no customer, no room full of managers at a meeting. And this was with the benefit of having a host on the set for me to talk to.

There have also been some infamous flops (Google Aleksey Vayner if you want to see what happened when this poor guy's video resume was circulated and mocked around the world on the internet, for one example).

In addition, most of us aren’t as attractive as we think we are. And the camera will make you look less attractive and lively than you are in real life.

So your video resume, if it is viewed at all, is only going to get you screened out.

No reason to spend a lot of time discussing this – stick to paper or emailed resumes.

January 7, 2011  Argue For Your Limitations, and They’re Yours

This one is about your own mindset, not the mindset of employers and the rest of the world.

  • If you tell yourself there are no jobs, then there will be no jobs.
  • If you tell yourself that all employers, human resource people or recruiters are jerks, then anyone with whom you interview will be a jerk (and it will be readily apparent to them that you feel that way).
  • If you tell yourself that no one will hire you because you are unemployed, you will remain unemployed.
  • If you tell yourself that no one will hire you because you are over 50, then no one will hire you.
(I can remember my father hiring an executive assistant who was over 50 because he wanted to hire someone who was more mature than the previous ones that he had hired.  Also, I can remember a client, age 36, who hired a Chief Financial Officer who was 53.  The client told me that he decided, after comparing him with candidates who were significantly younger, that the 53-year-old had more maturity, and that’s what his business, populated by young people, needed in a CFO.)
I wonder how many of our problems we cause ourselves by creating a world in our minds in which we are imperfect, no good or unwanted.  A world in which there is no future for someone like you … or me.

You can argue for your limitations, and they’ll be yours, or you can create a world in which there is a successful place for you. Or you can adapt yourself and your world until there is a successful place for you.

December 8, 2010:  Proceed As If All Your Leads Will Go Away

You’ve just had a great interview. You clicked beautifully with the interviewer, and he said he’s going to have you meet with the VP/HR and the Division General Manager.

You feel good, and you should, of course, toast your success. Celebrating the small victories is crucial when you’re job hunting.

By the same token, don’t stop job hunting for a second. You’ll find that all too many of the ones that are seemingly in hand will slip away.

Those with sales experience know this – lots of the customers who appear to be in hand turn out to be birds that remain forever in the bush.

All too often, job hunters’ efforts stop or slow down after what they feel are strong possibilities. It's easy to become slothful, and job hunting is a psychologically painful process.

Don’t be negative, but at the same time, keep going as if all of your leads will go away.

Because it ain’t over t’il it’s over.

December 2, 2010:  Wanna Getta Job?  Avoid the Internet

Human Resources consulting firm CareerXroads published an annual survey of company hiring techniques, with their last one published in 2008.

The results?
  • Job boards are responsible for about 12% of external hires.
  • The company web site brings in about 14% of external hires.
  • Referrals are responsible for 28% of external hires. This may seem only a tad better than the job boards, but your odds are far better when you’re referred in. On the average, companies hire 1 person for every 5 people who are referred by an employee, former employee or other good contact. Compare that with being one of 100 or even 1000 respondents to an advertised position (and often no one from the pool of respondents is hired).

Yet, digging for jobs on the internet is where most folks spend most of their job-hunting time.

CareerXroads conclusion?

 “Good or bad, we advise jobseekers to never apply to a company without first
networking to an employee in that firm for a referral. The difference in probability of
getting ‘up to bat’ is too large to ignore.”

I would take this a step further. Even if you can’t get a connection, never apply through the company or job board link. You’re far better off finding out who the hiring manager is, and mailing your resume directly to that person. The link is quick and easy, but generally, your resume will be read by a bleary-eyed junior human resources person.

To take this a step further still, this tells you that your job hunting efforts should be concentrated away from the internet. Not only are most jobs not generated from internet sources, but the competition is thickest here.

The answer then is to spend your time on networking and direct mail. Use the internet for research, and limit yourself to far less than 25% searching for jobs that are publicly posted.

November 15, 2010:  Avoid Playing Hide-and-Go-Seek with Your Resume - Don't Leave Off Your Early Work History and Graduation Dates

A common practice urged on by some misguided resume books and some misguiding career experts is to leave the college graduation dates and the early parts of your career off of your resume. 

The argument these people make is that anything that old is irrelevant. The real reason, almost invariably, is that you should hide your age. 

Bad idea.

First, your age is rarely your biggest problem when job hunting (see I’m Too Old for the reasons why). Second, anyone who wants to find out your age (
as well as the names and ages of your parents, wife and kids, all of the places you’ve ever lived and boatloads of other information about you) can do so with a Google search.

Finally, if you try to cover up your age, people will think you’re older than you really are. A recent study showed that employers added an average of ten years to a person’s true age when no graduation dates were given.

As to leaving off the early parts of your career, who do you think you’re kidding? Only someone trying to cover up something will do this (employer thinketh: “Was she fired over and over again, did she repeatedly change jobs, or is she merely trying to hide her age?”). No one will be fooled into thinking that you graduated from college ten years ago and immediately assumed the role of Divisional Vice President.

Plus, the early part of your career is far from irrelevant. It’s an integral part of who you are. I am interested in learning (and employers are too) in where you worked and what you did back then. If you worked for Procter & Gamble in marketing for the first five years of your career, you likely were incredibly well-trained in marketing, because that company is renowned for its marketing.  If you worked for Motorola in purchasing, operations or engineering, you probably know how to suck cost out of a product while simultaneously improving quality.

Of course, you can tell employers about the early parts of your career at the interview. That is in the unlikely event that they call you rather than throw your resume in the trash because they figure that you’ve left too many of your skeletons in the closet.

Anyone who has read more than a handful of resumes knows that most of the time, resumes designed to cover something up come from lousy candidates who have much to hide. Why lump yourself into that group?

Playing hide-and-seek will hurt. Be straightforward.

October 12, 2010: Frustrated?  Don’t fight back with the recruiter or hiring manager

Occasionally, a frustrated job hunter decides to vent … on me, or someone else on the hiring end. He’s perfect for the job, I’m wrong, and he’s going to let me know it.

I found someone listed as a member on a web site for his industry, an industry in which I am conducting a search right now. I sent him an email about the position.

He responded with his resume. I took a quick look at it, decided that he had had changed jobs way too many times in the past seven years and his
experience wasn’t really what I was seeking anyway. I sent him a short note saying that his background was not a good fit for the position.

His response made it clear that he was angry:

Interesting… since my background matches each and every qualification you listed.

I actually thought your approach was a scam since the job requirements seemed to have been lifted directly from my resume and bio.

I hadn’t seen his resume before he emailed it to me (have no idea how I could have, and if I had, I wouldn’t have contacted him, considering his job history). I also can’t imagine why I would write a 300-word email that custom-matched his background just for the joy of sending it to him.

Every job hunter thinks that they’re perfect for the position, by the way. Usually they’re not. They interpret their experience liberally. Employers interpret job hunters' experience narrowly, and instruct me to do the same. A job hunter can't possibly know what the employer knows about their company and their needs, nor what I know about the position and the company (and I’m not about to publicly post the 25-page analysis I write before starting each search so everyone knows every detail about the company and the position).

The internet is filled with stories these days from people who are boasting about how they told off an employer.  They’re teaching them a lesson by telling them how big a mistake they’ve made. I saw one person bragging that they sued for discrimination – and lost – but felt that he had taught them something because of the legal costs they incurred in defending the lawsuit …

I’ve even had cases where I’ve told candidates no after an interview, and received 15-minute explosions.

Blasting at the person who delivers the message will do you no good, except perhaps by giving you a momentary feeling of satisfaction, or some type of relief from your frustration, I guess. People who respond inappropriately are recorded by search firms and hiring companies, so you will have kissed goodbye any chances of ever getting presented to a client or hired by the company.

More often than not I turn down a candidate not because I don’t like the person or something about their work record, but because they aren’t the perfect candidate who meets all of the stringent requirements that my client is seeking. Be nice, and I could include you when the right project comes along, or simply let you know about a job that I’m not working on (a few people have jobs now because I did just that, and I was paid nothing for letting them know about a job opening).

Even if you’re feeling down, try to turn the person on the other end into an ally. You will certainly lose if you lose control.

September 19, 2010:  Don’t Wait for the Ax to Fall

I interviewed a candidate recently, well-qualified and a really nice guy to boot.

After I interviewed him, he sent me an email explaining that he was dropping out of the search because the position was really a lateral move financially. I certainly could understand that.

He added this in his email:

“My situation could radically change in February, 2011.  Please call me after that if you have other exciting opportunities.”

- Avery

If Avery meant what I thought he meant by that comment, that there was a fair chance that his position could be restructured out of existence or he could for some other reason get the ax, waiting around until February to find out is a highly risky strategy. It’s much tougher to find work if unemployed, especially today. Even if he thinks his employer will give him a solid severance package (and his probably will), those nine months covered by severance could easily go by faster than he thinks. Even if he thinks he is incredibly marketable (and how many people truly are in this economy?), he should launch an aggressive, although secretive job hunting campaign immediately.

The chance that I’ll be working on a job in his industry, at his pay level, in a place where he wants to live six months from now is slim. By then, my search for a Chief Scientific Officer in the biotech industry in a bucolic setting in Maine will be long since completed, and I’ll be seeking a Director of Sales & Marketing in a narrowly-defined telecom sector for a company in Central New Jersey and a VP/Manufacturing for a wire manufacturer in New Mexico. Avery won’t be qualified for those positions, and wouldn’t move to either of those locations without a gun to his head. Of course, I’m not the only source for a job, but will there be a job available when he starts looking that fits him? Perhaps. Where he wants to live and with everything else right (money, responsibility, etc.)? Unlikely.

The right job is rarely available for any job hunter at the exact moment that you need it. That’s why looking while you’re still working gives you the luxury of time – money is still coming in, a new employer doesn’t have to worry about whether you were let go because of your previous employer’s financial straits or your incompetence, and you can say no to positions that don’t seem right to you.

Don't wait for the ax to fall before you to start looking – that's how people spend a year unemployed and then settle for a job in Bismarck, North Dakota, earning half what
they used to earn.

September 5, 2010:  Yes, Virginia, Direct Mail Works:
A Tragic Ignoring Direct Mail Story

I sent a brochure and a letter about my firm to a few hundred companies in the Northeast last winter.  One CEO of a 55-employee, $7-million company called me back, and retained me to conduct a search to find a Director of Sales & Marketing for his company.  This was cold direct mail - I had never before met their CEO.
During the search, I found one candidate, unemployed for a year, who lived in the same small, isolated town of 25,000 in which my client company was based.  The candidate had 25 years of experience in a field that was at least tangentially related to the client's industry.  I interviewed him, and decided he was a possible – someone who I would perhaps present to my client, depending on the caliber of other candidates I was able to develop and depending on what his references told me about him.
He wound up doing some odd things during the search process, and I ultimately wound up dropping him because of his gaffes and goofiness, but that's another story.
The real moral here is that this candidate lived in this small, isolated town and hadn’t taken the time to contact this employer before I did, despite being out of work for a year.  He did know it existed - he had actually stopped in there 10 years ago to talk to them about them manufacturing an item for his employer - but even if he hadn't, simple research would have turned it up.  There are perhaps two or three dozen companies in the town, and this was the only one that was even close to the industry in which he had worked for over 25 years.
Had he contacted the company directly before I had, he would have had a fair chance of getting hired - he would have had no competition, and without anyone to compare him to, he would have looked good to the client. 
A sensible job hunter, and certainly a sales and marketing director with any gumption, would have contacted this and every other prospective employer in the region.
Yet I was the one who connected with the company - by direct mail. This poor, misguided guy is still unemployed, and someone else has this job.

Unless your job search is flooding you with more job opportunities than you can respond to (is it? ...), try direct mail.

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April 22, 2010:  Make Job Hunting Emails Perfect

Many people send emails to their friends and co-workers hurriedly and in shorthand.  They don’t capitalize i, they use punctuation improperly or not at all, use abbreviations like BTW and IMO, and they don’t worry about misspellings.

This can be the kiss of death when job hunting, however.

An email needs to be as perfect as any business letter must be.

This email landed in my Inbox today (and this one is reproduced word-for-word without editing, with only the identity disguised):

Dear Mr. Magician,

I received you letter today regarding an openning for a Director of Marketing and Communications.

As it happens, I am in the process of looking for employment and would be interesting in talking more with you about this opportunity.

All the best,

Nora Hopeful
Director of Marketing
Bamboozled Corporation

My client had complained that one of the previous occupants of this position couldn’t write and made too many sloppy mistakes, and emphasized their need for a detail-oriented person who could write well.

Nora could have been hurried, she could be sloppy and maybe she simply doesn’t know how to write. Regardless, she immediately put herself out of the running by making two errors ("you" instead of "your" and "openning" in stead of "opening") in the first line of her email.

  When sending an email to a potential employer or recruiter, don’t send it right away. Write it, save it to your Drafts folder, reread it an hour or, better yet, the next day, SPELL CHECK IT, and read it again before you send it. Also, make sure that the attachment that you say is attached really is attached (I do get a fair amount of cover letters that refer me to a missing attached resume) and open the attachment to ensure that it is the right one. 

Then, if you have time, save it again and proofread it again.

Errors in emails or cover letters get noticed. Frequently, they will put you out of the running before you start the race.

April 20, 2010:  Don’t Depend on Emails – Follow Them up with Snail Mails

  • Many emails don’t get delivered, or get lost in a sea of emails.
  • If you have something critical to send to an employer or recruiter, snail mail it after you email it.
Twice in the last two weeks, a client has told me that they didn’t receive an email I sent to them. Fortunately, I was in touch with both afterwards, so I found out they never received them.

But you may never find out that an email you send to an employer goes to Never Neverland.

I frequently call candidates cold (when I cold call someone, I’ve never seen their resume, and generally know little about them but their names, employers and titles), email them a job description and never hear from them again. I’ve learned this is almost always a sign that they aren’t interested, and chase them only if I desperately need candidates. However, if one of these candidates emails a resume and a spam filter eats it, I'll never see it and assume that the candidate isn't interested. So the sensible candidate follows up after a couple of weeks (and not by email, because that email could be swallowed up by the spam filter once again).

The smarter candidate follows up his email with a snail mail resume and cover letter (if you feel you’ll seem overeager by doing this, wait a day after sending it to make sure you don't receive a non-automated thank you/confirmation from the person you’ve spoken to, then stamp your resume with emailed 4-21-10 on the top and mail it). I follow up all key email correspondence with clients by snail mail.

Bear in mind that a busy executive frequently receives 250 emails a day. Leave the desk for an hour, and 29 new emails have appeared, pushing yours (#3 out of 29) out of sight. Leave for three days and 750 unread emails have sprouted. It's also possible that she may not realize that is you (so make sure your email appears with your name, and not GypsyQueen, your wife's name or some other confusing moniker). Even if your email passes through the spam filter, it can easily get accidentally deleted or lost in the constant email bombardment any executive faces these days. Following up your emailed resume by mail will make sure it gets seen.

Don't think that because someone received your last email that they'll receive your next one. Spam filters are complex and generally block emails based on content, often unpredictably.

A New York Times article a few months back was written by a job hunter who was furious at an E-Snub. He got even with an employer who never got back to him after several months by exploding at the human resources director and then bragged about it in the New York Times. (Not the best idea, since companies usually Google employees before they hire them these days, and who wants to hire someone who boasts about how he got even with a prospective employer?) …

He had interviewed for a job as an editor with a magazine and was asked to follow up by completing the standard editing test, which he completed and emailed back right away. He waited three months and didn’t get a response.

He never followed up with them, either (click here to read his entire sordid story). Had he snail mailed his editing test after emailing it and then followed up with a phone call a couple weeks later, he could have been sure that his test had been received. It also would have been more likely to have received additional attention.

The magazine did owe him a response, assuming that they received his editing test. But it’s quite possible they never received it and moved on to candidates who appeared to be interested.

Don’t depend solely on emails. More of them get lost than you know.

February 8, 2010   Networking:  Be Careful How You Use Names

I received a resume and cover letter from a job hunter last week that started off with, “Marc Finster enthusiastically recommended that I contact you about my job search.”

The problem was that I had no idea who Marc Finster was. I checked my database, discovered that he is the CEO of a large company, and that I had sent him a brochure about my firm several years ago. He and I have never spoken. Obviously, Finster didn’t recommend me enthusiastically.

Another time, my phone rang, and a job hunter told me that, “Frank Basner told me many nice things about your agency, and suggested that I contact you about my job search.  I just got laid off from …”

Once again, I had no idea who Frank Basner was. While I was on the phone, I checked my records, found out that he was the VP/Human Resources for a large retail chain that I had once mailed a brochure to, and again was a person with whom I had never been able to speak.

(A side note:  using the word agency when you’re speaking with a retained search firm makes you sound like a fool. I don’t think the caller knew the difference between a retained search firm and an employment agency – it’s important that you do enough pre-call research to sound like you know who you are calling, and what they do).

The main point here is that if you’re going to name drop to better get someone’s attention, you need to really find out how well your friend knows the person they are connecting you with. In both cases mentioned above, the job hunters’ referral sources had obviously just reached into some folder stuffed with introduction letters from recruiters with whom they had never had any contact, and passed along my name along with the names of countless others. The job hunters then created a story about how strongly I was recommended, and thought they were using a name that would instantly perk up my ears.

Instead, they hurt themselves. I can quickly tell that the false flattery was fabricated – I hear garbage like that a lot, as does any recruiter or executive who is the target of job hunters. Starting a conversation with fictional puffery, quoting an unknown person, is worse than starting off by making a cold introduction about yourself.

Networking to someone else’s connections is only valuable if your referral source is referring you to someone he or she knows well. Rather than try to leave a networking meeting with 30 names of people a networking contact has had little or no contact with, try to aim for no more than one to three real contacts, and then dig hard to find out how strong the connection is.

January 13, 2010:  LinkedIn Invitations - Make Them Personal

A high portion of  the LinkedIn invitations I get read like this:

Elbert Glomp has indicated you are a Friend:

I'd like to add you to my professional network on LinkedIn.

- Elbert Glomp

This is LinkedIn's default verbiage for an invitation.  It's not terribly enticing. I know that when I get one of these from someone, they are sending invitations to everyone under the sun, and don't really care if I'm linked to them. So why should I bother to say yes to their request?

Instead, make it personal. It won't add too much time, and you shouldn't be sending out so many invitations that you can't personalize them, anyway.

This would be much more appealing:

Dear Job Magician:

It's been a long time since we were throwing kegs out the window at the frat house (that was back when footballs were made out of stone and our shoulder pads were made out of wood - remember?).

I found you on Linked In, and would like to add you to my network. Would you like to connect?


It really helps to mention how you knew each other if you're not regularly in touch with the person (he or she may have to be reminded if it's been a while). A longer email, telling what you're up to, can be a great way to re-establish an old relationship.

Many people get invitations from people they barely know or don't know on a regular basis (I seem to get those all the time, so I assume that others get them regularly as well).

Skip the LinkedIn default invitation. Differentiate yourself.

November 10, 2009:  Unemployed?  When to Frimp, When Not

  • If you’re unemployed, you need to cut back on expenses, obviously. Trim your personal expenses of the frills.
  • At the same time, you need to put money into job hunting, whether you can afford it or not. The return on a thousand dollars spent here could easily be 500-to-1 if your next job lasts a few years, and you get the job because you spent some money on your suit, your dress or on a different job hunting avenue.

Today’s Wall Street Journal has an article about unemployed people living off of severance packages and continuing to live the same lifestyle as before (click here  for the story). One couple, both of whom were unemployed, were spending $250/month on a cleaning woman, $50/week on flowers, and vacationed in Virginia Beach. Another woman did daily Starbucks runs, continued to dine out regularly, spent $150/month on her hair and $30/month on pedicures.

I may be telling you the obvious, but if you’re unemployed, you can find ways to cut back, especially since you now have more time on your hands.

And all of this can be done without you becoming a hermit and going insane.

Restaurants go away, except for, perhaps, a rare $20 Pizza Hut family meal special. Replace them with potluck dinners at friends’ houses.

Keep exercising (this is crucial to your physical and mental health), but cut it down from the country club to the YMCA or find a way to do things for free (I play basketball at various elementary school gyms a few nights a week for free, and most areas have a variety of athletic activities available either for free or for a token cost). Replace downhill skiing with cross country skiing, and save $70 a day per person.

Cancel expensive vacations if you can. I know someone last summer who replaced a family trip to Acapulco with a camping trip five hours from home. No matter where you live in this country, I guarantee you that there is a fantastic place for you to explore and relax within a day’s drive of your home.

You know the rest of this. Cut back on the luxuries, and replace them with activities that are free and still fun. Get back in touch with friends and family, and you may have even more fun than you had on those candlelit dinners and distant vacations.

At the same time, there is one area where you cannot frimp, and that is on your job search. If there is any place to make an investment, it is on an area where you are likely to get a five hundred-to-one return (try getting that in the stock market, or by going to Starbucks). Reaching out to employers costs money in some ways, and your appearance when you meet with employers, recruiters and networking contacts needs to make it look like you’re holding up fine, even if you’re unemployed. 

That means:

Wardrobe:  Step it up to make yourself look like a successful executive if your wardrobe is stale. Many people’s closets grew thin or became out of style as business casual began to dominate workplaces. You can’t dress business casual, or in dated styles, for an interview.

Phone: You need a dedicated job hunting phone line. Don’t try to get by with the family phone line and hope your six-year-old or teen-age daughter will take messages for you accurately. Sensible employers and recruiters don’t leave messages with kids, but may never call you back if they have a pile of prospects to call after you. Use a landline – I’ve called way too many people on cell phones and internet phones with disappearing or unstable connections. You need to sound as professional as you would in any office.

Letterhead:  Printed letterhead adds a nice touch, and doesn’t really cost that much. Formal thank you cards won’t set you back that much, and make a great impression.

Briefcase/Portfolio: If you don’t have something like this in leather, buy one.

Car: You probably aren't about to go buy a beautiful new one just to look good, but make sure the one you're driving looks decent.  Keep it clean, both inside and out. Get the paint touched up outside if need be. If you have a really worn out car and have a big interview, consider renting a car for the day. They come with unlimited mileage in most cases, so you can do a 600-mile round trip for the cost of the gas and car rental.

Databases/Direct Mail/Job Hunting Tools:  You can’t afford to depend on networking and Monster to get your next job. Direct mail can be expensive, but it is still successful for a lot of people (See Direct Mail Success Stories – In the Dour Early Months of 2009 for a couple of real life examples). Sites like RiteSite and ExecuNet are not that expensive, and will enable you to contact retained search firms, find 6-figure-plus jobs posted nowhere else, and extend your networking.


And what about the Country Club? Can’t give you the answer on this one. You can golf at a community golf course for a lot less. However, it is possible that you may meet your next boss on the course at the fancy club. Take a look at your dues, think about the people you’ve met there in the past and decide whether you’re likely to bump into the right person there. I’m skeptical about this, personally, but I know that there is enormous variance club-to-club, depending on the community in which you live and which club you belong to.  

November 6, 2009:  A silver lining.  Unemployment among managers drops!

Some of you may have been dismayed by today’s unemployment figures, which showed an increase from 9.8% to 10.2%.  Unemployment was projected to rise to only 9.9%. 

Much of the increase is due to the way the government gathers these figures. The rate of teen unemployment and unemployment for the self-employed, which the government has a tough time calculating, bumped up the numbers. So the change was not as radical as it appeared.

The good news for the executives out there is that the unemployment rate for those with college degrees dropped from 4.9% to 4.7%. The unemployment rate for those in professional and managerial jobs dropped significantly from 5.2% to 4.7%.

Significant signs of light at the end of the tunnel for the 6-figure job seeker.

November 2, 2009:  Check Out Your New Company Carefully

  • A close friend of mine told me a real horror story about his last job. It was so bad that he was actually ecstatic when they fired him. You need to really get behind the scenes and learn everything you can about your new employer before you sign on.

Here’s my friend’s disturbing story:

My friend, a highly skilled executive, renowned as a leader and motivator of all, was text messaging while walking down the street. He fell through an open manhole and died. His soul arrived up in Heaven, where he was met at the Pearly Gates by St. Peter himself.

"Welcome to Heaven," said St. Peter. "Before you get settled in though, we have a new rule here that came down from way up high …”

"Um, what is it?” asked the bewildered executive.

"What we do now is let you have a day in Hell and a day in Heaven, and then you can choose whichever one you want to spend an eternity in."

"Actually, I think I've made up my mind. I prefer to stay in Heaven,” said the executive.

"Sorry, the boss gave us these rules  ..."

And with that St. Peter put my friend in an elevator and it went down-down-down to Hell.

The doors opened and he found himself stepping out onto the putting green of a beautiful golf course. He was shocked to see many of his friends there – some in golf shorts and others in bathing suits, lounging around the pool.  They greeted him warmly.  Two beautiful, scantily-dressed women from his past sneaked up on him and kissed him. “Orval, we’ve been waiting so long for you.” He played a fantastic round of golf with his old friends, even making a hole-in-one.  That night he went to the country club, where he enjoyed a dinner of steak and lobster tails.

Later on, he met the Devil, who actually was a really nice guy – turned out the Devil had grown up in Saskatchewan, just as my friend had. They drank fine wines (aged since the Crusades) and told jokes until the wee hours of the morning, when it was time to leave. Everybody shook his hand and waved goodbye as he got on the elevator.

The elevator went up-up-up and opened back up at the Pearly Gates, where St. Peter was waiting for him …

"Now it's time to spend a day in Heaven," he said. So Orval spent the next 24 hours lounging around on clouds and playing the harp and singing. He had a great time and before he knew it his 24 hours were up and St. Peter came and got him.

"So, you've spent a day in Hell and you've spent a day in Heaven. Now you must choose for eternity.”

Orval paused for a second and then replied, "Well, I never thought I'd say this, I mean, Heaven has been really great and all, but I think I had a better time in Hell."

So St. Peter escorted him to the elevator and again he went down-down-down back to Hell.

When the doors of the elevator opened he found himself standing in a desolate wasteland covered in garbage and filth. His friends were dressed in rags, dragging boulders across the dull landscape, occasionally being flogged. It was hot as, well, Hell.

The Devil wandered over and put his arm around him.  

"I don't understand," stammered Orval. "Yesterday I was here and there was a golf course and a country club and a swimming pool and we ate lobster, drank wine and had a great time. Now all there is here is a giant garbage pit and all my friends look miserable."

The Devil looked at him diabolically and said ...

"Yesterday we were recruiting you. Today you're an Employee."

September 16, 2009:  Turn Off Your Computer During Phone Screens

Computers are great for grabbing you – a galaxy of information is constantly being blasted at you from them, with ever more attention-grabbing graphics.
  • Emails pop up – often with an audible bing.
  • We’re all following the economic news these days.
  • You’re regularly researching companies throughout your job search.
But when you’re talking to a potential employer or referral source, you need to make sure that your computer is not distracting you.  Because the person on the other end of the phone can tell.

On my end of the phone, I frequently hear inexplicable, long pauses when I stop talking. I used to think that this meant that the candidate was deep in thought, and trying to come up with what to say next. I’ve finally learned that this usually means that the person is simultaneously reading an email that has just arrived or peeking at the internet while he’s talking to me. It’s a habit we’ve all gotten into in corporate life.

It may be commonplace in corporate life, but during a phone interview or any job hunting contact by telephone, make sure your computer is asleep.  You need to place your undivided attention on making a good impression on the person on the other end of the phone. She can see what you’re doing by listening to you.

September 4, 2009:  Get a Free Fax Line for Your Job Hunting (Home) Office

  • You can get a free, dedicated fax line number from EFAX, with no strings attached, that will enable you to receive faxes 24 hours a day during your job hunt.

If you’re on a serious job hunt, you have gotten a dedicated phone line installed in your home (besides your cell phone – making job-hunting calls from the quality of connections you get with a cell phone make you sound awful), even if you’re employed.  It has voice mail set up on it, in case you get a call while you’re on the phone.  If you haven’t, do so.  Don’t use your home phone, and have your six-year-old or your spouse pick up – you want to be there, or let your voice mail pick up your messages.

In addition, you may want to receive faxes now and then, even in this world dominated by email.  But you don’t want to, and really don’t need to, put in a dedicated line just to receive faxes.

EFAX will give you a free, unique, dedicated phone number that will transmit faxes you receive directly into your email box.  They don’t even ask for a credit card number – this is totally free.  The senders dial the number and send a fax, just like they normally would if they were sending a fax to any other fax number.  Moments later, you receive an email with the fax attached, click on the attachment, and print out the fax on your printer.  It will look just like a fax received on a fax machine does.

The phone number they give you will not be local.  If you live in Illinois, the number they give you may be in Colorado or North Carolina.  But it’s free, and unless your sender is local, it costs him no more to send a fax 1000 miles than it does 100 miles with today’s 5-cent-a-minute phone services.

Officially, EFAX limits you to receiving 20 pages per month, but they are fairly light on enforcing this.  If you exceed this significantly for a number of months, they may send you a warning email, and eventually cut you off.  But most of you will rarely receive 20 pages a month.  You’ll just get a few faxes now and then.

Why does EFAX do this?  They want to sell you a more elaborate service, which costs $16.95 per month.  That will give you a local fax line, rather than an out-of-state number, and no limit on the number of faxes you receive.  That’s an unnecessary expense for you.

They’ll send you an email once a week, trying to get you to upgrade to the paid service.  That is the only thing you’ll have to endure if you sign up for this.

I use a free EFAX number when I’m traveling.  In that way, faxes can be forwarded from my office fax machine to my EFAX number, and I can receive and view them on my laptop.

Click here to go to sign up for a free EFAX line:

You may have a basic fax machine from Wal-Mart or Staples for your home office.  Those are handy for sending faxes out.  However, if you have only one phone line, it is a real pain to receive faxes on your in-home fax machine.  To do so, you have to leave your phone line open and wait for someone to send a fax (and they may take hours before they get around to doing that).  Or your prospective employers may repeatedly get your voice mail if they try to fax you while you’re on the phone.  Give them your EFAX line, and an employer will be able to send you a fax at any time, with no pain on their end or on yours.

August 11, 2009:  August Doldrums – Nobody’s Home – How Do You Job Hunt?
  • Everyone’s on vacation in August.  People are tough to reach.
  • Networking is tough, and direct mail is far more likely to go unread this time of year.
  • However, because the secretary is away, the boss may actually answer the phone herself this time of year – try cold calling.

Summer is a rotten time for most job-hunting avenues. Your friends are on vacation, and don’t want to take time to help you. Direct mail winds up in a junk pile to be read when they get back, or in the garbage can. Ads disappear.

So what do you do?

Of course, you can go on vacation yourself, which isn’t the worst idea. September is a much better time to look for work, especially this year, because we may finally be seeing some light at the end of the economic tunnel. One client of mine told me that they have been putting  off filling key positions for a year now, and are finally going to relent and fill several once September comes.  This pent up demand is what has ended past recessions – there’s only so long you can keep fixing a 1989 Buick, and the consumer finally breaks down and buys a newer model.

But you may find that there is one avenue during the vacation season.  The hiring manager may actually answer her phone directly, which her assistant would be doing if he wasn’t on vacation. Try making some cold calls. Yes, you’ll find many won’t be there (don’t leave messages – they’ll be quickly deleted on return from vacation), but there is a minority who now are answering their own phone lines, and you might be able to actually get to talk to Ms. Big now that she’s picking up her own phone.

I once spent the afternoon of Good Friday cold calling (Father, forgive me), and set up a couple of appointments with new clients.  No one was there but the CEO, and I finally was able to got an audience of a few minutes.

The other thing you can do if you’re getting nowhere now is prepare for a full-scale blitzkrieg after Labor Day. Work on a direct mail campaign, and put the letters in a sack until the Wednesday after Labor Day. Do your research now for direct mail and to identify prospective networking contacts, get all your ducks lined up, and hit them full on two days after Labor Day Monday.

July 28, 2009:  Don’t Expect Feedback When You Don’t Get the Job

  • You’re naturally disappointed when you interview for a position and don’t get the job.  You want to know why.  Don’t expect feedback from an employer or recruiter, and don’t put too much stock in what you hear if you do get some.

Although you may feel that those that hire are a sadist bunch who enjoy working over job hunters, no one on the hiring side enjoys telling someone that they didn’t get the job. They also don’t want to leave you feeling any more broken up than they have to, so they’re not likely to give you the full reason that you didn’t get it. They’re not likely to say you came across as too mousy for a sales management position, couldn’t demonstrate your achievements, or that the COO thought you were tyrannical.

Some candidates want feedback when they’re told no. You're better off swallowing hard, saying thank you for giving you the chance to meet with them, and then asking if they know of anyone else who could be a job resource for you.

I find that serious feedback or any attempt at coaching is rarely accepted at such an emotionally-charged time. Some job hunters argue if I give them a reason why they didn’t get the job. Occasionally, they explode. No one wants to get into an argument or get yelled at by someone they’re telling they don’t want to hire. Employers are also fearful of lawsuits, and don’t want to say anything that may trigger one.

I try to give gentle letdowns to candidates, without a lot of detail. I’m not going to tell a candidate that it was inexcusable to show up 30 minutes late, take calls on a cell during the interview, or to dress in jeans. He should know better.  Besides, it’s rare that something this blatant is the case. The real reason is usually that another candidate was a closer fit.

Every job hunter thinks they’re perfectly qualified for the position for which they’ve interviewed. If they saw their competition, they might not feel that way. Interviewing isn’t transparent, like a football game, where you look at the other team and see that their defensive line averages 6’8” and 335 pounds. You’re 6’3” and 267, a giant in most worlds, but on a football field know that in most cases you won’t be able to push that other team’s titans around the field.

You may have thought that your 267 pounds were enough to qualify you for the position, but couldn’t see that the competition was quicker and weighed 335. You interviewed for the VP/Sales position at a giftwrap manufacturer selling to mass merchants like Wal-Mart and Walgreens. You have experience selling decorative products to independent gift shops and gift chains – seems to you like your experience is pretty close, and you could easily learn whatever it is that you don’t know. However, the other three candidates all have experience selling giftwrap to mass marketeers, and manage bigger sales forces than you have. But that’s something that you can’t see, and it’s not the responsibility of your interviewer to go through their backgrounds in detail with you (and for confidentiality reasons, they’re generally not permitted to).

Don’t expect feedback, and don’t try to argue with them in your head afterwards about why the reason they gave you was incorrect. Reasons given to job hunters, like all reasons, are made up, and you heard only a sanitized version of what they believe, anyway. The only thing you’ve learned is that you didn’t get this particular job.  It’s time to move on.

June 30, 2009:  Put Your Contact Info on your Linked In Listing

Linked In can be a great job hunting tool. Not only can you use it to gain information and make contacts, but people who you don’t know can contact you. Recruiters use it, as do employers, to identify prospective candidates.

However, you can’t be contacted very easily if you don’t put your contact information on your profile. To make sure someone can find you, at the end of your bio or pseudo-resume, you should enter your phone number and an email address (probably a throwaway email address, to keep your main email off the spam target lists).

Only the people in your first level of connections – the 36 or 137 of the two million people in your total Linked In network – can send you an email directly through Linked In, and none can call you if they don't already have your phone number. If your contact info is not listed, the only way a potential employer can contact you is if they can somehow find your home or office phone number and call you (and why make them dig that hard? – they may go on to their next victim first), get an electronic introduction from one of their connections, which is a pain, or send you an Inmail (and Inmails have to be purchased – some companies have plenty of them, but many don’t). In addition, Inmails aren't forwarded to you unless you have your options set up to have them forwarded to an outside email address. I've had people respond to Inmails six weeks after I've sent them, discovering them only when they look at their Linked In page for the first time in weeks.

I can't tell you the number of times I've tried to call an attractive-looking candidate I've found on Linked In, and called the company where they are listed as working, only to be told that they no longer work there. Or if they work at a large company, I can't figure out which plant, branch, or office from which they work.

You don't want to miss the call representing your dream job because they can't reach you.

May 21, 2009   The Best Job Hunting Method for 2009?  All of Them!

  • What is the best method to find a new job in the Great Recession of 2009?
  • The answer is simple: you need to use all of them. 

In this market, leave no stone unturned, no method untried [except for the bizarre and goofy, like mailing a rubber ball to the President and VP, and then calling back to ask them if they think that Myrna Snornburg (you) is on the ball].

Job hunting takes numbers, and you need to operate on all fronts.

That means use:

  • Networking
  • Direct Mail
  • Linked In & Twitter
  • Recruiters
  • Job Boards

On the average, those who use all methods aggressively will get these results:

  • 50% to 60% get their next job through networking (including Linked In and Twitter networking, although person-to-person will produce the most results).
  • 30% get their next job through direct mail.
  • 10% will get their next job through ads and job boards.
  • 10% or so get their job through recruiters.

Networking is still the number one way to find work. However, networking has its limits. If I know you well, and recommend you to a friend of mine that I also know well, you arrive with some pretty good push. My friend can recommend you to someone, but can’t do so with anywhere near as much of an enthusiastic recommendation. The next level recommendation is pretty weak. Linked In has its place, but an e-mail recommendation will never be that powerful, unless both parties already know each other very well through other means.

I have always recommended direct mail, combined with telephone cold-canvassing techniques afterwards, as part of a job search; about 30%-40% of those who work hard at this will find their next job through this method.

The batting average from direct mail is always going to be low. The good part is that the numbers can be huge, and a good job search takes numbers – big numbers. You really can’t reach out to the number of people you need to reach out to if you limit yourself to networking. Following up mailings by telephone will increase your chances of landing an interview by five times to ten times (if you get stonewalled by the secretary, leave a message after hours).

Is this fun? Not particularly. Is it a lot of work? Yes.

Sales people continue to make cold calls, and get orders that way.  Job hunters should do the same, because job hunting is selling.

When it comes to resumes, the length of the resume is unimportant, as long as the first page is interesting enough to get the reader to go to the second page, and so on. I have no idea why people feel they must limit themselves to two pages (remember, most are read on a screen these days, anyway). A junior person may be able to sum up their career in two pages, but most senior people will shortchange themselves with a two-page resume, which will actually make it less likely to generate an interview.

Skip the self-aggrandizing and self-praise in the resume. Most resumes start off with adjectives like highly professional, team builder, and results-oriented, which anyone who reads a resume doesn’t believe and skips over to get to something significant. Keywords will position you, and they should be included in your summary: 

  • Opened up Wal-Mart and Target
  • Developed in a Linux platform
  • Managed Department of Defense and Raytheon programs

Research indicates that you have five to 10 seconds to hook the reader, so you need to hook them right away with something that knock their socks off on your resume, cover letter, and in any cold telephone call presentation.

How do you hook ‘em?  Try something like this on the phone, if you’re contacting a piggery:  “My name is Arnold Ziffel, and I have a background in senior marketing management of pork products sold to Kroger, Albertsons and other major supermarkets.  I recently sent you my resume.  I am going to be in Cleveland on March 14, and also in early April, and would like to stop by when I’m in town to introduce myself.”  (That takes 15 seconds to deliver, and the person is either hooked or ignoring you after the first 6 seconds).

May 9, 2009:  Post Interview Follow Up:  What Should I Do?  When Should I call?

  • Following up after the interview is critical.  Too many job hunters, however, do it in a way that hurts them.
  • Thank you notes should go out right away.  By snail mail.  
  • You should call back, but wait until the time is right.  Calling the next day will seal your fate - you'll be dead.

You've just had a (gasp) job interview.  You get home, all out of breath.  What do you do next?

As soon as you get home after an interview, send either a typed letter or a handwritten thank you note to your interviewer (either works well - don't send emails, because the person you've interviewed with receives 150 emails a day, and yours can easily get lost). A piece of paper on the desk still has a lot of punch, especially since we now live in a world drowning with emails.

You should follow up by phone after the interview, but don't call a day or two later - you'll seem like you're either desperate or a pest (and who wants to hire either one?) ...

If they've told you that they are interviewing several more candidates, and won't be done until May 23, wait until May 26 to call back.  If you have no information on when they are supposed to make their decision, call after 7 to 14 days. If you don't get through after a couple tries, leave a voice mail message (not with the secretary, who won't take down every word you say - call after hours if you must to get to the voicemail box). Remember, in these days of caller ID, not to call over and over again if you get voice mail - you'll look like you're crazy if your interviewer checks the caller ID and sees that you tried to reach her 12 times in an afternoon (unless you block your caller ID).

Bear in mind that when you're out of work or job hunting, two weeks can seem like eons. In the world of work, two weeks fly by, and any executive is lucky if she gets to one or two of the must dos on her to do list. Your new job may be the most important thing in your life, but it isn't to your interviewer, whose day is filled with meetings and catastrophes and who hopes to somehow find the time to fill the position for which you've interviewed in between these.

April 24, 2009:   Linked In Updates - Keep Your Name in Front of Your Connections

If you’re looking for a job, or even thinking about it, you should be on Linked In.

Among many other things, LinkedIn gives you the ability to regularly tell everyone in your network what you’re working on.  Those in your network get a weekly update on everything that everyone in their network reports they are Working On.

I was looking at one of the weekly updates I get, and read this:


Arne Saknussem is working on optimal tax jurisdictions for insurance businesses. Wow, I better find something more appealing for the next update....

I couldn’t help but laugh when I read that one, and fired off Arne a quick email. 

He wasn’t aiming it at me, like some of those other email bombardments I get every day from people trying to keep their names in front of me.  Yet, this one, buried in with all the other things that my Linked In friends were doing, caught my eye.

So put something interesting in your Working On on LinkedIn every week.  Some of your LinkedIn connections will notice.

April 3, 2009:  The Worst Job Hunting Gaffe

Perhaps the oddest job-hunting gaffe I’ve experienced was from a guy who called up and started off with, “Mr. Job Magician, my name is Ed Simple.  Did you get my letter?”
I didn’t recognize his name, and told him that I didn’t remember seeing his letter.

He told me he had sent me a questionnaire to fill out, which asked me to tell him more about my firm, to tell him what industries I worked in, what networks I was a part of, etc. His letter had said that after I filled out the questionnaire, if he thought I was appropriate to represent him, he would send me his resume.

Rather than tell him that I was about to call the Guinness Book of World Record to let them know that I had finally found the world’s dumbest job hunter, I talked to him for a little while, explained how retained search works, and asked him if anyone had returned the completed questionnaire.  He was disappointed and surprised that no one had.

(And yes, this is story is absolutely true, but as I'm sure you figured out, I made up the name Ed Simple, not to protect the innocent, but because I long ago forgot his name).

Although I can’t imagine that any of you would try something this bizarre, this approach illustrates a fundamental lack of understanding of retained search that is common.  Retained search firms don’t represent candidates – we’re not interested in finding you a job. We are paid by our clients, not you, remember. When a very attractive candidate becomes available, I won’t immediately jump on the phone and call my best clients to see if I can find a home for her.  I’m concentrating on the two or three projects I have in hand at that time, and have no interest in candidates who don’t fit those tightly developed specifications.

A project I worked on recently required a PhD in biochemistry or genetics, deep experience and understanding of gene splicing, and the ability to manage 100 people involved in developing genetically-designed animals for pharmaceutical research.  Most of my searches come with specifications that are that narrowly defined.  I can almost never shoehorn an extremely well-qualified candidate with a background in tire manufacturing into a VP/Manufacturing slot for a company making industrial drives.  My clients want me to find people with specific experience in their industry.

March 30, 2009:
 We Can All Say We're Great - Don't Say It, Prove It on your Resume

Recently, when talking with my sister Katarina, she used the word brilliant in a sentence.  

In all my arrogance, I responded, "Brilliant ... kind of makes you think about me, doesn't it?"

Katarina responded brilliantly with, "It makes me think about you talking about you."

Unfortunately, all but about 1% of resumes start out with you talking about you.

Here's today's sample resume starter:

"Highly intelligent, energetic, entrepreneurial and high-achieving executive with 10 years of work experience and superb academic credentials.  Deep network of corporate client, private equity and professional services relationships developed over numerous years.  Outstanding new business development skills and ability to understand explicit and implicit client needs.  Highly articulate and persuasive communicator.  Proven ability to raise capital.  Experience recruiting, leading and motivating teams.  Significant corporate finance transaction experience."

Arrgh! as Charlie Brown would say. Did that put you to sleep?

This summary tells me he has 10 years of work experience, along with some private equity and capital raising experience. The rest of it is self-praise -- fluff. Everybody and his sister can claim (and they all do claim) to be highly intelligent, energetic, entrepreneurial, high-achieving, highly articulate and persuasive communicators.

I'm not picking on this person - who actually has a pretty impressive background.  It's so rare that I see a resume that doesn't start out with a boring thud like this one that I routinely skip the summaries - but the good resume writers out there will put something in the summary that will catch my eye.

  • Instantly email your resume to all major Retained Search Firms
  • Search 10,000 six-figure jobs
  • All for only $94 a year

Dropping all the self-praise  - all the you-talking-about-you is the first step. Get rid of all self-describing adjectives, which no one believes, and which even you wouldn't believe if they were on the resume you were reading that belonged to someone you'd never met.

Replace them with specifics.  In this candidate's case, replace proven ability to raise capital with raised $1.65-billion in capital to fund 13 transactions in three-year period.

Add specifics, and stop praising yourself.  See our article, Writing a Powerful Resume Summary, for more information on this.

The beginning of your resume needs to be eye-catching, rather than something that makes you indistinguishable from everybody else.



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