Ask the Headhunter: 4 snappy answers to tricky job search questions

A DeVry University representative talks to job seeker at a job fair in Los Angeles, California. Photo by Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

Job guru Nick Corcodilos answers four of your trickiest job search questions. Photo by Lucy Nicholson/Reuters

Nick Corcodilos started headhunting in Silicon Valley in 1979 and has answered over 30,000 questions from the Ask The Headhunter community over the past decade.

In this special Making Sense edition of Ask The Headhunter, Nick shares insider advice and contrarian methods about winning and keeping the right job, on one condition: that you, dear Making Sense reader, send Nick your questions about your personal challenges with job hunting, interviewing, networking, resumes, job boards or salary negotiations. No guarantees — just a promise to do his best to offer useful advice.

Question 1: I love speaking in public, giving presentations, leading group discussions and teaching classes. If I were given the challenge of speaking in front of 500 people with 60 minutes notice, I would rub my hands together with glee. Please help me understand how to turn my talents into $100,000 a year.

Nick Corcodilos: Ask yourself: What company or organization could make a lot of money and profit by having you do those things you love? That’s who to go to about a job. You need to come up with a mini business plan for each company you target.

  • What problem or challenge do they face?
  • How can you tackle it to produce profit?
  • What’s the best way to explain it to the company?
  • Who’s the best person to explain it to?
  • How can you track down people that “best person” knows or works with — people who can introduce you to that person?

You’re not going to get hired to do what you love. You’re going to get hired to do what you love if you can show how that will pay off to an employer. That’s your real challenge. You must figure it out and communicate it, because no company is going to figure it out for itself. For more about this, see “The Basics.”

I have references from great companies, but no one seems to be interested in my valuable experience.

Question 2: I worked in San Francisco and Silicon Valley for 25 years as a recruiter. I have references from great companies. No one seems to be interested in my valuable experience. In fact, I was told no one would hire me in Silicon Valley. I need someone to check my experience out. I would very much appreciate a referral that could help me track these rumors down.

Nick Corcodilos: You’d need to hire a private detective. Just because someone told you that you’d never get hired in Silicon Valley doesn’t mean anyone else feels that way. If you’re concerned about your references, you might ask a hiring manager at any company (someone you’re friendly with) to contact them and ask them what they think of you. You might identify the problem that way, assuming you have one. In the future, check out “Take Care Of Your References.”

Question 3: I came across this article you were featured in after a local recruiter asked me for information I’m not comfortable sharing.

RECRUITER: “I need the last four of your SSN and middle initial to submit you to Company X.”

ME: “Is this absolutely needed at this stage? What is it being used for? Understandably, I’m hesitant to give out that information.”

RECRUITER: “It’s the only way you can be submitted to our client for a job. It’s part of their ATS (Applicant Tracking System) to ensure that candidates are not being double submitted.”

I guess I’m really hoping that you might offer a bit of advice — whether I’m right in thinking this is a red flag, and how I might further respond to her request and comments…

Nick Corcodilos: Employers have no legitimate reason to demand your SSN just so you can apply for a job. But the recruiter gives away the problem when admits the employer’s ATS needs your SSN to avoid duplicate submissions of your credentials. They use it as a hash — a unique database key to identify you. That’s how the employer avoids fee battles between recruiters who both claim they submitted you.

Lazy ATS system designers misuse a federal ID number for their own purposes. In the process, the recruiter, the employer and the ATS vendor are intimidating job seekers and putting them at risk of not getting a job over the ATS vendor’s silly database trick.

Should you play along? That’s up to you. (A related employer trick is demanding your salary history. See “Salary History: Can you afford to say NO?”) It’s also up to you to hand over any four digits you choose, for the time being, to beat the system and explain later to the employer if the four digits don’t match your actual SSN — which will matter only if you’re hired. “Someone obviously made a mistake.”

I don’t like lying. But I also don’t tolerate stupid bureaucratic tricks by employers and ATS vendors — at the expense of job seekers.

What you do is up to you, of course. What I’m suggesting could cause you problems. But what the recruiter and ATS vendor are demanding could cause you problems, too. I’m just telling you what I’d do. I wish you the best.

Should I disclose in a job interview that I applied to grad school, and that if I get in, I won’t be taking the job?

Question 4: Should I disclose in a job interview that I applied to grad school, and that if I get in, I won’t be taking the job? I applied to school in December 2015. The job interview is in about two weeks.

Nick Corcodilos: You probably also bought a lottery ticket recently, and if you win, you won’t need a job. Would you tell an employer you have that ticket in your pocket?

I see no reason to disclose you’re graduate school application unless and until you’re faced with a choice about going to grad school. Make sense?

Dear Readers: How would you deal with these four situations?

Nick Corcodilos invites Making Sense readers to subscribe to his free weekly Ask The Headhunter© Newsletter. His in-depth “how to” PDF books are available on his website: “How to Work With Headhunters…and how to make headhunters work for you,” “How Can I Change Careers?”, “Keep Your Salary Under Wraps” and “Fearless Job Hunting.”

Send your questions to Nick, and join him for discussion every week here on Making Sense. Thanks for participating!

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