Ask The Headhunter: Four Fearless Job Hunting Tips to Land a Job That Makes You Happy

BY Nick Corcodilos  January 7, 2014 at 10:25 AM EDT

Job hunting is an over-defined process, says headhunter Nick Corcodilos. And for the most part, the prescribed methods don’t work. Instead, here are Nick’s four tips to overcome the obstacles standing between you and the job you want. Photo courtesy of Flickr user Kate Hiscock.

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.


To start the New Year, I’d like to share four tips from the latest Ask The Headhunter publications. If you find something useful in them, I’ll be glad.

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

What all those books conveniently ignore is that the steps don’t work. If they did, every resume would get you an interview, which would in turn produce a job offer and a job. But we know that’s not how it works.

The key to successful job hunting is knowing how to deal with the handful of daunting obstacles that stop job hunters dead in their tracks. Here are four excerpts from “Fearless Job Hunting” that address four daunting obstacles you’re likely to face — along with my suggestions for how to overcome them. (All of the “Fearless Job Hunting” books are available in the Ask The Headhunter Bookstore.)

Four Tips for Job Hunting Success:

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

1. Don’t settle
An excerpt from “Fearless Job Hunting, Book 1: Jump-Start Your Job Search,” p. 4, “The myth of the last-minute job search”:

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

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

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

2. Scope the community
An excerpt from “Fearless Job Hunting, Book 3: Get In The Door (way ahead of your competition),” p. 6, “It’s the people, Stupid”:

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

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

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

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

3. Avoid a salary cut
An excerpt from “Fearless Job Hunting, Book 7: Win The Salary Games (long before you negotiate an offer),” p. 9: “How can I avoid a salary cut?”:

Negotiating doesn’t have to be done across an adversarial table — and it should not be done over the phone. You can sit down and hash through a deal like partners. Sometimes, candor means getting almost personal.

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

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

4. Know what you’re getting into
An excerpt from “Fearless Job Hunting, Book 8: Play Hardball With Employers,” p. 23: “Due Diligence: Don’t take a job without it”:

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

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

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

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

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



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!

Copyright © 2013 Nick Corcodilos. All rights reserved in all media. Ask the Headhunter® is a registered trademark.
This entry is cross-posted on the Rundown — NewsHour’s blog of news and insight.