Ask the Headhunter: This manager hires by giving away good job candidates

Nick Corcodilos tells the story of an employer who hires by giving away good job candidates. Photo by Dave and Les Jacobs/Getty Images.

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: I received an interesting call the other day. A bank manager who received my resume called and told me that I have a lot of good qualifications, but at the moment, she really has nothing for me in the department I applied to. I was disappointed, but I thanked her for letting me know. Then she said, "I'm very good friends with Mr. X at ABC company. I told him about you, and he asked me to send him your resume. But I wanted to call you and make sure that was okay." She gave me his number, and I'm going to follow up with him tomorrow. Is that great, or what?

Nick Corcodilos: This is how people get hired all the time — although most don't realize it. Between 40 percent and 60 percent of jobs are found and filled through such personal contacts. I devote an entire section of the PDF book "How Can I Change Careers?" to this important topic, in a section titled "A Good Network Is a Circle of Friends."

The bank manager is very smart because she's building her circle of friends by investing in you. She scores points with you and with Mr. X, and she ensures herself of good referrals when she needs them, too.

This is how smart managers deal with their professional community. They participate in it actively. To some employers, this might seem subversive because the manager is "giving away candidates" to other companies — including, possibly, the competition. But mentoring is subversive by nature! For more on this, see Mentoring & Getting Mentored.

"Give something back if you want this sort of thing to continue in your life."

Now it's up to you to learn something valuable from this (in addition to nailing down an insider contact that will yield you an interview). Give something back if you want this sort of thing to continue in your life. Make "what goes around, comes around" your mantra from now on. No matter what happens with your meeting with Mr. X, you should send some flowers or an appropriate acknowledgment to the bank manager. This is a relationship you want to cultivate.

If you're ever in a position to help her out, do it. Make a point of monitoring her bank's hiring activity, and refer good people to her when you can. If your interview with Mr. X doesn't pan out, see if you can recommend another good candidate to him. That gives you two solid relationships — two people you've done something nice for.

This is how your professional community prospers, and it's how you earn professional credibility in return. Your challenge is to make high-quality introductions when you can. Believe me, it will come back to you when you need it — and when you least expect it.

By the way, the manager who called you scores extra points for two other reasons. First, she called you personally, even though she decided not to interview you. Nowadays managers are altogether too likely to let a personnel clerk make that kind of call, if they acknowledge a rejected applicant at all. They don't realize how much value there is in personally following up and cultivating a new contact. (See "Why you should fight the job interview double standard.")

Second, she asked your permission prior to sending your resume to another company. This is the sign of a manager who is awake and paying attention to the world around her. Many managers forget that an application for a job is confidential unless an applicant indicates otherwise. Thoughtless re-distribution of resumes has become part of our "job-board culture" — and it devalues resumes. Beware: If your resume gets into the wrong hands (your own boss, for example), the consequences could be serious. Giving away job candidates can be subversive and helpful, but it can also be dangerous if not done with permission.

Most employers are blind to what this manager is doing. By referring you to another employer, she's recruiting. (See "The manager's #1 job.") Contrary to what today's automated "job board" systems claim, recruiting is a very active, personal task that requires managers to stick their necks out by making recommendations and helping their professional community at large. Very few managers actually recruit. They sit around and wait for applications to come to them. This manager scores big because she's fostering relationships with people like you who will help her make hires through personal contacts.

You just found a spring of good will. Keep the good will flowing to others, and remind them to do the same.

Dear readers: What would you like to see managers do to improve your professional community? Have you ever met a hiring manager who went out of his or her way to help you? Have you ever returned such a favor? It's what makes business go 'round.

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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