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Ask the Headhunter: ‘Where Is This Magical Place to Meet Employers?’

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Nick Corcodilos is an expert on how to get a job. We ran into him while doing a story on the relative futility of Internet job boards and asked him to post his own job search secrets. It became a palpable hit, so we asked Nick if he wouldn’t mind taking some questions from our readers. It turns out that in addition to giving interviews to PBS, Nick hosts a website called asktheheadhunter.com, and publishes a free weekly — the Ask The Headhunter© Newsletter.

Wonder how others “get in the door” for interviews while you can’t? How can you make the “inside contacts” you need? Do employers interview you, then never call back? How can you change careers mid-stream? Nick Corcodilos answers your questions here in our weekly feature, Ask the Headhunter. Submit your questions in the comments below.

matt: I found the article Six Secrets to Beat The Job Market interesting. It also makes me feel lucky, because I have programming skills, and even though I hadn’t worked in a while, I was still able to get interviews and land a job. I also found the “don’t reveal past salary information” part interesting. I didn’t know you could refuse. Maybe that knowledge will be useful to me someday.

Nick Corcodilos: Disclosing past salary information is a big issue with job hunters. You’d rather not tell an employer how much you make because it instantly puts you at a disadvantage. Here are some things to keep in mind.

  1. Your salary history is confidential. Many people are convinced that when an employer asks for salary history, they are required to reveal it. But it’s private, personal information. You need not disclose it. Many employers’ policy handbooks even state that salary information is “company confidential” — so you may need to withhold the information anyway, if that’s your prior employers’ policy. What’s another employer going to tell you to do — violate the terms of your other employment? (For more on this topic, please see Should I disclose my salary history?)

  2. Don’t cap the job offer. My advice is to never disclose your salary history because it will almost certainly put a cap on any job offer you get. Don’t make it easy for an employer to limit an offer based on something you told them. Your goal is to get the highest offer you can. Will declining to divulge your salary cost you a job? It might. While an employer has a right not to interview you, you must decide how important it is to keep information private. (Would you disclose how often you drink beer? Does an employer really need to know? So why would you disclose your salary?) The only way your salary information helps the employer is by creating an unfair negotiating advantage. (Would you show a car salesman your bank account balance before negotiating a price for a car?)

  3. There’s no legitimate reason for anyone to ask for your salary history. Over the years, I’ve asked human resources executives to give me just one good reason why they need to know anyone’s salary before hiring them. The answers range from, “It’s our policy” to “It helps us determine a fair offer” to “We have a right to know.” But none of those are good reasons for anyone to tell. My responses to those HR execs: So what if it’s your policy? My policy is that my salary, like how much money is in my checking account, is my own business. If you want to make me a fair offer, then assess my abilities and my value to your business — isn’t that what interviews are for? Finally, no one has a “right” to know how much money I make. No HR executive has ever given me a reasonable answer to my question. They simply do not need your salary history in order to hire you.

  4. Talk profit. What happens if an employer balks? That’s up to you. My advice is to say this: “I’d be happy to show you how I can do this job in a way that contributes to your profitability. If I can’t, you shouldn’t hire me. But if I can, then I’d like to negotiate a salary that’s commensurate with the value I bring to your company.” I think that’s a very tantalizing offer that a good business person can’t refuse. After all, you’re offering to boost the amount of money they make. If they decline, why would you want to work for them?

Ask the Headhunter subscribers tell me they politely but firmly withhold their salary history, and employers often back off. This makes it easier to negotiate a good salary later on. Salary negotiations can be challenging. But it’s easier to negotiate the right deal when you’ve demonstrated good faith — and firmness — by keeping your salary history private, by demonstrating your worth, and by sharing your goals with the employer. These tips are from Keep Your Salary Under Wraps, which offers more ways to “just say no” and still get an interview.

shoesie: Where is this magical place where I can introduce myself to employers in person?

Nick Corcodilos: Thanks for a very blunt question. You’re right: Where you meet employers in person is indeed a magical place. There’s nothing like talking shop with an employer somewhere that’s not a job interview — and preferably not in their office. This is how you avoid the trappings of the interview, too. Interviews are usually awkward, scripted meetings that leave the employer and the applicant with a sense that they’re not sure whether they should work together. So, where can you have a good discussion that’s comfortable and that may actually lead to a job? Anywhere that employers hang out. You must go there.

Think about it: Where do the managers and people you want to work with congregate? Where do they take professional training? Whether they’re software developers or welders, they learn somewhere. Sign up. In many lines of work, people attend industry events. Go there. People gather on key websites to talk shop in discussion forums. Meet them and talk about their work. Contribute. Ask questions.

Companies “hang out” in business publications, both in print and online. Read about them, take notes, and get in touch with people you read about at your target companies. LinkedIn is great for tracking them down.

(There’s one special case regarding meeting employers: When you’re looking for a new job in your own company. Please see this article for some brief advice:Job Hunting By Wandering Around.)

The secret to all this is not getting in touch. It’s having something useful to say. In any one of these “magical places,” there’s a topic. Whether it’s an article, a discussion forum, or a professional event, it gives you a topic to talk about, to ask questions about, to request advice and insight about. Talk shop. Make friends. That’s where real job leads come from.

The catch is, this takes time. We already know job hunting isn’t easy. But you can wait around for a job board or a resume to yield a call for an interview. Or you can spend that time meeting people and making friends. That’s the magical place where you connect with employers. Doing this is about as much hard work as the job you want. Sorry, but there’s no magic solution to make either one easier.

Joyce: Being in HR, how would you suggest getting hiring managers to be more proactive in their own hiring? Many don’t seem to care about going to their networks for candidate leads, people who can really do the job; they just want HR to sort through the applications to present them with viable candidates.

Nick Corcodilos: Nice to hear from someone in HR! You have your work cut out for you. It’s easy to blame HR for ineffective hiring, but managers themselves are often the source of the problem. If you really want to help managers, try some methods we headhunters use.

  1. Put the job descriptions aside. Some managers love writing job descriptions and sending them to HR. It’s an excuse for not doing their own recruiting. So, meet with the manager. Go over the description, then put it aside. “Ms. Manager, let’s forget about the description. Let’s talk about people you’d love to hire. Where would they be working now?” Help the manager identify other employers. Now we know where to recruit.

  2. Identify sources. The manager knows better sources of job candidates than HR does, because the manager is an expert in her work. Help her make a list of these. Encourage the manager to meet with her team to expand the list. “Who are the movers and shakers that we know in this line of work?” These are the people who can refer and recommend candidates. Identify ways the manager and members of her team can contact them.

  3. Make a plan to recruit. Whether these candidate sources are turned over to HR for recruiting, or the manager and her team make the calls, the next step is to reach out to those folks. Invite them to breakfast, lunch or dinner. (Forget about interviews. A meal is a better way to entice someone to talk about business.)

That’s how I’d start to engage the managers in recruiting. For more tips for managers, please see Passive Job Hunters, Or Passive Employers?

Nick Corcodilos: I started headhunting in Silicon Valley in 1979, and I’ve answered over 30,000 questions from the Ask The Headhunter community over the past decade — and I’m glad to share what I know with you. I offer no guarantees — but I’ll do my best to offer you useful advice — so please feel free to post your questions about your personal challenges with job hunting, interviewing, resumes, job boards, or salary negotiations. I am the author of three “how to” PDF books, available on my website: How to Work With Headhunters…and how to make headhunters work for you, How Can I Change Careers?, and Keep Your Salary Under Wraps

Questions will be collected from here and we’ll post my advice on a series of Ask The Headhunter columns here on Making Sen$e. You’ll also find my comments sprinkled throughout this discussion forum about various topics. Thanks for participating!

Copyright © 2012 Nick Corcodilos. All rights reserved in all media. Ask The Headhunter® is a registered trademark.

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