Photo of Job Seeker by Jonathan Alcorn/Bloomberg via Getty Images
We’re pleased to report that we may have found the Larry Kotlikoff of job secrets, professional headhunter Nick Corcodilos. Larry, as readers of Making Sen$e no doubt know, has become a phenomenon, answering Social Security questions here after his initial SS post, 34 Social Security Secrets and its follow-up: More Secrets drew hundreds of thousands to our site. Nobel laureate Peter Diamond has also taken on Larry and myself with respect to Social Security’s bedeviling complexity and this post, too, has nearly jammed the transom.
Larry K. is concerned with what happens after you no longer have a job. By contrast, Nick C. is an expert on how to get one. We ran into him while doing a story on the relative futility of Internet job boards for landing a position. We asked him to post his own job search secrets and it, too, has become a palpable hit. So, as with Larry, we asked Nick if he wouldn’t mind taking some questions from our readers. He was kind enough to oblige. Here’s the first batch of helpful hints. Strike that: given Nick’s aggressiveness, let’s call them candid commandments.
Jen: Besides not having a chip on your shoulder about age discrimination when you go into an interview, what else can you recommend for the mature worker to stand out or handle tricky age-related issues?
Nick Corcodilos: There are two kinds of employers when it comes to older job applicants. Some employers are bigots. They won’t hire older workers. You have two choices: Sue them, or move on. Don’t waste your energy otherwise. The others are good people, but they’re nervous about older workers. They don’t always know why. They can smell a nervous attitude in candidates. If you show up expecting a problem about age discrimination, they will assume it will carry over into your work, and they won’t risk it. You’ll never know why they rejected you. The second group is easy to deal with. Just show them the green.
When you walk into the interview, gently re-direct it. Be prepared to turn the meeting into a discussion about how you will do the job profitably. You cannot afford to give the interviewer time to worry about your gray hair.
In my book, How Can I Change Careers?, I discuss how to prepare a mini-business plan for each of your interviews. You must immediately engage the employer in a plan about the work. If you must, ask for a live problem the manager needs the new hire to tackle, then show how you’ll approach it, what tools you’ll use to do the work, and provide an estimate of the positive outcome for the business. Encourage the manager to comment on the steps you describe, and to help you tune your strategy. Ask where the manager thinks profitability could be enhanced. Of course, this approach requires preparation in advance. If you’re not ready to do all this, you really have no business in the interview. So prepare — winning the job is just as challenging as actually having it and doing it. The manager will be so busy working with you that all he or she will see is green — the money you’ll bring to the business.
Fingurl: Can you help me with interview questions like, “Tell me about your last boss?” or “Why are you no longer there?” These two can be very awkward, especially if your last boss was verbally abusive and you ended up getting fired (like in my case).
Nick Corcodilos: Sorry you got fired! It’s awkward to discuss that with a new employer, but the challenge is to turn the discussion to what really matters to the interviewer: Why you’d be a good hire. You could spend your time talking about your bad old boss, or turn the conversation around. Try this:
“I’m looking for a good job with a good company, but I never disparage anyone I’ve ever worked with. I would like to leave it at this: I’d like to work at a company where I can respect my boss and where my boss is respectful to me. I came to you because your company is one of the shining lights in this industry, and I’d like to demonstrate how I can help you be more profitable. Can you give me an idea of what problems or challenges you’d want the person that you hire to tackle? I’d like to show you how I’d do that.”
That’s the best way I know to approach any employer, and to get past the question about why you left your last job. Focus on the company you’re meeting with, not on the past. Explain how you’re going to help them be more successful. That’s what any good employer is really looking for.
Copyright 2012 Nick Corcodilos. All rights reserved in all media. Ask The Headhunter is a registered trademark.
As usual, look for a second post this afternoon. But please don’t blame us if events or technology make that impossible. Meanwhile, let it be known that this entry is cross-posted on the Making Sen$e page, where correspondent Paul Solman answers your economic and business questions