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    Ask The Headhunter

    July 16, 1999

    From my earliest years as a pre-teen protesting US bombing in Vietnam and Cambodia I have been a non-conformist. Believing that the Majority is usually wrong, I am always on the lookout for like-minded individuals, people that wear their contrarian views like a well fitted suit.

    For Jobhunting advice, few people buck the popular trend the way Nick Corcodilos does. His Ask The Headhunter column, online since early 1995 (at Motley Fool's Career Site) should be required reading after you have spent several days poring over the standard help texts for Jobhunters.

    Nick was a headhunter, not a career counselor or HR rep, and he thinks that this makes all the difference in the world in terms of their respective perspectives, both short and long term. Because the success and failure of a headhunter is dependent on their ability to closely match an Employer's needs with a Jobhunter's skills, Nick thinks headhunters have a clearer, reality tested vision of what Employers are seeking during an Interview.

    Nick thinks that career counselors (and associated field workers) don't fully understand what Employers are really looking for in Job candidates. Employers don't want more workers, they want more work done. They are willing to hire more workers, or different ones, if the new Job candidates can demonstrate how they will reduce costs and increase profits. Employers are looking for solutions (Not Job applicants) - do you have any for them? And not at some later date, but right now, from the first time you make your presence felt to them.

    Not all of Nick's advice runs counter to the general theme of Jobhunting strategy. For example, he recommends being blunt by simply asking for the Job at the end of the Interview. He also parallels other colleagues by suggesting that you know your skills, the industries and companies that need those skills, and contact the managers that need your specific skills to solve problems you've identified at their companies. His advice to immerse yourself in the company of your target site's customers, vendors, employees, managers, professional associates, and competitors is sound.

    What sets Nick apart are his recommendations for Resumes and the Interview. The Interview should be hands on whenever possible, allowing the Jobhunter to demonstrate problem-solving skills in a work-like environment. Tell the Interviewer in advance that you'd like to actually perform a portion of the Job during the Interview, and then ask them to review your work in the same way they would if you were working there.

    Go Nick's website for a more thorough review of these topics - I bet you'll appreciate his fresh approach to seizing a Job as much as I did.

    -Mark Poppen

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    3Rs of Interviews

    July 15, 1999

    There's little doubt that you'll walk into the Interview with more confidence and chance for success if you know a good deal about the company and your Interviewer. Even if you can't find out much about your Interviewer, at least find out enough about your target company so that you don't, in a fit of nervousness, blurt out questions that could have been easily answered by some foresight and half an hour's research. If you don't care enough about this Job to dig into the details, then the Interviewer is probably right in concluding that the Job would be better off in someone else's hands.

    Don Monaco, of the Strickland Group (on's Career Network Site) reduces the Interview process into three stages, or for ease of memory, the three R's: Research, Rehearse, and Relax.

    Research is comprised of searching these sources:

    • Library (books, periodicals, magazines, etc.)
    • Literature from company's public relations department
    • Annual reports
    • Electronic sources of information (Nexis, AOL, Internet)

    Furthermore, you should be "familiar with the organization's products, structure, services, financial status, competitors, reputation and any recent major changes. In addition, try to discover information about the person who you will meet background, style, education, and their 'hot button' issues. To fully prepare for any interview you should be able to identify these things in yourself:

    • Transferable skills
    • Key accomplishments
    • Management style
    • Unique selling or promotional features
    • Personal and professional strengths "

    Should you rehearse your Interview answers and probable dialogue ahead of time? Most Career Counselors recommend having a substantial list of prepared answers to standard Interview questions. You know some of the basic Interview questions:

    Why should we hire you?

    Describe your best and worst work traits.

    Tell me about yourself.

    What salary requirements do you have?

    Describe a work problem you faced and how you overcame it.

    What are your personal and professional goals?

    Where do you see yourself professionally in five years?

    There is a fine line between using canned responses that you can mouth with confidence, and repeating hackneyed cliches that are insincere and sink the Interview. Where you draw the line depends on both your sense of Ethics and your gut reaction to your Interviewer. Most Job Candidates are faced with rejection frequently enough to need confidence builders, so rehearsing answers is a logical approach to Interviews.

    During the Interview,'s advice is:

    • Act like a consultant not an applicant. Think of yourself in problem-solving mode, in partnership with your interviewer.
    • Engage in a dialogue, don't put yourself in a question/answer mode. Let silence occur.
    • Present your value, and always protect your dignity and self worth. Be engaging and enthusiastic.

    Remember, though, that confidence and sincerity flows from your deep-seated interest and enthusiasm. When you pursue a Job that suits your wants and needs, practicing the Interview should be an exercise in holding back your excess enthusiasm rather than feigning it.

    -Mark Poppen

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    July 14, 1999

    Way back in the era of lifetime employment, Loyalty carried a lot of weight. Companies demanded it of their Employees, and it was not uncommon for several generations of workers to toil at the same company, often in the same Job. Before the Industrial Revolution, Job duties and titles were handed down from father to son. And there are still companies that make efforts to inculcate employee identity with the corporate image, via Japanese style group events, meetings, and cheers.

    But, things change. Now life expectancy on a Job before termination is often less than five years, and in some industries less than two years. Company loyalty barely makes the top ten list of most important worker attributes, according to managers, and ranks below beauty in importance. Is loyalty worth considering or developing as a core value anymore?

    No, if it is to the Company. Companies (though comprised of thinking/feeling humans) base their decisions on number crunching and projected revenues and costs. A Corporation is Incapable of caring; it's just not in their nature. However, your supervisor IS capable of some human qualities, all evidence to the contrary. Loyalty to your boss may be the best way to ensure your current Job security, and prepare you for either promotion within your company (or a better Job on the outside).

    Unfortunately, there are often obstacles along the way. Sometimes your boss is unethical, and asks you to do morally repugnant or even illegal acts. Unless there's a boxful of money involved and no one's going to get hurt, avoid the illegal acts. This kind of loyalty only works in Mafia dominated Industries. What if your boss asks you to lie to customers? This is a fairly common request, and comes about for a variety of reasons - marketing deadlines were missed, creditors need to be postponed, or the work simply isn't done and telling a paying customer the truth may lead to lost sales.

    Your personal sense of Ethics will have to guide you through some of this. It's OK to ask your boss why you are being asked to lie or do something that feels wrong to you. You may even have to run a minor cost/benefit analysis on it, weighing the pros and cons, so to speak. Will your decision affect your current Employment status? Or future chances for advancement in your career? Will your action/inaction harm a colleague in your company? And how would you feel if you were the recipient of this kind of act?

    Despite the inherent risks of 'tying your career' to few higher level Supervisors, Loyalty is something people don't forget quickly. Many wildly successful entrepreneurs owe a good deal of their fortune to believing 'my word is my bond', and then living up to it. Trust is not easily given in competitive environments, and once lost is virtually irretrievable. If you act in a way that brings success and laurels to your boss, you have a great chance of getting on 'the inside' for contacts, information, meetings, and membership in the 'good old boys network' - and that is worth something.

    In Law, perjury is the coin of the realm. In Business, it's trust.

    -Mark Poppen

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    Go0d Job Gone Bad

    July 13, 1999

    Typically we start out our new Job with excitement and some apprehension. Will I be able to perform my duties at an acceptable level? Will I be able to get along with my fellow workers? Will my immediate supervisor recognize and reward me when I perform well, and encourage/help me when I need some assistance?

    After the first nervous month on the Job, we settle into the corporate culture and daily routine. Lunch becomes the highlight of the day, and the actual day to day activities seem more like busywork than exciting new projects. You have moved beyond being comfortable in your Job, you are now, in a word, bored.

    Welcome to the wonderful world of work! What do you do now? Well, for those who like to drink, I suggest the local watering hole. Taverns are a great place to play pool, darts, and generally have a fun time meeting new people. While bars may not be the Best place to increase your Networking circle, they are not the worst, either. Oddly enough, most career counselors advise against this course of action! They recommend treating yourself to more sleep, a good book or movie, a luxurious bubble bath, a massage, etc. I can attest that these are all good things as well.

    Almost as good as these activities, re-evaluate your Job title, duties, and possibilities for advancement. Doing your Job extremely well may garner enough notice to get a promotion to a position that rekindles your interest (though occasionally it will cement you to your current Job, as you are 'indispensable'). Dress and act like the professional you want to be seen as. Believe it or not, your supervisors may more easily assess appearance and demeanor than the quantity and quality of your work. Take some of the work off of your supervisor's plate - if you make them look good they are more likely to pull you up with them when they are promoted, or at least recommend you highly.

    Examine your expectations for yourself, colleagues, supervisors, and the company. Have they changed significantly since your first day on the Job? Were they realistic to begin with, given what you now know about the industry and your company? Often readjusting one's expectations is the key to happiness. "You can have everything you want, if you simply want nothing." Bring your wants closer in line with your needs.

    Seek feedback at work, and keep in mind that the criticisms can be more useful than the praise. Ask for, and initiate, regular review periods every first of the month (or quarter). Treating your Job as a profession, rather than merely as a means to get your next paycheck, will set you apart from your peers. And it just might earn you some respect on the Job, as well as give you a sense of pride in what you're doing.

    If not, then it will serve you well as you seek your next professional association with a new Employer.

    -Mark Poppen

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    Be A Pest

    July 12, 1999

    A reader wrote last week wanting to know why she hadn't received any responses to her numerous resume postings. "I'm on all the major Job Boards!" she asked, "And I haven't seen a single response. What's going on?"

    The answer is fairly simple, and also somewhat depressing. Your posted resume is not alone out there. And there are millions of online resumes chasing after a much smaller number of Jobs and Employers who have them. A few examples: One site with 85,000 resumes posted on it saw only 850 Employers, another with 40,000 resumes only had 400 Employers visit it. Two other sites had similarly dismal stats: 60,000 resumes for 1300 Employers, and 30,000 resumes for just 15 Employers.

    Hiring Managers love the potential represented by searchable resume databases, they'll be able to screen you out of the Job you need with lightening speed. Richard Bolles (What Color Is Your Parachute) estimates that one Job offer is given and accepted for every 1500 resumes circulating, whether in paper or electronic form. Those are pretty tough odds. Bolles figures that over half of all Jobhunters that use resumes (email or snail-mail) as their primary method to acquire a new Job not only fail in their mission, but get so discouraged that they give up the search within the first two months.

    I should know, because that's exactly what I did ten years ago. Five hundred mailed resumes led to just three interviews, one call back, and no Job. I had contacts in the Industry, but was totally unfamiliar with Networking. At the time, I thought it was rude to use my contacts to aggressively pursue landing a Job. Read my Lips: If you want a Job, you're going to have to tell people what you want! This includes All your friends, acquaintances, Their friends & acquaintances, etc.

    If your Key Contacts don't have any openings at their companies, get a reference to Their Network! They know someone who has the power to hire you, they just haven't thought of it before because they don't need a Job right now. We tend to project our feelings, judgements, and worldview onto those around us. What's happening in your life may be paramount to you, but generally everyone else will forget your 'Job crisis' the moment you walk out of the room.

    Keep reminding them until they turn you on to the Next Contact.

    -Mark Poppen

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