08 February, 2010

There's No Money In Telling You The Truth About Job Search

I can’t make any money telling you the truth about job search.

If I played upon your suspicion that maybe you’d get the job you want if you had a better résumé I could write books about how to write a better résumé and make some money off your insecurities and fears. But the truth is, most of my veteran, job seeking readers already have a good résumé, tweak it constantly, read all the books, and even try all the gimmicky new approaches to writing a résumé. Or, to say it another way, a lot of people have already made a lot of money exploiting the fears and insecurities of my job seeking readers.

One of my co-workers once paid a company $5,000 to find him a better job. What did he get for $5k? Well, his $5 grand bought him a new résumé, interview tips, some job leads and, of course, lots of hope and ego stroking. Nobody ever went broke stroking egos. What his $5k didn’t buy him was the truth. If they told him the truth he wouldn’t have coughed up the $5k. Here’s the truth about my friend. 10 years later he is $5,000 lighter and working for the same company and worrying every day that he’ll lose the job he has. Here’s some more truth about my friend: he hung on at his current employer by letting them switch him to a department that he thought was harder to outsource. He was wrong. His employer is, in fact, outsourcing jobs just like his. In fact, as he knows very well because he’s one of the guys who find these cost-cutting opportunities, contractors will eventually take his job because contractors are cheaper than regular, full-time employees.

Nobody made any money telling my friend these truths. That’s why the company that charged him $5k sold him hope and ego stroking instead of truth. There’s no money in truth.

In a variation of the theme “there’s no money in the truth” some people who are in a position to give you the truth about job search won’t do so because telling you the truth might harm their careers or even cost them their jobs. As much as an HR director might like to blow the lid off of job search at your organization’s upcoming job search workshop, he or she can’t do so. At least not until he or she is retired. Why? Well, suppose your guest speaker told your crowd that the best-qualified job applicant often doesn’t get the job because he was gay or because she was fat and ugly or because he had the wrong political views or because she was too old. These revelations may be truth but your friendly neighborhood HR director can’t speak them because, to do so, may be interpreted as an admission that his or her employer is guilty of such offenses so, with rare exceptions, HR directors feign ignorance of these and other ugly job search truths insisting instead that the best qualified candidate who gets the job.

When clients ask me to find them a marketing director or general manager I always make the same little speech about how I’m going to go out in the marketplace and identify and recruit the best candidate I can find without regard for gender, age, race, religion, politics, weight, height or taste in music or clothing but I know that if I present a client with a 60-year-old A+ candidate and a B+ 40-year-old, it’s the younger candidate who will get the offer. The CEO of a Louisville company once told me that his recruiting strategy was to hire “tight-bunned young men who look like college soccer players” because he suspected his predominately female customers preferred to buy from hunks. Go ahead and invite this guy or his HR director to your workshop and see if they spill that piece of corporate strategy.

So what’s the truth about résumés? Sending out résumés is a low-percentage game. If you’ve been looking for a job for a long time and you still don’t have the job you want it’s probably not because you still need to pay somebody $100 for a “professionally prepared” résumé.

So what’s the truth about interviewing skills? Again, going to job interviews is a low-percentage game. The guy who’s going to get the job probably didn’t submit a résumé or go to an interview. The truth is, the reason you’re still sitting there in the lobby waiting to be interviewed is because the guy who’s going to get the job is across the street at Starbucks being introduced and recommended to his new boss by a mutual friend over a mocha latte.

So am I saying that the candidate with the best qualifications never gets the job? Of course I’m not saying that. I once worked with a software developer who went from a $75k job to a $125k job because she knew one specific programming language that was an absolute must have to her new employer. She was, in fact, the only applicant who had any experience at all with that specific, arcane programming language so if you have some really rare skill, put it on your résumé. You never know when that rare skill may move your résumé to the top of the pile.

But most of the time, you’re applying for jobs for which you are qualified and it’s not likely that a better résumé will make a difference but I’m going to tell you something that will.

A co-signer.

That’s what I call the person who recommends you to your new employer, the person who vouches for you, the person who introduces you to your new employer over a mocha latte at Starbucks and makes your new employer feel you’re a safe hire while the poor guy sitting in the lobby remains a stranger.

Most of the time, unless you know an arcane programming language no other applicant knows, it’s the candidate with a co-signer who gets the job.

So how do you get a co-signer?

Next in HIGGINBOTHAM AT LARGE: How To Get A Co-Signer

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