Nick Corcodilos started headhunting in Silicon Valley in 1979 and has answered over 30,000 questions from the Ask the Headhunter community.
In this special Making Sen$e 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: Thank you for all the great information in your newsletter, of which I’m an avid reader.
I’m fascinated by your job-hunting methods that involve talking about the work rather than talking about your resume and your history. This makes so much more sense than the HR way we’re usually taught! I do have a question I haven’t seen covered, though.
Let’s say I do what you suggest in “Shared Experiences: The key to good networking” and start by talking with a manager for whom I want to work, about the work itself, through a professional network or the like. If it appears to be going well, when and how do I make the transition from, “Here is a good idea to address that issue you were asking about,” to “….and you should hire me to make it happen?”
How do you get from talking about the work to asking for a job?
Nick Corcodilos: My rule is to never ask for a job. That triggers the “Go talk to HR!” response. Instead, put your discussion on a peer level. Try something like this.
How to say it
“I’m glad we had this chance to talk, because I admire your company’s products and services. I wonder if I could ask you for some insight and some advice. I’ve never just gone out and applied for jobs – it’s so automated. I think it’s far more important to get a clear idea about what problem or challenge a specific department, a specific manager, faces. Then I try to outline how I could tackle that, how I could fix it or make it better. If I can’t describe a plan for doing it, then I have no business seeking a job there. But if I can, then I want to pursue it. If I wanted to work at your company, doing [marketing, programming, etc.] who is the manager I should talk to, so that I could prepare a specific plan about how I could add value to the business? Or maybe a team member who could educate me more about the department’s objectives?”
My suggestion is overly long, but I wanted to give you some fodder to work with. Think about how you’d alter it so you’d be comfortable with it.
If you need it, here is a much shorter version to inspire you.
“I prefer talking shop to doing interviews, and a working meeting rather than a formal interview. I think it’s important for a job applicant to first understand what the actual work is, and to roll up their sleeves and show how they’d do it. Does that make sense?”
What you’re really saying to the manager is, if you’re the person I should be working for, I’d like to actually discuss the work you need done – not “a job description.”
Savvy managers don’t send you to HR; they invite you in to talk.
You’re offering to come back with a detailed (not too detailed!) plan about how you’d do the work. Savvy managers respond well to that. They don’t send you to HR; they invite you in to talk.
It doesn’t always work. But I find that, when you’re already starting with an introduction via your professional network, it’s a good transition from introduction to talking about a job. It’s a way to draw out the manager without triggering the resume-application-HR process, where you’ll get lost.
I hope that helps. I compliment you for your approach – a friendly conversation with a manager always beats a job interview! Here’s another tip to help you turn that conversation into a working meeting: “Resume Blasphemy.”
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,” “Keep Your Salary Under Wraps,” “How Can I Change Careers?” and “Fearless Job Hunting.”