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petdance (2468)

AOL IM: petdance (Add Buddy, Send Message)
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I'm Andy Lester, and I like to test stuff. I also write for the Perl Journal, and do tech edits on books. Sometimes I write code, too.

Journal of petdance (2468)

Tuesday November 26, 2002
01:33 PM

I love Nick Corcodilos' "Ask The Headhunter" newsletter

[ #9156 ]
You may have heard me mention Ask The Headhunter in the past, both the book and the website. (And I know at least one of you listened.) Nick also has an excellent weekly newsletter. Anyone who's looking for a job, and even those who aren't, can find good information here, especially in the post-dotbomb fallout. Here's some stuff from his latest issue.

Do I really have to "kiss ass" to get a job?"

A Reader Asks:
My husband is a recent college graduate in need of a professional job. He's had a couple of possibilities, but no offers or anything.

I know what the problem is. He's going about it the old-fashioned way, by applying for "available" jobs he finds via the Internet and the newspaper. He dutifully fills out applications and sends resumes to places advertising "help wanted". Obviously he needs to get on the networking ball, but he's having a difficult time with it, for two reasons.

First, he thinks it's wrong. He wants to get a job on his merits, not because he "knows somebody". He wants to feel like he earned the job by being competent, not by being the best ass-kisser or because somebody's brother's cousin's friend has some pull with the company owner's daughter's dog groomer. I don't know what to say to him about his, because I happen to agree. It feels like, at least in the current climate, success in a job search has relatively little to do with your actual ability to do the job.

Second, and this is the part I'd like your help with, it's really a downright unpleasant thing to have to do. Calling up everyone you know, begging for a job and asking them to beg for you to everyone they know. I think it would be easier to ask people for money, frankly.

How do people do it? Do you reward yourself with a treat every time you make an icky phone call? Imagine your "contact" in nothing but Wonder Woman Underoos? Risk sinking into multiple personality disorder by dissociating yourself from the entire process?

Help, please!

Nick's Reply:
I understand your husband's hesitation and his attitude, because I was a new college grad once. However, he is absolutely, positively, completely wrong.

It's easy to assume that "who you know" is a corrupt way to get a job. The truth is, companies hire people they know because they're less likely to encounter problems with "people they know".

A V.P. at a successful company explained it to me many years ago. "We hire using our company's 'people filter'. We hire only people who are referred by our employees and by people we know. This assures us that we're getting good people, because why would our friends and employees refer turkeys? It assures us that the new hire will work hard, because if she doesn't it would reflect poorly on the employee who referred her. And, we are assured that the new hire will get lots of help and support -- it's a kind of guaranteed on-the-job-training."

Know what? He's absolutely right. But this V.P. isn't stupid. He doesn't hire turkeys just because they "know someone". Good companies will still examine a highly-recommended candidate carefully. They will look at your skills and abilities, and hire you only if you're right for the job. A good company won't hire a turkey whose only credential is that "she knows someone". But, that people filter is what gets a candidate in the door, and it's what seals a relationship if all other criteria are met.

You are worried that "success in a job search has relatively little to do with your actual ability to do the job". Step back a minute. How is your husband demonstrating his ability to do the job? By sending employers a piece of paper with his name and credentials on it? Do you really think that convinces anyone he can do the job? Contrast this with a candidate who talks to that dog groomer, who in turn introduces the candidate to a manager at the company. The manager talks with the candidate, satisfies himself that the candidate is talented, then refers the candidate to another manager who is hiring. I'll take that dog groomer over a scrap of paper any day -- and so will most hiring managers.

When you send a company your resume, you're not demonstrating anything. All you're saying is, "Here are my credentials, all typed up nicely. Now, you go figure out what the heck to do with me." A personal contact is your opportunity to actually show what you can do -- it's your opportunity to demonstrate your value and to suggest how you will help the company.

Your husband needs to get over this. (And so do you.) If you don't follow my logic, consider this. Companies pay headhunters lots of money to deliver the very best candidates for a job. A $100,000 position will yield a $30,000 fee. Do you know why companies pay that kind of money? Because they don't want to waste time with thousands of resumes of people they don't know. They want the personal referrals of the headhunter. They're paying handsomely for those icky contacts.

When you develop relationships that gain you a personal referral, you're being your own headhunter. You see, companies don't hire people they know in order to do a favor for someone. They hire people they know because of the trust factor. They're simply more likely to get a good hire from someone they know.

Developing professional contacts is crucial to success. If you regard it as icky, then you've got the wrong idea entirely. Is it dishonest or immoral to make an effort to meet people who do the work you want to do? Is it ass-kissing when you call people in your field to discuss their business and to learn how you can make a contribution to their industry? Is it unpleasant to take a step into your chosen line of work -- or is it just uncomfortable because you don't know how to do it?

If your husband can't get comfortable talking to people about the work they do (and the work he wants to do), then I can't help him. He's going to have to learn the hard way.

Here's the risk he takes. If he gets hired strictly on the basis of a blind resume submission, the odds that he will have the support and attention he needs to succeed are much smaller than if he gets hired through a personal contact. My friend the V.P. devotes lots of time to help his new hires succeed because he's beholden to the people who referred the candidate -- there's personal responsibility and trust involved. You see, it works both ways: personal contacts yield good hires for empployers, and they yield the best opportunities for job hunters.

Networking need not be mercenary. It should be a natural process of getting to know good people in your field -- and helping them get to know you.

I wish you the best.

Copyright 2002 North Bridge Group, Inc. All rights reserved.

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  • A good friend of mine recently was hired at Microsoft (a networking job). During his interview they asked him the dreaded question, "Why do you want to work here more than anywhere else?" He indeed gave them reasons he would want to work at Microsoft, rather than say, a bank or another industry. But frankly, he also told them why he might *not* want to work for them. For instance, if their compensation wasn't better than other offers, or if the working environment didn't seem positive or healthy. On the o
  • During his interview they asked him the dreaded question, "Why do you want to work here more than anywhere else?"

    I hope you're not dreading it if you're interviewing with me, because I always ask it of those who I'm considering.

    I consider a spot on my team to be too valuable to squander it on someone who is technically adept but really doesn't care about my industry, or isn't interested in why we do what we do, or isn't excited about our technological choices.

    My team doesn't exist just to crank out



  • I call it dreaded if they ask you why you want to work there more than anywhere else. If I'm interviewing a few times in a week, there's no way that all of them are my first choice. Plus, there might be places I'd rather work, but due to family and other considerations, I can't move to where the ideal job is located. When I interview people, I want them to demonstrate that they've researched my company, understand the job description, and have thought about the ways they might contribute. If those basics ar
  • I consider a spot on my team to be too valuable to squander it on someone who is technically adept but really doesn't care about my industry, or isn't interested in why we do what we do, or isn't excited about our technological choices.

    At the end of my second interview, where I feared that they were going to offer me the job, I told them that I didn't really want to work here. (I thought I had prospects on a better job elsewhere). The other job fell through, and it now turns out it was not what it seemed,

  • If I'm interviewing a few times in a week, there's no way that all of them are my first choice.

    One of Nick's key mantras is that you shouldn't be going to any interviews for jobs that you don't want, and that wouldn't want you. Your job is getting the job you want, not going on interviews.



  • An Ask The Headhunter reader (who is a software manager) wrote a good Guest Voices article about interviewing that you might find interesting and helpful: "This is not a test: A hiring tool for managers" at

    Nick Corcodilos
    Ask The Headhunter

    • Wow; cool to see you're around. You're picking up quite a fan-base here through your evangelist, Andy, and I'm #2 on the list.

      Just bought and read your book, along with the majority of your website. I was laid off recently and managed to find a new position in my company [], with the help of some of your advice. You'll probably like my comparison of my two interviews there. I didn't have much time to prepare for either one of them, and if I had not been offered one of those jobs, my plan was to start res

      J. David works really hard, has a passion for writing good software, and knows many of the world's best Perl programmers
  • but I have gone to several interviews where I was interested but not 100% sure I wanted to work there. I went for two reasons:
    1. I wanted to find out more about the position. Sometimes a first interview/phone screen is the only way to find out if you want to pursue it.
    2. I always am trying to be a better interviewee. This means practice, practice, practice. If I think I will be reasonably interested in the job I try to get an interview.

    For me, it's almost as much for the experience of interviewing as it is f

    "Perl users are the Greatful Dead fans of computer science." --slashdot comment
  • That's certainly true, but just because a potential position isn't my first choice doesn't mean I don't want it or I wouldn't be a good fit. I job hunt usually involves pursuing a position with more than one employer.