John Hadley's Career Accelerator Blog
Seek Answers to Your Career / Career Search Challenges

January 2022
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Flaws In Your Résumé or Background
Filed under: Résumé, Networking, Interview, Cover Letter, Recruiters
Posted by: John Hadley @ 7:48 pm

I was reading Abby Kohut’s excellent book, Absolutely Abby’s 101 Job Search Secrets, and came across this statement:

“Prepare a good reason for any gaps on your resume in addition to an explanation of what activities you were involved in that may have enhanced your career, including personal activities.  Gaps are typically not the reason why candidates are rejected.  It’s the inability to explain them sufficiently, and or a lack of confidence about them that is likely to be a concern for recruiters.”

I concur 100%.

Candidates are always worried about their flaws.  This is natural.  However, it’s generally not the flaws themselves that hold them back, it’s how they deal with them.

If you present with confidence, and have a good response to questions about your flaw, that will go a long way to minimizing the impact of that flaw.

For example, consider this most difficult situation - where a candidate was actually fired (unfairly) from their last job - this post walks through how to deal with that simply and with confidence:

The key in these cases is to not dwell on the flaw, and to focus on the future - what you can do, what you hope to do, what you have learned from the problem that will ensure it will never happen again - whatever answer best fits your situation.  Make it simple, and then shift attention to what you can confidently do.

One other point:  Any time there is a gap or other flaw in your background, you are going to be much easier to screen out when you are trying to come through the front door, competing head to head with every other candidate who knows about an opening.  The busy HR screener or recruiter who is thumbing quickly through 100’s of
résumés to find the handful to present to a hiring manager is that much more likely to take a pass on yours.

This cries out for even more emphasis on networking.  When you talk to someone outside of the “is he / she qualified for this job” evaluation mode, you have a chance to get that person engaged.  You can talk about your package.  You can explain (briefly) the flaw in context.  And you can get then thinking about why you would be a great candidate, so that you can come into being evaluated for a position with a supporter.

For more on how to make this networking happen, see these articles:

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Working With Recruiters
Filed under: Recruiters
Posted by: John Hadley @ 9:24 am

I just came across this posting to a variety of networking groups to which I belong:

“As you probably already know recruiters usually have the best jobs in the
market, the ones that are not posted. The ones only the recruiter can
get because of his or her relationship with the

A good recruiter can be worth more than GOLD to a client
company. Most CEO’s will tell you they are only as good as their
people. Ever get frustrated with recruiters not calling you back or
following up after you have submitted your resume? Want to get

The facts are that recruiters are commission driven and
they work on what they think can close fast. It’s just the nature of
the business; if recruiters don’t get people hired then they don’t eat.
Sure some companies pay base salary’s but that is for rent not

If you want to get the attention and get noticed then you
haft to be willing to help the process along.

See the
five tips here:

While these are good points, they are mostly from the recruiter’s point of view.

As a candidate you want to also make sure you
are working with very good recruiters in your specific field. As with any
profession, there are a small percentage of very strong performers, a large
percentage who are average, and a large percentage
who aren’t all that good.
You want to work primarily with the top recruiters.

You want to be
sure that they have a strong track record of placements in your industry, in
your specific job, at your compensation level. Just as you would expect a
quality recruiter to interview you before agreeing to present you, you should
expect to interview them before agreeing to be presented.

For more on
how to work effectively with recruiters (from the candidate’s point of view),
see this article:

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Headhunter Needed
Filed under: Networking, Recruiters
Posted by: John Hadley @ 9:11 pm

I’ve many times seen postings requesting leads to recruiters…and sometimes respond to them. Here’s a sample:

“Dear Mr. Hadley,

I am jobless and I was wondering how I can find a good headhunter?”

Rather than simply relying on a headhunter, why not do some serious networking to also uncover great opportunities yourself? Here are 2 articles on how to do that:

In any event, to get the attention of that headhunter, or anyone else who could help you with your search, think about the marketing message you are presenting.  You need to focus on answering the WIFFM question (What’s In It For Me?) for the reader/listener, and equip them to know why you would be an outstanding candidate.

Candidates often focus on their strengths and experience, but this leaves it to the reader has to simply take your word for it that you are actually good at these things. Experience doing something doesn’t automatically imply results - how many people have you met who have been doing a particular job for a long time, but never especially well?

What examples can you give of the sorts of results you have produced for your past companies or clients?  How have you moved their own missions forward?

For more on compelling marketing messages, see these 2 short articles:

To search for recruiters, you can check out the Encyclopedia of Recruiters published by Kennedy – there may be versions in the public library, or you can order it on-line. You can reach out to people you know to ask who they have worked with and would recommend – but you want it to be ones who have expertise recruiting at your level, for your industry and type of job.  You can reach out to the HR departments of companies who would be the sort of target companies you would be interested in, and ask what recruiters they deal with and consider particularly good.One key is to make sure you are working with good recruiters, and working with them the right way – here’s an article on the subject:

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Recontacting Recruiter
Filed under: Interview, Recruiters
Posted by: John Hadley @ 10:06 pm

Posting to a networking group I belong to

I applied for a job in July and recieved an interview but did not get the position. The recruiter gave me her business card and told me if I ever have any questions to contact her.  Recently I found a new post on a new position at the same company.  Is it OK for me to contact the same recruiter I had an interview with and tell her I am interested in the new position that has just been posted.  Or would it hurt me to contact her and she remembers that I did not get the last position I applied for at the company?

My response

There’s nothing wrong with contacting the recruiter again - she did say to do so if you ever have any questions. Even if she hadn’t, there would be nothing wrong with reaching out.

The key is to examine why you didn’t get the job offer the last time:

Did you seek feedback last time as to why you didn’t get the job? You want to make a habit of doing this, so that you can be more successful on future interviews. You may not get feedback in a lot of cases, but if you ask the question in a very professional manner, it can do no harm, and may actually result in converting some of the people you’ve met into potential networking contacts.


And for more on how to make the most effective use of recruiters, see this article:

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Phone Messages
Filed under: Networking, Interview, Recruiters
Posted by: John Hadley @ 3:19 pm

I came across this advice some time ago for how to reach out to a hiring manager who has an opening:

“If the manager’s secretary answers, introduce yourself and ask for the manager by name. Expect that she will tell you he is not available and ask the purpose of your call. Do not, under any circumstances tell her you are responding to an advertisement or seeking a job, but rather say, “it’s personal.” Then leave your name, phone number at which you can be reached, and a time you will be available. The chances are very good that she will pass the message on.”

I take very strong exception with telling someone “It’s personal”. Having been a hiring manager for many years, I can tell you that anyone who did that with me would have a big hole to dig themseleves out of. In fact, most times when I got a message saying “it’s personal”, and didn’t recognize the name, I would throw away the message, ask my administrative assistant to call and find out more, or simply assume the person would call back some time. I had learned that 99% of such messages I received were either recruiters or salespeople.

There is the additional issue of potentially alienating a very important person - the hiring manager’s administrative assistant.  By misrepresenting yourself this way to get around the assistant, they will also remember you negatively for having done that. You have just turned a critical gate keeper into your enemy!

Although the “it’s personal” strategy may get you through more often than being honest about the call, when you do get connected you are on a much stronger footing. The key to an influential conversation, to a winning interview, is to build a strong relationship with the hiring manager, so that they see you as someone they really WANT to work with day by day, who is clearly aligned with their goals, who they can always rely on. Starting out with something that already may negatively influence that relationship is not a great strategy.

For more on how to Hit a Home Run in Every Interview, see this article:

By the way, another tactic used by a recruiter for whom I used to have respect was to leave a fake name. He claimed it was to protect the candidate, since he was so well known. At the time I didn’t realize this - he hadn’t needed to try that particularl dodge because I always took his calls.

He then did 2 things I considered unethical in presenting candidates to me, and I told him not to ever bother to call our company again, as we would never use him in any capacity. (I was responsible for all actuarial hiring.)

A few years later, when I was looking to make a move myself, he called me under the fake name (which I still didn’t know), and sent me materials about his firm with that name on the letterhead.  Since he had moved in the interim and had a different phone number and area code, I didn’t realize it was him. I went on the interview, afterwards happened to mention the name to a friend, and found out who I was dealing with. I never let on, and made a note in my address book never to return a call again that was left under that name!

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Working With Recruiters
Filed under: General, Recruiters
Posted by: John Hadley @ 4:44 pm

Recruiters can be critical contacts in a Career Search, but you need go about working with them the right way.  Just as in any profession, there are a large number of average (or worse) recruiters, and a small percentage of top notch professionals.

You want to be selective, choosing to work actively only with those who have proven successes in the exact type of job, industry, company and compensation level you seek.  You want to evaluate them just as extensively as they evaluate you as a potential candidate they might present.  For more on this, see this article:

Here’s a comment I received some time ago on the subject, in response to an article I wrote about seeking to Hit A Home Run in your Career Search:

One question in passing…I spoke with a Headhunter today, and he encouraged me to consider positions that pay 10-15% greater than my current position, but far less than my “fair market value.”
Without getting too involved in explanation, I moved from a straight salary position (pure engineering) to base plus commission(technical sales) arrangement. The job changed and the commission piece “came off the table.”
I feel like the Headhunter is motivated to close a deal, any deal, and isn’t too concerned about pay commensurate with experience, HOWEVER he argues that trying to hit grand slam..or a least a homerun has kept me stuck.
My response
A headhunter is always working for the company, so that will tend to color how they work with you.  He doesn’t want to present you for something that he believes the company will not accept, as that will impair his reputation and prospect for future assignments with them.  This is why a headhunter typically is reluctant to promote candidates for something that is perceived as a stretch in qualifications, compensation, or related industry experience.

Trying to hit a home run, but being open to triples, or even doubles, is a good approach.  You will have to hit the home run on your own, rather than through a headhunter.
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