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

September 2008
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Age & Filling Out Job Applications
Filed under: Networking, Interview
Posted by: John Hadley @ 4:13 pm

Question: I have a lot of experience and feel my age may be blocking me from job offers.  What’s your strategy about filling out job applications?

Answer: You can’t change your age, just how you deal with it.  You need to build your case for why your age is an advantage, and deliver a confident message.  If it is still an issue at the time you are filling our a job application, then you may not be conducting your search the most effective way.  You can’t lie on the application, and you are unlikely to get to the next step if you don’t fill in the application accurately, so I would advise completing it and keeping your fingers crossed.

You need to find ways to get to hiring managers and other influential people through your networking independent of openings.  You want to be meeting with me and having a conversation that gets me excited about what you can do before you ever get to the stage of filling out an application.  That way, how you fill out the application isn’t an issue.

Follow-Up Question: Here’s my take away from what you are saying:

Before the first interview, if HR says, fill out application and send it to me, I should wait until after the first or even second interview to turn it in.  Build interest as you say.  Don’t turn it in right away.
Follow-Up Answer:
What I’m really saying is, try to get connected with people directly so that you either aren’t coming through HR, or when you are, everyone is already prepared for what they might see on the application.  If you are instructed to fill out an application, not doing so risks getting ruled out for not following instructions, or pissing them off.  You can try filling it out and then bringing it to the interview, but if they call to request it again ahead of time, I think you are stuck. 
1 comment
Focus Your Search
Filed under: General, Networking
Posted by: John Hadley @ 9:31 pm

I wrote an article on focusing your career search, and received the following comment

The Focusing topic sounds interesting, since we are often told– even in the same breath– to focus but “consider wider possiblities.”  Hopefully, you cover “overfocusing” as well– the “third finger manicurist” syndrome as I call it.  In such cases there is focus and differentiation, but not much of a meaningful market or application.

My response

My experience is that lack of focus is a much greater problem than overfocusing.  If you do a great job of explaining exactly what you are passionate about, and the types of results you can provide or problems you can solve, it opens up a meaningful dialog.  Even if that’s not what I might be able to connect you to, I’ll remember you when I hear about something that might be a possibility.  And I may still present you with some ‘wider possibilities’ to consider, once you’ve attracted my interest. 

What may mask itself as an “overfocusing” problem is the person who gets stuck down in the details of what he or she does, instead of focusing on potential accomplishments and results.  I won’t get very excited about someone who tells me he is a thrid finger manicurist (titles and duties aren’t particularly interesting); a better conversation will come from telling me that he helps people maintain the health of their fingers.

One of the strongest candidates I ever interviewed told me he really didn’t want the job I had to offer, and proceeded to tell me exactly what role he wanted.  It led to a great discussion, and before he left the office, I made him the best possible job offer I could to try to attract him to my operation.

You can get the article that prompted this, Don’t Kill Your Career Search With Lack Of Focus!”, here:

comments (0)
Interview Sequence
Filed under: Interview
Posted by: John Hadley @ 7:36 pm

This question was posted to a group to which I belong

I’ve been short listed for a position and they are bringing in the final candidates for interviews over a two day period.

Question: Do I want to go first, last or somewhere in the middle? They have given me the option since I will be traveling so I was wondering if there were any thoughts? Since the interviews will only be over a two day period, perhaps there’s not much difference.

My response

I’d go for 1st, for 2 reasons:

  1. This gives you time to deliver a powerful thank you letter emphasizing what a great candidate you are for the position before they have made their decision, perhaps even before they’ve interviewed candidate #3.
  2. If you do a great job of digging into THEIR challenges, and showing them how you are a strong solution to those, particularly demonstrating how the unique set of skills you bring to the table will make that possible, they may now judge the other candidates in part on their lack of that unique set of skills.

What do YOU think?  Post your own comments…

comments (0)
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!

comments (0)
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.
1 comment