Job Seekers

I am preemptively posting this here since somewhere critical comments tend to disappear or not get posted on  I have no idea if this is on purpose or just a glitch in their Disqus implementation, or if authors control their own comments and differ in what they allow, but I’ll always double post from now on because I hate typing these things out and then losing them.  This weekend I plan on writing a more detailed response to the Good Corporate Citizenship article from a while back.  The below is a response to this more recent article on how passive candidates should behave.

The difference is, the passive candidate has a lot more leverage than the active candidate, as it is clear that an employer needs to lure the passive candidate away from a job they are already comfortable with.

This is actually incorrect. All positions have a budget, and usually a salary cap associated with them, and this is not an official budget or cap, but that which is dictated by the capital return based on the company’s ability to utilize a person. A passive candidate has a little more negotiating power than an active candidate, or so it’s assumed, but at the end of the day there will be opportunity cost for every extra dollar invested in any particular hire’s salary, and pulling a super star passive candidate doesn’t necessarily benefit your business when you have to pay significantly more for them. This squeezes the ROI for the position, and that’s assuming you can actually utilize them to their full potential. Most companies can’t, because most companies are managed in an average to poor manner. In essence it’s like buying a Lamborgini for your daily commute over winding roads through stop and go traffic. You’ll pay more initiall, and use a ton more gas, and while the Lambo is great for open road driving, its gearbox sucks in actual traffic. Its performance is hindered due to the circumstances under which it is being used. The same goes for superstar candidates.

Another analogy would be to look at your company as a production line, and to consider where the rate limitation is. If the up-line is only producing 10 widgets an hour, and has no real hope of exceeding that, then you’re wasting money on any down-line equipment with a much greater capacity. Now, there may be plans to upgrade the line, but in terms of a workforce that’s a long haul, and most companies are not making that investment these days, at least that I’ve observed. All told, the supposed higher productivity of a ‘passive’ candidate is only of use to you if you can utilize them to their full potential, and every dollar you spend to get them above and beyond what you would have paid for an active candidate squeezes your ROI and demands that you utilize them at a higher potential to get the return you need. Earning 10% on a 60K candidate means 6K profit. Earning 5% on a 100K candidate means 5K, and half the actual margin. Spending more doesn’t mean you get more when it comes to investment. Most companies aren’t Lamborgini companies, as such, they should probably get the Honda model. The margin is actually better, and the profit higher, on a more appropriately utilized employee than one with massive potential thrown into a mediocre situation.

I would also pose these questions, regarding Katherine’s hypothetical experience. If her current company really does value her, why are they not offering a comparable salary? Why did they not proactively raise her rate to what she could get from a competitor in an proactive bid to keep her? Would her company show her as much loyalty should she come into health problems and go on FMLA, or require off time? Or, more to the point, would they should such loyalty should their bottom line start to indicate her salary should be cut, or her entire position scrapped, not due to her performance but to the company’s own lack lust performance, more appropriately laid at the feet of her managers? While Katherine’s hypothetical current employer seems wonderful and may in fact demonstrate loyalty, most real world companies will ditch you in a second if keeping you meant sacrificing a fraction of a percent to their bottom line. A job is a mutua exchange, that’s all. The employer gets a work product they want more than the salary they pay, the employee gets a salary worth more to them that what they produced or the time it takes to produce it. Neither one owes the other anything, and in the real world the only people who do usually show loyalty are the employees, not the employers, whose loyalty is first and foremost to their profit above and beyond their employees by such a wide margin it may as well not exist.

Companies are not guided by ethics, but by profit. So should employees be guided. Keith Halperin is right, and employees should act like CEOs, and companies should stop bitching and moaning about loyalty which they never reciprocate on, and start treating and paying people well from the get go if they want to retain them, instead of only addressing the issue when they’re already leaving. The sad truth is that companies that act like Katherine’s hypothetical employer are so rare they may as well not exist. As a practical reality employees should not strain themselves to do the right or ethical thing by employers who will never spare a thought for doing the same by them. Employers have enough of an edge in the market without employees giving them even more based on one-sided assumptions of loyalty and ethics which they will never see returned to them.

Employees should get as much money and perks as they can, and then ditch their employers in a heart beat when they’ve made a prudent judgement they can get more, because their employers will do exactly that to them. Tit for tat, employees treating employers as badly as employers have historically treated employees is the only way the labor market will ever balance itself. As long as employers see their employees as disposable, employees should reciprocate.

Advice for Job Seekers

For the love of motherfucking God and all that’s holy and the Earth and the universe and everything in between, have your own fucking email that matches your name!

I can’t count the number of times, especially this morning, that I’ve seen this shit.  The name on the resume is Joe Schmoe, the email is from David McFucker, the email on the resume is Sonia McFardle.  Jesus fucking Christ people, gmail is free.  It’s fucking free, and it’s web based.  For Christ’s fucking sake, get your own God damn email already!

More Advice for Job Seekers

I come across this all the time from job seekers, and it’s really annoying.  I send out a mailer via email to people who have specifically asked to be contacted about positions in their area.  Initial reach outs are very broad, that’s just the nature of the game.  Here’s examples of how people often respond that should be avoided at all costs if you ever want to work with that agency at any point in the future.

“No thanks, I don’t want to work at…,” at which point they put the company name they think is correct.

This response is the smart ass, the guy who thinks he knows what job you’re asking about, and since the client is almost always kept confidential, decides to one-up you by showing he knows more than you about the jobs that are open in the area.  The problem is, job descriptions get copied, quite often in fact.  Need a job description for a shit shoveler, and someone has likely written it up already, so you can just go on the web and find it.  Well over nine times out of ten, they’re wrong about which job I’m talking about.  However, the smart ass response annoys me, and most other recruiters, and we’ll just leave off after that.  It’s indicative of an attitude problem, not a good start.  Now, if you don’t care about ever having any kind of relationship with that recruiter, go for it.  However, there’s always the possibility that this person will be a gatekeeper for a job you may want in the future, so answer at your own risk.

“Do I look like I’m…?!?!” followed by indignation that you’d contact them for this particular job.

This is the pissed off candidate, one who doesn’t seem to realize that we, as recruiters, often have to contact hundreds of people and then whittle that down to a few.  The initial reach out will be broad, it will be keyword based, and it will unfortunately hit people who are too senior or junior for particular roles.  Yes, this sucks.  However, if it pissed you off that much I might suggest you have other issues to tend to, because it really shouldn’t.  If you want to answer, a polite no will do.  Again, this is indicative of an attitude problem and…

Then, there are the psychotic callers.  You send out one email and this person calls you thirty times over the course of the next hour.  Answer in kind, one call is enough.  This is indicative of a borderline psychotic and we simply will not want to deal with you.  Ever.  There is such a thing as too aggressive.

Then there is the snorting exacerbated job seeker.  This guy gets on the phone with you in response to the email, you ask one simple question and the answer is, “Well, let me tell you…,” followed by several snorting laughs, followed by their entire life story and indignation at how hard it is to land a job.  They never answer questions, ever.  They dominate the entire conversation with their tale of woe and indignation.  They’re being discriminated against!  Or, maybe they just come across as assholes, honestly bemused by why the world doesn’t recognize their brilliance.  Whenever I hear that distinctive, snorting laugh this guy invariably follows.  Don’t be this guy.  Please, for the love of god, I understand how hard it is to get a job these days, you don’t have to tell me.  Just answer the fucking questions I ask so I can tell if this job I have right now is the right one.  It may be, but if you don’t answer the questions and instead regale me with the finest but ultimately irrelevant details of the last six months of your life, I am just going to give up.  I only have so much time in my day, as I’m sure you do.  Please stay on point.

The best advice I can give any job seeker is ATFQ: Answer The Fucking Question!  And for the love of god stop getting pissed off because you got an email you didn’t want.  Ask to be removed from the list, you will be.  You never know who is on the other end of the email chain, or the phone, and what that person may be able to do for you in the future.  If you want to sour the relationship through rudeness or very often misplaced arrogance, well that’s your prerogative.  But you might want to consider just why the hell you’re so pissed off… over getting an email.


This is advice for candidates.  Recruiters are always trying to sell you on a great Opportunity!  Yeah, the pay is maybe better than what you’ve got now, usually not.  The benefits are about the same, or worse.  The commute is about the same, or worse, maybe a little better.  Work-life balance is something most companies never heard of, so it’ll be the same.  But it’s such a great Opportunity!  So, you gotta take it, right?


Now, you may or may not take any particular job, that’s up to you to judge.  However, when making that judgement, know that Opportunity! is what a recruiter sells when there’s nothing else to sell.  It’s kind of like when those credit card protection hucksters sell you Peace of Mind.  Peace of Mind is an intangible load of BS, what it means is they’re selling you something you’re probably never going to need.  Incidentally, the only reason they sell those credit card protection programs is because the fee usually works out to the equivalent of adding 10 points on your interest.  The ‘protection’ they offer is usually something you already get via some law or regulation, of in the contract you already signed.

When a recruiter tries to sell you on the Opportunity! of a job, ask questions.  One, ask why it’s such a great opportunity.  If all you get is some happy horseshit about it being a great company, etc., then they’re full of shit.  If they get more specific and talk about the company’s technology, market position, tenure of existing employees, advancement, then that’s worth considering.  But keep in mind, most of that is bullshit too.  Two, ask yourself if, even if the recruiter is telling the truth, is that the opportunity you want and need?

You need to judge where you’re at in your career, and what the Opportunity! is worth, assuming it’s real.  Recruiters, bless their hearts, will call 55 year old electrical engineers and try and sell them the Opportunity! for advancement in their career.  A 55 year old engineer likely doesn’t have much career left, nor is s/he usually looking for one.  A 55 year old engineer has already had their Opportunity! and proven themselves, and now just deserves to get paid what they’re worth off the bat.  Which feeds into the last point…

Opportunity! is usually just an excuse to pay you less.  It’s another way of saying, “Yeah, technically the mean salary for position X in area Y is 75K per year and we’re only offering 50K, but the Opportunity! is tremendous, so please take the job at a discount!”

Remember, the average company is average.  They have average salaries, average management, average jobs, average commutes, average benefits, and average opportunity.  If the salary and all else is below average, usually the Opportunity! is too.  Recruiters want you to think you’re one job move away from the Opportunity! to become the next Steve Jobs or Bill Gates.  You’re not.  The chances of you becoming that filthy rich are less than winning the lottery.  However, if you work your ass off and never see your family and give yourself an early heart attack, you may have the opportunity to get into a slightly higher pay bracket.  Assuming it all doesn’t disappear into taxes, what reality boils down to is if you truly work your ass off you’ll be able to afford an Acura as opposed to a Honda.  You will have a two and one half bath house instead of a one and one half.  And, the chances of even that happening are still pretty much lottery levels.

So, instead of using the Dollar and a Dream approach to career planning, my advice as a recruiter is to always demand to paid what you’re worth now.  Don’t settle for the Opportunity! to get what you’re worth now in five to ten years if you work your ass off and if your boss decides to acknowledge it.

Fuck Opportunity!, get paid what you’re worth now.