Job Hunters, Read this Book: Ask the Headhunter (Book Review)

I was in a job interview and I opened a book and started reading.  The [HR recruiter] said, “What the hell are you doing?!” I said, “Look, I have one question for you. If you are in a spaceship that’s traveling at the speed of light, and you turn on the headlights, does anything happen?” She said, “I don’t know!” I said, “Forget it, I don’t want the job.” – Stephen Wright

Submitting job applications online, waiting for responses after interviews, braving overcrowded job fairs…this is what most people may think of when imagining the necessary components of a job search.

But there is a better way: show the hiring manager directly the compelling work value you will provide. So says Nick Corcodilos, former headhunter and author of the book Ask the Headhunter: Reinventing the Interview to Win the Job.  I owe some serious thanks to my friend David White, a business intelligence researcher for Aberdeen Group, for referring me to this book very early in my layoff-induced job search. If you feel like you’re banging your head against the wall getting nowhere in your job search, read this book.

In a nutshell, Nick Corcodilos says to stop responding to online ads and posting your resume online (Hear! Hear!), don’t focus on landing as many interviews as possible, and instead focus on winning the right job by demonstrating your ability to do the job profitably in the interview. Notice how the HR recruiting department is conspicuously absent from this process. But that’s not all: you must replace the “I’m looking for a job” mindset in an interview with “I’m here to get the work you need done profitably.” You’re not there to “get a job,” but to “do the job in the interview.” Of course, Nick Corcodilos goes into all the details to make this new, winning job search approach a reality.

The April 13, 2009 Fortune magazine cover story, “How to Get a Job” (Rich media or HTMLversion – Enjoy! Well worth reading in full!) by Jia Lynn Yang, featured a success story that reads like an Ask the Headhunter case study:

Halfway through the [final] meeting, [recently laid-off 55 year old salesman Rob] Sparno and the manager started discussing how to target a client Sparno had worked with before. The manager went up to the whiteboard to throw out some ideas, and Sparno leaped up to join him, until the two were standing shoulder to shoulder, markers in hand, batting strategies back and forth (p.51).

Mr. Rob Sparno, having prepared relentlessly before the interview, successfully “did the job in his interview,” and yes, he landed his lucrative sales job.

The same Fortune article also underscores the sad reality of many job hunters spinning their wheels, struggling through sweaty, mass-of-humanity “job fairs,” sending out hundreds of resumes. “That’s not looking for a job; that’s buying a lottery ticket.” (p. 52)

Instead of buying job search lottery tickets, so to speak, get a job search business plan, namely Nick Corcodilos’ Ask the Headhunter book. His Ask the Headhunter website is a treasure trove of valuable information and forum for fellow job hunters fed up with old school HR recruiting interviews. Check out Nick Corcodilos’ blog, too, particularly if you are considering joining!

By the way, if you have read this far, I’ll wager you would strongly approve of this response to that mother of all off-the-wall interview questions, “How would you move Mount Fuji?”

UPDATE: I just traded emails with author Nick Corcodilos, a very nice guy. The 2007 post featuring a hilarious response to the Mount Fuji HR question (linked above, written by “Mr. Angry” of Melbourne, Australia) scored very high for Nick — see Nick’s post. “Good on you, Mr. Angry!”

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3 thoughts on “Job Hunters, Read this Book: Ask the Headhunter (Book Review)

  1. It’s true, Nick’s book provides a great strategy that can jump-start the way you go about finding the right job. However, for anyone that’s been out of work for a lengthy spell (I was in the past…), it provides something even more valuable. It provides a framework and a structure that can help you to stay proactive and positive during those time when, inevitably, the job search just isn’t going your way.

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