The Job Search Con Game

I’ve written about the posted position con game on several occasions, most recently upon my return from the Career Thought Leaders conference.

It's A Trap!
It’s A Trap!

Yesterday I saw an article on Linkedin by one of my favorite people in the careers industry, Lou Adler. His thoughts on “Why Responding to a Job Posting is a Waste of Time” echo my own. But Adler went further by providing some numbers to back up his statements. Adler’s comments from the article appear in bold; my own thoughts follow. His article is excellent though, and definitely worth the read.

1. Recruiters find people for jobs, not jobs for people. This concept might not seem like a big deal, but it is a huge deal. Recruiters (top recruiters) are not in the business of finding jobs for people, no matter how much an executive might want them to. Responsibility for managing a career belongs with the candidate and should be driven by the candidate, not defaulted to a third party. Not even a recruiter.

2. A person who is referred to a recruiter from a trusted source is 20X more likely to be considered than someone who responded to a job posting. This statistic shows the power of networking. And with recruiters, the importance of networking BEFORE you NEED a new job

3. A person whose resume or LinkedIn profile is found via a Google search is 5X more likely to be considered than someone who applies directly to a job posting. I have been evangelizing the power of a complete and compelling Linkedin profile for years, and my clients have great success with Linkedin as a passive job search strategy. Are you being found on Linkedin for opportunities that a good fit for you?

4. If you’re not a perfect match on skills and experiences, your resume is unlikely to even be read. The posted position game is a con game. It looks easy, seems easy, but it is anything but easy. It is a huge disadvantage to candidates and requires constant reiterations to a resume in order to meet all the requirements of a job posting.

Don’t fall into the con game trap. Otherwise, as Adler says …

When it comes to your career, the worst thing you can do is mistake activity for progress and then complain about your lack of progress.

CFOs or Chief Everything Officers

Can you even remember the days of being “just” a finance guy? If you can’t, it’s no surprise since those days seem to have gone the way of the dinosaur.

Just in the last week, I’ve read numerous articles that speak to the expanding role of the Chief Finance Officer., in its article about holding the CFO and CEO role simultaneously points out …

Daily Journal CEO Gerald Salzman is also the firm’s president, CFO, treasurer, assistant secretary and principal accounting officer, as well as a member of the board. “How one man can do all these jobs by himself is beyond me,” Weil wrote. “Usually the CFO reports to the CEO. Here he’s the same person.”

CGMA Magazine just released data on the trend I’ve been noticing for the past couple of years … the elimination of the COO role as it morphs into an expanded Chief Financial Officer role.

Just 35% of Fortune 500 and S&P 500 companies employed a COO last year, according to executive search firm Crist|Kolder Associates’ Volatility Report 2013. That was down from 39% in 2012 and is the lowest percentage since at least 2000, when 48% of companies in the survey had a COO.

Trending NorthWhat can you take away from these evolving and growing statistics?

–   Those Finance Chiefs with broader skill sets than those of pure bean counters will remain the more marketable candidates of the future.

–   There has never been a better time for the operationally-focused Chief Financial Officer, with his sights set on the Chief Executive Officer seat, to make his move. After all, he is already the Chief Everything Officer, right?

The Incredibly Uncredible Profile

Uncredible. Maybe it isn’t a real word among grammar-hounds, but when I Googled it, I found this from WordReference Forums …

“A new word to fill a need. It means something lacks believability.”

Who are you?
Who are you?

Enter the incredible, completely uncredible, and unbelievable Linkedin profiles I see daily when approving CFOs for my CFO-only Careers group. Listen, if I’m not sold on your fit for my group based on your profile, I can assure you recruiters and hiring managers will not be sold on you as a viable candidate either when you choose to …

– Call yourself a CFO despite offering no credible evidence you actually are one other than a current job title.

– Show only your most recent CFO title with a graduation date that leaves a ginormous gap along with lots of questions and plenty of red flags.

– Conversely, that you were a CFO immediately after graduating from college.

– Show a profile with only the bare bones of information, none of which is based on your value proposition to a prospective employer.

– List one position, your most current, with nothing else. No photo, no summary, no experience, and no education … and no network.

– Have multiple accounts – same name, same photo but different job titles.

My bar to enter the group is that you are a sitting CFO or have held the Chief Financial Officer title in the past. But if, in a cursory review of your profile, I can’t tell that you are legitimate and/or your position is legitimate, I won’t approve you.

If that’s my standard for a Linkedin group, imagine how recruiters and decision-makers might be responding when seeking potential candidates and their reputation and commission is on the line?

It is critically important that you have a complete profile –and– that it is credible and compelling. Use your profile to answer the question the people who are hiring are asking: Who are you and how can you solve our problems?

Things CFOs Hate … about Recruiters

A couple times a year I meet up with one of my local recruiter colleagues to wax philosophical about our industry. Often times, we solve world problems as well so you can sleep well tonight.

One of the questions he threw out at me was, so what are the biggest complaints your clients have about recruiters? Whoa … where to begin?!

I narrowed it down to two things … one is owned by recruiters, the other by candidates but in some instances the latter is perpetuated by not-so-reputable recruiters.


A Failure to Communicate
A Failure to Communicate

This is a pretty big umbrella, and communication should be a 2-way street. In this instance, the failure of recruiters to keep candidates in the loop during the process has resulted in a great deal of anger at, and grumbling about, recruiters.

The perception held by many executives is that recruiters are notorious for being your best buddy when they are recruiting you, only to disappear under a rock in the middle of the process. Professionals don’t treat others that way, and executives don’t expect other professionals to treat them that way.

The breakdown in communication, the failure to speak truthfully, and the dodge-and-weave maneuvers of some recruiters add up to one big thorn in the side of executives across the board, not just my CFO clients.


Not understanding what recruiters do usually leads to anger. This comment, posted in a community by a candidate, shows how misunderstood the role of the recruiter is.

Make the effort to meet the recruiter or choose one who will proactively look for roles on your behalf.

If you think the role of a recruiter is to find you a job, or you’ve been lead to believe that is what they do, you are sadly mistaken. And it will lead nowhere good and no doubt be accompanied by a lot of anger, anxiety, and discouragement along the way.

One of the things my colleague brought up is that anybody can put out a sign, create a business card, and call himself a recruiter. It’s a valid point and true in my industry as well. It’s a recipe for misinformation and misunderstanding that only adds to the anxiety of the job search process.

Bottom line …

1 – Work with reputable recruiters, and build the relationship long before you need the relationship. It will make all the difference in the level of communication that happens.

2 – Understand what they do and what they don’t do, and take full responsibility for driving your own career 24/7, 365 days a year, every year.

Not all recruiters act unscrupulously, but a few bad recruiters can color the perception of an entire industry.

What about you, what have you found to be true in working with recruiters?

Choose Purple, Not Weird

A recent Harvard Business Review blog post suggested job search candidates should be weird today in order to stand out from the competition. Maybe it’s a Harvard thing to be weird, or perhaps just a college thing. Come to think of it, I remember being very weird in college.  But I digress.

Purple Cow Differentiation
Purple Cow Differentiation

At the CFO level, though, I suggest candidates choose to be purple instead of weird.

Your unique shade of purple is an analogy for branding. And not “just” branding, but well-branded positioning to stand out from the competition -and- be valuable to a specific target market. Purple represents the power of branding; weirdness is just … strange.

Taking a bold, branded stand takes courage. If standing out from the competition got you a better position with more money in the right-fitting company, would you be courageous enough to step away from the crowd and be yourself … even if that meant being different? Even if that meant deciding to choose to fully embrace your unique shade of purple rather than blending into the black, white, or grey positioning most of your competition chooses?

Even though it is not always completely understood by today’s Chief Financial Officers, branding is often the most asked-for, and frequently the first asked-for request, when a prospect calls me. They’ve heard the “branding” word. They intuitively understand it is important. And what you might be noticing if you are getting calls from recruiters, is the same thing they are noticing … a strong brand can answer the culture fit question before you are ever interviewed. 

And the “will you fit within our culture” IS the key question today. A strong visible brand provides the clear answer.

Your blend of skills, interests, passions, and successes make you unique and different. And differentiation is the goal! Flash purple … rather than weird … to stand out from, and perhaps even stand in front of, your competition.

Cover Letters … Yes, You Need Them!

My column in this month’s in Futures in Finance covers the importance of having -and using- cover letters.

Cover Letters - Yes, You Need Them!

Here’s the skinny …

It is absolutely true that not every recruiter or HR person reads cover letters. But what about those who do? Is it not generally the rule in life that it is better to provide something not needed (or wanted) than to not have something available that might be a deal-breaker? For the serious job seeker, that would describe cover letters.

As with every people group, recruiters hold diverse opinions about resumes and cover letters. Since trying to be all things to all people is never a good strategy, making sure your marketing message is firmly rooted in value as a problem solver -AND- always sending a well-written cover letter IS your best strategy.

If you want to read my in-depth thoughts based on a recruiter thread on Facebook about cover letters, you’ll find my column here.

On a related note, please join me at noon Eastern on October 30 for my webcast “What Every CFO Needs in Their Career Toolbox.” You can ask your cover letter and other career-related questions during the 30-minute Q&A following the presentation.

Set Yourself Apart

There are three keys to setting yourself apart from competing Chief Financial Officers …

– Market Differentiation
– Visibility to a Clear Target Market
– Being Findable by Recruiters

It’s not about being “like” all your competition, blending in, and appealing to anyone and everyone. Rather, it is about being distinctly YOU to a targeted audience that needs -and wants- distinctly YOU!

Read the rest of my thoughts in this quarter’s edition of CFO Studio Magazine.


Discrimination of the Unemployed

Following up on last week’s post, I found this link to an ERE article that confirms my belief that the unemployed have a much tougher time in the job market. If last week’s blog didn’t jolt you into beginning to take action BEFORE you need to take it, think about these words from the author …

When I first heard the term “long-term unemployed,” I thought it referred to people who had not worked in years. But the definition is six months or more.

There are NO guarantees that you won’t lose your job at some point in your career, but taking steps TODAY to ensure that you are managing your finance career to minimize that possibility is part of a smart career strategy. And it is just plain smart today.

The comments from recruiters following this article are very interesting. Whether you take time to read all of them or not, here’s an important concept from them …

Stand Out from the Crowd
Stand Out from the Crowd

Despite a “change” (merger, acquisition, sale) and the conundrum of two Chief Financial Officers and one available CFO position and with both candidates being equally qualified, there is still one winner and one loser … through no fault of either executive. However, the winner retains his employment and thus the “perception” (true or not) of being the more qualified candidate. The loser now dons the mantle of “unemployed” and carries the perception (true or not) of the lesser qualified candidate. It is the “still employed” CFO who will be on the radar screen of recruiters.

If you want to be, and remain, findable by recruiters, then it is incumbent upon you to begin solidifying your credibility and viability as the most-qualified CFO candidate while you are still employed. And just to be on the safe side, launch those strategies a good 9-12 months before you anticipate a move.

At the CFO-level, age discrimination has a new rival … unemployment discrimination.

5 Linkedin Tips to Attract Recruiters

If you’re going to be on LinkedIn—and you should be—your profile should entice recruiters to read it and enable them to quickly and clearly understand your value as a Finance Chief. Just these five areas can make a huge difference in your visibility.

Status Update

Read why in my latest column on Futures in Finance.

5 Linkedin Tips for CFOs




Lies and Resumes

Lies, even teeny tiny exaggerations, on resumes are never a good thing. In fact, the combination is almost always a recipe for disaster … eventually.

It seems odd to me that in the world of Internet transparency in which we find ourselves today, that anyone would actually consider falsifying their resume. And yet, a recent article the confirms the practice is still ongoing.

“At the end of the day, lying is lying,” says Leadbeater. “But if you are a CFO, you’re supposed to be this figure of knowledge, power and importance — someone who is going to be making strategic decisions about money and the way the company works. And it’s like, if you thought it was OK to lie about this, what else do you think it’s OK to lie about?”

If you have to ask yourself, “does this cross the line,” … the line of truthfulness has already been crossed.

I recently read an article that talked about how to game Linkedin if you’re unemployed. I’m not publishing the link because I am appalled at the suggestion to lie in order to achieve a higher search ranking. I’ll just say … don’t do it. What might seem like a short-term win won’t end well. And besides, recruiters just aren’t that stupid.