Etiquette, Please.


You’d think that all recruiters or headhunters are eager to pursue candidates and generally would spend time and effort to “woo” them. After all, their job is typically commission-based (or KPI-based for in-house recruiters), so the quicker they secure and place a candidate, they quicker they get their reward.

Through the years, I’ve had my share of duds, ranging from those who don’t know anything about the role they are selling to those who naively think that their role is such a wonderful opportunity that someone out there will be willing to take a pay cut to join them. This one headhunter with no EQ or manners (why are there so many people like that in the world?) really took the cake.

We had arranged to meet at a cafe near my office. She was late. Strike One.

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The Delusional Hiring Manager.

Magic Mushrooms

Sometimes you get that rare breed of manager who is utterly clueless on how to sell a job, and worse, thinks that the disadvantages of the job are its selling points. I once met the top HR person of a company for the final round of interviews whom I was convinced was high on magic mushrooms or something.

She started the conversation with “I give you my personal guarantee that you don’t have to take a pay cut to join us.”

Huh? I’m not sure about you but if I’m going to take the risk to leave my job to join a new organisation, I’m kind of looking for an upside in pay.

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What’s Wrong With Having Career Gaps?

Looking for a Job

Employers are notorious for having a bias against candidates with breaks in their career history, and I admit I’ve been guilty of that same sin. In fact, whenever I saw a long break on a resume, I jumped straight to one or more of the following assumptions about the candidate.

  • Well, you obviously don’t need money since you can afford such a long break, so you won’t be a motivated employee.
  • You must be an impulsive/irresponsible employee who will quit at the drop of a hat.
  • There must be something wrong with you. If not you should have been able to find another job while still employed. Like everybody else.
  • If you’ve been out of the workforce for so long, your knowledge and experience are likely to be obsolete already.

Then, I would wait to see what “excuses” the candidate made to explain away the breaks. My list of acceptable reasons included retrenchment, end of contract, illness, taking care of family, and relocation. Yep, that was it. Any other reason was, well, “unreasonable”. But after I took a few breaks myself, I now know the error of my ways and want employers to keep an open mind.

So employers, please consider the following.

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The Sleeping Beauty.


Once in a while you meet people in the workplace that truly amaze you. And not in a good way. I once knew someone who kept falling asleep at his desk. I’m not talking about a catnap during lunch. I’m talking complete lights out, loud snoring during office hours. AT HIS FIRST WEEK AT WORK.

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The Over-hiring Hiring Manager.


Hiring managers always want the best candidates. That’s their prerogative, and I’m all for it. Until they decide to over-hire. In simple terms, over-hiring is when they want to hire Barack Obama to operate rides at Disneyland. And worse still, is when they then complain that the pay range for the job is too low to accommodate Mr. Obama’s expectations! If they eventually get their way, the candidate often ends up being hired at or beyond the maximum of the pay range.

Fast forward a year, their now-employee is demotivated because the job isn’t challenging enough and he is ineligible for any pay increases.

It’s a daily struggle to talk sense into these managers, so when I heard how brilliantly my recruiter handled one of the more unreasonable ones, I was impressed. This hiring manager had insisted on only shortlisting degree holders for a low-paying dead-end administrative job.

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Job Postings Don’t Have To Be “Cool”.

As part of the brand’s visionary evolution in meeting changing customer portfolio, they are seeking an influential change catalyst for this role, who will be empowered to lead the architecture of a refreshing strategy and implementations aligned to the expanding business aspirations.

This was the opening paragraph of a job posting I saw recently. I read it twice, and what went through my mind was this:


I’ve seen a recent trend of “innovative” job descriptions as companies try to make themselves stand out, and it annoys me to no end. A job description should do just that – describe the job. Throwing together a mishmash of big buzzwords does nothing to further that objective. The above ad tells me that (i) the poster wants to hire a psychic who can mysteriously understand what he wants; and (ii) the jobseekers who respond are likely only people who randomly apply to every job under the sun.

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Should I Apply For a Job That Requires More Experience Than I Have?


“I saw my dream job with a great company on a job forum. However, they are looking for people with at least 15 years of relevant experience. I have less than that. Will the hiring manager even bother to consider me?”

Ah…the tenure threshold. Viewing length of experience as having a linear correlation to work proficiency is one of the biggest misconceptions recruiters can have. But when you’re inundated by dozens of resumes, it’s one of the quickest ways to reduce that to a manageable number, especially for the poor time-pressed person who’s sifting through them.

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Hating On Behavioural Interviews.


Past experience is evidence of future behaviour. Heard that phrase before? It’s the basis of behavioural interviewing, which has been become the default technique for many companies in recent years.

Behavioural interviewing when the interviewer focuses on getting the candidate to describe how he behaved, like “Explain how you took the lead on a project” or “Tell me when you had to deal with a tough stakeholder”. This structured method is to see if the answers align with how he wants the candidate to handle similar situations if you get the job. But there are three issues with them.

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The Clueless Recruiter.

Vegetable Farmer

There are days when you want to bash your head against the wall when someone in the office does something particularly stupid. If you’re having one of those days, read this. I promise it’s guaranteed to make you feel better because whoever you are facing cannot be as clueless this recruiter.

This one-of-a-kind recruiter who used to work for an unknown boutique recruitment agency (maybe that should have tipped us off) screened a bunch of resumes and sent one to the hiring manager who was looking for a Marketing Executive. In a technology company. It read:

“Work experience – Planting and harvesting different vegetables”
“Top achievement – Overcoming my fear of insects”

I’m not sure why he thought a technology company would need someone whose experience is more relevant to a vegetable market to do their corporate marketing. Did he also think that Apple sells apples? Yes, there are idiots out there worse than the one you’re dealing with. Feel better now?