The top five fatal mistakes made by Job-Seekers

In my last column, "How to Make the Headhunter Hate You", on Dec 21, I looked at five of the Top 10 faux pas committed by people in the course of applying and interviewing for new jobs. To recap briefly, they were: getting people's names wrong, an overlong re{aac}sume{aac}, dressing for the disco instead of for an interview, failing to prepare, and faking your qualifications. But it gets worse: here are our final _ and potentially fatal _ five:

- "You forgot to mention that allowance of 25,000 baht": At the end of any recruitment process, we start negotiating compensation and benefits. The headhunter will usually liaise with both parties as a buffer, just to ensure there are no hard feelings because of some tough negotiations.

Once you have tabled all the details of your current package, it's a killer in any discussion, suddenly and late in the process, to claim that you forgot to mention the 25,000-baht allowance you also receive every month. Honestly, we all look stupid in the eyes of the prospective employers, who no doubt will see this as a scheme to deceive or outwit them.

To pull this trick out of the hat when the employer has tabled you an offer makes you look either extremely greedy, or your intelligence runs far ahead of your common sense and will get you in trouble.

Correct: When the recruiter or client asks you to give details of your current package, make sure you put absolutely every big and small amount or benefit on the table. Ask the recruiter if he has a list of typical bonus types, allowances and benefits. Then use that as a checklist when you prepare the compensation.

- Merging two jobs into one period and one company name: Job hoppers are usually perceived as negative, but it's career suicide to merge two jobs by combining the length of the two into one period, and under just one company's name. Good recruiters make reference and background checks, and not necessarily with only the people you have referred.

Correct: With the contracting labour force around the world, the dwindling pool of talent as well as the new emerging Generation Y, we will see more frequent changing of jobs than before. We all have to get used to job hoppers whether we like it or not.

- Saying one thing to me and something different to my client: Presenting a resume with a current job, and talking in the interview with the recruiter as though you are still working there. Or even more disturbing, telling the recruiter where you are working now, but then at the interview with the possible future employer, suddenly revealing that in fact you have left that "current" company and are now unemployed.

I still cannot get my head around how anyone would think this strategy works to their advantage. Hiding facts from the headhunter you want to help you? Showing the client's interviewer that you cannot be trusted? Go figure.

Correct: Isn't this really obvious? Put the cards on the table please. Tell the recruiter if you have already left the last company shown on your resume. Tell us if you have already given your current employer notice to terminate the employment even you may still officially be on the payroll. Presenting a document with false information, or withholding employment details will label you as a cheat and liar.

- Cancelling the interview at the last minute or not showing up at all: Okay, so we have set you up to meet our client's CEO, but you call us in the morning to say your boss has asked for an urgent meeting. You can't go. Never mind that our client's CEO is a regional manager who came in the night before from Shanghai just to meet you.

Correct: Take half a day off from work and focus on the new opportunity. If you are not really taking the interview that seriously anyway, then have the courage to tell the recruiter that you are not ready to consider a new job right now. Call it and we will not end up red-faced.

Spare yourself from being blacklisted because you didn't have the courtesy to let the people know you.

- Accepting a counter-offer from your current employer. Now we come to the Number 1 mistake that will get the headhunter to really hate you. Here's the picture:

"Sorry, but I don't think I can join your client. I know I already signed the employment contract and that I promised I would never change my mind. But you see, my boss has given me a big, new, important project. She told me I'm the only one in the company she can trust with this sort of responsibility. And she also gave me a new title." Me (after he hung up): Aarrgghh!

Accepting a counter-offer is a shortcut to a career detour. The counter-offer is an insult to your intelligence. You have been bought and it should be a blow to your pride. By resigning you are essentially breaking a trust that you had with your employer. If you take the counter-offer and stay, your company may feel that it owns you. You will be known as the one who caused your employer grief by threatening to quit. You'll no longer be known as a loyal employee.

Correct: Make it clear when you hand in your notice that you have already committed to join another company, that you have signed a contract and will not entertain any counter-offers. You only want to assist with a smooth transition.

Using this script makes it clear to your boss that you are not planning on talking about your decision to leave _ but you will focus on how to make your last weeks good ones for the company.

It is also critical that the resignation letter and meeting make no reference to where you are going, what you will be doing there or how much you will be making. The best tactic is the direct approach. Don't beat around the bush and start small talk.


Tom Sorensen is a headhunter and partner at Grant Thornton Thailand. Contact tom.sorensen@th.gt.com; www.grantthornton.co.th

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Writer: Tom Sorensen
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