• Seats, sips, “powder”, and pow-wows

    So I’m going to continue my theme from last week and cover more ground about how you should go about interviewing your future boss & company.

    There’s nothing that makes us sadder here at TheLadders than an (unnecessary) repeat customer — the folks who discover that their dream job is a bad dream, the kind you need to wake up from right away — so we want you to make sure it’s a good match before accepting.

    Last week I shared with you the twenty questions to ask your interviewers to learn more about the job and the opportunity.

    Well, there’s more to understanding an opportunity than what people say, of course.

    You also need to do a “Visual Interview” of your prospective employer’s office environment. Now, this little bit of recon doesn’t mean you should connect with your inner James Bond and pull a snoop worthy of Skyfall. But it does mean that you should observe and assess the office layout, kitchens, bathrooms and meeting rooms. Or, as I like to call them:

    Seats, sips, “powder”, and pow-wows.

    The reason this is important is that your physical environment has a great impact on your productivity and happiness. And how much your future employer values, or devalues, these areas, is oftentimes a good predictor of how they feel about their employees in general, and thereby, you.


    What is the office layout? How are desks arranged? How much space, light, and quiet is each employee given?

    Importantly: how does that work with your style?

    I’m flummoxed at the number of times people overlook this.

    For instance, here at TheLadders, we’re an open floor plan — everybody, CEO to college intern, has the same cheap desk from IKEA, an Aeron chair, two, three, or more, monitors, and sits out in the open. We like it that way and it promotes the open, collaborative environment that we think is important for our success.

    We had one senior person, who’d come to our office multiple times for multiple interviews, show up on the first day asking “Where’s my office?” And it turned out that open seating was deeply dissatisfying to him and helped shorten his tenure here.

    Take notice: how comfortable you are with the seating arrangements, and the environment around your workspace, is important to your future success.


    When they ask if you’d like a coffee or water, say “sure, but I don’t want to make you carry it — I’ll come with you.” And check out the kitchen / pantry / snack room / break room.

    Is it messy? Teeny-tiny? Are they scrimping on the Sweet ‘N’ Low and stingy with the stirrers?

    Or is it a Google-esque cornucopia of Cheetos, siggi’s, and starfruit?

    Napoleon quipped that “an army marches on its stomach.” Does your future employer agree?


    I’ve been watching too much 40′s and 50′s period drama on TV recently. (Got into “Foyle’s War” from the UK on my Netflix — brilliant!) So I’ll use that old euphemism “powder room” for the john.

    One investor claims that a trip to the bathroom is the best way to figure out how a company feels about its employees.

    Investments in fixing the “powder room” are always discretionary. So how discretionary is employee happiness, when nature calls, in the mind of your prospective employer?

    Is it dingy, dim-lit, dungeon-like and depressing? Have the walls been painted since… the 50s?

    Or is it clean, well-stocked and well-maintained?

    Where does this employee priority fit into management’s priorities?


    You’ll likely walk past a number of conference and meeting rooms during your visit to a company’s offices. What do those rooms tell you about working at the company?

    Are there schedules on the doors? Are those schedules completely filled back-to-back? Or is most work done by individuals at their desks?

    Are the conference rooms packed? Are more people in them or out of them?

    Do the meeting rooms seem to be places to get work done? Are they filled with whiteboards and creativity?

    Or is there one lonely lightbulb swaying in the emptiness?

    How much and how well you’ll be expected to work with others is important for you to know.


    All of these cues and clues can help give you a fuller picture of life at the new company.

    You can read too much into them, and no one place is a nirvana constructed solely for your advantage. But it does behoove you to ensure that your new environment is acceptable to you and will enable you to perform your best.

    So on your interviews, in addition to asking, make sure you take some time for looking and doing the visual interview.

    I’ll be rooting for you!

  • It’s not about me, it’s about you… the 20 questions you need to ask in a job interview

    What’s an interview about? It sure feels like it’s about you, but it’s really not.

    An interview is actually about how you can help your future boss and future employer succeed. It’s about finding out what their requirements and hopes are and matching up your background and experience with what they need.

    Overlooking these basic facts about the interview is all too easy. There’s so much else going on in your work, your life, and in your job search, that you can forget to look at the interview from the interviewer’s point of view. And that’s a shame, because, after all, you need the interviewer to walk away from the interview thoroughly impressed.

    With that in mind, I’ve done my twice-a-year update to my collection of “twenty best interview questions” below. My aim here is to arm you with easy-to-ask, revealing-to-answer questions for you to take with you into an interview.

    When I ran these questions previously, commenter LBRZ wrote in and said:

    I have to thank you! I had an interview yesterday and it went great. When I asked about his leadership style and reward system his face lit up like a christmas tree.

    After he answered the question “how can I help you receive your next promotion?”, he began to give me advice on how I should negotiate for a higher starting salary.

    And that’s exactly the point, Readers. By asking these questions, which focus on the needs, traits, and preferences of your future boss and future employer, you’re demonstrating that you are somebody who is genuinely interested in their well-being. And the more interest we show in others, the more commitment they show to aiding our cause.

    And with that, here are my twenty best questions to ask your interviewer:

    1. What’s the biggest change your group has gone through in the last year? Does your group feel like the recession is over and things are getting better, or are things still pretty bleak? What’s the plan to handle either scenario?

    2. If I get the job, how do I earn a “gold star” on my performance review? What are the key accomplishments you’d like to see in this role over the next year?

    3. What’s your (or my future boss’) leadership style?

    4. About which competitor are you most worried?

    5. How does sales / operations / technology / marketing / finance work around here? (I.e., groups other than the one you’re interviewing for.)

    6. What type of people are successful here? What type of people are not?

    7. What’s one thing that’s key to this company’s success that somebody from outside the company wouldn’t know about?

    8. How did you get your start in this industry? Why do you stay?

    9. What are your group’s best and worst working relationships with other groups in the company?

    10. What keeps you up at night? What’s your biggest worry these days?

    11. What’s the timeline for making a decision on this position? When should I get back in touch with you?

    12. These are tough economic times, and every position is precious when it comes to the budget. Why did you decide to hire somebody for this position instead of the many other roles / jobs you could have hired for? What about this position made you prioritize it over others?

    13. What is your reward system? Is it a star system / team-oriented / equity-based / bonus-based / “attaboy!”-based? Why is that your reward system? What do you guys hope to get out of it, and what actually happens when you put it into practice? What are the positives and the negatives of your reward system? If you could change any one thing, what would it be?

    14. What information is shared with the employees (revenues, costs, operating metrics)? Is this an “open book” shop, or do you play it closer to the vest? How is information shared? How do I get access to the information I need to be successful in this job?

    15. If we are going to have a very successful the year after next in 2014, what will that look like? What will we have done over the next 12 months to make it successful? How does this position help achieve those goals?

    16. How does the company / my future boss do performance reviews? How do I make the most of the performance review process to ensure that I’m doing the best I can for the company?

    17. What is the rhythm to the work around here? Is there a time of year that it’s “all hands on deck” and we’re pulling all-nighters, or is it pretty consistent throughout the year? How about during the week / month? Is it pretty evenly spread throughout the week / month, or are there crunch days?

    18. What type of industry / functional / skills-based experience and background are you looking for in the person who will fill this position? What would the “perfect” candidate look like? How do you assess my experience in comparison? What gaps do you see?

    19. In my career, I’ve primarily enjoyed working with big / small / growing / independent / private / public / family-run companies. If that’s the case, how successful will I be at your firm?

    20. Who are the heroes at your company? What characteristics do the people who are most celebrated have in common with each other? Conversely, what are the characteristics that are common to the promising people you hired, but who then flamed out and failed or left? As I’m considering whether or not I’d be successful here, how should I think about the experiences of the heroes and of the flame-outs?

    I hope you find these questions useful in your interviews, Readers!

    A final note. Previously, another commenter, “Lenore”, asked:

    Hi Marc.  Awesome questions!

    My question for you is…..how do you ask questions when you are meeting with more than one interviewer. I met with 3 to 4 interviewers, one at a time. I didn’t want to come off generic by asking each of them the same questions. I guess you can go by their role to determine what questions you are going to ask. Sometimes they are all top executives. I’m guessing there are enough questions to divide amongst them all. I had asked so many questions in an interview once, that I didn’t want to seem redundant. Do you think this is ok?

    To which I replied:

    Great question Lenore.

    Three options:

    1) Change the wording a little bit each time so you’re not asking the same question in the same way.

    2) Mention that “You know, I already asked your colleague about this, and I’d love to hear your thoughts…”

    3) Divide the list and ask different people different questions, as you suggested.

    Hope that helps!


    OK, Readers, have a great week in the job search!

    I’m rooting for you!

  • Hired!

    Thousands of your fellow subscribers here at TheLadders are giving thanks this Monday for jobs they’ve found over the past month.

    While we don’t have the space to share all of them, here are fifty of the positions filled at TheLadders over the last thirty days. In keeping with the Turkey Day theme, we’ll do it family style — can you match the correct title in Column A with the pay in Column B and the location in Column C?

    Column A Column B Column C
    Account Executive $125K Glendale, CA
    Facility Administrator $130K North Carolina
    Project Manager $120K Los Angeles, CA
    SR. Business partner HR regional director $120K Cranford, NJ
    Head of Technology Risk and Control $180K New Orleans, LA
    Director of Project Management $100K Burbank, CA
    HR Manager $135K Texas
    General Manager $114K Watertown, MA
    Practice Leader $150K Great Lakes Region
    Account Executive $130K Washington, DC
    Director of Finance $95K New York, NY
    Regional Manager $80K Denver, CO
    Manager Application Developement $135K Knoxville, TN
    Director-National Sales $140K New York, NY
    Sales Representative $160K Sterling, VA
    Market Director $175K Nashville, TN
    Sales Exective $170K Washington, DC
    Sr. Manager, IT Planning & Analysis $85K Atlanta, GA
    Sr. Account Executive $96K Boston, MA
    Support Manger $150K Los Angeles, CA
    VP of Sales $85K Washington, DC
    Senior Manager $180K NY, NY
    Product Marketing Manager $148K Chicago, IL
    General Manager $105K Denver, CO
    Director Ecommerce $152K Baltimore, MD
    Sales Manager $70K Columbus, OH
    Business Development Director $138K Gardner, MA
    Business Performance Advisor $140K Dallas, TX
    Business Development Manager $70K Minneapolis, MN
    Sr. Director, Corporate Strategy $95K Raleigh, NC
    Senior Consultant $114K Redwood City, CA
    Senior Program Leader, Consultant $110K Oklahoma
    Logistics Manager $170K Texas
    Sr. Manager $100K Nashville, TN
    Marketing Manager $83K Raleigh, NC
    ASP.Net Developer $550K Dallas
    Program Manager $140K Battle Creek, MI
    COO/GC $112K CT
    Associate Director $100K Tampa, FL
    Engagement Manager $85K Scottsdale, AZ
    Director $115K Philadelphia, PA
    SR Project Manager $160K Baltimore, MD
    Program Manager $115K Kentucky
    Associate Director $62K Port Washington, NY
    Supply Chain Consultant $113K Manteca, CA
    Director of Client Services $90K San Francisco, CA
    Director of Operations $120K Seattle, WA
    Instructor $170K Dallas, TX
    Associate Manager $75K Santa Ana, CA
    Consultant $205K Atlanta, GA

    I hope you’ve had a restful Thanksgiving weekend, and here’s wishing you a great finish to your job hunt and to your year!

    I’m rooting for you.

  • It’s half-time this week. Are you winning? Or are you losing?

    It’s time to talk turkey.

    If you’ve played football, women’s basketball, or, >gasp<, what they call "football" over in Europe, you know that half-time is your time to get better.

    Time to re-think your choices, remind yourself of the fundamentals and set any needed course corrections.

    Any player that comes out of the locker room with the same plan he had going in… well, he just wasn’t paying attention, was he?

    So this week, with Thanksgiving providing a needed half-time break in your job search, it’s time to ask “what can I change to make my search better starting next week?

    Let’s look at some common situations that people find themselves in at “half-time”:

    Are you trying to change too many things at once with this job search?

    You can change your city OR you can change your industry OR you can change your field / specialty. But if you’re trying to leave your Oil Services Marketing job in Dallas to break into Software Sales in Minnesota, you’re in for a heap of trouble.

    Companies, employers, and hiring managers like to reduce their chances of making a hiring mistake. It’ll come as no surprise to you that hiring somebody who has already done exactly the same job previously is, all things considered, more likely to be a success, and more likely to stick with the job, than somebody making one, two, or three big jumps for this new position.

    Make it easy on yourself. Changing one of these attributes at a time — your city, your industry, or your field — is tough enough. Don’t try to do two or three.

    A simpler, easier job search is a happier, shorter one.

    Daydreaming vs. being realistic

    Sometimes you really want to get to the next level. Or get a foot in the door at the hot new company. Or just get out of a bad, declining situation… fast.

    But perhaps you’ve set your goals high and reality isn’t cooperating.

    How long do you wait before realizing it?

    A week is certainly not enough time to worry. A month is just getting started. A quarter… and perhaps you ought to think about things. And if it’s been a year, the market is giving you a clear message: it’s time to get your head out of the clouds and come up with a more realistic plan.

    That’s why it’s called a stepping stone

    Perhaps you’re focused on the right job for the long run, but not the right sequence of steps to get there.

    While it’s admirable to hope that you’ll leapfrog the competition to get ahead fast, you may need to take the time to build the right skill set, and the right set of experiences, before others will think you’re ready for the bigger role.

    What changes could you consider making?

    Might you need to take a lower title to get into the company that you’re dying to work for?

    Are you ready to admit that your pay grade got ahead of your position, and that you might need to accept something lower in order to move?

    Is it time to consider a lateral move, or even a temporary step back in order to do what you want to do?

    With the passage of time — three months, six months, a year — the urgency with which you should reconsider your plans increases.

    How far along are you this Thanksgiving week, and is it time that you should be worried about your progress?

    Is your passion dying?

    I’ll say it once again — you’ll do better and get further ahead if you follow your passion in life. Because our passion is what helps get us through the tough times and the disagreeable parts of any job, your being naturally, helplessly, authentically excited by your field or profession is the best boost you can give to your career.

    But what happens if your passion is dying?

    Well, if your passion was printing newspapers, trading stocks on the floor of an exchange, selling typewriters, promoting arena football, building toasters or microwaves in the USA, or any of the thousands of others of jobs that are destroyed by the inevitable march of capitalism each year, you’ve got a problem.

    Joseph Schumpeter called it “creative destruction”.

    To you, it feels like your passion is gone.

    It’s a “Who Moved My Cheese?” moment, and as the pace of innovation accelerates, it’ll happen more and more frequently.

    And that means half-time is the time for you to think about doubling down or walking away.

    Doubling down means finding the modern equivalent of what you loved doing, and learning the new skills required to thrive.

    So daily newspaper journalists become bloggers. Toaster-builders become toaster designers & marketers. Typewriter salespeople become document and printing salespeople.

    Ecclesiastes says “there is nothing new under the sun”.

    Every past passion has its modern equivalent, and there’s always a path — sometimes challenging, sometimes difficult — to the new one.

    Or it might be that walking away makes more sense. If you really loved managing drive-in movie theaters, or growing hogs on the family farm, or distributing print magazines, and the newfangled equivalent leaves you cold and empty, it might be the wisest thing for you, at half-time, to quit. To pick up and move on. To find a new field for the new you.

    While only you can answer, I can urge you to ask: “is my passion gone?”

    Not enough focus

    If you ever answer: “I like a lot of things… I’m good at a lot of things… I could do a number of jobs…”

    …when somebody asks you what you’re looking for, or what job you’d like, you’re not focused enough and you’re hurting your chances of winning.

    You’ve only got one set of eyes, and they can’t be pointed in multiple directions at once.

    You see, while you’re telling people you can do operations AND sales AND finance, somebody else is telling the same employer that all they want to do is finance. They eat finance, they dream finance, they sleep finance. And they love finance.

    If you were hiring for a finance role, which candidate would you favor?

    You need to have a clear message about what your brand is and what you stand for. Trying to be the three-in-one microwave-radio-fax-machine is great for 80s RONCO nostalgia, but bad for finding your next gig.

    Well, I hope this is useful for you as you think about your half-time during Turkey Week, folks.

    Have a great break, and I’ll see you next Monday!

  • Would you mind replying to this employer about a job?

    We’ve added a new feature that I think you’re going to like: Hiring Alerts.

    Whenever a recruiter posts a job with us, we dig into our list of candidates in the database, including you, to find those who might be most appropriate for the job.

    And then we send that job, via an e-mail hiring alert, to a select group of professionals like you.

    How select?

    Well, on average, about 700 of you, which results in 6 to 8 applications for each job.

    We’ll send the job to fewer or more professionals depending on what the computer tells us, but the goal is to get about 6 to 8 of you who might not have seen the job, and might potentially be the right fit, to apply. That’s our target based on our conversations with recruiters about what makes the most sense for them.


    So when you see something like this…

    …in your e-mail, you’ll know that it’s a job hot off the presses, and that, if you decide to apply, the magic of modern computer science can let you feel comfortable that you’re one of just about a half-dozen professionals who feel equally excited about it.

    The match, by the way, is based on the information you’ve given us, so the great thing is, the more info you give us, the better we can target you with jobs. Update your profile here to let us understand you better.

    Have an easy week on the job search, Readers!

  • Oh Sandy…

    After being chased out of hearth and home, last week, Readers… We’re still out of hearth and home!

    There remain over fifty of us here at TheLadders without essentials such as power, water, or internet (interesting to note that people now include ‘internet’ among the essentials; wasn’t true during 9/11).

    Your notes to us last week in response to our Sandy-gram were… well, they were more than we could’ve expected. Your hundreds upon thousands of thanks and prayers and offers of help and whiskey were so very much appreciated. Especially the whiskey.

    After losing power, my eight-months-pregnant wife and I hiked two miles north in Sandy’s rainy, messy aftermath to find a taxi, eventually landing in the welcoming arms of the in-laws. Northern Manhattan was, this past week, the oddest sort of refugee zone, and the Manhattan Bridge, weirdly half-dark and half-lit, represented a connection from this off-kilter, flooded world to our normal lives more aptly than words can say.

    I have to tell you, though, that the spirit that made our country great is alive and well here in Manhattan. Knocked down by the storm, the Big Apple got back up with a can-do Yankee spirit, that is remarkable for being as old & traditional as it is young, urgent, and new.

    Some of my colleagues in the tech world undertook the most amazing challenges.

    Power out at your hosting company on Wall Street? How about creating a bucket brigade of software engineers to huff diesel up 18 flights of stairs to fuel a backup generator?

    Website knocked out? How about re-coding the whole thing in a day so it works on the popular Tumblr service instead? And then selling ad space to State Farm insurance on the new site?

    New York City’s evacuation map loading too slowly? How about getting a copy live on your site in a jiffy so that people have the information they need?

    And while I’m most familiar with, and proud of, the people in my industry, across New York City this past week, from the taxis to the taco trucks to the telecomm stores, the power of entrepreneurs and businesses to make our lives better even in a pinch (or, in the case of a Sandy, a punch) reminds you of how great our diverse, determined country can be.

    There is so little of the “woe is me” and so much of the “just do it”. It’s inspiring and it makes you realize that our problems are all problems we can solve.

    Speaking of problems, you might be curious to know that our own challenges were the result of all of our contingency planning over the years working perfectly — except for that one little thing.

    As you might expect for a company of our size, we’ve got backup systems for our backup systems. And we’ve tested and prodded and simulated emergencies to the nth degree.

    But you know how these things go.

    A subcomponent of a subsystem was housed in a data center in downtown Manhattan — which is in the same power sub-grid as the Fed and the New York Stock Exchange, and which has never been without power for a week in its history — and of course, that one sub-sub system is what enables us to chat and talk on the phone with you all.

    It’s still down.

    The fates laugh at us wryly, don’t they?

    Well, the good news with all that is that we nonetheless have a record number of jobs onsite, and a record number of employers looking for you. The upside of being an Internet business is that the site is still live even when your office is closed.

    So with that, we’re going to get back to cleaning up the office and working remotely and gathering up the jobs and recruiters you want to connect with. If there’s anything we can help you with, please drop us an email at help@theladders.com, which has been up and working since Wednesday. We’ll get back to you right away!

    And I’ll leave you with this video of the Boss singing “Sandy” at the Hammersmith in 1975. It is a poignant elegy for a place that is perhaps now gone from us forever. The sadness and the beauty and the Jersey-ness and the Boss-ness and the folk title of the song are just the right poetry to get you through the week. I know it’s gotten me through mine.

    Have a great week, Readers!

  • Fire the boss!

    It’s a uniquely American idea — right up there with road trips, tailgates, and girls’ day out at the spa — the idea that not only are we not stuck in our jobs for a lifetime, but also that we’re letting ourselves down when we stick with a bad deal for too long. From “Take This Job and Shove It” to “Office Space” to “Jerry Maguire”, we celebrate our freedom to tell off the boss and take on bigger, better adventures.

    So how do you know when it’s time to “fire the boss” and find a better home?

    When he blames you for his failures

    You worked all weekend on the Peterson pitch, hoping your team lands the big new account. You put everything you had into it.

    And yet, when the pitch failed, where was your boss? Shouldering the blame and healing wounds?

    Nope, he was throwing you under the bus — for your slides or hand-out materials or earrings or handshake or some other nonsense — just like he always does.

    What’s worse, if he had only been paying attention to body language and been a little nicer to Slow Joe, Mr. Peterson’s dim-witted nephew, instead of trying to prove him wrong in front of everybody else, perhaps you’d all be celebrating instead of commiserating.

    When the boss blames you, time to fire the boss.

    When he’s focused on his own success — to your detriment

    When the boss’ success — his job, his awards, his glory — come first, second and third, you need to realize that he’s decided where his interests lie…

    He’s looking out for El Número Uno. And no, that doesn’t translate to “my hard-working team”.

    When the boss is placing all his bets on himself, and all the burden on you, it’s time to fire the boss.

    When he’s got no new ideas

    You’ve tried to get him to see the light, but he’s stuck doing the same old things. And they’re still not working.

    If he’s in a rut, a rut, a rut, a rut, a rut — you get the idea — that means that your career trajectory is stuck right behind his. It’s time to get unstuck and get moving again. Fire the boss.

    When things aren’t getting better

    The easiest way to know when it’s time to fire your boss is when things haven’t improved, despite his promises. The big accounts aren’t coming through, the new products fizzle, the big hires that he trumpets end up being Jokers, not Aces in the hole.

    Sometimes it’s just better to find a home where good stuff happens, instead of sticking around a place where there’s always an explanation for failure.

    When the trendline isn’t going up, it’s time to fire the boss.

    When he’s lost the confidence of others

    Maybe you’re a sweetheart, a softie, a true believer in a human being’s ability to turn things around. But after a few years of missed budgets, too many quarters of failed promises, too many weekly staff meetings that depressed rather than inspired you, it might be time to look around and realize that your boss has lost the confidence of others beside you.

    If his peers are turning on him, his team members have lost the faith, and customers feel they just can’t rely on him anymore, it’s time for you to quit being a suffering martyr to the cause. It’s time for you to fire the boss.

    Why fire the boss? Because life is much more than a paycheck.

    You see, you can always buy more things. More car. More house. More toys. More clothes. And if you live in Hollywood, more curves in alluring places.

    But the one thing in life you can’t buy more of is time. Your time.

    A company can always find somebody else to fill the job slot, warm the seat, take the pay, and punch the clock.

    But you?

    You’re trading the most precious thing you’ll ever have, these next few years of your life. You’re hoping the trade is a smart one. That in exchange for these fast-moving, fleeting years, you’ll get experience, insight, and wisdom in addition to your paycheck.

    So when the boss doesn’t measure up; doesn’t honor your sacrifice, and treasure, and time; doesn’t live up to the standard that somebody getting your most precious gift ought to live up to…

    There’s only one course an American can take.

    Fire the boss. Free yourself. And find a better home for your talents.

    Have a fiery week, Readers!

    I’m rooting for you!

  • Do start-ups destroy jobs in the rest of the economy?

    Albert, in response to your post “Thinking About Employment“, you’ve stumbled on a recurring theme in economics: if innovators are inventing new contraptions that can do the job of x people, won’t those x people become unemployed?

    It’s an old theme, frequently arrived at, since the ‘rebirth of learning’ some six centuries ago.  As an example, the word ‘sabotage‘ likely comes “from the Netherlands in the 15th century when workers would throw their sabots (wooden shoes) into the wooden gears of the textile looms to break the cogs, fearing the automated machines would render the human workers obsolete.”

    The short answer to the question is “no, productivity does not cause unemployment.”

    The longer answer is that productivity or market changes can cause unemployment in isolated markets, but creates more jobs than it destroys overall. Human’s capacity for play, innovation, and creativity on one hand, and desire for status, novelty, and improvement on the other, create a cycle of increasing employment. To test the proposition, ask your CEOs if they ever run out of new product ideas for their developers to code, leading to idle capacity in the scrum. The answer is indicative of the broader human condition.

    Let’s take farming as an example: in the past century, we’ve effectively conquered the problems of variety, freshness, distribution, yield, and price in the agricultural supply chain. One might fear that a permanently reduced demand (expressed in $, not lbs.) for agricultural products would be the result.

    But time and again in human history, once the commodity needs are satisfied, the human desire for differentiation takes over. Thus, as the WSJ reports, and we are very familiar from our dining experiences here in New York City, trends, fashions, fads, and innovations occur, such as these chefs “going back to the farm“, or the replacement of generic chicken and pork with Niman Ranch chicken,  Berkshire pork, and, my favorite recent example from the Empire State and this morning’s breakfast, Chobani greek yogurt.  Brands, differentiation, and specialization create margin, which creates jobs.

    To take an example at the other end of the cognitive spectrum: databases.  The rise of MySQL and USV’s own MongoDB most likely do lead to a reduction in demand for the skills of DBAs in the older database systems.  At this end of the cognitive spectrum, however, we rather expect that workers, as part of their profession, are consistently updating their skills and advancing their knowledge concurrently with present practice. I imagine the typical CTO would feel that a DBA unfamiliar with MySQL, and who had never heard of MongoDB, is in fact a bad DBA, rather than merely a differently-trained one.  Further, because of the inherently intellectual nature of the work, we rather expect that the professionals in the field will adapt to and adopt new intellectual constructs, abstractions, and systems.  We’ve never seen an organized labor action opposing the utilization of more productive, less labor intensive computer science, and I suspect we never will.

    So then let’s move back to the middle: old media. The decline of newspapers and magazines impacts workers at both ends of the spectrum: journalists and pressmen.

    New web-publishing technology has led to an increase in the number of voices available, but it can be fairly argued that it has perhaps led to a reduction in the number of paid positions, and it certainly has in old media.  The painful transition from dollars in print to pennies on the web (perhaps it’s dimes in digital, today?) has often meant reductions in pay for professionals making the switch.  We’re perhaps seeing the end of that with pay at Gawker, BusinessInsider and elsewhere being competitive with, or even superior to, comparable positions at old media companies, but in the broader media workforce, it likely remains the case that wages will be suppressed until the revenues per employee increase.

    The ancillary jobs created in new media, however: SEO experts, content aggregators, social media analysts, etc., almost certainly have not become the new home for the ancillary employees of the old media : the operators of the presses that produce the physical printed product.  It is unlikely that those ‘pressmen’ skills have any comparable home ever again.  Pressmen, in the absence of retraining, have severely limited career prospects as their industry dies.

    And, in fact, the pattern remains rather consistent: workers in physically productive professions have more limited prospects, fewer career choices, and longer re-training times, when their industries die.  Workers in cognitively productive professions more often have skill accretion and advancement “baked in” to the practice of their profession, and have better prospects and career choices, though similar psychological and emotional trauma, when their industries die.  (A counter-example for cognitive workers would be finance professionals engaged in derivatives, CDOs, CMOs, or the other financial engineering sectors prior to the Financial Crisis.  These workers, we’ve seen at TheLadders, had highly specialized training that has become effectively worthless, and is not readily transferable to any other type of cognitive work.)

    So the rise of productivity, which leads to the decline in employment in the physically productive sectors of the economy, does not lead to overall reduction in employment, except locally, because of the nature, capacity and appetites of human beings.  Please do continue to support innovative new companies, Albert! :)

    Well, what started as a comment has turned into a blog post in its own right.  So I’ll leave you with two reasonably accessible works that discuss this same theme at greater length…

    Here’s a classic CATO piece on “Is Industrial Innovation Destroying Jobs?“:

    Also superb is Henry Hazlitt’s “Economics in One Lesson“, which explains how the common sense understanding of many economic problems are in error, and, additionally, explains how those mechanisms actually work.

    Hope that is helpful!


  • So if not me, who did get the job?

    When two candidates are equally experienced, equally credentialed, and equally capable, who gets the job?

    Well, when two companies have similar products, with similar ratings, and similar prices, which do you pick?

    If you think about it, you might say: “the one that wants my business more.” The saleswoman made an extra effort, or the people at the store went out of their way to be kind, or it’s as simple as they just smiled back and said “we’d like your business.”

    It’s no surprise: we prefer to buy from companies that make us feel like we’re a welcome part of their community.

    And who gets the job if the applicants are equals?

    The candidate with a passion for the business. A zeal for the industry. An excitement, an enthusiasm, a zest for the art, and the craft, and the science of what makes a company in the field succeed.

    I drove up to Yale last week to speak to student groups about entrepreneurship, the technology industry, and their careers. They do a great job of bringing alumni back, and it’s energizing and inspiring for me when I go.

    And what I shared with them is what I’ll share with you.

    In today’s economy — a sophisticated economy increasingly based on design, thinking work, proprietary creativity, and the ability to grasp and apply complex intellectual abstractions — the need is greater than ever for those who can… think.

    And thinking work is different from the typical jobs of even a generation or two past. A steel mill manager, a radio set salesman, or a train operator could have their success measured in physical quantities: how much steel poured, sets sold, or tons shipped.

    In an information economy, on the other hand, the measures of success are increasingly intangible. The iPod was better than other MP3 players not because it had more, but because it had fewer buttons and features — the right buttons and features for music on the go. A restaurant chain displaces a competitor because it feels more (or less) like home. A shoe company thrives because it gives away half the pairs that you buy. Even vacuum cleaners, cars, and backyard grills are made, marketed and sold in ways that were inconceivable in the last century.

    Producing these products and services, consequently, is less a function of the volume of resources that are put in. In generations past, more raw materials, capital equipment, or men punching your time clock meant more finished products or services coming out the other side. Today, it’s often more important how little you put in, or how artfully you arrange the features.

    Finding people who can make those decisions well, and then execute on those decisions, is difficult for bosses.

    They have to figure out who is going to understand the customer better, the manufacturing process better, the marketing better, the interface better, and so on.

    What’s more, bosses need to determine who’s going to stick with it — there are a lot more forks in the road, and bumps along the way, in this intangible world. Perseverance through the inevitable fumbles and fiascos is needed because without perseverance there are no victories.

    And what bosses have discovered is that somebody who is passionate about the business tends to be a better employee and a better professional to work with.

    Because somebody who is passionate is inherently motivated, and internally driven to succeed, they try harder to find answers. They think up clever stuff on their own. They enjoy the business, and the customers, and the industry so much that they’re always discovering new things or perceiving additional ways that the business could succeed.

    In short, passionate people are better employees because they care more than dispassionate people. Passionate people care more than the average employee, they care more than the average applicant, and they care more than you.

    And that’s why you didn’t get the job.

    That’s why you got passed over, turned down, put in the “nice to have” pile or kicked to the curb the way the Tigers booted my beloved Yankees from the playoffs.

    If you truly want success in this business climate, you need to do what you’re actually passionate about. Otherwise, you’re just unfairly stacking the deck in some other applicant’s favor.

    Have a great search this week!

  • Three Ways You’re Sabotaging Yourself

    There’s only so much I can do to help you.

    I can have my team collect and screen almost 200,000 great, professional jobs and publish them on our site for you. I can have them find you over 20,000 HR people, employers and recruiters to connect with. And I can have them make it easy for you to search through and connect with them all.

    But we can’t do everything for you, so here are three ways you just might be sabotaging your own job search (without realizing it)!

    1. E-mail address

    What e-mail address do you use professionally?

    If you’re using AOL, or your local cable provider, you could be inadvertently shooting yourself in the foot.

    Only 5% of new users at TheLadders sign up with AOL e-mail addresses these days. If you’re still using AOL to represent yourself professionally, it could be sending a signal that you’re uncomfortable with new technology and that you haven’t prioritized keeping your skills up-to-date.

    Using your local cable provider’s default e-mail — whether it’s bellsouth.net, optonline.net, or tampabay.rr.com — increases the chances of a typo leading to a missed connection. Because people don’t pay as much attention, or care, to what they’re typing after the ‘@’ sign, using less-familiar domains in your e-mail should be avoided.

    More than 45% of new users at TheLadders use gmail.com. Because gmail is well-known for its utility, ease-of-use, and power, using gmail as your address is a smart move that also sends the message that you’re up-to-date with the times.

    What’s before the’@’ sign is important too.

    Common ‘household’ or ‘joint’ email strategies such as ‘jimandnancy@’, ‘smithhousehold@’, or ‘huxtablefamily@’ are not good e-mail addresses to use for your professional job search. Professionals are accustomed to writing directly to other professionals. Requesting that they e-mail your spouse & kids when contacting you is awkward.

    The best email address is your first name, followed by a dot, followed by your last name, at gmail.com:


    If that’s taken, then for the purposes of your job search, add next year’s number to your address:


    You’re probably going to be using this e-mail address into the New Year anyway and starting now makes you seem ahead of the times. And everybody wants to hire somebody from the future, right?

    2. Can a stranger read your resume?

    Print out your resume. Take the top third and rip it off. Hand it to somebody you don’t know.

    Can they tell you, without asking you any additional questions, what you want to do next?

    For too many of my subscribers, the answer is no. The reason is that you’re trying to do the wrong thing with the top third of your resume. You’re trying to tell people about your character and your abilities and your many, many different skills and your flexibility and too many things!

    You know what the person who is reading your resume is trying to find out?

    “Does this gal, or guy, want this job that I have to fill?”

    Obviously, given that you’ve spent the time to create a resume and send it to them, they know you want a job. But do you want this particular job?

    Is it something that you’ve done before? If so, did you like it? If so, do you want to do it again?

    Because you spend all of your time with yourself, it seems so very obvious that you want the type of job that you’re looking for.

    But strangers don’t know that. And, chances are, you’ll most likely be hired by a stranger.

    So it’s important that you make it easy for people who don’t know you.

    Show them, at the very top of your resume, what job you want.

    If they can’t tell, by reading the top-third of your resume, what you want to do next, then you’re never going to get to the next step.

    3. Did you talk to a live person today?

    The internet delivers you news, information, funny cat videos, electronic books, fashionable shopping, and, via TheLadders.com, the latest and greatest job listings at the professional level.

    So… “hooray!” for the internet.

    But here’s the truth — the internet is not going to hire you.

    No, you’ll be hired by a living, breathing, thinking, smiling person.

    So the question is: did you talk to that person today? Did you try to?

    It’s important, while you’re searching, looking, peeking and applying to all those great jobs you find at TheLadders, that you also realize that you need to make talking to people, live, in person or on the phone, a priority.

    Have you called your old contacts? Returned the call from the company that perhaps you’re only mildly interested in? Have you taken a former colleague to lunch? Did you go to a Meetup? Did you call back the recruiters you’ve met over the past six months? Drop by a conference?

    Connecting with people, live, in person or on the phone, is essential to getting hired. Too often, we fool ourselves into believing that self-directed activity is the best way to get hired. It’s not. Connecting with others is.

    If you’re more of an introvert, more comfortable communicating by writing than by speaking, you can still connect with others. I’m not going to mislead you and say that it’s better, but it’s still sufficient if you write thoughtful, sensible blog posts, comments, e-mails and contributions on industry-related topics and threads. But it’s important that you’re connecting with others, not just yourself.

    When it comes to getting hired, you need to ensure that every day is a “talk to a person who could potentially hire me” day.

    Because eventually… they will.

    So those are the three things you might be doing to sabotage your own efforts in the job search, Readers.