asking an employer to match a counter-offer, how to get headhunted, and more

It’s five short answers to five short questions. Here we go…

1. Should I tell an employer that if hired, I’d change their hiring practices?

I am interviewing for a position that will including things like hiring new employees. One of the practices they currently have is making candidates fill out a salary progression / history form. If hired, it’s the first practice I will get rid of. I have confidence in my judgment. I don’t need to know what a person was worth to a different company. If asked what I would do in the first 30 days (60 days, whatever), should I say that? Or should I pick something that isn’t relevant to me?

(By the way, their policy has no impact on me. The salary I’ll be asking for, if it gets to that point, is within their range, supported by my history, and well within industry/area standards for my experience. I can “pass” their test. I just think it’s dumb.)

I’m glad to hear you’d change that because I agree it’s a senseless practice and one that invades candidates’ privacy, but I don’t think I’d use it as an answer to what you’d do in your first 30 days. First, it’s probably not a substantive enough answer to that question (and they’re probably not looking for an answer about eliminating any practice after only four weeks on the job anyway), and second, it’s a somewhat contentious stance to take in an interview context.

2. Can I ask an employer to match a counter-offer from my current job?

I might be about to get an offer from a new job. If my current employer counter offers, is it ethical for me to ask the new company to match it? If so, how do I go about it? I would hate to offend them and have my offer rescinded.

Ethical? Sure. Smart? Probably not. You’ll basically be telling them that you’re not actually interested in leaving your job after all unless they can match a counter-offer, which says you’re going to the highest bidder, even if it’s the job you wanted to leave. A lot of good managers will lose interest at that point.

I’d say that if you want to stay at your current job if you can get more money there, ask for a raise. But don’t use a counter-offer to do it (for the reasons I talk about here).

3. How do I get headhunted?

I often see questions from folks on your site saying something like, “I was headhunted and …” or “A headhunter called me…” or something to that effect. First, are headhunters and recruiters the same thing? And second, how do I get headhunted? How do I put out feelers to let a headhunter know I’m job hunting and I’d like them to consider me for jobs that are a good fit? Can I even do this, or do they prefer to use a network of contacts determine who is worthy?

Headhunters and recruiters are basically the same thing. Sometimes “headhunter” is used to refer to an independent consultant while “recruiter” refers to someone working with a search firm or working internally within the hiring company, but you’ll generally hear the terms used interchangeably.

As for how to work with them, you can ask around in your field about headhunters that others recommend, and then reach out to them. You can also check the websites of recruiting firms in your field; many of them will list the openings that they’re recruiting for. Or you can just apply for jobs that interest you; if some of them are being handled by headhunters and that person reaches out to you, you can try to form a broader relationship with them.

Keep in mind, though, that headhunters work for employers, not candidates, and they have specific jobs to fill, just like would be the case if you applied directly to an employer. In most fields, especially if you don’t have a lot of experience or sought-after skills, you can’t really just pick out a recruiter and decide to work with them; they need to approach you about a specific job.

4. Will I be eligible for unemployment?

If I have to reapply for my job and don’t get it, will I receive unemployment benefits?

Almost certainly. In most states, if you lose your job for anything other than deliberate misconduct, you’ll be eligible for unemployment.

5. How much can I volunteer before I have to be paid?

About 5 years ago, I lost a permanent job during the recession. Since then, I have taken on a few other temp jobs to supplement my income. Being that I have had a lot of downtime between temp jobs, I decided I would start volunteering. I am volunteering for a government entity. I didn’t mind the work at first and actually enjoyed what I was doing. Everyone, including the department I work in, treats me like I am an employee even though I am not.

At first, I was only working 16 hours a week there. Then the volunteer coordinator asked me to do more hours (28 hours per week). Figuring that I could get more experience faster, I agreed. About 2 months later, I found that another employee was thinking of leaving the department. I continued with the hours, thinking I could eventually have the job of the employee leaving or at least get in as a temporary associate. Though the associate changed departments, I was never put into a paid position at the office because everything is unionized and I need to take an exam given only once per year in November. I currently have at least 700 hours of volunteering under my belt.

My question to you is, how many hours can a person volunteer before they have to be paid for their services?

It’s unlimited. There’s no requirement that they pay you after a certain number of hours. If you’ve signed on as a volunteer, they’re assuming that you’re happy to continue to volunteer until you tell them that you’re not.

There’s also no obligation on the part of the employer to give a volunteer preferential treatment when it comes to hiring. So only volunteering in order to eventually get hired there, you might end up frustrated and resentful. If you’re no longer happy to be volunteering, or volunteering for this many hours, then you should stop volunteering or decrease your hours.

Additionally, in your case, if they can’t hire you until you take that annual exam, it makes no sense to be frustrated that they’re not paying you yet. It sounds like they’ve been straightforward with you that that’s the case. If you want to get hired there, plan on taking that exam in November. Whether or not to continue volunteering in the interim is up to you. (You might also talk with your contacts there about the likelihood of getting hired once you do; you don’t want to assume that it’s a sure thing once the exam is done.)

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