Transcript: Monday, June 26, 2 p.m. ET


Susan Gottlieb
National Accounts Director, Futurestep
Monday, June 26, 2006; 2:00 PM

Avoid: sweaty palms, white socks, long-winded answers and little white lies to clinch a new and better job. You can learn more about every stage of the job hunt, from recruiting to networking to transitioning to a new career, by checking in with our Hiring Squad this week for articles, tools, live discussions and more.

Susan Gottlieb is the national accounts director for Futurestep, Korn/Ferry's outsourced recruitment subsidiary. Her specialty is filling middle-management positions for Fortune 500 companies. She has a keen understanding of what hiring managers seek, and how candidates can work with recruiters to get great jobs.

Susan was online to answer questions about using recruiters to help with the corporate ladder climb.

The transcript follows below.


Washington, D.C.: Susan: I am senior level non-profit executive (vice president and COO). I want to make a move to the next level as an executive director. Are there headhunters who work specifically in the non-profit sector with senior executives? If so, who are they? Also, could you provide me with tips on making the move to the next level of management? I have worked my way up through the ranks in the non-profit world -- beginning as a, grant writer, development director, and now my most vice president of programs and COO.

Susan Gottlieb: Korn Ferry has a super NFP practice, as do our competitors, also use the Chronicle for Philanthropy and other relevant sites. Try Heidrick and Struggles and Russel Reynolds too.

All the best!


Tampa, Fla.: I'm an older (50+) candidate looking for a position in an industry known for favoring youth. I have excellent references from people working at industry leaders. I am very knowledgeable about cutting-edge issues, and have published very-well regarded articles on the subject in top professional journals.

Yet one major employer pretty much dropped the conversation as soon as they figured out my age (by asking me when I graduated from college). This industry faces serious risk-management issues every day (my area of expertise). Should I take my age and try to turn it into an advantage by arguing I've been around the block enough to recognize problems younger people might miss? Should I ask potential employers who tout their ability to think outside the box on client solutions to do so in hiring decisions?

Susan Gottlieb: Be careful with the tone you use when speaking to potential employers. Even the word "arguing" has an edge to it. I recognize that it is frustrating, however those organizations who see the true benefit of having a seasoned employee are the type you want to be affiliated with, regardless.


Berkeley, Calif.: I currently own small business doing mediation, training and HR organizational consulting. I would like to transition to full-time employment in a larger firm. How do I "put myself in front of headhunters" who are best suited to match my skill set to a position and what is the approximate cost? Or who pays the headhunter's fee

Susan Gottlieb: The hiring firm pays the fee. Get involved with ASTD or OD Network and similar associations and market yourself.


Atlanta, Ga.: Thanks for doing the chat. My husband is about to start looking for a new job. He is still working at the first company that hired him (after only one interview) out of college. So, he doesn't have a lot of experience with the job hunt and doesn't really know how to begin. He makes about $80,000 so is looking for a good job but doesn't feel like he's in the range that needs a headhunter. What should his first steps be? Thanks!

Susan Gottlieb: Go to the job sites, get familiar with what is out there in his field. Apply directly on-line to companies he has an interest in. Also get his resume in front of some reputable contingency firms in your town/city.


New York, N.Y.: Age seems to be a factor in not getting responses. How do you deal with that on a resume. If you describe all your work experience it's a tip off you're an older worker. Even if you don't put down year graduated from college and other "signs" of age this seems to be ongoing problem.

Also, how do you deal with question: "salary requirement" if you don't want to be rejected before review of your resume begins. Saying "negotiable" sometimes is not accepted with on line forms.

Susan Gottlieb: You should include relevant experience , but not all of those first entry level roles. Make your resume dynamic and give it some punch so it stands out from others. This is a tough issue for those in the "baby boomer" range and yet more employers are recognizing the need to employ individuals who represent such a significant sector of our workforce.

Susan Gottlieb: as for salary requirement, I never answered that until I actually went in for interview. Explain that for the right opportunity, you are open and flexible, within reason.


Washington, D.C.: Susan: I am expecting to get my master's degree in statistics by May 2007, for which I am planning to be an active job seeker by the end of this year. I have seven years of professional experience in finance, being five of them outside this country and two in the US. While my professional interest is on the financial industry, I recently changed to a job that is not entirely related to that field. Should I hide that fact when applying for a position? Thank you.

Susan Gottlieb: Never hide anything. It becomes transparent to a prospective employer during the background check!


Arlington, Va.: How does one go about breaking away from one career field and into another? I would like to get away from writing and editing and break into human resources and recruiting. Specifically, I would like to move into an arena where I spend less time staring at documents and more time working with people and out helping them find jobs. How difficult a move is this one? I've been writing and editing for five years and it's just not what I want to do anymore.


Susan Gottlieb: You need to take a step back to enter a new functional area. Perhaps you could leverage your writing skills by writing for a Learning and Development function, crafting position specifications, or competency models. You may need to adjust your compensation parameters to do so. Go to the site to get familiar with HR positions available in your market.


Overseas help?: I will be moving to Tokyo next year and find navigating the job market challenging. Is there a resource for foreigners that they can find a headhunter in other countries? At the very least I'd like to talk to someone that is knowledgeable about the job market and what my possibilities even are. Thanks!

Susan Gottlieb: All the top Executive Search firms have offices in Tokyo. We do! Contact the office and speak to a representative there! Try Korn Ferry and Futurestep first, of course!


Frederick, Md.: I want to move out of state, to a nice college town in Maine. I know I can afford a house there. My problem is that I will need to find a job and I'm a pretty specialized area -- journalism. The natural fit would be to get a job at a local paper. But that paper currently has no openings.

Is this a situation where a recruiter might be able to help?

Susan Gottlieb: Remote areas are tough; try finding a company who will embrace your working remotely. Apply directly to the local papers employment site.

Good luck!


Louisville, Ky.: I just graduated from law school and although I made mediocre grades, I'm a smart girl and I really want to be a successful attorney. Jobs are scarce though, less than 40 percent of my graduating class has one. What should I do to make myself stand out when I send in my resume and cover letter? Also, should I continue my education and get an MBA to make myself more marketable? Thanks for your help.

Susan Gottlieb: MB/JD combos are great, but you will need practical experience as well. Make your resume jump out. Hire a professional to help, more importantly, leverage all of your networks. More opportunities are procured through networking then directly.


Washington, D.C.: Susan,

I've worked for two Fortune 50 companies out in D.C. and I am looking to move back to Chicago. I've worked with recruiters before and found them to be extremely helpful. I want to go the same route in my search in Chicago, but I do not know where to start. Should I look at national recruiting companies or smaller companies that focus specifically in the Chicago area? If so, where would be a good resource to find such companies?


Susan Gottlieb: Depends on your field and comp level. If you are a senior executive then go to a national Search firm, such as ours.

Subscribe to the Chicago newspapers in the interim and search the job boards for positions posted in Chicago, you will see which firms are posting positions and have a sense of which are active in the field you are engaged in.


Rockville, Md.: I often hear people refer to talking to a headhunter and have wondered how one finds one. Helpful job advice columnists say "look in the yellow pages," but of course no headhunters are listed. I do not think an employment agency is the same as a headhunter. So how do I get one to hunt for me? Many thanks.

Susan Gottlieb: depends on your field and comp level. Go to the job boards and see which ones have postings in your area of interest.


Washington, D.C.: It seems like every job requires five to 10 years experience. How do we gain experience if we can't get the job? It's like a catch 22. I'm a computer/electrical engineer fresh out of college if that helps.

Susan Gottlieb: Entry level positions are very competitive, you may have to do something more banal, like data entry to get into a company and move into engineering. Try going through a temp agency. We often converted contractors to FT when I ran Corporate recruiting departments.


Fairfax, Va.: I often find job opening on my own and then I'm contacted by (sometimes several) recruiters. Is it better to go for these positions on my own or through the recruiters?

Susan Gottlieb: On your own if you as a junior person, with 1-7 or so years. If you have multiple agencies presenting you that reflects poorly. If you have a stellar search firm representing you to a client then that is the better route to go.


Washington, D.C.: In this area, how much leverage do people with high level clearances have over employers who need these clearances to win and maintain contracts? What percentage above normal should we expect with our clearances?

Susan Gottlieb: this is not my area of expertise.


Bethesda, Md.: What kind of graduate degrees are the most appealing these days?

Susan Gottlieb: MBA is still popular. It depends on the field. In my field IO/Psych is the "hot ticket" these days.


Washington, D.C.: I am a marketing communications professional looking for a position in international development, security, or the environment. How do I find a recruiter that handles those sectors?

Susan Gottlieb: Most top search firms have a practice or section that aligns to your interests. Go to the top firms sites, and search by function for the appropriate contact person.

KFI has a great presence in D.C. for example.


Washington, D.C.: What is the "headhunting" process like from beginning to end?

Susan Gottlieb: Interview with consultant, they present you if qualified, render feedback from client, if interested, coach you through the interview, offer and acceptance phases.


Alexandria, Va.: This question bothers me and I can't seem to get a clear answer anywhere. I have my own small business that has been parallel to my full-time jobs for the past four years. Should I put this experience on my resume as an example of leadership and initiative or I should leave it out. Some resume writers recommend not putting this experience on resume some do. Please help. Thank you.

Susan Gottlieb: Some prospective employers may view it as a conflict of interest, or wonder where you are more committed. If it adds value to your overall experience add it, but craft it in a way that it is not viewed as a detractor from the full-time position.


Annandale, Va.: What are the benefits of getting a Masters of Public Administration (MPA)? Can it be used to help make a career switch? Is it looked at in the public sector as similar to an MBA? It is useful in a job hunt, or will experience make up for the lack of degree in this field? Thanks so much for having this chat!

Susan Gottlieb: Experience coupled with the advanced degree is always better! The MPA from a valued institution opens doors. My experience in the Public Sector is limited, but as Director of HR for a NFP org, we embraced MPA's from NYU, for example.


Richmond, Va.: I applied for a job and I did not get a call back. However, my recruiter sent in my resume and the company call me in for an interview. Can you explain this ?

Susan Gottlieb: Recruiting departments are overworked an understaffed. Things fall through the cracks. A good external recruiter could always get my attention when I was in the Corp recruiting world, if I respected them and valued their partnership. I may not however look at the 100 resumes in my inbox!


Arlington, Va.: Susan ... I have a question regarding hiring of H-1B visa holders. As we all know, no one really wants to go through the ordeal that is dealing with the INS (USCIS or whatever the agency calls itself these days) however to simply tell an applicant to come back to you when they become a citizen seems unprofessional and not entirely in line with recruiting the best talent available. I don't want to be disingenuous and not mention my visa status to employers but I am tired of the "you would be a wonderful addition to the company but unfortunately we don't sponsor visa applicants" answer. Any thoughts on how to handle this delicate matter in interviews would be most appreciated. Thank you!

Susan Gottlieb: Delicate it is. If the company has a policy about this, there is no way to circumvent. The real issue is that the Visa cap is hit so quickly each year, that corporations hands are tied. You must be upfront about this. Easier to get an L-1 from current company, and then transfer.


Washington, D.C.: Often, employers from regions outside of D.C. and NYC ask about connections to their region. For example, "why do you want to work in Boston?" From my perspective, many firms are identical and I would be willing to work in any of the markets for which I'm interviewing. For a Boston company, I stated my college roommates currently live there, my sister went to school there, and my family is originally from there. The response "so do you have any other connections?" What's needed? A fiancee?

Susan Gottlieb: Companies feel that if they are making an investment with relocation, etc., that if you have some roots, you will be more likely to stay....


Washington, D.C.: Susan: Can you give us a few pointers on how those seeking middle management positions can work with recruiters. How do you get them to "champion" your search and help you find a position?

Susan Gottlieb: My firm handles searches in the 100-150K range, by and large .Register on the respective firm's site, and when there is an appropriate position, the recruiter WILL call you. In the course of a day , a recruiter is focused on the searches that they have at present, and what those skill sets are. Those are the candidates they will respond to.

If you have a friend who can refer you to a recruiter, or someone whom that recruiter placed, it is easier to develop a rapport.


Washington, D.C.: A thought, and a question:

For the person looking to move from writing/editing into HR, see if your current employer, or other employers who do what you currently do, might have an opening in their HR departments. I know someone who had worked in public relations for several years who was very successful, but wanted a different challenge. It turned out that her firm was looking for a mid-level HR manager, and her expertise in PR made her an ideal candidate to handle hiring and people managing in a PR firm. Maybe you can find that type of opening and spin it that way?

My question is, how does one know when you are ready to "start looking" and should enlist a headhunter? I like my company a lot, but there are two known facts about us: we pay average at best, and we often hire people in at higher levels than they would be at if they worked up through the company (so people my age who are new hires are at higher levels, even with similar or less experience). The problem is, I like where I am. I'd like to find a similar environment, similar field (public relations/public affairs), etc., but at a place that I think is more focused on growing from within and moving people up fairly. Is that the sort of thing a headhunter can help with?

Susan Gottlieb: yes, we are looking for the "passive seeker." Use the opportunity to selectively explore the market. Find a few search consultants that are professional and recommended and let them confidentially represent you. Best time to look is when you are not pressured to leave! Test the waters!


Alexandria, Va.: Susan,

I'm working as an executive assistant with a clearance, and am trying to get out of the administrative field, any suggestions? How can I use my skills to "crossover." Yes, I will be going back to school for a formal education. Thanks.

Susan Gottlieb: Get the BA, and post on positions internally!


Washington, D.C.: I have been working in downtown D.C. for more than a year and even though I use a commuter bus service, the commute is really "getting" to me. I am looking for a position closer to home (Ellicott City) but hesitate to mention my desire to have a shorter commute for fear a prospective employer may not offer me as much in the way of salary. Thanks for your advice.

Susan Gottlieb: Mention that a shorter commute is one of your motivators, as it will give you more time in the office. Do not discuss it in terms of compensation. Generally, metro positions do have to pay more of a premium, however.


Woodbridge, Va.: I am a recent college graduate who landed her first job and am already realizing that this is not the best industry for me. I would like to switch over into the political arena where loyalty is key. I don't want my resume to be passed up because I've spent so little time at one job so what is the earliest I should begin new applications?

Susan Gottlieb: I always advise one year. But if you can procure an other opportunity now in Government sector, just explain that you recognized immediately that your passion was in the political arena, and wanted to move on quickly...


Capitol Hill, D.C.: My wife is an associate with a large firm downtown. She has realized she doesn't want to be a partner and would like to work more stable hours. Any suggestions of where to look for lawyer jobs with more normal hours (like maybe only 50 hours a week)? Smaller firm, government, in-house, it doesn't matter.

Susan Gottlieb: In house is pretty intense too, but maybe if you stay away from financial services....


Chevy Chase, Md.: How does one go about showing "significant contacts" in an out-of-town market? I've interviewed with St. Louis and Cleveland companies and they always ask why I want to work in their town. They seem to want something more than employment and a desire to move out of the D.C. metro area.

Susan Gottlieb: Do your homework on the area, maybe they have great fishing, or you like to ski and it is a colder climate. Give them a compelling reason for why you like their town! Perhaps it is the school system?

They want to feel that you will stick around for a while. Especially if they pay relocation!


Bethesda, Md.: Hello Susan,

I'm really frustrated with the recruiter at my work. I passed on the resume of one of my friends to our recruiter for a very high ranking job opening at my office. Our recruiter immediately called her to set up a time for a phone interview. Since that initial call our recruiter has either ignored my friend's follow up calls or she'll call my friend to set up the next round of interviews and then forget to call her when those interviews should take place. She has yet to follow up at all. This has happened multiple times. It's now to the point where I am completely embarrassed by the actions of our recruiter and I'm ready to tell my boss how horribly my friend has been treated. I could semi-understand if this position was an entry level one but the position is a vice president. If our recruiter is acting like this to internally submitted resumes then I can't even imagine how horribly she is representing our company to outside people. Is there anything I can do to help remedy this situation. I KNOW our recruiter is not that busy, our company is relatively small and we only have three job openings at the moment.

Susan Gottlieb: Unacceptable. You need to bring it to your HR departments attention. It is an embarrassment, and employee referrals are the best hires! No one is going to refer someone who isn't stellar!


Washington, D.C.: I'm leaving the military soon, and am having trouble translating the different assignments I've handled into civilian terminology. Is there anywhere I can look for some pointers?

Susan Gottlieb: go to job sites and lift the terminology from the positions posted that correlate with your aspirations. Go to bookstore and buy book on how to write a resume, or go on-line!


Washington, D.C.: I used a recruiting firm a while back and after a while, severed contact with my recruiter when she failed to understand that I was NOT looking for secretarial/admin. assistant type of work. That is, I've tried to sever contact! I've told her numerous times to stop sending my resumes out to potential employers and stop selling me to people. It's quite frustrating to be in the midst of a job search and get calls from people she has given my name too who are looking to hire an admin assistant (a waste of everyone's time, it seems). I've asked her several times to stop giving my resume out and that I do not want to work further with her, but she seems to be not getting a clue. She works for what I thought was a reputable recruiting firm in the area. My questions are -- do recruiters have to get certified or go through some sort of training? Is there some kind of board or someone I could lodge an official complaint with? Is this in the realm of the better business bureau?

Susan Gottlieb: No certification. Call the manager of the firm and report it.


Washington, D.C.: What can I put on my resume (I'm still an undergrad) that makes me more attractive for a politically-oriented job. Are summer internships really valuable? or is studying abroad just as good? Anything else?

Susan Gottlieb: Internships and international experience. It is highly competitive. Networking is the best avenue...


Austin, Tex.: Hi,

I have an on site interview with a Fortune 500 company tomorrow. This includes six, 45 minute interviews in one afternoon. I think the first three or four will go OK, but I am afraid I will fizzle by the fifth and sixth interviews. And, at the moment, I don't have any other suitors on the horizon. Needless to say, I am freaking out a little bit. I would like to nail this interview rather than come off as desperate and uninterested.

Any words of advice?

Thanks in advance!

Susan Gottlieb: Get a cup of coffee in between number four and five! An energy bar may help too. Don't lose the spark at days end! Just Breathe!


Seattle, Wash.: I am a chemical engineer with nine years of experience in my field and I have taken a few years off, three years to be exact. Now I am considering getting back to work and start looking for a position in my field. How can I discuss my out of job situation without impeding my chances to land my future job?

Susan Gottlieb: you will need an open-minded employer. Some are receptive, some not. You need to craft your message as to the hiatus carefully.


Atlanta, Ga.: Is the computer programming job market better or is it just a facade? I have been looking for a permanent position for two years but have mostly ended up with short term contracts lasting from six months to a year. I am almost 50 years old and have about 10 years of software development experience in ASP but no management experience. Should I think about getting into management instead of being a hard core developer? Thanks for your help!

Susan Gottlieb: I am not a techie! I do see the market picking up in IT and the lack of management experience could be a hindrance at this juncture. Can you try to leverage a contract into a full-time role?


Atlanta, Ga.: Susan: I'm currently working at the Pentagon in logistics. I'm due to retire from the military in about three weeks and relocate to Atlanta. Can you recommend a no fee headhunting service in the Atlanta metro area? I'm sure I can do and management type job out there : Project or Process management,I have even done time as an Inspector General duty with a TS security clearance.


Susan Gottlieb: Today recruiting firms require the company to pay the fee, not the candidate. Apply on and google other agencies in Ga. with your specific functional expertise.


Anonymous: I currently work in development for a large non-profit, and have recently been wondering about working on the GIVING money side, rather than the fundraising side.

Is staying in fundraising a good way to go, or should I go another route? I'm still in the brainstorming phases, too early to do something like informational interview, since I JUST started here and have at least a year in my current job before I make any moves.


Susan Gottlieb: Development jobs are in huge demand but the longer you stay in the field the more enmeshed you get. If that is not your long term aspiration try other philanthropic orgs, or foundations. Look at the Chronicle for Philanthropy for career opportunities!


Do I need a headhunter?: Hello,

I just picked up my MBA for a top 20 business school. In October, I accepted a job that I quit a week before graduation because the condition of the offer had changed. So now I am looking for a job. Job boards and unsolicited resumes to targeted companies aren't working. And my MBA network hasn't started working yet, so they aren't sure about openings at their companies. So should I go the headhunter route? Or should I just hang in there until the end of the summer.

Susan Gottlieb: Recruiters are great for those with experience and the degrees. Networking is the best, and you career center should help, especially after what you paid for the MBA!


Reston, Va.: I'm an experienced software developer and manager, 53 years old. Despite my good work, each of my last three jobs ended when the company or the local office closed. I'm having inordinate trouble finding new work and was turned down again today. This employer won't bring me in to interview even though I have experience in their industry and I meet or exceed every requirement on their job description.

I'm thinking about filing an EEOC complaint alleging age discrimination. Would this be a mistake?

Susan Gottlieb: I cannot advise you on this. These issues are hard to prove, however.


Baltimore, Md.: I'm 30 with a mix of experience -- marketing, sales, commercial real estate. I currently work for a small company where decisions get made by the top boss and it's pretty much a train wreck everyday. On paper I'm part of management and have a great title, despite very little $$.

I've only been here a year, though and I am worried about what to switch in to and about job hopping -- only been here a year. Any words of wisdom or direction would be great!

Susan Gottlieb: start looking, but make sure you have stellar references and compelling reasons for leaving, ( without being too negative)


Washington, D.C.: I'm a CFO for a professional services firm with a CPA/MBA who really wants to break into law firm administration. The skill sets required and business models of PR firms and law firms are very similar, yet I am having trouble getting traction with law firms. Do you have any advice how I could make this transition?

Susan Gottlieb: craft a cover letter that juxtaposes what you do to their requirements, side-by-side. Emphasize the professional services correlatives in Law firms and PR firms, i.e. billable hours, structure, etc. Try a law firm like Heller Ehrman, that is not as traditional ( West Coast firm).


Washington, D.C.: Susan,

I have gotten some nice leads from recruiters but one thing stands out if I'm going to be more successful switching jobs: Is it ok to ask a recruiter who approaches me to help me establish a network of people in addition to matching to potential vacancies? Would they do this for a fee or is it something that is "special request" and typically doesn't fall in their line of work?

Susan Gottlieb: Recruiters place people in positions, they do not offer names of individuals to network with! Friends, however,  do.


Arlington, Va.: Hi Susan,

I would really like to get out of this rat race and move to a smaller, quieter town; but I don't want to sacrifice my career (completely). How do people who attempt the leap from big market to small market fare? Any pointers?

Susan Gottlieb: Need to take cut in pay in lieu of the work/life balance


Bad impression recruiters: Susan, I've been on the job hunt for a year now, (due a merger limiting the time my job will continue to exist). In the past year, I've noticed that I am becoming more turned off to a company by the actions of their recruiters. One responded to my resume that was submitted to her by the president of the company and actually said "I hope you know how many people have applied for this job. I've been doing these phone interviews for two days now!" I was very confused by this statement, as I was under the impression this was her job. Another recruiter called and yelled at me that my hand-written thank you notes were not received as quickly as they preferred. I had also e-mailed my thanks immediately following the interview. And yet a few more have called and asked for references only to never contact them. Sorry to vent, but I do have a question. In most cases, I know someone at the company where I have applied. Do I inform them of the bad impression I've received from he recruiter, or will that just appear as sour grapes?

Susan Gottlieb: As a former director of recruiting, I always wanted to hear about external impressions re: my team of recruiters. Remember that when you hear back it may be to say, " I am sorry but we have found other candidates who are a better fit for this role," or something such as that. Everyone deserves a response.


Susan Gottlieb: I am going to have to close out the chat now! I wish you all the best in your endeavors!


Susan Gottlieb


Editor's Note: moderators retain editorial control over Live Online discussions and choose the most relevant questions for guests and hosts; guests and hosts can decline to answer questions. is not responsible for any content posted by third parties.

© 2006 The Washington Post Company