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Dear Joyce: I had no luck applying for a full-time job. So I lately have been trying to land a good temp-to-perm job. Still no success. I have good skills. Recruiters are not interested in me. Why?

-- T.O.N.

Dear T.O.N.: Remember a mantra for many recruiters: Passive candidates are the best candidates. That is, candidates who are happily employed, fully engaged in their employer's business and not seeking to change to another team are the prizes in the labor force.

Active candidates are those who are looking for work because they are unemployed or unhappy in their jobs.

Some recruiters don't buy into this mantra and will present active candidates to clients, but others, perhaps most, stick to passive candidates.

Moreover, I'm not aware of many recruiters who handle temp-to-perm jobs. The rationale is that a passive candidate isn't likely to trade a good sure thing for an iffy temp-to-perm position. And recruiters get paid for presenting the best candidates.

If you're determined to be represented by a recruiter, despite your odds, revert to a focus on regular-status positions. But if you choose to continue seeking temp-to-perm employment, look for job ads that trumpet that process. The arrangement does offer benefits, including the opportunity to check out the job's fit and the company's culture quickly before littering your resume with a history of poor job choices, and also a chance to see if the pay is adequate for the level of performance expected of you.

Inside candidates

Dear Joyce: After four job interviews at a company, the job went to someone who already worked there. The same thing happened at another company after two interviews. Is this a trend?

-- S.S.
Dear S.S.: The awarding of jobs to inside candidates is happening a lot, according to executive coach Anne Hawley Stevens in Boston. Her firm, ClearRock, says job seekers should expect to compete with an insider for a job opening and be prepared to convincingly explain how an outsider's perspective would help the organization.

The internal candidate offers management known quality and less fuss to fill the position. A downside risk is that the company will become insular, missing out on the benefits of cross-fertilization of ideas.

What other advantages and disadvantages can you think of that favor your external candidacy?

Follow the money

Dear Joyce: I recently have begun rethinking my goals in life and I am not certain that climbing the corporate ladder is what I want to do. I'm not sure that pay and prestige is everything it's cracked up to be. Do you agree that money can't buy you job happiness?

-- D.E.
Dear D.E.: Yes, but turned around, job happiness doesn't always bring you the money you need for the comforts you want. Before you chuck your job, spend some quality time with yourself peering into the future of your passion. A lot of time.

Many books have been written on the theme of doing what you love and assuming the money will follow -- a concept that's factually far from certain. If you can't hit high C, you can't sing opera, and people will pay you not to perform but to go away.

There is a new magazine, Worthwhile (, on the market that you'd probably like to see. Worthwhile is designed to help you find "work with purpose, passion and profit." Find it in bookstores and on newsstands.

College major

Dear Joyce: I am thinking about the major to choose when I return to college next fall. I've already been to my career center office. Do you know of any good new resources along this line?

-- R.G.
Dear R.G.: A five-book series addressed to college students everywhere, "What Can You Do with a Major in ...?" is new from Wiley ( and priced well, about $13 each. Five popular majors -- biology, English, education, business and psychology -- one per book, give a lot of details you'll need.

Contact Joyce Lain Kennedy at (use "Reader Question" for subject line) or at P.O. Box 368, Cardiff, CA 92007.

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