In chapter seven, I demonstrated how to pitch yourself on the telephone, implementing a key strategy in managing the process. I hope that by now you have had a terrific telephone interview and are preparing for the in-person. Depending on the employer, you may have many “visits,” and in every interaction you must Manage the Process consistently, never making any assumptions, including the details of your ompensation package. If you are the Right Fit candidate for the position, you will believe yourself to have magical powers as you Manage the Process the Right Fit Way.
I once placed a physicist, whom I will call David Doran, in a high-level management position. Prior to David’s interview, I carefully instructed him not to discuss salary issues. I always instruct my client-employers similarly, making sure they do not discuss compensation with the candidate or candidates they interview. Sometimes, when my client-employers “love a candidate,” it’s difficult for them to follow my request. But if they want me to capture the Right Fit candidate for them, it’s very important for me to do the “closing,” not them. And to guarantee the best result, I ask candidates to honor my request as well, telling them exactly what to say to prospective employers to help ward off the salary discussion.
I thoroughly enjoy managing the process with both employers and candidates, which includes debriefing them following interviews. When I debriefed David, I heard something that will be engraved in my memory forever. I think of him as “The Imprisoned Candidate.” David is entering stage right. Please enjoy this exciting story in his own words:
We were driving through the streets of what was, to me, an unfamiliar city, and with every passing block it increasingly seemed that I was trapped in a scene from Sartre’s No Exit. The driver, a middle-aged woman, was chatting incessantly as she drove us to a restaurant that would serve as the site of my interview. Petunia was the company’s human resources vice president and, because I was captive, she figured she’d buffalo me as we drove.
Mercifully, we’d be dining with others as well, including the head of the search committee, who had interviewed me over the phone a few weeks before. Famous in his own field, and on the way to becoming even more renowned, Carey had apparently chosen the restaurant. Several other people would be there as well, diluting Petunia’s dinnertime repartee.
But for now, Petunia had me trapped in her car, and she was relentlessly talking at me. The conversation finally turned to salary, and how much I was looking for. Arlene Barro had prepared me for this moment, so I was armed with a righteous feeling of immunity from Petunia’s expectation that I should fess up and cough out a figure. Arlene had told me—as she also had told Petunia and others—that I was not to discuss salary. Arlene would take care of that. Pause now for a flashback: Arlene calling me to discuss this new position in a faraway city, Arlene convincing me that I should seriously consider this position although the idea of moving from my exciting East Coast city to that distant location seemed odd, to put it most politely. But, in the end, I had agreed to be presented for the position by Arlene at what was indeed a renowned institution, and I had put myself in Arlene’s capable hands.
She told me the field of candidates was quite small. She had tracked me down and, after perusing my résumé, was convinced that I was the right fit for the job. I found it odd that I wasn’t in contention with two dozen other candidates for this particular job. It seemed too easy. Or so I thought until Arlene went to work with me. Arlene grilled me about myself and my career and went about guiding, encouraging, and mentoring me as I rewrote my résumé to match the blueprint she had created for the position, based on what she had elicited from the employer. And while that sounds like a contrived way to try to impress a potential employer, it wasn’t. My résumé—my education and life and professional experiences—did, in fact, match what the employer was looking for. The only really hard thing for me to do was re-write my résumé so it rang like a giant biographic bell to make the employer love that song and communicate the message that they couldn’t afford not to hire me.
I looked over my new résumé. “I did all that?” I asked myself. Yup. I guess I was quite the terrific candidate, at least according to the blueprint—and the revised résumé—that Arlene had coaxed out of me. No wonder there weren’t other candidates. But the rest was up to me.
So, after the first day of interviews with movers and shakers at the institution, here I was with Petunia as she grilled me about my salary demands. I told her Arlene had made it clear that I was not to discuss this matter; and that no one was to ask me about it. Incredibly, Petunia simply restated her question: “How much are you looking for?” I repeated my Arlene mantra, thinking that would make Petunia feel uncomfortable for having pushed the issue. But no, to my disbelief, Petunia asked the question again, only louder this time. “HOW MUCH ARE YOU LOOKING FOR?” She asked me at least three times, in fact. And she was insistent enough that I felt both uncomfortable and irritated.
Yet I knew from my experience to date with Arlene that the smartest thing I could do was to follow her advice. Arlene would take care of it for me. She would do the negotiating this time. And I would learn from my experience with her how to negotiate when I found myself in such a situation in the future. Whether I was more angry than uncomfortable in that car with Petunia I can’t recall. But I do know that Petunia finally got tired of trying to pry out of me something that I had no intention of giving her. A figure.
Finally, we reached our destination. During dinner, Carey mentioned to me that they normally take only those candidates they really want to hire to that particular restaurant. I was surprised at how brazenly he had laid his cards on the table. But grateful. So, I reciprocated and told him I really wanted the job.
In the end, I not only got that position, but I got it with a great salary and a sign-on bonus that let me buy several great pieces of furniture, including the wonderful maple dining room table I’m sitting at as I write this story. New furniture is not a trivial issue for me, either. After years of dragging vintage hand-me-downs from city to city, I bought new furniture for my new home by a lake.
And I now enjoy more financial security than I ever had before. It’s a new life. And that’s what Arlene does: She changes lives. She not only changed my life, she armed me with the savvy and confidence I need to put my feet down confidently on the next rung of my career ladder, whenever that will be. Arlene taught me to fit myself into a position, not compete for it. And on the day when I take that next step up the professional ladder, I’ll say hello to my future and good-bye to Petunia.
In his humorous style, David does a wonderful job of describing his frustration with Petunia, and how he never gave in to her questions about salary. Yet he made it very clear to her, Carey, and the others at the dinner interview that he wanted the position, something I had told him was very important to do. If a search consultant is representing you, it’s critical for you to let that person negotiate the terms of your offer. In chapter twelve, I will explain how to manage your interaction with a search consultant to get the package you want and how to manage the employer yourself to do the same.
I shared David’s story to demonstrate the importance of managing the process during an interview. If David had disclosed what he wanted as a salary, I would not have been able to negotiate an optimal compensation package. The winning candidate must become a master strategist, managing the process with attention to the “devil’s details.”