Everything you didn't learn in school that will help you survive the world of work. A place for newbies, for working moms, for seasoned professionals and "free agents" to share strategies, tips and tales from the trenches.

Mar 22, 2011

My Interview Story

Guest Instructor, M. Cipriani

 Whenever things happen that make me think, “This is not how it used to be,”  I realize I am getting old.

I long for the days when job offers were made over the telephone, rather than through email.   When you were courted by a company that wanted to hire you, rather than having to remind them – “Hey, you have a job to fill, remember?”

Perhaps it is the economic downturn that has left the state of human resources and recruitment in such a mess, as those folks along with the sales and marketing teams are usually the first to be escorted to the door.   Perhaps I have unrealistic expectations (that has happened before).

Perhaps you should be the judge.

I would not consider myself to be actively "in the market" for a new position, but I am always open to an opportunity to better my situation.  When a co-worker recently departed my company, she mentioned that there may be an opening for me at her new place of employment, and encouraged me to apply.  She would be happy to refer me, she said.  So I applied.

After a couple of mis-steps, one on my part (sick kids) and one on their part (wrong time zone), I was finally able to speak with the hiring manager by phone.  Apparently, I passed the litmus test, and was invited in for an interview.  A week passed, I did not hear from the recruiter, so I contacted her to find out if there was still interest.  Yes, there was; she’d just been in training all week to learn their new process (a clue).

I  had not been informed that I would be meeting with a host of individuals that day, five to be exact.  This is another part of interviewing I’ve grown to dislike.  Is it really necessary to spend half a day at the company, or longer, meeting everyone from the hiring manager to the cleaning crew?   This isn’t a small, family owned, operation either where you could see fit as an issue, this is a large corporation. Can’t the hiring manager make their own determination about somebody’s character? And, much to my dismay, I hadn’t met everybody I needed to meet, because several key players were unavailable that day.    I would have to come back. 

Now for someone who is in between positions, this may not pose a problem. But for someone who is working full time, I am now using my precious vacation time in order to go to these interviews.  Do I mind?  

Yes, actually, I do.

Since my initial phone screen was actually with the hiring manager, rather than a human resources professional, I had never been appropriately "screened" for this position.  So like any good recruiter, my interviewer attempted to obtain my salary requirements before sending me off to meet the masses.   However, I was already sitting in front of her, and had taken the day off to go to this interview.  The last thing I wanted was for it to be over before it even started.  I did as any prepared candidate would do: I side stepped the issue and we moved on.

The interviews went well.  I learned that a previous candidate had refused the position -- for personal reasons, I was told.   Hmm.
Were there other candidates? No.
Would there be? No.

“We would like you to come back in and meet with a few more people.” Should be music to a candidate’s ears, right?  Since I had not been properly screened for this position, before I spent any more time on it, I wanted to be sure it was worth my while. Having had a long stint of being ‘in between positions” myself, I developed a knack to handicap salaries.   I was somewhat concerned that this position wasn’t as senior as I thought.  I phoned the recruiter and asked her to share the range for the position with me.  I did not ask her to make me an offer, simply to provide some information before I continued.

“We don’t give out that information.”

“How will we get anywhere if you don’t give out that information?” I replied.

“We ask the candidates to tell us what they are making and then go from there.”

Yes, well, I will not be doing that. Perhaps a different tack.

“Well, I think this position may be paying in a range of x to y.  However, I already make more than y, so were you to make me an offer in that range, I would be disappointed, as I’m sure, so would you.   Is this position paying x to y?”

“We could be competitive with that.”

What does that mean? “You must have a budget for the position.”

“Yes, we do.”

“And what would that be?”

A little giggle on the other end of the phone.  Seriously, she laughed at me. She indicated that she would need to speak to the hiring manager before she could provide me with any concrete information.

Since I was sure I had blown it,  I called my reference to let her know what had happened. She didn’t like what she heard and relayed this event to the individual who had recruited her:  the manager of the recruiter I was dealing with.  Imagine my surprise when that afternoon, I received a call from the manager of human resources for this company.

“I just wanted to get some feedback from you on how the process was going.”

I proceeded to have a nice conversation with this woman, who, wonder of wonders, disclosed to me the range for the position.  How refreshing!

I thanked her for the information, as price communicates something about a job.   It tells you about the level of discretion this position will have, the qualifications expected and where it sits in the organization.   Clearly, a job paying $50,000 is not going to have the same level of decision making and autonomy attached to it that a job paying $100,000 will.   She asked me not to disclose to the recruiter that we had this conversation, and to "let the process play out."  I agreed.

The recruiter eventually phoned me back and indicated a range that the hiring manager would be willing to offer. I thanked her as well, and indicated my availability for a second round of interviews.

“My scheduler will be in touch.”
Three business days pass, no word.  The day before the interview was targeted to be scheduled, I prompted her with an email.  “The schedule came out today. Didn’t you receive it?”  Actually, no I didn’t.  I adjusted my schedule so I can attend the second round with members of 2  functional areas that I would be supporting.

Today, I received an email that read as follows:
"both Jim and John enjoyed meeting you. It was also nice to see you again.
I met with Joe Hiring Manager this morning and we are working on putting together an offer for you.
I will be in touch soon."



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