Battle Stories from the Job Front

Though many people may negate this statement but I can honestly say that I enjoy being interviewed for a new executive position.  It allows me the opportunity to meet new people, explain my philosophy on life and to dissect the group dynamics of how the selection is being made.  I do enjoy the game despite the fact that I have had too many negative responses to my positive personal sales pitch over the years.  Of course every selection committee and executive search firm are different.  There are many true professionals who partake in this process and then there are those who you are thankful to know ahead of time how dysfunctional they are and that maybe they should select anyone but you.

The reason why I recall one association is because I was lamenting the fact that I was not selected for the job and then I finally realized that it was quite miniscule compared to the fact that the world was coming to an end (or at least we thought it was at the time).  On 9/10/01 I was informed that I was not selected for a position that I really coveted.  The organization brought my wife and I to assess the city, they even had us look at real estate in town.  During the four or five hours that I spent in office with the sizable staff it became very apparent that most individuals that I spoke with that they were quite direct that they really were not fond of a certain person on staff. Matter of fact many were quite direct that if she was advanced as the new Exec that they would be looking elsewhere.  Of course as you can imagine, the Board did select just that person.  I never did hear how many staff members departed but it is interesting to note that she remains the CEO almost ten years later.  Though many employment experts downgrade the input staff should have in the selection process, in this case it is quite apparent that no one took it upon themselves to talk to the staff!

Another example of short-sidednesss by an association Board was a group that I interviewed twice with.  The initial interview took place in an airport in the midwest.  My appointment was for 10:00 AM.  I woke early and took my time preparing for the interview with the selection committee.  At 8:30 AM I receive a phone call from the group asking me where I was.  Upon additional reflection they realized their error but needless to say my heart took a skip or two as I considered how fast I could shower and get downstairs for the interview.  Whether they felt guilty or I indeed nailed the interview, I was advanced to the final interview with the full board with 2 other candidates at their meeting later that month in Montreal. 

As I have remarked previously I have had many of these interviews over the years but I must admit that this episode was unique; very unique.  I brought my wife with me since Montreal was where we honeymooned and coincidentally this final interview was on our Anniversary in one of our favorite cities in the world.  Well, what makes this selection process so unique was that all three candidates, unbeknownst to me and probably the others were invited to dinner the night prior to the interviews with the Board Members.  Here we are meeting each other over drinks.  Talk about awkward and of course guess where my wife and I end up –  at the table with the Board Chair and his wife!  Thankfully it was an uneventful evening and the other two candidates and myself walked out of that hotel wondering what other surprizes were instore for us the next day.

The hour long interview went well but it became quite obvious that the Board was quite interested in a low-ball salary.  I was told that I would be contacted via phone in my hotel room by 5:00 PM and be prepared if you were selected to go to dinner again with the Board.  Of course no phone call came by 5:00 and I contacted the staff member who worked with the Board.  She was shocked that I hadn’t been told that I was not selected but more importantly she was wondering why I wasn’t at dinner because the Board extended an invitation to all 3 candidates despite the fact that two of us would be sitting there wondering why we were not chosen.  I don’t know if the other rejected candidate went to dinner but I certainly didn’t. Awkward prior to the interview is one thing, awkward after being rejected is just out-of-the-question.

Now you know why I mentioned that there are many wonderful individuals in the executive search community but unfortunately there are others who have no idea what they are doing and certainly need additional planning before they proceed to hire the best person for the job.  In many ways you do need to laugh it off and write it off as an interesting experience because there is no other way you can explain the end-result.  It sure is better than crying!


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