The job market really seems to be opening up, at least where I live, and I have been doing a lot of interviewing lately looking for a new job. What’s wrong with my current job you may ask? There’s several things, but for the purposes of this article let’s just say I’m not confident about the company’s trajectory nor do I feel good about my future opportunities within the company. Also, they are no longer holding the company match to my 401k hostage. So, I’ve been exploring my options in a relaxed way. I certainly believe that the best time to find a new job is when you already have a job. It takes a lot of pressure and desperation out of the mix.
So, I’ve been going through the interviewing process with several companies. Many end quickly, as is often the case. Some companies are too small. Sometimes I’m over-qualified. Sometimes the fit just isn’t right. And, then there’s the company I’m deep into the process with right now where you really like the people and are excited about the prospect. The process with them has been long and pretty extensive.
On April 18th, I saw the job posting and thought it sounded cool so I did what anyone with half a brain would do – I emailed a contact in the company about the job in order to circumvent HR! My contact emailed back to say he did know about the position and we set up a call for the next day. On the 19th we finally connected for about 10 minutes. In that time I learned the position was in the same group where he worked, that I would probably be a good fit for the job, and how many other candidates there were. I emailed him my latest resume and he walked it into the hiring manager’s office. I have to think this is always better than going through HR.
The hiring manager called me the same day and said some nice things about my resume. We chatted for about an hour, and the fit felt good on both sides. We wanted to move the process forward so he had his admin set up the “gauntlet”. You know the gauntlet right? Running the gauntlet refers to the part of the interview process where you go in person to the company and interview with 5-6 members of the team in 45-55 minute segments. It’s exhausting for the candidate and an excellent chance for everyone to get a read on the candidate. For the candidate, he/she can get a glimpse of the personalities on the team and the layout of the office. The gauntlet at this company was April 30th and was fairly typical except they kept me confined to a conference room. I like to go to people’s offices so I can understand more of their essence. It’s harder to find ways to relate when you’re in a sterile setting.
Apparently I successfully completed the run. The hiring manager took me into his office at the end and said I had performed well. He said that they had narrowed it down to two candidates, and then he dropped the next hurdle. He wanted a 5-6 slide PowerPoint on my thoughts on the earnings calls of three of their competitors and the strategic implications for their company. There’s nothing like a very open-ended opportunity to find a way for a candidate to hang himself by saying something stupid about a competitive marketplace he barely understands. The thing to know is that they already know you can’s say something new. What they want to see is how you think and convey that thinking to others. So, I did. I turned it in early on Monday the 6th. I actually thought this would be the end for me. They never provided a single piece of feedback on it. Somehow I must have showed them something they were looking for because they set up a call with their VP for May 8th.
And, they let me know they now had 3 candidates but that was because they expanded my candidacy to 2 openings. Apparently I was seen as a decent crossover candidate for both positions while the other 2 candidates clearly fell into 1 position or the other. I thanked them for considering me, and let them know I was a little concerned about being the ‘almost good enough’ candidate for 2 jobs. They were reassuring though saying that’s very unlikely to happen given how long they’ve been looking for the right person.
The call with the VP was pretty pleasant. I think I interview well over the phone. I have a colloquial yet educated style that tends to put people at ease. I’m also honest to a fault which helps in having transparent conversations about strengths and weaknesses. In the end, she seemed to like me, and thought she seemed reasonable as well. I thought I was finally done. I even joked that I hoped the next round would be some sort of physical challenge like running or biking. I was wrong.
The next round turned out to be going back to the company to present a deck of my choosing to the gauntlet as a group. I decided that by now they must be so tired of hearing about what I do that they might be interested in Project X, the business I started that is still in start-up mode 2 years later. That deck was personal and had some funny/memorable pieces in it. On the day of the presentation one of the 2 hiring managers called to offer me encouragement and to let me know that what they really wanted to see was I present in a formal setting. ARE YOU KIDDING ME! This was 2 hours before the presentation, and I still needed to shower and drive there. Have you ever tried to give a serious and formal presentation while presenting a deck with “some funny/memorable pieces”? It’s almost impossible to pull that off. So, I let him know I would have to switch decks at the last minute. He was a bit incredulous which was reasonable, but he understood where I had intended to take it when I explained. I hung up with him and went into panic mode. Except my panic mode tends to be really controlled and logical. I picked up a recent business deck I had made, de-identified the client, and put it on my flash drive. I showered and dressed running through the presentation in my head as I went. Luckily I knew the topic well already.
I hopped in my paid-for ’98 SUV and arrived early. Always arrive early. You never know what kind of logistical problems might happen. I always try to be 15 minutes early. That gives me a good buffer without being annoyingly early and needing a corporate babysitter for too long in places that are really anal about their security.
The presentation was with the 2 hiring managers, my acquaintance that had recommended me, and the VP via Skype. It was all pretty routine and professional, pretty much just what they were asking for. I answered a few more questions and then the VP said hey since we have you here and have a little time let’s go through your other presentation too. What! I had just gotten through everything and was already writing the ‘thank you’ notes in my head and now you want me to do another presentation? Of course I said sure. Luckily this presentation was the one I had specifically prepared. They seemed to like it too and laughed at the appropriate places. We wrapped up from there, and they escorted me out. As we were walking I asked how it was going and he said you had to know it was going well when we asked you to present the second deck. So, I felt encouraged. I inquired as to the next touch points/decision-making phase, and they implied that would be coming soon.
I hurried home and wrote my Thank You emails. I know I haven’t mentioned it, but Thank You notes are critical in my book to the job search. I sent them at every stage of the process. Gratitude and humility in the hiring process is important from both sides. I know when I’m interviewing candidates I pay attention to the type of Thank You’s they send. (Sidebar: My Mom actually got the job she held for 15 years because of the Thank You note she sent. Thank You notes MATTER!) I sent the notes and got some nice replies. Then I waited. And waited.
I waited a week with no contact. Waiting is hard!
I almost waited 2 weeks, but then I got a note that they were still in process. OK, fine I’ll wait some more.
2 more weeks pass. My enthusiasm is losing steam, and I’m a little miffed at the lack of communication compared to the earlier process, but I get another note that they’re still in process.
Meanwhile I get a different job offer. I consider it, and then turn it down. Not the right fit for my family.
Now 5 weeks in, I call to get an update. No reply. I’m done chasing them.
2 weeks later HR calls to say I’m still in the running. Yippee, kind of.
We’re now well over 2 months into this process. It takes time. Be patient. It will all work out I tell myself.
Then, a couple of days later HR called. I didn’t get it. Neither position. My worst nightmare. Big sigh. Argh.
I followed up with both hiring managers. Each was very kind and said I was a solid fit. There was a just a stronger fit from another candidate for both roles. Listening to them talk, I agreed.
Overall I learned a lot in the process of these interviews. Much of it reinforced my instincts and MBA learnings – be yourself, be organized, be kind to everyone, be grateful for the opportunity, and be patient. Also, I now have more allies in that company should another opening arise.
So, what this means is you might be hearing more from me in the future because I’m stuck here in my cushy work-from-home day job blogging on the side for a while longer! First world problems. :-)