By Chris Mykrantz
Oh, I’ve had a few close calls. Early on in my search I was sure I’d landed something very attractive. I’d interviewed at one of the world’s largest discount brokerage companies in Omaha. The company had narrowed their list of candidates down to two or three, so it seemed they were close to making a decision. After a really positive round of interviews, I had some extra time before I needed to head to the airport. The internal recruiter called me a cab, and instructed the driver to drive me around Omaha, especially through some of the city’s nicer neighborhoods and scout out homes for sale, so I could get a sense of where we might want to relocate.
That was a first for me—a prospective employer having me shown around town for some initial house hunting—and I took it as a very positive sign. When I returned home, I did some research on the real estate market, thinking I might have an offer in the works. My wife and I even had a list of properties we’d be interested in seeing right away. Then nothing happened for a week … two weeks … three weeks … a month. I’d had the interviews the Monday before Thanksgiving, and it was now mid-December and neither I nor the headhunter had heard anything.
Then I had a call from the headhunter. The client had fired them. I was too stunned to ask why. She probably wouldn’t have told me, anyway. But she assured me I was still a legitimate candidate for the job, even though I’d been surfaced by the headhunter. That charade only lasted a few weeks, though. Right after Christmas, the internal recruiter called me. They’d made an offer to a candidate they found on their own. Well, of course they did. That excused them from paying 40 percent of my starting salary to a search firm they’d fired.
Another of the stranger scenes from this surreal experience I’ve been living came after I’d interviewed for a job at big consumer goods company in Michigan. Again, great interviews all day long. The only glitch in the day was that the department VP was called away on an emergency, so I didn’t get to talk with her. But when I left, I was assured they’d reschedule that interview for a date within the next week.
They didn’t. I’d interviewed in early February. When I hadn’t heard anything by the end of the month, I started blowing up the headhunter’s phone to find out what was going on. He said they’d told him that I was their best candidate. In fact, out of the all of the candidates they’d seen, they’d tossed out everyone but me. But they wanted to see more candidates. Be patient, he said. Once they see they can’t find anyone with a better background than you, they’ll make you an offer.
Now this job had been on every job board I’d reviewed for months and many of the contingent headhunters in the market for communication jobs had jumped on board to forward candidates, as well. So, I had no idea what made them think they were going to find someone who hadn’t already applied for this role in the last four months. At least I was still in the hunt, I assured myself.
Another month went by. Nothing. Then the headhunter called me. They hadn’t seen any more candidates, he said. Couldn’t find any more who were really qualified for the role. So I’m the last one standing, I assumed. Wrong. They were cutting me loose, too, he told me. Why? “We’ll they decided you’re just not the right fit for the team.” Huh? That dreaded all-purpose explanation again. It took them seven weeks to figure that out?
Oh … by the way … this all transpired in early 2010. Sixteen months later, this same job is once again all over the internet boards. If at first you don’t succeed …
I recently interviewed at a company I thought I’d really enjoy working for. Spent the requisite day meeting everyone, including the Chairman and CEO … all good interviews I thought. What made this company interesting is that the Chairman was the founder of the company, and had based his entire corporate culture on a book I’d read 15 years ago, Hal Rosenbluth’s “The Customer Comes Second.” And there was no mistaking, it was his culture.
I’d used elements of Rosenbluth’s approach at Conrail years ago … very successfully. And now here was an opportunity to put the entire approach into practice at an organization I was sure already understood the value.
I didn’t get that job either. The day after I’d returned from the interviews, I got a call from the headhunter, who told me they were moving two other candidates to the final round. I was out. I asked why. He told me that they thought I was too calm. (Note to self: next time you interview, act nervous and get up and run around the room in the middle of the interview.) I told him that’s just how I am. I’ve presented to way too many large groups and individual clients, and been through too many crisis situations that required a clear head to get rattled in a job interview.
The headhunter then told me that he talked with the hiring manager for 45 minutes about how she had never seen anyone with a background as extensive as mine, or who knew as much about employee communications and change management as I did. He said never in his entire career had he spoken for 45 minutes with a client about a candidate they were NOT hiring. I wondered if I should at least be glad I’d provided him with a new career milestone.
I had one recruiter from an international consulting firm tell me I was too experienced for a regional practice lead job that her hiring manager—the national practice lead—had open, and the only job the national lead would consider hiring me for was hers. Obviously, that job was already filled, and I resisted the urge to ask the recruiter if she knew when her hiring manager intended to move on, so I could get my résumé in early.
And then there was the opportunity I tried to create opening up an office in the Midwest or East Coast for a large West Coast boutique firm. I’d approached the owner with the idea, and she seemed quite fired up about it. But a few weeks after our second or third conversation, she told me that she wanted to open an office in London first and she was scrapping plans for the Eastern U.S. That seemed a bit odd to me, especially considering I’d come to her with a well-developed set of client contacts and no non-compete agreement in play. She decided on Europe first, she said, because she wanted her kids to grow up in London.
I wish I was making this stuff up. But I’m not.
Tomorrow Chris wraps up his piece by contemplating his possible future, "working the counter at Speedway or Circle K." —DM