Paying Attention to Signals During Your Search

Coaching executive job hunters is a great way to be reminded of seemingly small things that become magnified in the course of interviews. I thought I would point out a few of the signals to look out for subtle signals that occur in the course of your job search, whether you are conducting an executive  job search or a staff level search.

8 Signals to Look Out For

  1. Your calls are not returned (quickly). Do you remember dating and feeling the good feelings with someone? They called or texted and you responded quickly, right? I don’t care where you are in the interview cycle, if a firm is in love with a job hunter, they communicate, even if it is to say, “We need a few more days.” At best, it is stalling for time while they “date” other people.
  2. The language of the interviewer sends a signal of concern.  Have you ever been asked a question about something that is nowhere  in your resume? Perhaps HR or a contingency recruiter asks something like, “By any chance, do you have experience with . . . ” Usually, the signal they are sending is that our thinking has changed (or is evolving) and this item is now important. Instead of an immediate direct response, consider asking, “Is this an important criteria for selecting someone? I don’t recall it being part of  the position description you forwarded to me. Did I miss it?” Asking clarifies the intention of the question.
  3. The job offer is lower than you were led to believe it would be. The signal can hold a particularly painful message. Again, using the dating metaphor, “Your OK but we’re just not that in to you.” It may also mean, “As an employer, we like to get discounts for everything, even you. Even if it means losing someone, our values say that we like a bargain.”
  4. They start talking about wanting to hire “team players.” I loathe this phrase.  They are not trying to hire “Miss Congeniality” or  a “really nice guy.” The firm’s bureaucratic communications style is telling you to shut up and do what you are told to do in the way we tell you to do it. You are not expected to think (other than what you want in your coffee).
  5. We offer lunch and dinner at your desk.” We expect you to work like an animal. Don’t expect to see your wife/husband/partner/kids Paying Attention to Signals During Your Searchexcept on the weekends and while they sleep. If we could install a colostomy bad to remove waste products we would. We own your ass even though we smile at you regularly.
  6. We are going for 10X growth. This one has multiple meanings. The first one is that instead of using percentage to describe the impact of your work (My sales were 400% of quote), you use their preferred communications (I increased the group’s performance by 4X.”) They are also telling you, “My butt is on the line. I need to hire someone to join me on this mission. Are you willing to fight windmills and go down with the ship with me if necessary.”
  7. “We want people to look at the total compensation of the offer, not just simply the base salary.” We know you are earning $450,000 per year plus bonus but our maximum base is ($250,000/$325,000 . . . some lesser number). Our bonus can bring you back up to $650 or 7. You’re OK with that, right?” Caveat emptor! When you’re fired because of some reorg or economic setback that has nothing to do with you, you will not get that bonus. In addition, your next employer will be looking at your base salary with this firm and creating it’s compensation offer based upon that salary, not the $450,000 you earned before. Your powers of persuasion are unlikely to convince the next firm to go back to that level.
  8. They tell you you were referred to them but won’t tell you by whom. There are several possibilities occurring. The first one is absolutely legitimate–the person who referred you doesn’t want to risk getting into trouble because they still work with your firm. Another possibility is that they still work for your firm or consult to your firm and they are trying to get you out of the picture. They are referring you to eliminate a possible competitor (or, in the case of a consultant, cause your firm to create the possibility that their contract be extended). The third possibility as that you are just being lied to. Which ever it is, proceed with caution.

Hiring has a lot of theater associated to it and is very much like dating. Everyone is on good behavior and trying to present themselves in the best possible light . . . You are, they are, heck, even search firms and recruiters are!

However, it is critical for you to pay attention, not just to what is said but what is not said and notice signals that the other sides are sending.


© The Big Game Hunter, Inc. Asheville, NC  2017       


For more, read, “5 Things C Level Professionals Should Always Be Doing When Engaged in a Job Search.

Jeff Altman, The Big Game Hunter is a coach who worked as a recruiter for what seems like one hundred years. His work involves life Jeff Altman, The Big Game Huntercoaching, as well as executive job search coaching and business life coaching.

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