Forget Conventional Wisdom: To Get the Job, Do What Lynn Did

mature-businesswomanI heard a great job search story from a member during the holidays that I just have to share with you.

With a strong career with several large retailers, rising up in the business analysis side of Finance as a Controller, Lynn knew her strengths and loved helping capitalize on relevant and timely information to manage business and profitability. However, despite her strong background, she wasn’t getting callbacks on jobs she thought she was qualified for. As a 50+ executive, she was wondering if her age was impacting her search.

Remarkably, on the Monday a week before Thanksgiving, Lynn got calls on two positions… both wanting to interview her ASAP.

The job at Company A was for a Controller position at a $50M consumer products company selling through retailers; the other was a $300M retailer who wanted to expand rapidly because of a private equity acquisition of the firm in the last month and needed expertise in harnessing business information in the firm.

Key learning: The process is unpredictable. Don’t lose confidence.

Lynn interviewed with both companies stressing her skills and unique value she could bring to each. They were both very interested in her and wanted references and second interviews the week of Thanksgiving.

Ironically, in submitting references, Lynn discovered the CEO of Company A was on the Board of a former boss’ company. Company B also knew her former boss through business dealings. Both got glowing remarks keyed to “must haves.” Her former boss told her it “was a good move on her part to let him know what they wanted.”

Key learning: Make sure you have strong references and coach them on what to emphasize when called.

At this point, Lynn felt that Company A offered more opportunity and was leaning that way. She knew they had another strong candidate with more acquisition background, so she worried she would be a “bridesmaid.” The job at Company B was a job she had done before, so she was confident she could do it. It just seemed to be a more limited opportunity.

The Monday after Thanksgiving she learned the other candidate had gotten the job at Company A. With the different backgrounds, the CEO said it was difficult to decide between them. After the call, Lynn wrote to them and re-emphasized what she thought she could do for them immediately and stated she was still interested if the person didn’t work out.

Key learning: Don’t burn your bridges; always remain positive and reinforce the value you can bring. 

Company B made her an offer on Tuesday, but it was below her minimum salary and bonus requirements, and the health benefits were lacking. Lynn restated what she could do for them when she asked them to reconsider the salary, especially with the poor benefits. The offer was made by the VP of HR and not the CFO she would work for – who really needed her  – so she hoped there was a chance.

Key learning: Always emphasize your value and explore avenues that might make things work. 

On Wednesday, Company A called saying they’d made a mistake! They found the money to hire both candidates and wanted her as Controller. The other person would be put in another top financial position more in-line with his skills in acquisitions and finance. They made Lynn a substantial offer and asked if she would attend their company holiday party to meet more of the management team.

That afternoon, right before going to the holiday party, the CFO of Company B called back with a more substantial offer – performance bonuses and salary to compensate for the poor benefit plan. He also said that because of her analysis he planned to review company-wide benefits in January. This offer was so good she now was leaning to Company B.

She went to the party and liked them all. She left the party leaning toward Company A.

All night, she mulled the offers.

The next morning she decided she needed to meet more of the management team for Company B. She got to meet the CIO and Controller that day. The chemistry was good and the CIO said they were investing heavily in data infrastructure and thought her job would be central to growth in pinpointing store expansion and management. Excited, Lynn was finally sure and accepted the offer from Company B.

Key learning: Play your hand to the end. Make sure you have everything you need to make the right decision.

That was some ride for Lynn! Now, in her second month with Company B, she’s very happy with her choice and realizes her age didn’t hold her back in either situation – in fact, both needed mature, experienced management and skills from someone who could deliver right away. More than half the management teams of both companies were older than she is and able to see her value.

Mark Anderson

Mark Anderson

Mark Anderson is ExecuNet's president and chief economist. An Arjay Miller Scholar, Mark received his MBA from Stanford University and a BA in economics from Yale University. He joined ExecuNet in 1993, with extensive marketing and new product and business development experience, having served as president and founder of A&M Associates, an investment management firm. Mark's corporate leadership experience includes several senior marketing and financial positions with RCA Global Communications (a GE subsidiary) and American Can Company.

No Replies to "Forget Conventional Wisdom: To Get the Job, Do What Lynn Did"