When looking out for a new candidate, firms do have a whole armada of people working “with you”: An executive search guru who finds alternatives besides you on the short list. Their HR director to assess you and squeeze your salary – his primary job! The Lawyer who is preparing a contract on the firm’s terms, not yours. A sales plan master who will put the carrot just right in front of you, but will you be able to each it? A “compliance master” who will generate you break points to get you out fast if you are not needed any longer..
Really? So why then don’t you have the senior executive position you want – yet? Okay, let’s get serious, you are at the losing end of a game that is predetermined who is supposed to win.
1. Finding the right employer first is the first key aspect. You do not need to send your old crappy CV to 200 people. One or two good addresses will do. However, byust applying “blindly” to job portals, your CV will be considered “dead meat”, especially in the higher ranks. It feels like at 3am in a suburban discotheque. Too much choice, so you better stay away. Therefore it makes better sense to directly target the right employers – maximum three – and ask yourself: “Why should I spend my time with that shop?” “What do they have to offer to me, besides money?” Always be aware that money is being printed continuously, so it is just a matter of technique to roll it into your pockets, but your time runs out faster than you think. Therefore, be picky and – also think it through: “What is special that can I offer them, given their current circumstances?”. They might be in a situation where they need drastic change, because their numbers suck, and maybe you are the silver bullet. Or – as it is the majority of the jobs in the “old economy”: many companies had too many eager strategists on the top. As a consequence they had too much change and want to have some continuity – means: you get paid for a couple of years by just DOING NOTHING! PS: A good colleague of mine became the CEO of such a company just because her track record was exactly that. So why not use your track record of either being a game changer or a ehm… “person of continuity..”, as long as you are clear about this, you can target the next step.
2. TALK VALUE AND PRICE and not salary cost. What might the job be worth? Put yourself into the shoes of an employer. What does an employer want? Typically, he wants a person who performs a job – a function for his business in a more or less risk-free way. The lower the perceived risk a person does provide to fulfil a job, the better it is. Sometimes there are risky jobs. So there is a risk premium for the risk somebody takes. Either the employer or the employee. And if the employee is ready to take on risk – business risk, reputation risk or whatever, the rewards can be big!
Usually, there are two ways of looking at a job: One is cost, and the other is value. Most of the candidates work on the cost side. This of course is good for employers, because there might always be one who works his ass off for less. But for the better? And this is where you come into play. So how much extra profit will you deliver, risk free? How sure can you make a big project run smoothly? How well can you cover your bosses ass? And by the way, that’s the only thing that counts, at the end. Let me give you an example. Normally, the order entry guys are extremely underpaid people. But a friend of mine was the head of the order entry department of a larger IT firm,. He got paid almost the same as the head of sales, because he knew how work the system. And there are thousands if not millions of examples where people have exactly shown their specific VALUE.
3. Make an assessment of your credentials. So: business continuity (italian: dolce far niente) or game changer (italian: revoluzione!). Does your CV tell this? What is your track record? And does it show? Does your CV smell like Che Guevara or rather like an accounting professional? Whatever it is, take a position! Is your CV really up-to-date? The last time – when you got hired you polished your CV, it might have been at the height of an employment cycle. Maybe you just got hired by recommendation – and this means: nobody really cared about your CV, they took you just because you were not fast enough to say no. So maybe it is a good timeto revisit your CV from ground up. Same as with PR people, there areprofessional companies capable to write you a good CV (I know some), and better spend a couple of hundred bucks on a good CV and a well-written cover letter than wondering for months how your CV scored. By the way: “scored” is the right word – most HR screening systems – especially in Tech and IT do automated pre-screening and filtering, so only CVs that match the pattern of those systems will get passed. So better by-pass that step and circumvent HR.
4. Never trust HR! Let me share an experience: Apart from a few golden hand-picked exceptions of HR colleagues I admire and appreciate, there are few really good HR people. And in order to excel and justify their existence, they try to make your life miserable. How does it work: HR will pretend to be your friend, but same as procurement departments for suppliers: They inflate the number of applicants through artificial choice and through that, they try to reduce the overall costs of personnel. Their job is to squeeze your price! That cost reduction then goes in parts into their pockets as a pay check, and maybe some goes back to the shareholders. In fact, that is the business case for HR. So don’t expect anything from them. Most bosses also don’t understand that simple formula, maybe except a good old big-wig CEO. He knows that game, maybe he even has invented it. So it is best to by-pass HR from the start and work out a deal with your future boss and ask him to get your job through then. Here, you already will see whether he or she is a real boss or whether this is just a douche you cannot trust for the rest of your employment life. By the way, I speak out of experience. The best bosses taught me how to treat HR as tools. This is what they are, tools. And good MBA books teach exactly that. Leave away that folklore, they are tools. So golden rule again: Never trust HR.
5. So, you got your letter ready, your CV and want to target that right company, maybe you even found the right boss? So why hasn’t he/she contacted you yet? Well, here is where it starts: As soon as you contact your future boss for a job first, your price goes down! “Ah, a cheap person, who wants to work here. Why on earth… well because we are great… maybe he needs to learn..” As soon as your future boss contacts you for a job your price will go up, so sometimes they actually refrain from doing so. A catch-22 situation. So better finding a trusted advisor who can “broker” you, means sell you and also do the political navigation first, before you burn yourself… i.e. following up with that bosses assistant when the next interview round is, give hints on how to work HR, how many interview steps are there and so on… take a person you can trust, and who has a track record in your industry. This person will cut a deal by selling you, so his interest – besides a good track record with the employer is work you up the ladder as high as possible. Let that person send out your CV to two companies and let them start compete for you!
6. The final negotiation. You had your three interviews, and hopefully everything went well. You get an offer. It might be an e-mail with the terms and conditions and you might be pleased. Your first intention might be to sign immediately, because you think that will please your future employer. Nope. Don’t sign, it’s a trap! If you sign without negotiation, you will be considered a wimp without a backbone, especially by HR (what did I write just three paragraphs above). Now you can use them in your favour. Because usually here, an offer gets passed via HR (that’s company policy in 99,9% of the corporates) and they always keep something in the back-pocket for negotiations – and like this again, they want to prove their value! Take that value, it is yours! Typical room for negotiation is: 5-15% on the base salary, depending how desperately they want you, 20% on the bonus and a whole lot of extra fringe benefits, you can usually trade up from coach to business class flights and let this be written in your contract, have a better company car, you can pre-agree on a salary increase within 12 months or at least you can have something like extra health insurance for your partner, spouse or your dog. Definitely, you also want to have that privilege to take your pet to the office or other things, such as a commitment for a personal assistant etc… Also, you should have a minimum fixed term of employment, i.e. three years. This guarantees you at least some comfort when they want to fire you later. Also, you might consider a tax-exemption program when you travel a lot abroad, usually a global employer can work miracles. Key is to take a long list into the negotiation round and then: Ask a good employment lawyer to work that crap out with HR. Might cost you another 1000 euros or even more, but this is worth the money. Don’t do this by yourself, there is a golden rule: You talk to your boss, your lawyer works out HR. You can stay in your comfort zone and do not need to wrestle in the mud. Do as the bosses do.
7. I said, you send out two CVs, remember? There must be one loser out now. Therefore you are now at the point where you need to write a phony and sad letter saying “thank you very much for all your efforts, however there was a company that was just better than you. I therefore wish you all the best for your future.” Maybe you even can recommend your best friend Jeff for that job. They should be thankful.
Then you can start. Get your job as the bosses do!
(First Picture: Dog at the window Licensed via Shutterstock, Bildnummer: 193579130 Urheberrecht: sivivolk/Shutterstock)