In the past 6 months, I’ve been actively seeking employment. I’ve interviewed with so many companies, I can’t remember them all anymore. I’ve applied to even more.
I’ve done recruiter screens, phone interviews, in person interviews. Most of them are pretty vanilla, honestly. It’s a dance between the interviewer trying to sell the candidate on the awesomeness of the company & role while still objectively screening the interviewee who is trying to convey exactly how perfect they would be with this particular widget company selling widgets.
I like to let the interviewer open up the stage. They set the tone. They invited me to this dance, so they get first chance to lead. Formal? Casual? Candid? Firing squad? Do they want to get a sense of my personality or just my skill set? Are they more conversational or god-help-us-all are they using the dreaded behavioral questionnaire format?
I’m allowed to hate this behavior interview style because I have a master’s degree in behavior analysis – I know exactly how and why each question was written, what they want to hear and how to deliver it. Every single behavioral interview question should be answered in some variation of – Situational Assessment, Task at Hand, Action, Result. Here’s a hint – most people spend waaaaaay too much time babbling about the situation and task and gloss over the most important part – the RESULT. If the result was not positive, you should explain how you would fix it in the future to get a better result. I’ve had more than one interviewer tell me I’m the best they’ve ever seen at handling this style…I mean the reason is right there on my resume. But I digress. I respectfully dislike behavioral interviews the most.
At least that’s what I thought until I had my in-person interview with this particular widget supplier. I applied for the position because it was local but gave me a chance to still network with large scale CPG companies. Perfect transitionary role back into sales.
Interview #1 was a phone call. Totally standard. He introduced himself as the President/CEO/Owner of this widget company. Oh, local start-up. Very intriguing. It was fashion widget company, which was my second choice. My preference would be beauty CPG, but hey, beauty & fashion are like brow liner and eye liner. You don’t need to have fashion and beauty on the same day – but why would you line your eyes and ignore your brows?
My first impression was this guy was a flustered young entrepreneur who was probably highly creative but had no business actually managing anything. He literally said, “So how should we do this?” I have never once had an interviewer convey to me that he had no idea how to conduct an interview process. I literally thought I might be his first employee and I almost found it endearing. I watch Silicon Valley on HBO Go – I figured he must be like the geeky CEO of Pied Piper, but the fashion version. Guilty admission – I love geeky guys. Something in me clicked after seeing Val Kilmer in True Genius and I’ve been hooked on geeks ever since. I’ve married two. Their special blend of social ineptness and brilliance makes me feel needed and challenged all at once. I find it irresistible. But, I’m job hunting, not dating here. So I’m not going to lie, internal warning bell #1 just went off.
I suggested we meet 1:1 either in his office or over lunch. I thought he could decide if he wanted casual or formal. He opted for the formal office interview. Groovy, on it.
I get to his office and he actually has roughly 10 employees, all women. Not always a bad thing…but darn that psychology degree has my warning bell humming. Two chances here 1) he’s a highly progressive guy who values female leaders and has made his life’s mission to use his business as a platform to give women experience in sales 2) he’s a super insecure guy who sees women as inferior and therefore are less likely to challenge his fragile sense of superiority and manliness. 50/50 chance here. I’m still hoping for Val Kilmer.
Then Mr. CEO/President/Owner steps out of his corner office (the only one with a door in the building). He is decidedly not Val Kilmer from True Genius. He’s a midwest version of Ralph Lauren. He’s an older gentleman in an over-startched, overpriced, brightly colored button-up long sleeve gingham shirt that I’m sure he has in ever color. I’m already picturing the Mercedes and luxury golf clubs. New impression. This guy built a business from selling fashion to his friends at the country club almost by accident and now he doesn’t know how to manage it. Warning Bell #2 rattles away.
He asks me to fill out a job application. Somewhat standard again – even with salaried positions I generally have to do a formal application at some point in the process. His asks for my high school – warning bell. No one cares where someone with a Bachelors or Masters degree went to high school unless you were on the Science Olympiad team with the now CEO of a major CPG company (again…me and the geeks).
We proceed to his office. He says it’s going to be very casual and normally that’s my preference. However, I am starting to get the impression that we are going casual because he doesn’t know what to do. He asks me if I am familiar with on-line sales – and just as I am about to answer with robust explanation of my omni-channel new product and catalog launch strategies utilizing social media, .com sales and brick & mortar, he interrupts me. He interrupts me and says…no I can’t make this up “Oh of course you shop on line, you are a woman.”
At this point, I’ve checked out of this interview. I’m going to politely and professionally continue the interview, but I don’t plan to talk to Mr. CEO/President/Owner ever…again.
He tells me how his sales business is 100% relationship building. He claims he can tell you the details of every single person he sells products to…he claims to know their kids names, their pets, and the ages of their kids…yet when I ask about 3-4 specific companies as prospective business opportunities for him he tells me he is not sure if he does business with them or not. I tell him about major marketing opportunities with THE major retailer in our market and he’s never heard of the events even though they are probably the two biggest community events for this retailer.
He tells me this role will manage an established $4M account, although he plans to still “lead” it but “isn’t sure how that will look or what role he will actually play”. He also expects the role to bring in an additional 20 accounts for an estimated incremental $2M in net sales. First, those are super tiny accounts and I think he senses that because he becomes defensive. He blurts out, “I’m not L’Oreal and I’m not Unilever and I’m not Meijer, but I know my business can do great things!” I agree with him – his business honestly probably could do great things with the right account manager. I see lots of potential and my mind is trying to decide if dealing with his brand of personal issues is worth the continued interaction with the top CPG companies I know I could land for him. Essentially, is the opportunity worth letting him build an empire on my back?
Then he talks salary. He looks at my most recent salary and says that is too high for him. Ok, I ask him what he sees as a fair salary for someone managing roughly $6M in sales. He brings out a number that is literally LESS than HALF my most recent position. At this point, I’m just trying to decide if I should feel sorry for him, laugh, or go comic dead pan and just get up and leave.
By the grace of the almighty, he decides to ramble a bit more about his love of Feng Shui and his belief in 100% relationship selling. He tells me he reads faces and automatically knows a person within 30 seconds. He then thanks me for my time and wishes my son and daughter well in their new school year – especially my son in his senior year. He hopes my husband continues his success at a company I’ve never heard of before…definitely not the one I told him he actually works for.
I have two boys. They are in 6th and 7th grade.
But while we are on the “proof in relationship selling skills” – deep breath – Mr. CEO/President/Owner has a dog that loves to lie upside down on her bed. He used to have a fancy spaniel of sorts (one of the snobby kinds rich people get to look impressive). His wife had a colored pencil drawing made of it – and then mounted and framed for his office. He marveled at the talent someone has with just a pencil. He had a green and gray agate stone sitting on a round cherry disk on his desk. His side table had Budha and a stone replica reflecting pool.
He walked out of his office after shaking my hand and drove away in his white mercedes.
And in case anyone is still reading…my very first sales rep ever worked for Wrigley (before the merger). I met him in 2005 and haven’t worked with him since 2007. He has 3 kids – a girl and 2 boys. They are all adults now. They are named (in order) with names starting in A, then B, then C. I asked him if he considered a D name and he said “done”. His daughter went to cosmetology school and his two boys both went to Western Michigan. His older son’s first college girlfriend was a nice girl that dad liked – her name was Pam. I’ve often wondered if they stayed together. He didn’t like his daughter’s finance but was doing the best to be an amazing supporting dad. His wife’s name was Laurie and he sadly lost her to cancer. He said she was heavy footed on the breaks but didn’t have the heart to tell her she was causing them so many break jobs on their cars. One of the last things she did before losing her battle to cancer was write the annual family Christmas letter – it was a tradition and despite her failing health she was determined to get that last letter out. He loved to hunt and was teaching it to his sons – he was teaching them to “harvest the deer” not “kill the deer.” He enjoyed brewing his own beer.
So yeah…I do relationships. But my results are based on analytics, business acumen and hard work.