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Tuesday, June 30, 2009

using jealousy to push a company to make an offer

A reader writes:

Three weeks ago, I interviewed for a job with a major media company. This was/is a dream job . I was interviewed by HR, and after the interview I was taken to a second interview on the same day with my potential supervisor. I believed both interviews went well and was even given an homework assignment to test my skills and qualifications.When I got home later that day, I sent the HR person a thank you note but not my potential supervisor. Was this a mistake?

Four days later, I turned in my assignment to my potential supervisor but I did not receive a confirmation email from him stating that the assignment was received. I wrote a follow-up email asking for confirmation two days later. My letter was a formal, succinct letter, nothing unusual. I felt it I should be formal with my potential supervisor because we are not peers, so addressing him by his first name was a no-no.

Within minutes of my email, I received this note from him: "Received. You will hear from us shortly." No salutations, no closing, just those words.

This email was received about two weeks ago. Since then I have spoken to my references and was told by all of them that no one contacted them about me. These are references from individuals whom I trust to tell me the truth, individuals who are forthright and are great communicators.

A few days ago, I accepted a non-paying position at a company owned by a friend. The position is similar to the one I interviewed for. Although I accepted this job, I am still interested and enthusiastic about working with the media company. I want to show them that I am in demand as well as a valuable candidate. Also: As the job duties with the other company amounts to something that is part-time and unpaid, in the short term, I am hoping that by informing them of my new circumstances, they will give me an answer about the job I interviewed for. Is this crazy?

In informing them of my new situation, I do not want to communicate to them that I am impatient or desperate ( I really am) so what do I do? Should I forget this experience and move on or should I forge ahead and gamble? If I gamble, how do I inform them that I am doing the same thing somewhere else but am still interested in working them? I do not want to communicate that I am unreliable or unfaithful. Please advise.

1. I wouldn't say that only sending a thank-you note to the HR rep and not the hiring manager was a mistake per se, but it would be better to send it to both of them. Of the two, if you were only going to send one, I'd send it to the hiring manager, as he has more influence at this stage over whether you're hired. But that's unlikely to make or break you so you really shouldn't worry too much about it -- although it's not too late to send a follow-up note now.

2. His note confirming receipt of your exercise was a bit brusque, but I wouldn't read anything into that, other than that he's busy.

3. Now as for your major question, whether to tell them that you've accepted a non-paying position: No. For several reasons:

a. First, unless you're very specific that it's short-term and the employer is okay with you leaving at any time, they'll assume you're now committed elsewhere. I would be very hesitant to hire a candidate who just accepted a different position, as her willingness to screw over that employer would be a huge negative. You can explain the situation of course, but then they're just going to wonder why you're telling them at all.

b. The fact that it's non-paying may potentially devalue you in their eyes. I'm not saying it should, but it could. I don't see enough benefit to justify that risk.

c. You're really just looking for ways to push them into action, right? This won't do it. There are only two ways to push a prospective employer into action, and neither of them are guaranteed:

- You can mention that you have another offer and a deadline for answering it. (This is not something you should lie about, since they may just tell you they can't meet your deadline and so you should take it -- and then you're out of the running with them. So you should only do this if it's true.)

- You can contact the hiring manager, reiterate your strong interest, and ask for a timeline. This may or may not get them moving, but it's really all you can do.

(Wow, check out this outline format I used above. The numbers, the letters, the dashes...)

Meanwhile, continue your job search. Hopefully you'll hear from this company with good news, but you can't plan around that. You've got to keep searching until you have an offer in hand. Good luck!


J.T. O'Donnell said...

I'm with Ask A Manager on who to send the thank you note to - it's a clear and simple sign of respect to send a thank you to everyone you interview, especially your potential manager.

While Ask A Manager is being more optimistic, I'm going to say that I think not sending the note did potentially cost you the job. To not send the thank you to the person that is ultimately going to decide to hire you, while a judgment error on your part, is most likely being seen as someone who doesn't understand the basics of professional follow through. If this hiring manager is a stickler for things like that, then he most likely has decided you would show more of the same on-the-job.

I'd focus on your new opportunity, learn from the mistake, and not push the media company too hard. You can't control the outcome at this point, especially if you try to strong-arm them by saying you've got another offer. Wait to hear from them.

Perhaps, in a week or so, you could send the hiring manager an e-mail with a link to an article you found interesting and relevant to the conversations you shared in your interview. This would be a way to provide him value and show your respect. It might also help to build the relationship.

I hope it works out!


Charles said...

AAM - yea, great outline, except on my PC the hierarchy of the outline does not indent like it should ;)

As far as the advice; I agree, I would at this point start moving on. While I think it is possible for them to still consider you I wouldn't hold my breath.

Nor would I do any more follow-up. As a job seeker myself I am always afraid of crossing that line from "follow-up" to "stalking."

I'm not quite sure where it is so I err on the side of caution.

I send a thank you to all parties that I interviewed with; and then a follow up email a week or so later to the HR contact. Should I be doing more? Such as what J.T. suggests - send an email linking to an interesting article? Is this what folks have to do to be taken as a serious and interested candidate? Isn't it "over the top"?

Boy, I'd really love to know if my not being "pro-active" enough is hurting my chances at landing a job.

Joselle said...

If it feels better to follow-up one more time using the timeline method suggested by AAM, go for it. Regardless of whether that works or not, continue on your job search. There are definitely other jobs out there that you'll really want and will actually get.

Ask yourself, do you want to work for a company that you have to chase? Maybe you do and that's okay. But think about what you want and if they will be able to give that to you. This is your job search, too. It's not just about getting a company to pick you. You pick them, too.

Ask a Manager said...

J.T., would you really reject an otherwise awesome candidate for not sending a thank-you note? I notice who does and doesn't send a thank-you note and it becomes part of my overall impression, but I've never made the decision solely on that. So that's interesting if others do.

Charles, I suspect your fear of appearing stalkerish is probably unwarranted -- stalkerish is calling constantly, following up earlier than when they told you to, etc. This post might be helpful.

Joselle, amen to "It's not just about getting a company to pick you. You pick them, too."

TheLabRat said...

"I would be very hesitant to hire a candidate who just accepted a different position, as her willingness to screw over that employer would be a huge negative."

I wish more employers thought as you. I've had interviewers literally tell me I needed to do just that and drop previous commitments to meet their expectations. I mean, I'd understand if it wee something along the lines of "we were hoping for someone who could start right away. Can you work out other arrangements with the employer you're leaving." But that is NOT what I was getting. I even had one interviewer ask me to not only quit without notice but to (illegally) attempt to bring clients from my previous position with me. Remind me to open my own business.