EditorialsBy Matt Bud, Chairman, The FENG

With all of the flap these days about integrity, I am concerned that members of The FENG, being honest financial types, will again fall into their natural propensity to tell too much about things that are no one’s business.

I hope that I can trust you to blather on about all of your technical prowess and your many achievements. I also hope that you will explain at length about all matters that will enhance your candidacy for the position in question.

However, when it comes to certain subjects about your past or future, it is perhaps best to “dummy up,” or at worst to say things that will be heard as direct answers. Please understand that I am not suggesting that you lie. Don’t ever do that. All I am saying is that less than complete information, as long as it can’t be construed at some future date as a lie, may be the best approach you can take.

Inquiring minds may want to know, but they may not want to know as much information as you think.

For example, the ever popular “Why did you leave your last job?” does not require a 15 minute explanation. 2-3 minutes is sufficient. Yes, I know the intricacies of the politics of who was put on the “reduction in force” list and that you were 249 on a list of 250 is all very important, but a simple “The company was losing money and decided to reduce staff.” will more than cover the question. Interviewers have a natural curiosity about this issue, and perhaps rightly so, but they will be satisfied with a lot less than you think. The old lawyers, “Question asked, question answered.” is applicable here.

There may also be difficult questions asked about your willingness to relocate or to work long hours.

In the case of relocation, it may be your plan to work for a few months and see if the job is secure enough to move the family. (I know you don’t want to tell them that reason!) Or, you may just be planning to commute forever. As long as you are committed to being at work when you are needed, to a degree, it is none of their business how you manage it. You may have to do what you have to do to earn a living. I respect that and so will they. However, delving into how you are going to perform this magic is probably more information than they want or need. A simple “I understand what I am going to have to do” or other similar words may provide the answer to this obvious question, but there is probably no need to go further.

It can also make sense when asked a question that on the surface appears delicate to ask for more information. The classic joke about the 5 year old who asked where she came from is appropriate here. After a simple biological explanation by her father, her confused response was: “I don’t understand. Becky down the street came from Chicago. Where did I come from?” should make the point. Make sure you know not only the question, but why it is being asked.

At our advanced ages, health questions can also come up from time to time. These are particularly hard to speak to and deal with, and I can only offer up that you shouldn’t provide more information than needed. If you are expecting to collapse on the job 2 weeks after starting, you should probably feel obligated to let them know. Of course, you will never get the job, but then, you probably shouldn’t take it either.

On the other hand, if you have a “condition” that is not serious, or that you are dealing with medically that has an appropriate prognosis, waiting until all is settled is going to ensure that you never work again, and we can’t have that. So much is treatable and curable today that unless you have to pass a physical or you fear not being able to perform your job responsibilities, you should not feel obligated to bring it up. Perhaps after an offer has been made, but even then, you might want to operate on a “need to know” basis.

For example, I have a tendency to fall asleep in meetings, but I would never tell anyone. The reason is that when asked a question that breaks me out of my delightful slumber, I can always come up with a quip that brings down the house. (In the early days of PowerPoint when all the lights had to be out, I fell soundly asleep during a presentation. When asked by the presenter if he was boring me I said without missing a beat: “No Howard, please drone on.”)

Regards, Matt

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