Unasked questions

Published on Aug 08, 2022 by Matt Bud, The FENG

People rarely ask or even want to know why the sky is blue or why the sun comes up in the east and not the west. And, when you are sitting in an interview, these are not questions you need to have answers for.

The difficult thing to determine when the rubber finally meets the road is what nagging and potentially terminal (at least to your candidacy) unasked questions exist in the mind of the interviewer.

We usually find out that there were such questions when we get the call telling us the job went to someone else, or that they are going to keep looking. Unfortunately, the reasons we get as to why they passed on our obvious qualifications are, generally speaking, not all that helpful. It isn’t that folks lie, it is just that the law prevents them from giving us an honest answer because it might form the basis for an age discrimination suit.

At this point, no amount of explaining (or whining) will do any good. A decision has been made, and the person on the other end of the phone will come up with additional explanations if you present cogent arguments as to why the given explanations don’t wash.

The time to address obvious issues is in face to face meetings.

There is one very obvious issue we all face being senior financial executives. By our “been there, done that” nature, we are over qualified for most jobs which translates as too expensive and likely to be bored if we took the job. If you have not in some manner come to terms with these issues in your interviewing, you are ignoring the obvious. The issue is out there and it is better for you to get it out in the open.

If you were highly paid in your last job and your sense is that this new one doesn’t pay as much (but that is okay with you) an approach I might suggest is to somehow bring up your past compensation. Don’t be too detailed. (I know how you like to rattle on.) A simple “My previous base was $xxx,xxx and I generally earned an additional $xxx,xxx in bonus, stock options etc. What is the compensation range for this position?”

Hey, you provided a precise answer, you should get one in return. When they respond, you can then say that it was your understanding as well and give them the old “If I am selected, I am sure we can come to terms. I am not hung up on my past compensation.” (Again, please don’t rattle on at length and tell them “I will work for food.” It is easy to get carried away about how money isn’t important to you, etc., etc. My dear friends, we are financial folks and money is very important to us, so who are you kidding?)

The next concern is generally your happiness in this job. Will you find it interesting? Will you be bored? (It really is great to think how concerned they are about you, isn’t it?)

Well, here you aren’t on your own either. Talk to them about how, sure you were with a large corporation and hit the heights, but your real fun was when you were with that small division at the very beginning. (This is a good time to wax eloquent.) Sure, the discipline of big corporate America is a strong background, but the real pleasure you take out of your work is being close to the action. (I hope this sounds good.)

The deal is to ensure that you get an offer. Hey, they can’t make you work and you can always say no. Although it is not in our nature to lead people on, unfortunately, that is how the rest of the world works, so don’t feel too bad about it.

Anyone who has some suggestions on how to get hidden issues like these out in the open should write in. Sharing our knowledge is what The FENG is all about. I look forward to hearing from you. Please send suggestions to [email protected] with the subject “Unasked questions.”

Regards, Matt