Tag Archives: hiring

The Jobs. The Offers. The Decisions. The Lack There Of.

It used to be getting a job offer was a huge challenge. It’s not exactly easy today, but I find myself in a place where I have three serious offers (well two offers and one offer if I wanted it) and I’m trying to figure out what to do.

Both offers at this point are somewhat equal in terms of compensation. Base salary is identical in the initial offers for both. One has a bit more stock, the other, a bit more bonus / cash earning opportunity. I haven’t accepted any so theoretically there is room for negotiation. I hate negotiation. Last time I negotiated I got the salary I wanted but then I was reminded over and over again by my boss how overpaid I was (btw, I wasn’t, given the offers I’m getting now are even more than what I was paid there, so clearly market rate wise I was fairly comped in my last role.)

The reason I hate negotiation is that I have no one at my level in a comparable role to talk to about it. At this level of compensation and given my relatively frugal lifestyle, even for this area – on one hand, when numbers get this big, I feel just downright silly negotiating for more money. On the other hand, I think – if I were a dude or someone with confidence, I’d negotiate anyway. Ultimately, my role in either firm is one that indirectly generates revenue for the business – it’s pretty cut and dry if I have generated revenue or not (granted, I’m not closing business, but I’m still generating it) and thus I think a bonus compensation structure makes sense, and that structure should be more or less unlimited as a percentage of sales, or at least substantial in a tiered structure where maybe base stays about the same but total compensation is based on how well I do my job. If I do my job well – then I’m “cheap” – if i’m not, then I’m – “gone.” Low risk to the company either way, given they plan to hire me (or anyone else for this role.)

But I hate that awful taste of negotiating for more – and ultimately I want to pick the job where I can do THE BEST job. And I don’t know which that is right now. I’m not at the point in my career where I can get an offer at a company that has its shit together. That means either I get an offer at a new, young company where it’s still figuring things out, and where it needs someone who can deal with the ups and downs of startup life — OR I get an offer at a company where things are probably more systemically dysfunctional due to years of poor management decisions, but one that has managed to sell enough of its product/service to still be alive either private or public, it doesn’t matter as both come with their own challenges.

I seem to be a perfect fit for those environments, maybe thanks to a very turbulent childhood. But I also think a positive, healthy, rather successful work environment would be nice. My challenge is that I’m not so great at maintaining the status quo. I’m someone who comes in and creatively solves problems. I fix things or build things but I certainly don’t inherent the same old and run with it as such to collect a paycheck. I like moving fast and getting in and making a difference. But then, as history has proven, either I do that really well for short bursts or I can’t manage to figure out how to fix things fast enough and I’m out.

My last job was a trainwreck from the start. CEO who sexually harassed (in a joking way, but nonetheless, it was sexual harassment) most of the women in the company and heck, even some of the men if you were to ask a real HR department. I learned a lot in the role but there were just so many things wrong with the company that I felt lost at what to do. Too many things to fix. Too many holes to fill as water would start leaking out another opening I didn’t even see.

If I go to the smaller company, my main priority will be to hire a small handful of really great people really fast. Hiring is hard. People have to want to work with you and the rest of the team. You (me) have to be a leader. A true leader. In my mind I like to think I’m a leader but what I see in leaders I admire I don’t see in myself. They are very strong, determined, and once they pick a route they don’t chance course (and if they do it certainly doesn’t appear they did this because they realized they made a bad decision.) Leaders have a very clear vision and get everyone aligned to common goals. I have a hard time getting myself aligned to a common goal, let alone a team.

The larger company would immediately have me managing a decent-sized team. It’s a huge opportunity in that if I can successfully manage a team and help them become more productive, that’s a metric I can take to the bank for the rest of my life. I can also build a team at the smaller company and have a similar outcome, but at the second company I would’t have to hire immediately. I’d have something to work with. That can be good or bad, depending on the contributions of the team today and what I figure out needs to be done to hit goals. It likely involves being able to come in and, if anyone isn’t holding their weight, being that bad guy and letting people go early on and replacing them. You know – typical management stuff that I don’t like to do because I’m an INFP and I can’t handle hurting people’s feelings, only letting them down.

I still am most excited by the smaller company… if the larger one was a bit more stable, or selling a product that I could get extremely excited about, it would be a different story. But I have some good opportunities here and I just need to finalize what I’m going to do… it’s a good problem to have, for sure. I just am at that point where I really don’t want to make the wrong decision… and I’m not sure there’s a right one to make. Because – when it comes down to it, I’m in the wrong career overall – but it’s a hot market and people keep throwing money at me and it’s hard to say no. It’s easy to say – one more go, let’s see if I can make it happen… I’ll try my absolute best… and in the meantime, keep on putting away $5k a month to attempt to reach my goal of $500k in networth before I give birth to my first child. After that, I feel like I have a bit more flexibility/freedom to maybe switch jobs and earn less, or consult part-time at a higher hourly rate, or… anything other that continuing on this trajectory which can’t be forever.


There is No Answer to this Riddle

While I’m feeling confident about the next step in my career as a whole – given I’ve now had appropriate time to rest and reset prior to taking another position – I’m still extremely confused about what to do next. It seems I will indeed have the luxury of at least two options, but I’m just completely torn on which opportunity to sign up for. On top of that I’m severely stressing out over negotiations. I just wish one employer could give me a deal that I cannot refuse, but of course job negotiation doesn’t work like that.

I don’t want to go into this position as a short-term fling, so to speak. Wherever I go next I want to stay at least a year and ideally remain until I have my first child, or after that if it makes sense. I’m turning 31(!!!) in two months. My plan is to get married at 32 and have my first kid by 33 or at latest 34. So. I can go to a company that may or may not be around in two years now, work my ass off, negotiate a high enough salary to save a lot of money, and take time to be a mom when the company either is acquired or goes under. I would need to set up my contact so the company’s success does not inhibit my ability to achieve this plan. Yet I’m not sure if this makes sense at all.

Beyond professional objectives, my financial goals are to achieve $400k in networth in 2015 ($15k-$30k in investment growth + $70k-$85k in additional savings.) I can live on ~$3500 a month (less if needed, but let’s just say $3.5k to allow for some vacations and shopping sprees, which I tend to take when I’m stressed.) So in order to save an additional $85k I need to be able to put away $7083 a month after taxes. That’s a lot and probably not possible, realistically. I would have to make $10583 AFTER taxes in order to do this. Well, if I make $200k a year that’s really $8938 a month after state/fed tax (estimate.) I mean, $8938 a month is a lot (not that I’m getting $200k a year, but I’m just saying my goals aren’t realistic, unfortunately.) But – let’s just say I an earn 10% on my existing savings for the year — that leaves $70k to save for the year or $5833 per month. That would give me $3105 a month for rent/food/life and I could deal with that — if I was making $200k per year. That sounds like a very lot but given my aggressive financial savings goals it really isn’t.

My objective is to get to $500k networth before I have my first child. That has been my objective throughout my 20s and it hasn’t changed. Given I’m 31 now I’m thinking about that a lot. I’m not going to chose a job just because of this, but every extra few thousand dollars I can negotiate gets me closer to this goal. Maybe I can reach it. Who knows. It’s not like I won’t have a kid until I do, but I like to set goals for myself and achieve them. I want to hit $500k by the time I’m 33. Given some of the job offers I am receiving this no longer seems entirely impossible.

But ultimately there is more to selecting a job than salary. I want to find a place where I can do a great job – where I will learn and grow and ultimately have a sustainable career, not just a few years of high-stress before I’m thrown to the dogs. I’m so lucky to even have these opportunities but I want to pick the right one. And both are just so very different. I really am excited about the opportunity of teaming with a very smart former colleague and another good friend of mine as well as a prior agency I rock and rolled with at a previous co, but I’m not sure that will be enough to win tenure at a rocky company. Its further grace is that I absolutely love the general space the company is in. On the other hand I have a relatively stable larger company with a role that isn’t as high up but where I would be… well… both probably more stable but also more bored. As I think about it I believe I can still go to the larger company a few years down the line as these talented folks don’t jump ship often… some have been in the company for over 10 years. If they like me now why wouldn’t they like me later? I’d just be gaining more relevant experience before coming back for another shot.

Or do I stop going with my gut on these things and maybe for once think this all through? I just wish I had someone who has been in this position before to talk about this with. Honestly I am considering hiring an attorney to help with contract negotiations. S/he won’t help me decide what to do, but at least I can negotiate the best deal for myself and perhaps de-risk the riskier option a bit. I am surprised by how confused I am by all this and it sounds crazy but I wish I could do BOTH jobs. Well, maybe I can, just not both at the same time.

Interviewing Mr. and Ms. Ivy League

It’s a little ironic that just one year ago I was staring at an Algebra textbook, attempting to (re?)master polynomials in order to ace my planned upcoming GMAT, and then that dream was replaced with a respectable, exciting role at a startup. That’s not the ironic piece, though. At the time, my quantitative skills that had escaped my mind sometime back in high school were not coming back to me all that easily… and my dreams of a Stanford GSB MBA or Berkeley Haas MBA were admittedly laughable.

It hurt knowing that I’d never be a competitive enough candidate to get into those programs — though the reason I wanted to go to the programs (to offer myself more flexibility and open doors in my career) was still not clearly worth the $200k price tag of an MBA, even from a school that would give me the golden resume pedigree my undergrad couldn’t offer.

Fast forward a year, and I’m literally in charge of hiring MBA students from these top tier schools for their summer internships. Yes, the same woman who would be an unlikely candidate for a seat at the student mock boardroom is sitting behind the interview desk, reviewing resumes of people who are often just about my age and much more “impressive” than I ever will be. And by “impressive,” I mean their resumes all blur together with impressiveness.

Often these candidates are whip smart, so there is truth behind the value in hiring them, but that’s not always the case. Not everyone who is able to “shape themselves” into the person that can get into a top MBA program is the same person who can think outside the box and solve problems that are far from textbook.

Regardless, my biggest bit of perplexity in this whole process, came yesterday when reviewing the very impressive resume of one of these applicants from one of these top tier programs with an extremely solid employment history, albeit outside of tech. I immediately went to email this person to invite them for an interview, based on the email on their resume, and a few minutes later it bounced.

I thought perhaps I had spelled something wrong — surely an MBA student from an Ivy League school would know better than to spell his own email address wrong on his resume. But lo and behold, a typo. His school name was spelled incorrectly. Ultimately, this guy will surely go on to great things, but I can’t understand how someone can spend $200k on an MBA, get a 780 on the GMAT, and not spell check his email address on his resume. Thank goodness the “impressives” aren’t perfect. Otherwise I’d never stand a fighting chance.

A Note to Job Applicants

This month I’ve been put in charge of hiring for a few positions at my company, and I’ve learned a lot about the hiring process in the meantime. That is, there are a lot of people who are “paper smart” that don’t know the first thing about how to apply for a job.

Firstly, when writing a cover letter, instead of listing out your accomplishments (unless they are actually applicable to the role you are applying to), explain how you can help my company. Few people even mention why they want to work for my company specifically in their cover letters — generic cover letters that discuss the industry very vaguely are not impressive, even if you have an impressive GPA from a top school.

Secondly, if you schedule an interview, do not pick up the phone informally, and sound like you are on drugs and/or half asleep. Be enthusiastic and please remember that you scheduled an interview at that time.

Finally, if you really want a job, it’s ok to follow up — these days postings on Craigslist for employees generate hundreds of applications, and most of them are garbage. It’s difficult to scan them all appropriately, and sometimes good applicants get missed. I was very impressed yesterday when I received a phone call from an applicant who I had not responded to yet, and it so happens he was one of the few applicants for the internship who had written a very good cover letter and who I had intended to reach out to — this has moved him even higher up the pile.

Not every company who is hiring will want you to do these things, but from my perspective the few people that have done all three stick out from the pack, and are much more likely to receive a job offer. It’s a little bit of education I’ll use for my own purposes next time I’m out seeking a job!

Tables Turned: Hiring Interns and Reviewing Resumes

Five years ago, I was applying to every last internship and job position that remotely sounded like something I could be good at… PR, marketing, journalism, copywriting, anything writing… and in response I heard a bunch of crickets. Luckily amongst those crickets came a loud noise, then an interview, and then a job, and more jobs. But my time applying to internships while in college, and applying to my first job post graduation was really painful, and required unyielding tenacity. It seemed no one wanted to hire a theatre major from a large private college, go figure.

Today, I find myself reviewing the cover letters of intern applicants, and I feel for them. I see all those kids writing their optimistic cover letters all wide eyed and bushy tailed. It’s terribly difficult to not ignore the applications from mid-tier schools, when you have applicants from the likes of Stanford, Berkeley and Harvard interested in your job. Also, it doesn’t help matters when your boss tells you to hire someone from Stanford, Berkeley or Harvard (or the equivalent.)

While intern applicants from top-tier schools are not necessarily better than those from other schools, one thing that’s likely true is that anyone who has worked hard enough to get into a top school is someone who will be reliable and hard working. Intelligence can be defined in many different ways, but when hiring — even after a few interviews — it’s still a crapshoot. You have better odds to pick a winner if you pick someone who knows how to go out of their way to be, well, perfect.

At the same time, I’m trying to keep an open mind (by prying my mind open and, if needed, prying my boss’s mind open) and reading all of the applicants from any school (except the “University of Phoenix.” I’m not hiring anyone who spent money on a for-profit online degree, I have to draw the line somewhere.

In any case, it feels all twisted and strange being in the hiring seat now, just five years after I was one of those bright-eyed and bushy-tailed  young hopefuls, sending out my 300th cover letter and resume, and waiting, patiently, for the phone to ring.

W2 Contract Negotiation Questions

After two months of unemployment I feel like I’ve gotten to a good place where I’m in solid running for two positions. One, which was fairly difficult to be offered — is the one I’m leaning towards. Not just because it was hard to be offered it, but it has by far the most growth potential of the two positions.

However, the “better” position is a W2 Contract role. That basically means full-time without any benefits (paid days off, health, etc) except the employer’s part of SS insurance, Medicare, and unemployment insurance. So, ultimately, the W2 position needs to pay a lot more to equal what a salaried position would pay, and at this point I have no idea what they’re planning to offer, or how to go about this negotiation.

Now, normally a W2 Contract position would start with an Agency and they’d farm you out to a company. Most of what I’ve read about W2 Contracts has to do with programmers who have specialized skills that these agencies can sell for short-term contracts with high hourly rates. The agency then basically gets the programmer their job, and in exchange they make 35 – 50% on top of whatever hourly fee the contractor is making, all paid by the client. And it sounds like the client has no idea how much the contractor is making and what the agency makes of the fee they pay… which just seems like an uncomfortable client-contractor relationship. Or — does the client (ie the person who would be your boss) never find out what you make? And if that’s the case, how do you ever get promoted?

W2 Contracts often have non-compete clauses, from what I’ve read, which means you can’t get hired by the company you’re working for within x number of days after the contract is considered complete. So does that mean you screw yourself out of a potential full-time job if you chose to leave the contract? It really isn’t clear from the Internets.

The thing is, the W2 Contract makes sense for a programmer. They go in, they do their job, get a project done, move on, and have many other companies willing to hire them for short-term gigs. My position is very different, it’s in marketing, and I don’t really view it as a contract role, other than the fact it is because that’s the way big companies hire around here.

I’ve spent some time working the numbers to figure out what my last job was worth with benefits for the year, and it really is a lot on top of the salary. Getting paid holidays is nice too.

The thing is, I figure to make approx what I made at my last job on W2 contract I’d have to make at least $45 per hour (equiv in my calculations to about $60k with full benefits). But because of the responsibilities that go with the potential role, I believe the position (regardless of who is hired in it) deserves more than that. It’s a little hard to figure out my full compensation at my last gig because it was at a startup where in theory a good amount of my pay was in stock options which, if the company succeeded, would be worth a lot. Not sure how to value those in determining my pay at my last job. Additionally, this job will require a much longer commute and basically take over my life. So what is fair compensation for this? Taking myself out of the picture and just looking at the role itself, the dollar figure I come up with is a lot higher than $45/hour. Additionally, I’ve been signing short-term clients for projects and they’re paying anywhere from $50/hr to $100/hr depending on the assignment. And that’s more the range I’m looking for. I’d think the higher end of that makes sense for this company, but again, I have no idea what they are paying for this role. I managed to avoid the salary talk all through my many interviews so I’m going into these negotiations blind.

I’m speaking with a representative from the hiring agency early next week to discuss fees over the phone. I prefer salary negotiations in person. Additionally, I didn’t interview with the hiring firm, nor did they find me for the job. I was referred internally by someone within the company and have interviewed with people in the company. The agency has, thus far, just scheduled the interviews. And now I have to negotiate my rate over the phone with someone I’ve never met. Normally in negotiations I’d have a good idea of what the other person wants. In a startup it was very clear because basically ever dollar saved was another second the startup could survive, so it was about more than just salary. Here, though, what does the hiring manager want? Are they given a range to negotiate with? Do they negotiate?

Also, I’m not clear I’m offered the job yet. I am the top choice, clearly, and was told by the agent that my interviews went very well and everyone likes me. So now it’s time to talk fees. I’m nervous about what this means. I normally would let my employer put out a range first if possible, but I’m not sure if doing that this time around would hurt my chances of getting a good rate. If I understood what the agency wanted… (ie — if they get 35% of what I make on top of what I make, isn’t it in their best interest to negotiate a higher hourly fee that the client is willing to pay for — or does the agent get paid more if they are able to negotiate a lower fee? Or is there no negotiation at all?)

Anyway, if you have any insight into the W2 Contract Negotiation situation, please do let me know what you think about all this.

Well, the other potential job is

More Thoughts on Job Hunting, The Lay Off, Life

Here I am, at a major cross roads in my life. One path ahead of me, however difficult to get a solid footing on, is one that leads to a six-figure career, possibly as soon as I sign on the dotted line of my next full-time contract. This road considers my employment history in an area that’s highly desired right now yet not clearly understood, one that important and big companies are seeking to hire expertise in that I now have, if not the knowledge, the employment history to back up. At least more than I did before my last job when my entire employment history was 1.5 years as a journalist, which only got me a foot in the door at some PR firms for a very entry-level position.

The other road, however, is one even more unclear. It’s one filled with $15 per hour jobs sans health insurance, part-time and/or contract work, minimally paid internships, graduate school, going back to the start. And it seems like such a waste of the opportunity I have to make something really “good” come from this layoff (at least in terms of my bank account and professional growth) to jump into an entirely different field that may lead me to a spot with the same “I’m not meant to be here” surroundings on a different path, just two years from now.
There are some opportunities in the first version of this scenerio. Well, to be honest, right now there is one possibility, but others may exist, especially if I’m willing to move. I don’t know if it’s really a six-figure job, but I assume I’ll make at least what I made at my last gig ($60k) and likely more because it’s for a bigger company with a lot more responsibility. There’s a chance they expect to pay $90k or more. I don’t know. I’m in the process of interviewing for the position. It sounds like an amazing opportunity. But I’m terrified of failing. I’m scared of failing when the stakes are higher. I’m scared of not knowing what to do, how to make up the tasks of the job, set measurable goals, and meet or exceed them. Sometimes results related to this role are difficult to quantify, but without the numbers success means nothing in these types of companies. So what do I do?
It is a luxury to get to “choose” but… in reality, I haven’t secured a job offer yet for #1 and I’ve sent out hundreds of resumes in the last three weeks, only to receive a few “you don’t have what we’re looking for” or to just be ignored. I’m onto the second interview stage with the “really good opportunity” job but that means very little other than I have a shot at this gig. I’ll get to interview in person instead of over the phone. They’ll decide if they like me. I’ll decide if I think I can really do this job without falling on my face.
In the meantime, I daydream about things I’d really love to do. Design. User research. Product management. Heck, maybe I’d even enjoy…. teaching? Retail? Being a waitress (I have a friend who loves it.) I don’t know. I’m an INTP. I like solving problems. I like helping people. I do well with the big picture, but not so much the details. I know what type of job I want to have (design research) but I don’t have the experience or skills for that type of job. My resume is schizophrenic. I don’t want to get my hopes up about the opportunity because it may not be right for me. Or I might not get it. And beyond this, I haven’t had any other biters on potential employment. So it’s difficult to compare this opportunity to another, since there currently isn’t another.