In my work as a career coach, I often work with senior executives who are trapped in an endless “catch-and-release” cycle in their job search. Time and time again, they get right to the last round of hiring, a hair’s breadth away from an offer. They do everything that’s asked of them — and then some. Only, the employer bails at the last minute. Which is tough enough. But when it starts happening over and over again, it can really do a number on your self-esteem and make you question your worth.
If you’re in this situation: don’t do that.
Clearly what you’re bringing to the table is drumming up interest — otherwise, the interviews wouldn’t be happening. But in order to successfully edge out the competition and close the deal, it’s important to know the difference between giving an employer what they’re asking for….and giving them what they need.
How to Close More Job Opportunities
Sometimes the situation will call for a sword: a weapon designed to achieve a very specific result.
Other situations will call for a shield: armor that can absorb, and deflect, criticism and potential dealbreakers.
It’s important to have access to BOTH in your toolbox, and most importantly know when to switch it up in order to drive a job opportunity to close.
Here are some examples:
“This role requires managing 4 global teams, about 160 people total. It looks like you’ve never led teams at that scale. How do you feel you’d do?”
The instinct many people have at this moment is to defend and try to throw up a “Shield.” But the problem is, even the greatest defense in the world will still legitimize the criticism in some way. You’ve concretized the issue.
The “Sword” move here is to PIVOT the conversation to the deeper topic at-hand. Chances are, they’re not really concerned about the NUMBER of people you led, but HOW you lead when the stakes are high and the situation complex. So…acknowledge the difference in terms of team size, and then share a career success that deeply hinges on your leadership capabilities. In many cases, this will put the concern to bed.
Situation: You receive a low-ball offer.
In the shock that follows an offer like this, many execs are tempted to throw caution to the wind and start trying to aggressively negotiate (“Sword”). But the truth is, it is incredibly difficult to turn a truly low-ball offer, one which does not even come close to satisfying your expectations, into one that does.
Go the “Shield route. Back things WAY up, back to where mutual understanding was lost within the hiring process. Are you both clear on the level of job we’re talking about, and what the regional salary ranges are? Are we both clear on the experience and UNIQUE VALUE you’re bringing to the table? Are we both clear on what’s most important about success at this job within next 30,60,90 days, and what would be required in terms of sacrifices on your end to ramp up quickly? Get VERBAL AGREEMENT on each of these parts of the equation and start rebuilding back up to the offer.
Situation: You’re constantly being compared to professionals with a different mix of skills, and/or a different career trajectory.
Stop taking this seriously! Stop defending yourself (“Shield”) in the face of what is an absurd question! What sets me apart from someone with a totally different career trajectory and skill set? I have no idea — I can only tell you the unique value that I, and only I, bring to the table. If you’d like to have a conversation about that, I’m game. But if what you need is INSERT WHAT YOU’RE BEING COMPARED TO HERE, you should go after that. There’s no shortage of them. But there’s only one me.
Bluntly said, I know. You’ll have to frame this idea in a way that you’re comfortable with. But make no mistake: a precise cut with the “Sword” is exactly what is needed in this moment to shut down lazy, fear-based lines of questioning like this. You’re way past that point as a professional- communicate that.
In concert, these situation-based tactics leveraging either the sword or the shield, should help you either close more job opportunities, or fend off those that are not worthy of your talents.