I worked on a search once and the candidate ultimately declined the generous offer because her employer agreed to allow her to work from home one day a week. That seems like a long time ago. Of course, in the past, many firms were certain that if employees weren’t in the office, they weren’t doing their job. Indeed I know of a situation where a hiring manager dismissed a candidate who asked about working from home; the candidate’s wife was disabled and needed assistance. The hiring manager said, “I want this guy down the hall.” Now that the pandemic has made WFH status quo, many firms have found the outcomes far from what they expected. Most people are working longer hours and harder than ever. And while it’s true that some, especially parents of young children, are clearly challenged, most are more focused and productive. This is certain to revolutionize the workplace.

Just this week someone in the Southwest wrote me about job openings. He inquired if I thought positions, supposedly in the Northeast, would require someone be in that part of the country. Before the pandemic, that wouldn’t have been considered. Now, it’s anyone’s guess. And my guess is hiring firms are now going to recognize that if someone has the experience and determination, their location is irrelevant, for many positions. Sure they may want them to come to the physical location periodically, but it will be far less essential that they be there Monday through Friday.

On June 1st, someone I know is starting a new job. He has already told his new employer that he will not be coming to their physical office until he’s certain he’s comfortable with the idea. A father of four young children, he’s in no hurry to embrace the risk. His new employer didn’t flinch. Some think that employers won’t challenge employees because they don’t want a lawsuit.

Of course there is an enormous benefit to employers. Needing less physical space means rent is lower, fewer furnishings are needed, heat/electricity/janitorial services/security/office supplies bills shrink, to name a few. When I think about companies that made large moves from say New York to Florida or Tennessee, to lower taxes or salaries, I realize they must now be scratching their heads and thinking that was probably unnecessary. Those sorts of moves were typically logistical nightmares. Heaps of money was spent on relocation and separating from the employees who declined to move. Identifying talent in the new location was typically challenging, so much so that some companies ultimately relocated some roles back to their original location. Now people recognize that was, in some respects, unwise.

Last year a hiring manager agreed to have a candidate work from home a few days a week. All was going well. The candidate had a long commute on the days that she traveled to the office. Now that she’s no longer commuting, she continues to demonstrate a terrific appetite for accomplishing her work. And that’s without getting in the car. She enjoyed her time in the office, getting to know her colleagues and the camaraderie. Now she’s delighted to save the dozen or so hours and spend them with her young family.

There will likely always be some managers who refuse to accept WFH as the norm. Those who do, however, will find that many employees can still be valuable contributors, even if they’re miles away in sweatpants. 

How to Talk With Your Children About Losing Your Job

Finding oneself out of work is stressful. Explaining it to one’s child can be the worst component of the situation. How to convince your child that everything is going to be OK isn’t easy, especially when you’re not sure you believe it yourself. But doing just that helps considerably. Here are some strategies to consider.

1. One has to accept that this happens. Unfortunately, it’s common. But it’s not the end of the world. And that’s something the unemployed person needs to embrace. Is it challenging? Absolutely. Still, it’s not the end of the world. But the unemployed person has every right to let off some steam. Screaming, crying or pounding a fist are options. All are best not done in the presence of children, as they could be scary for them.

2. Having a conversation with a child who is around age seven or eight or more, is important. It’s reasonable to tell the child that what’s happened isn’t ideal and that it’s a bit scary. Still, you can convey that you’re keen to view this as an exercise that’s going to be like a big test. One that will demand you talk to many people. One that will include some lousy days. But a test that should, in time, come with good results.

3. Make sure that the child can ask questions. The obvious question is: how will this change our lives? Well, it’s likely that it will change things both short and long term. And you’re allowed to say that to some degree, it’s going to make things different but you’re unsure of how long. Ideally, in the short term, you will have severance and, perhaps some savings, to minimize the impact. Do let the child know that if at any point they have questions, they should ask.

4. One thought that is important and should be communicated is that someone can lose their job even when they’re doing good work. Sometimes, because a company needs to make changes because it’s not earning enough revenue, decreasing the number of employees is viewed as a solution. And when it happens, even good employees lose their jobs. Make the distinction between being laid off versus being fired.

5. One of the best remedies to this challenge is to exercise and laugh. If possible increase your time outside whether it’s to take a walk, play a pick up game of basketball or smack tennis balls against a backboard. Include your child. This is likely to help them release some of the stress they’re likely to feel as they process the news. Any chance you can, read funny books, tell funny stories or watch a funny film with your children. This will allow both of you to relax and feel better about things. A Marx Brothers film is a great distraction when you’re navigating a job search.

6. When you do have an interview, let your child know that you expect to have to have many interviews before you find a new job. Share with them that it will likely take longer than you’d like but each interview is an opportunity to get better at interviewing. This is likely to be the case. Being forthcoming about this will make it easier for both you and your child to endure the process.

7. One advantage of being laid off is that you should be home more. This means that you might be able to spend more time with your child. Relish it. Have fun with them. If you need to answer an important call or email, explain that you need to be attentive, even if it means that for a bit, you can’t give them (i.e. your child) attention.

8. If you think you’re going to get a job offer, wait until you’re actually reading the offer, before you announce that you have a job. Too often, someone can have a positive interview process and even references can be checked and a candidate can be told to expect an offer and then, whoops, nothing happens. Best to abstain from telling your child until you can say, I have a job offer and I can see it in front of me.

No one goes through life without hitting some bumps in the road. And some bumps are very challenging. Make your best effort to be honest with your child. Let them know you’re going to do what you can and that you’re hopeful things will fall into place sooner versus later.

And when you do get your new job, remind yourself and your child how pleased you are to be back to work. Because the next time you have a difficult day at work, it’s likely your child will remind you how fortunate you are to have a job. And that could be good for both of you.

Managing Expectations

Why Hiring Managers need to be spell out exactly what they’re seeking from their new hires

Often students who earn lousy grades suggest that the teacher is responsible for their poor performance. Those same students claim that if a teacher is effective and knows how to teach students at all levels, then they will produce better work. At times it’s hard to say who should be held accountable. Occasionally, the blame can be shared. Perhaps not equally, but shared, nevertheless. This same dilemma is true in the workplace.

Hiring managers often don’t do all they can to maximize the performance of a new hire. And while they may loathe to admit it, the burden is on them at the beginning. It’s the responsibility of the hiring manager to communicate, early on, what is expected of employees. Don’t assume that your new hire knows. Hiring managers need to review ground rules, at a minimum, relating to: the desired caliber of the work, the importance of collaboration, what the real work hours are and how others balance responsibilities outside of work. When that’s done, subordinates usually adapt more quickly. And hiring managers who make a point to meet regularly and candidly discuss how someone is doing, will also find that a subordinate is more likely to remain productive. If a new hire doesn’t appear to understand what’s required, showing them actual examples of how others approach work can help considerably.

Sometimes, a hiring manager will select a candidate because they are less expensive than others. The hiring manager might even try to convince themselves that this same candidate will be fine. But then the hiring manager won’t bother to manage them and they’ll promptly realize they’ve created more work for themselves. This is a tricky situation and one few navigate successfully. Nearly all of the time, if that candidate is less expensive than the others, they will likely require more guidance. That’s been proven repeatedly.

Just as folklore suggests that teachers of younger children should refrain from smiling for the first few months of school, as a way to set a tone, some hiring managers are known to keep a personal distance. And while many teachers would argue that not smiling makes no sense, some hiring managers would encourage relaxed interaction. But what might be best first is to make certain that new hires are really doing what’s expected before their managers relax.

Two situations that I can point to demonstrate that the hiring managers didn’t do all they could to lay the ground rules. One manager isn’t experienced. He doesn’t appear to know how to approach overseeing a subordinate. And he waited about nine months before he told his direct report that his work was unsatisfactory. A second manager was hoping to figure things out but found himself wrestling with the situation. He hoped that humor would do the trick. Unsurprisingly, it didn’t. Ultimately, he realized he might benefit from having a conversation with a third party. A strategy was suggested with several recommendations that included parameters to apply so that the new hire was clearer on what was tolerated. It’s too soon to know the outcome but the hiring manager has been advised to update the third party weekly for the next six weeks.

If a hiring manager finds that the work done week after week is problematic, it’s essential to assume a different approach. First, speak with the new hire and listen to them. Ask them about their perspective on how work is going and what they view as their biggest challenges. Encourage them to be forthcoming. What may be learned is that the new hire is a victim to the Dunning-Kruger effect which essentially means the person believes they’ve done better than others on something when, in fact, their performance has been lousy. Once the new hire has had the opportunity to share their concerns, the hiring manager should first thank the new hire for being open. Then, take responsibility for not being as clear as possible. Explain in a matter of fact manner what is/isn’t suitable. The sooner this is accomplished the less likely it will be hostile, argumentative or miserable. Think of it as cleaning a closet regularly versus waiting months and being reluctant to open the door.

Just as teachers aren’t a good match for all of their students, hiring managers aren’t effective with all of their hires. When a hiring manager recognizes that the new employee can’t accomplish what’s necessary, they should be given the opportunity to find a new role, either at the same company or another, sooner vs. later. No reason for everyone to be miserable long term. The more respectful the hiring manager is, the less damage will be done. That’s important for everyone, including coworkers impacted by the unsuccessful hire.

The best outcome, from a situation of this nature, is that hiring managers are more careful when evaluating candidates and ultimately making an offer. Ideally, they might recognize that they shouldn’t be influenced by a candidate’s compensation expectations. Instead, the hiring manager should candidly convey their expectations in the interview process. Apart from that, they should ask questions when interviewing that require candidates to give examples of how they approach their work, deal with mistakes and criticism and collaborate with others.

Most teachers are delighted when their students excel. Students, of course, are pleased too. It’s the same with hiring managers and their subordinates.

What to Expect From Your Spouse When You Lose Your Job

Paul was laid off about two years ago. His wife works. But she earns probably a tenth of what Paul was accustomed to bringing home. Suddenly, things were very different. The uncertainty of how long Paul was going to be on the sidelines was hard for him. It impacted his morale, perspective, sense of self, while all the while testing his sense of humor and networking skills. For his wife, in some respects, it was worse.

She wasn’t in the industry and just couldn’t grasp the new reality. The media suggested hiring was increasing and unemployment was at record lows. Hm. Why couldn’t her husband find a job?

Jerome’s wife was a stay-at-home mom with several children. When her husband was told his job was being eliminated, she was, understandably, very anxious.

This is normal. For a spouse, it’s anxiety provoking for numerous reasons. First, of course, a lack of income is unnerving. But a lack of knowledge of the industry, in combination with a limited understanding of the process of finding a new job, is unsettling.

Watching an unemployed spouse go through the interview process is often frustrating. This isn’t painless when the person is employed, but when they’re between jobs, it’s far more stressful. Candidates may think an interview went well and never hear back. Candidates may have countless interviews and then learn there’s a hiring freeze. Or an oral offer may be made and then no written offer is provided. Meanwhile, the spouse, trying to be supportive, can, and usually does, struggle to maintain composure. As time passes, the rollercoaster ride is harder to endure.

This can really test a marriage. When someone said “for richer or for poorer” maybe they hoped that they could skip the “for poorer” part. Whatever can be done to make this easier, should be. A few ideas follow.

  1. It’s almost always easier to discuss financial matters on a walk. Get outside.
  2. Limit how much time each day you will discuss your search.
  3. The spouse shouldn’t expect the unemployed spouse to be spending 8 hours a day looking for work. It’s unrealistic. And it’s better to take some breaks during the day.
  4. Try to save more money when you’re employed. This is seldom easy.
  5. Spend some of your day laughing about something.
  6. If you have a pet, that will help.
  7. Expect to move a few steps forward, a few back, and so on. That’s normal.
  8. Try to remember that your spouse probably asks how you’re doing because they want to be supportive, not because they’re trying to cause more anxiety.
  9. There are few people who are able to navigate a career that excludes some time on the bench. Nearly everyone either finds themselves out of a job at some point. Still, it’s enormously challenging. And uncomfortable.

The good news is that some folks, even after two years or more, get hired. And many find new roles long before the two years. When that happens, it’s typically the spouse, more than anyone, who is over the moon. Because, while no job is perfect, and it’s often the case that people complain, at least periodically, about their work, living with someone who has a routine and is earning money, almost always beats being on the sidelines. And often, if someone has been unemployed for a patch of time, they have a different relationship with their job once they find a new one. Their perspective helps them ignore most of the nonsense and focus on how glad they are to be back at work.

What Not to Say

Someone resigned yesterday. It was the first time this individual had this experience and they were anxious. I asked, “What’s your biggest fear?” The reply, “They could ask me to leave immediately. And they could take my phone. Also, they could not pay me what I’m owed for the first quarter.” We discussed each of his concerns. After, as he felt better, the focus turned to the exit interview. My response, “Say nothing of substance.”

When you have one foot out the door, don’t assume it’s a good time to educate the boss, the boss’s boss, HR or anyone else, on how things ought to be. There’s no point. Focus instead on how you’ve been pleased to have had an opportunity, grateful for what you’ve learned and a simple thank you. That’s it. And when speaking with colleagues before departing, the same is true. Be cautious.

But it’s not just someone who’s resigning who ought to be careful about what they do, and don’t, say. Imagine you’re speaking to a recruiter and telling them about how your boss’s boss is a problem, how you think the boss’s boss is the decision maker and a penny pincher. Is it ever wise to say that to a recruiter? Unlikely. Because the candidate may not know the relationship that the recruiter has with either the candidate’s boss or their boss’s boss. Loose lips sink ships. No reason to lie. Just say less than you know. In one situation, the recruiter told the candidate that she knew the candidate’s colleagues. Nevertheless, the candidate continued to air dirty laundry. There is no benefit to sharing details of a certain nature with a recruiter.

Similarly, a candidate ought to be careful in an interview. Never make a negative comment about colleagues, nor your place of work. The world is too small. For all you know, the spouse of the hiring manager may currently work with you. And if a hiring manager conducting an interview finds the candidate doesn’t use a filter, well, that suggests they don’t have the capacity to be discreet. And discretion is a valuable quality in an employee.

Sometimes candidates are asked questions about a complex work matter they’ve navigated. Some of the details may be sensitive or highly confidential. It’s best to convey to the hiring manager that you’re glad to discuss the components that aren’t confidential. Then, do just that. A candidate who recognizes that they shouldn’t compromise their values in an interview is one that a hiring manager will recognize as having backbone. Just as discretion is an attractive quality, so is having a backbone.

It is not uncommon for hiring managers to drill candidates on topics. Candidates may think it’s because the hiring manager has a genuine interest in them. Sometimes, that’s true. Other times, however, the hiring manager is just trying to learn about how the competition is grappling with matters. Recently a candidate was questioned at length about some cutting-edge work. He was forthcoming in his answers. And the interview was lengthy. Unfortunately, he didn’t get hired. The candidate felt a bit abused. Similarly, several lawyers who interviewed for a role thought that they were basically pumped for free legal advice. It’s challenging to manage that situation. The candidate is damned if they do, damned if they don’t.

Don’t discuss politics. In part because you don’t know if it’s a trap. But even if it’s not a trap, it’s just not what should be shared. Getting tangled up in politics is a no-win situation. Moreover, it’s best to say little about current events and religion. Just listen. Don’t jump in. “That’s an interesting point.” or “I’ve never thought about it in that way.” are reasonable responses.

But it’s not just the candidate who has to watch what they say. The hiring manager should be thoughtful, too. Some hiring managers may become overly enthusiastic when interviewing and then make the mistake of oversharing. They may speak about the current team members and include some unkind comments. Or, they may mention some confidential issues that shouldn’t be discussed with anyone outside of the company. It’s one thing for a hiring manager to pose a question like, “Hypothetically, if you were asked to deal with A,B,C, how might you approach it?” That’s a lot different from “We’re dealing with A,B,C, and it’s been challenging. Have you confronted these sorts of issues?” While a candidate may recognize that the reason for the question could well be because the hiring manager is already dealing with these issues, it’s still better to lean on “Hypothetically…” Certainly some candidates are asked to sign a NDA. Before signing, it’s important to read it.

Moreover, hiring managers should be careful discussing who they, and the candidate, may know in common. There is a tendency for both hiring managers and candidates to spend some time playing “Do you know.” Best not to say anything negative. And under no circumstance should anyone overstate the actual relationship. If you give the impression that someone is a close friend when, in fact, you could barely identify them in a police line-up, you’re not doing yourself any favors.

Equally important, hiring managers shouldn’t say to a candidate, “We’ll be having you back” when actually, they’re uninterested. Even if a hiring manager is certain the candidate is a superb match, say nothing. Too often a hiring manager will explain at length the balance of the interview process with a candidate they know isn’t a fit. Then the candidate finds themselves wondering what transpired. Best if the hiring manager says, “We’ll be in touch.” and then, follows up accordingly through HR or the recruiter.

As for recruiters, some wrestle with what to share with both candidates and hiring managers. They struggle with revealing feedback to either party. Often they will mention a sliver of what’s been told to them. Sometimes, the recruiter is best saying nothing. They, after all, are the messengers and shooting the messenger is a popular activity.

Hard to imagine that Shakespeare was much concerned with interviewing when the Fool in King Lear said, “speak less than thou knowest.” Nevertheless, he was on to something. Remember, you have two ears and one mouth. Use them in that ratio. It will make it easier to avoid saying something you’ll regret.

How to Evaluate a Career Move

Making a change, whether it be within your existing firm, or with a new firm, is stressful. That’s especially the case if you are in a job/firm where you’re unhappy. Why? Because moving doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be happier. And it could result in a situation worse than the one you’re currently in. Thus, it’s important to be as careful and deliberate as possible. So, go slow. And think about the following:

What do you like/dislike about your current situation? Best to write down everything so that you can see the whole list. This is an essential step, as it should help you determine what you really are drawn to, or trying to avoid. Moving just for money, or title, is probably unwise. But, and this is important, if you’ve been promised something (such as a raise or title bump) and didn’t receive it, you may consider a move. If management says one thing and does another, it’s a question of good judgment and trust. Fool me once, shame on you. Don’t hang around to be fooled twice. What you want to establish is: why you’re open to leaving a job, what you expect to escape and how well do you understand what you would be accepting, if you left.

  1. At times, the idea of making a huge change is appealing but unrealistic. Sometimes it’s the result of fatigue, frustration, or boredom. Try to carve out a bit of time to separate your feelings so that you know what you can manage. If you’re at a point in your life where you genuinely have the flexibility to do what you like, that’s ideal. But few have that flexibility. So, take a look at what you could realistically do and try to establish some goals for yourself so that you can measure your growth. Best not to make a decision when you’re on the brink of taking vacation. Very hard to have the clarity at that point.

While there is no perfect job/firm, it’s possible to find a situation that is appealing. If/when you interview, pay attention to how you feel and how your questions are answered. But mostly, pay attention to the process. It’s nearly always the case that if you’re treated respectfully and reasonably in the search process, the firm you’re considering will be one that will treat you in a reasonable and professional fashion. Don’t confuse people being nice, which they often are when they want you to join. Just as boyfriends/girlfriends can be nice in a courtship, people can be pleasant in the process. One shouldn’t accept a role solely because the people are friendly. Candidates flattered by superficial kindness in the process often kick themselves later. There is a difference between thoughtful, professional interaction in the process vs. nice. Candidates should be alert to that discrepancy.

2. Be thorough. Not only is it essential that you be as clear as possible about why you would leave, make certain that you know what you’re seeking and get the answers to your questions, so that you feel you’re as sure as one can be about what you’re considering. While there’s no perfect job, it’s important that you identify your priorities and then determine if most of those will be met in your new role. Be honest about how attractive the role is/isn’t. But for one exception, no matter how much money you may be paid, if the role isn’t one you want to do, don’t make that move. Because the compensation increase can be the equivalent of a sugar high and job satisfaction is more important.

  1. Now then, the exception, and this is one that can’t be underestimated, may be if the compensation is such that a move will dramatically change your financial situation and can significantly ease the stress of not having what you need, or if you’re drowning in debt. For many people, that’s a real situation and one that deserves consideration. So, ideally, while moving only makes sense if the actual role is attractive to you, if you’re financially uncomfortable, it’s understandable if you pursue a role because of the compensation. Unfortunately, the reality is that if you accept a role for the increased compensation, you may not be happy, nor fulfilled. Thus, it’s essential that you be honest with yourself as you evaluate increased financial stability vs. contentment and professional satisfaction.
  2. Always think about what your new role could allow you to be considered for in the future. This means that if you make a move, what future moves will be open to you as a result. There are many people who have found that they get interviews because of a role they have and, if it weren’t for that role, or that employer, they wouldn’t have been given full consideration. So think about your goals beyond that immediate position. And remember, starting down a path that isn’t one you really want to pursue is unwise, as it will likely lead you further from what you enjoy/find stimulating.

5. Pay attention to how the hiring manager talks about their subordinates and try to get an idea of how they’ve grown in their roles. Most people want to know that growth is part of what the hiring manager encourages. And if they have helped others develop, that typically indicates the hiring manager wants people to flourish.

6. If you’re wondering if you’re going to be doing the same old thing, make sure that you ask the hiring manager what they think could be the outcome over an extended period for the person who assumes the role.

7.Talk to your sources and do due diligence. It’s a small world.

8.Talk to people who know you. And talk to people who have made moves. Ask them why they made a change and what were the most important criteria behind their decisions. Listen to what you ask them and pay attention to how you process their responses.

9. Most recruiters and hiring managers want you to move. Be careful. Do what’s best for you and your family. If you decide not to move, that’s okay. But it’s best to make that decision before you engage in multiple rounds of interviews. Recruiters and hiring managers will understand if you participate in a single round and then determine that you prefer not to go further in the process. That’s acceptable. Going far down the path and ultimately declining an offer that meets your requirements, however, is likely unwise. If you select a position that isn’t as lucrative short term but is professionally appealing, don’t feel you have to justify it to others. Be honest with yourself about what you enjoy doing and the direction that you find rewarding. Be professional and communicative and a good recruiter will/should treat you in the same fashion.


Google the word “counteroffer” and you’ll see plenty about the supposed potential impact. As is typical on the Internet, everyone who wants to will weigh in with their five cents. For recruiters, counteroffers resemble what a baseball player experiences when they’re tagged out at home plate.

It’s no secret that a recruiter’s goal is to fill a position. Ideally, the candidate is jazzed with the offer and the hiring firm is eager to welcome the candidate. The recruiter is paid. (Note: this is true for a recruiter working on contingency vs. retainer.) And everyone lives happily ever after. But any recruiter who has worked on a mess of searches knows that sometimes things won’t end well.

No matter how many times a recruiter establishes with a candidate what they’re seeking and how successful they are in securing their asks, a counteroffer is still a possibility. Candidates may claim they’ve no interest in a counter. And they may say they want to give their current employer a chance, but are ready to leave. That doesn’t mean they’re being genuine. And perhaps it’s because recruiters aren’t always responsible and trustworthy, some candidates are more comfortable not being forthcoming. So, a recruiter can ask a candidate for their wish list as it relates to compensation, title, vacation, etc., and a hiring firm can knock themselves out to meet every single ask. At that point, it may appear that things are moving forward and everyone’s on the same page. The recruiter can question the candidate a dozen times: will you take a counter if your asks are met, and the candidate can assure the recruiter, never ever. And then, take the counter. Recruiters who’ve had this experience often think they shouldn’t bother to mention the topic. Others mention it and think they’re throwing a monkey wrench into the equation. While still other recruiters will ask a dozen times, hoping they’re not being misled.

The outcome of accepting a counteroffer can vary. Just as the reasons candidates accept them can. For example, one candidate worked with a recruiter for approximately 16 months and ultimately accepted a counter. The explanation: permission to work from home once a week was offered to her by her current employer, and that meant the world to her. This decision was made, despite the compensation package, which was sizably larger than what was requested. Another candidate declined to leave her existing employer after all details were agreed upon, saying that she had been assured of a great future and that her current employer would consider her for more than one potential trajectory. A third candidate, who said about two dozen times that she’d never take a counter, lied. No real explanation. A fourth panicked because he was anxious about the future and wondered what would happen to him at another firm. In appreciation, he sent a fruit basket. One individual accepted counters twice, at the same firm; it was a clever strategy to increase his compensation. Ultimately, he left. A sixth claimed adapting to a new firm seemed unnerving.

What happens to candidates who stay? Some delight in the compensation increase and feel all is well. Others have a different experience. Often, they don’t stay for long. Some who do are mistreated by management that feels abused, or even tricked. Many are never trusted and find their trajectories stunted. While in the short term, their compensation packages may be increased, long term that’s anything but the case. Senior managers seldom recover from the experience. Typically they do all they can to make sure that the person who is now being paid more has more work. And if there’s a round of layoffs, well, no one is indispensable. Cutting a more expensive employee often happens. Sometimes the dynamics can be altered, either temporarily or permanently. It’s a bit like after a spouse learns that their husband/wife has cheated. The recovery can be long. If, indeed, there is real recovery. Moreover, the candidate may find they will be negatively impacted long term by the industry and/or the recruiter. Part of that is determined by how the candidate extracts themselves from the situation. An HR representative or a hiring manager may, themselves, move in the future. And the candidate who accepted a counter may turn up at the new firm, encountering these familiar faces, claiming to be interested in a role. Because folks tend to remember who accepted a counter, they may discourage their new firm from pursuing the individual, so as to avoid a repeat performance. In short, feigning interest in an opportunity to ultimately secure a counter may well catch up with the candidate.

Years back, several in a compliance department at a large bank pursued offers to secure counteroffers. The goal: find out their value in the marketplace and then convince their employer to raise their compensation. This generated a lot of resentment among those who were, as one person said, “loyal”. Around the same time, two other large financial institutions decided that they would identify anyone they thought was underpaid and increase their base salaries. This was unusual, in particular, because the salaries adjustments, some as much as 30%, took place in the months of July and September.

Candidates, after a first round of interviews, are allowed to excuse themselves from the process. And it’s OK not to explain to anyone their reasoning. Sometimes a candidate may sense the role isn’t a fit. The manager isn’t a match. Or the vibe of the firm isn’t comfortable. That’s for them to determine. But, if a candidate decides to proceed, and the hiring firm ultimately presents an offer that meets the candidate’s expectations, as they relate to compensation, benefits, vacation, starting date, title, then the candidate ought to accept the offer. Because if a company does produce an offer in good faith in a timely fashion, it suggests that the people who work there are reasonable and have been respectful of the candidate.

The best approach to counteroffers: avoid them. When a candidate goes to resign, they can simply tell their boss, they don’t want to consider a counteroffer because the next step makes sense for them. In short, decline one, before it’s presented. That’s the sign of a real professional.

In the small world that we live in, that may be the most reasonable way to navigate this component of the search process.

Hiring 101 – When You’re the Hiring Manager

Recently a senior person assumed a new role. As he’s struggling to adapt to the significant workload at his new shop, he’s been given permission to hire a subordinate. And while that’s made him feel as though he’s been thrown a lifeline, he recognizes that he doesn’t quite know what he’s doing. This isn’t unusual. The problem: how do you learn how to hire?

Like most experiences, the first time, or times, one is at the helm, it’s normal to be uncertain. For example, if you were inexperienced at changing a flat tire, chances are that the wheel may wobble, even if you were able to secure it successfully. Similarly, if you were making a soufflé you might produce something that, well, doesn’t quite rise. But when you’re the hiring manager, you’re supposed to know what to do. Even if you don’t.

Some will contact the recruiter who placed them (if there was a recruiter in the equation). That may, or may not, help. Others might contact Human Resources, if it exists, and try to get some clarity from them. That doesn’t always work either. Not to mention that some hiring managers don’t want to reveal their ignorance.

Here’s some advice. First, if there is an existing team, have them provide in writing the equivalent of their job descriptions. The goal: get a good sense of who does what. Until you do that, you won’t know for sure where the gaps are. Now, if there isn’t a team in place, the hiring manager should make a list of what they feel are the top half dozen responsibilities of the ideal new hire. If the hiring manager can’t really figure out what those would be, visit a job board, plug in, for example, “Compliance Associate” and see what other descriptions include. No reason to invent, or reinvent, the wheel. By looking at a handful of existing job descriptions, it’s easy to determine what is/isn’t most essential.

Next, put a description in writing that includes the estimated number of years of experience. For the record, it’s pointless to include details like “roll up your sleeves,” “team player.” Note that in today’s world, there is a ton of age discrimination. By excluding candidates classified as “too senior” the hiring manager is making their first mistake. Many very senior candidates may be suitable and, not necessarily, gunning for the role of the hiring manager. Tread carefully. There are lots of highly experienced professionals who could be superb hires.

Have an idea of the targeted total compensation. This should just be the target. It doesn’t mean that’s what will ultimately be paid.

Perhaps most important are the following two points. One, hire someone for what they can learn, not what they know. Two, character is perhaps more important than anything else. For example, if a candidate hasn’t had experience with all of the areas deemed important enough to be in the description, the hiring manager should try to ask about how the candidate has learned that which they know and establish the candidate’s sense of how important the material is. Because if a candidate can explain how they have mastered the material they’re knowledgeable about, that should demonstrate to the hiring manager the candidate’s capacity for grasping relevant concepts. Additionally, if a candidate demonstrates a genuine interest in the material and talks about it in a thoughtful manner, that suggests that candidate recognizes the importance of what they’re responsible for.

Whenever possible, you want to hire a low maintenance candidate. Specifically: someone who isn’t a drama queen, whose ego is in check, and isn’t a prima donna. For example, a candidate once was kept waiting in reception. Instead of sitting quietly, and maybe reading the newspaper, she took it upon herself to ask to see someone else at the firm who she supposedly knew. Worse still, she did this in a fashion that revealed a tendency to run the show. Suffice it to say, no matter how intelligent she was, the hiring manager wasn’t impressed. Other mistakes candidates have made include: talking endlessly, asking questions that are best addressed after an offer has been made, neglecting to answers the questions a hiring manager asks, focusing on compensation and benefits in a first interview. In contrast, candidates who are patient with the process and appear to answer the questions honestly should be given full consideration.

A hiring manager once told me that he never hires anyone who doesn’t send him a thank you note after an interview. Candidates have told me that some recruiters have discouraged them from bothering writing them. But, in my experience, a thank you note, just like every other interaction with a candidate, reveals something about the person. Pay attention.

The process of engaging a candidate through the interview reveals a fair amount about who the person is. Are their emails well written? Did they arrive on time? And, especially important: Do they listen? Do they answer the question? Do their answers reveal a genuine understanding? Still, it’s likely that the hiring manager is just scratching the surface. Thus, it makes sense to meet and/or speak with the candidate multiple times, consider reviewing a writing sample, carefully check references and try to learn about who the candidate really is.

When interviewing several candidates in the first round: 1) don’t spend more than 30 minutes with each person, 2) have a list of about six questions and ask each candidate the same questions, 3) focus on establishing the depth of their knowledge, how they learn and their relationship with the material, as well as their level of interest in the field, 4) note anything that is off putting, 5) ask for the candidate’s compensation expectations. After the interview, on a spreadsheet with categories (i.e. knowledge, listening skills, level of energy, interest in the material, interest in the job, personality) rate each one.

Common mistakes that hiring managers make: 1) talk too much and don’t learn about the candidate, 2) don’t stay on course with the important questions and get distracted discussing who they both know, 3) neglect to ask follow-up questions when a candidate says something interesting, 4) tell the candidate that they want them to return and they’re all excited about them, 5) bad-mouth coworkers, 6) discuss confidential matters, 7) try to get free advice from the candidate. For those who don’t make these mistakes, well, you’re the exception.

Candidates who, for whatever reason, aren’t going forward, deserve to be notified sooner rather than later. Delaying them is disrespectful. Most just want to know where they stand. Best not to share any feedback apart from, we think someone else is a better fit. Don’t bother lying (which is mostly what goes on). Avoid speaking with colleagues who have yet to interview a candidate. Only after a candidate has completed the various rounds, and been selected, should negotiations begin.

Hiring managers who have lots of experience ultimately do find they typically improve at hiring. It doesn’t mean they hit a home run every time they’re up at bat. But, then again, no chef has a soufflé rise every time, either.

For information about next steps, read my other articles: Why a Rolls Royce Costs More than a VW, Tips for Hiring Managers on How to Interview and Hiring the Wrong Person.

Why a Rolls Royce Costs More than a VW

A Rolls Royce costs more than a VW, especially if it’s got a flat. There’s a good reason for that. The entire driving experience is poles apart. Similarly, if you’re considering candidates, well, the range of talent will be apparent when you evaluate resumes and conduct interviews. Too often, it all comes down to compensation.

Every firm wants to spend as little as possible on their employees. They hope they can identify a diamond in the rough, preferably without the assistance of a recruiter, and pay pittance. Sometimes that works. Most of the time, it doesn’t. Why? Because a Rolls Royce costs more than a VW.

When new hires are paid poorly a few things can happen, some rather quickly. One, they take calls/read messages from recruiters and scour the Internet for opportunities. Two, they resent their low compensation and, thus, are less inclined to work hard. Three, they don’t want to listen. Four, they spend time complaining about their compensation, which negatively impacts their productivity. Five, they have a lousy influence on those around them.

So, while the hiring manager may feel smug for saving money, they might not have acted in their own best interest. Hiring managers need to be honest about why they would want to hire the equivalent of a VW. Do they think that choosing someone who isn’t high caliber, and a bargain, will make them look smarter or more capable? Unwise. Could they really depend upon that individual? Unlikely. Will that person genuinely be an effective contributor? Probably not. Sometimes, if a person isn’t asking for a lot of money, it’s because a) they’ve not been paid much historically and b) they’re not great contributors. Why would a hiring manager feel it’s OK to add someone to the team who isn’t the equivalent of a Rolls Royce? Or at least, a Porsche?

When conducting a search, first the hiring manager should examine what other members of the team are earning. Second, some will contact colleagues at other shops to ask what they’re paying their staff. By looking at various candidates’ resumes and their compensation expectations, a hiring manager can get a sense of what the market is at that precise moment. Bear in mind that some candidates may ask for more than they’re willing to accept. I’m not suggesting that one not respect what they’re requesting. Rather, I believe that it can be reasonable to offer a bit less.  The candidate has the option to decline. Both the hiring firm and the candidate should be willing to negotiate a bit, ideally in a respectful fashion.

But if the hiring manager determines that a particular candidate stands apart, unquestionably head and shoulders over the rest, it can be worth it to pay what’s sought. However, there’s a risk. Sometimes, if what’s being asked is significantly higher than what others at the firm are earning, the newly hired employee may not stick around. For example, someone was hired who earned a lot more than others at a firm. The firm paid up initially and the new hire lasted about 18 months. Here’s an explanation. On the rare occasion that an expensive candidate is hired, he’s usually broken the compensation ceiling when first hired. This usually means, even if he’s amazing, that he never sees much more in compensation. Plus, if you’re the most expensive hire, you’re probably not at the right firm. The reason: you may well be of a caliber that’s incompatible with the team. 

To determine if the candidate really is going to be pleased with what’s offered, ideally, multiple conversations are held and candor is encouraged. That doesn’t mean anyone will be candid. Still, it’s worth the effort.

If the hiring manager has identified their top pick, well, that candidate, if they’re really worth hiring, needs to be compensated appropriately. Making them a lousy offer will either result in them declining the job and/or feeling like their time has been wasted. On one occasion, a hiring firm presented a ridiculously low offer. The candidate was almost embarrassed for the firm. She declined the offer and felt as though the experience of interviewing had been a nuisance. In short, the candidate felt disrespected. Firms should pay up if they want to attract talent. What you’d pay for a Rolls Royce is very different from what you’d offer for a VW.

Tips to Consider Prior to Conducting an Interview

Most people aren’t that practiced in interviewing candidates. Or worse, they’ve conducted countless interviews and not learned what really should/shouldn’t be asked. The results, unsurprisingly, can be disappointing. This is true for the candidate and the person holding the interview. Often hiring managers will say a lot of things to candidates they shouldn’t say and forget to ask/discuss what needs attention. Mostly it’s because they just don’t know how to approach their meetings. With this in mind, I’d like to share the following.

  1. One of the primary goals of an interview is to get a sense of how a candidate communicates. Bearing in mind that candidates are often nervous initially, it’s helpful if conclusions about a person aren’t decided within the first minutes. Patience can be rewarded.
  2. When interviewing several candidates for a role, it’s helpful to ask the majority, if not all of the same questions, to all of the candidates. Some examples of questions that might be worth asking legal/compliance people are: A) Tell me about how you dissected a complex regulatory matter so that you could navigate it comfortably. B) Can you give me some examples of the challenges you’ve dealt with in terms of educating senior management and/or investors? C) Why do you think you’re suited to the field of compliance? D) How do you approach prioritizing? E) Give me an example of how you dealt with a new compliance issue. F) Tell me about some fire drills you’ve addressed. G) What do you anticipate would be the biggest challenge in the role you’re interviewing for? H) Knowing what you do about our firm and the role, how do you think you could make the biggest impact?
  3. When interviewing, it’s best to avoid a) saying anything negative about other employees at the firm, b) revealing sensitive/confidential matters, c) mentioning anything that the firm, or a client, has dealt with that is confidential d) making generalizations about how everyone who works at the firm is very happy there, e) speaking about the other candidates because, among other reasons, the candidates may know one another, and f) suggesting anything about the experience of colleagues at the firm.
  4. Hiring managers often find at the end of an interview that they want to say something like, “We want to have you back.” Please, don’t say it. The way to conclude an interview is to say, “We’ll follow up with the recruiter.” If there’s no recruiter consider, “We’ll follow up, probably in the next ten days.” When you treat candidates with respect, and communicate with them, they have a more positive experience. Even if you don’t hire them, they deserve to be treated with respect. And then, when those who weren’t hired tell others about their experience, while they may be disappointed, they will, at least, not convey that they were treated poorly. This is important. It’s a reflection on the hiring firm. Remember the industry is small.
  5. If a candidate talks about something and you want to learn more, ask more questions. That’s fine. However, if a candidate, especially someone in legal/compliance, says that they can’t reveal more because the matter is sensitive, that’s a legitimate point. And it isn’t necessarily a poor reflection on the candidate. Indeed it can demonstrate that the candidate is highly professional and respects their role and responsibilities.
  6. If you find that you and the candidate have a common friend or your relatives know one another or something of this sort, it’s a good idea to assure them that you won’t be reaching out to that person subsequent to the meeting. Interviewing is a sensitive topic. And please, don’t reach out.
  7. If other colleagues are going to talk with a candidate, it’s very helpful not to speak with the colleagues about the candidate prior to their meetings. Why? Because, even the tiniest bit of interaction/discussion almost inevitably influences how the other colleague approaches the interview. It’s best that there be no exchange at all between colleagues until all interviews have been completed.
  8. Sometimes in interviews if there really is a lot of discussion, a candidate may not have any further questions to ask at the end of an interview. It doesn’t necessarily suggest that the candidate isn’t curious about the role/firm.
  9. There is a difference between liking a candidate as a person and thinking a candidate could effectively do a job. Whoever is hired should be both likable and effective.
  10. Sometimes candidates realize they’ve not answered a question successfully, perhaps because they’ve forgotten some relevant examples or because they just couldn’t understand the question. If they make an attempt to revisit the question, it’s OK to allow them.
  11. Part of why someone is hired, is because of their network and access to other professionals with whom they share ideas. This is common. When interviewing, it’s reasonable to ask not only who a candidate contacts but why they feel one person vs. another is helpful. That can give the hiring manager a good sense of what the candidate looks for from others. Specifically, what kind of criteria a candidate relies on when evaluating other professionals.
  12. Recently a hiring manager spent two hours interviewing a candidate. That was probably too long. Similarly it’s not great to spend 15 minutes and finish the meeting, unless there is an urgent situation.
  13. In a first interview, it’s acceptable to ask a candidate their current compensation, if the law allows. Introducing compensation at that point, however, probably isn’t necessary, if the recruiter has provided the figures. It’s far more important to determine if the candidate is a potential good fit. This is especially true in the first meeting. But don’t have a candidate participate in countless interviews without learning their compensation expectations (and/or actual compensation, if the law permits).
  14. A candidate once arrived late (approximately ten minutes) for an interview. His reason: his mother had had a heart attack in the middle of the night and he had been with her at the hospital. That’s an acceptable reason for being tardy and, hopefully, the hiring manager didn’t penalize the candidate when evaluating him. In general, candidates should be punctual but sometimes, the reason they’re late is legitimate. (Note that the recruiter wasn’t notified that the candidate was behind schedule until after the appointed starting time.) Thus, it can be worthwhile not to be too quick to judge a candidate.
  15. Candidates for a compliance/legal role need to articulate when something is amiss; there are occasions when an objective opinion is needed. They should have enough strength of character to share their thoughts, even if what they may need to say isn’t upbeat.

What Candidates Can Learn from Mick Jagger

As the process progresses… what candidates need to bear in mind

While I’ve never spoken with Mick Jagger about how The Rolling Stones prepare for a concert tour, I imagine that it requires considerably more energy, thought and organization than a single performance. And being able to give it all they’ve got at the last show on a tour, undoubtedly demands all they can muster. But certainly, they know that they have to make sure every fan gets their money’s worth.

Similarly, participating in multiple interviews can require a candidate to draw on their own inner Mick Jagger, so that they effectively demonstrate in each meeting, how professional they are. No matter whether it’s for the first, or last, interview.

Preparing for a first round of interviews requires energy, thought and strategizing. The goals, certainly, are to be asked to return and, ultimately, receive an offer. But maintaining the necessary level of professionalism when, for example, you’re asked to return to meet, say, 40 people, or participate in even a dozen interviews plus lunch over the course of several weeks, demands a different level of commitment.

Candidates who find themselves participating in multiple interviews and receiving positive feedback have been known to stumble, because they let their guard down and start to relax. It’s almost as though they think they’re just going through the motions when, in fact, an offer hasn’t been made and they need to be effective and maintain their composure.

What can/should a candidate do? Here are some suggestions.

  1. Never forget that you’re a candidate. Your objective is to make a positive impression. Thus, even if you feel like things are progressing and you’re being well received, until you have an offer letter, you’re still a candidate. You want to maintain a level of professionalism suited to one. Don’t relax.
  2. Those interviewing you may become increasingly, seemingly familiar. As though they had slipped off their shoes and put their feet up on an ottoman. That can be fine for those conducting the interviews. But a candidate needs to remember they’re still candidates.
  3. Watch your language. Watch the range of topics you discuss. Don’t become mesmerized by the idea that it seems like the job is in the bag and start to share stories that aren’t suited to an interview. The people conducting the interviews may be friendly, but they aren’t your friends. Don’t get cozy.
  4. Remember, above all, you’re there to learn. This means, you have two ears and one mouth; use them in that ratio. When you listen, you learn. And when you learn, you can get a better sense of what the team is like, what their needs are and how you could contribute.
  5. If you’re invited for a meal, order carefully. Avoid the most expensive dish on the menu.
  6.  Keep writing thoughtful thank you notes. Don’t get lax because the process is moving along and you think thank you notes don’t matter. Thank you notes are an opportunity for a candidate to demonstrate several qualities including: a) listening skills, b) writing skills, c) basic manners. If a candidate listened carefully in an interview, that can be reflected in the thank you note.
  7. Dress as if each interview is your first.
  8. Reconfirm each meeting. That’s an opportunity to demonstrate you’re professional.
  9. Remember the importance of good posture, thoughtful body language, tone of voice.
  10. Sometimes when candidates interview on a Friday before a long weekend, the atmosphere can seem especially relaxed. Please remember, you’re a candidate. If you’re offered a beer, you can accept it, but drink as little as possible.
  11. Interviewing is about learning what a firm needs and communicating how you, the candidate, can address those needs. Please, don’t babble on about how you’re looking to work with people you can relate to in a setting where everyone likes to pitch in. Stay focused on what you can do for the firm. Give examples of how you’ve helped in other, similar settings/situations.
  12. Though some candidates who demonstrate professional behavior through the process aren’t hired, candidates who are consistently professional through the process are more likely to get an offer letter.

Whether you’re participating in the first round, or the tenth, remind yourself of the importance of how you come across in each and every interview. Likely, it will require you to channel your inner Jagger. 

How to Look for a Job, Whether You’re Currently Employed or Not

Whether or not you see it coming, being laid off tends to feel like a punch in the gut. More experienced professionals may, to some degree, expect it, as age discrimination is rampant. That doesn’t necessarily make it easier. When there are rounds of layoffs, people tend to be a tiny bit more aware of the possibility. Still, it’s challenging to process. So, what do you do?

First, if you’re physically able to, increase the amount of exercise that you get. This isn’t just about physical fitness. It’s about processing the stress that comes with a job search. The more exercise, the less stress. Whatever you can do will help. This is especially true just before interviews, but, it’s also helpful on a regular basis as you go through your job hunt.

Second, make a list of everyone you’ve ever worked with who you believe respected your work. It doesn’t matter if you reported to those people, or if they reported to you, or if they were in other departments. If they respected your professional contribution, they may be able to assist you.

Once you’ve completed the list, start calling everyone. Have a brief, well-prepared speech. Three or four sentences tops. Be direct. Let them know that you’ve been laid off and you’re looking for a role doing X, Y and Z. Be realistic about geography; if you can’t commute four hours a day, don’t pretend that you can. If relocation is out of the question, state that. Give some indication of the total compensation you’re seeking. Ask them to keep you in mind if they learn of something.

Third, save your energy. Funneling energy into trying to understand why you were laid off, or what you could have done to prevent it, is a waste of time. Talking with other former colleagues who were laid off, or are unhappy, isn’t a good use of energy. Instead, it’s better to focus on your job search. As much as possible, limit the amount of time/energy spent on trying to understand the situation. Most of the time, someone is laid off because of politics, money, or both.

Fourth, if there’s the possibility of consulting on a part-time basis while you’re looking for a full-time position, pursue it. Bear in mind that if you’re a consultant, it’s OK to say to the hiring manager that you may need to miss an occasional day for interviews. But if a firm needs someone to cover while an existing employee is on maternity leave, or caring for an ill family member, or it’s a busy time and they need extra help with a project, securing a temporary consultant can be a lifesaver, for them and you.

Fifth, understand that the internet is a tool and a resource. Rely on the internet to educate yourself on what’s going on in the industry, where there may be jobs, where someone might be working, or what openings are being advertised. Also, certainly if you’re interviewing at a firm, read all you can about it beforehand.

Sixth, meeting with people, or speaking with them, is essential. Applying for a position online is far less likely to have the desired effect. If you’re able to be introduced to a hiring manager through a contact (i.e. former colleague, family friend, college roommate), that’s ideal. Most firms give extra attention to a candidate introduced through an existing employee. Some even give existing employees a bonus if they refer a quality candidate who is ultimately hired.

In contrast, resumes submitted online often remain in the equivalent of a black hole. In a world where everyone is collecting data, it may be the case that a job is posted solely to generate resumes. A good recruiter, if you have a relationship with one, may make introductions too.

Seventh, understand that some people may be very helpful and others, not at all. And it’s often unexpected which category someone may fall into. Thus, a colleague with whom you thought you had a very cordial relationship might not lift a finger. In contrast, your neighbor’s sister might rise to the occasion and make multiple introductions. You just never know. Often, someone who has had the experience of being laid off is more helpful.

Eighth, keep a log. Note who you spoke with, what was discussed, when you’re to follow up with them. This will help you keep perspective as your search evolves. Moreover, it should help you know where your resume has gone and note who presented it and to whom. This is especially important when applying for a position through a recruiter.

If you share your resume with a recruiter, be certain to write in the email that you’re giving them permission to share your resume solely for the position you’ve discussed. It’s best to not have multiple people, whether they’re recruiters or not, releasing your resume to the same company. This is true even if you’ve not been laid off and you’re participating in the process. But a recruiter may get annoyed if they present you, and you neglected to mention that a company already has your resume through other channels. The reason for their frustration is a result of them feeling as though they’ve wasted their time. Additionally, it suggests to the recruiter that you, the candidate, aren’t being forthcoming about whether or not their resume has already been shared with a company. That could have a negative impact on that relationship.

So, maintaining a log will help considerably. Ideally, it should prevent you from having your resume presented through multiple channels to one firm. And, reviewing the log periodically should confirm that some progress is being made. It’s a bit like making a patchwork quilt. Eventually, all of the squares sewn together will result in a quilt. With a job search, eventually, you will be offered a position.

Ninth, expect the process to take far longer than you could possibly imagine. All the more reason to consider the fourth point, consult in the meantime. The process requires patience, and lots of it. A hiring manager may say that they want to hire you and then, permanent radio silence. Or you may complete several rounds of interviews and then the firm may say there’s a hiring freeze, or profits are down and they need to wait until the next quarter.

The best way to endure the endless wait, is to plant as many seeds as you can. Follow up. Recognize that people are busy but, still, remind them you’re in the market. Sometimes a person who says they are trying to help, hasn’t had the time to make a call, or their call hasn’t been returned. While it’s difficult to be understanding and patient when someone is supposedly helping, it’s essential.

Tenth, it’s usually feast or famine. Either no one will consider you or everyone wants to make an offer. Often, if a candidate mentions that they are being pursued by other firms, they become more attractive to the hiring manager they are speaking to. The theory: the girl with the boyfriend is the girl all the boys want to date.

Eleventh, pay attention to your health. If you have sleeping issues, start drinking in excess, overeating, under eating, being especially quarrelsome, you might benefit from talking to a therapist, outplacement or a coach. Few candidates can successfully navigate a job search if their outlook is lousy and they’re not taking care of themselves.

Twelfth, for numerous reasons, being laid off can impact one’s family, especially the job seeker’s partner. If the partner isn’t in the industry, they may struggle to understand why this happened or how challenging it can be to find a new role. Because the partner is anxious, they might be on edge. The only way to manage this is to discuss it, but not 24/7. If it’s discussed round the clock, perspective is lost and it’s too easy for candidates, and their partners, to feel thoroughly overwhelmed. This can have a negative impact on one’s search efforts.

Why it May be Wise to Speak with a Recruiter

Years ago I called someone in NYC to see if he might have a suggestion for a search I was working on. His response, “Why should I help you? You’re in Rhode Island?” Really, it seldom matters where a recruiter is. Instead, what matters is a) who they know, b) how well they know the industry they’re focused on, c) how much they know about navigating the search process and d) what they’re willing to teach you.

Let me explain. If you’re lucky enough to stumble upon a good recruiter who’s willing to take the time to listen and share some insights, you may find a treasure trove of information. Indeed a strong relationship with a recruiter can resemble that of a personal trainer/athlete. Navigating career decisions with a recruiter who knows both you, and your industry, is a terrific advantage. Because a good recruiter understands and develops relationships and a crucial component of that relationship is good listening.

Perhaps the most common reason that some professionals will speak with a recruiter is to learn about compensation. Indeed, this is frequently discussed, especially around bonus season. Am I paid below market? How do I get my current employer to pay more? If I want more money, is the only choice to leave or get an offer elsewhere? Should I pursue an offer just to receive a counteroffer? How do I converse with a recruiter about compensation? How do I converse with a hiring manager about it?

Some people call me annually after receiving bonuses. Others, just before. One year a Chief Compliance Officer called to say that instead of money, his bonus was a gift card of a modest sum. We discussed his sentiments and what options he had. A General Counsel, who checks in periodically, has spoken with me at length about how to ask for a bonus of a certain amount. He often discusses his expectations in one call and the actual figures in a subsequent conversation.

Because there are multiple factors that determine what someone’s earning, it can be very helpful to discuss this with a recruiter. They should be able to provide some insights. My tendency is to discuss with professionals what their compensation has looked like over the years, as percentage increase is a good gauge on evaluating compensation progression.

But compensation is just one topic that a recruiter should be able to shed light on. Another may well be the pros and cons of leaving a job. Is it OK to leave after less than a year? This question was recently asked by someone I placed a few years ago. She landed herself in an uncomfortable situation and didn’t know how long she needed to stay. Other related questions include: How often should/could someone do that? Is it possible to stay too long with a company? These are questions that a good recruiter should be able to weigh in on.

Once a professional from a large bank called because he wanted to know if I had any suitable openings. As we talked, it became apparent that the problem was his boss was making anti-Semitic remarks. I was able to provide some advice on how to approach the situation. While I don’t think that was what he anticipated, I do believe it was helpful.

Recruiters can also provide guidelines to interviewing. That’s the case even if it’s another recruiter who is sending the candidate in for interviews. They may well know the person conducting the interviews. Or the person formerly in the role. That can be enormously helpful. They may know about the department, or the firm in general. Not to mention what the boss is really like. Recently a compliance officer who wants to leave her firm asked me how to answer, why would you leave your firm after less than two years. It’s a legitimate question and I was able to provide a response she found comfortable.

But let’s say that you’re supposed to interview for a role and there’s information that might be helpful for you to know but it’s outside of your expertise. A recruiter may be able to introduce you to someone who will walk you through the basics. That can be extremely helpful. For example, a compliance person whose background was with hedge funds was interviewing with a PE firm. I arranged for him to talk to a compliance person who had PE experience, so that the candidate had a better sense of things.

Apart from the basics of how to better your resume or navigate challenging interview questions, a recruiter can also assist with how to evaluate an opportunity, not just in terms of compensation. Recruiters may help you determine what kinds of roles you may be eligible for if you pursue one position versus another.

Recruiters may also have information about industry trends, recent moves, layoffs, relocation, upcoming openings, etc.

Of course hiring managers may also benefit from speaking with a recruiter. Often, hiring managers, after evaluating resumes and compensation of a range of candidates will ask a recruiter what the landscape looks like for them, both in terms of compensation and opportunities. Or they will ask recruiters how to approach conducting interviews, evaluating candidates, negotiating compensation, etc. Many hiring managers have asked me to give a sense of the market as it relates to compensation. I’ve been known to give hiring manager sample questions to ask candidates, strategies on how to evaluate candidates and insights on the pros and cons of one candidate vs. another. In short, recruiters have access to lots of information that can be considerably helpful.

So, what happened to that person I called who said, why should I help you, you’re in Rhode Island? About three years after that conversation, he called me. Said that he had been referred to me and wanted some help… something about looking for a job.

Why Resumes Nearly Always Include Mistakes

Recently a resume came to me with the first bullet point, “Provide trusted advise”. Another candidate wrote “CDO’s” instead of CDOs. A third person misspelled the name of his current employer. Why do resumes nearly always include a mistake? Many would likely say it’s because people are busy. Or lazy. Or distracted. I’m not sure those aren’t factors. But they probably don’t tell the whole story.

Though I’ve not studied this with a team of psychologists, I do believe that, were I to do just that, what I’d learn is that it’s a psychological block of some sort. One that’s related to a candidate’s struggle to look themselves in the mirror. In essence, an inability to grasp that their professional history is staring them in the face. It’s a bit like reading, or writing and reading, one’s own obituary.

Even professionals who have enjoyed their careers, and feel good about how things have progressed, may find it trying to write a resume that’s error free. But many find it a bit of a jolt to see in black and white how they’ve spent their time. And it can be sufficiently overwhelming that it may impact the presence of errors.

Now many hiring managers actually study resumes looking to find errors. Others don’t even read resumes carefully enough to notice them. And typos are often easier to overlook.

So, what should hiring managers tolerate? And what should candidates do to reduce the number of errors? Hiring managers who are especially fastidious may not be willing to budge on a document that has even one noticeable error. If someone is applying for a legal or compliance role, the hiring manager knows that the work requires a high level of attention to detail. If a resume has a mistake, how can the candidate possibly do the job satisfactorily? My suggestion is that if the resume includes one or two minor errors, they might speak with the candidate and, if the interview is positive, give a written test that requires the candidate to identify errors.

My bet is that on the written test, a candidate could well do a superb job. Because, in part, the psychological component that impacts writing a resume, isn’t a factor. Of course it’s possible that because the candidate knows it’s a test, they may panic and make mistakes. If that’s the case, the hiring manager may want to proceed with caution.

To reduce the number of errors, a candidate should read their resume multiple times. That should include at least one time aloud. And a few other people, preferably in the same industry, should proof it too. This doesn’t guarantee the errors will be eliminated. It should, however, reduce them.

Everyone loathes spending time on resume writing. Most think that if the resume were written a bit better, well, an interview may be forthcoming. Since everyone has a different idea about what a resume is supposed to look like/include, writing them is even more stressful. Ten people will easily give ten opinions on what to do differently. And folks love giving opinions.

Style and content aside, candidates must try hard to reduce the number of errors in their resumes. And hiring managers might consider that an occasional error is, for most, the norm. Fact is, if those same hiring managers looked at their own resumes, they may notice, or another reader might, that there are, heaven forbid, errors.

How to Resign, What to Expect after Resigning, and Counteroffers

How to Resign

Someone I’ve known for over a decade resigned last week. “Harry” had been furious with his boss of several years and his bonus, as nearly all the bonuses at the firm, had shrunk. Aggravated, Harry was delighted to learn of a new opportunity that he pursued and enthusiastically accepted. Prior to resigning, Harry called to discuss his approach.

He spoke a bit about how annoying his boss had become and shared his fantasy of blasting him. After he was finished, I assured him that he was not to do anything of the sort. On the contrary. There is no benefit in educating the boss when you’re cleaning your desk. None. And while many are tempted to submit a letter of resignation and then tell the boss everything that is wrong with the firm, this temptation is one that should be squelched. Especially because the world is small. And with the musical chairs that exist in the industry, the likelihood of running into someone again is very high.

Let’s consider another example. A senior compliance person, “Sam”, was fed up after a few years with a firm. So, he found himself another job. Disgusted when he went to resign, he spoke not just with his immediate boss, but the boss’ boss. And he assured the boss’ boss that everything was a mess, because, Sam continued, his immediate boss was difficult. Sure enough, the boss’ boss went in and shared the details with Sam’s immediate boss. There was absolutely no benefit. And though Sam was leaving the firm in a handful of weeks, the damage was, unnecessarily, done.

So, when you want to resign keep it short and simple. First, wait to confirm that you have successfully completed drug test/background checks. Even if you know you will pass them, wait. Then, prepare a brief typed note. Effective today, I am resigning from YZ Company. Thank you for the opportunity. Sincerely, yours. That’s it. Arrange to speak with your boss and say, I wanted to give you this letter of resignation. Thank you for having me and I wish you all the best. Nothing else needs to be said. Often people don’t like to say where they are going. The industry is such that it’s only a matter of time before everyone knows, so putting lots of energy into keeping a secret probably isn’t worthwhile. Most important, however, do not complain/educate at this juncture. There’s no point.


Counteroffers can be part of the process or they can be avoided. Often candidates Google the word “counteroffer” to better understand the potential repercussions and learn quite a bit. Upon reflection, many realize that they participated in the search because they need/want a change and, regardless of how content they are, realize it’s time for a new challenge.

For candidates who want their departure to lack drama, the best approach is to convey to management that they have no interest in discussing a counter. While management may initially bristle, they often appreciate the candidate’s clarity. Since the world is small and one never knows who will turn up where in the future, remaining professional benefits all parties. People move around. A gracious departure is often a gift to everyone involved. After all, one never knows who is going to resign next.

Post resignation

There are a few responses one can expect after resigning. One, coworkers are angry and stop talking to the candidate. They relied on this person and realize that’s concluded. Candidates need to know that this response is common and, with time, coworkers can understand the person’s decision. Two, coworkers are delighted for the candidate because they realize they deserve a new challenge. These coworkers typically congratulate the candidate and wish them well. Three, coworkers ask the candidate how they found their new job and then complain about how keen they are to leave themselves. Occasionally, some will even ask if the candidate can bring them along.


An amusing resignation story. One that someone shared a while ago and I like to think that it’s true. A person went in to tell the boss he was resigning. The boss thanked him and announced to his subordinate that he had just resigned himself.

How to Negotiate So That You Don’t Regret What You Accept

This information is primarily for candidates who are about to negotiate a compensation package with a new employer. However, someone who is interested in earning more with a current employer may find it helpful too.

  1. What you’re currently earning always influences what an offer will look like. So, if you’re presently underpaid, it’s unlikely that you will see a dramatic increase that will put you in a different stratosphere. It happens about .005 % of the time. Note: this doesn’t need to be true if you live in a place where asking compensation history is illegal.
  2. There are always two numbers: the number you want and the number you’ll take. Always ask for the number you want. Hopefully, what will be offered will be higher than the number you’ll take, even if it isn’t the number you want.
  3. When you’re paid properly, you will spend more time working at the firm for a longer period. That benefits the firm. You won’t be distracted looking to leave because you’re dissatisfied with your compensation. So don’t accept a disappointing package.
  4. If you need to tell a hiring manager and/or a recruiter that accepting less than X will mean you won’t be satisfied, do it.
  5. Do not put your energy into explaining your compensation requirements. Be matter of fact.
  6. Practice discussing this matter with an imaginary person. It’s valuable to be able to say, in a relaxed manner, “I want a package of X with a base of Y. I have deferred comp of Z.” Then be quiet. And pay attention to your body language. No arms crossed in front of your chest or above your head. No foot tapping or leg shaking.
  7. When you talk money, don’t talk too much. Otherwise, it seems like you’re nervous. This is a game of sorts. Like poker. Be concise. Be relaxed.
  8. Expect to negotiate. It’s part of the process. Don’t cave in. You will feel better if you get what you want. Or if you make every effort to get what you want.
  9. No one wins in the long term if you accept less than what you want.
  10. It’s ok to walk away. Sometimes, they come back and you really get what you want. And if you don’t get what you want, why go?
  11. If it helps to imagine you’re negotiating on behalf of someone else, do that. If you have a family, remember you’re probably looking for more money to support them.
  12. You can always practice the conversation lots in advance.
  13. Avoid taking the first offer unless it’s exactly the number you requested. Or more than you requested.
  14. If someone really wants you, they have the money. And if you are firm, then that makes you more desirable to a potential employer because who wants to hire someone who doesn’t hold their ground.
  15. Be polite.
  16. Don’t rush to accept an offer. Say things like, “Let me get back to you tomorrow.” Or, “I need to discuss this with my spouse.”
  17. Ignore all studies that talk about compensation, especially the ones with lots of data. Most are full of lies or out of date and have little to no value.
  18. If you’re contacted by recruiters about roles, ask them to email the spec and include in the email the expected compensation range and ceiling. This should be kept in a file. Of course what’s ultimately paid may not resemble what the recruiter indicates is expected, but, still, it’s worthwhile to collect the information.
  19. If you work for a firm and want to see your compensation increase there are several things you need to do. Some include the following: a) make certain that what is asked of you is done properly, b) go above and beyond to demonstrate that your contribution to the firm is valuable, c) in a review with your boss, whether it’s annual or biannual, make sure that you’re clear on what you need to do better, d) ask for an increase in compensation long before numbers are determined, e) be prepared to explain why you think you earned that increase (if you need to give a list of projects, situations, matters that you were responsible for, that’s fine), f) avoid ultimatums, g) avoid being dramatic/emotional when discussing compensation.

Tips for Employees

This was originally written for recent college graduates but the information might well be helpful to anyone beginning a new job. Bear in mind some tips are based on mistakes people have made.

  1. If you don’t know the answer to a question, say so.
  2. When asked a question, if you don’t have an answer to share immediately, say that you would like to take some time and follow up. Then, follow up.
  3. Reply to emails. Even if it’s just to say received. If you can add that you expect to follow up in full by a certain time/day, communicate that. And do it.
  4. Never, ever use your work computer for anything that isn’t for work. Never. If that means you have to carry two computers everywhere you go, carry two. I know about a guy who is probably going to be fired because he used his work computer to look at some porn on the weekends. But it was on his work computer.
  5. Separate work and personal emails. All of them. And if you don’t believe me, ask Clinton. All personal emails go to your personal email address. Always.
  6. Best never to have more than one alcoholic beverage in a 24-hour period at work. That means, one beer or one glass of wine. If everyone else gets bombed, that’s fine. If you aren’t at work, drink whatever you like in whatever quantities, provided you aren’t with coworkers. But not at a work event/outing or with coworkers.
  7. No illegal drugs with any coworker ever. I don’t care if the lead partner is snorting cocaine and offers it to you.
  8. Your coworkers are your coworkers. They’re not your friends. They may become your friends because of the number of hours you spend with them. But they’re your coworkers. Whenever possible, try to maintain a bit of a distance. That’s tricky but do what you can as much as possible to maintain this. The world is very, very small. To avoid getting caught up in the nonsense of human interaction, try to maintain a friendly working relationship but not an intimate friendship. At some point you may realize that someone really could be a good friend (and I’m not talking about a romantic relationship). That’s okay but wait until the person has really proven he/she is really good friend material.
  9. Your employer wants you to succeed. OK, some crazy bosses don’t, but most do. Listen to them when given instructions.
  10. Never say an unkind word about a coworker. There is absolutely no upside to it.
  11. Be careful who you sleep with. I know of someone who slept with a colleague, billed the hotel room to the company and was fired. Maybe the only reason this person was fired was because the room was billed to the company. But still. Best not to test this out.
  12. When your boss talks to you, ask permission to take notes and, if given permission, take notes. After your boss talks to you, email the boss to confirm you’ve understood what’s required/discussed/the objectives. This isn’t when you’re discussing what you ate for lunch, it’s for when you’re getting instructions for a work assignment.
  13. If you do a good job, you will be promoted and paid more. The best way to do that is focus on the work and avoid gossip and complaining. Some people aren’t going to be happy with their work. That’s just the way it is. Most people are not happy with about 20%.
  14. If someone is helpful, write a handwritten thank you note. Not to sound like your grandmother, but it remains a good tool.
  15. If a client sends you an email with an attachment that is X-rated and you open it unknowingly, tell your boss what occurred. This happened. Someone (a woman) at work saw a male colleague open an attachment. She told someone and then the guy, who didn’t know it was going to be an X-rated attachment, got in big trouble. It nearly cost him his job.
  16. Usually the hardest part of the job is dealing with people, not the work. People have lots going on in their lives and that influences their behavior at work.
  17. If someone says something unpleasant/offensive/off putting, a good response is, “Thank you for sharing that with me.”
  18. Never correct your boss in front of others. Never interrupt your boss in front of others.
  19. You have two ears and one mouth. Use them in that ratio.
  20. For recent college grads: Avoid saying you’re not going back to school. Instead say, “For now, I don’t have plans to return to school.” Because in three or five or ten years, you might think, hmm, it would be helpful to go back to school.
  21. Avoid discussing politics at work.
  22. Many people are nervous when they are in a new situation, especially in the work place. Some drink a lot. Some get high. I worked with a candidate, a lawyer, who couldn’t pass a drug test because he got high several times a day. Really, the work place isn’t much different from middle school/high school. With that in mind, try to recognize that most of the time, people are doing the best they can. Many of them are struggling with lots of challenges.
  23. If you need to take a day(s) off because you’re sick, do it. Because you don’t want to make others sick and you should be able to be reasonably productive working from home.
  24. An ideal employee is what I call a low maintenance person. This means they are keen to work and don’t put the bulk of their energy into complaining or demanding anything. Flexibility can be helpful (i.e. the office doesn’t have a window but the person, who would like a window, still gets their work done).
  25. Make sure that if you use Facebook that your privacy settings are in place. Do not use Facebook to say anything negative about work.
  26. When writing emails for work, avoid slang and swear words. Remember, if you press send, it becomes permanent and can be, eventually on the front page of the NY Post or some other publication. In other words, think before you send.
  27. Avoid perfume, cologne, scented shampoo/conditioner. Take a shower. Use deodorant. Don’t clip your nails or brush your hair in the office.
  28. Perhaps the most important qualities an employee can have include respect, manners, humility and empathy.
  29. Don’t bring a weapon to work.
  30. If you’re not given specific goals by your hiring manager, offer, in writing, what you think are reasonable examples of goals for the week ahead. Start to put those in writing at the beginning of each week with a look back and a look ahead. Take five minutes each week and write them down. Then, if asked, you have something concrete to consult.
  31. If you have extra time, ask for extra work. If you’re not given extra work, do some projects that you think might have value and present them to the boss. Use your time. If you’re over worked and about to miss a deadline, communicate sooner vs. later.
  32. If you have situations outside of work (illness, death in the family, mechanical problems at home, etc.), notify your boss and make sure that you follow up as much as possible to demonstrate your continued commitment even when you have an obligation outside of work.
  33. Initiate regular communication with your boss so that a dialogue remains open. Include information that is relevant and reflects your interest in growing and what you have accomplished and/or are working on so that your boss recognizes your efforts.

Hiring the Wrong Person

No one hits a home run every time. Similarly, no one always makes a good hire. The process of selecting a person is challenging because, no matter how good a resume looks, nor how well someone interviews, not to mention what references say, there’s a component of the unknown. Plus luck. That makes it nearly impossible to anticipate if everything will line up beautifully, allowing the new hire to flourish.

Even though Susan was hired by Miguel, a seasoned manager, it wasn’t clear in the interview that she was going to be impossible to get along with. Unfortunately, that was the case. Smart and knowledgeable, her downfall was monopolizing conversations, bragging at every opportunity to senior management about the enormity of her contribution to the firm and, perhaps worst of all, interrupting her boss in meetings. Susan drove colleagues crazy. Indeed, they avoided asking her questions. Once, when conducting a job interview for a subordinate, Susan spoke for about 90% of the time. It wasn’t good.

At one point, Susan announced that she had received a job offer and was resigning. Talk about an ideal opportunity for Miguel to say goodbye! Unfortunately, while loath to keep her, timing was bad. He felt pressure. There were other gaps in the department; Miguel couldn’t find a replacement swiftly enough. A counter offer was made. She accepted. Things got worse. Susan was unbearable. And more expensive.

Time passed. Again Susan announced she had a job offer. This time, no counter was offered. No matter how challenging it might be to find someone who could do her work, keeping her wasn’t an option. That was a nearly perfect opportunity to see Susan clean her desk. Fortunately, Miguel was wise enough to learn from his mistake and accept her resignation, the second time.

Miguel was in a challenging situation. Susan was enormously frustrating for him, and the rest of the team. Periodically, he would encourage her to be aware of others, to no avail. If he could’ve, Miguel would have accepted her first resignation. Unfortunately, he felt Susan’s absence would have made him too vulnerable. Fortunately, she found a second opportunity at a time when Miguel’s team was strong enough to march on without her.

Glitzy academic credentials can be the downfall for many hiring managers. Recently promoted to a senior position, Jack interviewed many for a deputy role. After speaking with at least a few candidates twice, Jack selected one with impeccable academic credentials. And, the candidate reminded him of a previous hire, someone who seemed introverted and, under his guidance, evolved into a home run. Jack expected a similar performance. No such luck.

Sam wasn’t planning on blossoming. His academic credentials didn’t make a difference. He lacked an appetite for work. As a manager, he struck out.

Jack, working harder than ever in his own new, more senior capacity, couldn’t tolerate Sam’s approach. At one point, Sam announced to him that he wouldn’t work harder. That concept was foreign to Jack. A consultant told him to speak with Sam, ask him to evaluate his contribution, explain to him that he’s incompatible and establish a schedule for his departure. Once determined, Jack was instructed by the consultant to update his team on Sam’s pending exit and move on. Expend no more time, nor energy. Know when to hold ‘em, know when to fold ‘em, said the consultant. And with everyone at the firm watching, doing so sooner vs. later, allowed Jack to demonstrate that he accepted his mistake and was moving forward.

Paying attention to impressions when a manager wants to only pay attention to a candidate’s price tag, is a common error. Hank conducted interviews with six candidates. Afterwards, he determined all could fill the role but two were most attractive. One, Nicole, was especially appealing because of her low compensation package. Yet Hank sensed in the interview that Nicole wasn’t happy and he was concerned how that could impact the team. Still, her price tag was an aphrodisiac. The other finalist, Brian, wasn’t significantly more expensive and his personality was pleasant. Hank did some off-the-record reference checking. This confirmed his concerns about Nicole. Best of all, Brian’s a home run.

Managers who take the time to do informal background checks are seldom regretful. Those who neglect to, often make mistakes. Anyone in the industry who knows Grace, is familiar with her reputation. She’s miserable. Even the most pleasant people will tell you that. After two weeks at her current role, a colleague, Tim, called Grace’s former co-worker, Stanley. “All of us can’t stand her, and it’s been two weeks,” said Tim. “Everyone knows what she’s like,” said Stanley. Tim knew to call Stanley after the fact, but why didn’t he call before making an offer? Unlike Hank, Tim hadn’t made the off the record reference checks before hiring. He struck out.

Accepting a resume at face value is common. Managers, or background checks, have been known to stumble upon inaccuracies. James received a resume through the Internet. He shared it with a consultant. James had some interest. And some concerns. The consultant suggested that before interviewing, James have the candidate, Mike, write up the reasons for his various job changes. The writing was solid. An interview was held. Throughout the meeting, James sensed something odd. Later, he investigated to see if Mike was in good standing with the bar. For this, James was rewarded. He stumbled upon profiles of Mike that included more jobs than the resume shared. James spoke with the consultant about the inconsistencies. Mike, who was otherwise capable of performing the job, was no longer under consideration. If someone omits anything from a resume, don’t expect him/her to be honest.

Be alert.

  1. Don’t be fooled. Beware of tripping over snazzy diplomas.
  2. Don’t fall head over heels over low compensation packages.
  3. Don’t assume a resume is accurate. Complete off record reference checks. Or, have someone do them.
  4. Have various interactions with the candidate: in writing, on the phone and in person. This gives you a better sense of someone.
  5. Ask questions that require a candidate to reveal how they think. Ask for examples, so candidates explain what they do/don’t know.
  6. Try to get an idea of what the candidate does outside of the office. If a candidate doesn’t answer a question, revisit the question. If they still don’t answer it, ask them why they can’t be precise.
  7. Focus on what someone has the capacity to learn, not just what they know.
  8. Pay attention to who someone is as a person, as that’s more important than anything.

With luck, you may hit a home run.

The Impact of the Law Banning Salary History Discussion

On October 31, 2017, NYC banned employers from asking candidates their compensation history. Their goal was to address a discriminatory practice.

Recently, I spoke with an industry source who had heard that employers were telling candidates, “Here’s your offer, take it or leave.” He shared that his understanding was the discussion around compensation had been truncated.

When I shared with this source a few anecdotes I had heard, he was surprised.

I’m now aware of four offers made that wouldn’t ever have been presented before the law. Two were for offers that included a 50% increase in base salary while two others were 50% higher in total compensation.

My guess is that neither the hiring managers, nor the recruiter, nor Human Resources had a sense of what the candidates were earning. Otherwise, I think it’s unlikely they would have made offers with such radical increases. What you may find especially unexpected is that not all of these offers were accepted. And three were made to male candidates. This is noteworthy as the law was specifically geared to assisting women and minorities.

In one case, where the offer was declined, the candidate accepted a counter that didn’t match the significant offer. Compensation, he explained to his boss, was the only reason he was interviewing. And when the candidate said that to his boss, she didn’t know his base salary and was surprised to learn it was so low. Yes, the boss didn’t know her subordinate’s base salary.

What are hiring managers to do? Certainly they don’t want to break the law and ask what a candidate is earning. Nor do they want to offer a 50% increase in salary or total compensation. One approach some will surely take is to do due diligence. Find out what is known historically about how people are paid. For example, at certain firms, titles determine what compensation range someone might be eligible for.

But far more important, evaluate the compensation of your existing team and determine what you’re comfortable paying for the role. This approach can mean that you may not consider some talented candidates. Yet, it could help to keep the compensation packages of the entire team in the same range.

Sometimes, when interviewing, hiring managers quickly learn that their existing team is paid below market. This may prompt them to adjust the compensation of current employees. Others prefer to just keep searching for a candidate who, similarly, is paid below market.

Compensation is not the only reason anyone should move. But it’s almost always one of the reasons. Hiring managers who offer reasonable compensation packages and make an effort to meet the requests of a candidate, while still be respectful of what existing team members earn, will likely be successful when it comes to recruiting.

Above all, if a candidate feels good about their compensation, the firm that hires them will likely benefit. First, the new hire is more inclined to stay longer. Second, they’re less likely to waste lots of time trying to determine if they’re reasonably paid. Third, if they feel good about their compensation, they’ll probably want to make a better contribution and do a better job. That’s certainly good for the hiring manager.

How Candidates Should Navigate the Law Banning a Discussion of Compensation History

Just as hiring firms are adjusting to how to navigate discussing compensation with candidates when, by law, they need to avoid asking compensation history, candidates are fumbling with what to, and not to, say.

Many candidates find themselves telling recruiters, HR and hiring managers what they’re presently earning. Or what they’ve been earning. This isn’t the best approach for a candidate. Not at all.

Instead, candidates should determine what is the compensation they want vs. the compensation they’d take. And those should be two different numbers. For example, if someone’s presently earning $200,000 total and they’d like $275,000, that can be the number they want, while $230,000 might be the number they’d take.

Once a candidate has established those numbers, they should practice saying, “I’m looking for a total package of $275,000 with a base of $200,000.” And practice is best done in multiple settings. While driving the car, hitting a tennis ball, taking a walk, shaving, emptying the dishwasher, etc. There should be enough practice so that the candidate is relaxed and prepared. Otherwise, they may find themselves with their arms across their chest, looking down at their shoes and whispering. Not a good approach. So practice. Practice so much that responding to the question is not something you dread.

Typically, what’s offered isn’t what’s requested. But how one states their sought compensation can impact what’s offered.