Rejection and the Job Search Process

Nine years ago I wrote an article about the train wreck known as the job search process. Not much has changed since then. In fact, last week a Director of Recruiting & Training, who just happens to be in the midst of her own job search, posted on Linkedin about the various ways candidates can be rejected. Beyond being a horror story, it is an eye-opening and sobering read, and at the time of this posting there were probably 10 or so “named” ways of being rejected as a candidate.

Here are two of my thoughts on the interviewing part of the job search process.

Rejection Just Might be the Hardest Part of the Job Search

It seems like it should be so easy … find a posted position that fits your skills perfectly, send off your resume, and wait – and wait – and wait. More often than not, what you hear is silence. On a good day, you might get a canned thanks, but no thanks response.

The same thing can happen in the interview process. You walk away thinking you nailed it or the recruiter sounds all hot-to-trot to present you, and again – rejection is the frequent response.

Job searching and interviewing are not for the faint-of-heart. It is a tough journey, it can take several attempts to get to yes, and even the most confident CFO can take a beating while getting to that yes. Like in sales, rejection is part of the process. It is just not the fun part. It is the reason I evangelize the premise of looking for your next position while you are still gainfully, and perhaps even happily, employed. The effect of rejection is exacerbated when you are unemployed.

The fact remains, however, that many Finance Leaders ARE unemployed and looking for that next opportunity. Many of my CFO clients over the years have verbalized their frustration at the unprofessional and discourteous way post-interview interactions, or lack thereof, are handled. It is completely understandable … because it is a broken process that favors the company and not the candidate.

It’s Not Over Until You Are Gainfully Employed …

Don’t let up, even a little bit, on your job search activities until you have a signed, sealed, and delivered employment agreement AND you are actually in the first day of your new job. Derailment can happen anytime through this process; meaning, it is not a done deal until the deal is finished. Walking away from an interview you believe you nailed and thinking you can now coast can prove to be a grave mistake.

It isn’t over until the first day you are gainfully employed. Even then, don’t stop all your networking activities. You may just need those contacts again in the future.


Copyright CFO-Coach 2017


Cindy Kraft is the CFO-Coach and America’s leading Career & Personal Brand Strategist for Corporate Finance Executives helping clients understand their marketability, articulate their value, and position themselves as the clear and compelling choice. She is a Certified Reach Personal Brand Strategist, Certified Reach Online Identity Strategist, Certified Career Management Coach, Certified Professional Resume Writer, and Job & Career Transition Coach. Cindy can be reached via email, by phone 813-727-3037, or through her website at



The Proverbial Elevator Speech

Every time I hear the term “elevator speech,” it makes me cringe. I know it serves a purpose and I’ll talk about that in a minute, but most people use an elevator speech to talk “at” people – about themselves – far too often. That is especially true when one is in job search mode. Think about a wife talking at her husband, or vice versa. How much listening is really happening? Or, is the other person …

– planning what s/he is going to say next;

– mentally wondering what else is on his “to do” list;

– trying to determine how soon he can disengage from the me-centered conversation; or

– strategically scanning the room to see who else is there?

That is a consequence of using an elevator speech when a back-and-forth conversation would be much more effective. Such communication is much easier when you understand your value and can articulate it in problem-solving language. When asked what do you do, there are conversation stoppers and more intriguing conversation hooks with which to respond. For example,

I am a CFO for XYZ Company; or

I help small mid-cap companies meet their growth objectives.

The first response is typical and completely misses the value piece of a message. Short of something like how long have you been there, the conversation is on its way to a quick end. Conversely, the latter response invites a follow-up question. If you are skillful at handling the follow-up questions, you can keep the conversation flowing while simultaneously creating rock-solid problem solving positioning.

Save your elevator speech – that 60-to-90 second spiel that tells people about you – for round table networking events and when answering the question “tell me about yourself” during an interview or in a conversation with a recruiter. At that point, it is both appropriate and useful because your written marketing documents (resume, cover letter, leadership brief) and digital footprint have already answered the value question.

Proverbial or not, I do not believe an elevator speech is appropriate when you are standing in an elevator or attending a networking event. Talking at people will never be as effective as engaging people by talking with them.

Copyright CFO-Coach 2017


Cindy Kraft is the CFO-Coach and America’s leading Career & Personal Brand Strategist for Corporate Finance Executives helping clients understand their marketability, articulate their value, and position themselves as the clear and compelling choice. She is a Certified Reach Personal Brand Strategist, Certified Reach Online Identity Strategist, Certified Career Management Coach, Certified Professional Resume Writer, and Job & Career Transition Coach. Cindy can be reached via email, by phone 813-727-3037, or through her website at

The Dog Ate My Homework

With that cliché title, I am no doubt dating myself. That’s okay. You already know I’ve been in business for 23 years so I’m definitely not a young pup.

This bit of sage advice from my colleague, Barb Safani, came through my Linkedin newsfeed this morning.

“If recruiters ask you to ‘walk them through your background,’ focus on your core messages of value, not the five positions you held pre-1985.”

This wise counsel is true not only when you are talking with recruiters, but is also critically important when crafting your resume, Linkedin profile, cover letters, leadership brief, and every other written marketing document you use. Not doing your homework, which in this case is not doing the hard work to clearly understand your value so you can articulate your value messaging, won’t result in a 0 grade for homework not done. Rather, it may cause you to miss out on a very lucrative opportunity; maybe even your dream opportunity.

Here area 4 tips for honing your value messaging in the competitive world of CFO job search:

– 10 to 12 are the magic numbers

While a recruiter and/or a company is interested in how you got where you are, what the hiring company most cares about is your ability to solve the kinds of problems they are currently experiencing.

In the fast-changing world of technology, that means your tangible impacts over the last 10-12 years matter much more than what happened in the early years of your career or your degree. Those foundational things matter, but they will not help a company with a problem understand how you can resolve their issue, challenge, or situation.

Which brings me to …

– It is not what, it is how

What you did only matters in the context of how you delivered value as a finance leader who knows how to step in, eliminate or mitigate issues, and make a company stronger and better. That is your track record; that is your core value; and that is what matters to a prospective company.

– Self-identify by value rather than job title or worse, lack thereof

Besides screaming desperation, which shifts the balance of power, identifying by your job title is absent any value to a potential employer. Find your value and then, use it as a neon sign at every opportunity.

– The more you blend in, the less you will be noticed

When I made the decision to work exclusively with CFOs, it was based on two things:

– With whom did I most enjoy working, and
– Where was a gap in the saturated resume writing/job coach market?

The answer was the same for both questions. I loved working with accomplished finance executives and there were no resume writers or job coaches working exclusively with CFOs.

That is true for you as a job search candidate whether you are currently in a search or anticipate a move within the next few years. Identifying how you are different from all your competitors will help to ensure that you stand out from them rather than get lost in the masses.

Your core value and strongest positioning are the most visible when you have identified what you love doing, quantified your track record of success doing those things, clarified your target market, and taken ownership of that space.

If I can help you hone your value messaging, give me a call!


Copyright CFO-Coach 2017


Cindy Kraft is the CFO-Coach and America’s leading Career & Personal Brand Strategist for Corporate Finance Executives helping clients understand their marketability, articulate their value, and position themselves as the clear and compelling choice. She is a Certified Reach Personal Brand Strategist, Certified Reach Online Identity Strategist, Certified Career Management Coach, Credentialed Career Master, Certified Professional Resume Writer, and Job & Career Transition Coach. Cindy can be reached via email, by phone 813-727-3037, or through her website at


Recorded Interviews

I posted an article on Linkedin Pulse about the new, and rapidly expanding, trend of recording candidate interviews. There is much we don’t know about the ramifications to a candidate when his interview is recorded, but this practice begs the question … does an interviewer’s demand / requirement to record an interview trump a candidate’s rights to refuse? What about questioning what happens to that recording? Or, asking how it will be used post-interview?

After I posted my article, I received an email from someone who was happy to share their story and for me to share it without attribution. To maintain confidentiality, here is my summary of that email.

I had a company ask me to not go see candidates but instead to conduct Skype interviews and record each one so that they could see them as well. Yes, that made me uncomfortable and also as a veteran recruiter it made me think they didn’t trust my judgment.

In my state, you are required to tell the candidate that they are being recorded, which I did. The quality was not always great. The company said that if anyone doesn’t want to be recorded, then we don’t want them. In all if was uncomfortable and the idea that a professional would be giving the yah or nay based on a video tape was not in the best interest of the client.

What do you think? Would you go along with a recorded interview regardless of the unknowns?

Interviewing & Technology
Interviewing & Technology

Evolution of the Interview Process

Gerry Crispin of CareerXroads literally rocked my world at my annual Career Thought Leaders conference in Baltimore, Maryland with his information on the way technology is evolving – and maybe evolving isn’t even the right word – the interviewing process.

If you haven’t really given thought to how technology might impact your next interview, you might be shocked to learn what “could” be awaiting you. Here are a few of his most notable comments. My thoughts on his comments can be found in this month’s column in Futures in Finance.

– The next wave of technology innovation will destroy more jobs than it creates.

–   HR data will be collected, analyzed, and the results deployed in real time, most often poorly.

– Video interviewing will create seamless conversations via technology that will dramatically change the hiring landscape.

–   And what about Sophie?

There are a lot of issues that technology brings into the search and interview process; and certainly at this point, we have more speculation and questions than answers. Here’s a given. Video interviewing is only going to increase in popularity if only because, once again, it gives the interviewer the upper hand and lowers recruiting costs.

Interview Evolution

It’s Tougher When You’re Unemployed

Losing your job before you have secured another job just makes the difficult job search process that much harder.

Those are not fun words. They are rarely well-received by someone who has lost his job and is currently in the hunt. But not saying them and/or not setting realistic expectations for someone who is too busy to think about his career while he’s working doesn’t change them or make them untrue.

Sadly, here is the all-too-typical story when you lose a job before you have a new job …

As happens to many Americans, when he lost his job, he lost his health insurance. He now owes $171,569.44 for the six nights he spent at the hospital.

And so on the evening of Aug. 15, at a meeting of the job club he himself started here two years ago, he told the others he was just like them. “I need a job,” he said. “I need to make money now.” [Source: New York Times]

Result: The two Ds … Debt and Desperation.

The job search process at the CFO-level is often long. Companies hire slowly and cautiously. A second round interview means just that: a second interview. It doesn’t mean a job. Same for a third round. In fact, what it often also means is a very long, drawn out process.

Job searching can be grueling under the best of circumstances. Don’t make it harder than it has to be by thinking it can’t happen to you. It can. And it often does.

Failing to plan is planning to fail when it comes to managing your career. So now that you’ve read this post, execute one career management strategy, and do it today.

What is a CFO?

This was a recent question on a Proformative discussion board. Maybe the question – and the answers – actually raise a more important question.

What do you do?
What do you do?

When someone asks you “what do you do,” how do you respond? If it is with something akin to “I’m a CFO,” maybe you want to read some of the answers and begin reconsidering your response. Apparently, not many outside the finance arena even know what that acronym means.

Interesting that some of the folks choose to call themselves “accountants” rather than CFOs … so “outsiders” would have a better understanding of what they do.  Yawn. Sigh.

I’d like to suggest that “what” you do is not nearly as interesting to folks (and interviewers) as “how you impact.” And if what you do isn’t interesting or not understood, whoever you’re talking to will have moved on (in their heads) to …

— what they are going to say next,

— what is still on their “to do” list,

— where they are going after this event, or even,

— who they want to talk to as soon as they can dump you.

The next time you’re asked what you do, respond in a way that is intriguing and begs a follow-up question. And make sure your answer honors your brand!

Stories and Pauses

I recently read an article about how to ramp up public speaking skills.  Two of the suggestions … emotional stories and pregnant pauses … jumped out at me as two very effective strategies I use in coaching my clients through the job search and salary negotiating process.

I’m a big believer in differentiation as a way of standing out from the competition in a job search or as a top 3 candidate in the interview. The effective use of stories and pauses can certainly differentiate you from the pack.

Read the entire article on the Association for Financial Professionals site. (The article was originally published in the Futures in Finance newsletter.)

Disclose Salary? Never, Sometimes, or Always?

There is so much confusion around when executives should or should not disclose salary. I see the salary questions posed on Linked In (have you joined our CFO careers group yet), on Quora, in recruiter and career practitioner forums, and yes … frequently in my coaching sessions with my clients.

Take Bob.

Six weeks after we put his marketing documents together and honed his communication message, he received a call from a retained recruiter with the kind of opportunity he had his heart set on but wasn’t really sure would come his way. Certainly not so quickly.

The recruiter was brisk, a bit lacking in relationship skills, all business (my guess is a high D on the DISC), with little – okay no – reassurance for my client as a top candidate and who was well-liked by the C-suite of her company.

The salary question threw him for a total loop. Does she have a right to ask that, he asked me. This early in the process, he continued. I know what the company has budgeted and my current salary is much lower than that … won’t disclosing this to her nullify my candidacy?

Maybe you’ve wondered similar things when it came time to talk salary.

The recruiter does have a right, in fact an obligation to his/her client – the company – to ask the salary question. And you, as a prospective candidate, should answer that question. I would give different advice if you were dealing directly with a company. We’re talking about the recruiter.

Even as we strategized on how to move forward regarding the salary gap – honestly and truthfully – I could feel my client’s insecurity over the issue. Nevertheless, he heeded my counsel and responded to her just as we discussed.

If a company is paying you based on what you currently make rather than the fair market value of the job you are being asked to do and the responsibilities you are being asked to hold, then it might not be a job you really should consider. And lying or exaggerating or misleading or refusing to answer the recruiter’s question around salary might just get you eliminated anyway.

I bet you’d like to know how the story ends, right?

My client just received an offer from his dream company that more than doubled his salary. He’s a happy guy.

Unemployed vs. Passive in the Job Search

Is there a difference in the mindset of a candidate who is unemployed and conducting a job search – and – a passive candidate exploring new opportunities? I’d say many times the difference is actually a wide chasm.

CFO Innovation has a good comparison of the different mentality between the unemployed CFO and the passive CFO in interviewing. But I believe that mindset, attitude, and behavior transcends just interviewing. For example …

Search vs. Inquiry

Think about how a CFO without a job, and particularly if he’s been out of a job for awhile, approaches the search. Even with a nice severance package that will tide him over for some time, the approach is completely different. The unemployed candidate must be proactive, working at his search as if it were a full-time position. The tension of “needing” a job can often lead to using ineffective tactics as opposed to leveraging the luxury of time to execute a well-planned strategy.


A sense of desperation and urgency on the part of an unemployed candidate easily shows up in networking. Rather than having a clear plan and time to work the plan by building trusted relationships, networking becomes an exercise of asking everyone you know for a job. It’s also the quickest and easiest way to burn great contacts.


The hiring process always seems to be “hurry up and then wait.” And the waiting is the worst. Unlike the passive candidate who, after the interview, can re-focus on his current job; the unemployed job seeker usually has two options … more job searching or hoping/wishing that he gets “this” job and so he takes a respite from the stresses and anxieties of a job search. Both options are big mistakes for the job seeker involved in an active search.

If you’re unemployed, take a step back to assess whether there is any negative  body language or behaviors that might be hampering your search or the interview.

If you are currently employed, what one thing can you do today to begin executing a longer term search strategy while you still have the powerful positioning as a passive candidate?