The Sounds of Silence

The numbers around whether or not companies are hiring are all over the map. Our own SmartBrief for CFOs poll on this question indicates that close to 80% of respondents say hiring in their companies is flat. 

That doesn’t mean companies aren’t hiring. It means that the playing field is much smaller, the competition is much stiffer, you must be a high-value target, and what you are bringing  to the table (value) must make the company more money than it costs to bring you on board. 

Even then, the silence can be deafening. In a coaching session earlier this week, my client has at least 4, maybe 5, very viable opportunities on the table. He’s made it to the top of the candidate list, the companies love him and want to bring him on … but he’s caught in the sounds of silence. He is at their mercy as each of the companies wrestle with the decision of whether, in the face of economic uncertainty and waffling or stagnant revenue growth, it makes sense to bring on another employee. 

Notice, I said bring on another “employee.” Not, “hire him.” There is no question in my mind that he is the top candidate for any one of these positions, and he’s been told that if they hire, he's their choice. The questions every company are weighing, and weighing heavily, as part of every hiring decision, are … 

— can we?

— should we?

— what happens if we do?

For this Investment Banker, it’s incredibly frustrating to be so close and yet feel like the end of the road is still so far away. But as I’ve told him, until you get the “NO NO NO and don’t ever darken our doorstep again,” it isn’t over. It’s just that the company is holding all the cards and he is at the mercy of their agonizingly slow decision-making process.

A No Win Scenario

In yesterday’s coaching session, my client (we’ll call him Jim) told me that, before engaging my services, he received a phone call from a contingency recruiter in California. Jim didn’t know the recruiter, but was told by the recruiter that he had about five or so contacts where he could present Jim. Ahhh, the lure of an opportunity. 

Jim sent off his resume and heard … nothing. He still has heard nothing. My advice, write to the recruiter and inquire to whom he presented his resume, when, and put him on notice that he was not authorized to present his resume to anyone else without Jim’s knowledge and consent. 

Why? Because in this situation, every one stands to lose. 

The recruiter randomly blasts out Jim’s resume to companies in his database so “if” there is an opening at any of those companies, the recruiter can say “he” presented the candidate and claim a fee. If the company doesn’t want to pay the fee, he simply doesn’t hire that … perhaps very qualified … candidate. If the company does hire the candidate, he just might face a lawsuit from the recruiter. Everyone loses.

Sound crazy? Read the story directly from this recruiter on

Did you notice this sentence? 

“Our candidate put his resume on career builder.”

If you are currently working with recruiters or intend to work with recruiters in the future, the rest of the story is one good reason, and there are many, why CFOs and other senior-level executives should NOT post resumes on public job boards, in my humble opinion. 

The best way to work with recruiters is to build relationships with them before you need them. Most recruiters are professional and credible. It is the recruiters like the one who called Jim that can cause problems for everyone. The only way you, as a candidate, can discern which recruiter(s) is the best fit for you is to have a solid relationship in place long before you find yourself in the job search market. 

Pain Talk

One of my client coaching calls yesterday afternoon was around how to answer questions in a more powerful, and succinct, manner. He is very analytical and his tendency is towards providing lots of details. The kind of details that unless he is talking to his peers, might cure even the most challenging case of insomnia. What’s great is that he recognizes that tendency and is open to getting the coaching he needs to converse more effectively.

After a bit of coaching, I put on my networking hat and asked him what he did. He responded … “I’m a CFO for XYZ company.” While that was true, and may be true for you, I hope that is not how you respond! That answer screams … COMMODITY! Absolutely no one is going to hire you because there is an empty corner office with a “CFO” placard on the door, and they are looking for a body to sit at the empty desk. 

Companies ARE hiring finance executives who can take away their pain. In the course of the conversation, the most powerful words anyone can use are “pain connectors.” Those are the words that resonate with your target audience, letting them know convincingly that you understand their pain, problems, challenges, or situations … and have solved those exact sorts of things in the past. 

For example … I work with CFOs who may be feeling restless, dissatisfied, or unhappy in their current corporate finance position and are contemplating some kind of career transition. 

Restless, dissatisfied, unhappy … CFOs. Pain connectors + target audience.

Who is your target market and what are their pain connectors?