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



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?

Branding Speaks to Culture Fit

My clients know that I believe authentic branding speaks directly to culture fit. And prospects who talk with me will hear me say …

When you’ve made it to the top 3 candidate list, your ability to do the job is a given. That means, there are only two remaining questions … are you a fit with their culture and do they like you. When you are well-branded, the culture fit question has also already been answered. Likability is the only remaining issue.

Recently, CFO World ran an article entitled “Why CEOs Prefer Old-Fashioned Networking When Hiring,” and Robert Zecca, former president and CEO of Content Data Solutions provides a great perspective …

“I have three criteria which I use in hiring: they must be able to perform the job, their goals must align with the company’s goals, and they must fit into our culture,” he says. “By utilizing our networks, we find that the latter two requirements align and my job becomes a little easier.”

So I have two questions …

Are you well-branded? While it is more work at the front-end of the career management process, it makes finding (and attracting) the right opportunities that are a great fit with your skill set, values, passions, and interests much easier.

Are you networked and visible? If you aren’t, you might be missing out on great opportunities. If you are well-networked and visible but you aren’t attracting the right opportunities, see the first question.

Make a Lasting Impression by Being First … or Last!

In many things, including interviewing, there is a principle called the “first and last bias.” Have you heard of it?

As humans, we tend to weigh more heavily the information given at the beginning and the end of presentations. That’s great counsel if you do presentations. But it is also important in interviewing.

First, scheduling the interview.

If at all possible, you want to be interviewed first or last in order to take advantage of the first and last bias principle. If you’re first, you have the opportunity to set the standard or bar for everyone following you. If you’re last, you have the chance to wipe out the memory of the candidates who preceded you.

Of course, what you do post-interview is equally important.

Second, navigating the interview.

The immediate impression you make in the first 5 seconds combined with your first answer will either solidify you as a good choice or immediately remove you from consideration.

Assuming you make that first great impression and connection, how you end your interview will again, either solidify your candidacy or get your name scratched off the list.

It’s important to start well and end well to win the advantage. First and last can make a huge difference in interviewing success.


Lessons from Leaders

One of the most interesting panels at the recent CFO Core Concerns conference was the one offering lessons from some of the country’s most fascinating, and perhaps less known, leaders.

Take Jackie Berry, for instance. She is the CFO / COO of Zorch, a rapidly-growing, tech-enabled, branded merchandise agency. How rapidly growing? How does 20,000% over the last four years sound? And yes, 20,000 – it’s not a typo.

Her energy and enthusiasm were contagious throughout the room. Jackie says the focus on brand protection is a top priority and a key focus, and her company executes a continuous interviewing process. While they are not always hiring, they are very transparent about where Zorch is in the hiring process. The “always interviewing” strategy allows them to bring on top talent within 2-3 weeks when necessary, and a vibrant training & development program follows each new hire.

Another unknown – at least to me – was Ted Vincent, Vice Chair and CFO of FordDirect. He, too, advocates continuous interviewing as “the” way to ensure you have the right people in your network when it comes time to hire. He indicated the “entire executive team needs to be a part of the recruiting process.” I totally agree!

Harold Earley is the EVP and CFO of Foamex Innovations. Another fast-growing and, as the name implies, innovative company. They make foam, which is everywhere, and apparently, Foamex is the industry leader.  Sadly, according to Earley, great finance talent is absent from the Philadelphia area.

The lack of top finance talent statement reminded me of the Duke University / study results that indicated 21% of companies are in hiring mode; 16% would like to hire but don’t have the resources to do so; and 9.3% can’t find qualified employees. That 9.3% stat is telling. The question is, how do we bridge the gap?

What Recruiters Want

I’m just back from an amazing industry conference of Career Thought Leaders. There were some great presenters and some equally great conversations with non-presenters … and I learned from both!

For me, one of the most interesting presentations was by recruiter Wayne Mitchell. He had some great information on “recruiter thinking” that will help me help my CFOs as well as finance executives who are aiming for that CFO seat. Here are just a few of his great insights (his comments are in bold, my commentary follows) …

— Water cooler talk is a great way to find out the culture of the company.

Obviously, if you aren’t in the company you’re not able to participate in or observe “water cooler talk.” But there are ways to get in that dialogue …. Here’s a hint … Linked In is no longer optional.

— The foundation of any company is its values, and aligning those with the candidate’s values & vision is key in recruiting.

Which is why candidate branding is so effective. Branding takes the question of “culture fit” off the table before you walk in for the interview.

— A candidate’s values mean nothing unless they are values-in-action.

A candidate’s values are demonstrated through his purpose, passion, and priorities.

— Recruiters look for career progression and impact in resumes.

At the CFO level, technical skills are assumed. It’s about the ROI of the candidate … his ability to solve a company’s problems and leave it, measurably, better than he found it.

Non-Social Social … the New Norm?

My son-in-law and I were spending some time bonding on Saturday, interacting together while simultaneously checking our crackberries. Our society is quickly moving towards being non-socially social. Have you noticed how many people walk around with a beetle attached to their ear talking into thin air, but not to the person(s) walking with them? 

I love my blackberry and there is no question that it feeds my addiction to immediate gratification and information, but for the job seeker (executive or otherwise) … blackberries and iPhones can be the kiss of death.

The lure of casual …

Like texting, emails and messenger discussions sent thru a phone can lull you into the false belief that because it is a “phone” message, it can be casual with little or no regard to professionalism, courtesy, or spelling and grammar. Don’t get caught in the “casual” trap. The job search process is still very much a formal process for executives.

If you believe you are THAT important …

that you can’t turn off your phone during an interview, you might be living in a fantasy world. There is a time and a place for checking your messages; however prior to, during, and immediately following an interview are NOT the times nor the places. If you want to beat out the competition, there are much better uses of your time during these critical moments. The time to turn off your phone is before you leave your house or office to head to an interview; and keep it in the car, with the off button properly engaged, until after you’ve decompressed from the interview.

There’s an OFF button for a reason …

So it can be used. Not vibrate, not quiet … OFF! And, as noted above, preferably left in your car. Getting distracted mid-sentence by an incoming call or message reflects poorly on your professionalism. If your focus isn’t on winning the interview in anticipation of scoring a job offer, how will you focus on getting your job done once you’re hired?

This message is from … who?

“Sent from my blackberry” does not constitute a proper signature line. Even on your phone, it’s important to include your full name, contact information, and personal branding statement.

And please, don’t forget to remove the beetle from your ear!

Interview Your Future Boss?

 Should you interview your future boss? Absolutely! While it seems like a novel idea, it really isn’t. Rather, it is a strategic move … whether you are a CFO or other senior–level executive. Your ability to ask great questions of a potential company says as much about you as do your answers to their questions.

Interviews should be conversations, not interrogations. Landing in a new position should be a mutually–beneficial decision. If it isn’t the right place for you, the result is a costly mistake for the company and another job search for you.’s article, “Nine Things to Ask Your Future Boss, the CEO,” is a good read. I would add that being clear about your brand – how you do what you do – will increase the likelihood that the answers to these questions will be what you want to hear.


Dr. Sullivan calls it “Speed Interviewing,” based on the speed dating concept, but whatever it’s called, from a candidate's perspective it is the skill of stripping down a marketable value proposition to its most succinct and compelling delivery.

Malcolm Gladwell in his book Blink talks about the concept of “thin slicing,” taking an activity and breaking it down into micro segments.

I alluded to this concept in a former post on Twit Pitches. The Internet is changing the way we communicate … and that includes the way you will need to sell yourself to a target audience. If you really only had about 20 words to deliver your value prop, what would you say?

Dr. Sullivan’s article is certainly an interesting, and perhaps scary, read.