Bait and Switch

It all started on November 17th when a 3rd party recruiter contacted me out of the blue (presumably via my LinkedIn profile) and wondered if I might have any interest in an NYC based Director of Marketing opportunity for a growing, private company in practically a recession proof sector.  I was delighted since that very title was on my short list of career goals.  The traits emphasized in the lengthy job description dovetailed with my interests as well, for example:

Opportunity
[Young, growing organization] is seeking a Director Of Marketing Operations with significant direct and interactive marketing experience. This individual will assist in the management of the marketing operations of their portfolio companies, working closely with the current Marketing Manager and CEO in developing and executing the strategies for their portfolio companies. In support of the company’s continued growth, it recognizes the need to better formalize and manage campaign development and implementation, while at the same time instituting appropriate, disciplined and consistent metrics.

Position Summary
The Director of Marketing Operations will play an integral role in maximizing the company’s marketing assets and provide the vision and implementation of end-to-end processes to ensure marketing optimization. This person will be responsible for creating and managing a measurable and trackable Return on Marketing Investment (ROMI) throughout the organization, resulting in improved marketing effectiveness.

Don't let this man interview you!

Don't let this man interview you!

The first interview with the hiring manager in November went very well as we went through the job description line by line and discussed all my applicable talents.  I was even assured through out the holiday season that they would get back in touch for a second interview.  When I finally met them again, the line of questioning had changed.  The hiring manager and his baby-faced colleague were more interested in my technical skills than anything I’d have to offer from a marketing strategy standpoint.  This didn’t set off any alarms right away since I’m nothing if not versatile and I definitely enjoy the actual implementation aspects of campaign execution. 

However, the meeting grew even more tangential as the manager inexplicably name dropped “Mr. Trump” and a project they were working on and how revenues were projected to be in the $40mm range.  At the time, I thought it was merely tacky but rationalized that he might have wanted to prove to a potential hire that they were in fact, on the up and up.  As the interview wrapped up, they reassured me that I had renewed their interest and I’d hear back soon.

Sure enough the next day, I was contacted for references and asked if I might be interested in a contracting position since that would be a unique opportunity for both parties to “try before they buy.”  The original job deception, excuse me, description was rendered a complete work of fiction since they found time to re-org since our last meeting! Not wanting to rule anything out in this economy, I reluctantly said I was open to it even though my own interest had all but waned.  The hourly consulting fee they offered was a full 25% less than my asking rate which they were fully aware of in November!  When I said that was an unacceptable offer, I was assured that there would be “employee stock options” at which point I made a mental note to buy a new phone because the model I was on didn’t have a mute button which was sorely needed to muffle my laughter!  I lived through the 90s and I know how the employee stock option story line ends!

All is not lost though.  I’ve already made it to the 2nd round at not one but two organizations in 2009 which has kept my interviewing skills sharp and the realization that I might be forced to contend with equally ridiculous offers in the future without a mute button at my disposal was the perfect excuse to treat myself to a BlackBerry today!

Interview Crash and Burn

I recently went on the interview of a lifetime for a VP of Marketing position. While I was once offered an AVP role (and subsequently had the offer rescinded due to ill timed budget cuts), an actual VP role without training wheels has always eluded me. As such, I invested 2 weeks of my life prepping for the interview with the president after making it past 2 rounds of HR screenings. All of this should have served me well but I felt like the interviewer made up his mind the minute he saw me and dismissed me the rest of the all too brief brief interview.

I went so far as to create a very impressive 15 page PPT with my 30/60/90 day objectives and he casually tossed it aside without reading one single word. I did so much in depth research into their industry and all the legislative changes that will affect it because of the new administration and yet the interviewer said I had no background in their industry (duh, didn’t they know that when I sent my resume in 3 weeks ago?).

I reluctantly confess that in the far recesses of my mind I entertain conspiracy theories on why that may have happened (my race, my gender, my overall physical appearance, etc.) but I’m trying not to get worked up about it. We are now entering a new age of enlightenment so let’s just give him the benefit of the doubt and call him an equal opportunity meanie. Besides, the SVP of HR loved me when she met me in person otherwise I would not have made it to a 2nd round. He was one of those arrogant dotcom era types, you could tell because he was the president of the company yet sloppily attired in faded old jeans. I wasn’t sure whether I should shake his hand or spare him some change. Speaking of handshakes, he gave me quite the dead fish handshake which I found so completely disrespectful and unprofessional! Believe me, it’s not a fly by night operation and he was even featured in interviews in Inc and other respectable publications.

He intimated that I didn’t have enough experience to run a department of 3 people. I politely disagreed saying that getting cooperation from 20-50 global colleagues at different levels across multiple LOBs in a large matrixed organization like Deloitte was far more challenging than getting the cooperation you need from 3 direct reports that sit in the same building. He said “you have a point” but I think that just put him off even more.

In retrospect, I’m embarrassed at how must time the infinitely patient and well intentioned recruiter and I spent discussing strategies. We actually debated the use of “well poised” vs “well positioned” on Slide 3! I’m more embarrassed still at how little I had prepared for previous jobs but the economy didn’t dictate it in the recent past. All is not lost since I now have a wonderful PPT template which I can co-opt for future interviews. I also realize that I’m better off working for another established corporate monster like Deloitte where everyone is a professional cookie cutter drone rather than one of these fast growing 90s throwback outfits where everyone has too much personality and attitude for their own good.

Change in the workplace and beyond

Photo from CNN.com

Yesterday afternoon, I went on a 2nd interview for a marketing position with a rapidly growing, private company in Manhattan. As I sat down with the extremely personable interviewer and got reacquainted over the usual small talk, he remarked that on Tuesday his staff would not be working. Instead there would be a group field trip to an Inauguration viewing party. Since I did not want to veer into an overtly political discussion (in my opinion, an absolute taboo during an interview no matter what the interviewer’s beliefs are), I simply remarked “how nice” and steered the conversation back to the open position.

Since losing my job at a large public, multinational corporation last April, I’ve been fortunate enough to go on more interviews than most of my peers. However, most of the interviews were with smaller, growing companies which strike one as a complete throwback to the 90s dotcom era. The company I visited yesterday was no different but one can’t help but believe that the opportunity to collectively view a historic event with your colleagues is a more meaningful perk than a foosball table in the breakroom (a frivolous diversion for a frivolous era).

Such a perk is not guaranteed across corporations, public or private, so I actually considerate myself fortunate to be unemployed today so I can afford the opportunity to watch the festivities on my own time. Tomorrow, the search resumes!

US Airways did NOT Sully their reputation

I live a mere mile or two where the Miracle on the Hudson went down, literally, and can vividly recall what it felt like to commute on the NY Waterway ferries on sub-zero mornings with my bulky, wheeled laptop bag in tow on route to the World Financial Center via the crunchy, icy river. So I can only imagine what the experience was like for those poor souls balanced on the wing for dear life.

Apparently 1549 is now widely believed to be a lucky combo for those playing Win 4 Lotto. Well my friends, luck had nothing to do with it. What struck me most during the first few news reports was that Captain “Sully” Sullenberger had been flying with US Airways since 1980! 28 years with the same carrier is impressive enough but he actually has 40 years experience in total.

Aside from the obvious feel good factor of this story, I related those figures to my job search where experience increasingly feels like a liability and not an asset. With corporate org charts trending flatter, anyone who can spell manager qualifies for the title which I once coveted in the 90s – to wit, a recent interview:

The Good: After nearly 6 months of getting no hits on my resume, I went on an interview for a director-level job in a desirable neighborhood in the city.
The Bad: I would no longer be able to work from home.
The Ugly: A practically pubescent, young man with an uncanny resemblance to teen idol, Cody Linley was one of the interviewers.

Fine, I get it. I’m no longer 25 and I will have to get used to frequently interacting with those who are younger and more successful than me. However, I am growing weary of members of the under-30 set running around with bloated titles; in this case, it was Head of Marketing! During the course of the interview, he feverishly wrote down everything I said which made him seem more like an admin lackey than an executive. I was tempted to ask, “so would you be reporting to me?” but I resisted and played the game. In fact, my game face deserved an Oscar when I confessed I was no expert on SEO (Search Engine Optimization, oh wait, does my blog experience count?), and he replied, “Oh when I was fresh out of college and started at this place, I didn’t know much about it either but I like, totally learned here and stuff…”

The other interviewer was probably around 40 and I liked his professional tone and overall demeanor until he pompously declared, “I ran my first million dollar company from my dorm room!” Great, some kind of dotcom poser who’s probably 32 and not aging very favorably!

So I say all that to say, it was refreshing to see experience applauded on such a grand scale. While I’ve never flown with US Airways before, I certainly would be more inclined to do so now knowing they value experience in their employees. Now excuse me while I join one of Sully’s myriad, rabid Facebook fan groups…