Women & Interviews

Brassy, Foolish Dames
By Nick Corcodilos

Do women face a tougher time than men when job hunting? Oh, yeah. For all sorts of reasons.

Do women have any advantages when job hunting? Absolutely: they're forced to take more risks than men. And that's good.

Leslie was recently divorced and has two kids to support. Her C/E (costs to earnings ratio) just took a big jump. Her professional portfolio needed some drastic changes.

Women & Interviews
Chat Transcript
Beyond The Trick Question
A Lawyer's Adventures
Career Basics For Women
Career Matchmaking
Ms. Xecutive Holds Forth
Ain't No Personnel Jockey
Recruiter's Point of View
Brassy, Foolish Dames
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A successful manager at a very large retail store, she decided it was best to pull up and start over somewhere else. So she picked the city, identified the two best companies for her, and did lots of homework.

Well armed, she sent out a resume to each -- directly to the managers who could hire her. I hate resumes (see my Resume Blasphemy article), but hey, it worked. One of the companies, an international clothing retailer, invited her in.

Then the first risk factor appeared (doesn't it always?): this company doesn't cover travel expenses for out-of-town candidates. As a headhunter, I can tell you that most people won't spring for airfare just to chat with some personnel jockey. But Leslie analyzed it this way: "Am I meeting with the people who can sign a contract? Do I know I can do this job better than anyone? Am I ready to prove it?"

Leslie took Risk #1. She put up the ante for the airline ticket because she was setting her own rules. Sitting nervously on the plane, she took her approach to the Foolish Extreme: "I changed my attitude about interviewing. No more trying to sell myself based on my credentials. It isn't enough. I had one goal: to show them I could do the job. And that would mean a different kind of interview."

Knowing how much was on the line in this meeting, Leslie said of the two managers who arrived to interview her: "I don't think I let them talk more than 20% of the time. There wasn't much they could tell me. I already knew exactly what they needed. Do you think I'd risk a $300 flight if I didn't?"

Like most interviews, this one hummed right along, going nowhere. In the midst of explaining exactly how she was going to make this company more successful, Leslie got up and walked out the door. Risk #2.

"Come on! No more talk. I'm going to show you what I can do," Leslie announced to the two managers as she led them out onto the retail floor, where she just started doing the job. . .

Later, she admitted, "I know other job candidates don't do this, because I interview people all the time. But, most people's credentials are pretty similar---and that wasn't going to be the focus of this interview."

"By the time I was done, they were standing looking at one another. Their first question was, who coached me to interview this way? It was clearly not something they were accustomed to. 'You're what we're looking for,' they said. 'Someone who's ready to do the job. When can you start?'"

Now, most of you may think this is the happy ending -- winning the job offer on the spot. But we haven't gotten to Risk #3 yet. And Risk #3 is the best risk of all, if you know anything about Foolish Investing: Never follow the herd. If you've done your homework and you know that sucker is going through the roof, don't take your profit early.

When Leslie made the decision on that plane to control the interview, she knew that Risk #3 was the most important of all. The offer was more than her current job was paying, but Leslie wasn't going to discount herself.

The two managers had no idea what was about to happen, because Leslie did not accept their offer as-is right on the spot.

"I've usually settled for the best I could get. But I came to understand my own value while I was doing the research for this interview. I know what I'm worth in their business.

"I explained that if this job didn't pay more and they really wanted me, they should find me a higher level job."

She knew where she stood, and she stood her ground. Brassy. Daring. Gutsy. Smart. Foolish. Especially for a woman?

Heck, I don't know many men who would dare try this. It ain't in the rules. And that's what gave this employer pause.

"After I got back, they called with an offer -- for the position of General Manager of the store at $10,000 more than I originally asked for. Now that's a good return on a $300 airline ticket!"

What's most interesting to me about this story is what happens when a woman contravenes the traditional "holy writ" of The Interview. Men rarely do it. And when a woman does it, employers are somehow more taken aback. They seem more impressed. And this creates an opening that a talented (and brassy and Foolish) woman can take advantage of.

One of the biggest advantages women have when job hunting is this: they're not men.

When a woman takes risks that men are programmed not to, the effect can be so powerful that the rules change...

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