Value isn’t a throwaway word

I interviewed a candidate recently. He was great! In fact, just the perfect fit for the role we have been looking for the past couple of months. It would’ve been ideal for us to simply hire this person. In fact, it was a no-brainer.

Things took a drastic turn, however, during the final interview process. The candidate basically blurted out that he “deserves” the industry standard hike. I got inquisitive and asked, “… and what would that number be?” He said, “it’s 30%.”

Now, as an interviewer, here’s where I draw the line. Great talent is much appreciated but overconfidence isn’t. I asked him for the “source for that number.” He didn’t have any. I mentioned KMPG’s latest compensation survey report for 2018-19, which, gives great insights into the industry trends for salaries, attrition, performance management, HR trends, and attrition. You basically get a good sense of the job market and how saturated it is for a junior-middle level employee (someone with 7-10 years of experience).

I might have caught him off guard because he clearly didn’t have a clue what I was talking about. I mentioned that the average compensation for professional services last year was somewhere between 3.3 and 5%. Where did he come up with 30%? He mentioned some of his colleagues and “others” have received a 30-40% when they switched jobs. I told him that I really can’t accept anecdotal evidence and need an explanation for the hike he’s demanding.

This was the turning point of the conversation. He quickly switched over to what he’s bringing to the table. You know, all the stuff that’s written in the job spec sheet. I acknowledged that it’s great to have someone do all those things in an excellent manner but that’s what is expected from a person in a senior position!

“And what else?”

He said, “besides all that, I bring in a lot of value.” There was a pin drop silence. I was literally about to burst. What the hell is going on? Does he even get what the word “value” means? Mind you, I’m talking about someone with like 7-8 years of corporate experience. I simply asked him, “how exactly do you define value?”

He repeated the same things he mentioned before. I asked the question again clarifying that I’m only hearing what’s already been said. How else is he bringing value to the fold? Let me tell you this, it was all downhill from there.

I sensed that the candidate is basically good with interviews and knows how to bluff his way through the rounds. His primary focus was “compensation,” which isn’t a bad thing, just the wrong focus because we were looking for someone to fill in big shoes. And I say this from experience, you can’t buy “responsibility” or “accountability.” You either have it or have built a culture that nurtures it as part of the organizational DNA.

I notice that a lot of interviewees are big on using keywords as if we’re so desperate to click on their bait. In some cases, we are. And that’s a problem. I don’t mind drilling in a little too deep to understand if the candidates really mean what they’re saying or are using keywords to impress me and the team. Yes, you can call me ruthless. But it’s my team and I’ll do whatever it takes to protect them from harmful elements that will erode the team’s and company’s culture.

Now, if you’re still wondering what “value” means or should mean to an employer, it’s this — the ability to deliver on expectations consistently. That means if you’re interviewing for the position of a content writer, checking off the line items in the job spec aren’t enough. You have to showcase the additional skills you have and explain how it can be useful to the employer’s situation. If you’re a writer, you’re better off explaining how you can utilize your copywriting and copyediting skills to hone, refine or even create marketing collateral that the employer can use for getting more business. That’s value creation!

For me, is someone is demanding a 30% hike, I would give it to them. Yes, I would. In fact, I would even give them a 40% raise if good to not just fill in the vacant role but also replace another average performing employee. If they can’t, well I don’t have a compelling reason to stretch my budget. Of course, there’s a risk of losing out on a potential “great” employee. But how is someone not able to explain the value they’re bringing to the table and they’re a great employee?

As employers, I think we do ourselves a disservice by settling for mediocrity. We deserve better people. The ones who know what it takes to create value for others. Because they will be the ones with a growth mindset, who’re not bound by numbers or by the possibilities that lay ahead for them.

You sure can disregard this rant. It’s your company’s future after all. As for me, I’ll stick to my guns when it comes to finding that perfect candidate. It may take some time, but I’m sure I will find one.


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