I Declined An Offer For My Dream Job. Here’s Why…
In early Fall 2018 I was contacted by a company that I – as a consumer – love! The role they were seeking to fill was fabulous and I was really excited, energized, and flattered that they contacted me to discuss this opportunity. This company is a “luxury & tech” driven organization that operates in the home care, personal care/beauty, and environmental care space. The role had been vacant for eight months and according to the executives in the organization, the field was struggling with selling and product knowledge – especially to consumers falling outside the economic description of a “deep-resource” customer. After speaking with nine people over the course of approximately five weeks, I knew I could help elevate engagement through learning & development, retention, and customer experience. However, there were some huge red-flags that caught my attention during the course of my journey with them.
The Warning Signs
I was so darn excited about this brand that – initially – I overlooked and excused what was, squarely, inexcusable behavior from a luxury organization [or any organization, for that matter] towards a candidate:
- Communication was exceedingly unprofessional and fractured from “Talent Acquisition” from the initial contact;
- Scheduled appointment times/days were changed consistently and I [the candidate] was asked to accommodate the interviewer’s schedules;
- I was set up on Skype interviews with four senior-level people, none of whom were able to connect with me through Skype as they were unable to ‘figure it out’;
- I was given less than 72 hours notice for the final round of interviews when “Talent Acquisition” knew I would be out of town on a project and would have to adjust my schedule/travel;
- They, each person, consistently described the environment as a “start up culture” or that they were “in perpetual start-up mode” [They have been around for approximately 27 years];
- The office was an open format office with no dedicated seating [oy vey];
- It was shared with me [on the final interview day] that because the Field Leaders didn’t believe their District Managers were competent or consistent enough to sell their goods and were, essentially, ineffective in their roles, that at the most recent field leadership meeting they chose to publicly humiliate them by having a group of DM’s at a time go up on stage in front of all their peers and role play selling items in a “The Voice” style set up with the top sales reps then judging their performance and telling them what they did wrong;
- The executives in the company acknowledged that only about 20-25% of their field team was effective and high-productivity and the remaining 75-80% “needed to be replaced”;
- The team this role would be leading were all remote – only one person lived locally but “rarely” came into the office and that they weren’t collaborative, cohesive, or effective;
- My eighth interviewer [a VP of Strategic Planning] spent 18 minutes of our 25 minutes together telling me how important they were – both in their past, as a consultant, and inside this current organization. In the remaining minutes with this person, they asked me two of the most offensive, vapid, and kooky questions I have ever been asked;
- I was asked by the ninth interviewer [who reported to the VP of Strategic Planning] to solve one very critical data analytics reporting problem they were having – right then.
Yes, I recognize that some of these were more than simply warning signs. However, the real doozies occurred on my final day meeting with the final three “interviewers”. I was compelled to see how much more bizarre this experience could get…I wasn’t disappointed. I walked out of the office without being met by the Talent Coordinator or thanked for adjusting my schedule to accommodate their needs – once again. This final interview was on a Thursday. Friday, I waited – and reviewed this entire process in my mind and knew it was never a place I could support as I recognized how truly and broadly flawed and broken this culture was.
After nine days of waiting to be contacted, I decided to send the two people I most enjoyed my dialogs with [one was an executive] a note about the candidate experience their organization delivered, overall. They needed to know how poorly handled the candidate journey had been and how in complete opposition/contrast it was to their reputation as a brand they worked to communicate to the market. I reminded them that with every single interviewer I explained that workplace relationships and collaboration were at the top of my list for importance and how it was shocking to have a VP “so clearly not interested in finding out about a potential colleague but instead who immediately treated me as an opponent or adversary.” There was a profound lack of urgency at all “leadership” levels.
Your treatment during the hiring process is a clue as to how you’ll be treated as an employee. -Me
It was two days later I received the offer. It came in the form of an email and an invitation to discuss the package. I told them I was available anytime to discuss because I wanted to tell them in person why I was declining the opportunity. Another day went by and I received an email from the “executive” I most enjoyed throughout the process. An email – no phone call… seriously. It was then I realized what their gigantic challenge was in their business…they are cowards. They didn’t want to deal with any of the yucky stuff that needed to be fixed or the mediocre talent they were lousy with, and they certainly didn’t want to hear about it.
They didn’t have the courage to open up conversations with their poorest performing people [or treat them like adults] so they took to publicly humiliating them in front of their peers. They operated through embracing the status quo and using hope as a strategy. There is zero personal accountability but instead huge egos that exist at the highest levels in the business. They excused the broken communication by saying, they “explained we have an extensive interview process“. Length of process wasn’t an issue at all – it was actually a quick process. They just didn’t want to acknowledge that they have an exceedingly immature talent strategy and existing “talent” in their business that isn’t entirely effective and that they have a weak and – likely – unfortunate culture that isn’t conducive to growth, sustainability, customer experience, and/or employee engagement or retention. A portion of my response to them was this “I am very much committed to taking action and making an impact immediately and I work hard to eliminate processes and people that don’t add value to the business. I am dedicated to challenging the status quo and driving excellence. I, likely, would be a pebble in the boot of [your] status quo.”
In hindsight – I am 20% [still] – very disappointed that this didn’t work out, as I tried to ignore and justify all of the nonsense because it was a brand I would have been very excited to work with. I am 80% relieved – after over a month of reviewing the scenario in my mind from time to time – that I made the right decision not to enter a toxic and crippling culture that deeply embraces “average” as an accepted norm. While assessing the pros and cons before declining the opportunity, I went back to a post I wrote in 2016, “Warning Signs Of A Poor Culture” and read, re-read, and read it again. It was objective and full of truth and I needed to remind myself that if I would warn others against entering such a clearly unhealthy workplace with people who weren’t aligned behind important human behaviors, such as integrity, action, or respect – – I needed to take my own advice – and that is exactly what I did.