“If he doesn’t work out, you can take his salary out of my bonus”

The title of this post is an actual statement. It was made by one of my former managers to their boss during a discussion about whether they should hire me.

How did it happen? I am glad you asked because the backstory highlights several of the points I advocate to my clients during career coaching.

To start, let’s rewind back a few months. I was coming to the end of a three year stint running professional sports tournaments for a mid-size sports promotion company. It was an amazing experience that took me all over the United States and even to Europe. It was also dangerous (outdoors/occasional lightning/lots heavy equipment) and I had reached the highest level I could within the company (General Manager). While there are many, many interesting stores about working there and I learned a great deal, suffice it to say I was looking for more of a challenge but was unsure as to what that might be.

Thankfully, while working, I was able to coach a college club sports team. One day at a practice, one of my former players who had since graduated happened to be there. He walked up to me and the conversation went as follows:

Player: Alex, have you thought about working for [name-of-big-investment-bank]?

Me: Actually, no but I’m open to the idea.

Player: Great! We are looking for people and out of all of my friends, I think you would be a great fit. Just send me a copy of your resume.

I promptly did.

After a month or two, I received a call out of the blue from the hiring manager. We talked about my approach to technology and some of my hobbies e.g. programming and he was impressed. He asked me in for an in-house interview with the rest of his team. One quote from him in particular struck me from this part of the process:

Manager: While your background isn’t the typical one we look at, you were personally recommended from one of our top team members and that counts for a lot with us.

The in-house interviews went well and next thing I knew I was negotiating salary and start dates. It was a big adjustment from a small sports company to one of the biggest investment banks on the planet but, overall, I was really enjoying the new work and my team members where great.

About six months later, we were at an after hours work function and my manager was talking to some of the developers that my team interacted with on a daily basis. Someone asked how I was hired and my manager proceeded to tell the following story.

So Alex had gone through the interviews and technical tests and passed with flying colors. He was a strong-yes for hiring but I still needed to have him reviewed by HR and get sign off from the Big Boss.

One day, the Big Boss calls me into their office:

Big Boss: We can’t hire Alex

Manager: Why not? He’s great and the whole team is excited to have him start!

Big Boss: Well, first off, he hasn’t worked for a corporation in several years and, second, he’s owned his own business. As a rule of thumb, we generally don’t hire people with those characteristics as we don’t think they will be a good fit.

Manager: That’s ridiculous! He’s a top candidate and we could really use him.

Big Boss: Yes, I’m sorry but that’s how it works.

Manager: How about this: I say we hire him and give him six months. If for any reason he doesn’t work out, you can take his salary out of my bonus!

Big Boss: You’re serious?

Manager: Absolutely!

Big Boss: Ok. Hire him and I’ll hold you to that.

Manager: Great!

Can you imagine? We would have lost a great employee just because of some corporate rules that don’t make a lot of sense.

I had never heard this story before, I was very suprised. Plus, as I had built up an excellent relationship with the developers, they were pretty shocked at this story. They couldn’t understand how rules like this would be put in place when the company was obviously in need of quality employess.


At this point, I want to highlight some of the points that I often go over with clients that are illustrated by this story:

Companies often have rules that limit hiring.

Every firm, large or small, has some kind of “filter” on who they hire. Those rules can be written down, “rules of thumb” or even completely arbitrary based on the hiring manager.

Those rules are essentially “made up”

I use the term “made up” for several reasons. First, they are not rules based on legal requirements. Second, they are not based on hard evidence a majority of the time. If anything, the hard evidence would usually lead to those rules being thrown out if a proper, evidence based review was performed.

Personal recommendations from a trusted network can easily bypass/trump those rules

This is one of the key points I go over with my clients. There is a strong belief that using recruiters/job boards etc is the best way to get a new job. I disagree. Building and in turn leveraging a strong career network is often a much more efficient use of career planning and job searching.

If you would like to hear more about how we could work together to help build your network and you get what you want when it comes to your career, you should check out my career coaching service.

Check it out and we can get started on helping you get a better career.

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