I was very excited one evening several weeks ago to get a call from a CFO who had seen my résumé online, and wanted to talk to me about a controllership at his company. I was excited for two reasons. First he was not a hyper-caffeinated recruiter trying to make a name for himself by pulling the trigger hundreds of times in rapid succession without discerning a clear target (an actual job) or checking his ammo (reading my résumé.) I’m beginning to think of this as the video game approach to modern recruitment. No, the guy who called was a real executive with a real company who wanted to discuss a real position and thought I might be a real possibility because he had really read my résumé.
The second reason I was excited is that we seemed to get on famously. We had similar attitudes, similar aptitudes, and our business sensibilities seemed to me to be as in tune as they could be. The more we talked the better it got.
The company was a second generation décor jobber that had carved out a nice little niche for itself in the international hospitality industry. They weren’t looking to grow exponentially. They didn’t have unreasonable expectations. They weren’t acquisitive. They weren’t interested in selling out. They were interested in growing in profitability by improving their purchasing, service, and delivery efficiencies. They wanted to take a methodical and systematic approach to these improvements. I thought they were perfect for me.
To add to the intrigue, the CFO wanted me to send him a one page letter on any topic whatsoever. If I was passionate about cars, for instance, I should write about what cars appealed to me and why. If I was interested in the cultivation of exotic orchids, I should write about that. He didn’t really care what it was about. It didn’t have to be about an interest. It could be, quite literally, anything under the sun.
Some people would be intimidated by an open ended assignment like this. I was not. I am not afraid of a blank page. I love creative writing exercises. Not only that, I excel at them. I’ve participated in enough of them to know. If performing well in creative writing exercises were all that was required of men in order to attract women, I would have a harem of beauties that would be the envy of every randy mogul and every over-indulged sultan in history. Fortunately, both for me and for womankind, more is required. If people were generally compensated for excelling at timed, impromptu writing exercises in a competitive environment, I could quit looking for a job and just attend writer’s conferences for the rest of my days, thus assuring myself of a comfortable living. I’m not throwing down a gauntlet. I’m just saying that this little exercise assigned by the CFO, who I was sure was about to become my new boss, was well within my comfort zone.
The CFO and I ended our conversation on that note. I would provide the required letter via e-mail the following day. He would call me back as soon as he had read and digested my brilliance. We would proceed from there.
I set to work immediately on the letter. I decided that what he really wanted was a window into the soul of me. He had proposed writing about a passionate interest because he thought an avocation that burned with some intensity would better illuminate the dark recesses of my inner self. I have two such passions. One is for writing. The other is my faith. I decided to write about both of them and, in what I thought was a stroke of self-promoting genius, to discuss how they informed and guided my working life.
I reasoned that ultimately this CFO was going to have to make a choice about my qualifications, skills, and values and how those would frame my suitability for the job he needed to fill. Making those connections for him seemed to me to be the surest way to convince him that I was his man. My letter was a masterful mix of subtlety and candor, deftly connecting the lessons of my pursuits to my professional development and to the ethical foundations of my life at work. Beyond this it was calculated to make me seem as interesting, intelligent, humorous, temperate, equable, and humble as I, on my best days, believe myself to be. Apparently it was not enough.
Two days went by with no word. I sent another e-mail—return receipt requested—inquiring as to whether or not he had received my submission. Another two days went by with no response. I called. The new custodian of my future was in a meeting and not to be disturbed. I hadn’t asked that he be disturbed, so I thought this information, relayed to me by a brusquely efficient personal assistant, was, if not suspect, at least a little heavy-handed. I left a message. A week went by. I sent another e-mail stating that, at the risk of becoming a pest, I was anxious to get some feedback on my assignment. I have yet to hear anything in return.
This turn of events is a mystery to me. The guy indicated he was going to move quickly on his decision. We had rapport. We were simpatico. I felt that I had acquitted myself in exemplary fashion on the letter writing assignment. I can’t imagine that I was so far afield in my assessment of the situation that I don’t even merit a courtesy response to my inquiries. Even a perfunctory e-mail telling me they had decided on another candidate would be better treatment than I got.
I have gone as far as I am willing to go. Not only that, I have gone as far as the guy I described in my letter is willing to go. I am interesting, intelligent, humorous, temperate, equable, and humble. I am not annoying, and I am not interested in becoming so.
I am annoyed, however. I have officially had it up to ‘here’ with folks who lead me down a path only to abandon me deep in the woods without apology or explanation. This is something I would never dream of doing to someone else, yet it seems that it keeps being done to me. What’s up with that?