Carter adds that job seekers should be prepared for potential employers to contact not only former colleagues but also auditors, lawyers, and commercial and investment bankers in an effort to get a well-rounded view of a candidate’s past performance and conduct. “Companies are nervous and want to protect themselves,” he says.
That nervousness also means the hiring process takes longer. Besides subjecting themselves to extensive background checks, candidates are often asked to speak before the board of directors of interested companies. In her own interview process, McAlister delivered presentations on everything from financial forecasts to the advantages of public versus private ownership.
Intensive scrutiny combined with minimal hiring means that job searches are also taking longer. “The average search [consumes] six months or more,” says Albergo. That’s how long McAlister’s search took, despite the fact that she attacked the job market immediately, using her connections as president of FEI’s Boston chapter and contacting recruiters, accountants, venture capitalists, lawyers, and friends—anyone who might have a lead.
McAlister sees the search time as necessary for finding the right fit. But in this environment, job seekers may be tempted to jump at the first offer. That opportunity, however, may not be the right one, reminds Albergo. “A lot of members took positions and then left within a year, either because the company was sold or because it was a bad fit,” she says. “You just have to be patient.”
Kate O’Sullivan is a staff writer at CFO.
What Not to Do
- Don’t wait for the phone to ring. “It’s a very traumatic, life-changing situation when you lose your job,” says Financial Executives International’s Diane Albergo. “But you really have to start right away.” Someone fresh from a job still has sharp skills and many contacts, both of which can weaken over time.
- Don’t be a pest. “If you become a nuisance, people won’t take your call after a while,” says consultant CFO Michael Nemser.
- Don’t sweep things under the rug. If you have problems on your rÉsumÉ, be ready to address them. “Not being forthcoming is a critical mistake,” says Petco’s Rodney Carter.
- Listen and learn. It’s important to be sensitive to interviewers’ styles. “One of the biggest missteps is not reading your audience,” says Nemser. Try to connect with an interviewer rather than plowing through a scripted pitch, he suggests. —K.O’S.