Friday, May 16, 2014

Show me the money? But...

I had two very interesting telephone conversations today, both with potential employers. The first was with the founder of a very interesting non-profit, who was looking for translators and translation team coordinators. The second was with a resource manager for a government contractor, who was looking for a specific sort of intelligence analyst.

The first conversation was a very relaxed one. The founder is quite proud of his organization, and was telling me about the good works they do. It was quite enlightening, and it was definitely something I could see myself doing, especially if I could get in on the ground floor. The biggest problem is that it's currently an unfunded organization. Everything they do is pro bono. There's financing in the future, and the intent is to pay people eventually, but for now, it's all done for love. Honestly, I'm pretty sure I'm still interested. He did make an unusual request regarding a sort of cover letter/application/music video he wants, but in his context, it makes sense.

The second interview, however, went off into left field within the first five minutes. Let me back up a bit...

Yesterday, I got a LinkedIn connection request from a resource manager in a company I didn't know. Naturally, the first thing I did was look at his profile, then at that of the company. OK, fair enough, it's a legitimate company, hiring people who do what I do. Of course I'll connect with one of their resource managers! So I clicked on the LinkedIn request, and found that there was a note attached. In it, he asked if I would be interested in [specific job]; if so, would I send a resume?

Well, [specific job] isn't something I have experience in, but I assumed he must have seen my profile, and seen a possible fit. Not knowing what the job was, I sent my most broadly-targeted resume, thanking him for his interest and asking for more info about the position. This morning, I woke up to find a response to the resume, asking if I'd be willing to take a phone call. Well, that's a no-brainer, right? I set the appointment.

At the appointed time, my phone rings. I answer, we exchange pleasantries and small talk for a moment, and then he asks the first question: How committed am I to staying in Florida? I told him that while our preference is of course to stay where we are, as it's least disruptive to our family, I would certainly consider relocating for the right opportunity. He laughed, and said, "Sure, I can understand that. I mean if someone offered you a million dollars..."

And then he asked the bombshell question. The topic I've been told never to broach on an initial interview. The one that shouldn't even be considered until a second interview, or an offer is made.

He asked me, "So, what sort of salary range are you thinking about?"

Well, I hadn't even considered this question yet. At this point, we weren't even really having an interview, just a preliminary discussion that might lead to an interview. Remember, I had asked for more info about the job, but I still didn't know exactly what the job was, or even where it was. I suppose I should have laughed and said, "How about a million dollars?" Unfortunately, I wasn't thinking that quickly, so I vamped.

"I'll be honest with you," I said, "I hadn't gotten as far as considering that, because there are a lot of factors that play into it. There are other benefits to consider, the location and cost of living. For instance," I went on, "if a gallon of milk is $3.00 here, and $5.00 there, I guess I'd need about 40% more money just to break even. I'm sorry, but I couldn't even begin to come up with a number right now without more information."

"Well, that certainly makes sense to me," he said. And then he went on to ask a bit more about my qualifications. We realized fairly quickly that, while I do possess skills that his company hires for, in the case of this specific job, I really wasn't the one he was looking for. Fair enough. I'm not going to represent my skills dishonestly and apply for a job I'm absolutely unqualified to do.

We closed the call on a friendly note. He specifically asked if he could keep in touch via email and LinkedIn, and said he'd keep my resume handy (yeah, they all say that, but I believe him). And after we hung up, I remembered to shoot him an email thanking him for the call.

So... is it just me? Or was that weird? I thought the money question was one that was saved for later in the process. You know, "If they want me, then we can talk money."

Has this ever happened to you? Do you ask this question of your candidates? How did I handle it? I'd really like to hear some opinions here... I'm a bit confused.

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