Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Social networking and job search 14 – effectively negotiating up the job level

Posted in job search and career development by Timothy Platt on October 30, 2009

I have written in other postings in this series about targeting jobs in your search according to your priority goals and objectives, and about setting up A, B and C lists of opportunities you wish to pursue, depending on how fully they mesh with your ideal next-job criteria (e.g. functional area, job level, industry, geography and so on). I also wrote earlier of practicing with your C and B priority lists before approaching your A list job target opportunities so you are prepared for them with real world, live-fire experience. I am going to readdress part of that here, and from a different perspective.

When a hiring manager sets out to search for job candidates, filtering out the few from the many, going through the interviews and actually onboarding and training a new hire, they take on a very large, expensive, time consuming task. These are people who already have a desk that is full to overflowing and that is why they need to hire in the first place – to take some specific chunks of that workload they have to get done off their desk, out of their immediate and ongoing concern and taken care of. People hire to get problems solved – their problems. But it is just as true that most hiring managers only have a vague idea of what is involved here for a lot of important issues they have to get resolved – important to them.

Most hiring managers have a laser focus on the set of immediate, “must be done now or earlier” issues that forced their hand and brought them to flipping through all those resumes. They have a vaguer, and probably less focused conceptualization of what that new hire will do with the rest of their day and as these immediate priority issues come under control. They probably have a much vaguer idea of what the experience requirements are for the ideal candidate for doing all of this, though these details can be really rigidly fixed, as on autopilot. Consider the “must be from my industry” mantra and even where the hiring manager and their direct supervisor and theirs all know they need new ideas and approaches to get out of a stagnant situation. The point is that while there might be inertia against change, there is a significant level of room for a well prepared candidate to in effect fill in the blanks and bring certain details into focus – and in ways that connect with their background and the skills, experience and career preferences they bring to the table. That is where this posting in the Social Networking and Job Search series enters in.

Having set up the context for this posting, I will start with a flat assertion that I would ask you to simply take as a given. If you start trying to negotiate a job up when you are in an interview, your chances of success age going to be very limited, and even if your goals for yourself mesh with and support the best possible outcomes for the hiring manager too.

Begin with effective social networking: This has to be grounded in your background research where you learn the current details you need to know about the industry and the company you are interviewing with, and even its internal, departmental issues. This is where informational interviews and networking into the company can prove of incredible value. This networking-driven foundation is what you have to build any job description up-marketing that you attempt on.
Reading between the lines: The next step is to read and re-read the basic job description information you get about the position you are applying for, as initially stated, with this wider context in mind and be prepared to go back to your networking to clarify your understanding of that context and how it can be brought to bear here. If you want to say you can do X (in the description) but you can also do it while Y is going on (a challenge you now know the hiring manager is facing) or while doing Z (a “stretch goal” requirement you have solid reason to see the hiring manager as wanting) then you are in a position to argue a change in the job being interviewed for.
Presenting your case: But you have to do this with a focus on meeting the immediate, core needs in that job description itself. You have to focus on presenting yourself as someone who will be there to make the hiring manager’s life easier, both with your technical skills and your interpersonal skills. You have to be prepared to back-off on this even as you present yourself as being the best candidate by demonstrating you can take the biggest chunk of extra work off that hiring manager’s desk.

And this brings me back to those B and C list positions. There is always a possibility that even a C list entry can, with context and preparation show A list potential. So this makes it very important that you take all of your category lists seriously and that you mine them all for what you can develop out of them. A seeming A list possibility might degrade to B or C and a C might become a potential dream next job.

The next posting in this series will be on negotiating compensation and other benefits.

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  1. […] 14 – Effectively Negotiating Up the Job Level. • 15 – Negotiating the Compensation Package and When to Do This. • 20 – Taking a […]

  2. […] 14 – Effectively Negotiating Up the Job Level. • 15 – Negotiating the Compensation Package and When to Do This. • 20 – Taking a […]


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