Confessions of a benefits manager: Candid applies for a job


The wonderful thing about LinkedIn is that recruiters all over the country can get in touch, and get in touch they do. Don’t let anyone tell you the economy is slow; the job market is fairly speeding along. I am probably contacted once a week or so these days, but maybe that is because about 50% of my connections are search firms.

Most of the time, I say I’m not actively looking because (rather to my own surprise) I am not. It confuses me when recruiters say they are working on an assignment for So-and-So-Company and ask if I know anyone who might be interested in applying. Are they sounding me out to see if I’m interested myself? Or do they just want me to do their job for them? I’m guessing they say it that way so they don’t embarrass us both by suggesting a role that I’d consider too junior.

An unexpected opportunity

I’ve just had a message from an executive search firm looking for a head of global reward for a large multinational. So, are they suggesting that for me or do they want me to pimp my manager, Big Bad Boss? It is all too nuanced for my straightforward numbers-oriented mind. In the end, I decide they must mean me, but try to avoid looking silly by sounding them out. Are they looking for anyone with particular experience?  No clues are given. So, can they give me an idea of the package? The number they quote has me reeling. I could work for two years here and not earn as much. It’s out of my league, but I cast my awkwardness aside; I am interested.

Luckily, when I say so, they send me the job description and person specification without a giggle. Humility aside – quite a long way aside, I know – I am perfect for the role in fact. I have experience in all the areas of responsibility and have handled all the projects on the table: mergers, acquisitions, benefits inventory and benchmarking, request for proposal development, and pooling. Yes, I’ve done them all and more. Can I send them an up-to-date CV? Oh yes.

Proceeding to apply

I spend the evening updating my CV with creativity and panache. For twice my salary, I’d write a book if necessary. So, I carefully rearrange my experience to exactly match the specification. I hope there aren’t any recruiters reading this, but I find it is best to assume that a rather dim child of three will match your job application against the job description. If they want someone to do ‘benefits market review’, that is exactly what you must write on your CV, not ‘benefits benchmarking’ or ‘benefits competitive analysis’ because that kind of tiny leap of intellectual connection is beyond them. I guess this is good preparation for when all job search is carried out by artificial intelligence. Or should that be artificial stupidity?

My contact at the search firm, Jenny, has told me all sorts of nice things about the job. The company is based in a city some distance away, but I will be able to work from the London office or from home. Yay. I am already writing my resignation letter in my head.

When Jenny calls again, it is not quite so warm. How easy will it be for me to get to the headquarters (HQ)? Well, it is more than a two-hour commute at least, but I don’t mind going in once a week. Silence. Well the client would ideally like someone five days a week, but they would settle for four days for the right person. What about the London office as suggested previously, I ask? Well, there is only one of the key stakeholders there, and the real decisions are made at HQ. She repeats: the client would ideally like someone based at HQ five days a week, but they would settle for four days for the right person. There is silence from my end this time. Well, I would ideally like five days from home, but I would settle for one, as she first described. But I say this in my head; out loud I say: would they settle for three days in HQ, and two in London? What am I thinking? I would spend my life commuting. London is bad enough without trekking out to the provinces. And then I remember the salary. I would only have to work one year for every two here. I’ll buy a nice car and that will make commuting tolerable. Jenny doesn’t sound sure, but she will discuss it with the client.

A waiting game

When I don’t hear back the next day I am not worried. After all, I am the right person, I have all the experience they need, even international mobility and executive benefits. They need look no further. After three days, I wonder if it is gone a bit quiet. Still, they can’t have access to that many good reward people in this buoyant job market.

After a week, I know I’ve been ghosted. I have blown it with petty concerns over commute time and work-life balance. Still, it’s a shame some companies are so closed to remote working, despite all the technology available to support it.

I can’t stop thinking about the reward package. They were offering good healthcare, share options and pension on top of the astronomical salary. I could have moved out there perhaps, changed my life. Here I am, left with regret and gloom. I didn’t ask for this.

What makes me really angry is that Jenny probably didn’t have a search contract with the client when she got in touch. She perhaps just saw the job vacancy on LinkedIn and tried to chuck in a few random candidates of her own. There is a dark side to all this transparency.

Next time… Candid looks at policies.