Confessions of a benefits manager: Work in progress

Candid finds herself applying for two jobs and glimpses pastures new, but discovers that her experience doesn’t quite meet requirements


I am not sure what came over me, really. One minute I was casually browsing around LinkedIn, the next minute I was applying for two jobs. It’s not like I was having a particularly bad day or anything. Big Bad Boss is travelling, and the Higher Beings have been quiet with pre-budget discussions. Overall, it has been a fairly chilled week. Perhaps that’s the problem; I’ve got too much time on my hands.

I am excited to find that the agent handling one of the jobs calls me up within about 20 minutes. How keen is that? Am I available for an interview the day after tomorrow? Erm, yes. Things are moving rather fast.

I am to be interviewed by Kevin Something, the senior director of HR. I vaguely remember being hired by someone of that name three jobs ago. How many Kevin Somethings can there be in HR? I check LinkedIn but he is not on there. I ring a former colleague, who confirms that the HR manager with us years ago was called Kevin Something. Oh dear. You see, I didn’t have a particularly shining reputation in that company, and in the end they made me redundant. I didn’t do anything wrong or anything, but I guess my face didn’t fit. Will Kevin Something hold the past against me?

I don’t like the offices where he works. The building shrieks of the Seventies, but not in a cute, retro kind of way; just sort of shabby. It doesn’t have a reception. You have to press a buzzer on an intercom. Someone rather sullenly asks who is there, and I feel like an intruder. Kevin’s secretary comes down to get me and she bundles me into a meeting room. On the way, I get a glimpse of the HR offices. Open plan. Brown and burnt orange. Dusty. Not good.

I hold my breath. Will Kevin Something remember me? Should I remind him, or just pretend I have never seen him in my life? The door opens, and a man comes in. I have never seen him before in my life.

I assume he must be another interviewer, but he introduces himself as Kevin Something. I must look a bit half-witted because I am still trying to figure out if it is the same man and he has just aged really badly. Or has he been in some kind of accident and had facial reconstruction? Kevin starts to ask me about my experience, and I try to stop looking at his face and set out to wow him with my experience.

It must have worked, because his company rings the next day to arrange a telephone interview with the head of reward in the US. Yikes. And I wasn’t really even looking for a job.

Talks like a machine gun

Diane, the head of reward, is from Chicago and talks like a machine gun. She takes the first 30 minutes of the interview to tell me about the role and her team in the US. It sounds like she wants some kind of superbeing who has experience of every aspect of reward in any given geography. I set out to convince her that I have the relevant superpowers. Yes, I have done sales compensation. Yes, I know about UK pensions. Italian company car policies? Yes, I am an authority.

She carries on telling me about the job. Of course, there will be telephone conferences out of hours. No problem. There are plenty of challenges in the coming year, she tells me, and lists about 40 major projects to be done by December. I can hear her Blackberry beeping in the background, and emails pinging in. It all sounds very, very busy. I look around my deserted office. Hmm. Even Big Bad Boss isn’t that demanding.

The agent rings me the next day. Apparently I am head and shoulders above the competition. Can I give them my salary expectations? What exactly is my notice period again? Lordy. They are going to offer it to me.

We have a bit of back and forth about base pay, but you don’t argue with a reward professional about money and get away with it. I am told that Kevin Something is on holiday and will approve the offer when he gets back. I am stunned. So, I am moving on at last. What will Big Bad Boss say?

A week passes quickly, and the agent leaves me a message. They want to give me some feedback about the interviews. I have a funny feeling all is not well; you don’t say ‘feedback’ when you are going to offer the job. My reaction is bang on. They don’t offer me the job. They tell me I am too experienced and they have offered it to someone who can grow into the role. Huff. Cheaper, more like.

I get a call about the other job. The agent wants a quick chat with me. The chat turns into a sort of friendly interview. Have I experience of sales compensation? Oh yes. What about UK pensions? Of course. And heading up a reward function globally? Well, no, not exactly. I have done just about everything on the list of responsibilities, but leading would be a step up in my career. The agent sighs. She is sure I could do the job, she tells me, and it is the obvious next step for me, but her client is looking for someone who has been there, done that, not someone who can grow into the role. She will keep in touch.

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So, feeling a bit like Goldilocks, I realise that one job was too small and the other one was too big. I go back to my desk, which, rather bizarrely, feels just about right.  

Next time… Candid looks at benefits in Belgium.