Company Culture Revealed in the Executive Interview

A colleague of mine was recently interviewed for an executive role with NewCo, a global corporation. The structural specifics of the company are not relevant to the story. 

After several rounds of interviews, the company gave him the big stall as seems to be common once they really like some else sufficiently more than they like you. Not that they don’t like you, they do, yet they seem to feel it is good risk management to stall you, waste your time creating false hope, while they go further down the path with their number one. Love to play poker with these people. 

So nothing new here, atypical shenanigans of executive hiring managers. 

What this story is about though is simply this. My colleague sold his business a few years ago for a strong profit, not retirement level cruise ship money, only enough for a nice comfortable cushion. 

What happened in this interview is of interest. Upon learning the story of the very successful sale of his company, the key hiring manager was adamant to know:

  • how could we possibly motivate you?, and
  • why would you ever work in sales then?

And in that moment, the hiring manager blew the entire interview. 

How is that?

Without knowing it, this senior manager communicated two critical pieces of information that would turn any self respecting sales professional off.

  1. Instead of expressing a strong desire to work with a real ‘A’ Player, someone with proven success, and who knows how to get the job done, he expressed a preference for less successful people 
  2. He also expressed an underlying disdain for sales as a real profession, a carryover from the old British aristocratic perspective of the merchant as common peddler. In other words, that sales was not truly a worthy profession of equal stature to other more credentialed professions, replete with shoulder salad or alphabet soup.

When the offer came, naturally my colleague turned down the job.

 We frequently hear about sales people being terminated as not a good fit with  company culture, yet this almost always means they were not competent. Firing ‘A’ Player performers is as tough as getting the rifle out of Charlton Heston’s now cold dead hands! Times out of ten, its not gonna happen. 

I believe we have a situation here where an ‘A’ player refused to work for a ‘B’ manager; and that company culture is getting in the way of building a highly successful sales culture.  

btw: another company made a much stronger offer within 2 weeks. It *was* accepted.

Please share your experiences, lessons learned, or how you’d deal with this situation if it happened to you.


Design – Build – Enable – Motivate – Control

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