Smart Lemming Diary: How to project your company values during the job recruitment process

Pebble stack, shallow focus

As a manager, what’s the appropriate response to someone that’s declined your job offer?

Does it matter how you end the interaction? How do we stay true to our personal brand during the job search process? How do mend broken work relationships after time and space has passed?

Below is my journal entry from when I was a VP of Sale Operations and Marketing, dealing with these business situations.

August 6, 2006

My New Channel Director Rescinds Acceptance

Last week was something else. Right when I was feeling good about my former colleague joining our team as my new Channel Director, I receive an email at 6:30 am from her, informing me:

First, I want to thank you for the opportunity with you and tell you how impressed I am with your company and everyone there I met… and received welcome emails your employees yesterday. I appreciate the opportunity and the way everyone there conducted the whole process.

That makes it especially difficult for me to tell you that although I thought all negotiations were finished, it eventually reached the parent company level and I ended up receiving an offer from the President of the company that although I had made a commitment to you, felt too good to pass up.

I feel especially feel bad that the announcement had been made and I have placed you in an awkward position to now “unannounced” my arrival.

I will follow up with a phone call, but I felt I needed to get this to you as early as possible so that you can take action.

This was a very difficult decision for me, as I had two excellent opportunities, I expect to be hearing more in the future regarding your company and your successes!

Was I surprised? No, because I was happy for her. I replied back to the email letting her know that I thought it was a great move for her. Then I called her on her cell, which I know she didn’t want to take my call, but took my call anyway.

She answered the phone and I quickly said,

I’m so happy for you! Congrats. Your company did the right thing by you.

She was stunned and replied,

Wow, that was not the response I was expecting. Thanks!

We had a nice chat and I wanted to let her know that I was fine with it. She shared one the big drivers in why she was leaving:

I told the President it was more than money. I don’t have the support from all executives. Basically, the President told me that it wasn’t relevant.

Can we close on the Rock Star?

The Controller, CEO, and I let this news pass through us. We focused on the top Sales person, who’s been busy negotiating sales territory and role. My CEO is trying to solve this problem within our current territory structure, so we can accommodate the Rock Star. The Rock Star is ideal for the territory. She’s a proven talent with impressive results. We’re still trying to close on the Rock Star today.

I’m off on vacation with my Mother for a few days. I’m hope things progress while I’m gone.

Outreach next steps to mend former work relationship

I had sent my former boss an email the day I left for vacation. I hadn’t replied to her response to my forwarding the VP of Marketing job to her because I was closing on the new Channel Director. I emailed:

Hi there,

I realized I didn’t follow-up with your email below because I’m shuttling back and forth every two weeks to and from NYC starting in September. At least, that’s the plan until my CEO’s company flips. I will live there full-time through the end of 2009 and will be in here only one week per quarter. It’s great to connect with you again.

Great to hear from you,


That was friendly on my part. When I got back from vacation, I had received this reply.

Hi Lori,

I am living vicariously though you!! What an exciting time and outstanding accomplishment for you. I don’t envy your living arrangements and commutes. Keep me apprised of your events; it sounds so exciting that you’re interacting within a different industry.

Good to be back in touch.

Project your company’s values

As a manager, it was important to me to assure my former colleague that I understood her decision to rescind her acceptance of the position I offered her. As a work friend, it was more important that I supported it. In my book, it’s always “friends first.”

I’m happy that she leveraged the opportunity to be promoted to a better position within her existing company. She couldn’t have accomplished it without the offer she received from us. Her CEO felt the potential of her absence, realized that he needed to retain her, identified what it would take to keep her, and made it happen at the executive level above him. I was happy that my actions helped her career.

Staying consistent with company and personal brands

It also matters how we end the interaction with job candidates. These interactions are a reflection of your company’s culture and brand. Like my former colleague said, she admired our company because we were living our values in how we managed our process with her.  All it takes is one bad interaction to start undermining your company’s brand. It pays to always be authentic when dealing with outsiders.

I was especially impressed with her email, informing me that she changed her mind. She’s a very skilled Director and excellent communicator. She also stayed true to her personal brand. I tried to stay consistent with my own brand by being supportive of her decision, not letting it turn into this “thing” between us. I was genuinely happy for her.

Mending broken work relationships

How do mend broken work relationships after time and space has passed? With self awareness, responsibility, and humility.

After my last job was eliminated, I admit that I was hurt and angry with my former VP and company. I was loyal to them, so I felt that I deserved some loyalty back. But after walking in their shoes, I realized this isn’t as simple as it sounds.

I take responsibility for the fact that I was no longer a fit in my former company. My skills and interests were changing. I needed more and they couldn’t give it. They also needed to move on in Product Management, without me impeding the change management process. I learned to forgive my former boss/work friend, letting go of the resentment and bitterness that had built up.

While I don’t expect this business relationship to be as close as it once was, at least I know it’s not this “thing” that’s hanging out there. It won’t be something that I’m trying to avoid. It’s a relief to let go of my anger, so I can move on in my career without regrets.

The Smart Lemming Diary is a series that chronicles a journey of laid-off worker, who becomes a Vice President of Sales Operations & Marketing for a small entrepreneurial healthcare technology company. For previous entries in this series, click here.  For the first diary entry, click here. For the highlighted Smart Lemming Diary entries, click here.