It took a 28-year-old graduate student to jolt Russ Campanello into realizing that for the most ambitious job-hunters, money – bigger salaries, fatter stock options – isn’t everything.
Two years ago, Campanello was on a recruiting mission for Nets Inc., a high-profile startup that was trying to build a Web-based marketplace for buyers and sellers of industrial equipment. He found himself facing a hotshot from Carnegie Mellon University: a computer-science grad student who had started writing code by age eight. Campanello launched into a standard-issue interview. But soon it was the candidate who was interviewing the recruiter.
“I was describing the opportunity,” Campanello recalls, “when the kid stops the interview and says that he can do everything we need him to do – but that there are a few things that he needs us to do for him.”
The hot prospect didn’t ask for bigger bucks. In fact, he was willing to give up part of his salary (he was getting offers in the six figures) in return for a flexible work schedule and three weeks off during the summer. Then came the kicker: He insisted on teaming up with one of the top product developers at Nets. His resume would show not only the projects he’d worked on but also the people he’d worked with, and he wanted to work with the best.
“I’m thinking, this guy is a raging prima donna,” recalls Campanello, who is now senior vice president for human resources at Genzyme Corp., a pioneering biotechnology company based in Cambridge, Massachusetts. “But then it dawned on me that something was going on here, and I’d better pay attention to it: The old game, where people felt they were lucky just to have a job, is over. And an altogether different game – where if a company is lucky, talented people will come and work for it for a while – is just now beginning.”
Call it the revenge of the reengineered. “Reengineering really did people a favor,” says Campanello. “The people who were laid off and then went to work for themselves – the free agents – had to make their own arrangements for external benefits: work schedules, vacation, health care, child care. Now that companies are trying to attract them back, free agents are holding out for the kinds of benefits that will give them real latitude in their work lives.”
Recent studies bear out this analysis. For example, a 1997 survey of 2,500 businesspeople by Towers Perrin, a management-consulting firm, found that 94% of respondents understand that they shouldn’t expect a job for life, that it’s their responsibility to remain employable. One result of this new outlook: People are bargaining for more than a bigger pay packet.
“People are pushing for nontraditional benefits that will help them advance their career – even if their job blows up,” says Stephen Bookbinder, a principal at Towers Perrin. “They aren’t looking for job security; they want career security. And companies had better realize this, if they want to attract the people who can take them where they need to go.”
People are bargaining for a new deal; Russ Campanello has seen such negotiations from every angle. For nine years, he was in charge of human resources at Lotus Development Corp. His visionary work there prompted Upside magazine to name him Human Resources Executive of the Year in 1993. He then became a mission-critical player at Nets, an ill-fated startup led by former Lotus CEO Jim Manzi. At both companies, he bargained for a benefit that doesn’t come in the old-economy pay packet: 20% of his own time, which he used to explore new directions in human resources.
After Nets hit the wall in May 1997, Campanello discovered what it’s like to sit at the free agent’s side of the bargaining table: He spent nine months working as an independent HR consultant. Early this year, he took the position at Genzyme. In a recent interview with Fast Company, Campanello laid out the five new rules of negotiating for benefits that are worth more than money. His advice applies to both the company and the candidate – though these days, it’s hard to tell who’s recruiting whom.
Rule #1: If you don’t know where you stand in the recruiting game, you’re out of the game.
If organizations create value by attracting talented people to work for them, then the key question for any organization is this: Where do you stand in that high-stakes game, and who else is in your league?
When I was at Nets, I was shocked to discover that we were losing our best product developers to cable companies. It never occurred to me that cable companies were competing with us. They had redrawn the map of our competitive landscape, and we didn’t even know it.
Then, while I was listening to the kid from Carnegie Mellon, I realized that Nets was an expansion team competing in a league of established franchises. The number of people who could do the work that we needed to get done existed in such a small number that we needed to be very creative in attracting these people. And this kid was telling me that everything I knew about recruiting was wrong.
What’s true for companies is also true for individuals: You’ve got to read the marketplace. You’ve got to think strategically about where your particular experiences will make you a desirable player. Do your own due diligence, or there’s no deal.
If you’re in finance, you might have the experiences that make you a hot prospect for small-cap companies. Companies that are on a big growth curve have a great need for facilities people. The critical thing to keep in mind is that the company is hiring you because you bring something that’s key to its strategy for moving forward.
Rule #2: If you want to be in the game at the end, get in it at the beginning.
For companies, the rules of recruiting have changed dramatically. What’s out is the notion that an employer can simply show up at interviews and collect the talent. What’s in is pitching to hot prospects early and often. You don’t start with the senior class at the top universities – you introduce your company to the freshman class. You sponsor research in the labs. You build relationships. Soon the top performers are using your software. You’ve given them free Internet access for four years. So when other companies show up on campus and host another cattle call, you’ve established your brand among the people who can take your company where it needs to go.
The same rule applies to individuals: To get into a great company, get noticed early. Even if you’re in college, you have assets that you can assemble: You go to a top-flight school, for example, or you’re working with a professor who’s a leader in your field. To create some real leverage, seek out the companies that are funding your professors’ research.
If you’re already in the business world, remember that the time to look for a job is when you don’t need one. So put up a Web site that shows off your best work. Pay a courtesy call to the companies that you most respect. They can’t track you if you aren’t on their radar screens.
Rule #3: If you want to grow, make sure you’re in a fertile environment.
People are looking for opportunities to solve big problems and to do great work, and it’s up to companies to create an environment where people can do just that. Rob McGovern, the CEO of CareerBuilder Inc., has staved off raids on his talent by giving his developers a lot of latitude in their work. With every release – the company develops Internet-based recruiting solutions – he lets them come up with a couple of features that they think are really cool. He’s kept them on board because they get to work on stuff that they love.
But it’s ultimately up to the candidate to get a read on whether the company’s environment fosters excellence: You’re the only one in a position to know whether the company is the best place for you.
When I was interviewing at Genzyme, I visited its Web site and checked out the staff pages. I followed discussions on the company’s financials. What was I was looking for? Aspiration. I needed to know whether Genzyme was just another mediocre company. I discovered that it’s trying to do something great.
Rule #4: If you want the match to work, change the way you check the fit.
Companies should forget about resumes and change the way they screen talent. They should focus on the experiences that candidates have accumulated: Experience is the critical benchmark for determining whether a candidate can perform.
You can get a good read on people’s experiences by applying four screens: the school they went to; the companies they’ve worked for; the people they’ve worked with; and the projects they’ve worked on.
If you’re the candidate, then before you can negotiate, you’ve got to navigate. Focus on what’s really important to you, and then figure out where you’re most needed. Smart salespeople don’t knock on every door. They think about where their product will have the greatest impact. They segment industries, and then they segment companies within those industries. You do the same when you’re navigating, until you come up with a handful of companies that you think will make a great fit.
Rule #5: If you want to make a deal, start by recognizing that there’s a whole new deal in the recruiting game.
The big message for companies is this: The relationship between you and your employees has fundamentally changed. It used to be that people worked at the pleasure of the company. Now people work at the mutual pleasure of themselves and the company. Once the relationship was like a wrestling match. Now it’s more like a dance. And if a company doesn’t realize this – if it fails to create an environment that fosters great work, if it fails to give people opportunities to advance their careers – it’ll never attract the people it needs most.
The message for the candidate is this: If you want to make a deal, you’ve got to act like a dealmaker. That doesn’t mean you should try to out-negotiate the company. A successful negotiation is one that leaves both sides feeling that they’ve won something. If you operate that way and you still lose – if you think you’ve found the right company, but you can’t get what you want – then stop and assess the things that you did get. Do those things improve your opinion of the company? Or did the company give you things that are easy for it to give, and not the extras that are meaningful to you?
Negotiating for, say, a fully outfitted home office or the chance to work on the company’s hottest team might be risky. You might even get a reputation as a prima donna. But whatever the risk, always be an advocate for yourself. Even if you’re shot down, you might be better off: You’ll have another data point to help you decide whether you and the company make a good fit.
Coordinates: Russ Campanello, email@example.com
Senior Editor Bill Breen firstname.lastname@example.org rides shotgun on Fast Company’s NetWork section.