Ask the Headhunter: How to Talk to the Boss Before and After Getting Hired


When interviewing for a job, you may feel intimidated to contact your potential boss and follow up on any remaining questions. Headhunter Nick Corcodilos says don’t be scared. Plus, once you have the job, learn how to ask for a performance review when your boss doesn’t seem to think it’s very important. Image by Gary Bates/Getty Images.

Nick Corcodilos started headhunting in Silicon Valley in 1979, and has answered over 30,000 questions from the Ask The Headhunter community over the past decade.

In this special Making Sense edition of Ask The Headhunter, Nick shares insider advice and contrarian methods about winning and keeping the right job, on one condition: that you, dear Making Sense reader, send Nick your questions about your personal challenges with job hunting, interviewing, networking, resumes, job boards, or salary negotiations. No guarantees — just a promise to do his best to offer useful advice.

Question: I had a second interview that went well. The manager walked me to the elevator and said to feel free to call him if I had additional questions. He mentioned this during the first interview as well and I have his cell number.

How should I interpret this? It’s been three days and I haven’t heard back yet. Should I call the manager and follow up with some questions just to see whether I’m still being considered? Or should I hold off? It just seems a bit awkward to call with more questions following a second interview. At this point I should have asked all the necessary questions and it should really just boil down to a yes-or-no decision on the hiring manager’s part, right?

Nick Corcodilos: You’re giving me a chance to talk about a much bigger issue than your question: Job interviews create artificial barriers between two people who want to get a job done. If you can step out of the interview situation, you can gain a big edge over your competitors.

Convention says the interviewer asks the questions, and the candidate answers them. Then the interviewer makes a decision. How lame! Some of the most productive dialogues between managers and candidates happen in-between interview meetings. Freed from the constraints of the interview, manager and candidate can explore the side topics that reveal much about how they would work together.

Think about your notion that all questions have been asked. When is that ever true in business? To me, thinking that all questions have been asked suggests complacency. Do you think the manager might see it that way, too?

I’m not suggesting the manager is testing you, but I’d take him up on his offer. Call. It indicates that you are engaged, motivated, and thinking about his company and the job. For some ideas about the attitude you might want to project, see Journeyman, Or Partner?

If you don’t have a question, consider this very important one: “I’ve been thinking about how this job contributes to the company’s business. It’s just one job, but every job affects the bottom line. As manager, how do you expect this job to contribute to the business? It’s important to me to know what role I’d play on that level. And by the way, having talked with several potential employers, I’ve concluded your company is the one I really want to work for.”

To the manager, that call might reveal the difference between who gets hired, and who comes in second, because it reveals your focus on the job, and it offers a commitment.

I think this manager is giving you an opening to influence his decision, and I’d take advantage of it. Of course, it’s best to be ready to ask those questions during your interview. Learn about The Basics before you venture into your next meeting with a manager.

Question: What about “old-fashioned” bosses who are reluctant to give feedback to employees? I have worked in two positions where my baby-boomer bosses did not give feedback even in the yearly review. In fact, in my current position, I have not had a review since I came off probation over four years ago — and I’ve been asking!

I’m a responsible employee. I work hard. I’m not looking for pats on the back, but I could probably perform better if I had some useful feedback. Why don’t these people care?

Nick Corcodilos: Unfortunately, this is all too common. Bosses might put reviews off because they’re busy and because (I’m afraid) many of them just don’t know how to do a proper review.

While I know bosses who give proper reviews and many that don’t, I don’t think there’s a generational component to this. Some managers, of any age group, just see performance in black and white: Either you’re doing well and you’re a keeper; or you’re not doing well and you’re being fired. Who needs reviews? Sorry for the sarcasm, but I think in the rush (and under immense pressure to produce), some bosses often don’t see the value of reviews.

I suggest two courses of action. First, check your company’s employee manual. It will tell you what the obligatory review policy is. Then go talk to the head of human resources. Ask for a review. If you don’t get any cooperation, submit a written request to HR and insist that your letter be put in your personnel file. That will get their attention. And it’s what HR is for.

Second, do your own review. Put together a list of what your objectives were for the past year, and then show how you achieved them. Make another list of your objectives for next year, and your plan for achieving those. Ask your boss for a meeting to “talk about the work I do.” Don’t say it’s a home-brewed review. When you arrive for the meeting, take out your materials and present them. Ask the boss for input, comments, and suggestions. Then ask for the raise you want based on your projected achievements. Provide a copy to HR.

This article will tell you much more: How to Perform in A Performance Review.

If your work is not acknowledged, you must decide whether to stay or go.

Nick Corcodilos invites Making Sense readers to subscribe to his free weekly Ask The Headhunter© Newsletter. His in-depth “how to” PDF books are available on his website: “How to Work With Headhunters…and how to make headhunters work for you,” “How Can I Change Careers?” and “Keep Your Salary Under Wraps.”

Send your questions to Nick, and join him for discussion every week here on Making Sense. Thanks for participating!

Copyright © 2013 Nick Corcodilos. All rights reserved in all media. Ask the Headhunter® is a registered trademark. This entry is cross-posted on the Making Sen$e page, where correspondent Paul Solman answers your economic and business questions