I want to share an experience that refutes Mitt Romney’s proclamation that “corporations are people.” I thought perhaps Mitt Romney was right since who knows more about this than he. However, based on my experience with a very large software company, I am not sure I agree with Mitt Romney.
Initially, I was not going to write this blog but then I read an interesting article that I read in New York Times on January 26, 2013, titled, “The Accidental Writer” written by Karen E. Bender. In the article, she writes,
“Rocks come at us from all places … the writer’s job is to pick them up, examine them and use them. This use is a small gesture of control — and generosity. While we can’t throw them back, we can consider their weight, and feel on them the singular imprint of our hands.”
Here is a brief background of my experience that I had with this aforementioned company and the main lesson I learned from it, which is that corporations are not people.
I was recruited by this company’s human resources department (from LinkedIn) for a sales position in their software group. Since I like software and enjoy selling software, I decided to explore the position to see if it would be a potential fit -- professionally and culturally. I had two phone interviews with two different sales managers. Based on the phone interviews, the hiring manager scheduled a face-to-face interview.
For the interview I was asked to prepare a 30 minute presentation about the overall software market, challenges, opportunities and their application lifecycle management (ALM) solution that would address the challenges and create opportunities for customers. The purpose of the presentation was for sales managers to assess my knowledge, poise, and persuasive and presentation skills.
I prepared hard and it showed. After the presentation, the two sales managers (in attendance) complimented me on my presentation, but were critical that I did not spend time trying to find out more about a fictitious prospect regarding the situation, needs and challenges faced with their current approach. I don’t disagree with that, but that’s not what they had requested.
The interview was very cordial till I asked one last question before we concuded. I asked for a reimbursement for my expense that I had incurred traveling from central NJ to NYC (NJ Transit fare - $28; Subway - $5; Lunch - $10) -- the total came out to $43.
Both of the sales managers had this deer-in-the-headlight look that I will never forget, and said, “Expense! What do you mean expense?” Once I explained that I am requesting an expense that I incurred for my trip for the interview, they exclaimed that their company does not provide local expense for interviews.
I remained calm and softly asked if this was the company’s policy? They both quickly replied that their company never reimburses for local interviews. It even got sillier when they weren’t sure whether their company even provides expense for a longer trip to candidates. Since I didn’t know their company’s reimbursement policy, I didn’t say anything. While I remained silent, one sales manager even joked, “we are not THAT generous.”
Upon leaving the company’s office and going down the elevator at their office building, I was asking myself doesn’t this company get to write off business expenses, such as candidate interviews? Wasn’t inviting me for a job interview a standard business expense? When did companies become so cheap or is it that they simply don’t give a damn on how they are perceived by a prospective candidate? Don’t they want to create a good impression to someone who they are interested in hiring to generate business for them?
I was not asking them to pay for my day’s wages that I had to give up. I was just asking for the expenses that I had incurred in traveling from NJ to NYC, which is not cheap. Both managers did not even ask how much was the expense or showed any empathy.
I will take this as a learning lesson that next time not to assume that a company is going to be professional on how it deals with candidates it is interviewing. This experience has taught me quite a few lessons about interviewing that I will post separately in a blog. But the main lesson I took away from this experience was not to view corporations as people, but view corporate people as masquerading as real people to make us think they are like you and me.
<Sales Managers Names Withheld>,
Thank you for the face-to-face interview yesterday.
I learned a lot on how IBM approaches a Rational solution sales which was educational. I also appreciated the candid feedback you offered during my presentation.
After the interview, I remain confident that I can do an excellent job.
No matter what you decide, I want to thank you for considering me for this position.
I am not sure whether I would have accepted the job since I had lot of questions that they did not address to my satisfaction; however, I was thankful that they did not try to deceive me by being something they weren’t. I have to be grateful to them for that. They were not putting on an act to impress me. I believe they were so deeply ingrained in their corporate culture that they did not deem to feign being real people. They were very good at being corporate people.
So Mitt Romney, you had it wrong. Corporations are not people. Lot of people did not agree with you on this.
Will corporations change?
Some are trying to be different. Others will do some good and try to get lot of publicity from it. But one thing is certain and that is that corporations will never be like people. If they are people then I hope I don't run into them.
Jay Oza is a founder and principal innovation development consultant at 5ToolGroup, a company that specializes in helping startups and established firms bring innovation to market within 90 days through our unique 5Tool Methodology that integrates sales, marketing, partnerships, customer development and agile/lean methodology to enable frugal or ("Jugaad") innovation. We believe that to succeed today, you have to continuously look for ways to do lot more with lot less. This is the only way to win today!