Video Transcript: Closing the Deal, Part 1

with John Serpa, Alicia Long, and Steve Dufort

John Serpa  [00:00:00] Hi, I’m John Serpa. I’m a retired United States Marine and 21 years in the Marine Corps. I did about four or five, six different jobs while in the Marine Corps and I retired and went directly to H.R. Now with a private company that does 3D printing SolidWorks and Autodesk type technologies as their H.R. director. We’re going to be doing Section six today, which is closing the deal. I’m here with two H.R. professionals. They’re going to introduce themselves and we’ll get started.

Alicia Long  [00:00:31] So my name is Alicia Long. I am currently the director of Human Resources for Health Care SC in Winnsboro, South Carolina, which is a memory foam mattress manufacturer. I am also a veteran of six years in the United States Army.

Steve Dufort  [00:00:47] All right, Alicia, John, good to be with you. I’m Steve Dufort. I’ve got 15 years in H.R. now, which is hard to believe. Time has flown by I’m with General Electric.

John  [00:01:01] Awesome, thanks for being here. Thanks. As we get through cracking the code Section six this is going to be a fun one. This one’s going to be a little bit different than some of the other ones, because now we’ve gotten through quite a few other sections that kind of dealt with I would call I would call some of those sections maybe beginner level. Now we’re getting into some serious stuff. I’ve gotten past the interview process and now I want to close the deal. I really want to get in there and start talking about negotiating job offers, you know, in the Marine Corps specifically but in the military, we just don’t have to do that. Sign a piece of paper, whether you’re an officer or listed, you sign a piece of paper that says, I’m going to do this for a while. And then at some point it comes up and you have to sign a piece of paper that says, I’m going to do this for a while. You don’t really have an option to negotiate, there’s no salary negotiation. You might be able to negotiate like what your job is, depending on how intelligent you are on paper. So, I will kick it right off with from a salary range perspective. Again, you could Internet search with somebody makes in the military. You can make you know, you can search what they make for food and clothing and whatever else. Right? Everything seems to be on the table in the private sector. So I’m getting ready to talk about an offer. I’m getting ready to start negotiating. How do I find the salary range for this company that I’m interviewing with?

Alicia  [00:02:30] So I’ll take this question. I think it’s important when you get to the point of the offer is to be intentional. You just have to be that way. So just come out of ask May I ask what the salary range is for this position? And I’m almost positive that they’ll give you that answer. You know, definitely they’re interested in you they’ll give you the answer that you’re looking for. So just come right out and ask the question.

John  [00:02:55] is that pretty common?

Steve  [00:02:57] I totally agree. I mean, I think what I would add to what Alicia said is that for someone who is not a veteran, I have such gratitude and appreciation for veterans that if they just simply ask, I would gladly help them out. And the other thing I would say is there’s a certain amount of proactive to it where hopefully in the negotiation phase, that is not the first time you’re talking about salary, because I think a strong candidate is can be bold and upfront about here’s their salary requirements right from the start and is also assessing the company just like they’re being assessed as a as a candidate.

John  [00:03:40] One of the things that I enjoy getting into H.R. in the private sector, that, you know, the military would not have had his options. Kind of everything’s on the table. You know, it seems to be, you know, let’s have a conversation. You know, what else can we discuss? How do I know if something is negotiable? You know, that would be kind of my next question there. It’s like I had no idea that I could get a cell phone allowance or have this professional test to work organization paid for I was retired, as I got closer and folks were telling me, hey, you can negotiate this stuff, OK, all right. But how do I know if this company is willing to do that? Do I just come out and ask that as well?

Alicia  [00:04:23] Absolutely. Absolutely. Ask what you want. The only thing they can tell you is yes or no. You know, so have your questions ready when you go to the interview table and ask the questions that you want answers to. I’m a firm believer that I don’t want my time wasted and I don’t want to waste somebody else’s time. Right. So I’m going to ask these questions. So I don’t want to wait until we get to the offer and then you tell me, no, we don’t have these benefits and we just wasted three interviews.

John  [00:04:50] So you’d want to do this upfront? Not in front necessarily, but you don’t want to wait until we’re so far down the line that maybe the company already has a number in mind, including the entire benefits package. Should I ask it a little bit farther up front?

Steve  [00:05:03] I think so, because you certainly don’t want to put yourself in a position or the company, for that matter, to be totally out of alignment at the end when you’re in this negotiation phase. So I think, you know, a simple trick I would offer is instead of asking, is this negotiable? I would just say which things are negotiable? OK, because then it puts them in a position to say, hey, some of these items are negotiable. The design of our health care plan, it’s really not negotiable. But there are some things that, like paid time off that that certainly are negotiable. So I think by putting the H.R. person or the hiring manager in a position to help you out by just saying which things are negotiable can be a pretty easy way to do.

John  [00:05:52] well, which things are negotiable? I mean, what are some of the common techniques? What are some of the common questions that are out there?

Alicia  [00:06:31] And they ask for vacation time, sick time or PTO time, whichever one the company actually uses. Is there a company credit card or is there a company car, personal use of a company car? And all those things are negotiable. What else can to be negotiable. The option to work from home. Is there a remote option to work from home?

John  [00:06:51] Have your companies decided or have you done that in negotiations where you said, yes, we will work on that, or we would consider that?

Alicia : I have.

John : Even before there was a global pandemic?

Alicia : Absolutely not.

John : And that matters, I think, to veterans because it sounds good right now. But there could be at this point. There could be this could point back where that may or may not be on the table. But trending now, you might be able to you might be able to get that done. That’s correct.

Steve  [00:07:22] And I think looking at the  term trend, the macro trend is towards flexible work arrangements. It starts people working from home. And so it’s job sharing. So certainly I think the pandemic has put that and just a faster course. But I don’t think we’ll go back to a time where everyone’s in the office. I really don’t. I think companies are getting smarter about that. And I think companies are also getting pretty smart about which roles need to be in the office in a factory setting to drive value. In which roles actually, it’s better to cast a wider net and to be flexible because you might get a fantastic candidate that’s  hundreds or thousands of miles away.

John  [00:08:08] Well, the this is a great time to kind of bring this up. If you would have asked veterans, especially maybe disabled veterans, visible or not so visible disabilities, if you would let them work from home two years ago, the answer probably would have been no, we really need you in this office. So folks with disabilities or may need any sort of accommodation, I believe have really started to be you know, people are being brought back to the forefront now because companies realize, I think, that you can let someone work from home or accommodate in many more ways than maybe companies were willing to. What’s a good point to start talking about accommodations that you may need in the negotiation process when is the right time? I can tell you from my personal experience that I wasn’t sure if I could even bring up the fact that I can’t really hear. So, you know, I’m on the phone quite a bit, but with the right technology, I can hear anything. Right. When’s the right time to have that discussion?

Alicia  [00:09:15] So I think if you can know that you have a disability, I think it’s again, it goes back to that conversation. For example, with me, with my disability, I struggled with seeing my monitor has to be really huge. So even when I took this position, you know, I asked the question of why is it an option for me to get bigger screens because I struggle seeing and this was asked at the time that the job was offered to me. And they said absolutely, they would definitely do that to me. So if you know that you have a disability and you know that you need an accommodation, you need to put that up front.

Steve  [00:09:53] I agree. I think I’m a big believer just in being open and transparent. And I think I thought about this question a bit, because if you’re at the table with a company and you trust them and you’re being open about who you are and what accommodations you might need, I think it gives them the chance to respond to that in a positive way. And on the flip side, what I would say is if you’re with a company or interviewing, negotiating with a company that you don’t trust enough to share that, then really my question would be, why are you interviewing, negotiating with that? And why aren’t you instead thinking, OK, I need to find a different place to be to be interviewing?

John  [00:10:42] I think I want to veterans do just take the first thing that comes out because they’re worried. I think that does happen, whether that be close to the transition point. And now I’m about to stop receiving that military pay and I’m going to be out of the military or I’ve been in this game a while. I have not really found the level of employment that I feel like I deserve, especially based on my background. I think sometimes folks just go ahead and take something. And I think that I think it is sometimes a barrier for veterans. And again, accommodations are one of them. It’s kind of interesting talking about things you can negotiate to go vacation where you got 30 days a year regardless. And whether we get to use it or not is up for debate. That’s why you can max out 60. And they’ve recently upgraded that to something like 90 that you can roll over. Because, again, I can tell you and this is not a complaint, this is the way it is, that vacation time you’re answering the phone, you’re answering text messages. There’s almost an expectation, an unwritten rule, and it’s a culture thing. And I was proud to come back to work and say I didn’t get a vacation. I was answering phone calls and e-mails. How does that transfer over to the private sector? We’re going to get farther into it down the road. But I’m just curious, do I even have to negotiate this? Do I have to have that conversation? Would that make me look good on paper while I’m interviewing and I’m and I’m in that negotiation process? Or is that looked at like kind of a taboo and we don’t really want you to do that.

Alicia  [00:12:15] No, I like when a candidate asks questions and negotiates with me. I take pride in being approachable with the candidates and having those, downright gritty conversations. I take pride in that piece of it so I can really appreciate somebody asking questions of me, you know, so they get the authentic answers up front. So I think that puts them in a higher light for me.

Steve  [00:12:43] Yeah. And look, I think it’s the interview, certainly, but even during the negotiation process, it’s a it’s a way to set yourself apart from other candidates. And if you’re in the negotiations, you are now the preferred candidate. It’s still a way to explain who you are and some of the benefits, some of the strengths you bring to the table. And I think if you’ve been in an environment with high pressure, high intensity, which clearly the military is that and you’ve had to be accessible 24/7, I think, to most, if not all companies, that’s going to be a really attractive thing to bring to their attention.

John  [00:13:21] That’s good to hear, because I think that’s really that’s the culture that I think we we’ve come from as veterans. This is not this is not the greatest of topics, because sometimes I think even H.R. professionals, hiring managers, CEOs, folks in this process might not have a clue about this. But in the military, especially if you’re watching TV show movie, you’ll hear about a court martial or something to that effect, dishonorable discharge. But there’s a there’s a maybe a lesser known thing of non-judicial style of a commander to continue to keep good order and discipline and even for more minor infractions, things that maybe the private sector civilians might not even be concerned about. And in that non-judicial punishment style of, again, keeping folks in line. Right. Do I bring that up in a negotiation? Do I talk about this out loud? I don’t know. It’s a question I know that a lot of veterans are asking that they wouldn’t be on this list. That is not the case.

Alicia  [00:14:33] I would say no. I would say do not over share.

John  [00:14:38] Over sharing, that’s an actual H.R. term. There you go. Over sharing, right. Yeah.

Steve  [00:14:43] I totally agree with you. I mean, I’ll give you one just real brief story. But it’s recent. We talk to I have candidates had to file lists for a role within about three months now. And we had two fantastic candidates, the one I would argue was the leading candidate recall candidate A and we had another solid candidate in  our final round of interviews. This  first candidate who is probably in pole position to win. She just over shared. And we asked her some very innocent interview questions and she sort of gave us like, hey, here’s the time I failed out of school. And she really shared some things that were very concerning that to the interview panel. And I think there’s something to be said for we all make mistakes, we’re all human. But I think a piece here is if you’re not asked to share a difficult time or something, you’ve overcome, but you’re just simply sharing a failure without learning, then you’re absolutely, I think, going too far. And I think that links back to what you asked of if there’s a time where an interview panel is not going to know a small mistake you’ve made in the past. I just don’t see the value or the benefit a candidate would receive by bring that up.

John  [00:16:10] Yeah, there are I think this one gets debated because there are different types of discharges from the military. Some of them are a little bit more punitive than others. Maybe it was based on something actually that. Some of these things are asked in a you know, as you’re in an applicant tracking system, you’re filling out an application with a , deep diversion and you put that in there in order to ask you straight up, did you serve in the military? If I click, yes. And then later on they ask me, did you get an honorable discharge? And I say no, because I did it with the different types of discharge. How do I go about having the conversation? Do I just go and explain what that’s all about?

Alicia  [00:16:52] I guess the first thing that comes to my mind is what would be the reason of asking?

John  [00:16:58] That’s what veterans are going. I think if you polled some veterans and folks up, lined up, how many got to ask that question? I think many did. I think it’s a problem that exists systems for sure. But that’s why veterans are always asking this question. What do I do? Especially that, again, not everyone gets an honorable discharge and we want to continue to educate all veterans with this, you know, get cracking this code. So what do we do when that question is asked?

Alicia  [00:17:25] So if that question is asked, then I would definitely advise a candidate to be honest, I’m still stuck on why he’s being asked but if it is an ask, then I would encourage the honesty and explain what happened if given the option.

John  [00:17:40] Yeah, I think being able to even explain to someone that doesn’t necessarily know the types of discharges or, you know, what that was all about right, being able to explaining would probably be a pretty good thing.

Steve  [00:17:50] I think explaining it and I think also it’s a chance to be self reflective for the candidate and share, hey, this is something this is a mistake I made and this is an issue challenge I’ve dealt with. And here’s what I learned about myself. And more importantly, here’s why I’m a better candidate, a better person, a better employee today. I think if candidates that can tie mistakes, issues, challenges, adversity is probably the better way to put in their lives to now they’re better because of it. I think as a interviewer that that shows a human side to people. It shows that not only can this person come into the organization, but they can learn and actually make the organization better.