Which League Are You Playing In?

In certain areas of life, it’s not that difficult to know the league you belong to. In professional baseball, if you’re paid $100 million over several years as a major league pitcher, you’re in a special league. In the arts, if you get paid $20 million for a painting, you know which league you’re in.

However, in real life, understanding the league your company plays in isn’t anywhere as clear.

More often than not, it’s a multi-dimensional space that different organizations are floating in. Everybody understands that companies like Google and Apple are, in many respects, in a league of their own. Outside of that, the reality is that there are millions of different companies out there. This poses a big challenge to rank a given organization.

To complicate matters, there’s not a single rating system. Let’s say you’re passionate about the environment and companies involved in environmental issues. In an ideal world, you would find a set of rankings based on your criteria that I’d assume wouldn’t be well populated at the top with petroleum companies. On the other hand, if you’re passionate about futuristic automotive technology, going to work for Tesla might be everything you dreamed.

There are multiple parameters, of course. The challenge is to match the person’s capabilities, knowledge, interest and caliber of skills with the same on the company side. In practical terms, it’s very hard to communicate to a candidate that you’re working at a company at a certain level but the company they’re interviewing for is several steps higher — it’s like going from “level five” to “level eight.” Even if you were a star at that “level five” company, it’s unlikely that the “level eight” company is going to let you do whatever you want and be on high profile projects.

We witness this playing out all the time in professional sports, don’t we? The high draft pick who won the Heisman trophy may be able to start at Quarterback for his NFL team right away but we often see that this highly regarded prospect has to sit and watch another player at his position for a couple of years while he learns the system and playbook.

Without guiding posts and having some context about where your company is in the competitive landscape, it’s challenging. You can’t go to a company’s website to get an honest assessment of how they compare to others, of course. They’re not going to rank their strengths and weaknesses. They never talk about their negatives.

What about Glassdoor? Doesn’t a website like that provide a window inside the company culture and what they do best?

You would like to think so. Unfortunately, from my observation, Glassdoor does an excellent job of collecting gripes — and it’s hard to assess a company based on gripes. Those with gripes also tend to complain in greater detail vs. someone who has something positive to say. This also doesn’t convey where the company ranks compared to others by industry, geography, etc. In general, we just hear about whether or not the management is screwed up and if the pay is good or not.

Finding the right job for a person is difficult but it can be done by uncovered detailed, non-public knowledge. This gives us an edge as recruiters at Roy Talman & Associates because we hear from the very people who work in these companies. They speak to us candidly. It’s rare that they would go on a site like Glassdoor and report on the company in a very public forum. When you talk to many interesting people over the course of 30 years like we have and those people have compelling stories to tell, we can form a clear picture for the candidate’s benefit about a company’s interview process, its culture, its hierarchy and ultimately, if the candidate’s goals translate into any kind of enjoyable and satisfying career path.

As a result, we can help you ascertain the league you’re playing in now and how much of a leap is required to play in another league you want to reach. There may not be a universal rating system out there of companies, but perhaps one that is more customized based on your preferences and our business intelligence is already a far better option.

Ilya Talman is the Founder and President of Roy Talman & Associates, one of the top executive search firms connecting exceptional talent to the world’s finest financial trading firms and institutions. Headquartered in Chicago, RTA has been recognized for over 30 years for its deep financial industry knowledge and a process that goes beyond the resume to factor in chemistry as much as credentials. Call us at 312.425.1300 or email info@roytalman.com.

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