My Client Got A Job – Then Asked for A Refund
Jane* signed up in February. We started coaching immediately, but didn’t expect results for quite some time. There is a reason that my jobseeker program runs for five months. You plant a lot of seeds, but it takes time, before you harvest. Imagine how happy I was, when Jane got into the final round for a job just two months after we started.
We had a coaching session on the day before her final interview. I started the zoom call and waited for her to connect. Like always, she was right on time. I closed my eyes to shut out all distractions, adjusted my headset and listened to her questions. We went through each step of the interview. I gave her advice on how to deal with difficult situations and taught her how to discover hidden objections and “clean the room”. She was prepared. “You got this!” I told her.
The interview went well. Afterwards Jane told me: “I knew that I hit the pain points of the manager. She kept nodding her head while I spoke”. Nothing left to do, but wait.
It didn’t take long and my phone buzzed. Another message from Jane. I opened it, full of excitement, and the first line was all I hoped for: “I got the job!” Well done, Jane! I was so happy for her. Then I read on:
“Since I took only two months of your service, I feel that I should get at least a partial refund.”
First, I thought she was kidding.
Turns out, she was not.
I was shocked. I didn’t know what to reply. At the core of my business is the belief that I should always, always be on the side of my clients. I never want to be in a position where my interest and those of my clients are in conflict.
That’s why I don’t take commissions from employers (like headhunters do): I don’t want to create obstacles to hiring.
I am fiercely loyal to my clients – and it shocked me, that Jane obviously felt differently. Jane got a job three months faster than expected. This means that she earns roughly 18.000 EUR more than what she hoped for this year. And she asks for a refund.
I had to chew on this. Finally, I realized that I have three basic options:
A) I could refund her. That would be insane, since she got a job. Worse: It would create a conflict of interest between me and all future clients. Right now, we have the same goal: Get you a job. As fast as possible. If my fee would depend on the duration of the service – then it would be in my interest to keep you unemployed as long as possible. That’s not how I work. I want to be on your side – always.
B) Shrug and move on. My terms & conditions are clear. I could leave this unpleasant episode behind and serve other people.
C) Even in a flawed situation like this, there is always something that you can salvage from the wreckage. I could look a bit closer at the situation, learn from it, and use it as a teaching moment.
As you can see: I went with option C.
I chose to analyze, learn and then teach. When you ask people for a reason, the first answer you get is nearly always just a placeholder. It’s a trigger, not the root cause. So, I asked Jane, why she felt she deserved a refund. It wasn’t the fact that I saved three months of work. It was something much deeper: Jane felt that I had let her down.
Before Jane signed up for my coaching, she had been searching for a job for quite some time. She had seen a lot of rejections and was considering to get additional qualifications. She hoped, that would improve her “employability”.
Her idea of coaching was, that we would take a deep dive into her work experience. That we would discuss her education, her career choices, her whole work life. She later wrote me: “You never had a detailed conversation about my career with me.” In short: Jane wanted me to find out what was “wrong” with her.
I took one look at Jane’s LinkedIn profile and I knew what was wrong with her:
Jane has an excellent education and great expertise. What kept her from getting jobs was that she was so in panic that she forgot the most important thing about the job-hunt: It’s not about her problems. It’s about the employers’ problems.
Of course, I could have humored her, spend hours talking about her past and her worries. Not only would that have done nothing to get her a job – it would also reinforce a behavior that hurt her career options. She needed to look outwards, not inwards.
I knew: If I could get her into a direct conversation with the actual hiring managers, she would be able to solve any business problem they confronted her with. She needed to discover what the hiring manager worried about. And the requirement for that was to silence her own worries. Because when you are afraid, you don’t listen.
During our cooperation I taught Jane how to listen to managers. How do discover their real pain points. Once she was able to do this – her professional expertise took over and she could propose a solution.
Clearly it worked.
A good business coach will not give you what you want. A good business coach will give you what you need.
What can you learn from this story for your own jobhunt? I invite you think deeply about Jane’s and my experience. Turn it around, look at it upside down. What can you discover?
Here are a few prompters:
1. Think about the person who reads your CV. What unspoken assumptions might she have? How do these assumptions affect how she evaluates you?
2. How do these assumptions influence what employers “want”? Is what employers “want” simply another word for “this is what we expect, based on what we know?”
3. How do you convince employers that you are what they “need”, if you don’t match what they “want”?
4. No, you don’t get a refund for getting a job.
*The name is made up. The story is real.