Recently, I was approached by a representative of a Chinese semiconductor company who had selected me to set up a new office in Europe. He talked about an advanced R&D center for a multi-billion-dollar market and I was going to be the company’s European representative and establish contacts with potential customers. In the first conversation, he asked me about my salary expectation, whereupon he immediately indicated that this was no problem. It was a very interesting meeting, but at the same time, many questions remained unanswered.
Somewhat to my surprise, he’s now trying to pressure me into committing to the position at the stated salary. In his view, I should quit my current job immediately because he’s in a hurry with the plan. However, I don’t even know who I’m going to report to, what my powers will be or what budget I’ll have at my disposal – or even if I have a budget at all.
I don’t really know how to deal with this. On the one hand, it seems like a great opportunity for me; on the other hand, I have my doubts. It’s quite a serious company, but the approach doesn’t come across as very professional. Your advice, please?
The headhunter answers:
This approach does indeed come across as a bit improvised and bumbling. When talking about an investment of millions, you’d expect a different attitude. I can’t say for sure what’s behind it, but I do advise you to be careful. I have the impression that your contact person has to show results and that his interests now outweigh yours.
I suggest you put down on paper the points that are unclear to you. You should definitely also include some financial assurances. Think of a bank guarantee, a golden parachute and a 6-12-months ‘garden leave.’
I’m interested to know why they chose you to set up this R&D center in the first place. I’m also curious about the proposed position and title in the company and who your direct supervisor will be. It seems to me that, before committing, you should at least have a video meeting with that person. I’d also like to know who else you’re going to be working with and what company structure you’re going to be dealing with.
A more concrete explanation of the plans in the Netherlands is also in order before you can make a decision. How many people do they want to hire and how quickly? What’s the assumed timeline? What’s the budget? What signing permissions do you get? Can you hire people yourself or do you need headquarter approval for every hire? Do you have your own budget? Can you represent the company when renting machines or buying materials? In itself, it’s not uncommon that you need a second signature for (financially) important decisions, but that assumes that the person you’re dealing with has some experience with the European or American market. Otherwise, certain decision-making processes can become very time consuming, such that it can become unbearable for people who aren’t gifted with much patience. I’d also like to know more about marketing matters such as the envisioned promotion activities, fairs, conferences, white papers, magazines and the (English) website.
As the first employee in Europe, you should ask for a full contract, with all the modern benefits to convince experienced professionals to join a company that’s completely unknown here. I’d certainly also negotiate a bonus scheme for your sales objectives.
If these questions aren’t satisfactorily answered, I’d waste no more time on them.