Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Don't rely only on your own observations

Some people can quickly assess others. Some take a long time to get a clear picture. Many more think they can make a quick judgment, but are often wrong.

One place where the chances run particularly high that we will "get it wrong" is during the interview process.

In interviews, the normal reality is for the candidate to be in hardcore sales mode. "Doing your homework" as a job candidate means understanding what the company is looking for, and trying to "morph" your education, experience, and personality into the required mold. If you can make yourself into an ideal candidate, then at least you get to make the call when it comes time to take or reject the job.

Doing this is probably in the best interests of the candidate, and as a result, I don't fault them for trying. The downside is, of course, many people end up in companies and positions that aren't well suited to them.

Why does this happen?

Because candidates don't recognize and/or accept the implicit responsibility they are taking on when "morphing" for interviews -- they don't make good judgments when it comes to fit with the company. By "morphing", the candidate must take responsibility to assess fit. After all, the company can't do it -- you're not really letting them know who you are.

And even when the candidates accept the theoretical responsibility for assessing their fit, the don't execute it very well.

Candidates often see what they want to see, or look only for the things that were missing from their last job. And they systematically rely on their own observations alone, rarely asking for outside opinions or information.

So here's a wild idea -- why don't candidates ask to see references from employers? Why not check social media to find out what their bosses and coworkers will really be like? Why not independently track down former employees and ask them why they left, and what the environment was really like? The companies check candidate's backgrounds of employees, so why not the other way around?

Had I done this, I would have avoided a couple of difficult employers/positions during my career, and the resultant pile of angst, discomfort and agitation. I would have wasted less time, and disrupted the lives of my families a lot less.

So here is a modest proposal -- you as a candidate have as much obligation to check out potential employer, boss and coworkers, as they have to check out you. Perhaps more so, if you are doing the typical "morph" stuff during the interview process. So make sure you do it, and turn down opportunities where there is poor fit.

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