The Great Resignation. Fear of Missing Out Hiring. Fear of Missing Out Job Searching. Over Hiring. Layoffs. In 25 years of work, I’ve never seen a job economy like we have in the last 10 months.
If you are reading this, my bet is you either interviewed candidates or went on a job interview sometime between last November and yesterday. Maybe you’ve done both.
Hiring is one of those things that most people think they would be good at. Research has shown that hiring managers get it wrong about half the time. That is, they hire a candidate who ends up not being the right fit.
The flip side of this is that 50% of the time candidates end up taking a job that’s the wrong fit.
When I graduated college in 1997, our professors told us that hiring managers received 150 applications for every open role. I don’t know if that’s true, but I do know I sent out a whole lot of resumes when I was job hunting. I made terrible mistakes every step of the way. I applied for the wrong jobs, had bad cover letters and resumes, and bombed interviews. As a hring manager, I’ve interviewed hundreds of candidates over my career and have written plenty of bad job descriptions, did bad screening, messed up interviews and made bad hiring decisions. Here are some things I’ve learned from both sides of the interviewing process.
DON’T “SAY ANYTHING” JUST TO GET THE JOB
When I first started applying for jobs, I was told to write the job description back in my cover letter and resume. “Make yourself into the perfect candidate” we were told. If the job description said it required great attention to detail, I should write that I had great attention to detail. Here’s the deal – I’m not the best detail guy out there. I once interned as an proofreader for a small daily newspaper and I’m sure the paper never had more typos than when I was in that role. I had taken a couple classes in PageMaker (remember this was 1997) so I said I had graphic design skills. My apologies to anyone who saw anything I “designed” in those early days.
The result of the employment was bad for everyone. I did bad work on things I wasn’t good at. My employer paid for bad results and our readers and customers had to wonder what the heck was going on.
As a hiring manager, I’ve been in spots where I’ve hired someone based on something they said during an interview. Later, when things went off the rails, they revealed they said to get the job with the thought that “once I got hired, I thought I could just move to the role I really wanted.” Please don’t do that.
DON’T “SAY ANYTHING” JUST TO GET THE CANDIDATE
Hiring account managers is super hard. The candidate must be able to think big picture, grasp abstract concepts, communicate well with C-Level executives and feel as energized on their fifth meeting of the day as they did on their first.
At the same time they have to be good with fine details. Taking detailed notes. Managing complex timelines. Staying on budget.
The best big picture thinkers I know don’t do great with details. The most Type A people I know often miss how things are connected.
Sometimes when hiring for this role I can tell the person would burn out fast doing back-to-back client meetings five hours a day. But, I like the candidate. I want to work with them. But we don’t have an opening for them that is a better fit. I see them hesitate when I talk about the meeting schedule. I don’t want to lose them to a competitor.
It would be so easy in that moment to say “Yeah, the meeting schedule isn’t too full. I’m sure you could do it.”
I have made that mistake before. Now I don’t. I just had a great conversation with a candidate I really liked but it was clear she wasn’t going to be happy being “on” for marathon client interactions. At the interview I was honest with her about the role and requirements and we agreed to stay in touch as more roles open up.
JOB INTERVIEWS ARE ABOUT COLLABORATION, NOT COMPETITION
I like magic. Like a lot of hobbies, magic can teach you a lot of life lessons. One thing I’ve learned is that good magicians and good magic fans work together to create a shared sense of wonder. If the magician accurately predicts that the Jack of Diamonds is the card you will select and you, the magician, and the audience all feel like part of one team getting to that result, it’s, well, magical.
If it becomes a competition with the magician trying to prove he’s smarter than the crowd, and the crowd trying to mess up the magician, well, why are we even there?
Job hunting is the same. If, as a candidate you go in with the assumption that the potential employer is the enemy to be beaten you are starting the working relationship on the worst possible note. If the hiring manager views the interaction as way to trip up the candidate and bargain for the lowest salary, that sets a tone for the rest of the relationship.
When both parties go in with the perspective of seeing if the fit is right, being sincere, and looking for the long term win for everyone, everyone is set up for success.
SHOW EXCITEMENT IN THE RECRUITING PROCESS
There is a perspective that both job seekers and hiring managers are told. “Play it cool, even if you really want the job/candiate. If you seem too eager the other party will take advantage of you.”
First, if the other party is going to take advantage of you, in any situation, you don’t want to work with that person.
When I really like a candidate, I tell them that I like them on the first interview and set up the next interview on the spot. 90% of candidates appreciate. One in ten will view this as a weakness on my part and opportunity on theirs to try to take advantage of the situation. Those candidates do us both a favor by weeding themselves out of the pool.
Conversely, when I see a candidate who really wants to be here, I would never use that as leverage to offer them a lower salary or different role. Rather, I immediately see it as “this is the kind of person I want to work with.”
When the candidate plays cool and aloof, bragging about the offers lined up for them, or the manager makes you feel like you are one of 100 candidates barely worth their time, run, don’t walk away.
Because I occasionally have trouble being brief, this blog post will be continued next week! Please leave your comments below.