Personal and professional parallels: Don’t chase

Recently, I helped a friend’s son navigate a few job options.

Impressively perceptive for someone in his mid-20’s, he observed, “The first two companies asked standard interview questions and tried to convince me how great they were.”

The last of the three interviews was different, “The interviewer focused on my skill set and how it fit into their product and processes rather than trying to impress me with the greatness of the company. The interviewer was determining if I was a good fit for them.” The organization had established criteria and wanted to ensure he was the ideal candidate to contribute to their productivity and company culture based on his responses regarding skills, abilities and personality.

The first two interviews required him to complete a standard boilerplate job application. During those two (short) interviews, they were “trying to sell me on how their places provide distinct products. I found it curious that they did not ask about my abilities or for references. No one asked questions about how I thought I would fare doing any one specific task. In both cases, the interview questions were predictable, like they came out of an interview playbook.”

The application that he filled out before the third interview focused on technical skills and abilities. One application question he was impressed with listed 10 distinct processes and process steps.   On a scale of 1-10, he was asked to estimate “How confident are you in these processes?” other application questions included: “What additional skills would help you contribute to getting through each named process?” and “Which of these 10 processes would you be more suited for you and why?”

The interview questions that impressed me were, “How would you do if we threw you into something new? Are you open to learning new things?”

He found the two distinct interview styles thought provoking and acknowledged that he was confused.

When he asked for my advice, I responded, “the third was a true ‘interview’. They did not have to sell you on their company or unintentionally seem desperate to hire you. They not only gave you details about the job you were interviewing for, they offered you a glimpse into their culture.”

All three companies offered him a position. He accepted the last, even though it was slightly less money. The first two were chasing him, trying to convince him about their validity and value.

The important personal and professional parallel is this: Respect yourself enough to know that no one is worth convincing or chasing.

As an interviewer, if you’ve got a quality product or credible service, word of mouth and referrals will ensure that talented, skilled employees will seek you out. Know yourself and your company well enough to confidently interview candidates rather than attempt to convince them to join you. When you know the specific skills and qualifications that a role demands and are prepared to discuss and answer questions about your products and company culture, you will stand out as an interviewer and as an organization.

If you are an interviewee seeking a job, trust your intuition. Ask someone you trust for advice if you are unsure. Even if you are sufficiently skilled for a position, the company culture may not be compatible. Watch for “red flags” and avoid discovering yourself trapped in an unhealthy work situation.

In general, when you follow up with a potential employer or chosen candidate and they do not get back to you, try again within two weeks, and again in four. Don’t wait any longer than two weeks and stop after four. If they continue to not respond, don’t chase! We may never know the reasons why, but carrying on a one-way conversation can be embarrassing and is a waste of your time. Why would you want to engage with someone who is unsure, not interested or distracted?

This sounds like relationship advice because it is. There are parallels between our personal and professional lives.

If we are confident about who we are, personally and professionally, we will know whether or not we are having relevant, promising conversations. If there’s chemistry, each of you should be, in short time and without doubt, talking about a well-defined, successful partnership.

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