You can find tons of advice about how to get a job interview and how to snag a job. Most of it comes from the “Do whatever you have to do to get hired!” school of thought. The job market isn’t a job-seeker’s paradise, but it isn’t bad considering what it was like just a year or two ago. If you’re willing to step outside the velvet ropes and try something new in your job search, you can get the interview, and get the job.
When you’ve been through a job-search drought for months and haven’t had much or any interview activity, your standards can start to drop. If the drought lasts long enough, your standards may plummet. You’ll delude yourself then that any job at all is better than another month of unemployment. That’s when a job-seeker can tumble headfirst into the Vortex.
The Vortex is the place a job-seeker goes when somebody (anybody!) is interested in hiring him or her. You can lose your bearings in the Vortex. You can ignore critical signs the universe is sending you. Most of us have been there at one time or another.
I almost took a job working for a horrible woman years ago. She used most of our interview time to insult me, but she kept calling me back. At the time I thought it was strange. Now I see that the woman’s “You’re an idiot, but let’s talk again” approach made perfect sense for her, because it was very important for her to hire someone she could berate and belittle. She was testing me. After a telephone conversation where she said “Are you ready to forget everything you know and learn how to do business MY way?” I gave Miss Hateful the slip, telling her that I’d decided to stay at my current job.
I realized that her real need in a new hire was not the Assistant Customer Support Manager she’d advertised for, but a whipping boy (or girl, in my case).
Harsh experience teaches us that there are many jobs worse than another month of unemployment. In fact, I believe that when we say “No!” to the wrong things, we invite the right opportunities in. I’ve seen it over and over with clients and friends. We grow our mojo when we say “I don’t think it’s a match, but thanks for your time” and bail on a lousy opportunity. Here are five red flags the universe will send you to tell you it’s time to get out of Dodge.
Things Are Moving So Fast!
A thoughtful selection process for a white-collar job is likely to take six weeks, and many of them take longer than that. You don’t want an employer to string you along for months or go silent for weeks on end, but a too-rapid selection process is a big red flag. Some companies churn people in and out so fast that the new-hire process is a very low priority. If you can walk and talk and fog a mirror, you’re welcome to join the team and suffer with everyone else until your new-found mojo impels you out the door.
If your gut is telling you the people interviewing you are less interested in you as a teammate and more in filling the open requisition with any warm body at all, run away. There are employers who will value you for yourself, not because you’re available two weeks from Monday.
What’s the Job Description Again?
Lots of organizations are in flux – that’s the nature of business. If you go on a job interview and no two people in the mix have the same idea about what the job is, be wary.
“I talked to Anita in HR, and she said it was a Supply Chain job,” said Donald, a Purchasing Manager.
“Anita passed me on to Hal, the Director of Operations, and he said he needed somebody to manage the production plan and keep the sales reps happy. I was trying to fit all that together when I met Barry, the CEO, who said he wanted the new hire to create a channel marketing strategy. That’s when I took myself out of the running.”
Too much uncertainty in the role definition makes a job undoable, and virtually guarantees that somebody will be unhappy with your performance if you step into the job. Hold out for a company that knows what it needs in a new hire and is willing to commit to it in writing.
The Comp Plan is Fantastic, But I Can’t Tell You What It Is
“I’m excited about this new opportunity,” says Bridget, a Director of Administration. “The base salary is low, but they’ve got a fantastic bonus program.” “How does it work?” we asked her. “I don’t know,” Bridget said. “I have to go back next week and meet the VP of HR.”
Bridget went back and met more people, but the VP of HR wasn’t in. She didn’t reschedule, either. When Bridget got her offer letter a week later, it included the exact base salary amount that Bridget earned in 1998, and the note “You will be eligible for the Acme Explosives Management Bonus Program.”
“How does that bonus program work, exactly?” Bridget asked her hiring manager, who said “The VP of HR is working on it.” Bridget fled. Worthy employers pay the market rate, and they’re not afraid to tell you what your comp package is going to look like, down to the nickel.
Sorry, That Information is Classified
When you’re a finalist for a new job, you should be invited to meet your teammates. You should get the information you need to make your decision, should you get the job offer. You should get a copy of the employee handbook, the benefits plans and any performance programs that will govern your employment in the firm.
If someone balks when you ask for information that will help you decide whether or not to come on board, flee. If they’re going to ask you to sign the last page of the employee handbook on Day One (and nearly all employers do) why would they withhold it from you a week ahead of time?
We Need a Bit More Information, And a Pint of Blood
When you’re proceeding through a Selection Pipeline, your natural assumption is that the people on the other side of the equation like and trust you. When they start asking you for proof of various things (a W-2 or payslips to prove your last salary, for instance) you know that these are people who don’t trust themselves to make a good hire. Are they going to share your predecessor’s salary information with you? Not likely. So why should you share your past salary information with them?
Any organization so ill-equipped to gauge the value of its applicants that it resorts to some other employer’s payslips is not an employer that can grow your flame. Tell them you won’t be sharing your past salary information with anyone besides your accountant, and go in search of people who get you. If they don’t get you, they don’t deserve you, and you have no time to waste with people who will never see the brilliance you bring.