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Striking While The Iron Is Hot

Landing a job can be a very emotional and tiring process. In most cases, candidates wrestle with numerous questions about whether to stay or go, while trying to craft the perfect narrative to satisfy their fears about the future. They sometimes take weeks, and even months trying to determine if a new opportunity makes sense to accept.

Equally as challenging is the employer’s position. When a vacancy exists inside an operation, there’s a lot of disruptions that occur. It becomes difficult for other staff members because they’re usually asked to absorb a heavier burden, and depending on the position, it can lead to an increase in noise from the outside too.

In both instances, each side is tasked with one important responsibility – making the right choice!

But it doesn’t always work out that way.

oddsWhen you hire someone, you have a 50/50 chance of being right. The choice you make can leave you looking like a genius or the biggest fool in the office. You can research an individual, and talk to everyone under the sun about them, and while those conversations will offer insight to help you out, it still comes down to trusting your gut!

If you’re the candidate, it’s a similar gamble. You can look at the city you’re considering moving to and review the company’s previous hires, talk to people employed by the same organization in other cities, and even analyze the group’s stock performance if you wish, but when the moment comes to say yes, you’re going to do it based on the connection you’ve formed with the individual(s) offering you an opportunity.

Although every scenario is different, I’m a big believer in striking while the iron is hot. The longer a hiring process plays out, the worse it usually turns out. In many cases it also leads to the ‘hot candidate’ or ‘perfect job’ becoming less attractive.

When a company reaches out to discuss a possible fit, that initial inquiry tells you that they believe you are worth pursuing. How you click with the hiring team once you start talking indicates whether or not things will advance to the next level.

Assuming the discussions go well, it’s often followed up with a face to face meeting, and a ‘sales pitch’ on how great the situation could be if you were to get on board.

choiceAfter two sides lay out their negotiating points and find a middle ground, most companies will ask for a resolution. They may give you an extra day or two to think things over but then they expect an answer. If you’re not sold by this point, you may ask a few follow up questions to gain some extra feedback, but if what gets relayed doesn’t put your mind at ease to say yes and sign on the dotted line, then it’s not likely going to work out.

Now let’s look at it from the other side.

If you’re the employer and you’ve done your homework scouting a potential hire, you know pretty quickly if they have the skillset you’re looking for. You’ll review their work history, dig into their background to find out if there are any skeletons in their closet, and you may talk to some people who have worked with the candidate to make sure they’re someone worth sticking your neck out for.

Once that information is known, the real questions to be answered are whether or not you can connect as manager to employee, what the expectations of the position are, what you’re willing to do to help them experience success, and what the compensation package looks like. If those questions are met with resistance, and the two sides can’t find a happy medium, then it’s not going to be good for either party.

As the employer roleplays in their mind whether or not someone is the right fit to join the staff, they end up crossing people off the list the longer the process continues.

When you’re impressed and excited, you want to move fast so nobody else can get their hands on the prize that you’ve uncovered. Rather than move forward with uncertainty, you’re ready to cancel all other considerations because your mind, heart and gut are all telling you the same thing – the situation feels right. If that feeling isn’t there, it’s probably for a good reason.

dateIt’s similar to being a single male who meets a gorgeous woman. If you don’t act quickly to express your interest and ask her on a date, someone else will be right behind you ready to act. Once they do, you may never get another chance.

Let’s be clear about something – if a hiring manager doesn’t believe you’re a special individual or the right fit, that doesn’t mean you lack skill or wouldn’t be great elsewhere. So many partnerships in this business are the result of a strong fit and connection than they are about who possesses more talent.

Some applicants take it personally when the call doesn’t come their way, and while it can be frustrating when you have your hopes up and want to be part of a specific operation, the reality is that it’s not going to work out if the person making the call doesn’t have an unwavering belief, confidence and genuine excitement about having you on their staff.

I’m often asked by people and companies for input on candidates and possible openings and there are a few key things I believe are important as it pertains to this process.

First here are a few tips for the candidates.

  • Don’t pursue a position if you’re not willing to accept it: A lot of people like to feel important and receive an offer to make them feel good, but when push comes to shove, they’re not ready to accept. There’s nothing wrong with exploring your options, but before you put a hiring boss on the hook with their company for making you an offer, make sure you are committed to pursuing it. If you’re not, be up front with them that the likelihood of you accepting the offer is a long shot. You’ll gain more respect that way and you may even be surprised by how far the group will go to try and secure your services.
  • Pursue with passion but respect the hiring manager’s rules for communication: If they want more audio, send it. If they tell you don’t call, don’t. If they ask for a few days to respond, be patient. Even if you hear of others being given consideration for the job, remember that you’re not the only person they’re going to talk to. If your talent is great and you fit the bill for what they’re after, they’ll follow up. There’s a fine line between persistence and annoyance. Don’t cross it and cost yourself an opportunity.
  • Have an understanding of what matters to you most in the job you’re seeking: If you make your wish list and it shows “money, length of commitment, and great city with warm weather” as your three most important elements, and the company pursuing you checks those boxes, you can understand their frustration if you don’t accept. It’s one thing to not explore a job because the money wasn’t right, the commitment was thin, or the neighborhoods don’t align with your preferred choice of living, but whether it’s three, four or five key items, know what they are, and press the hiring group on them so you have the clarity you need in making your decision.

Now let’s take a look at things from the position of the employer.

  • Know what you’re looking for before you start the process: If you’re drawn to someone who makes you laugh and is less confrontational, say that. If you prefer the opposite, say that too. Hiring managers want great talent and a guarantee of future success but it starts with the specifics. Think about the qualities you’re drawn to in others, what you want your brand and people to represent, how you want them to approach their jobs, and then focus on the candidates who fit the bill. There’s a lot of talent out there but you can’t identify the right one until you know what you’re searching for.
  • Investigate, communicate, and set a date: When you have an opening, your focus turns to finding a solution. If you had a gash on your arm you wouldn’t wait to get it stitched up and it’s no different with filling a hole on your staff. Turn over every stone you can so you have a thorough understanding of the person you’re considering hiring. Talk to friends, family, colleagues, competitors, and get a true sense of who it is you’re considering forming a partnership with. Then, set a deadline so others in your company know what can be expected, and you can hold yourself accountable to deliver a solution. As you engage with candidates, stick to your word if you promise a follow up call or email. If you’re not interested, communicate that too. Transparency is important in staying on track and maintaining respect with those who apply. Remember, people talk to other people. You don’t want to damage your reputation by not handling things that were under your control.
  • Don’t offer the job unless you’re 100% sure it’s the person you want: I’ve advised a few people on certain jobs and on three different occasions, a company has offered a position, only to rescind it afterwards. That’s not only bad business but it’s disrespectful. It’s also the type of decision making that leads me to caution others on pursuing work with those organizations. If a manager isn’t sold on someone or is having buyer’s remorse, that’s understandable. But remember that your credibility and reputation are on the line once you make the call. If you’re unsure, don’t make an offer. You can still discuss salary requirements, the length of a contract, and job specifics without an agreement. If you want the responsibility of hiring people, then take it seriously. Don’t mess with someone’s emotions or risk causing damage to their family or current job by not being sure if you want them on your staff. They’ll respect and appreciate you more for walking away than if you make a promise you can’t deliver on.

When you think about the challenges of hiring or going to work for a new company, picture being in the middle of the process between an NFL or MLB franchise, and a key Free Agent or Head Coach.

chipOnce the world knows that a player or coach is available, word trickles out and teams begin doing their due diligence. They’ll investigate what an individual brings to the table, how they believe they’d fit the team, and then after they gain some insight into what that person is seeking in terms of salary and length of commitment, they’ll make a decision on whether or not to move forward.

Once they know they’re interested, that’s when the madness begins.

Soon the visits are scheduled, conversations are had on a deeper level, and in the matter of a few hours, people are making life changing decisions. Rarely do you see these situations linger for weeks or months.

Each free agent enters a facility knowing that they could be signing a long term commitment that day. There’s no extended window offered to review the school system, the daily commute time, or the leisure spots in the area for the family. Those are things that people adjust to.

Instead the focus is on these key factors:

  • Are they meeting my salary requirements
  • Are they offering enough security (length) to ease my mind
  • Do I believe they’re committed to winning and possess a strong vision
  • Do I click with the boss and feel we can have a good working relationship

If those four boxes get checked, then it’s up to the individual to process the information in their head, talk to their family, trust their gut, and make the call. They could be making a big mistake or it could be the beginning of their own personal nirvana. Regardless of how it turns out in the future though, a decision has to be made in the present.

I see too many situations pop up where companies spend months looking for the perfect candidate, only to stunt their growth, disrupt their inner workings, and slow down business, all because they were gunshy on making a hire. You do more damage dragging out a process than you do by making a decision and having to adjust down the road.

nervousThere’s a feeling of nervousness inside most hiring managers because nobody wants to make the wrong move. That’s a natural feeling and it shows that you care about your company and want to do the right thing. But you can feel good enough to hit Powerball on the day you hire someone, and there still remains a strong possibility that you may have swung and missed.

The same applies to any person exploring a new opportunity. You can feed your ego and boost your confidence by pursuing opportunities and you may even gain a contract offer, but remember that the feeling of being the shiny new toy eventually goes away.

Making a decision to leave one place for another just because you don’t feel appreciated is fine, but make sure first that you’ve addressed the situation with your current company, and understand how they view you, where you stand, and what your ceiling is. Too often people leave situations in search of greener grass, only to find that it doesn’t exist.

As cliche as it sounds, we work in the communication business yet struggle to communicate. We’d rather reject a boss and blame them for our lack of development instead of seeking them out and challenging them to make us better. We’d rather chase the bigger immediate paycheck than look at how staying put will pay greater long term dividends.

riskAnd companies are often guilty of the same thing. They’d rather do less investigating, and hire the person with the longer resume and safer track record, than bet on someone less familiar with more talent and a higher upside. It’s easier to do what others have done, and protect your spot, than stand in the line of fire by attempting to do something great and different.

Regardless of the side you’re on, the bottom line in all of this is to do your homework, know what you’re looking for, find a middle ground, and when the conversations intensify, be ready to make a commitment. The longer you wait, the more you will talk yourself out of things, and the less likely you will be to work together. That could be a devastating blow, or a blessing in disguise. Your chances of being right are 50/50!

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