An unspoken truth in the job search process is that candidates and hiring companies are on equal footing. I know you may feel like the hiring companies hold all the cards, but the reality is that it is exceptionally difficult for them to recruit and retain good people. Now, I will concede that “good people” is a subjective term, and that this problem of talent acquisition is often because of ridiculous arbitrary requirements they may have—think of the job posting that lists a Ph.D. and 5 years of experience in a technology that’s only been around for 3 years. However, the fact remains that the cost of a “bad hire” (another subjective term) is significant, at more than 30% of the annual salary, plus onboarding and training expenses. These can amount to upwards of $250K but do not include the damage to employer brands. So it is in the hiring company’s best interest to court candidates, treat them well, and really vet them out in terms of competence, skill, ability, and cultural fit. This rarely happens, and that is why job seekers must remember this simple truth: they are looking for a solution to a business problem that they have and for which you may (or may not) be the solution. Employers do not hold all the cards. This is a two-way street.
So how do you navigate a hiring process that is probably broken and inefficient? You need to be prepared and be confident. Here are some common things which should put you on alert:
Interviewer is fixated on why you left your last job/looking to leave your current job. Another truth is that most interviewers have not been properly trained in interviewing, and it shows. There are some truly horrible interviewers out there. A fixation on why you left your last role is indicative of bad interviewing technique and lazy recruiting. Good interviewers focus on the future and understand that employment relationships change over time and that they often reach a point at which they are no longer mutually beneficial. Bad interviewers try to uncover some secret about why you are no longer working there anymore—they are almost always disappointed.
Panel interviews and group hiring decisions. A client recently told me that she had an initial HR screen with a potential employer. The HR representative described the hiring process as such: HR screen, interview with the hiring manager, interview with 4-6 other team members individually, a project and presentation back to the larger team, another interview with the hiring manager, and then an interview with the CEO. Absurd. Layering on all of these people is cumbersome and confusing. The hiring manager has the ultimate responsibility and should drive and streamline this process.
They don’t give you a straight answer on salary. Perhaps someday we will all embrace the fact that most people go to work because they require money to survive. When you are interviewing for a role, keep in mind that you have valuable skills for which you are entitled to be compensated. While it’s incumbent upon you to do your research and know what jobs at your level and in your field pay, it is ridiculous that hiring companies still dance around the subject. In most companies, a salary must be approved and budgeted before the requisition for the position is opened. If they tell you they haven’t determined the compensation for the role, or that it depends entirely on the candidate, they are probably less than forthcoming.
Many hiring companies do such a poor job with their recruiting and staffing that they often turn away good candidates. When this happens to you, and it likely will remember that it is not about you, it is their ineffective hiring process. Not every role is the right role for you. Hold out for one that aligns with your goals and values.