Every January, pundits publish their predictions for the new year. I don’t make predictions because I prefer not to be judged when I’m wrong ;-)
But it’s not hard to surmise that if the economy improves this year, the employment shoe will be on the other foot. The personnel jockey who has routinely been spitting rude questions at job applicants and challenging them to accept 20% lower salaries will likely wind up swallowing bile in 2010. Time to get out the kleenex and wipe up the drippings.
My favorite IT (information technology) publication is ComputerWorld. The first 2010 edition includes a cartoon from the very pointed pen of John Klossner that every smart employer should take a look at. (And if you’re a job hunter, take note: Employers can whip you only so hard in job interviews before you instinctively tell them to shove it.)
There are two messages in this cartoon. First, challenge employers to assess whether they are qualified to hire you. Maybe the company isn’t a good place to work. Second, Pursue Companies, Not Jobs.
While the demoralized guy in the applicant’s chair says he’s “looking for someone,” he’s really looking for a company.
A sound company.
And that’s the point. You may need a job and a paycheck, but you also need a future that doesn’t require going job hunting again in a few short months. While you’re sitting across the table from that interviewer, figure out, Does this company suck?
Yah, there are other ways to say what the guy in the cartoon is saying. What are they? How do you politely but clearly challenge the employer to make sure it’s a company worth working for?[Computerworld does not seem to publish the cartoons from its magazine in its online edition, or I’d link directly. Credit where it’s due: Computerworld, January 4, 2010.]
It is essential to understand the financial position of a company for which one works — easy enough, if the company is public; but not so easy sometimes, if the company is private, or if it is a professional partnership. In my experience there are always signs on which to hang one’s hat. A secretive, less than forthright company would be the first big sign.
Believe it or not, there are still many people (at the lower levels) who don’t know what their companies, departments or bosses do. I know, because I have spoken to them. That people actually function in a workplace not knowing is a topic for another day.
Asking about a private organization’s financial position (revenues, funding, etc.) should be standard in any interview. Asking about a public company’s financial position could be the end of your prospects with that particular company. Asking about what a company does in an interview should definitely be the end of the beginning.
Having said that, those who brand themselves well, continuously developing their on-line presence, the right contacts and professional expertise, work for themselves, merely leasing their talents to their current employer for a while. They work for Me Inc. and will more than likely be able to pick up the phone for their next job, not land in a dysfunctional job market when their company goes belly-up.
But then again, those who work for Me Inc. seek out their employers (not the other way round) and do their homework before committing to a job interview. It’s bad enough landing in a den of corporate dysfunction, let alone having to contend with a dying or mysterious ship.
One place I applied at has this procedure:
It places a short ad that tells little about a relatively unusual job at a company with a relatively unusual service.
Person #1 calls me to set up an interview, suggesting that I come in on the same day of the call. I say not today and work to arrange interview around my school schedule. Functionary seems almost surprised that I don’t have a blank calendar.
I arrive for interview. Person #2 gives me a few tests that have little relation to the job.
Person #3 tells me that she will interview me first, THEN tell me about the job.
The interview questions appear to be standardized by either the interviewer or the company. One of two that had anything to do with the job or the company was, “Why should we hire you?”
My answer was, “I don’t know enough about the job yet to answer that.”
We both decided we weren’t right for each other.
I’ve found that a good way to gauge something like this is to ask someone “in the know” what they have for capital/strategic projects in the pipeline.
Your standard HR person is going to be completely ignorant of these facts. But if you’re talking to a manager or someone in the thick of things, they should know something. And the results can be illuminating. If they’re talking about working on projects that are 2, 3, 4 years out, chances are, the company is investing money and time and planning on being around for the long term.
If they start complaining about how necessary projects have been shelved or delayed again and again and again…well, you have to determine if that’s due to temporary economic conditions or systemic problems/short sightedness…..
New Topic: Stupid interview questions that reveal companies you don’t want to work for…
This brings to mind a question I was asked back in the day.
The day was 1978, and the question came from a young HR type, obviously from somewhere else, and just as obviously not experienced in round-table interviews (my least favorite).
There I was, in my suit, with everyone else in shirt-and-tie, except for her. She wore a hippie-style ankle-length dress (this WAS 1978) and one could almost visualize daises in her hair.
It got to be her turn, and her question was: “I see you spent the last four years in the Marine Corps. Why did you waste your time in the military after high school instead of advancing yourself in college?”
Dead silence. Fortunately, one of the guys suggested that we had enough information, and I know that I certainly did.