Job interviews are kind of like beauty contests. You put on your best suit, some lipstick, make sure there is nothing stuck in your teeth and off you go. You put on your best performance and, like any beauty queen, you want to get recognized and win the contest (nobody likes to lose beauty contests). And although you always want to come out on top, sometimes the contest is just not for you. Maybe the contest is all about talented tap dancers and that’s not your strength. In your heart you know you should leave the competition because you probably won’t win the contest but your ego just won’t let you (who wants to lose).
I’ve had my share of bad interviews (bad on my part). The replay in my head whenever I think of interviewing. In retrospect, it’s easy to single out what I did wrong, but during the interview it’s not always that clear.
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So my story (and I have lots of them) happened early in my career. I decided that I no longer wanted to be a “finance guy”, that I really enjoyed coding and I wanted to be a programmer (not one of my better decisions since my degree was in accounting). So off I went on an interview with a well-known payroll services company in their software support department. Why they wanted to interview me I will never know (I really was not the right person for the job). Anyway, the hiring manager was out of the office the day I went for the interview, so I met with her manager (who happened to be a mid-level executive). We chatted for awhile, and then he got a phone call (that he decided to answer) and he continued to talk on the phone for at least 30 minutes while I sat there. When he was done he asked “Now what were we talking about?” and for the life of me I could not remember – I zoned out. I could not remember what day it was let alone what we were talking about (not a way to make a good first impression). After I fumbled for what seemed like a lifetime, the interviewer said “Well that will teach you to pay attention”. Lesson learned, probably for the best. There is more to this story, but that is for another time.
We’ve all been there, the mismatched job interview. Or maybe it is just the job from hell and you need to run for the hills (I’ve got a story for that too). Maybe you figure it out in the first round or perhaps a later round. The point is, you need to know when it is time to leave the interview process. If you don’t, at best you will be disappointed by a rejection even though you know you are not right for the job. At worst, you may make it through the final round and maybe even be offered the (wrong) job – can you say no then?
Warning signs that the job is not for you:
- Recognizing the Job from Hell – If the interviewer is telling your that the job has very long hours, low pay and little chance for promotion, would you still take the job if offered to you? You might if you are out of work and desperate. Absent that, you should run for your life. Take a look at the office as you walk in (and out). Do people look happy or do they look suicidal? There are generally warning signs that the job is a mistake, don’t accept the award just to win the beauty contest.
- The Impossible Dream – One question you should always ask is “Is why is this position open?”. If the answer is it’s a new position, great. If not, ask what happened to the person who had the role before. If they have a negative view of the person or they left under unusual circumstances it could be a warning sign. Ask “If you hire the best person for the role and they are highly successful, what have they done in the first year to meet your expectations?“. Do the expectations sound reasonable, or would you have to be Superman to be successful?
- Love the Job but did not connect with the Manager – So you’ve been through several rounds of interviews, but you don’t really feel good about your potential new manager. Sometimes personalities just don’t click. You could ask to meet again, or perhaps see if you can talk (discretely) to people who know this individual. But without any additional information, the answer is obvious, go with your gut feeling and don’t take the role.
- Can You do the Job? – Your resume looks like a good match to the job description. You get called for the interview and it is going fairly well, but as the interview process continues, you begin to worry that you don’t actually have all of the skills for the job. Now we all have our doubts from time to time, sometimes it is because we are taking that leap to the next level in our career. But sometimes it is real, and only you know if the new job will be a bridge too far.
5 (Obvious) Signs the Company is not right for you:
- You are not comfortable with the company’s industry;
- The company is in the middle of a scandal;
- There have been many recent changes in senior management;
- Employee ratings are not favorable;
- The company will only hire you as a “temp to (potential) perm” (meaning no benefits).
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Good luck in your search,