After more than two decades in the Executive Search
business, I have learned a lot about what goes into a
successful hire. I try to impart my knowledge to both hiring
managers and candidates. Nevertheless, at many job
interviews I find myself listening to questions that make me
cringe and answers that make me want to cry.
Now it's my turn to talk.

Monday, December 5, 2011

A Hamburger With A Headhunter

Last week a friend called me to have lunch, an infrequent pleasure since this executive’s weekly schedule pretty much defines the word “hectic.”  It turns out she was in the throes of a major career decision and looking to bounce some ideas off of someone she could trust.  Having survived several job changes in which I played a part, she elected me.  Always a good choice.

As we spoke of life-altering job changes over hamburgers and fries, I tried to lead her through a decision-making process that would help clarify her next step.  Should she accept a position with a different company that was courting her?  Or should she stay where she was?  As you might imagine, this subject matter is not unfamiliar to me.

We ate and talked.  We analyzed and evaluated.  We laughed and did not cry.  We talked about both positions and tried to assess each.  My objective was to get her thinking about her long term career aspirations and to place this decision within the framework of what immediate action would better position her to get where she wanted to go. 

Talking to my friend reminded me of the mental torment that I may unwittingly inflict on the candidates who receive my recruiting call.  Taking a chance with the unknown may be well worth the risk, but it often a source of anxiety. 

Here are some of the points you might consider when analyzing a job opportunity:

·         How does this opportunity advance you toward your ultimate career goal?  Is it better for you to be a big fish in a small sea or sustain a record of success in a large, prestigious company?  Will you have more responsibility?  Will you have a more impressive title?  Will you have input into major decisions?  Does the opportunity present you with a chance to broaden your experience or re-direct your experience toward a desired destination?

·         How does the new opportunity affect your personal life?  Is there more/less travel involved?  Is the commute better/worse?  Are there expectations that you will work 60 hours a week?  Is there more flexibility in one situation or the other?  Is there indication that significant stress will be involved?  Are you unhappy or unsatisfied in your current position?

·         Which position feels more stable?  Are your fellow employees disappearing mysteriously from their desks in your department?  Are you considering building a future with a company that is still at the “garage” stage?  Are you willing to tolerate some risk for a great opportunity?  Or are you supporting a family who has become accustomed to eating well?

·         In my book, I describe the “Parking Lot Test” which is basically a method of evaluating your “gut feel” about a position.  Do you feel excited about the opportunity?  Did you like the people you met at the interview?  What was the chemistry? Could you picture yourself working in your new office/cubicle? 

As I finished lunch with my friend, she was still not sure what her decision would be.  But the hamburgers were definitely keepers.

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