Common Pitfalls in the Search for our Next Employment Opportunity
Let's talk about the common pitfalls we face in our search for our next employment opportunity.
First, let's talk about the hiring process and how it works.
We submit job applications/resumes/cover letters (usually online).
We interview and hope for an offer or an invitation to the next interview; this repeats until we get an offer or aren't moved along to the next step of the hiring process.
We negotiate and either accept or decline the offer.
It's really simple when it's spelled out like that, but a lot of us (and I'm included in this group) find ourselves not making it through the steps as frequently as we'd like, so I'm going to talk about the common hurdles that we face at every step of the hiring process.
Step 1. We submit job applications/resumes/cover letters (usually online).
If you are not progressing beyond this step, then you have one of two problems that is holding you back.
I. Your resume needs to be updated and personalized for the job in question.
II. Your work experience is spotty or full of short term jobs that make hiring managers reluctant.
Fixing your resume is a lot easier than fixing your work experience and can easily be taken care of in an afternoon with the help of guides on how to write a resume or consulting with someone who can offer advice and revision tips to help your resume be the marketing tool you need to get to the interview.
If your work experience is spotty or full of short term jobs, then we have a problem that is going to take a lot more than an afternoon to fix. You'll need to broaden the list of employment opportunities you're willing to consider, because not many employers are going to take a Project Manager who has a history of resigning after three months, regardless of the fact that he has an MBA and a PMP.
You may have to take a lower position or something in a different field entirely and retain the job for 3-5 years. That's a long time, but let's look at why it's important to maintain an employee for at least thirty-six months (three years).
Studies show that you are actually costing the company money during months 0-6, because they are investing money in onboarding, training, and giving you time to acclimate to the company. It's not until Month 18 that the company finally breaks even on their investment in you. You remain for 18 additional months (for a total of thirty six months/3 years) as a way of repaying the employer.
This will show that while your prior job history is spotty, you have changed your ways and are willing to stick with them for at least enough time for them to recoup their investment and benefit from your employment. It also gives you enough time to have some achievements in the workplace and even get promoted which will only help when returning to your prior field (if you left).
Step 2. We interview and hope for an offer or an invitation to the next interview; this repeats until we get an offer or aren't moved along to the next step of the hiring process.
If you are consistently being brought in for interviews, but not being invited back for next-round interviews or given offers, then the problem is in your interviewing technique and this could be a variety of issues that need to be addressed.
Are you unprepared (e.g. do you not have questions ready or have you not thoroughly researched all available information there is regarding the company)?
Do you have weak responses to the behavioral questions (e.g.
Tell me about a time when...)?
Are you falling behind in technical interviews (e.g.
Can you tell show me how to...on this white board?)?
Or is the problem something such as lack of confidence (or overconfidence)?
The key to fixing issues at this stage is properly diagnosing what the issue is. You may want to do mock interviews with a trusted friend or family member (who ideally has been involved in interviewing before) who will give you objective, constructive criticism to help you improve.
If this is not possible, there are numerous books on improving your interviewing and many free resources on Google available to help you become a better interviewer and I can personally attest to the efficacy of these resources. I went from struggling to move beyond the interview stage to having been told in a Stay Interview that during my hiring interview I was
one of the best interviews I've had in twenty years of management. I'm not special; I just thoroughly researched the company and applied the techniques I got from combing free sources online and from the library in my interview.
If this is where you are struggling, it can be fixed; it just takes time.
The exception to this is if you find yourself consistently failing to answer technical questions for positions you've applied for. In this case, it may be best to look for more junior positions even if you feel you have the necessary skillset and/or experience to perform the duties listed for the positions you're applying for.
Step 3. We negotiate and accept or decline the offer.
There are three real hurdles here and I feel each one can ruin the fruits of your employment search.
I. The listed salary is far below what you would accept.
II. You negotiate too aggressively and they rescind the offer.
III. The listed salary is lower than you'd like, but the salary is firm.
Let's begin with the first hurdle:
The listed salary is far below what you would accept.
If you are applying for employment opportunities and this is an issue for you, then you are applying for the wrong employment opportunities. It really is that simple.
HR Professionals set compensation maximums and minimum for each paygrade in the organization. You, as a new hire, will not exceed the maximum of that paygrade in hiring, because that creates a Red Circle Rate (which is where you're overpaid for your paygrade) which can cause low morale with other employees.
If you feel you the listed compensation is not reasonable, then you should pursue other opportunities.
I am not saying do not negotiate, but do not expect to negotiate 150% of the listed salary or an equally large number (e.g. if the job lists the annual salary as $50,000, do not try to negotiate for $75,000).
That leads us to our next hurdle: You negotiate too aggressively and they rescind the offer.
This is a very real thing. If you bulldog your Hiring Manager in the interview and in any way create an ultimatum ofEither you give me X or I'll decline the offer," then it is very probable that you will not get an offer to decline.
There is nobody in any organization who is not 100% replaceable and as someone who has not even been invited into the organization yet, it is incredibly easy to move onto the next candidate who is not as aggressive in their demands.
Do not misconstrue this as saying not to negotiate or not to be assertive. I highly encourage people being assertive in that they state their needs, but you must be open to give and take and understanding that you may not get everything you would like.
The Assertive Negotiator will get much farther than the Aggressive Negotiator and I encourage us all to remember that in our next salary negotiation.
Now we come onto the Third Hurdle:
The listed salary is lower than you'd like, but the salary is firm.
This is perhaps the most subversive of all the hurdles, because it won't outright prevent you from being given an offer and it relies on the prerequisite First Hurdle. While this one won't stop you from getting invited into their organization as a stakeholder, it will make it much more difficult for you to be productive and give your best to them everyday.
This has to do with Maslow's Hierarchy of Needs.
If we do not have a sense of Security (Level 3), then it is nearly impossible to attain Self-Actualization (Level 5) and not making enough money results in inability to fulfill our need for Security, and therefore makes it that much harder to attain Self-Actualization.
So how does this tie in with your employment opportunity?
It's simple: Are you really able to give 100% to your employer if you've got questions of how you're going to make this month's rent running through your mind in the background?
The answer is no, you're not, because you can't simultaneously give 100% to your employer and 20% to trying to solve how you're going to pay your rent. Even if you do figure out a method, you're still going to have that underlying anxiety that makes it impossible to be optimally effective in the workplace resulting in decreased performance and therefore increased friction between you and your management team, as well as increased chance of disciplinary action relating to your performance that you may have no control over simply because it's impossible for you to give 100% when you've got 20% of your brain subconsciously allotted to financial-induced anxiety.
Does this mean you should never take an employment opportunity that does not meet your salary expectations?
No. There are times when it is necessary to be less selective with the employment opportunities we choose to pursue, but we need to be mindful of the long-term consequences of increased stress and ways to cut back on it so that we can make the most of our employment opportunity or pursue ones that may better suit our needs (without developing a history of short-term employment opportunities that are not Contract-work).
Having said that, I'd like to thank you all again for reading; it's always a pleasure to share what insights I may have with the community and if you need anything at all, don't be afraid to reach out to me here or on LinkedIn. I'd love to help you in your search for your next employment opportunity.