I have long contended that you can tell everything you need to know about an organisation by the way they hire and the way they fire. Hiring is akin to seduction – both sides are wooing frantically and doing their best to be attractive, shiny and desirable. So in the face of all this ‘Mata Hari’ behaviour, how do you know when you should say, “Thanks but no thanks”?
Some thoughts based on the experiences of numerous clients:
  • The method of the offer – if everything has been warm, cuddly and personal up to this point, don’t be surprised if things start getting a bit more crispy and businesslike; but if you feel that you are now dealing with a faceless bureaucracy and your previous contact person seems to have disappeared, be warned.
  • If person who makes the offer is going to be your immediate boss, their style throughout the process is very important. Until they have wet ink on a contract, that person should be behaving impeccably. My endless mantra to job-hunters is: The hiring process is all about them; and it is all about them – right up to the point when they say, “We’d like to offer you the job.” At that juncture, you are back in the driving seat and the process is entirely about you. Any boss who doesn’t recognise that is a boss to be avoided …
  • Tone – sometimes there’s just something iffy about the way they are handling the whole thing. You can’t articulate it, the feeling may not even be on a conscious level, but if your ‘spidey senses’ have been useful to you in the past, listen to them now.
  • Responsiveness – how speedy are they in addressing your queries? If you have a point that requires clarification regarding the pension, car expenses, or whatever; how quickly (and accurately) do they get back to you?
  • Face time. This is particularly important in senior appointments. All too often, the selection process does not allow the parties to get to know each other. Studies consistently show that the majority of people who leave jobs voluntarily do so for reasons other than money. Put simply, the chemistry in their working relationships either is wrong or goes wrong. Get some face time with the people who matter. If they are unwilling to meet and get to know you further outside of the confines of the interview room, beware.
  • Negotiation. This is such a tiresome game. They always intimate that what they put in writing to you is non-negotiable and it is always nothing more than an opening offer. In these days of single digit pay rises, your entry package is very important. It could literally take you years to scrape your way back up if you allow yourself to get beaten down at this stage in the game. My thoughts on this are here and have proven very popular; I hope you find them useful. Bottom line – if you draw a line in the sand and they won’t pay you what you have decided you are worth; walk away!

A good interviewer will identify past behaviours and approaches that pertain to the job under discussion and they will probe you relentlessly about this, because past behaviour is the best predictor of future behaviour. This holds true for you, the candidate, too. If their behaviour during the selection process doesn’t appeal to you, it is highly unlikely that their ongoing behaviour is going to appeal to you once you take the job. Fish is the only thing that smells like what it is when it is a bit off. If what’s going on at any stage of the selection process smells in any way wrong to you, find out exactly why and if it is truly ‘off’ – walk away.
(For some thoughts on the more common situation of Quitting Your Job, go here.)