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Did You Fire the Boss?

Did You Fire the Boss?

Fired the boss

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Boss stormed to my desk, shouting, “it’s the fifth time you’re late to work this week. What’s the meaning of this?”

I, obviously surprised and confused, replied, “that… it’s finally Friday?!”

Early in my corporate career, whenever I was to interview for a job, there was one piece of advice I was sure to get. It would be either from family, or close friends, or both.

“In case you’re asked why you want to change jobs, whatever be the real reason, say you need a more challenging role”, would be their order-sounding advice. And each time, that advice would lead to a heated discussion. I would reason out that if I was planning to leave for a particular reason, even if it was to do with a difficult boss, why not just be truthful about it? The retort would be, “Trust me. Do you want the job or not? Nobody wants to hire someone who might blame a company or boss for wanting to leave.”

So while that justification never made sense, at each interview, like clockwork, I would end up explaining exactly why I wanted to switch jobs. And at times, interviews ended exactly like I was warned they would. Despite sometimes having an initial advantage of more relevant experience. While the reasons for it could have been anything, friends and family always blamed it on my ignoring their advice.

Logically though, wouldn’t your reason for wanting to leave something reflect a truer form of YOU than otherwise? Like saying ‘no’ often says more about you than a reluctant or helpless ‘yes’ does. It probably shows what you believe in, what you stand for, and what you don’t tolerate. Which maybe right or foolish. But it reflects your priorities, your grit, even your disposition? The interviewer is looking for the smallest of factors he or she can possibly gather to add to the mix. The mix from which a final decision on whether you are a good fit or not, will emerge.

Many years later, I came across studies citing that between 30-60% of employees quit their boss, and not their company. It meant that one or more persons were the reason for a good segment of employees leaving their companies. Some studies estimated an even higher percent, around 70% or more! While this isn’t a rant against bosses, it is an attempt to know why we can’t, or shouldn’t, be more transparent during interviews.

A close friend of mine cited a relevant story some time back. He had interviewed two candidates for his team, and he had contacted their common ex-boss for verification. The ex-boss strongly advised my friend against hiring them, citing numerous reasons that sounded more personal and spiteful, than to do with talent. However, having already had a few rounds of interactions, and seeing the potential in them, my friend ignored the ex-boss’s advice and hired them. A long time later, he was glad he went against the advice of their earlier boss, as the two were still around, doing really well, both for themselves, and for the company. But there are many others who would have dropped those two at the first sign of a warning from even a stranger.

And yet during interviews, most interviewers still prefer hearing lies and super-cliches as reasons for wanting to change jobs. Candidate reasons instead, will range from their untapped potential, recently discovered talent, more responsibilities, to sharpening their focus/ efforts. Like some candidates whose reply to mentioning weaknesses, is ‘being a perfectionist’. Even if the only thing they’ve been perfect at, is leaving office on the dot, irrespective of deadlines. But you obviously can’t mention forbidden answers.

To conclude with a good ol’ corporate joke:

“Tell your boss what you really think about him/her, and the truth shall set you free, … from your job.” ~ Anonymous

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Work to be Hired

One of the early screening processes to make it to the defense forces, is that of physical fitness. It is one of the more fundamental requirements of the job. Of course, subsequently, those who make the cut are broken down and rebuilt to be stronger, both mentally and physically.

In the corporate battlefield, potential candidates are put through interview boot camps which are at best, spread over a few days. But are these processes measuring the fundamental requirements you need from the candidate? Skill, while ever-changing, can still be taught. But what are more long-term character traits you’d want your next hire to have?

Once you’ve identified those traits, what if you took the hiring process and turned it on its head?

What if you then shortlisted applications based on simple initial screening criteria, and on gut feel? And then, have them come and work with your team for a week or two, or more. At the end of the period, both parties can decide where to take things from there.

One of the bigger concerns might be the transition and uncertainty, especially for people already in jobs.

Compensation is the easy bit. Even an approximate pro-rata salary-type compensation given to the candidate if rejected, would be far cheaper than the cost of hiring a wrong candidate.

From the point of view of ‘interaction time’, interviews, case-studies and other hiring processes can only be so effective. In comparison, working on a live project, albeit factoring in necessary confidentiality, might be a better way to assess a candidate. To assess traits like integrity and mettle, among other important qualities, which go far beyond a quick and temporary display of skills at an interview. The little I’ve watched of the mentally disturbing Big Brother and Big Boss, it is evident what a short amount of time spent in the same reference (a common project, not an interview) can reveal.

These are times when many MBA students and even experienced professionals focus more on being interview-ready, rather than on cultivating a curious mind. And it is partly because of the illusion of limited time.

Instead of hiring people to work, having people work to be hired might be a better way to build a team that is more suited for one’s company in the medium-to-long term.

Your views are welcome. I will revert at the earliest. And if you liked this post, do follow or subscribe to my blog (top right of the page) for similar topics that encourage reflection and discussion. You can also connect with me on LinkedIn and on Twitter.

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