Monday, March 17, 2008

Interviewing for Dummies – Common Sense Should Prevail

I’m doing the interview circuit to find my next client. As a contractor, I do this all the time – sometimes I think I do it more than actual work!

We’ve all heard from employment experts that you should never say anything bad about your current employer. But what about when the tables are turned, and a potential employer bad mouths a current client?

Common sense should be used on both sides of an interview – and just as a potential employee should never say anything bad about their current boss, it also holds true that a potential employer should never say anything bad about a current employee.

But this happened just last week! There I was, meeting with a vice-president – no less, a VICE-PRESIDENT, AKA a SENIOR member of the company – and when I asked why they had an opening, she went off on a tangent, almost relishing the opportunity to say nasty things about the current person in that role.

I was shocked, horrified, and quite appalled. I always ask why a potential client is looking for another body. Most are professional enough to answer honestly – but professionally.

“Oh, the current person has found another job and is leaving us, we wish her well,” is an acceptable answer.

“It’s a newly created role, we’ve never had anyone who actually specializes in this position in the role,” is another often used answer.

Or even, if the person isn’t doing the best role, an acceptable response is “we’re looking for a more senior person in the role, someone who can take on more assignments.”

None of the above answers violates the sacred oath of honesty, trust and mutual respect employers and employees should always share.

But the answer I received from this senior member of the “team” was hardly in keeping with the mutual respect and trust between her staff:

“The current writer just isn’t cutting it anymore, so we’re looking to replace her with someone more experienced.”

This may be true, but it is so riddled with negativity that my immediate thought upon hearing this was: if I worked at this company, is that how my boss would talk about me with complete strangers she’d just met?

I followed-up with a quick question, thinking the current writer must be new to the company and things just weren’t what either party had expected.

The current writer has been there for over five-years!

Again, I was shocked and horrified! People don’t generally stay in the same role at the same company if things aren’t working out for more than a few weeks, or even a few months tops. We’re talking five-years here – which isn’t exactly a blink of an eye.

Obviously, there are some highly politicized issues between the current employee and the Vice-President. But during an initial meeting such as the one I was in, both parties should be up-beat and pro-active at all times – not negative and re-active.

Would you want to work for someone who’s initial meeting left you with a negative work environment, and a highly politicized relationship structure with your boss?

Neither would I!

There is no letter “I” in “team” but obviously there are a lot of highly strung individuals at this company, that are more concerned with working in a collective and collaborative team.

No one works alone in an office, there are always others on the team that make things happen. If the most senior managers can’t work well with those on the team, than nothing will get done – or things won’t get done well – because people will work as individuals, instead of working together for the greater good of the company.

If this company calls me back to discuss terms, I’ll just ignore them. They certainly aren’t going to be on any team of mine – because their team is f*cked up.

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