Why You Waste Time Interviewing For The Wrong Jobs
Perfectly smart people who are discriminating consumers will apply for jobs not because they really want them, but because the jobs are there.
Question: I just read your article “Four Screening Question To Ask All Job Candidates,” about how we waste time interviewing the wrong job applicants. It got me thinking about my own career.
I’ve run marketing teams in retail and in investments. I’ve had some really good jobs. But as I look ahead to a new job change, I’ve also started thinking about all the wrong opportunities I’ve interviewed for. When I add them up, it was a lot. Too many. Which makes me ask, why do we have to kiss so many frogs? My experience tells me that’s just the way it is, but have you found there’s any reason we do this that’s common to all these mistakes, something we can learn to avoid doing?
Nick Corcodilos: That’s a very good question. When it’s time to get a new job, people naturally tend to view it as a short-term problem. They apply the obvious tools to find a job as quickly as they can, but they rarely think about the big picture. Who has time?
Something similar happens when you’re picking people to interview and hire, which we talked about last week. But let’s look at this from the job hunter’s side.
In my experience, the single biggest kind of career mistake people make is that they go to the wrong interview, at the wrong company, for the wrong job. Perfectly smart people who are discriminating consumers will apply for jobs not because they really want them, but because the jobs are there . There are plenty of frogs to kiss, especially if you’re not trying to avoid them.
- You see a job posting online. The roster of necessary skills seems to fit yours. The title sounds right. So you apply.
- Or a friend mentions a job opening she knows about and asks if you’re interested. Sure, why not? At worst, it’ll be a chance to practice your interview technique.
- Or a headhunter calls, makes a good pitch about his client company, flatters you with comments made by “a person who knows you,” and you figure, why not? (See “Headhunters Drive Me Crazy!”) Even if the job’s not perfect, it’s a good idea to develop a relationship with a headhunter. So you go on the interview.
While the wrong interviews are a waste of time, the real trouble with all these scenarios is, you might get the job . In every case, it was a job that “came along,” not one you planned to pursue. Maybe you luck out and a job is the right one, but as you point out, most of the time it’s the wrong one.
Taking what comes along reveals a lack of motivation. That’s why you probably don’t do so well in those job interviews. That’s where boredom and failure come from.
Learn to say no. Learn to avoid what merely comes along. Pick the employers you really want to work for. Simplistic as this sounds, few people actually select where they want to work. Instead, they settle.
My advice is to choose one company at a time. Getting a job is not a lottery, where more tickets increase your odds of success. Pick a company that:
- you admire.
- you can make a significant contribution to.
- makes products you like.
- uses technology you’re excited about.
- is respected in its professional community and among its customers.
- employs the kinds of people you want to work with.
- is well managed financially and otherwise.
- is going where you want to go.
Here’s what your intuition is telling you: Virtually none of the “opportunities” you’ve pursued meet more than one or two of those criteria. That’s how you recognize the frogs before you waste your time. If you still insist on applying to jobs that come along, test it for that handful of criteria. Unless you’re willing to do the research to assess an opportunity on each of those points, then you don’t really know whether it’s a frog—so don’t interview there.
Too often, people wind up job hunting because they took the wrong job to begin with. Of course, sometimes a great job appears through serendipity—but that’s really rare. It’s even less likely to appear just at the time you need to make a change. The most successful people I’ve ever met don’t pick from what’s available. They choose what they want and pursue it doggedly—and that’s what makes them successful at their new job. It also helps them avoid kissing frogs.
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