Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Dissent, disagreement, compromise and consensus 8 – the jobs and careers context 7

This is my 8th installment to a series on negotiating in a professional context, starting with the more individually focused side of that as found in jobs and careers, and going from there to consider the workplace and its business-supportive negotiations (see Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development – 3, postings 484 and following for Parts 1-7.)

I have been systematically discussing a job search campaign and its progression of steps in this series, beginning with the preliminary stages of determining what you would most want to do next professionally, and where you would most likely find opportunity for achieving that. And I have more recently been focusing in that, on applying to specific positions with specific businesses that you would see as your top choice possibilities for meeting your goals, preferences and needs. I have, to be more specific there, been addressing top-choice job search campaign steps here since Part 4 of this series, leading up to Part 7 where I assume that you have made it through an initial largely automated preliminary screening process and you have met with a first round human screener, from Human Resources and at least as a phone interview.

I discussed how Human Resource interviewers are tasked with the job of weeding out inappropriate candidates, so the hiring managers they work with can focus on interviewing and considering a smaller number of best possible candidates, and in a manner that would fit effectively into their already busy schedules. And I discussed how these more personnel-oriented professionals pre-screen for their hiring managers by evaluating possible candidates for interpersonal skills and fit and for how readily they could be worked with: evaluating them for their basic compatibility for working at that business per se. This means personality fit and communications skills: listening skills definitely included, and more. And as I noted in Part 7, these are all very important considerations. No one wants to face Monday mornings and full work weeks ahead when that means their having to endure yet another week of having to work with some impossibly difficult coworker. The corporate culture fit, interpersonal skills fit and communications skills issues that I raised in Part 7 and that I have returned to here in this discussion are crucial, and both for finding the right people to hire and for maintaining a happy and productive workplace. And if these criteria are not met when selecting and bringing in a new hire, that challenge can overwhelm any value that a now hired colleague might be able to offer from their having the more technical skills that they would need in their work too.

I also at least began addressing the next step in this process in Part 7, that follows this initial HR level screening: meeting with the hiring manager themselves. And I focused there, on how important overall fit issues are as hiring criteria for them too as they make their hiring decisions. Hiring managers decide on who to hire, in large part on the basis of the technical and hands-on professional skills that the job candidates who they meet with, have. But first and foremost, these managers need and want to bring in people who will listen to them and who will follow their lead, and who can and will work effectively and smoothly with others on their team and not create friction or discord in the process. They want people there who will take directions, and at least constructive criticism too, if needed. And they want people who can work well under pressure, and who can be supportive of others and even when everyone is working to meet tight deadlines or facing other challenges. They want and need people on their team who can effectively contribute to larger overall collaborative efforts.

• Think of this as a search for a best possible new hire, where that means their being able to use their more technical skills in ways that constructively, supportively fit into larger efforts, and certainly when explicitly working with others: their direct manager and supervisor included, as well as team member peers, outside stakeholders and others as needed.

This is a series on communications and negotiating skills, and not on the more technical side of what people would do on the job, if and when hired. And I have to add in that context that it is rare for a hiring manager to explicitly test the technical skills of the candidates who make it this far in this type of process. I remember being tested on my object oriented computer programming skills once, by a programming team leader at that company who was brought in by the hiring manager as a key stakeholder in their hiring process for that position. But that was a real exception in my experience, and rare in general from what I have learned from the experience of others. Most hiring managers, and certainly by this step in an overall hiring process, are focused on finding people who they can work with, and succeed with while doing so. (As a somewhat ironic aside, I have to add that I was not actually applying for a computer programmer position in the exceptions example that I just cited; I was applying for a job opportunity where I would be working with programmers, and where I would need to know and understand their products and services. But I would mostly find myself applying my soft skills in managing and coordinating others, and in working with outside stakeholders: clients definitely included. And then that turned into my real job application exception where I was very explicitly tested for my hands-on technical skills that I would not actually use on the job, and as a make or break evaluation criterion!)

Let’s step back from that point and from the issues of technical versus soft skills in the hiring process, to consider interviews with hiring managers in general.

• Managers (generally) assume for the most part that any applicant who makes it far enough along in this hiring process to meet with them directly, has sufficient skills and experience in what they would do there, to satisfy those hiring criteria.
• Beyond that and setting aside possible soft skills failures and deal breakers on the part of the job applicant, these interviews are all about establishing buy-in, and in both directions. Hiring managers seek to convince the people who they see as their best candidates, to want to work with them. And genuinely top candidates, and certainly those who have a choice in who they would work with next, seek out job offers and terms of employment that would best meet their needs too.
• This means the basic dynamics of the filtering and selection process change, where up to here and certainly up to a point where a hiring manager is facing their top preferred candidates, the goal in this from the business side is to filter out the unacceptable and inappropriate. That begins with the automated culling process that seeks to weed out and discard what can literally be thousands of essentially spam, generic resumes for every single position opening offered. And it continues through the first round with a human interviewer there, in a Human Resources interview. That all ends with the hiring manager and certainly as they begin to focus in on their top choice candidate or two.

Interviews are flawed and limited processes that are stilted and both by the pressures that surround them and by their limitations in scope and duration. An interview in and of itself can only hint, and in many key respects and for many key considerations, at how a new hire would actually perform once there and on the job. And they can only hint at what it would actually be like to have them work there, day to day. And this cuts both ways, where the candidates so interviewed can and often do leave these interviews with significant open questions too. So effective interviewing skills and from both sides of these conversations, are very important in all of this, and yes from both the hiring manager’s and the candidate’s sides of the table.

I have been focusing entirely on meeting with hiring managers here, and note at this point in this narrative that I have addressed this step in the hiring process in prior anticipatory notes, in terms of meeting with hiring managers, and with other stakeholders who they would bring into this process too. So I am going to finish this posting by offering three orienting questions that relate to outside stakeholders who a candidate would meet with, and who they are and how and why they would enter into this process:

• Why would a hiring manager bring other stakeholders into what is essentially their hiring decision making step?
• And closely aligned with that question: who would they bring into this process and what would they discuss with a job candidate?
• And how would their input and insight be used in making a hire-or-not decision?

And to add in one more critically important question to that list:

• How can you as a job candidate most effectively meet with, and communicate and negotiate with these people, each with their own reasons for being included here and each with their own goals and interests in this process, so as to help you to achieve your desired goals out of this overall interviewing process?

In anticipation of discussion to come, and focusing for the moment on the last of those questions, I repeat a key point that I made when discussing interviews with Human Resources screeners. One of your key goals in this is to make these people your allies. Help them become positive contributors to you’re reaching your goals. And do so by convincing them that you understand and value their issues and that you’re being hired can be part of the solution for them, and certainly for the specific issues that they face that brought them to meet with you this way.

I am going to address those now four questions in the above order, at least starting in my next series installment. Then, after at least offering preliminary responses to them, I will explicitly turn to consider the next step in all of this, that immediately follows and certainly if those stakeholders voice approval to hire and the hiring manger agrees with them: conversations and negotiations as to terms of employment, with compensation and other factors definitely included. Then, looking ahead, I will turn to consider the new hire probationary period.

Meanwhile, you can find this and related material at Page 3 to my Guide to Effective Job Search and Career Development, and also see its Page 1 and Page 2. And you can also find this series at Social Networking and Business 2 and also see its Page 1 for related material. And I particularly recommend your at least briefly reviewing a specific job search best practices series that I developed here on the basis of both my own job search experience and from working with others going through that: Finding Your Best Practices Plan B When Your Job Search isn’t Working, as can be found at Page 1 of my above-noted Guide as its postings 56-72.

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