Platt Perspective on Business and Technology

Dissent, disagreement, compromise and consensus 9 – the jobs and careers context 8

This is my 9th 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 1-8.)

I focused in large part in Part 8, on meeting with and interviewing with a hiring manager: the manager at a hiring business who most specifically owns the hiring process and the work position that you are applying to there, and who will hold the greatest stake in any hiring decision consequences faced as a presumably best candidate is selected and brought in. Then I began addressing the issues of other stakeholders who a hiring manager might bring into this process, who would also meet with the top candidates under consideration. And I offered four basic questions towards the end of that posting that address the Who and Why of these stakeholders as participants in this, that I repeat here and that I will (primarily) address in order:

1. Why would a hiring manager bring other stakeholders into what is essentially their hiring decision making step?
2. And closely aligned with that question: who would they bring into this process and what would these stakeholders discuss with a job candidate?
3. And how would their input and insight be used in making a hire-or-not decision?
4. And given these questions and their issues, 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 own desired goals out of this overall interviewing process?

Let me begin with the first of these questions, as stakeholder interviews open a very revealing window into both the job that you might be applying for, and its actual requirements and priorities – and certainly when they might differ from what is stated in the job description offered.

Hiring managers at a business have their own work responsibilities and their own assigned tasks and priorities, and their own challenges and issues. And one of the primary reasons why a manager would take on the responsibilities and the additional work requirements of onboarding and then managing a new member of their team: a new employee under their supervision who they are going to be held responsible for, is that this person would help them to resolve at least one of their more significant challenges faced: a challenge or responsibility that rises to a level of significance for them to make this extra effort and commitment on their part worthwhile to them, and in ways that could not be achieved by members of their team already in place, as it is. And this leads me directly to the question of those stakeholder interviews. And I begin addressing Question 1 of the above list by categorically dividing them into two at least overly distinct groups, that can functionally overlap as I will explain in what follows:

• Within-team stakeholders, and
• Outside stakeholders.

Hiring managers bring in members of their own teams that they supervise, to meet with and interview top job candidates for a variety of reasons. This includes reality check validation that this is someone who their current team members could communicate with and work with on a comfortable and efficient basis: and a reiteration of the “fit test.” And at least as importantly, this is where a hiring manager who might not have specific hands-on expertise themselves in what this new hire would do, can have them meet with the people who they would work with who might be as close to expert as anyone there in what these potential new hires would do there. At the very least, this would include team members who they would directly have to coordinate their work with, so their combined efforts would fit together. Even if a new hire would carry out tasks that no one currently there has any real hands-on experience with, can they communicate on technical and professional issues in a way that will work for others there, so their work can fit in and actually offer value in addressing larger, team tasks?

Outside stakeholder interviewers who are included here, and certainly as specific interviewer choices, are essentially always brought into this process because they play pivotal stakeholder roles in the problems and issues that this hiring manager is seeking to address and resolve through a new hire. Think of them as people who in effect own the tasks that this new hire would work on and contribute to, that their manager and their team members are supposed to successfully work on and resolve. And as team outsiders who are nevertheless significantly involved in what this new hire would do on the job, they are people who the hiring manager is obliged to satisfy, and usually in fulfilling that key one of their own managerial level tasks or goals responsibilities that they are hiring for.

I made note, above, of the possibility of functional overlap between within-team stakeholders and outside stakeholders, and clarify that here by noting that key “owner” stakeholders of the tasks or goals that a new hire would be brought in to address, can sometimes be found within a manager’s direct supervision team too, and certainly if they have a large and complexly organized team reporting to them.

• It is a crucially important task for a prospective new hire, to identify who the task and goals owning stakeholders are who they meet with, and who the primarily fit-validating ones are.
• And one of the most important objectives there in knowing and understanding that difference, is in learning as much as possible about the issues and challenges that have led to a decision to hire in the first place.

One of the most important points that I have raised in this blog over the years, regarding consulting, is that people and businesses that hire consultants often know more about what the symptoms are, than they do about the actual underlying problems that cause them. What would you actually be hired to do, and at as much of an underlying-problem level of understanding as possible? And would you be offered the resources and opportunity needed to go beyond symptoms to address those underlying problems? Note: even when a job description and all ensuing interviews focus on symptoms to be addressed, and here-and-now, resolve for the moment issues, managers always hire with a goal of achieving longer-term results and underlying problem resolutions through their new hire.

And with this, I have addressed the above-stated Question 2, as well as Question 1 – or at least a significant measure of it. And at this point, I raise a pair of questions that I learned the importance of, the hard way in my own work life and career experience:

• Is the job that you are applying for and being interviewed for, one that this same hiring manager has unsuccessfully tried to get completed before and through earlier in-house staff or new hire attempts? And if so, how and how many times?

I write this thinking back to a consulting assignment that I took on and agreed to, just to find after I had started that the hiring manager who I met with was being pressured by his supervisor: a more senior executive, to complete a very complex overall set of coordinated tasks that he did not understand for what this required, and with time frame and other constraints that made this work impossible. So several others had been brought in to attempt this job and all had failed, and no one working under this more senior manager was willing to let on that any of this had happened in any interview meetings they participated in. They were all terrified of the boss’ boss.

• Know what you are getting into, and really listen to and speak with the people who you get to meet with: all of those directly involved stakeholders definitely included. And think in terms of reading between the lines in what they do and do not say, and in what they ask and how.
• Prior failed efforts such as the workplace example that I cite here, to achieve desired goals through bringing in new hires: in-house or as consultants, need not completely preclude you’re taking this type of job. But the more you know of what you face, and in general in a new job with its actual issues and challenges, the more effectively you can negotiate your terms for taking this work on, and with time-to-completion and performance benchmarks and resource access issues clearly spelled out. (I will come back to this point when discussing terms of employment negotiations, a little later in this series. I simply note this complex of issues here to put this posting’s interview phase of this overall process into a fuller and more useful context and perspective.)

This last comment can be seen as a foretaste of how I will address the above Question 4 when I more formally do so. I will offer come concluding thoughts regarding Questions 1 and 2 in my next series installment, and will then address Question 3, and then Question 4 as a whole to round out this phase of this overall narrative. And then I will proceed from there to discuss negotiations as to terms of employment, and with compensation and other factors definitely included in that, there assuming that the hiring manager you have met with has made a positive decision to bring you into the business as a new employee. 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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