The Long Way

If you don’t know where you’re going, any road will get you there.

Sooner or later most us gravitate to career paths and follow our disciplines. And, although many of us will change those paths from time to time, it’s typically done with foresight and thought.

And then there’s another group of employees.

Recently I was talking with some hiring managers about their challenges and frustrations. We hear a lot about the war for (on?) talent, reducing cycle times, getting to yes, etc., etc., yet this group shared a view I hadn’t thought of before: they’re challenged by people who don’t know where they’re going.

By now everyone understands the need to do market research on companies, sectors, product lines, etc., before seeking a job. Those who don’t do this basic homework seldom get past a screening phone call much less a real live interview. And yet, that’s only half the equation. What else do hiring managers want to know?

  • Why this job? Hiring managers are curious – there’s a lot of opportunity out there: why us? This is where your homework can pay off as you demonstate not just your knowledge of the firm, but how you “fit” with it. What’s your role? How can you leverage your skills, interest and expereince to make this position rock. What is there about our culture and our challenges that attract you. Be ready: we want to know why us?
  • Why you? Of course you have the basic skills, that’s what got you in the door for the interview. But what separates you from the pack? What is that je nais se quoi of yours? It’s interesting how many times these hiring managers asked that question of candidates and got what can best be called a deer in the headlight reaction: some people cannot tell them. This is a fundamental question. Develop your answer ahead of time.
  • Why now? They say timing is everything and although it may not be 100% it’s pretty damned important. What’s the impetus to seek a change now? What have you accomplished in your last position that makes you ready to seek change? Why is now the right time? This question speaks to your readiness to move on – have you really thought this through? We need to know you’re ready to move forward with clarity and energy. In part that means making peace with the job you just left: focus forward.

Knowing what motivates and excites you is critical to the interview process. You’re selling yourself, so be clear on your value-add. You have to think – and speak – in terms of what the new role will do for your career and how you plan to use that role in your career path.

The neophyte who meets a potential employer with vague platitudes and generalities about their fit for a role and their long-term plans axiomatically ensures they’re left behind. Make a plan, be clear and focus. Tell your employer about the three why’s listed above as they will come up in almost every interview.

Figure out what you want, and tell us.

If you don’t know where you’re going, neither do we.



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