You Can Shoot Yourself in the Foot and Not Know It

One of the most common mistakes a person makes in job interviewing is “checking out the employer”. This is a very natural thing to do, yet it keeps a person unemployed for a long time. The pattern begins when a person is dismissed from their job. The reason doesn’t matter, but what does matter is the pain you feel. Being let go from a job does feel bad, but even worse, it also stirs up emotions of low self esteem or anger.  Worst of all, there is the unexpected emotion that whomever you work for in the future, you need to be sure that they are a fair and reasonable employer. This concern is even more intense if your dismissal was not an amiable transition. 

Initially, thinking about “checking out the employer” seems to be a very reasonable thing to do.  However, it can develop into a mind-set and tone of crossing one’s arms and wrinkling the forehead. Overall, it comes across to the employer “I am checking you out.”  As a job hunter you may not be aware that you have this approach, but you may be subconsciously projecting a more analytical or critical approach during your first meeting. 

Let’s contrast this with a different job applicant who is positive, up beat and projects “I really like your company and want to receive an offer”.    See the contrast the employer is viewing in the first 30 minutes or so: “I really like this job and want to receive an offer” versus “I am checking you out to be sure that you are a safe employer.”

Let’s go to the antidote, the Ibuprofen. YES, you really need to check out the employer, the work environment, the management style, etc., before you go to work there. NO, you should not do this during the first, second or even third interview. Save it for after the offer. When you give a verbal or nonverbal cue that you are checking someone out, you emit more negative vibes which get in the way of the other person’s positive feelings about you. But deep down inside you have to know if this is a safe place to work. You reason to yourself, “I really want to know if this is a safe place to work, but I can’t ask until after the offer.”  Once you give yourself permission to “check out the employer” but only after the offer, then you can smile during the interview. 

Wait a minute; doesn’t this sound two faced?  Aren’t you being untrue to your feelings? Look at it this way. Richard Bolles in What Color is Your Parachute, the classic job hunter’s guide, says “If I like you I may hire you; if I don’t like you I won’t hire you.” It doesn’t matter how good your technical or professional skills are.  If there is no positive chemistry between you and the hiring person, there will not be an offer.  You need to put on a positive disposition until you get the offer. Concentrate on being pro-active, putting your best foot forward. Trying to figure someone out hinders any positive flow in starting a relationship. 

Getting an offer does not mean you are obligated to accept it. The same is true when a buyer makes an offer on your house for sale. You are not obligated to accept the offer. Once you receive a job offer, you thank the employer and then state that this is a very important decision for both of you. The employer has had the opportunity to evaluate your skills and aptitudes; you would appreciate getting to know some key issues about the organization. Could you meet with someone who has been with the company for five years or more (and also reports to the same person)?   If there is any hesitation or implication that you do not trust the employer, do not go further, as there is usually something to hide that is not safe for you. 

You can do it, keep going.