While working in severely dysfunctional environments back when I was a baby professional, I have personally sat in on interviews as an individual contributor and heard hiring leaders tell bold-faced lies about things like work-life balance. And I’m not talking about technicalities here, like saying “Our organization’s values statement includes work-life balance” when it isn’t actually implemented in practice. What I heard was, “Oh, yes! There’s plenty of balance here! We manage to get our work done and leave plenty of time for your personal life. And we’re flexible too, no worries!” Umm, no, and no.
Should I have offered to walk this candidate out to the entrance after the meeting and told her the truth? Yes. But that would be ruining any chance for my own work-life balance since I was working in “survival mode” as my manager called it, and with two team members currently missing, I needed some new sucker to take the job. That makes me a terrible person out to save my own hide, but I’m not sure what anyone expects in that situation, where you pit team member against team member and put them on a tropical island without enough food or tools. “Survival mode” is fine when it’s really just in emergencies, but nobody has the fortitude and motivation to do their best work that way all the time. The organization had made a choice that it was worth the turnover to keep lean. I’m not sure they were right, but that’s for another day, another post.
In the years after that, I had a very different experience with a much more enlightened employer. I had been looking for a new opportunity and wasn’t in a hurry. The role was very demanding, but exciting too. When I heard about the salary range, I wasn’t dazzled, but the work was cool enough that I wanted to know more. I had a great call with a recruiter, and was next scheduled to speak with another person in the role I was being considered for.
She helped me put the brakes on pretty quickly. “This is a job where you can expect to work 60 hours or more per week consistently, every week. And then sometimes we work through weekends if there are deadlines.”
She continued, “And you should expect to travel 50-75% of the time, depending on client need.” Hmm…this was not previously mentioned by the recruiter. Travel is fun, but not all the time, and it’s certainly something I would need to know in order to realistically evaluate the opportunity.
“You also should know that you will be held to billable hours and sales goals.” OK. As a recovering lawyer, “billable hours goal” is code for “we will work you within an actual inch of your life.”
I revisited the salary range, thought through the other details, and it was very clear that I wasn’t willing to be worked within an inch of my life or expected to spend most of my waking hours there, even for exciting work, for the salary they were offering. If I wanted to do that, I wouldn’t have left the legal profession.
What if my interviewer had been a coward, like me? The organization would have gotten some good work out of me, that’s true. But alas, it wouldn’t have been a long-term gig. Telling the truth about the job gave me, and the organization, the right result. It wasn’t a fit. Wise hiring leaders and talent acquisition professionals know that painting an accurate picture, warts and all, makes for not only good hires, but the right hires.
Think about your own recruiting, interviewing and hiring processes. What incentives is your organization creating among those involved in the hiring process (recruiters, interviewers, yourself) that aren’t in alignment with your business and hiring strategic goals? Are you being frank with job seekers about what you have to offer?
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