Interviewing in Good Faith
by Tom Wolfe, Career Coach and Contributing Editor
Article Sponsored by: Crestcom
Did you hear the one about Zeus, the dog that loved to chase buses? Every time one drove past his yard, Zeus would take off after it. One day, the bus slowed down because of a flat tire and Zeus caught the bus! As he was clamping his jaws on the bumper, he thought, “What do I do now?”
It’s always nice when we get what we want. But what if we discover that we really didn’t want it after all or if our reasons for wanting it turned out to be invalid? Career transition has a lot to do with getting what we want, and it would be wise to learn a lesson from Zeus and consider our motives and the potential outcomes before we chase that bus.
Interviewing is about discovery. Although there is much you should do in advance of interviewing, specifically to determine what you want and why you want it, much of what you learn about a job, a company and an opportunity occurs during the interviewing process. Although the job description and your résumé might appear to mesh nicely, the interview allows both parties to validate the fit and fill in the gaps, making it crucial that you interview in good faith.
Let’s back up a bit. What exactly is this thing called an interview? Webster defines it as either a formal consultation usually to evaluate qualifications (as of a prospective student or employee) or a meeting at which information is obtained... from a person. The prefix inter is Latin for among or between. Combine the two in the context of career transition and you end up with a job seeker and a potential employer checking each other out to determine if the individual meets the needs of the organization and if the organization can do likewise for the individual.
Balance of Power
On the surface it may appear that both parties are on equal footing during an interview. But one side always has an advantage. During the interview process, the potential employer has the power - specifically the power to say no to the candidate. Once a formal offer is extended, the candidate holds all the cards.
In fact, in the early stages of the interviewing process the employer is actively looking for reasons to say no. Why? Because there are almost always more great candidates than there are great jobs, and the interviewer must narrow down the field. Therefore, the mission of the job candidate is to survive this initial culling process. As you pass through more and more of those filters, the power begins to shift and the employer begins to look for reasons to say yes.
When the employer finds sufficient reasons to say yes, they extend an offer to the candidate and the power shift is complete. The candidate is now in control - he or she can accept or reject the offer. The process puts both parties at risk - just because you are interviewed does not mean you will get an offer, and just because you receive an offer does not mean you will accept it. Both parties are aware of and tolerate this uncertainty and risk because of an assumption of good faith - the belief that each party is participating in the process in pursuit of a mutually positive outcome. You want to receive an offer, and the company wants you to accept it if offered. You have faith in their good intentions to sincerely consider you as a viable candidate for the job, and the company has faith that you will seriously consider the opportunity.
Practicing Good Faith
Consider this scenario: You go through the interviewing process and receive an offer. Stop and think about why that offer was made. There are several contributing factors:
1. The interviews have validated the qualifications stated on your résumé.
2. The employer believes you can do the job.
3. You have demonstrated the potential to grow in the job as needed.
4. You have risen to the top of the qualified contenders.
5. The employer believes you have sincere interest in the opportunity.
6. You appear to be the kind of person they want on the team.
7. The employer believes you are highly likely to accept the offer.
Pay particular attention to number seven. One of the reasons you get the offer is because you have sent signals that you want to be on the team. There is no reason to offer it to you if they believe otherwise. You may decide to reject the offer, which is certainly within your rights, but have you interviewed in good faith? Well, it depends; specifically it depends not so much on why you declined, but more importantly on when the reason for declining became apparent.
If you reject the offer for a reason known to you before the interviewing process began, then you did not interview in good faith. If, however, you discover information downstream from the initial interview that causes you to decline, then you have interviewed in good faith. Here are two examples.
1. You interview for a job with the XYZ Corporation for a logistics management position at their corporate headquarters in Denver. You receive an offer and decline it because you really do not want to live in Colorado. Bad faith! You knew from the beginning that the job would be in Denver, so you should have pulled the plug long before the offer was extended and perhaps have never taken the interview in the first place.
2.You interview for a job with the XYZ Corporation for an operations management position in their eastern regional office in Boston. They decide to offer you a similar position in the western regional office in Seattle. That is a deal-breaker for you and you decline the offer. Good faith! Your reason for rejecting the offer became apparent only in the final stage of the interview.
Moral of the story: You can neither turn down nor accept an offer you do not have. You should do everything you can to get the offer, assuming that your interest level is sincere, that you are open and honest, and that you are interviewing in good faith.
Good hunting and thanks for your service!
Tom Wolfe is a Career Coach, Columnist, Author and Veteran and can be found at www.out-of-uniform.com.
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