Occupational Wellness–The Other Side of the Table

Up to this point my advice regarding wellness as it relates to employment has focused solely upon the behaviors of the job seeker. Let’s move to the other side of the table and discuss the behaviors of our future employers. I’ve written before that seasoned hiring managers are well aware that the majority of their staffing problems are problems they hire. On the flip side, job seekers need to be aware that the majority of their employment miseries are miseries they choose. We’ve been down the list of things we should avoid doing if we hope to be considered for hire. Here’s a short list of things to avoid when choosing a new employer.


The Pre-Interview Low-Ball

First and foremost, if an employer calls you for the purposes of finding out your rock-bottom salary requirement before setting an interview, this is a red flag. It means he or she isn’t looking for the best person for the job. He or she is looking for the person willing to do the work for the lowest amount of money. You won’t be considered for your experience or qualifications, and the employer will not value your skills or talent. You will only be as valuable as the money saved by offering you the lowest salary possible. This tells you a lot the company; mostly that you probably don’t want to work there.

Remember that the purpose of an interview isn’t just so that the employer can evaluate you, but so that you can evaluate the company and the opportunity to determine if you want to work there. Any employer fishing with a low-ball salary has prioritized filling the position with whomever will take the bait versus hiring qualified candidates. This means the company is probably not filled with qualified co-workers, team members, and supervisors. It is probably filled with a workforce that feels under-valued, under-appreciated, and under-compensated. You probably don’t want to work with miserable people, am I right? You probably don’t want to work for someone who deliberately hires miserable people, right?

Never discuss salary requirements over the phone without an interview. Employers have called me before to say they don’t want to “waste my time” with a face-to-face interview without discussing salary. What they really mean is that they don’t want to invest their own time or money building a quality workforce. They want to weed out people seeking more than they want to pay, which implies that candidates with superior skills or experience are a “waste of time.” I’m definitely not working for someone looking for a way to undercut my success (as well as the company’s) before we even meet. All salary negotiations should take place in person, at a face-to-face interview, and preferably after both the employer and job seeker have exchanged enough information to make informed decisions.

If an employer won’t set an interview with you without a salary confession, you don’t want that interview anyway.

The Interrupted Interview

If you do get offered an interview but the employer will not stop working to give you his or her full attention, this means you also won’t get full consideration. If you can’t get through the interview without the employer turning away to answer an email, a phone call, or converse with someone else, he or she is revealing that you and the position you hope to fill are already a low priority. He or she is not really listening to you, isn’t giving you a fair shake, and won’t remember much about you after you’re gone. Conversely, you won’t learn much about the company or the position if you can’t get the company’s ambassador to hold a meaningful conversation with you. If you did get the job you can bet it isn’t a job the hiring manager finds very important, which means you won’t be very important either.

If the employer makes you sit in the office watching him or her work or “just finishing this up,” the employer sucks at time management, doesn’t honor commitments, and has terrible interpersonal skills. It’s no accident that these are usually the same employers who misunderstand your answers or just flat-out don’t hear them. A distracted listener hears individual words and fragments rather than full sentences. Do you want to work for someone who can’t be bothered to listen to you before you even get the job? How much is he or she going to listen after you get the job? A responsible, considerate employer will ask you to wait outside the office until he or she can give you full attention or will ask to reschedule in the event of a legitimate crisis.

The Half-Ass Hardass

The person chosen by the company to interview you will tell you volumes about the way a company is managed. Again, the interview should inform both parties. It is generally the first personal presentation of the company to the job seeker. First impressions matter on both sides of the table. The company’s representative should be approachable, attentive, and welcoming. He or she should make you want to work for the company.

The interviewer should also be interviewed, which means he or she must be interviewable. If you are the job seeker you are there to interview the company for a position within your life. The person chosen to represent the company to you should be qualified to do so. If they send you the drill sergeant, a bouncer from a nightclub, or an enemy interrogator, the company recruits by finding out who can survive an interview. An interview should not be a survival situation, folks. A company using a survival of the fittest mentality probably resorts to scare tactics and intimidation to motivate people. Contrary to popular belief, fear is a shitty motivator if the goal is to compel a stranger to become a loyal, dependable, confident company asset.

I once had an interview with a fellow who refused to acknowledge me after I was shown to his office. I sat. I waited. He refused to open a dialogue with me, forcing me to make the first move. When he did decide to play along he asked me a complicated, open-ended question but then immediately started reading my resume as I answered it. Of course this meant he didn’t really hear my answers. He heard a handful of words and then tried to cover by asking me to defend my answer. I didn’t say what he thought I said, so I was being asked to defend a position I didn’t take. I was torn between correcting him (my instincts said don’t do this) or trying to defend a statement I didn’t give, didn’t believe, and didn’t support. Even worse was the fact that this misheard statement appeared to challenge his authority, which I would never do in an interview, and which made the conversation take an almost hostile turn within the first 30 seconds.

Is there any way in hell I would work for this man? Nope. Neither should you. Neither should you work for anyone who can’t answer all of your questions about the company and the position. If they send you someone who says “I can’t explain the benefits package because I don’t use company benefits,” they have sent you the wrong person for the job. This is an indicator that the company is probably filled with lots of wrong people for its jobs. If they send you someone who says “I can’t explain the day-to-day requirements of this job because I’ve never done it; I only supervise the results,” your prospective supervisor just told you he or she has NO IDEA how you are supposed to do your job. If the company sends you a shitty interviewer, it’s more than likely a shitty company.

Value yourself, your time, your talents, and your intuition, folks. Walk away in the interest of wellness.

— Mercy


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