Friday, December 01, 2006

Promises, Promises

When interviewing for a job, it's good to keep in mind that any promises you get may not last through the process.

I recently interviewed for a network administration position with a major manufacturer. The interview went splendidly. For nearly an hour and a half, I had a pleasant conversation with the incumbent, who was being promoted to a position supervising the administrators at multiple plants. We spoke of the old days, the state of the industry, and the kind of work that was being performed in the position (work that well exceeded the tradition of basic network administration). The interview only ended because the principal was summoned to a conference call.

Hasty "good-byes" were exchanged. He gave me his card, and told me I would be called for a second interview. Had I not received a call by the end of the week, I was to call him, as he was leaving for a business trip the following week, and he wanted to be sure things progressed.

I left, jubilant. I felt this was a job I could excel at, and looked forward to the subsequent call. But I made two mistakes:
  1. I was the first person interviewed. Others would follow, and I knew nothing of them. Of course, I never do know anything of other candidates, and make my best effort in the first interview, but one should never leave a first interview confident of the future.
  2. I believed his promise that there would be a second interview.
The principal is not the only person involved in the process, and even if he/she is, the decision of who makes the cut can't truly be made until all the candidates have been seen. A promise at the end of an interview that you will be called for a second interview is only lip service, especially if you are one of the first to be interviewed.

If I had been one of the last interviewed, I would have had better feedback during the interview as to how I stood against my competitors. Maybe he wouldn't have said anything directly, but I could have read the comparison in his behavior, and might have noticed where I needed to put more emphasis. At the least, I would not have been as likely to invoke the strong positive vibes that led me to think I had a future. Had the interview then ended with a promise of a second interview, I would be more justified in believing the promise, since he would have been less likely to make such a promise after doing a mental comparison to the other candidates, unless I did indeed stand out.

Also, being at the tail end would allow me to remain more clearly in his mind when the actual choices were made.

So, given the opportunity, I believe I will opt for an interview at the tail-end of the process, and will only count on getting that second chance when that second chance is actually arranged.

Interviewers will lie to you. They may not do so knowingly or willingly, but that makes it no less true. You can only count on what you know to be true, and take the rest with a grain of salt.

The resumes will continue to fly, and in the meantime, I continue to work on Your World News. I can still use some volunteers there. Drop by the site and drop me a line if you're interested in helping.

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