Job Interviews are a #Negotiation, not a Grocery Purchase

20 Apr

So many of my amazing #students are up and off to internships and their first jobs. Proud and thrilled for them!

But it recently reminded me of one of my early interviews for a position while in law school. I had applied for a job with #LexisNexis at my University to work as a recruitment / trainer kind of person (for those of you who don’t know – they operate one of the big legal research websites and hire students to train other law students in how to use the system). 

During the first meeting, the interviewer asked me what I was looking for in a workplace. I answered very honestly. Nothing outrageous — I needed something flexible to work around my school schedule and a job that did not involve a lot of weekly meetings and reports. At the time, I was swamped with school and couldn’t afford a job that was extremely time-consuming. I’ve had those jobs (#teaching happens to be one) where they say you’ll work 5 hours but the reality is more like 12. I had also recently come out of a job where the manager would give us orders, but never explain how to accomplish the assignment (it wasn’t something you could just pick up). If you did it wrong, they were furious because it wasn’t how they wanted it. All of the student workers quit in about a month. So I also mentioned that I was willing to go the extra mile for a company, but I really appreciated managers who were clear about their expectations and specific if they wanted things done a certain way.

In the second meeting the interviewer took me aside to explain that I should never tell a company what I’m looking for. That they may not fit that description and then won’t hire me. You should only talk about how you benefit them. 

It was the worst advice I’ve ever received.

Jobs are not a one-way-street! It’s a negotiation. Recruiters are not walking into a shopping mart looking over the selections, picking the best employee for them, and then making a wonderful masterpiece out of the pieces. They may be considering you, but you are also considering them.  If the company does not suit you, if the management sends your stress through the roof, if the job is inconsistent and changing while you work better under consistent and clear guidelines — those are important factors in job success. The masterpiece relies on both parties doing their best.

It’s called the ‘job market‘ for a reason — there are both buyers and sellers. While the buyer’s interests and needs are very important, the seller also has a role to play. There may be some buyers you just aren’t willing to work with because they don’t have what you want.

It is true that if you are extremely picky, you may put off potential hiring opportunities.

However, if you have a list of reasonable requests — issues that may determine whether you like a job and are satisfied with a position — it’s okay to discuss them.

In my last workplace, they got a little crazy with “evaluations” of professors. While I strongly support the concept of evaluations, we had student evals, management evals, and peer evals. I had random people in my classroom at least once a week and then I was (without pay) expected to visit anywhere from 3-5 people myself to evaluate them during busy mid-term sessions. It didn’t work. Everyone was stressed, the students didn’t respond well to the constant flow of new and unfamiliar faces. We would have as many as 5-6 meetings just to explain, catch-up, update, explain, and re-update information about evaluations. There was a lot of unnecessary frustration. So in my next job search, I asked recruiters how evaluations were completed and explained that I wanted a program where the system was solid but well-planned. Finally came a recruiter who said “Totally! That drives me crazy too. Our system includes X, Y, and Z — it’s all done at specific times and with forward planning. We get it done as quickly as possible so that it doesn’t disrupt the classroom.” Great! This is what I was looking for! They explained what they were looking for (I fit). I explained what I was looking for (they fit). I took the job, and we’ve both been very satisfied (I received some of the highest student evaluations of 2017).

If a company cannot fit your needs and requirements, it isn’t going to be a happy relationship. If you and the company are both satisfied and all needs are met — it’s market equilibrium (the best trade for everyone).

So don’t let recruiters try to shop you over. Negotiate. Talk. Remember — Job interviews are cooperative and involve two sides.

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