27 6 / 2012
The Benefits of Brutal Honesty
I’ve always been a big proponent of brutal honesty—in my personal life and in business. And I think my job hunt should be no different. I think above all else, honesty can get you a job, even if it seems counter-intuitive.
As I type this, I’m in a position of talking with two companies, each on their own timelines, who are highly interested in hiring me. I have no offer from either, but their word that it’s heading that way. And so, I have recently come to the realization that instead of leading them both on, or trying to use it later to my advantage when actual salaries and offer letters emerge, I have told both of them that the other exists.
By sharing these moments of honesty in initial discussions, the relationship building can begin before I’m even hired.
Now, let me explain why I would do something that seems so against common sense and self-interest. For one, it sets the expectation that I am actively looking—not just for anything—for the right thing. And if delays arise in the hiring process, which is the case for both of these employers, then we all have a better idea of the timeline and what to expect. It makes me look like a valuable resource worth respecting and it also shows that I respect them, too. This eliminates surprises and the hiring game, where some potential new hires attempt to pit companies against each other. If I inform all parties that I am actively looking and the existence of pending offers, it makes us all take each other that much more seriously and we’ll better appreciate each others’ time. As a potential hire, I start off knowing that I’m not the only one, and I feel that by sharing in a non-threatening way that I also have options, there seems to be less friction and more openness during the process. By sharing these moments of honesty in initial discussions, the relationship building can begin before I’m even hired. And if the final decision comes out and another direction was taken by either of us, then the door would be open for networking, interview feedback, and possibly future opportunities.
Congratulations, you got the job you never wanted! Hooray! Nobody really wants this to happen.
The argument against brutal honesty has never sat well with me. I think that people, in general, want to know the truth, even if they initially have negative reactions to hearing the truth. I believe that the truth often gets hidden or omitted because of some misguided concepts of political correctness or professionalism (both of which I am also a big fan of, in the right circumstances). And I think during a job hunt, not telling the truth in regards to what you’re looking for and what you’re expecting from employers helps no one. Congratulations, you got the job you never wanted! Hooray! Nobody really wants this to happen. The most meaningful interactions I’ve had during my job hunt have been the ones where we’ve both put it all out there and kept it as genuine and transparent as possible. The conversation goes so much more smoothly when both parties know that they can just be themselves and don’t have to constantly edit (don’t mention the other candidates, he might be offended! -or- I better not tell them I have this other offer, they’ll stop interviewing me!). I breathed a sigh of relief when I opened up about my other opportunities, and I think the recruiters for both companies appreciate cutting through the noise as much as possible, too.
Update: One of the opportunities got back to me—they’re going with a more junior candidate who was referred by a partner. I did received feedback that the interview went great and I was the most experienced candidate, but that they changed the scope of the position and decided on a junior level candidate instead. We’re going to keep in touch.
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