In one breath I tell you that you should be yourself; work hard, and
things will take care of themselves. In the second breath, I will tell you
that every day is an interview. Isn’t that contradictory? A good friend of
mine, who has years of Human Resource experience, once told me that a
job interview is like a first date. You’re about to see someone’s supposed
best and everything he or she has to give. I had an interview recently
where the person was a couple minutes late for our discussion. He had
no specific reason, and he didn’t know a lot about the job. He even mentioned
that he was hoping I could tell him about it. He didn’t ask for clarity
about the role or more details about the job, he wanted me to tell him
about the job he applied for. Although some of his answers were decent,
and I saw some growth potential, I walked away from what I will describe
as an average interview. As much as I wanted to take a chance on him, I
also wanted him to put a little more individual effort into what could have
been a career-changing moment. If this was his best for our “first date,”
I should have concerns about what he can do for my team in the future.
The person interviewing, like on a first date, typically will be dressed
well (or should be), prepared (or should be), and ready to give you his
or her ‘A’ game. As the person making a hiring decision during an average
interview, we sometimes want to justify the candidate’s efforts, and
hire him anyway. We either have a hiring goal we need to achieve, see
something between the lines, or just want to give someone a break. All
are legitimate reasons to make a thoughtful decision. As you are making
this thoughtful decision, the question needs to be asked of yourself, “You
just saw his or her best. Does it go downhill from here?” I have found too
many examples of instances when the decision that average was good
enough went badly. The person was not a good fit for the company or job.
He or she should have given you his or her ‘A’ game, but we accepted their
‘B’ or ‘C’ game, thus setting the expectations and bar lower right off the
bat. It may well go downhill from there.
Once you are in the company, the interview process doesn’t stop.
Your ‘A’ game shouldn’t go away just because you entered the building as
an official employee. I know that brand new cars instantly lose their value
as soon as you drive it off the lot, but you are not a new car. Your value
should grow as you enter the building—every day. Every day you should
strive to raise your game. There will be bad days, but you should make an
effort to minimize those bad days and strive to add value to the company
each day. This includes interactions with people you work with, work for,
and the people who work for you. Don’t let your guard down and coast
for a day. It only starts you down a path of building bad habits.
For example, have you ever been caught off guard when someone
started to use profanity because “it’s just the two of you.” Have you ever
been involved in rumor-mill chatter, or bad mouthing a colleague? How
about a casual conversation in the hall that turns into a confidential dialogue? You need to realize that you are constantly being watched, listened to, and judged by people at all levels and your reputation is constantly being evaluated.
If someone witnesses your ‘B’ or ‘C’ game, it may leave a lasting
impression for a while. Every interaction can be viewed as an interview. It
doesn’t mean you can’t have casual or confidential interactions with others;
it means be conscious of your actions and words. Every interaction
can be a lasting one; make it a good one. Seek to maintain the reputation
you want—the reputation that you are making a top-notch effort every
day. I am also not encouraging you to be uppity, snobbish, or to act better
than anyone else out there. I am, however, saying that we should all set an
example for others to emulate. Be a role model. Being your natural self
should include all of this.
So, is the message to be constantly on guard and never have fun? No.
Regardless of whether you are a company leader, an emerging leader, or
someone who just wants to be respected in the workplace, you should
competently be aware of your surroundings and actions. You should
make the effort to be in control of your actions and understand the
impression you are leaving on others. This includes being fun. If you create
a professional and fun environment where employees work hard and
are rewarded for their efforts, people will take notice and respond. They
will make their own effort to be professional, want to have fun, and work
hard because they see you doing it. If their leaders are doing it, then it
must be all right for them.
Be yourself and bring your ‘A’ game each day; be aware that you are
a potential role model and you can take the lead to set the tone. You may
even get noticed by other decision makers who think you would be a
great fit in their shop because they are impressed with you, ironically, for
what you may consider an everyday event. Treat each day like an interview—it will pay off.
Thomas B. Dowd III’s books available in softcover, eBook, and audiobook (From Fear to Success only):
- Now What? The Ultimate Graduation Gift for Professional Success
- Time Management Manifesto: Expert Strategies to Create an Effective Work/Life Balance
- Displacement Day: When My Job was Looking for a Job…A Reference Guide to Finding Work
- The Transformation of a Doubting Thomas: Growing from a Cynic to a Professional in the Corporate World
- From Fear to Success: A Practical Public-speaking Guide received the Gold Medal at the 2013 Axiom Business Book Awards in Business Reference
- The Unofficial Guide to Fatherhood
MP3 Downloads of “From Fear to Success: A Practical Public-speaking Guide” are available at Apple iTunes, Amazon, Rhapsody, Emusic, Nokia, Xbox Music, Spotify, Omnifone, Google Music Store, Rdio, Muve Music, Bloom.fm, Slacker Radio, MediaNet, 7digital, 24-7, Rumblefish, and Shazam “From Fear to Success” MP3 on CD Baby