The ultimate rule for job interviews

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Once in a while, you have a wealth of job interviews. Enough to make you want to start managing them.

I wouldn’t try.

You see, you start to think one of those interviews will surely come through. You start to interpret what other jobs will do for you. You’ll compare. You’ll start to shop.

And then, you fail.

Here’s a great example, pulled from a job forum (identifying details changed):

I went for an interview at a large company three weeks ago for an analyst position. The interview went well. I’m pretty sure as I was leaving the hiring manager even said something like “we will be talking to you again” as I left with a big smile. I sent a thank you email that night. (They never mentioned how long they will take to fill the position, I forgot to ask)

Right now I’m talking to two recruiters who look to be moving very fast for filling a contract position. I’m pretty sure I’m going to get at least one offer within the week. Should I mention this in my follow-up email to the large company? As if saying “I was wondering if there was an update to the analyst position. I have an offer for another position and wanted to check if you have filled this position.” Essentially I just want to let them know I want to work at the large company instead.

Do you see the huge problem with this approach?

There is no job offer

You think there will be a job offer. You are counting on a job offer. But now you want to throw that nonexistent job offer in the face of another hiring manager. That does two potentially frightening things: first, you can easily offend the hiring manager where you want to work by putting on pressure, and, second, you don’t have a job offer!

This is obvious, but it bears repeating to the point of having a sign in front of you that says this: Without a job offer, you have no opportunity to accept a new position. Play like you have a job offer when you don’t and you play with fire.

Work each interview as a separate stream

You can think you can manage interviews and assume there is job offers — but you can’t. You have to treat each interview stream separately. You may think you have a job offer — but when you get it, the salary is way off from what you thought it was. The starting time sucks. Or the benefits are not as good as you thought — like when you are told there is health insurance, but the cost ends up being $1,200 per month for the family plan. Is that offer worth it? Only you can tell — but I wouldn’t be playing a job offer against another company when you don’t have one. Because little surprises like the health insurance costs come up all the time.

Look, having multiple interviews looking good is a great feeling. One that most of us haven’t had for a long time (“They ALL like me!). Just don’t get caught up in the “I’ll have a job offer” when you don’t yet have one. The worst thing that can happen, you know, is when you think they all like you and then each one of those companies pass you by for someone else. There is something to be said for the saying of “a bird in hand is worth two in the bush.”

Job offer first. Negotiation second. Acceptance third. Then you can celebrate.

  • Great job interviews tend to make people feel a bit cocky about their prospects. I love this post, it reminds people to temper their enthusiasm and not be overconfident and play one company off another.

    • We easily forget the end game — a new job. And the last step before we can even start making a decision about taking a new job is getting a job offer. It’s like selling a house where twenty people have gone through your house in two days. “Look, we can sell it in a week easy!” But without an offer to work with, not so much.

      Thanks for the comment(s), Susan!

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