Top Five Candidate Regrets
As I talk with talented Marketing and Business Development professionals I’m in a unique position to observe career decisions that lead to positive outcomes and those that don’t. After many years of hearing these stories I’ve begun to notice some trends, and because happily employed people generally don’t call me back (as opposed to those who are ready for a change), many of these trends are related to regrets that candidates in interview processes express when things don’t turn out positively for them.
This list goes beyond the obvious situation where a candidate really wants a job but doesn’t get it, which is a very common occurrence given the competitive nature of the job market. Instead these are hindsight observations candidates made as they reflect on their experiences in an interview / job change process:
5. “I should have pushed for more money.”
Candidates have to balance their interest in maximizing the terms of a job offer with that of burning up political capital with the new employer before they even start working. We have seen a few instances where employers have retracted an offer because of a candidate’s “negotiating” tactics. One of the advantages of working with a competent recruiter is that he or she will be able to effectively communicate the reasons why a job offer should be enhanced, if appropriate. In that way a candidate can be assured that they are not leaving anything “on the table.”
4. “I took a job I don’t really like because I didn’t ask the right questions beforehand.”
The interview process is a two-way street where the candidate needs to gather as much information as the interview team does. If you find yourself in an interview process where you are not able to ask questions to the right people, then you probably need to see employment elsewhere. Although unforeseen leadership changes happen all the time, you can usually get a sense of a company’s culture by talking with peer level employees during an interview process, and it’s reasonable to request access to those people if they are not part of the normal interview team.
3. “I was too loyal.”
During an interview process a candidate often must evaluate whether the new opportunity is better than their current job. Sometimes they express regret about not making a job change due to feelings of loyalty / obligation / guilt with their current employer. They often have longstanding, personal relationships they don’t want to jeopardize. So they stay at a company for a long time waiting for promotions that never happen, losing valuable time during the building phase of their career. These are opportunity costs that are difficult to recover.
2. “I didn’t communicate openly about my motivation and needs.”
Candidates will often withhold or give misleading information about why they want to make a job change, or why they may be interested in a particular opportunity. Motivations vary, but most often they are related to opportunity for career growth, location, travel, money, company culture or supervisory mismanagement. If a candidate isn’t clear that, for example, he / she needs less overnight travel, a more empowering manager, or more money than a job offers, then they will often be disappointed in the new role. This regret is particularly common when a candidate is leaving a perceived poor culture and work environment – they don’t want to bash their current management because they fear being perceived as complainer or a whiner. But that’s the exact time when clear communication is vital in order to ensure a good “fit” with the new employer.
1. “On my deathbed I don’t think I’ll look back and say ‘Gee, I wish I would have played it safe.’”
Change is always difficult, whether it’s learning a new operating system, buying a house or taking a career-enhancing job. For those who have ambition and career aspirations they know they need to be open to the right kind of change, but sometimes fear overrules that knowledge. That’s a natural, common tendency, and one that can be overcome with thoughtful analysis about risk and return and self-introspection. We can also look at the examples of role models and other well-known professionals who have built successful careers: they recognized those times when it was important to take a chance, and they acted upon it.
As they say hindsight is always 20/20. We can never be absolutely sure we’re making the best decisions, but for every regretful experience in an interview process or job change there are just as many decisions made by candidates make that work out wonderfully. Hopefully this short list will help others avoid pitfalls and provide career enhancing direction. As always, I encourage your comments and questions.