I had the privilege of counseling a young woman about a career choice, recently. It isn’t something I do for a living but I have employed thousands. Over the course of 40 years I have interviewed candidates I couldn’t do without and some that made me wonder how I got trapped into the interview.
This lady falls into the “boy I wish I could convince her to work for us” category. She was trying to decide between two positions. One included a very clear path for her future. She would influence the direction but the prospective employer “had it all figured out.” They knew what they were interviewing for and had a crystal clear job description in mind.
The second opportunity was a little hazy. This company had a day to day assignment but also had an initiative they wanted to launch. This new “project” involved finding business from a totally different sector. The rules weren’t written. The market hadn’t been surveyed. An internal audit of resources and standard operating processes hadn’t been conducted or prepared.
As I spoke with the young woman I could feel myself leaning toward the first opportunity. I didn’t mean to have a preference but found my words to be softly selling the more predictable “figured out” path. It was simply easier to see…and trust.
That’s when the lady knocked me on my heels. She decided on career path #2. When I challenged the lack of process, she responded, “that’s why they need me. I have an opportunity to help invent something. I have a chance to put my stamp and standards on every detail. I can make it mine.”
In that moment, the power in the counseling session changed hands. She went on to share that she was responsible for her own life. Her prospective employer provides resources, support and direction. She expects to provide market feedback, intellect, hustle, persuaded contacts and success. As she said “these things are my responsibility. I’m responsible for my success. My employer isn’t. My life is up to me.”
Wow! She is 100% correct. I sat in awe and listened to the new power personality in the room. I had a chance to learn and didn’t want to waste it. I was the one being taught…advised. I was disappointed that I couldn’t convince her to relocate and work for us!
Speaking from an employer’s perspective, today’s companies want difference makers. The higher the position being sought, the more this becomes true. We have tasks and outcomes to be created and managed. These are the objectives shared in an interview. Ownership is the trump card, however.
The interview is full of emotional and tangible evaluations for both parties. The employer is looking for credentials but they are also looking for someone that fits their culture. Energy is invested trying to discern whether the candidate can do the work and will they disrupt the environment.
The most difficult part of this process is determining whether the prospect will do the work. Knowing what the work is…and deciding whether the person is likeable is easy. Their work ethic and “ownership of outcomes” is the great unknown. It’s also the most important part.
Through the years, I have interviewed hundreds of sales prospects. It goes with the turf that you’ll hear the following phrases.
“If my company could get their price right, I could have millions in sales.”
“I need to find a new home as my existing company can’t take care of my clients.”
“My boss doesn’t have any vision. I have all these great ideas but he/she won’t listen.”
When I hear these, or any of their cousins, I run for cover. This candidate will be complaining about us in a few months. When we ask where the business is, we’ll be met with shrugged shoulders and a file folder full of opportunities they couldn’t sell. The missed bids or rfp’s will be shared as evidence that they are doing their job and that we aren’t doing ours. These candidates are losers in the sales game and you don’t want them on your team. They’re better at excuses than execution.
I perk up when I find myself interviewing someone that owns their life. When a sales candidate understands that they are the CEO of their accounts, I’m intrigued. When they take ownership of winning business and making their accounts crucial to their employer, I want them working for me. When they understand that, ultimately, they are responsible for winning business, making it profitable, getting intimate with client objectives, aligning our solutions and making both client and provider happy…I’m sold.
People like this end up being the power in the room. They fill every environment with ideas. Their optimism is contagious. Their focus is on possibilities over problems. They are going to make your market feel exactly the way you feel during the interview.
These are the people you want to hire. Candidates out there looking…these are the people that get hired. These are the people that lead their employers to new ground and new levels of success. These are the people with exciting futures.
The young lady that decided on career option #2 will be successful. She’ll own it and won’t stop until she is. Then…she’ll redefine the boundaries and invent the next new thing. She won’t stop because she doesn’t know how to stop. Her employer will benefit and find himself enjoying new revenue streams and new possibilities. These are the people smart employers never let get away.