I’ve been thinking about the wonderful world of work again, and the more I think about the way we “get” our jobs, the more bizarre it seems. We go to a meeting where someone asks us about our skills and about what other jobs we’ve had, and then, based on that, and more than likely also on how we look, dress, smell and shake hands, they hire us. Or they don’t. It’s akin to getting married after the first date.
I’m worried that making that sort of commitment after such a one-sided and inadequate evaluation is hurting both parties. Although the good interviewers encourage you to ask questions about the company during your interview, most of us aren’t as well-prepared as we might be. How do you ask questions about a place you’ve just seen for the first time? Also, most people aren’t that comfortable asking about things like what operating system do they have to use, or whether they can ever work from home, or take a “sick” day when they’re not sick. Many people are even too afraid to ask about salary and benefits, desperately hoping that the interviewer will volunteer that information. The good ones do, but that doesn’t mean they can anticipate the other questions you might have. Like the ones that won’t pop into your head until you’ve been working there for six months.
Why can’t working be more like dating? Why can’t there be a process of gradually getting to know each other to decide whether you like each other, and only then to commit?
I’ve been a big fan of something called “informational interviewing” for many years now. Basically, it’s just a fancy name for contacting someone at a company you’re interested in and taking them out for lunch, coffee or a beer. One of my big discoveries is that there are all kinds of jobs in all kinds of interesting companies out there, but you’d never read about them in the want ads. Some of these jobs have strange titles, or none at all. Some of the jobs don’t even exist yet.
Something great happens when two people meet on an equal footing in a non-threatening space. Even better if some intoxicants are involved (but not too many!). These are NOT job interviews; they’re more like job dates. You’re not even required to meet with the person actually capable of hiring. Just someone who can be honest about where they work, about what they and their company do, and about what it feels like to be there for eight (or more) hours a day.