What to do on a False- Positive Job Landing?!

posted by Dilip on October 23, 2019

A false-positive job landing is when you take a job that turns out to be different from what was discussed during the interviews and the expectations that were created during those discussions. In most interviews candidates and hiring managers normally exchange job and position descriptions where they bring sharper clarity to what the potential incumbent would be responsible for on a day-to-day basis and how their performance will be measured. However, these are NOT normal times! There they also discuss the teams they would be working with and other details to develop clear expectations on the part of the candidate so that there are no surprises.

Yet, this is not always the case. Many times, candidates get swept away with the interview process and spend much of their focus on the micro aspects of the interview process: coding languages, protocols, regulatory issues, technical matters specific to that job, among other things. They also bone up on leadership principles and on how to respond to some behavioral questions such as, what did you do to terminate a poor performer.

Yet through all of this preparation and through putting on a bravura interview performance it is virtually impossible to really know how your day-to-day job is going to turn out and how to deal with some serious gaps between what was discussed during the interview process and what the selected candidate actually faces when engaged in their new job. Often, too, candidates are so fed up with their current job that they cannot imagine that their next job also would be a repeat of their status quo or even worse!

Remember that to develop, sustain, and to protect your brand you must not let anything get in the way to tarnish it—even your new job that does not work out.

Although these false positive landings have been nothing new, some recent experiences I’ve had with my clients their incidence seems to be higher than normal.

What do I mean by that?

Typically, I see about 10% of clients’ landings have some kind of surprises when they land and start working in their new jobs. Although not all of these surprises are serious enough to warrant drastic remedies (quit your job and see if the one you turned down is still available), they warrant some action on the part of the client to disabuse the gaps that stem from what was discussed and promised during the interviews and what the ground reality is when they start working. During this year alone, however, I am seeing much higher incidence of the false positives at all levels: from technical program managers to senior directors; from software engineering managers to product managers.

When a client suddenly uncovers a major gap between expectations (based on the interview discussions) and their ground reality during the early stages of their job engagement (typically their first month), it is time for a pause to review your options.

One reason this may be happening increasingly more, is perhaps because of how the interview process has devolved into a series of highly structured interviews, where each interviewer is given a fixed amount of time to interview a candidate and a fixed number of questions they are expected to raise. I also find that the interviewers’ questions consume most of the time given in each slot and the candidate is hardly given any time to explore in an unstructured way to see the mutual fit. Unfortunately, the fit is more a concern for the interviewer and the employer than vice versa. With this lop-sided interview dynamic, the candidate is expected to let out a sigh of relief when the interview rounds culminate in a job offer without so much as having a modicum scrutiny from the other side.

This blog is about how to get to that point of exploring a mutual fit sooner than later and what to do when you have a clear sense that you made a mistake in taking on your new job?!

Here are my suggestions:

  1. One of the first rules to follow from a candidate’s side is to ask as many “fit” questions throughout the interview rounds as you can and judge how the interviewers behave during these interviews. If they are highly structured and do not allow any open-ended questions from the candidate, then this is a red flag that should alert the candidate to be vigilant about how to close the deal before you accept the final offer.
  2. Before even going for the interviews do your due-diligence by researching not only the company or the business unit (BU) you are targeting, but by also talking to anyone inside that BU or the group that you are going after to check the culture, management practices, and how employees are treated in general. If you read too many negative reviews on social media (Glassdoor, among others) explore further to protect yourself. Do not ignore such signals.
  3. Look at the employee attrition in the company and especially in the immediate area of your work. If that rate is in double digits it is a red flag that should alert you to be vigilant.
  4. Even though a company may have a great rating or reviews, check specially on the hiring manager and their reputation in their field of work. Talk to anyone who has worked with them by looking on their LinkedIn connections and Recommendations.
  5. When all the interview rounds are done, including the round with your hiring manager ask for a separate meeting with your hiring manager and their boss once you get their job offer. In this meeting you must have enough time to get a clear view of what the job is and how you are going to interact with your manager and their boss. Also, get some sense of what the immediate work group is like both inside your organization and around it.
  6.  Ask in specific terms how you are going be measured during the first year and what your immediate assignment is after you start you job. If answers to these questions are not forthcoming this is a red flag and you need to be aware that danger may lie ahead.
  7. If during the first few weeks you find yourself lost do not delude yourself by thinking that you are imagining it. If you experience it, it IS happening and decide how to act on it to protect your career.
  8. Seek outside help (career coach or a trusted friend who can be objective) and openly discuss your assessment of what is going on and explore options available to make a change.
  9. The sooner you act on what you see as aberrant and the sooner you trust your own judgment the better off you are in how you can take the next step. One of those may be to see if moving to a nearby group if that would solve your problem.
  10. Do not hesitate to make a change that entails leaving the job even during the first month. This will allow you to candidly admit that you made a mistake when you go through yet another round of interviews at your next employer.

My own experience is that most blame themselves for a false positive job landing and continue to work in that job hoping that things would get better. They rarely do. The sooner you go out of your denial stage and the sooner you act on your next move the better off you’ll be. This is how you protect your own brand.   Good luck!