Talk about Realistic Job Preview

One question that has always intrigued me is related to work and its associated challenges. How many of us truly believe that we (especially managers, even though generally true for all lesser mortals) are still in the jobs because it is not a perfect world ? How many of us sincerely believe that our jobs are in fact to fix the problems and not crib about their very presence ! If absence of those problems was a pre-condition to job, we might perhaps not be needed at all !

That said, it could perhaps be proved asymptomatically that when there is no challenge left in the job, that job might not be required anymore ! So, a noble objective of our job is to make our jobs redundant !

Wow !

So, why is it when we give out an ad for a job, we paint a rosy picture of the job. What we really ought to be promising is a wagonload of challenges (to be unashamedly marketed as the USP of the job) but we end up promising a cookie jar full of material rewards ! When we ought to be saying that this job promises to be more difficult than the one at the next company down the road, why is it that we say that we offer better flexi-time or health benefits than that very company. Are we not setting up wrong expectations that this company is a country club, and this job is more like flying first class, when we know that the company is more like a battalion and the job entails sapping mines, not to forget, sometimes with heavy shelling going on all around ?

How many of today’s HR Managers will be caught dead in freezing cold putting out an ad like this for recruiting their next generation of leaders ?

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Instead, we actually see a game of one-upmanship in the recruitment fraternity. Oh, they are offering you 3x annual base for life insurance, ok, I will offer you 4x (as if we are really expecting them to use it !). They are sending you to Timbuktu for six months, we will send you to Kinshasa for twelve months. They are offering you a Project Lead role, I will give you Assistant Project Manager (whatever that means). What, they are only offering you 25.6% salary increment on what you make today, shame be on them, bunch of insensitive guys. Wait, I will offer you 29.3%.

For a change, how about a conversation like this:

Candidate: My current job keeps me busy only 20% of the time, so I am looking for a change. How do I know you will also not underutilize me ?

You: We promise at least 45 hrs of core work per week – which won’t leave you with time to chat with your buddies, notwithstanding the fact that we don’t allow an IM or webmails in the office. We don’t offer working from home option because we believe we don’t want to encroach in your personal lives, and you are not allowed to work on Sundays, come what may. That means, you will have to face more hardships since all work must be done out of office. We don’t offer external training because we believe in self-learning. We don’t believe in overnight promotions, we believe curing the foundation is the most important aspect of career development and hence can almost promise no promotion in the first 3-4 years. We also realize that despite us being a typical start-up, human beings being human beings that they are, decision cycles could take time. Sometimes, there might not be funding to get an important resource, or a software library to ensure on-time delivery of your product. We don’t expect you to break the law by using pirated software or try some other tricks, but show your real mettle by being innovative under adverse conditions. How does that sound to you ?

Candidate: Wow ! This looks like the job I could give my right arm for. What about compensation ?

You: We are in startup mode. We believe the challenges I just mentioned above actually make up for a 30% premium if it could ever be equated to money. So, you will actually come on a 15% pay cut. Plus, the last three people who were in this job, two quit before they picked up the first paycheck but the last one stayed here for last two years and has gone on to start his own company. I understand he is filing for an IPO next month.

Wow, wow, wow !!! Doesn’t this type of conversation blow you out of your socks !

I can imagine cynics sniggering on this conjured-up tale of a utopian world. After all, people have not added years of experience for nothing. If it were so simple, and effective, wouldn’t we be doing it already ? Fair point. I have no argument for it, except that:

• Until Dick Fosbury tried his now famous ‘Fosbury Flop’ in 1968 Mexico Olympics, no one questioned the ‘straddle’ style of high jump prevalent until that time.
• When no one wanted to lend money to the poorest of the poor, Mohammed Yusuf thought micro-banking was the way to alleviate the poverty-ridden farmers in his homeland and created the now famous Grameen Bank.
• If Akio Morita would have gone with the market research, the world would have never seen Sony Walkman.
• examples galore….

Sometime back, I came across a great unconventional thought. It says, listen to the ‘unreasonable man’, for all progress in this world has happened due to the him. Reasonable men, if argues, basically fall in the line and follow the norms. So, you can’t expect them to question the means and ways to do something differently, or better. But, it is the unreasonable man who defies the conventions and takes an unbeaten path. Sometimes he sinks, sometimes he sails. If he sinks, in the words of Edison, we have found one more way how things don’t work. But, if he sails, we probably have something significant on our hands !

I strongly recommend the highly readable, very simple and astonishingly commonsensical “Whatever You Think, Think the Opposite” by Paul Arden. A word of caution though – it could change you forever !

Coming back to world of hiring hiring and realistic job previews, If I were to hire a soldier, would I give out an ad about the workland that boasts of the best golf courses or a workland that is a minefield ?

And if I were a soldier, would I join an army that offers me flexi-time or allows me to develop myself by throwing me in newer challenges and raising my own potential with each passing failure ?

[PS: Originally written for li-ba.com on 5-Oct-2007]

3 thoughts on “Talk about Realistic Job Preview

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