You had a job offer in your grasp. What happened?
If you’re like most job seekers you know there are a series of obstacles to overcome prior to a job offer. You need to be seen, have the right experience, interview well, fit in with the team and finally, you need to rank in the top three candidates to sustain a fighting chance. It’s tough to jump these hurdles but if you do, then accepting a job offer should be easy. Shouldn’t it?
Let’s have a look at how you can blow a job offer right out of the water.
“Lauren” came home on a high after her interview. The right answers seemed to come to her immediately, she spoke articulately, and was able to build quick and friendly rapport with the manager with whom she would be working. As soon as she was home, the telephone rang. Lauren, who was expecting a call from her best friend Anna, picked up the phone.
On the other end, she heard a woman; a high-pitched, haughty upper-crust English accent said “Is this Lauren? It’s ABC Corporation calling”.
Lauren, thinking it was her friend Anna, did the unthinkable. She laughed. “Oh SURE Anna!” she giggled. “Where the heck did you get that accent? Ah ha ha ha ha ha!”
“No”, said the woman sounding increasing like the Queen of England, “I’m calling to say that you have been successful with your interview”.
So excited from her interview triumph and wanting to have fun with “Anna’s” hilarious royal impression, Lauren remained oblivious, happy and laughing until the woman’s voice took on a decidedly chilly edge.
As the realization struck that this was indeed, the company she had interviewed with, Lauren felt six different shades of sick. Muttering “Oh I’m sorry, yes thank you”, Lauren wasn’t the only person mortified. The company representative was also having second thoughts about Lauren’s maturity and character. Moral to the story: It is better to be pranked by friends and act like a professional just in case, than to make a fool out yourself with the people who matter.
Andy knew he had been shortlisted. His job application had been going beautifully. His skills were a good fit, he’d interviewed well, they had appeared to like him. A call from the recruiter asking for three references to speak on his behalf had been cause for a small amount of panic, as Andy hadn’t really thought about references. Off the top of his head, he came up with three. John, the Chief Executive Officer who had been his mentor when he worked at Acme Inc ten years ago; Amy, a project manager he had worked with on a major construction project a few years back, and Penny, one of his subordinates and greatest supporters. On calling Acme Inc., the recruiter found it difficult to find anyone who had heard of John until she was put through to a staff member who had many years tenure. Turns out John retired about eight years ago and sadly, had passed away just recently. The recruiter was embarrassed and annoyed. Time wasted!
Next, was the call to Amy, the project manager. Amy was a gregarious, friendly and keen-to-please type of person who really wanted to help Andy get this job. She prattled on enthusiastically, reminiscing about her time with Andy on that large construction project. “Oh” she said “And then there was that time that Andy really messed up that whole procurement thing. Ha! That could have cost the job millions! Poor Andy” she recalled “He really rubbed people up the wrong way, but I always liked him. Well, that is, I could see his faults of course, but deep down he is a really genuine guy!” The silence that followed, gave Amy a wake-up call. She wasn’t talking to a pal, she was talking to a recruiter! “Oh! of course”, she blathered, “What I meant is that Andy did a fabulous job of fixing the problem and after some of those staff problems were fixed, most people got on with him just fine!” After damning Andy with faint praise, Amy hung up unsure whether she had really helped Andy as much as she could have.
The recruiter then called Penny, one of Andy’s subordinates and supporters. “Who?” she replied distractedly when the recruiter requested a moment to discuss Andy’s job performance. “Oh yeah, yeah, Andy. Sure. Yeah Andy! Look I’m right in the middle of something right now, can I call you back?“. Penny never called. She forgot. And Andy also forgot that one of those endearing “nutty professor” qualities that made Penny so quirky and fun, also made her a lousy reference.
Moral to the Story: Call your references before you give their names out. It doesn’t help you if they are a dead, running you down in the most adorable way, or unlikely to ever return calls. When you call them, prod them gently about what they may say or times when you worked together. That will give them notice that someone will be calling, time to structure a response, and provide a good example of your talents rather than free-form babbling. If they’re not going to help you, they’re definitely going to hurt.
Being Loose with the Truth
Frank was never comfortable about his formal education. Despite having extensive experience in his field and having risen through the executive ranks due to his business savvy and results, Frank has always been sensitive about the topic. Sure, he’s been sent on “mini MBA” courses in Paris and London, and has completed all in-house training possible, but as Frank aged, he saw his competition—young hotshots with bespoke suits, high confidence and shiny MBAs; and he felt the pressure even more.”What would it hurt” he reasoned “If I tweaked the Education section on my resume? Nobody would find out and it really would just be the icing on the cake“. As expected, Frank was shortlisted and an offer was imminent. “The job should be yours as soon as all the rudimentary background checks are done” the job search consultant assured him. Frank felt a twinge of panic, accompanied by wave of guilt. His job offer, which incidentally he would have made regardless of his lack of a degree, was eventually rescinded. It didn’t really matter whether he had admitted to lying before they found out, or after. Nobody wants a senior executive with a propensity for being loose with the truth. The Job Search Consultant was livid. His company had recommended Frank. The damage to their reputation for advancing his application and recommending him as their preferred candidate, was substantial. Frank had done irreparable damage to some important relationships. This episode of poor judgement will come back to bite him for years.
Moral of the Story: Frank should have known better. You know better. At some point lies always find a way to come to light. How much, and for how long they ruin your career, will be a matter of timing.
The three instances listed here all point to a lack of thought, overconfidence and carelessness. Lauren didn’t think the company would call her so quickly, Andy didn’t think he would need to have a list of references available, Frank didn’t think anyone would investigate his past.
Thinking seriously about your career, anticipating what is needed in the job search, and taking the time to ensure you have all details and loose ends tied up, can secure victory from the jaws of defeat.