Its Not Always About You

by: Joanne Meehl

Recently, I saw a one-panel cartoon that showed a cat and dog looking out the window as their human father was falling out of a tree he'd been pruning. The dog looked anxious and his thought bubble said, "Oh no! He's going to get hurt!". The cat looked anxious and his thought bubble said, "Oh no! I don't know how to use the can opener!"

Like that cat, the anxious job seeker has a distorted filter. Anxiety makes it all about you, when it's really not. Why is this bad for you? Well, once anxiety sets in, it skews time, it warps reality, it alters accurate perception. Example: a hiring company doesn't notify Anxious Angela within the two weeks promised to her at the end of her last interview with them. Angela is sure it means she hasn't landed the job. After all, they said two weeks, didn't they? And she's certain it was that one thing she said and they didn't like it, or maybe the suit she wore wasn't right. She begins to think "That went well, but now I wonder if I had the right impression, and maybe I can't read people well after all, and if I don't get that job, who else would hire me?" Men and women job seekers do the same thing: they think it all has to do with them.

In my 20+ years in this field, I've seen perhaps three companies or organizations, for example, actually make a hiring decision by the original target date, and actually notify finalists or their selected candidate in the time span they intended. And it has nothing to do with the candidates. It has everything to do with what happens at the company: the hiring manager has a sick child at home and can't make the meeting, or a sudden crisis saps all available time of the decision makers, or an unexpected resignation of another employee puts everything else on hold.

Last year, I met a senior HR exec from a large company, at a weekend function. We talked, and got around to the topic of HR response. I asked her why HR departments sometimes don't let the finalists know if they landed the job, leaving them hanging. It seems downright rude, and I told her pretty much that's how it looks. She was pained and said "Yes, it's awful. But sometimes it's out of our control. It's actually happened to us that as the search is almost finished, we'll get a missive from Corporate that dictates that we need to reclassify the very job we're trying to fill. We then don't know if we can go ahead and fill it, and we have four finalists waiting to hear from us. We don't have the staff to let people know what's going on while we work to get the questions with corporate resolved." She looked utterly defeated and I felt bad for her being so pulled in two or more directions at once.

So what's a candidate to do? The absolute best thing is to have so much activity going -- so many companies looking at your resume, several interviews scheduled, lots of networking activity -- that such a delay from one employer is a minor glitch.

Job hunters who do that can weather the disappointments in a search.

But job hunters who don't, and who use only job postings and little networking, who put all their efforts into one employer, will only worry that they, too, don't know how to use a can opener.


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