September 18, 2012
Hard-sell job-search behavior: not wise in Seattle
As the PEMCO commercials endlessly remind us, here in Seattle we're not like everybody else; we're a little different. This statement applies not only to the way we go about networking, as discussed in my posting a few weeks back, but also in the way employers go about hiring.
Here are three commonly advocated job-search tactics I've seen mentioned on the national landscape but would caution people to avoid if seeking work in the Puget Sound area -- and possibly the Pacific Northwest as a whole.
1. Dodging salary questions. While I don't know how it works in Los Angeles, Chicago or New York, I can tell you that in Seattle it's generally a bad idea to directly dodge -- or refuse to answer -- interview questions that relate to the amount of compensation you're expecting or hoping to make.
Time after time, when role-playing with job candidates, I'll ask them a question like, "So how much money are you looking for?" and get one of two responses. They'll either dig their heels in and say something like, "I'd prefer we wait until further along in the process before talking money," or they'll try to turn the question around: "Gosh, that's a good question. What does your company think is a fair range is for this opportunity?"
In Seattle, these tactics usually bomb. Hard. Experienced hiring managers easily become annoyed by candidates who try to wriggle out of this question with an evasive answer. They've seen every trick in the book and will view such tired negotiating ploys as a waste of both their time and yours. So suck it up and give them some real numbers -- at the very least, a rough range outlining the salary you feel is reasonable for the position at hand. You can always throw in a few caveats about your flexibility, if needed.
2. Trying to "trial close" the interview. Another technique that doesn't fare well in Seattle is the idea of doing a "trial close" at the end of an interview. This is where candidates basically ask an interviewer outright whether he or she thinks they're a good fit and will likely get the job.
In a traditional sales situation or another part of the country, this time-tested method might work. The theory is that it shows confidence and provides you with immediate feedback on whether your customer (aka the hiring manager) has any objectives to your candidacy.
In a Seattle job interview, however, you're likely to get a perturbed stare -- and possibly a snappish response -- if you end your interview with a confrontational statement of this kind. I cringe when I hear job hunters say things like, "So, Jim, now that we've had the chance to chat, do you think I'm the right person for the job?" or "Sally, do you have any reservations about my ability to excel in this position?"
Don't back hiring managers into a corner. Simply end the meeting by thanking them for their time, expressing your enthusiasm again for the opportunity in question and telling them that you hope to have the chance to move on to next steps if they feel your credentials are a good fit.
3. Aggressive follow-up behavior. As we all know, there's a fine line between stalking somebody and being professionally persistent in terms of follow-up efforts. Watch this issue carefully if you're job hunting in Seattle. You can easily alienate hiring managers by following up too frequently after an interview, especially if they've told you there will be no further developments, decisions or next steps until a certain date.
While you may feel that leaving messages on their voicemail each day shows enthusiasm, to them it signals you're a pest, insecure and/or don't know how to follow directions. After you've sent an initial follow-up email or card right after the interview, just check in once a week or so unless otherwise instructed. I know the waiting game can be agonizing when you're really excited about a job, but don't burn a bridge by coming on too strong.
Of course, not every recruiter and hiring manager in Seattle fits these descriptions. But after coaching local folks through this process for the past two decades and seeing the trends, I highly recommend these tips as best practices for anyone seeking to put their best foot forward in our quirky and provincial hiring market.
Karen Burns is the author of The Amazing Adventures of Working Girl, a career guide based on her 59 jobs over 40 years in 22 cities.
Lisa Quast is a certified career coach, mentor, business consultant, former corporate executive and author based in the Seattle area.
Randy Woods writes about job-search tools, networking techniques and other tips to help you land your dream job.
Matt Youngquist is the president of Career Horizons, a career counseling firm.
Natalie Singer is a Seattle writer, editor and small-business owner.
Michelle Goodman is the author of "My So-Called Freelance Life" and "The Anti 9-to-5 Guide."
Paul Anderson helps professionals in transition find their desired employment.
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