Why are you interviewing?

Good Monday morning,

A secret message, a furtive glance across the trade show floor, an exchange of phone numbers.  Yep, you’ve got all the signs of interviewing on the sly.

In an employment market this strong, the right question might be ‘why aren’t you interviewing?’  But inevitably, Readers like you find themselves in interviews being asked ‘so why is now the right time for you to move on?’, and you’ll hear yourself string together a bunch of plausible responses off the top of your head.  But even if this satisfies the recruiter’s question, it doesn’t answer the question for yourself.

So why are you interviewing?

Is it boredom, curiosity, a need to move on?  Or is it ambition, a desire for growth, a need for new learning?  Or a defensive move and insurance before troubled times come round again? What are your reasons for interviewing?  And what do you want from this interview in particular?  Are you hoping to get practiced at interviewing, the flattering praise of peers in the industry, a very attractive offer, or a way out of a mess?

It’s useful for you to think through what you desire in your career as a next step — is it money, title, power, responsibility, glory, recognition, a bigger platform or more intimacy, a different role /industry/angle on the problems you’ve worked on before?  To quote Joe Jackson, “You can’t get what you want, till you know what you want.”

Now, more than once in your career, you’ll find yourself interviewing or stumbling into an interview without having reflected as to whether or not you’re truly available.  It could be a variety of circumstances — a casual advisory role suddenly turns serious, an industry luminary flatters you into her office and a compensation discussion, a bad day leads to a kind word from a recruiter leads to a third round of interviewing before you know it.  There’s a degree to which interviewing, in and of itself, is healthy in an economic system without loyalty, such as ours. But that also requires you to understand that you always have the power, and the obligation, to say “no thanks” to the wrong opportunities regardless of the interest shown or compliments strewn in your path.

An interview is a tool a company uses for making a judgment as to whether you’re right for a role, and the role is right for you.  In 2019, companies are hiring an awful lot, and so they’re interviewing and being aggressive about interviewing and being aggressive about getting you on the phone for interviews.  (Another good reason to upload your latest resume here at Ladders, by the way).

So while the corporate wheels spin and the interviews pile up, you also want to think through why you are participating and what you’re hoping to get out of it.  Here are some good reasons:

  • It’s time to move on and you’ve definitively decided to leave your current role.
  • You’d like to have a sense of what the market price for professionals like you is doing in 2019.  Is it up? Is it way up?  Is it way, way, way up?
  • You know that you ought to be interviewing for practice, and connections, a few times per year.
  • You understand that interviewing regularly is lifestyle insurance for you and your family – you never know when your present employer might change plans, have a scandal, or go belly up, and you want to have a backup plan.

And some not so great reasons for interviewing are:

  • You got talked into it by a smooth-talking recruiter, but don’t really know what you’re hoping to get out of it.
  • You’re hoping for validation of your worth. An interview is not a judgment on you as a human being, or even as a business professional.  One interview, or several, cannot pass meaningful judgment on you as a person, your value as a professional, your place on the planet, or whether you should feel good or bad about yourself today. 
  • You’re going to leverage a written offer into a demand for higher pay.  The ultimatum rarely works, and in fact, usually blows up on the professional trying to pull it off.  There’s a right way to navigate this maneuver (“Boss, I’d prefer to stay here, but I am hearing on the market that roles such as mine are paying x, y or z dollars.  Can help me do the right thing here and stay here working with you? If you could take this compensation issue off my mind and concerns, I’d sure appreciate it.”)

Whatever the reason this season, ‘why am I interviewing?’ is a great question to ask yourself as you keep on getting ahead in your career.

I’m rooting for you!