System1Search Blog

Failing to Research Opportunities

Thursday, December 13th, 2018 | Uncategorized

This is the second of 20 blogs about the most common mistakes I observe in career management. These comments and ideas are from my experiences as a recruiter and working with many thousands of people over the past twenty-eight plus years.

The second mistake is failing to research opportunities

Most people experience interviewing and failing to get a job or a promotion as a career setback. On the other hand, some people receive an offer and start the new job only to be disappointed by management problems, a lack of support, or the job being different from what they expected. A practical solution to both of these problems is researching opportunities which plays a significant role in receiving an offer and avoiding jobs that may not be a good fit.

The idea of researching opportunities might seem obvious, and yet some people fail to do so. Some reasons include:

  • They think they already know enough. Perhaps the industry, position, or technology is in their “wheelhouse.” The result is they make certain assumptions because they believe they are “experts.”
  • They are overly confident. Confidence is a valuable quality, but it can interfere with pursuing helpful new information.
  • They are too busy. Detailed research on opportunities takes time and effort. This frequently requires setting aside other activities to prioritize the research.
  • They know people in the company or already work for the company (they are applying for a promotion). They believe information from these “internal connections” is all the preparation they need.

The critical point is that there are no good excuses for failing to research a new job opportunity. The same can be said for any significant opportunity in life, including buying a car, home, making significant financial investments, or even considering a long term relationship.

So, what are some of the major categories to review when researching an opportunity? They would include the following.

  • The first area of research would be the potential direct manager. Do they offer clear expectations, appropriate follow-up, and an understanding ear? How do they manage conflict, the rest of their team, their colleagues, or even their manager? Do they offer good mentoring skills and a willingness to help? Are they highly skilled in their field, and would they be willing to share their knowledge to help you be more successful? Do they have your back when you make a dumb mistake and offer you counsel on how to fix it? Do they genuinely care about their direct reports and talk respectfully about them? Did you feel a good connection each time you spoke during the interview process as the information flowed smoothly back and forth?
  • What is the day to day process of the job? Can you see yourself enjoying these activities each day? Every job has certain tedious or challenging parts, and can you handle them and remain motivated and engaged? Can you see yourself learning new skills and knowledge as part of your daily process?
  • How do you plan to grow with this new opportunity? What does growth mean to you; is it money, greater responsibility, new knowledge and skills, or new experiences?
  • How does this next job or promotion fit into your overall career scheme? How can you use it to enhance yourself further, leading to even more growth and opportunity in the future? Can you list four to five reasons for taking this job that will improve your career?
  • Do you understand how you communicate, and will this work well with your new manager or the company’s culture? Do you need lots of feedback and input, or very little because you are highly independent? Do you respond well to constructive input, or are you overly sensitive?
  • What are your expectations when it comes to training? What role do you play in your training versus the training you receive from the company? Do you attempt to learn everything you can, or do you wait until somebody tells you what to do and how to do it? How well do you independently train yourself versus always expecting people to do it for you?
  • Are you in sync with how you like to measure your success versus how the company will measure it? What are the criteria the company uses to monitor your success, and can you accept it? Do you have personal measurements of success beyond what is measured by the company, and can you work on them while working? For example, you might prioritize teamwork or character, and while this might be appreciated, your manager and the company might not emphasize it as much as you do. Instead, their goals may be more bottom-line driven. Are you OK with this?
  • Do you understand the criteria the company is going to use to make their hiring decision? How much of it is based upon performance numbers, previous experience, what companies you worked for, your personality, how you relate to others, or how you manage conflict?
  • Finally, how important is company stability? Do you need a big or small company, and what do you know about their history of going through layoffs or turning over people? Can you handle some risk in your job?

Let me end with a few examples of how company research made a difference in hiring several candidates.

This first candidate had recently finished graduate school and had no industry experience. He noticed an advertisement in Science magazine for a junior level R&D position in a major biotech company. The ad referenced several critical technical terms that he did not understand. However, he took the initiative, looked up each word, and studied its meaning and scientific application. Armed with this information, he submitted his resume and a cover letter that commented on these terms. He received an offer to interview. As he prepared, he wrote out five questions from his research that further probed the interviewer on these technical terms and their applications. The result was he received a job offer over many others with experience. His research identified him as a candidate who could quickly learn and had already developed a basic grasp of the technical knowledge.

A second candidate was trying to get into molecular sales, and he had no exposure to the industry. As part of his research, he called upon numerous potential customers and learned about their interests and the market. One of the customers expressed a strong interest in using the product. The candidate asked this customer if he could have a purchase order for the product and deliver it to the company when he next interviewed in a few days. The company offered him the job right after he showed them the purchase order during the interview.

So, what is your history with the interview process? How much time and effort do you spend on researching an opportunity? What resources do you use, how persistent are you in seeking information, and how do you conclude this new role will be a valuable career step?