Dating and hiring have a lot in common. — Scott Wintrip
The job hunt can be brutal. No question about that.
It’s not just the methodology that grinds a person down.
The drawn-out process of interview rounds, “informal” (but graded) chats, and tasks which leave you realising you just wrote someone’s marketing strategy for the quarter.
Yes, this requires steel-like patience and resilience, but listen, that’s the modern condition. Needs must. Nothing wrong with humbling yourself.
The real torture, however, lies in your final decision to take the leap, after months on the sofa, or doing hustle jobs to pay the bills. Once a concrete offer presents itself you should just say YES, YES OH GOD YES. Surely. I mean, you did apply.
Spoiler alert: No.
We’ve all been burnt in jobs. Desperate as we are to have some stability in our lives, picking the wrong job can consign you to months, even years, of stress, regret and awkward disentangling.
In my career I’ve had some great jobs, some poke-me-in-the-eye-this-is-dull situations, the intense experience of being a founder, and worked in a dystopian environment or two.
Now, I’ve found peace and passion at London-based startup HomeHero, an unlikely paramour, who had me at hello.
I find myself in a situation where my work and team energise me. They’re not my family, I just really like them. I’m also presented with a CEO who is the mentor I was looking for in my own founder journey, a stoical, thoughtful guy who raises, educates and inspires the team at every turn. Because he gives a…
It’s great — but it’s bittersweet.
I’m happier and more productive than ever but it’s taken me a decade to get here and a lot of wrong turns. I wonder if there might have been shortcuts, signs to read and advice to take, that would have gotten me here sooner.
On reflection, a lot of job compatibility can be figured out in the job interview. But because of the power imbalance inherent in them, it can be hard to be analytical when you just want a job.
So, in the wake of reflecting at leisure on a decade of interviews — and an incredibly telling one at HomeHero — I’ve identified a few Warning vs Warming Signs in the interview process. Good luck.
Warning Sign — You speak for less than 10% of the interview.
Richard Branson said “Hiring the right people takes time, the right questions and a healthy dose of curiosity”. Not all companies have the luxury of time but what you should be looking out for in an interview is a genuine bit of probing for the person behind the CV.
In the startup world I’ve seen a lot of “raving fan of the product” interviewers who love the sound of their blue sky mission (note: not the day-to-day reality) when they hear it out loud. The interview serves more as a pep talk for themselves. Often at the detriment of grilling you.
I’ve sat down to 60-minute interviews where the interviewer simply downloads the history of the business and their lofty ambitions, then remembers 50 minutes later to throw a question your way. If the only questions are “What do you know about us? and “Any questions?” you may be in the presence of a business who think picking a cultural fit is making a snap decision based on simply your vibe.
It’s possible this business are all blag, no strategy, and just need to fill this position fast. So they use confirmation bias to seek out reasons to like your presence, and make it fit. They made their decision in the first few seconds, then pad out the interview, a sweet moment of respite from an awful day.
Ask yourself honestly, does this fill you with confidence? Dig deep.
Warming Sign — You are interviewed by more than one person in the first round.
“You need to have a collaborative hiring process.” — Steve Jobs
Investing in people isn’t just spending money on a recruiter. It’s investing time — and people — into the interview process. A company with a logical head on its shoulders realises the danger of subjectivity when it comes to the interview process, and the need to counteract that by having a few opinions in one room. Startups can be stretched for time and resource but HomeHero rolled out several pairs of interviewers, who had clearly been briefed on my CV and had prepared specific and challengeable questions. My final round was to meet the whole team and then decide if I wanted to commit, painting a full picture before making a decision. It was an adult agreement between a person and company about whether we were comfortable starting a relationship. In isolation you can charm or convince yourself into a job. But when you experience group dynamics and interviews from more than four team members, it feels like the decision is as much yours as it is theirs. Empowering.
Warning Sign — The Founder.
You don’t have to love your boss, but it helps immeasurably if you respect them. Unfortunately it’s not possible to insist on meeting with the founder of every startup you apply for but it is good to do some research on what they are like — as a leader, as a person. If you’re going to be working with them, it’s good to try and establish what the dynamic might be (and how big the ego) in the interview process. How are they spoken about on Glassdoor? Do they look you in the eye when they speak to you or are they on their phones? How do they speak to their PA (massive warning sign)? Do they arrive on time or do they leave you waiting for 45 minutes without apology? The CEO at HomeHero was perhaps 2 minutes late for our interview, apologising by assuring me that his time was no more important than mine. This was new. Culture really does come from the top so if you’re entering a company still in its early stages, it really helps to try and establish what that top dog is like before moving forward.
Warming Sign — They Don’t Paint a Rosy Picture.
I’ve had two fantastic jobs where the person hiring me tried to talk me out of the role. In both cases, the last round of the interview process involved a thorough dressing-down of my positive assumptions about the company. It’s really easy — and natural — for companies to paint a rosy picture, especially when the carrot that keeps you in a hard hustle job are the ambitions of the company. If you’re employee number nine in a company that promises to be as big as Uber/Deliveroo/Whatever, that enthusiasm tends to come out in the interview. However. What you need to look for is grounding. Someone who points out the bad bits of the role, the things perhaps other newbies have struggled with, the parts of the culture that you can’t predict but are vital to know. It shows a real respect for the notion that this could be a long term relationship with highs and lows. After all, don’t you need to see a few flaws in a romantic partner before you move in with them? The same goes for a new company.
Good luck with your search.
HomeHero is a digital home manager, taking care of your chores, bills, maintenance and admin, to free up your time for what matters most.