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I sometimes wonder if recruiters need to be trained psychologists.

I often deal with complex people issues.  So often in conversations, candidates share big fears, concerns and insecurities that they have in the work environment.  They share things like they don’t feel like they can ever achieve success, they are scared about being honest in the interview process for fear of not being accepted, or they believe the hiring company will conduct layoffs in the future and unfairly fire them.

I refer to all of this as “head trash” – it’s the voice in our head that convinces us that we are right in our thinking, even when we very well could be wrong.  We use anecdotal data or general fear to support our views and have built strong mental muscles to defend this thinking.  Sometimes the fears do come to fruition, so I’m not suggesting candidates ignore the risks of making a career change.  But it’s crucial for candidates to recognize that not all of their thoughts are grounded in reality.

Last year, I interviewed a candidate for a VP position similar in scope to his current Director role.  His employer was larger than the company I was representing, explaining the differences in title.  The candidate was very excited about the opportunity I was representing as it offered a more entrepreneurial platform, faster career growth, higher pay, and the chance to directly impact the growth of a function.  My client was also excited and moved quickly to set-up the first video interview.  But the candidate pulled out of the process before the first discussion even occurred.

I was certainly understanding and respectful of the candidate’s decision to pull out of the process but wanted to understand his decision not to investigate the opportunity further.   He shared with me that he felt the role was “too senior”.  He explained that VPs at his company were the one’s driving employees to work harder and longer hours.  The VP title carried an expectation that the individual was an expert in the function.  The candidate explained that he felt like an imposter in his current role, wasn’t ready for increased performance expectations in a new role, and wasn’t ready to drive people to work excessive hours.

I was gobsmacked with what he shared – mainly because my client wasn’t expecting those things that he was using as a basis to opt out.  My client has great Glassdoor reviews and market leading retention rates, mainly due to their strong work/life balance.  Where did the candidate get all these thoughts from?

As is my style, I didn’t challenge him, suspecting other factors influenced his decision – maybe he wasn’t too excited about the prospects of a change, maybe he was going through some personal issues, or maybe he was waiting on a promotion with his current company.  But based on what he shared, I wonder if he talked himself out of a great role due to some powerful head trash. If so, it’s sad he wasn’t able to explore the role further.

Hire Thought:  Ask yourself “what mental barriers do I need to overcome in order to achieve my ideal role?  Am I an imposter? Have I concluded a great company wouldn’t hire me? Am I certain I can’t change my career path?”  Ultimately, there are potentially huge benefits to questioning your concerns and fears.   There are great resources available; Byron Katie, Eckhart Tolle, Tara Brach, mindfulness, etc. – all help people challenge their current thinking.  Whatever course of action you choose, the endgame is making clear, thoughtful decisions.

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