Monday, April 30, 2012

Elevate Your Screening for Career Satisfaction

We are in a constant state of screening.

Whether it's that person we just met, the new TV show that debuted, an album from a band you recently heard of, a product that will your life: all of these things have to go through an internal set of filters before you give them the internal "thumbs up." Screening helps us feel comfortable about our decisions and ensures that there is a fit between our values and what's being offered to us.

Employers screen their candidates for the same reason. They are looking for something (knowledge, skills, abilities, attitudes, ethics, etc) and you are offering them something. How well what you offer meets their needs is the magic question.

Desperate job candidates feel honored that they are given an opportunity to interview and they screen at a much lower level than they would if they weren't desperate. This is a recipe for career disaster. No matter how badly they want or need the job, critical screening is essential to ensure that it's going to be the right one. Strengthen your screening process by focusing on the following areas:

Requirements: Screen the requirements of the position by carefully reading the job description and parsing out any words or items that you don't understand. Ask about these in the interview. For example, what does it mean when a company requires that you "supervise functions of accounts payable"? Are you overseeing employees or just the operations of accounts payable? The differences could significantly impact your career, so getting clear on what it means is essential.

Culture: This is a tricky one, as it is hard to screen culture without being in it. However, it's not impossible if you ask the right questions...specific questions. Focus in on the aspects of the culture that are important to you and ask pointed questions about them, from the work hours and vacations to interdepartmental collaboration and supervisor meetings. If possible, talk with other employees (particularly ones in your role) to get a first-hand view of the company's culture.

Benefits: Screening around benefits means to ask questions about 401k, insurance, vacation time, sick time, or any other benefit that the company offers. A comprehensive health insurance plan may not mean as much to you as instant vetting in a 401k. Be thorough in your screening here.

The Extras: Finally, ask questions around those "extra" things that you may take for granted in a position. Will you have an office or a cubicle? What kind of computer is provided? Are you offered any kind of administrative support? Put yourself in the frame of mind of the position and what you believe is included and ask about it...what you learn may surprise you.

Job candidates do themselves no favors by surrendering their power and not screening thoroughly. To ensure a strong fit between you and the organization, be discriminate and comprehensive in what you ask.

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