Organizational change has three dimensions: (1) what’s to be changed (2) what’s to be left alone and (3) touch this and you will surely die.
Job interviews tend to focus only on what’s to be changed while ignoring the other dimensions. By bringing up all three dimensions during the interview process, you not only increase your chances of getting hired, you also make sure that once you’re on the job, you’ve set yourself up to succeed.
Once you’re in the semi-final or final round in the hiring cycle and you’re talking with the hiring authority, we recommend that you ask the following three questions:
- What does the organization want to see changed over the next 12-18 months? Within this broad category, ask sub-questions about processes, technology, and company culture.
- What does the organization wish to preserve over the next 12-18 months? Again, ask about processes, technology, culture. Listen carefully to the responses for each, with an ear towards sorting the back-burner issues from “what makes us special” factors. If you don’t get a clear sense between what is “back burner” versus what “makes us special,” ask for clarity.
- What does the organization wish to avoid at all costs over the next 12-18 months? Every organization has its sacred cows. You may be told “There are no sacred cows. You will have carte blanche to change things as you see fit.” You should interpret that statement as, “We are not yet comfortable enough with you to discuss this issue. But we appreciate that you recognize it as an issue.”
Don’t necessarily view an interviewer’s reluctance to discuss the three dimensions of change as a red flag. Hiring authorities may hesitate to get into the issues for any number of reasons. Sometimes it is lack of training in looking at change from three dimensions, sometimes it is desire to limit discussion of problems with outsiders, and sometimes it is simply employers’ lack of skill in conducting job interviews.
After the interview, send a letter to the hiring authority outlining how you would handle the first two weeks of employment based on your understanding of the three dimensions of change you learned about in the interview. Put in capital letters “DRAFT FOR DISCUSSION PURPOSES” at the top of your report. You should stress that this is not a rigid plan. Its only purpose is to provide the hiring authority more information about how you would carefully approach the issue of change management.
Give your plan a time frame. Above, we used a time frame of 12-18 months. This is arbitrary on our part. Every industry has its own unique time frame. Higher education comfortably thinks in terms of 24-48 months, while venture backed companies might think in terms of six to twelve months. Defense companies can easily think in terms of 24-64 months. Target your time frame to your industry.
Remember that at this stage, you do not have to convince the hiring authority that you are technically qualified to do the job. You would not have gotten this far into the employment cycle if those concerns were still present. But your interviewer does have some concerns, and knowing what they’re worried about will increase your chances of being hired.
At the semi-final phase of the hiring process, there are two sources of risk for hiring authorities: failure to hire the best candidate and hiring a jerk.
Of the two, failing to hire the best candidate is the lesser risk. So there was a better qualified candidate in the pool and she either turned down the job offer or failed to impress the hiring authority. Too bad. Such failures don’t put the enterprise in jeopardy: the hiring authority will usually find a “qualified enough” substitute. This failure is known to the hiring authority and to the recruiter. Beyond that, nobody else probably knows about it.
Hiring a jerk is a much bigger risk. Hiring a jerk is a public act. Jerks can put the enterprise in jeopardy. They can drive away other talented people simply by being annoying, unlikable, or small-minded. Their personal limitations can prevent them from being able to drive the changes the company needs. If a hiring manager makes a mistake and brings a jerk aboard, everyone will know.
Every hiring authority has a horror story about having hired jerks, but hiring one jerk every few years something that can be forgiven. Developing a reputation as someone who can be counted upon to hire jerks is career ending.
But asking the three questions above, and following up with a thoughtful, careful plan that takes people, processes, and technology into account, is an effective way to convince hiring authorities to relax: you are not a jerk! You’ll also be more likely to end up in a role where you can have a real impact — which is, after all, why you wanted to be a change-agent in the first place
Source: Harvard Business Review