Don't Make Strategic Decisions Using Tactical Information

Too many candidates overvalue the short-term benefits of a job change with full knowledge of the long-term consequences. A wrong guess can quickly lead to underperformance, dissatisfaction and turnover - aka: Job-hunting Syndrome.

I was talking with the CEO and COO of one of our client companies about how Performance-based Hiring can be used to improve hiring manager and candidate decision-making when making a job offer. To start I drew a crude version of this graph on their whiteboard.

I said that candidates leave jobs for the reasons in the bottom half of the grid and accept them for the reasons in the top half. These reasons can be divided into the short-term extrinsic factors on the left and the long-term intrinsic factors on the right.

Since the entire senior management team had just attended our Performance-based Hiring workshop they were familiar with the work history review process we recommend. As part of this we ask candidates why they changed jobs and if they got what they were seeking at the new job. After doing this for 2-3 job changes a pattern often emerges about why candidates leave jobs and the criteria they use to accept offers.

The reasons for leaving are usually some mix of either the Daily Grind criteria in the lower left or the Going Nowhere criteria in the bottom right. Unfortunately, all too often the reasons for accepting the new job emphasize what the person will be getting on the day he/she starts in the upper left instead of the actual work and the long-term career opportunity criteria represented by the upper right quadrant.

While candidates always say they left for the career opportunity, too often the realities of the new job were poorly understood when it was accepted. As a result disappointment sets in quickly, resulting in under-performance, dissatisfaction and unnecessary turnover. To break this vicious cycle, aka "Job Hopping Syndrome," companies need to make sure that the realities of the new job are fully understood by the hiring manager, the recruiter and the candidate before offering the person the job.

This starts by first defining the actual job as a series of performance objectives rather than a list of the skills needed to do the job and a generic summary of the duties and responsibilities. As important, hiring managers, recruiters and candidates must carefully evaluate the long-term opportunity inherent in the new job if the person achieves these performance objectives. The video describes this process more fully.

This story from long ago describes the importance of this concept.

One of my candidates for a plant manager position told me he was accepting a competitive offer since the money was better (5%), the location was closer (15 minutes) and the title was better (VP Manufacturing vs. Plant Manager). However, as I asked more about the other job I discovered it was with an old-line manufacturing firm versus working in a modern high-volume electronics company using state-of-the-art robotic assembly techniques. I then made these two statements:

  • Time is your most valuable asset. What you do in the next 2-3 years will affect the next 5-10 years of your career.
  • Don't make long-term strategic decisions using short-term tactical information.

Using an earlier version of the decision grid I went on to explain that his criteria for accepting the VP manufacturing job overvalued the short-term benefits (the criteria in the upper left) and totally ignored the long-term consequences (the criteria in the upper right). Since he hadn't accepted the other offer yet, I told him to think about his decision overnight and call me in the morning.

He did.

He called me the next morning and thanked me for a sleepless night (the effects of pre-buyer's remorse) and accepted my client's offer. Nine months later he called and profusely thanked me for intervening nine months earlier. He told me he was just promoted to the VP Operations over 3 plants.

The big point for everyone: Don't make long-term decisions about anything important using short-term information.