The least wanted list

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Law enforcement agencies have their most wanted lists. What job seekers want to avoid at all cost is being placed on a least wanted list. They do exist, if not in print then certainly in the consciousness of jilted employers and burned executive recruiters.

In my 15 years of experience interviewing and evaluating candidates for executive and other management positions, there are five areas of behavior that I’ve learned can put an individual at high risk of being considered least wanted.

Renege on the deal

People who have gone through a job interview process understand that it is indeed a process. The employer must assess fit and the candidate also has every right to ask questions and seek information to be certain the job is the right move professionally and personally.

Reneging on the deal is not about withdrawing from the process after the first interview. As the phrase suggests, a deal has to be made to be reneged upon. In this case, an agreement has been reached; the job offer made and accepted; an employment start-date set; and handshakes and congratulations have been passed all around. And then the successful candidate changes his or her mind after signing on the bottom line. I have seen this happen as late as the day prior to reporting to the new job.

While it can be argued that it is preferable to have the successful candidate make this decision a day or so before starting the new job rather than weeks into it, the consequences for the organization are still considerable. The jilted employer has to start the process over and that could require months of additional work and resources (time, people, money). The candidate who leaves the employer at the altar will be long remembered and not with fondness. If there is an executive recruiter involved, time is money and extra time will now be required to remedy the situation and make the client happy. Candidates who do this may have good reason for walking away, but they should expect that the price they may have to pay is a damaged reputation.

Be a game player

If the reneger is indecisive, the game player is without integrity. The game player is the candidate who confirms time and time again that he is committed to the process and wants to be the prospective employer’s choice for the job. When the employment offer comes, the game player treats it as he intended to all along: as a bargaining chip to secure a better situation with her current employer.

The game player may feel considerable satisfaction that his current employer now sees his true worth and consequently provides the pay raise or better job title. But to those being used, he is seen as dishonest. I have yet to meet an employer who wants to hire a dishonest employee or a recruiter who is comfortable proposing a candidate who is known to lack integrity.

This tactic also often backfires for the game player with his or her present employer. Once the employer realizes their employee is prepared to shop around for the highest bidder, the employer is not so convinced the employee has a solid future at the organization and their career trajectory tends to falter.

Lacking emotional intelligence

To those who wonder why recruiters don’t call them about job opportunities, conduct an honest self-appraisal of emotional maturity. I can name senior executives who are lauded for great results but they achieve these results at great emotional cost to their fellow executives, their teams, and even the organization's volunteers. The screaming tantrum of the child who doesn’t get his way has no place in the behavior of an adult in a workplace. Too often employees can point to the same child-like immaturity being demonstrated on the job.

The means to getting good results very much matters, especially when the "how" results in high staff turnover, the legal implications of an unhealthy workplace, and possibly breaching human resources standards.

Individuals who have a reputation as abusive supervisors must invest every available moment in changing their behavior. Perpetuating the behavior is only raising the likelihood that employers and recruiters will not come calling, leaving the person in question without a job for a very long time.

Exhibiting poor judgment

Would you recommend to a man that he not wear a tie and jacket to his next job interview? You’d likely say "it depends." If the job is with a trendy firm in graphic design, media, or technology, you might think it prudent to not be overly formal. If the job is with a conservative institution, you may think it wise to dress a little more formally. In any case, your good judgment would suggest that some research is in order to be properly prepared for the interview.

Poor judgment can show itself in so many ways: the individual who wears jeans to an interview; the candidate who insists that the 150 kilometre commute to work every day is welcomed "thinking time" in the car; the job seeker who knows there are yellow, if not red, flags with their past record (e.g., being fired) and pretends they don't exist. Sooner or later, the facts will be found out. In this case, it is better to manage the message in a forthcoming manner than to have the recruiter or human resource manager face embarrassment that they advanced your candidacy only to find late in the process there are some tough issues that have to be explained.

Being ungrateful (or ignoring the Golden Rule)

A good friend who is also a consultant calls this group the users. The people who always want and need you to do something for them, and push you hard if you resist. They want you to help them find a job. They want you to give them advice on what to do next. They want you to make an introduction, share resources, give freely of your time, etc.

Helping other people is usually an act most people are happy to perform and often without expectation of a return. However, when an ungrateful job seeker is asked, genuinely, to help in return, the door is slammed shut and the request ignored.

It will be of no surprise to readers that job seekers who behave this way soon find that the good people they have turned to time and time again is a well that quickly runs dry. Colleagues don't tend to recommend users for better jobs, unless of course they actually want to see them depart the organization as quickly as possible.

In a sector that relies on generous individuals and people who volunteer their talent and passion in careers where challenging issues depend upon colleagues to share their experiences and resources, it is the individual known to be supportive, responsive, and generous who will receive appreciation and recommendations. These are the staff whom employers value and whom recruiters seek, the volunteers whom organizations ask to lead and to whom members provide accolades.

Content is © Jack Shand and is reprinted with permission.

Jack Shand, CMC, CAE, is president of Leader Quest, a management consulting firm providing expert advice to not-for-profit organizations since 1997. Leader Quest specializes in executive search/staff recruitment, strategic planning, governance, and organizational reviews. Jack can be reached at 905-842-3845 and 1-877-929-4473, or jack-at-leaderquest-dot-com.

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