[This is a Guest Blog from Robin Zaragoza. Follow Robin on Twitter: @BstnMelody)
Searching for a job is fun! I relish the opportunity to be put on the spot and asked to prove myself to a bunch of people I don’t know yet. I especially enjoy this when I’m not even sure if I’m interested in the company with which I’m interviewing!
Ok, maybe not. I actually find job interviewing to be somewhat stressful – kind of like the first day of school. There is an underlying excitement at the possibility of discovering something wonderful, but mostly I wonder, “Will they like me?”
Now isn’t that a surprise? I wonder “Will they like me?” not “Will they think I’m qualified?” I thought long and hard on why this might be, and at the end of the day I believe this to be a reflection of what I value in a company. I want to work with people I enjoy being around. Sure, I would *also* like to work with people that are ridiculously intelligent and can teach me the world over. But if we don’t have a good working relationship and I don’t enjoy spending time with you, I’m going to find it very hard to be effective in my job.
This week I interviewed with a company that on paper looks great. They fit my criteria: consumer web company, soon to be profitable, very supportive investors. The founding team has already had a major success with a previous company. The product itself is very compelling and customers seem to love it. The director of the PM team comes from an impressive background. I could go on and on, but you get my point. If this were a dating situation, this company’s profile on Match.com would get tons of hits.
But it’s not just about what’s on paper. That first impression matters. Without getting into details, one of the interviewers asked me to solve a trivia question. I certainly understand the purpose of relevant trivia questions, but I felt the exercise could not be used to draw any meaningful conclusions about my ability to be an effective product manager, nor could it be used to estimate my “fit” with the company.
But my opinion about the trivia question is neither here nor there. The main point here is that the interviewer asked a question that he thought was relevant, while I simultaneously thought the question was irrelevant. So what conclusion can I draw from this? This is possibly someone with whom I do not share common values, and likely would not enjoy working with. I certainly expect workplace diversity and disagreement at times, but if common values are not present, then we’ll never get to a common solution. And if I feel that way about one person at the company, perhaps I would feel that way about others.
There were other signs that perhaps this was not the right opportunity for me, so I don’t want you to think I have made up my mind based on a trivia question. What I am ultimately trying to convey is the importance of knowing your lines and drawing them when you have to. When looking for a new job opportunity, consciously decide what you value in an employer and potential colleagues and make sure you stay true to those values. Don’t ignore your “gut” if you walk out of a job interview and you’re just not feeling good. Trying to rationalize yourself into a situation – even in a poor economy when its more difficult to turn down a job offer – can ultimately lead to a bad situation in the future. I know…I’ve been there.
So what do you value in a company?