‘ If somebody offers you an amazing opportunity but you are not sure you can do it, say yes – then learn how to do it later!’ – Richard Branson

A number of years ago, I had an interview for a new Sales job in the IT sector. In the run up to Y2K, IT jobs were all the rage in Dublin and I figured that’s where the money was, so I had to get into that space. Chasing the money was my first (and sadly not my last) mistake and I was somewhat dazzled by $$$ signs, focusing on salary and not on the job, the sector or the culture.

After a couple of interviews with the company and following a successful meeting with the Managing Director, I was offered the position of Sales Executive and was excited to be moving into a new role in what appeared to be the epicentre of all that was cool and happening in the world of work. My job was to sell a new cloud based technology to the Print Industry – cloud technology was very much in it’s infancy at that point and the sales pitch was sufficiently fresh and novel to attract some attention. In my enthusiasm for this new role, I decided to pursue a web design training course which in hindsight was about as useful as pyjamas to a cat, but I suppose I did learn some useful tidbits about basic coding in XML and HTML which I very quickly forgot and never used subsequently.

Despite sailing through the interview process, impressing my new employers with my sales abilities and previous experience, I began to have some doubts before I started about the role. Again this was a warning sign in hindsight, but I put it down to nerves and tried to push the negative voices as far down deep inside me as possible. Instead of stopping to thoroughly examine why I was feeling that way, I ignored it and ploughed on. Once training and induction commenced, I was sure I’d be fine. Instead, what I quickly discovered was that I had little or no interest in IT, had zero passion for the cloud based technology product I was supposed to be selling and inevitably sucked at the job. I lost my belief that I could do this and began to form an idea that my peers and my bosses didn’t rate or respect me and my confidence began to flutter away.

From a point a few short weeks earlier where I had confidently batted each and every interview question and sales scenario out of the ball park, I was now fumbling my way through the job and the worst part was, I knew I was failing fast. The harder I tried, the more confused and disillusioned I became. Inevitably things came to a head one day and following a conversation with my boss, we agreed that it would be mutually beneficial for us to “consciously uncouple” and I set off to find my way back to a happier more fulfilling role, which thankfully materialized, but it took some time.

The key point of the story I’m relating above is that after nearly twenty years, I can now safely and confidently pinpoint where it all started to disintegrate and I can admit that it was my attitude that triggered my downfall. Zig Ziglar’s quote about “Your attitude not your aptitude determining your altitude” was very apt and when I think about my attitude prior to actually getting offered the job, it was totally wrong. Infused with the arrogance of youth, I thought I was smarter than your average Sales Exec. I thought that this job would be a piece of cake and I figured that whatever I didn’t know I could quickly learn. Besides there were tonnes of people at that point getting into the IT space, so why not me? Once my initial confidence and enthusisam began to melt away in the white heat of the day to day job, I quickly lost my ability to rationalise and logically work my way through the challenges that presented, instead blaming everything and anything around me – except myself. I should have done my research before getting into the role and figured out what I actually wanted from a new job as opposed to what I thought I wanted which was a better salary.

The best thing about having an experience like this early in my career is that I can fully appreciate now the warning signs when I see them. More especially when I see and hear alarm bells ringing in my day to day interactions with candidates. Having secured several hundred offers during 17 years as a recruiter, I’m acutely aware of candidates attitudes, in particular those who demonstrate a positive attitude but equally who maintain this disposition throughout the interview process. It’s easy to be upbeat and excited about a job when it’s theoretical, what’s more interesting from a human behaviour perspective is how upbeat the candidate is once the job becomes a reality – their reality. Does the sizzle match the steak?

I tell my candidates that I can’t do the interviews (or the jobs) for them but I’ll gladly give them a warts and all description of the role, the company and sometimes the person they’ll be meeting. Bottom line is I want my candidates going into a new job/company with their eyes wide open, unlike mine 20 odd years ago. I prefer to give them the benefit of my experience and know-how to successfully navigate their way through the interview and induction process, thus avoiding the pitfalls and mistakes I’ve made along the way.

From an employer perspective, I tell my clients that I won’t always provide them with the finished article in terms of experience or ability to do the job required, but they will get the right attitude 100% of the time. I spend a lot of time vetting prospective talent for my open roles and pipelined opportunities and I’m always testing their attitudes and revisiting these scenario based questions at every stage along the way. By interviewing a Campbell Rochford candidate, I know that the employer will meet a potential hire with the best attitude in the market and that is the hallmark of our brand. Its inherent in our mission statement – “Turning Good To Great”. I believe that a Good Attitude can be improved to Great but a bad attitude requires a lot more work, sadly something that not a lot of employers have the time or patience to suffer and ultimately it’s the candidate themselves who pay the price.

So if you have an interview coming up for a new job and you’re unsure about the role/company, firstly do your research, check out the online and offline information you can source and speak with people you trust. More importantly, check that your career goals are in alignment with those of the company and that this job will take you where you want to be. If it’s not, don’t ignore that alarm bell because any misalignment is a recipe for disaster. Trust me, I know what I’m talking about.

To discuss your next career move or for a confidential discussion about your options, contact Gerard Quinlivan today on 01-9065116 or email [email protected]

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