Taking on a job that exceeds your capabilities is a recipe for “brief employment”

Nick-KossovanAfter not being “a fit,” employees are most often terminated for not meeting the expectations of their position.

When offered a job, the cliche advice is to evaluate:

  • Salary
  • Benefits
  • Working hours
  • Commuting distance
  • Opportunities for career advancement

These focus on you … wrong approach!

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Your top priority should be knowing and evaluating the employer’s expectations against your skills, aptitude, and energy level. In other words, before focusing on whether the employer can meet your needs and wants, focus on whether you can meet the employer’s needs. Think of it as John F. Kennedy’s maxim when he said during his inaugural address on January 20, 1961, “Ask not what your country can do for you – ask what you can do for your country.”

Compensation, benefits, and career advancement are meaningless if you fail to meet expectations. Be honest about your capabilities, experience, professionalism, and capacity to handle stress from being held accountable. (READ: Don’t lie to yourself.) Taking on a job that exceeds your capabilities is a recipe for “brief employment.”

The best way to set yourself up for success at your new job and have fewer surprises is to know what’ll be expected of you.

By now, you’re probably aware of Brittany Pietsch, the 27-year-old Cloudflare account executive who infamously filmed herself being let go after three and a half months due to not meeting expectations. (I’m taking Cloudfare’s HR words at face value.) It’s painful to watch as she tries to direct the conversation, attempting to orchestrate a “GOTCHA!” moment so she can gain Internet fame, clicks, and likes.

If you haven’t seen Brittany’s video, you can view it here.

Brittany took on a sales role. Every sales role has one deciding metric: Number of sales. Brittany admits she had yet to make a sale. No sales = No value to the company. She goes on to say that she’s had “good meetings with my manager” and has been “working really hard.” In sales, these are not metrics of success.

The language of business is numbers! It’s critical to be clear about the expectations of the job you’re interviewing for, such as targets and goals and the timeframes you’re expected to achieve them within.

  • Sales quota (weekly, monthly, quarterly)
  • Net promoter score (NPS)
  • Number of calls (outbound, inbound)
  • Number of units produced
  • Average handle time, average talk time, first-call resolution
  • Order picking accuracy
  • Customer satisfaction score (CSAT)
  • Number of new followers, click-through rate, ad clicks, cost per click, page likes.
  • Days payable outstanding (DPO)
  • Time to hire

There isn’t a job that doesn’t have, or can’t have, any success metrics attached to it. At any given time, you should know what your employer is measuring you against (key performance indicators, benchmarks) and your current productivity stats.

Though I don’t know Cloudflare’s hiring process or how Brittany was onboarded, she took on a sales role that, like all sales roles, was 100 percent performance-metric-driven, which she shouldn’t have. Not everyone is cut out for sales. More and more job seekers, desperate to get hired, are accepting jobs without fully understanding what the job involves and what they’ll be held accountable for.

The next time you find yourself in an interview, make it a point to delve into the expectations of the job by asking the following questions:

  • “How is success measured in this role? How often?” (You want numbers!)
  • “What should be the immediate priorities for me in this role?”
  • “What reports or dashboards will be available to me? Will I receive them daily, weekly or monthly?”
  • “How often are performance reviews conducted?”
  • “Can you provide me with an example of someone who wasn’t meeting expectations and got themselves back on track? What did they do?”
  • My favourite: “Please walk me through your management style. How will you manage me?”

When formulating your expectation questions, think: How much? How high? How low? Increase by how much? Save by how much? Within what range?

Ask about benchmarks and KPIs. Know deadlines. (e.g., You must submit the company’s 450 employee payroll no later than 2:00 PM every Tuesday.) Don’t rely solely on the job description, which most likely had vague expectations such as “meet monthly sales quota,” “or increase social media engagement.” You want to know that your monthly sales quota, as a pharmaceutical rep for the territory you’d be assigned to, is $65K or as the company’s social media manager, the expectation is to increase social media engagement – you’ll also want to define how the company defines “engagement” – across all five of the company’s social media accounts by 25 percent before the year’s end.

It’s pointless to take on a job if you feel you will not be able to deliver. When asking my above-mentioned discovery questions, I keep reminding myself of the adage, “Forewarned is forearmed.” The last thing I want to say to my boss when discussing my performance is, “I didn’t know.”

As the global economy continues its surreal rollercoaster ride, understandably, companies are expecting more from their employees. Knowing and assessing the performance expectations of the job you’re interviewing for is essential to avoiding expectations mismatch.

Nick Kossovan, a well-seasoned veteran of the corporate landscape, offers advice on searching for a job.

For interview requests, click here.


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