Engagement Practice _1: Conduct Realistic Job Previews with Every Job Candidate

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This practice is the most common way of addressing potentially unrealistic

expectations. It involves initiating a frank and open discussion of job activities,

performance expectations, immediate work team, working conditions,

rules and policies, work culture, manager’s style, and the organization’s

financial stability, or other topics where surprises need to be minimized.

Because of the need to sell applicants on the position and the company,

realistic job previews (RJPs) should obviously accentuate the positives, but

not gloss over potential negatives that, when later experienced after hiring,

could cause the new hire to abruptly quit or disengage.

This is a controversial practice among many managers who fear the risk

of scaring off and losing talented candidates. The experience of companies

who have implemented this practice has shown that some candidates will

indeed withdraw when an organization’s ‘‘warts’’ are openly discussed. On

the other hand, candidates who turn out to be good fits for the organization

and culture, tend not to be turned off by RJPs. Rather, in many cases, they

are often actually more motivated to meet the challenge head on.

For example, GeoAccess, a Kansas City company, makes sure that all

job applicants are made aware of the way people communicate in the company’s

fast-paced culture. It’s a style of interacting that is direct, frank,

spontaneous, and sometimes blunt. In meetings, coworkers give one another

feedback that is honest, but may hurt. The company’s human resource

director, Greg Addison, wants to make sure that job applicants are

made aware of this aspect of the company’s culture. ‘‘Many companies

don’t understand their own culture,’’ he says, ‘‘so they select misfits.’’

If you do lose candidates by divulging the truth about the job or workplace,

then you probably would have lost them anyway within the first few

months on the job. By discussing the truth up front, and allowing candidates

to opt out, you have actually saved the cost of having to replace and

retrain.

Some managers even go so far as to mention former employees who

quit or were terminated because they could not adapt to a particular aspect

of a challenging job, some working condition, or the company’s culture.

Two important caution about conducting realistic job previews: First,

before opening the company’s kimono and showing its warts, interviewers

should be trained to first ask the candidates about their expectations. Often,

in listening to their answers, it is only too obvious that they would not fit

the job or the culture, and you can save yourself the necessity of revealing

the bad and the ugly to them. Second, be careful how you describe the

negative aspects. Some hiring managers have been known to go overboard

in describing the negatives, or describe them inaccurately because they

have not personally experienced them. After all, what appears to be a negative

to a hiring manager may actually be seen as a challenge to an applicant.

There is an art to conducting a realistic job preview without having it

turn into a horrifying job preview. For example, it is honest, but not necessarily

alarming, to say:

‘‘You should be aware that there are negotiations going on that could

result in the company being acquired. Should that happen, it could mean

significant new career opportunities for many employees. It could also

mean that a few people could lose their positions. Your position is one that

we do not expect to be adversely affected. For those who might be impacted,

we would provide career transition services to help them land on

their feet in a new position.’’

On the other hand, interviewees would most likely be frightened off if

you said, ‘‘You should be aware that our company might be acquired, in

which case your job could be eliminated. There are no guarantees.’’ Whatever

is said in realistic job previews should definitely be approved at higher

levels, so that managers are all delivering basically the same message in the

best possible way.

To strengthen the RJP process, it is strongly recommended that organi-

zations faithfully conduct exit interviews or exit surveys that allow departed

employees to make comments. By analyzing exit comments, you can

quickly determine what issues have been glossed over, over-promised, undelivered,

and misunderstood. These are the issues that need to be more

openly discussed during the pre-employment period.