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Dealing with Jealousy When Networking and Interviewing  

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MDM
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January 19, 2017 10:46 pm  

You can sell yourself well, have all the requisite skills, be a good fit for the group, and check most of the boxes but a hiring manager may not feel too enthusiastic if they feel that the position they are trying to fill is not your ideal choice or if you are going to use that as a short-term stepping stone and bolt as soon as a better opportunity arises. It takes time and money to go through interviewing candidates and bring them on site. Then you have to invest time on training a new hire, either on technical skills or just on how things work in that department or both. If I've had a lot of turnover in my department in a certain position for whatever various reasons in the past, I might be inclined to hire someone that I feel is going to provide me some long-term stability, even if I have to put in a little more effort up front in training. The stability might be a little more important than filling an immediate need with a superstar with a high probabability of not staying long. It's like trading for a superstar in the middle of the season that is due to become a free agent at the end of season and you have no guarantee they will stay. It depends on the circumstances and the needs of the hiring manager and what compromises they are willing to make. You sounded more interested in working with the VP rather than the director. Maybe the director got this sense and is worried you might bolt once the VP has a position open. Working on hiring someone new is a major distraction from all of the other activities you need to get done. Some places have very rigid application procedures and don't get too excited about talking to candidates unless you've gone through all the hoops to demonstrate you really are interested in the position. I've had resumes sent to me before from other colleagues for candidates that they thought I might be interested in hiring. They might be perfectly fine, but they might not be quite what I had in mind and I have five other potential candidates that are. Sell yourself as best you can but don't take it personal if you don't get further consideration. You don't know all of what's going on behind the scenes and it may have nothing to do with you. I think it's perfectly reasonable to ask why you weren't chosen and if the hiring manager can provide any constructive feedback to help you.


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Nate W.
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January 19, 2017 11:37 pm  

You can sell yourself well, have all the requisite skills, be a good fit for the group, and check most of the boxes but a hiring manager may not feel too enthusiastic if they feel that the position they are trying to fill is not your ideal choice or if you are going to use that as a short-term stepping stone and bolt as soon as a better opportunity arises. It takes time and money to go through interviewing candidates and bring them on site. Then you have to invest time on training a new hire, either on technical skills or just on how things work in that department or both. If I've had a lot of turnover in my department in a certain position for whatever various reasons in the past, I might be inclined to hire someone that I feel is going to provide me some long-term stability, even if I have to put in a little more effort up front in training. The stability might be a little more important than filling an immediate need with a superstar with a high probabability of not staying long. It's like trading for a superstar in the middle of the season that is due to become a free agent at the end of season and you have no guarantee they will stay. It depends on the circumstances and the needs of the hiring manager and what compromises they are willing to make. You sounded more interested in working with the VP rather than the director. Maybe the director got this sense and is worried you might bolt once the VP has a position open. Working on hiring someone new is a major distraction from all of the other activities you need to get done. Some places have very rigid application procedures and don't get too excited about talking to candidates unless you've gone through all the hoops to demonstrate you really are interested in the position. I've had resumes sent to me before from other colleagues for candidates that they thought I might be interested in hiring. They might be perfectly fine, but they might not be quite what I had in mind and I have five other potential candidates that are. Sell yourself as best you can but don't take it personal if you don't get further consideration. You don't know all of what's going on behind the scenes and it may have nothing to do with you. I think it's perfectly reasonable to ask why you weren't chosen and if the hiring manager can provide any constructive feedback to help you.

Perfectly reasonable. Why not just tell the candidate what you are thinking, like the those responses I provided (1-7) versus the silence. Yes, I think I would be a better fit for the VP given my background, expertise, and age. Also, I sense some feared competition from the director if she hired me; this is a gut feeling but I don't and she will not talk with me openly.


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Nate W.
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January 19, 2017 11:50 pm  

@PG
Wow, is that a real conversation!? That person has seriously impressive/sociopathic phone skills.

@Everyone
I wanted to make a quick comment if that's okay.
#1: I don't think there's anything wrong in getting a final answer from the Director (who is the ultimate Hiring Manager, yes?) if you want some closure. A brief phone call would spare you the thousands of words exchanged here, I think 🙂
You may not get closure for legal reasons, which has been discussed on this board before. But at the very least you can better understand the way things are at this institution.

*****
This situations reminds me of when I have a perfect sale lined up, and then I just lose it, out of nowhere. Whole books have been written about exactly this topic -- a failure to understand the situation, to connect with the players on a deep level.

The director is the hiring manager for several assistant roles but the VP suggested to me that these positions might be "overqualified" given my background. Further, the VP told me that he wanted to consider me for a senior licensing associate which he inferred was in his group. This senior position is not available yet and will probably be advertised soon. This is why I think the VP is more interested in my candidacy than the director. However, I know that once the senior licensing position is available, there will be several licensing associates from the director's group competing for the senior position with the director's full support. I'll stay in contact with the VP and not the director.

I don't know if this means anything by the director's title is acting director; which means this person might be gone soon or her position is a temporary one. Might explain her behavior?


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Dave Jensen
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January 21, 2017 5:29 pm  

Nate, congratulations on posting the single longest post that has ever appeared on our forum. You've provided some excellent thoughts. Generally, the shorter posts are read here, but I think you got a fair amount of traction.

The only area where I would disagree with you is that we've seen far more networking success with the "peer + 2" philosophy -- that is, people of roughly just a year or two ahead of you (or three or four, etc) who can take your networking call for what it is -- an inquiry into what it's like to work in X company, and how that person managed to break through and find employment. All those questions that forum participants have, such as "What's it like on a daily basis to be in Business Development?" or, "What skills were most attractive to the company when you went through the interview process?" and so on. There are no barriers to reaching this level of staff, and they are compensated (sometimes in a very large manner) to share your CV with the hiring manager.

That said, if you can reach a more senior staff member - the VP of Research, for example - it could certainly represent an opportunity as you say to take networking to a different level. I've had people tell me that even reaching out to an H/R person can sometimes be effective -- not in pursuit of one particular position, where the conversation is very directed to "Send me a CV and we'll get back to you", but where the conversation can be more like "What we find attractive in candidates for jobs at the entry level." Questions to HR about culture, about who succeeds and who doesn't (traits and work styles, etc) are good ones to develop, because you'll need them eventually anyway.

Also, reaching out to recruiters is something that falls into the networking category. But it's very difficult, because headhunters are tied to their desks/phone for 12 hours a day working on their assignments, and taking time out to discuss generalities with job seekers is on the bottom of the pile of priorities. Sometimes, reaching out to a recruiter is best done via a referral from someone else -- "Susan, Yash Patel over at XYZ Biotech told me that you've done quite a lot of work with their company and that you are a respected resource. Do you mind taking five minutes for a brief introduction?"

Always happy to see the topic of networking come up on the forum, although I don't think there's much to the topic of "Jealousy" -- that's a very unique personal situation encountered here by few, I would imagine.

Dave

Dave Jensen, Founder and Moderator
Bio Careers Forum


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PG
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January 22, 2017 8:56 pm  

Yes the coversation I wrote actually happened. I dont Think I would have stayed that long on the line if I was the hiring manager.

I cant say that jealousy is never an issue but I Think that it is very rare and that in most cases even when jealousy could be an issue the most frequent explanation is something else. Regardless what the cause is I dont Think there is much you can do about it. If the Company representative doesnt want to work with you as an applicant there is usually very Little you can do.


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Nate W.
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January 24, 2017 12:10 am  

Jealousy

Let me try a different approach:

How many of you would hire someone who you knew was more qualified in terms of educational credentials, quality of research experience, competencies, years of experience, quality of publications, and/or technical skills?

(i.e. you knew they were better than you and/or your equal)

How many of you would hire someone older than you with equal competencies?

Answer these questions honestly. Would you hire the most capable to do the job or would think about the security of your position? The workplace can be a competitive environment where people are positioning themselves for a better opportunity or more compensation. Thus, we would be naïve to think the workplace is free of jealousy and that jealousy doesn't influence hiring decisions.

Here are some examples of workplace jealousy:

1) A Post-doc's paper gets accepted in Nature where he is the first author. Whereas another lab member, a graduate student, has been struggling for years to get his studies to work and published. Rather than be happy for the post-doc, the graduate student starts to mistreat the post-doc, even though the post-docs can probably help him. The graduate student badmouths the post-doc in group meetings and isolates himself further from everyone else. Thus, the graduate student becomes a major disruption to the overall productivity of the lab.

2) A property manager for an apartment complex has been laid-off. So, she looks for a new job by visiting new complexes and asking for help from the available leasing agents. If there was a position for a manager, most agents never referred her contact information to the regional director who oversaw the hiring of property managers. They in some cases destroyed the property manager's business card or resume. Why? Because most of the agents wanted the open property manager position and would eliminate any potential competition.

So what happens when we think about ourselves rather than think objectively about what is best for the company's productivity; we provide lame excuses that doesn't apply to the candidate's background, we don't return phone calls when it is polite to do so, and we use the catch all phrase "it isn't a good fit or he is over-qualified" w/o any objective justification.

I can give you many more examples of this. What I find frustrating is that you can't politely provide a response to a polite request? Is it that painful and such an inconvenience to provide a reply?

Please somebody address this point. Because if someone contacted me with good qualifications and was polite with their request, I would help them or be more inclined to hire them. But to ignore them, maybe I am a nicer person than most. I would at least reply.

You talk about behavioral traits and personality fits yet you aren't willing to talk with prospective candidates who take the initiative to network with managers and express an interest in your company? Really, you can figure that all out by a resume?

The second example is why I say to go to the top and that your peers (or competition) are probably not going to help when networking. Does the hiring manager (HR) care about the leasing agents versus someone who already has experience as a manager? Probably not; why he will probably more likely help the prospective property manager than the leasing agents will.


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RLemert
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January 24, 2017 3:39 am  

Your challenge presents a false dichotomy; it assumes that technical competence is the only requirement that is/should be considered when making a hiring decision. I would certainly be willing to consider hiring someone with greater skills because it would help make me more successful, but not if that person is someone who is going to make me feel ill every time I see him.

I agree that common courtesy suggests providing a response - at least to someone you've actually talked to. There are many reasons why a manager might not do so, however, whether or not you think any of them are "legitimate". Complaining about it is not going to change anything, however, and I feel my time is more wisely spent moving on to other, more fruitful activities.

I would suggest, however, that one reason I (at least) would be less inclined to respond to someone is if they demonstrate a tendency to hold on to an issue beyond reason. Regardless of how many ways you try to rephrase the issue, I sincerely doubt that anyone here is going to tell you "yes, you're absolutely right - that person is a total jerk" - and even if someone did say that, what have you gained?


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PG
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January 24, 2017 5:38 pm  

As for what is most important to me when I hire someone my list of priorities differs based on the type of position that we are talking about but I will give a few examples.

Specialist - highest possible technical skill
Scientist - sufficient technical skill and fit with the rest of the team
Manager - sufficient technical skill and manager skills


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Nate W.
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January 24, 2017 8:59 pm  

Your challenge presents a false dichotomy; it assumes that technical competence is the only requirement that is/should be considered when making a hiring decision. I would certainly be willing to consider hiring someone with greater skills because it would help make me more successful, but not if that person is someone who is going to make me feel ill every time I see him.

I agree that common courtesy suggests providing a response - at least to someone you've actually talked to. There are many reasons why a manager might not do so, however, whether or not you think any of them are "legitimate". Complaining about it is not going to change anything, however, and I feel my time is more wisely spent moving on to other, more fruitful activities.

I would suggest, however, that one reason I (at least) would be less inclined to respond to someone is if they demonstrate a tendency to hold on to an issue beyond reason. Regardless of how many ways you try to rephrase the issue, I sincerely doubt that anyone here is going to tell you "yes, you're absolutely right - that person is a total jerk" - and even if someone did say that, what have you gained?

It is also a false dichotomy to assume most hiring decisions are all about personality. I have colleagues that have great personalities but they would make lousy scientists. Since the company pays an employee to solve problems, not necessarily to be well liked, competencies and expertise have to be considered; otherwise, if it is all about personality, the group becomes a fraternity house or day spa. I have seen this happen and I can tell you my former boss, a CEO and billionaire entrepreneur, cared a lot more about getting the job done well. Results and then relationships; if the relationship soured because of a bad personality and couldn't be worked around, get rid of the individual.

Frankly, I don't want to be hired based solely on personality. I wanted to be hired because my boss respects my talent and expertise first and knows we have a mutual trust for each other. Personality is second in my opinion to this. When someone hires one based entirely on their personality, they are only one argument away from being fired.

What makes me ill is when I spend a considerable amount of time networking (researching companies, findings leads, tailoring resumes, editing cover letters, learning about specific companies, learning about specific areas of research at a company) and my enquiry goes unanswered because someone is unwilling to reply. I try to take it in stride and realize things happen. I know I can't force someone to be polite when they are being unreceptive.

The reason I ask the question and why I persist with the question is because engagement in networking is so important in building trust and getting cooperation. Networking is a two way street that requires a willingness of both sides to listen and respond. Are there ways to improve my response rate?

If nobody responds to an polite enquiry, how far do you persist it in the name of perseverance?

In the past, I had been quite effective with cold calling and emailing using a list of target companies. By phone, I would find out who is in charge of what, what skills managers would like to see, what their background was, talk with investor relations, ask about job leads, get referrals, etc. The reason I did this was because it was far more effective and less time consuming by phone than apply online or emailing someone for a simple question like who in charge of X?

Now when I try this at some companies, I face a lot more obstacles (gatekeepers) and objections than in the past. Some manager, less experienced, can even seem annoyed by the approach and others, often higher up, appreciate the initiative and perseverance. So when you get a non-responder do you persist and for how long?


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PACN
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January 24, 2017 9:11 pm  

I don't think age matters, certainly not a matter of a few years. I think that is a red herring.

It seems to me that you are ignoring a more likely possibility. You appear to be comparing yourself to the director and saying you have more experience, are better qualified, etc., but you are asking about applying for a job under her. Yes, I would be concerned about hiring someone to work for me under those conditions, but not out of jealousy or concern for my own job or those of my friends. My major concern would be that you are already preparing to jump ship. You don't seem to actually want the job under this director-- you want the higher level job. She may be aware of this through her conversations with the VP. Why would she want to hire you, knowing that as soon as another position opens up, you'll leave her group and she'll have to hire again? From her point of view, it makes more sense to have you go straight for the job you want and for her to hire someone who will be a good fit for and happy in the role she has to offer. It's not necessarily who is the best qualified to perform the role on day 1.

Of course jealousy happens in the work place. Some people are more successful than others. Some get promoted and others don't. I don't think anyone is suggesting you should be networking with people that you are competing for the job opening with. You should be networking with the people who already have the job you want. Your property manager should be networking with other property managers, not leasing agents. That's more like peer -2.

Replies are always polite. They don't always happen, and sometimes we have to let it go.


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RSD
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January 24, 2017 10:20 pm  

Frankly, I don't want to hired based solely on personality. I wanted to be hired because my boss respects my talent and expertise first and knows we have a mutual trust for each other. Personality is second in my opinion to this. When someone hires one based entirely on their personality, they are only one argument away from being fired.

1. Nobody is going to hire strictly based on personality, but you can't pretend that workplace culture doesn't matter. Culture is HUGE, and new hires need to fit.

2. There are almost unlimited of reasons why the hiring manager may prefer not to hire you, all of which are completely, 100% UN-knowable to you. Time to move on to the next opportunity.


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RLemert
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January 25, 2017 2:44 am  

It is also a false dichotomy to assume most hiring decisions are all about personality. I have colleagues that have great personalities but they would make lousy scientists.

Where do you get the idea that hiring decisions are "all about personality", and that technical competence doesn't come into play? No one here that I'm aware of has suggested anything like that. What we are saying is that once a minimum competency has been identified or demonstrated, personality and "fit" become some of the key parameters hiring managers use to differentiate between candidates.

Furthermore, despite all the glorious claims that "we seek the best and brightest", that is generally not true. There are situations where this is the case, but all the hiring manager really wants is for the job to get done with a minimum amount of pain.

I think academia, to a large extent, sets a false expectations in its graduate students. They see certain professors getting all the grant money in their field and all the top publications (and establishing research centers and ...), and they all-too-frequently see institutions turning a blind eye toward some total jerks (to be polite), and they think the world is a meritocracy.

It isn't.


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Nate W.
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January 25, 2017 4:58 am  

It seems to me that you are ignoring a more likely possibility. You appear to be comparing yourself to the director and saying you have more experience, are better qualified, etc., but you are asking about applying for a job under her. Yes, I would be concerned about hiring someone to work for me under those conditions, but not out of jealousy or concern for my own job or those of my friends. My major concern would be that you are already preparing to jump ship. You don't seem to actually want the job under this director-- you want the higher level job. She may be aware of this through her conversations with the VP. Why would she want to hire you, knowing that as soon as another position opens up, you'll leave her group and she'll have to hire again? From her point of view, it makes more sense to have you go straight for the job you want and for her to hire someone who will be a good fit for and happy in the role she has to offer. It's not necessarily who is the best qualified to perform the role on day 1.

Initially, I reached out to the VP because I didn't know where I would fit in. I have 1-2 years of patent experience, 3-4 industry drug development experience, and 16 years in academia with publications. However, I have never worked in a technology transfer office before. Since I am working part time as a consultant and adjunct professor, I wanted to find a full time job, get medical insurance, and move my career in a more secure direction. He (VP) understood this and said I would like to consider you for a senior licensing position; however, there are some assistant positions available if you are interested in possibly starting sooner. But you are probably overqualified; I'll send it over if interested. I agreed. Then I tried to introduce myself to the Director where I was greeted with a rather dismissive response.

I have worked in some situations where a supervisor would bring you on in a junior role and then transfer you over when the senior role opens. Both roles have the same title, but one is called an assistant licensing associate. I think going forward I'll correspond with the VP not the Director.


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Nate W.
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January 25, 2017 5:25 am  

Of course jealousy happens in the work place. Some people are more successful than others. Some get promoted and others don't. I don't think anyone is suggesting you should be networking with people that you are competing for the job opening with. You should be networking with the people who already have the job you want. Your property manager should be networking with other property managers, not leasing agents. That's more like peer -2.

Replies are always polite. They don't always happen, and sometimes we have to let it go.

Trust me I have tried to network with my peers in the role that I am seeking. As Dave suggests they can be quite informative about the needed qualifications and the daily responsibilities of the job. However, if they are junior in that role and there are few of these job types locally, they not might be so receptive about talking with you and are very reluctant to actually help (i.e. they are your competition). Even when you do establish a good rapport with such an individual, they don't have the authority to hire or have any influence in hiring decisions (i.e. I have encountered this situation).

So I go 1-2 levels above the peer2. If I overshoot the hiring manger by one level, I ask for a referral to the right hiring manger. This works great. I find the appropriate hiring manager and his senior supervisor are more receptive to listening to a qualified prospective candidate who takes such initiative versus networking with a peer2.

Even if the supervisor refers the matter back to a peer2, the peer2 is then far more receptive to talking with candidate given the referral from a senior manager. People in this economy are overly worried about their own jobs and how they are perceived by others, especially senior managers.


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PG
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January 25, 2017 1:01 pm  

I think that in a job search the focus needs to be to get the job. Getting the interview is good but may or may not take you the entire way. I agree that a recommendation from above to a hiring manager will usually result in an interview but I think that it may also put you in a less than ideal starting position for your discussions with the hiring manager.

When we have a need to hire someone a recommendation from a person that is known to be a good scientist is considered important regardless of what level in the organization the person is working. If I was going to hire a specialist for working with method X and get a recommendation for one candidate from one of my existing specialists working in the correct field and Another recommendation from our CEO I would probably interview both of them but without more information my assumption going into the interviews would be that the person recommended by my existing specialist probably will be the stronger candidate.


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