Mindset: Never Hide Job Interviews

I’m continuing my perspective on open management. In fact, one thing I tell my team of CEOs is that they should never ever have to hide that they’re going on job interviews for future companies from me.

At previous companies, I remember having to quietly sneak into back rooms, stepping outside, or making up an excuse I had to go to Dr’s appointments in order to go to job interviews. Why? There was a fear that if you let your management know that you were even thinking of interviewing you could be fired on the spot. Especially during a recession, that’s a complete danger, no one wants their job or families to be at risk.

So instead, I’d rather practice an open culture, that allows for the support of future career growth inside and outside of a company. In fact, I believe that after a team member puts in their appropriate time to master their role (an important requirement) and decides they want to move on, their colleagues should support them, be references for them, open doors for them, and even cheer them on as they go to the interview!

Clearly, I’m a terrible business manager/owner (and I tell candidates this during the interview): I publish no cost open research, willing to help employees find new jobs, and think everyone is like their own CEO. Yet I hope this mindset will help attract, and foster the best in the industry. So far it’s working, we have the best, and I’m proud that we have 100% retention of all 22 employees on payroll in 2011 to date.

I believe management should foster a culture to help grow their team, including making it a safe place to discuss, grow, and even place colleagues in future jobs. As a self-admitted unseasoned executive (thank god I have three seasoned partners) I’m learning a lot every day, I hope to hear your perspective below in the comments.

  • Wendao|Jinxin

    I think this depends on the relationship you have with your bosses. I think in most good working relationships, the manager has a pretty good sense of when their people have had enough and are looking to leave. 

    My old boss kept asking me if anything was wrong when I was interviewing. And similar to your example, I kept my mouth shut because I was afraid I’d get fired or put on dead-end projects or thought of differently because there was no guarantee that I would end up with a new job. 

  • While on one hand, your track record with your employees is proving that this system works, I wonder if it’d really work elsewhere. I work for a nonprofit and we ‘hire’ interns (in quotes because the positions are unpaid). There have been a few times when my interns have come into my office and, nervously, said that they are going on an interview or just accepted a job — in every instance my first response is, “Congratulations” cause honestly I’m proud of them. As a manager, especially of interns, it’s my job to teach them what I know and help them get to the next step in their career. Plus, whatever company they join is kind of a reflection on how well we worked together.

    I love the idea of being open while on the hunt and being honest about the circumstances for why an employee is looking, though you would need a manager who believes that it’s their job to work with and mentor employees until the employees cannot learn anything more from them. Those are few and far between.

    Do you know of any other companies or managers who have the same feeling about employees being open about interviewing?

  • Interesting and provocative sentiment, Jeremiah. I never quite got that far, but I used to tell candidates when I interviewed them “I’ll shake your hand on the way and and I’ll shake your hand on the way out”. 

  • it’s not just the boss, it’s the culture.

    One executive at Adobe who I know with helped place a rising star in another company, as it was time for him to grow his own program. 

    I was so impressed with this executive, they were willing to help someone else grow at the risk of losing star talent.  

  • I like the thought process here but wonder if it’s realistic to apply this approach.
    Decisions aren’t necessarily so simple or binary (i.e. if I catch you interviewing, I’ll fire you). A more realistic scenario is that once I become aware that employee A is thinking of leaving (or has even just explored another opportunity), subconsciously I feel as though I can’t rely on them in the long run. So, if I have a key 6-month initiative, I’ll give it to employee B or C, rather than worrying that A won’t be around to see it to completion.
    Now, in the perfect world, when I see employee A exploring other opportunities, I’ll have a discussion with them to learn why (just opportunistic? really dissatisfied?) and will make appropriate decisions. But in practice, emotions come into play and it becomes almost like seeing your girlfriend flirt with another guy. Is she really looking to leave you or was she just having a bad day or looking to make you jealous?
    In a strange way, enabling transparency here – where someone openly “flirts” with another job opportunity – could result in decisions being made for the wrong reasons.
    That being said, I have been involved in many instances where a person had outgrown their role and where the organization could not offer the appropriate next opportunity and in those cases good managers did encourage their team members to seek their next role elsewhere. In fact, that happened to me at my first job (a very early online co) but it’s still rare I’m sure.

  • Laura

    I think about this a lot.  In fact, I question if this will work in larger corporations.  We’ll have to see, as we grow out this culture.  

    To your other question, I left a comment below how someone at a Adobe (they’re huge) practiced this.  

  • @berkson0:disqus  On a related note (from the other side of the table), Charlene always told me that you should exit as gracefully as you interviewed in.    

  • LauraI think about this a lot.  In fact, I question if this will work in larger corporations.  We’ll have to see, as we grow out this culture.  To your other question, I left a comment below how someone at a Adobe (they’re huge) practiced this.

  • Talmai Oliveira

    I think Barry nailed it.. the problem is the interview, but what happens if he/she doesn’t get the job. What if, after the interview he/she changes their mind and prefers where they are now? Answer: most likely their future in the company has been tarnished.

  • I don’t see why this is an issue Taimai

    I *already* speak to two people who report to me about their future jobs, and they haven’t even gone to the interview yet.  Nothing is tarnished.  

    In fact, I want to help them build their networks and skills so they can succeed at these future jobs.  

    It goes without saying, we hire the best, so I’ll do everything within reason to keep them.

  • Sally Hammond

    Jeremiah, I find all of the comments and your post very interesting. Dow Jones has a company policy where it is mandatory to tell your manager if you are interviewing (internally) which creates a set of interesting circumstances with employees if they don’t get the role they are interviewing for. I am not sure if the corporate culture supports the advancement of careers by setting this policy or is using this ‘rule’ to manage the process.  This is the first company that I have worked for that has this requirement as part of their career advancement policy. 
    In other companies (large Fortune 500 companies) that I have worked for including Garner, they have created a culture where they encourage employees to grow their careers and foster the type of environment where an employee can seek out opportunities with support.
    As a manager, I would greatly support the advancement of any of my colleagues and love the idea of fostering a positive attitude on this topic

  • Sambam

    This is about as realistic as an “open marriage” where you tell your spouse that you’re going out on dates with other women!  It destroys trust and any potential for a long term relationship. Get real, Jeremiah 🙂

  • Wendao|Jinxin

    I would say that culture starts with the relationships between the people who work there. Ground up, rather than top down. 

  • Paul

    I work at IBM and if you are looking for opportunities internal to the company, managers are very open and supportive.  I’ve worked in government, small companies, and large companies.  I can honestly say that IBM has the best managers I’ve ever dealt with. 

    However, looking outside of the company is not an open prospect, especially in these days of resource actions every six to nine months.  While I know of people who left to work for IBM competitors and later came back to IBM, it is that initial step out the door that is not open, nor supported. 

  • Kevin Eves

    I disagree Sambam. The point Jeremiah is making is the recognition of a general taboo that is of questionable — arguably no — value to either party, _IF_, and I’ll agree with Barry, it doesn’t work in all environments, if trust is really there. Given the principles of transparency and growth that JKO and Altimeter encourage, it’s a valuable way to start the employment relationship. It recognizes that it’s not assymetric (power w mgmt hiring subordinate staff) but complimentary (business leader interested in serving clients and building value, wanting to identify and select someone who has similar interest to mentor in the leader’s knowledge — and to help the leader as well). 

    If JKO is authentic in his commitment and able to execute well, it’s a win all around. In environments where there is no such commitment to transparency, and such rhetoric is disingenuous, then an employee would be a fool to do anything but respond in kind. The company/hiring manager has the responsibility to set the standard, and meet it, and if the standard is articulated clearly enough, explicitly or implicitly, and met, the employee should reciprocate. 

    Open marriages are generally unsustainable for a whole host of reasons beyond transparency, and have vastly different dynamics than that of employment (one hopes). Business employment open marriages are common place and generally work pretty well, given the number of contractor and consultant employment opportunities that exist. 

    I hired Jeremiah as an employee back in the day, before he became web-strategist guy. Hiring him was out-of-mold for the typical hiring practice, in that I was hiring him because of his remarkable ambition combined with a thirst for learning. In fact, I think in the 6-7 years I was a manager/director, he’s the only person who ‘turned over’, ie, left the team. I can’t recall if he was open with me about interviewing when that time came, but I was neither surprised nor offended when the time came for him to leave. I’d hired him for a specific purpose, which he knew and understood, and excelled at. The organization wasn’t able to adapt quickly enough to the pace of change and growth that JKO needed, and we nearly created, so, as I always told the people who worked with me: “You’ve got two choices. You can change the environment you are working in, and if that doesn’t work or you don’t want to do that, you can… change the environment you are working in.” 

    It can work within large companies, because it’s a matter of individual conviction, leadership and commitment. It is difficult to effectively execute in large companies, especially those not built from the ground up with such commitments to transparency and growth, because the policies and support structures will not be there to provide everyone with the needed capabilities. But individual managers, or teams/divisions within large companies, can make it work, regardless of the larger corporate culture. 

    Now, Open Research, that’s a different question. But Open Employment and Open Career Development, there’s little downside to it, if it’s genuine. And who’s reading this blog because they find Jeremiah to be less than remarkably genuine? 

    Keep growing. 

  • Kevin Eves

    I disagree Sambam. The point Jeremiah is making is the recognition of a general taboo that is of questionable — arguably no — value to either party, _IF_, and I’ll agree with Barry, it doesn’t work in all environments, if trust is really there. Given the principles of transparency and growth that JKO and Altimeter encourage, it’s a valuable way to start the employment relationship. It recognizes that it’s not assymetric (power w mgmt hiring subordinate staff) but complimentary (business leader interested in serving clients and building value, wanting to identify and select someone who has similar interest to mentor in the leader’s knowledge — and to help the leader as well). 

    If JKO is authentic in his commitment and able to execute well, it’s a win all around. In environments where there is no such commitment to transparency, and such rhetoric is disingenuous, then an employee would be a fool to do anything but respond in kind. The company/hiring manager has the responsibility to set the standard, and meet it, and if the standard is articulated clearly enough, explicitly or implicitly, and met, the employee should reciprocate. 

    Open marriages are generally unsustainable for a whole host of reasons beyond transparency, and have vastly different dynamics than that of employment (one hopes). Business employment open marriages are common place and generally work pretty well, given the number of contractor and consultant employment opportunities that exist. 

    I hired Jeremiah as an employee back in the day, before he became web-strategist guy. Hiring him was out-of-mold for the typical hiring practice, in that I was hiring him because of his remarkable ambition combined with a thirst for learning. In fact, I think in the 6-7 years I was a manager/director, he’s the only person who ‘turned over’, ie, left the team. I can’t recall if he was open with me about interviewing when that time came, but I was neither surprised nor offended when the time came for him to leave. I’d hired him for a specific purpose, which he knew and understood, and excelled at. The organization wasn’t able to adapt quickly enough to the pace of change and growth that JKO needed, and we nearly created, so, as I always told the people who worked with me: “You’ve got two choices. You can change the environment you are working in, and if that doesn’t work or you don’t want to do that, you can… change the environment you are working in.” 

    It can work within large companies, because it’s a matter of individual conviction, leadership and commitment. It is difficult to effectively execute in large companies, especially those not built from the ground up with such commitments to transparency and growth, because the policies and support structures will not be there to provide everyone with the needed capabilities. But individual managers, or teams/divisions within large companies, can make it work, regardless of the larger corporate culture. 

    Now, Open Research, that’s a different question. But Open Employment and Open Career Development, there’s little downside to it, if it’s genuine. And who’s reading this blog because they find Jeremiah to be less than remarkably genuine? 

    Keep growing. 

  • I applaud your point of view and believe it’s actually the wave of the future. The idea that I won’t be “loyal” to my current company and do my current job to the highest standard because I am seeking a position elsewhere is a false assumption. You act professionally no matter what – that’s what professionals do. Promotion and advancement and career growth is very complex. Even when you love a company, sometimes the next step in your career isn’t an option in your current situation. If it is, then it’s only fair that the current employer get a shot at discussing that and working it out. The general discussion protecting secrecy or denigrating openness is like people who say you should “control your brand” (like ignoring the negative feedback, deleting bad ratings/reviews, not ever responding to anyone lest you encourage open dialog that would go viral) on social media. The negative, the change, the conversation is being had. The real question is whether or not it is smart and productive to be part of the conversation. I say it is.

  • One of my first jobs out of college was with a systems integrator in Tokyo that brought in eager young foreigners to work on setting up networks for foreign investment banks that wanted support in English. The outfit, Linc Computer, paid a fair wage and we basically learned on the job from our peers. When, after a year when we had gained the expertise that made us attractive enough to be poached by our clients, Terrie, the CEO, was happy to let us go where we would earn basically double the wage.

    Only later did I clue into Terrie’s grand plan. After only a few years there were LINC alumni in purchasing positions at all the major investment banks in Tokyo. Being an alumni made you much more likely to buy from Linc!

  • Kevin, thank you on so many fronts.  It was great to work with you, learn from you, and continue to learn from you.

  • Talmai Oliveira

    Jeremiah, I actually agree with you. But,  I truly don’t think this works in all environments. I believe you (not just you, obviously, as even in the comments there have been some who have said they act in the same manner) are still an exception.

  • There’s no way this works. I learned my lesson on this early in my career.  I once had a summer job where I worked for people I was well acquainted with.  I mentioned that I was possibly lining up another job as the job I had was seasonal and wasn’t going to last the whole summer, and as I knew them I felt I could trust this information with them.  I then got told the next day that I was being replaced by another person to start the next week, since I had another job lined up. Luckily I did end up getting the job and was only out of a job for a couple days.

    I understand the aspiration of being open and honest, but it really just doesn’t work in practicality.

  • I just recently decided that it was time to move on from my present position. I opted to inform my employer and offer him that courtesy prior to launching a full-on job search. It felt better to me to be straight forward. Honesty and forthrightness is universally appreciated.

  • How did they respond? 

  • James, there’s a difference between “no way this works ever” and “it can work in some situations”.  I’ve worked in companies where it would not work, and others where it did.  It varies on the situation.

  • Joshua Guffey

    They brought the topic around to more money (which was one of my reasons)… and asked “how much?” 

    In the end I got authorization to work 5 hours of OT per week from home… which will raise my income by close to $500/month. So while I did not get a raise, I have an opportunity to earn more.Thanks for asking Jeremiah. I’ve been following your posts and sharing them now for about two years. I appreciate the grounded and deeper thinking.-joshua

  • I’m glad to have you here Josh.  Thanks for sharing this story, and it sounds like it turned out well for you!

  • I’m glad to have you here Josh.  Thanks for sharing this story, and it sounds like it turned out well for you!

  • Joshua Guffey

    That’s how I’m choosing to see it. I must still be meant to learn more from this position before my next adventure.  Thanks!

  • Anonymous

    I think you are a genius boss. You tell your employees that never hide that they will go another company for job purpose. You are so cooperating boss.

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