The Problem with 'Low Stakes' Interviews
Why I recommend you avoid attending practice interviews for roles you do not want.
It’s common for me to help a client with their career transition after they’ve already started attending interviews. I support their applications and interview skills but I do often challenge the value of low-stakes interviews, if they’ve chosen the approach to build their experience – here’s why.
I’ve taken part in hundreds of interviews and I always enjoyed the process; for many of the same reasons I enjoy coaching: You have the unique opportunity to ask carefully crafted questions, designed to get to know someone better, in the hope you might help them obtain an outcome they truly want.
I learned to pay close attention to how people spoke about their career. I believe a candidate’s response to questions about their career are some of the most telling in assessing their suitability for a role.
With enough practice, many can speak fluently about their past – the roles, the projects and the skills they’ve developed along the way. But few invest the time to craft a compelling narrative for their future in a role they don’t really want. And if they don’t want the job – there’s no amount of money worth paying them to fill it.
I think there are lots of hiring managers that have learned to look for this red flag, which is why I encourage my clients to resist the temptation to accept ‘low stakes’ interviews.
When you apply for a role you’re not truly interested in – you’re less likely to invest the time required to outperform the people who genuinely want the role. If that’s not the problem, it’s equally possible that the hiring manager is experienced enough to identify a half-hearted narrative.
There’s also the potential impact to your confidence. Experiencing rejection and searching for the precise reason why you were passed over, often on your own because few companies provide feedback anymore, can prove more deflating than you might think. You could even fail to rebound in time to apply for a role that’s exactly what you want.
On occasion, you’ll make it to offer stage regardless. Maybe the employer thinks the world of your experience. They might identify with you or feel pressured to fill the position.
Congratulations. You deserve to feel fantastic. After all, a job offer satisfies so many of our social needs: inclusion, respect, competence, purpose and security, all in one fell swoop.
But now you’re now faced with the temptation to accept a proposal from someone who’s recognized your value and offered you money and benefits…in exchange for a role you never wanted.
This isn’t a doomsday scenario and there will always be cases where resourceful people find their place in an organization. Furthermore, no one has the right to judge you for offers you may feel compelled to accept and I certainly wouldn’t.
But from over 700 hours of coaching experience with clients and deep examination of my own past behavior, I recommend that you redirect your time and energy to seek the truth about what you want and build a career development plan that honors that truth.
Be honest with yourself, so you can be honest with others, and that will translate into better performance in interviews, not to mention, many other aspects of your life.
Caroline Miss, a five-time New York Times bestselling author hosted a wonderful TED talk entitled ‘Choices that can Change your Life’ and my advice was inspired by one I paraphrase here: say the truth and live it; I won’t compromise myself; I won’t betray myself.
If you’re not sure whether a role fits what you want, try this test:
1. Write out your best answer to the question, ‘how does this role fit within my vision for my career?’
2. Continuously edit your answer to fit 3-6 sentences until you’ve given it your best shot and then leave it alone for a day or two.
3. Re-read your answer, and if you’re not convinced, I encourage you to consider redirecting your time and energy towards establishing a vision and finding roles that bring you steps closer to realizing it.
You deserve better than to apply for a role you see no future in. I hope you feel free and fortunate enough to consider alternatives. If not, I’d be happy to chat with you about your situation, whether you’re interested in working with me or not.
All the best,