Looking behind the hidden agenda

The internet has been both a blessing and a curse to job-seekers and employers alike.

On the one hand, each job posting now has quite literally world-wide reach. On the other, the ease of some applicant tools can make the job search process as quick and simple as shopping online. That’s fine - as long as the applicant really does want the job that they’re applying for.

This results in a candidate pool that may have a hidden agenda when applying. They may, for example, be receiving unemployment and need to log a set number of job applications each week to continue their benefits. They may be applying to your academic institution merely for the way it will look on their resume - they couldn’t care less about making a contribution. They may only want to apply for the benefits offered,  or because they like the location.

In and of themselves, many of those reasons may still be valid. But, what is critical to probe further about the ways that the candidate can contribute to the department through the role that they are seeking.

At the end of most interviews, employers give candidates a golden opportunity to either land the job on the spot, or end up on the pile of also-rans. This is one of the best times for an employer to sit back and be wowed by a candidate, or glad that they’ve had the opportunity to see a hidden agenda.

When the candidate speaks up, either with a question during the formal questioning, or at the end, what kinds of questions are you hearing? Are they about the candidate (vacation time?) or about the job (what does success in the position mean to you, hiring manager)? If the candidate reveals a hidden agenda, or let you know how this job will interfere with their important plans, the committee may be best advised to take a pass.

Even though all employers seek team players who will be a good cultural fit, a candidate who comes first with the “what’s in this for me?” attitude is sparing the institution a great deal of pain.

Kimberley Sirk is a North Carolina-based writer and editor with government, higher education and big-brand healthcare public relations and marketing experience.

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