Do You Suffer From Executive Selection Hypertension?

There’s a silent killer lurking, and it isn’t solely a medical condition. Both employers and candidates may suffer bouts of “selection hypertension”--the silent killer of career deals.

For the employer’s hiring process, tension builds because results on the job are never fully predictable. Meanwhile, employment candidates also place a considerable degree of pressure upon themselves. If unemployed, seekers are wisely concerned about making a career misstep. While on the street, they need to stay alert for the risks of stumbling into a career-handicapping move. The same holds true when employer and employee examine transfer and promotion opportunities.

The Pressure of Risk
When advising anxious job seekers I will occasionally ask: "If I promised you that I would pay you $10,000 if you could thread a sewing needle on your first attempt, would you take that bet?" The answer has been unanimous: "Sure I would!" Then I clarify the other part of the wager: "But, if you miss on that one attempt you will owe me $25,000. Are you still interested in taking the bet?"  

All respondents back off when presented with this hypothetical offer, no doubt because they picture their hands uncontrollably shaking as they play not to lose. As much as they could use the injection of the $10,000, they fear the risk of losing more than twice as much. These seekers instinctively know that threading the needle with such big stakes involved will create a state of “hypertension”—fearing that under pressure they will likely choke given the considerable risk, despite the knowledge that they have successfully threaded their needles on their first shot many times before. Past successes never guarantee a repeat performance.

Reducing the Risks in Career Moves
One of the most dangerous aspects of health-related hypertension is that it can lie undetected for years. That is why routine blood pressure screenings became a basic part of due diligence in physical examinations. The information gleaned through this simple procedure allows both patient and caregiver to confidently make a well-informed decision about any related course of action.

There are parallels to this scenario in career transitions. The selection hypertension that both employer and candidate may experience can build as growing uncertainty advances in the selection process. Yet this self-handicapping tension may lie undetected. While there are always indefinite future unknowns for employers and candidates alike, the hiring executive and the candidates need to be transparent. The expected demands of the role, the forecast trajectory of the organization, as well as the market forces that they face will all inform their common decisions.

Due diligence on the part of the employer, regarding both the anticipated career arc for the new hire and the planned evolution of the organization and its future demands and opportunities, well informs each side of the selection process. And wise candidates who are well grounded regarding their own ideal career steps will experience less hiring hypertension while assessing an opportunity.

Applying mutual, open discernment toward clear understanding of the criteria, on both sides of the decision, are key to keeping selection tensions from killing your employment deal.

“The world is all gates, all opportunities, strings of tension waiting to be struck.”—Ralph Waldo Emerson