Dear J.T. & Dale: I went on a job interview recently and found out there are four internal candidates for the job. I was the only person from the outside. Why would they bother to bring me in? Is there anything I can say to get them to pick me over someone who already has established themselves in the company? – Jenna
DALE: Let’s think through why there would be a single outside candidate. (1) The hiring managers are politically shrewd and seek to protect against any executives thinking they’d been negligent in conducting a search beyond the internal candidates. (2) The hiring managers want the internal candidates to feel they were tested against the outside world. (3) The hiring managers sense that the internal candidates might not include the best available person. While for your sake, Jenna, I hope it’s the last possibility, it’s the least likely scenario. Why? Because then they’d have brought in several outsiders, not just one.
J.T.: Dale might have a point, but I think you need to assume the best – that they wouldn’t have bothered to have anyone from the outside come in if they felt an internal candidate had the lock on the job. I’d ask them outright why they chose to bring in someone from the outside. Play up the advantages of bringing in new blood with a fresh set of eyes. I’d even try to find some case studies where bringing in outside perspective helped a company improve. You’ve got an advantage that you need to play up!
DALE: Yes, no matter what the original motivation, you have a shot. See if you can engage the hiring managers in a conversation about the department’s strengths and weaknesses. These will perhaps reveal opportunities to dazzle them with new thinking.
Dear J.T. & Dale: My co-worker is shopping for a new home. She just got married. I have to be honest, I couldn’t wait for her to get married because all she talked about was the wedding. Then, her first day back from the honeymoon and she was on to house buying. I’ve had it. How do I tell her the personal stuff is too much? Her work ethic is impacting my job. What can I say? I know if I go to our boss things will never be the same. – Matei
DALE: If this is your biggest problem at the office, Matei, then congratulations, you don’t have a problem. What you have is an inconvenience, and you deal with it gently, with a light touch. I had a colleague who used to cut off personal conversations with the old “TMI.” Or you can just joke that you can’t let yourself get distracted because you have too much work to do. Let her know it’s an issue for you without making it a big deal.
J.T.: No, this is the sort of small issue that becomes a big deal. I would keep track of how many times in a week/month this person is missing a deadline, giving you subpar work, etc. Then, once you can point to it quantifiably impacting your work, you can ask to have a private meeting with her and say something like:
“This is so hard for me to share with you. I’ve noticed over the past months that your performance at work has been impacting my ability to do my job. Just this past month, I’ve experienced ___ times when ____. I’m worried this is going to impact my reputation and credibility. Can we talk about why there’s been a change in your performance? Is there something we can do together to get things back to the way they were? I want us both to succeed here.”
This is the polite way of letting her know. If she admits it has to do with the wedding and house hunting, then you can ask if there’s a way for you to help her stay focused. If she says no, then you’ve done your best and if she can’t improve things on her own, then you need to go to management.
Jeanine “J.T.” Tanner O’Donnell is a career coach and the founder of the leading career site www.workitdaily.com. Dale Dauten is founder of The Innovators’ Lab. Please visit them at jtanddale.com, where you can send questions via email, or write to them in care of King Features Syndicate, 300 W. 57th St, 15th Fl, New York, NY 10019. (c) 2019 by King Features Syndicate, Inc.