How minding my own business cost me at interview
Q: I run my own business but want a change. I went for a job interview last week. Despite my best efforts at convincing the panel that I will unplug myself from the business, I believe I failed to convince them. They kept coming back to how I would juggle both even though I made it clear I have a management structure in place that allows me to step away. And I am really keen to step away! Should I have told them I am selling the business, even though I am not? What do you think? (DC, email).
A: In interviews, as in so many other aspects of life, perception can be construed as reality. The battle you describe – namely that of convincing them that the business will not be a barrier in the new role – is one of the more difficult ones a self-employed person has to overcome in an interview, writes Liam Horan, Career Coach, Sli Nua Careers.
Should you have said you were selling your business? I’m not so sure. They may not have believed that either. They might even conclude that if you are thinking about selling your business, it should already be on the market, or maybe you should have sold it before now.
The reality is that they probably perceive you as someone having an each-way bet. If you get the job, you make some adjustments, but how many? If you don’t get it, you trundle on in your business. And perhaps that’s how it actually is for you: you’ve got to turn a pound somehow. So it might be reckless to sell your business and deprive yourself of an ongoing income.
I would urge people in your situation to take the emphasis off your current business by explaining how you are itching for a new challenge that appeals to your skills in the areas of X, Y and Z. Let them see the logic of you changing careers. Help them to understand that this is a good time for you to exit the business because you have attributes you wish to bring to the new position. Emphasise that your experience running your own business shows you to be highly motivated, enterprising and focused – attributes they should value.
Make them want you so badly that they’ll take a punt, despite their misgivings.
Could you have said that you have already placed it in the hands of a manager and support people?
Could you have something on your website that you could point them to that would give weight to what you are saying: for example, if you could say that all enquiries to the business are no longer diverted to you but to the aforementioned manager, would that help them to see that your exit plans are at an advanced stage? “I’m already well on the way to taking a backseat – and I can fully assume that backseat within a matter of weeks. I will be good to go for this job inside one month”.
In that way, you’re like most other people changing positions. You’ve a few loose ends to tie up but nothing that anchors you indefinitely to the business. You’ll tie them up and come hurtling into the new role.
Hopefully the next interview panel will be persuaded.
Liam Horan is a Career Coach with Sli Nua Careers in Ballinrobe.
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