During a recent radio interview, I was asked how much time I spend planning for my future. I responded that I try to be prepared for opportunities that may arise. The interviewer then asked, “How can you be prepared for every opportunity that might arise?” I thought for a moment, then responded, “I only prepare myself for opportunities that I think are worthy of my pursuit.” Upon reflection, I realized that one should pursue only those opportunities he/she believes will be “worth the effort.” The question then becomes, “How do I qualify opportunities so that I can know which of them are worth my while?”

When serving clients who need help with hiring the “right” employee, I realize that both the candidate for employment and the employer have similar challenges. So, what should be the focus of their inquiry?

The Candidate

The primary question is, “Am I willing to pay the price for being successful with this Employer?” To answer it, the Candidate must ask:

  1. “What will be my reward for being successful here?” The next question might be, “How valuable is that reward to me?” If I believe the reward will be sufficiently valuable, then I likely will be motivated to continue my pursuit of this opportunity. On the other hand, if I do not believe that it will be sufficiently valuable, I will cease my pursuit because I will have no reason to go further; and
  2. “What will be the price I will have to pay to earn the reward?” The next question might be, “Am I willing to pay the price in terms of my own energy to earn this reward.” It now becomes a cost–benefit decision. That is, if the reward of my success compensates me adequately for the price I must pay to earn it, then this opportunity is worthy of my pursuit. If not, I would likely forego it and pursue others that I believe to be more “attractive.”

The Employer

At the point of an interview, it probably has been determined that the Candidate has the requisite knowledge, skills, and abilities to perform successfully. The next step is to ask questions about the “intangibles.” The primary question is, “Will I get sufficient return on my investment in this Candidate’s success?” To answer it, the Employer must ask:

  1. “Can this Candidate meet the challenges he/she is likely to face in this job?” This question may be difficult to answer directly, so the next question might be, “How can I ascertain whether or not he/she is up to the challenge?” Regardless of the process used, if the Employer decides that this Candidate is not up to the challenge, the interview is over, and the next Candidate is called in. On the other hand, if the Employer decides that this Candidate is up to the challenge, the next question is;
  2. Am I willing to provide the support this Candidate likely will need to meet the challenge?” It is clear that the greater the challenge, the more support the Employer will need to provide. This becomes a cost-benefit decision for the Employer. That is, “Does this Candidate’s success provide sufficient return on my investment in his/her support?” If the answer is yes, the interview continues, and an employment offer may be made. If the answer is no, the interview probably is terminated, and the Employer moves on to the next Candidate.

Both candidate and employer must protect their own interests. The candidate will know if this is an opportunity worthy of his/her pursuit. The employer will know if this candidate is up to the challenge and if the employer is willing to provide the support the candidate will need to meet the challenge. During the process, the candidate and employer will be empowered with good information about their options and the likely consequences of their choices. Both will be able to make informed choices about whether or not this is the “right” opportunity for them.