We've all heard it before, "Actions speak louder than words". And yes, I know it's a slightly tired cliché uttered way too many times when people can't come up with their own sentiments, but in the following little story it couldn't be truer.
A buddy of mine had a phone interview with a company almost two months ago; it went well enough that the company brought him in within a few days for a two hour face-to-face/technical interview.
He calls me up and says, "Dude, I think it went really well. I felt I was a really good fit for what they're looking for, and the areas that I am not a perfect match I am sure I can pick up quickly."
"Good deal,” I responded, "So did they make you an offer yet?"
"No. They said they'll put some things together and get back to me. I think we both walked away feeling like I'd be a great fit considering my background and what I am looking to learn. I am sure I'll hear from them pretty soon."
Well, I should point out that "soon" for my buddy and the hiring personnel at this company were two very different measurements of time. He didn’t hear back from them for a while. Days turned into weeks and still my buddy didn't hear a peep out of these guys. Nevertheless, he remained optimistic that his background and passion would certainly get him a job. "I dunno dude, they told me that they were impressed with me during the interview (and I felt they were). Looking at the job requirements - I am a perfect fit," he thought.
After these few weeks passed, my buddy finally decided to call the company and check on the job status. At this point he felt the offer was coming, he just rationalized that they might have gotten busy or something else came up.* "Bureaucracies often move more slowly, so it's no big deal," he said. Once he was finally able to connect with someone at the company (which took a while), he reported that they quickly but politely said they would get back to him in a couple of weeks.
A couple of weeks came...and went, and the phone never rang.
Sucks doesn't it? Being in limbo for so long, thinking and hoping that things will work out, only to find out that they won't. This type of thing has happened to me before, and I know it's happened (or it may happen) to just about every other freelancer out there - maybe it's happened to you. Don't beat yourself up about it and don't feel embarrassed, it's happened to us all.
So how do you keep yourself from a potential client/employer being playing you - especially if you felt you'd be a great fit, AND that they really liked you?
If we look at what the company DID rather than what they SAID or how my buddy FELT, the answer becomes a little clearer. If my buddy would have looked more at the actions (or lack of actions) the company took to hire him, rather than what was said or how he felt, he would have saved himself a lot of frustration and second-guessing.
Here are the action "warning signs" that might have given my buddy a clue that things weren't as promising as he thought:
- The company didn't immediately make a commitment or offer.
- The company didn't send a courtesy, "Thank you for meeting" follow up email, phone call or letter.
- The company didn't bother to follow up with him over the course of the next few days or weeks...even to tell him, "Hey, we're interested but we've had to deal with a few other things in the meantime." The company took NO initiative to contact him after the meeting.
- When my buddy finally did work up the courage to follow-up with the company they didn't apologize or even recognize that several weeks had passed. They didn't specifically indicate they were still interested, and instead of getting back to him in a day or two the company said they'd get back to my buddy in, "a couple of weeks".
When you see a list all of these points laid out, it's not hard to come up with, "Duh, they're just not that in to you" is it?
To be fair, it's hard not to get caught up in what potential employers/clients may say to you (even though they may not mean it), and it's very possible that our perceptions/judgments can be way off course.
I've found that if you're trying to get a grip on whether or not a potential client/employer is going to hire you, try to balance:
- What has been said
- How it has been said
- How you feel about the situation
- How you feel the potential client/employer feels about the situation
- What the potential client/employer has DONE or NOT DONE
Emphasis on the last bullet - it should carry the most weight when trying to figure out what the heck a potential client/employer is thinking. "Actions speak louder than words".
*Whether it’s a potential client, employer or even girlfriend, I’ve found that if they’re really interested, they will get back to you timely (unless they’re playing games, in which case, you don’t want to be associated with them anyway).