You’re sitting in a three-star eatery on a first date with someone you find most attractive. “Could this be the one?” you wonder. But you’ve lived long enough to know that looks ain’t everything. Before you go head over heels, you need to see what’s lurking beneath the surface…and the sooner, the better. But despite your urgency to know if the person sitting across from you is liberal, conservative, or libertarian; a fundamentalist, agnostic or atheist; a lover of hip-hop or ‘60s Motown, propriety advises you to not bring up these concerns as of yet. Instead, you must wait for the right moment.
But when, you silently query the voice of civility, is that right moment? And how will you recognize it? Will the critical details you’re dying to know reveal themselves at some unpredictable point in the future? What if you delay too long and your belatedly discovered fundamental differences force a difficult, painful parting of the ways?
In the world of employment, when sitting down across from your prospective employer, the comparable hot-button issues are the size of your salary, the extent of your benefits and the days and hours you are expected to sacrifice for the cause. But while decorum decrees that one not broach these topics ahead of schedule either, if making a certain minimum salary or continuing to spend your typical Sunday at the park is critical for your emotional morale, why not raise the topic sooner, rather than later?
Let us part ways with traditional decorum. If you’ve done your homework and have developed a firm sense of what the position you’re applying for should pay (factoring in your years of relevant experience, industry trends and the state of the job economy in your region), then it behooves you to know what you will be getting, compensation-wise, then and there. If you absolutely require to work from home fifty percent of the time…or have at least four weeks of vacation…or a workspace with natural light, making that known up front will help to either get you those things or, at worst, get you focused on the next, more appropriate opportunity.
Moreover, this “being up front” with your interviewer gives him/her more time and a greater opportunity to go to bat for you with his/her superiors. Remember that analogy with going out on a first date? The beautiful creature sitting across from you is just as keen to learn the real you. She also wants to avoid the pitfalls of a match not made in heaven. Likewise, the firm that is seeking to hire the best person for the gig needs to understand what you are truly all about. In any kind of relationship scenario—be it romantic or professional—if expectations do not measure up, both sides end up regretting the better opportunities passing them by.
Of course, it should go without saying that before you start in with your job-related requirements, you’ll want to first make a powerful, positive impression on your interviewer(s). Otherwise, stating your conditions early on will be viewed as premature at best; an annoyance at worst. In the ideal scenario, you’ve stimulated enough positive feelings about your candidacy that stating your requirements up front, without being demanding or inflexible, will be taken as an exceptional sign of your interest in the position, and will provide your interviewer with an added incentive to hire you.