Realistic Job Preview

Steven Cesare, Ph.D.

A business owner from Massachusetts called the other day to tell me that his new highly-paid Controller resigned his position after only eight days on the job.  Surprised by this dramatic turn of events, I asked if the former Controller gave an indication for his abrupt exit.  The business owner stated the Controller experienced organizational shock by moving from a very large company to one that is noticeably smaller (i.e., 60 employees).  Interestingly, the Controller chose pre-emptive escape rather than proactive adaptation.

As always, we wish all departing employees the best of luck as they move forward in their careers.

With the next iteration of Controller interviews ready to begin, I suggested the owner consider incorporating the Realistic Job Preview into the employee selection process.   The Realistic Job Preview simply presents the positive and negative elements inherent within a certain job, connoting that functional transparency will provide greater awareness to the job candidate as s/he considers accepting a job offer, eventuating in fewer surprises, more role clarity, and reduced employee turnover.

For example, despite the desperate need for field employees at the current time, the Realistic Job Preview could be organized in the following fashion for a field employee:

Positives:  (a) working outside in the fresh air (e.g., not working in a kitchen, bussing restaurant tables, cleaning hotel rooms), (b) receiving formal training that will increase proficiency, (c) working within a team environment, (d) opportunity for advancement with increased compensation based on a clear career path outlined in the Company’s Career Ladder, (e) improving the aesthetic quality of the environment (e.g., plants, shrubs, irrigation), and (f) paid sick leave, holidays, and/or PTO after 90 days.

Difficulties:  (a) hard work (e.g., using power machinery, digging trenches, breaking a sweat), (b) working outside in challenging climates (e.g., heat, cold, rain, wind), (c) must wear PPE to remain safe, (d) possible long hours or weekend work scheduling, (e) must comply with Company policies and procedures, and (f) demanding performance expectations.

With reference to the wayward Controller, here is the initial list of Realistic Job Preview items we drafted for subsequent replacement interviewees to prevent any future recurrence:

Positives of Working in a Mid-size Company:  (a) direct contact with the owner, (b) can “own” the function, (c) less bureaucracy, (d) more organizational agility to changing business conditions, (e) greater involvement in key decisions, and (f) closer connection to organizational results.

Negatives of Working in a Mid-size Company:  (a) not as many available resources (e.g., travel, training, IT), (b) less mature systems (e.g., purchasing, IT, marketing), (c) greater personal accountability (i.e., fewer tasks can be delegated) (d) less protective insulation against rapid changes in external business environment, (e) more sensitivity to budget restrictions and cost containment controls, and (f) faster pace.

Aside from corporate size, the Realistic Job Preview can be applied to myriad contexts including:  union environments, family-run businesses, geographical location, organizational cultures, and growth/stability curves.

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Steve Cesare Ph.D.

has more than 25 years of Human Resources experience. Prior to joining The Harvest Group, Steve worked with Bemus Landscape, Jack in the Box, the County of San Diego, Citicorp, and NASA. Steve earned his Ph.D. in Industrial/Organizational Psychology from Old Dominion University, and has authored 68 human resources journal articles. As a member of The Harvest Group, Steve’s areas of expertise include: staffing, legal compliance, wage and hour issues, training, and employee safety.  Read Steve's full bio.