The economy is humming, and that means opportunities are popping up more frequently for all types of workers.  I get asked with some regularity, “Should I always be interviewing, even when I’m not looking for a new role?”  There’s no one-size-fits-all answer to that question, but generally, I say, “Yes!”, with a few caveats:

  • If the role is right, don’t be afraid to engage. Take the meeting, but be careful to not take your eye off the ball in your current role.
  • The word “always” is a red flag in just about anything in life. Interviewing can be distracting and while the frequency is a personal decision, it’s probably best to limit yourself to the interviews that really make sense.
  • If you decide to pass because it’s not right for you, say “no” professionally and do what you can to help the Search Consultant who contacted you with names from your network. Referrals are their bread and butter and they won’t forget that you helped them.

Dawn Graham, Director of Career Management at Wharton’s Executive MBA program agrees with me. She hosts Career Talk on satellite radio, and since this is my field and my passion, I’m always interested to hear the advice she gives to others. On a recent show, she answered this question and highlighted the “plus” column of always being open to an interview.  It helps you 1) stay relevant in the market, 2) build your network, 3) gain experience telling your story, 4) acquire a little competitive intel, and 5) possibly make a great career move. Those are all good things and make it worth the effort for the right role.

Look (inside) before you leap!

We all know the excitement that comes from the “shiny object”, and a new job description can sometimes be that. A Headhunter calls, and your mental wheels start turning around the lure of “What’s next?”.

If the fit seems good after the initial meeting and the interest is high, I would advise this to those who are reasonably happy with their current employer: use the opportunity to have conversation with your boss or HR Business Partner.  Say something like, “In the spirit of transparency, I have been contacted about a job that seems like a good next step. Before I get too far down the road, I wanted you to know so I can compare it to what might be next for me here.” No threats or ultimatums.  Just a thoughtful conversation that balances the interests of both parties.

Radical? Maybe, but we are now essentially at full employment in the U.S. with a jobless rate of 4.1%, trending downward. Retaining talent is critical, and smart companies and bosses know that.  So, take the interview! But be selective, and use it to build relationships all around.

Erin McDermott Peterson is a Partner with PeopleResults. Follow her on Twitter @ErinMcPeterson or connect via email at epeterson@people-results.com

Erin McDermott Peterson