Thursday, April 15, 2010

Lessons From a Lost Season: Jim Mora, Jr. edition

It can be a curse to see the world through the lens of your job.  It can also be quite interesting.  At times, it can be rather insightful (see Punk Rock HR on the Jay Leno/Conan O'Brien affair here and here... and notice the prescience).

The National Football League's Seattle Seahawks suffered through an abysmal 2009 season, the first and only season featuring Jim Mora, Jr. as head coach.  Much about his hiring, tenure and dismissal makes for great fodder for a recruiting/HR blog, and I've been meaning to comment on it for a while.  I'll start with some comments he made last month.

As background, Mora was being asked about a new quarterback Seattle had acquired by trade from the San Diego Chargers since Mora's departure, Charlie Whitehurst.  Now Whitehurst is by no means a household name, and, to Mora, this presented an opportunity to attack his former employer:
I had no idea who Charlie Whitehurst was until there was talk about him, I'd never heard of the guy. Then I was reminded that he was the guy that threw the interception to Nick Reed in the preseason. I don't know much about the guy. Obviously they saw something in him and think he can he successful. I have some friends on the San Diego staff, and they're feeling pretty darn good about the deal.
The audio of the interview can be found here.

(As further background, Nick Reed played for the Seahawks last year under Mora.)

There are a number of ways to interpret this, but it seems pretty obvious that Mora is still bitter.  He attended the nearby University of Washington and made no secret of the fact that coaching the Seahawks would be a dream job, so the bitterness is understandable.  However, a potential head coach in the NFL is constantly being evaluated.  One does not merely submit a resume, go to an interview and then get the job.  Coaches are high profile, and they are judged, in part, on the profile they maintain.  I don't know if Mora wants to ever be a head coach in the NFL again, but if he does, he should be, essentially, in constant job interview mode.

And you never disparage a former employer or supervisor in a job interview.  This is always a giant red flag.

There are a few reasons for this little rule.  First, it's just bad form.  There is no one there to explain the employer's side of the story.  You're picking on someone who can't defend himself.  That's just rude. 
Tangentially, you're demonstrating your willingness to bad mouth someone behind their back.  This is not behaviour that I would ever desire in an employee.  Someone like that could be an automatic cancer for your company.

Remember, employers expect people to be on their best behaviour in interviews.  If this is the best that we can expect from you, what would you be like when you're just being yourself?

I should note that I have, generally, been pretty blessed when it comes to companies and supervisors.  I've had few bad bosses, and the companies I have worked for have, for the most part, treated me with respect.  Nonetheless, I could find faults with pretty much every person I have ever worked with, as they could me.  However, there is no way that I would ever complain about a previous boss or employer.  If necessary, I could explain issues that I had with management (and sometimes this is an appropriate topic in an interview), but I would also explain how I dealt with those issues.  I would do it all respectfully.  This way, I would, hopefully, demonstrate the professional manner with which I deal with difficult and unpleasant situations.

After Monday's post, it may seem a little hypocritical to criticize Mora for his outburst, but remember, there is a difference between being candid and being an adolescent.

It is also wise to keep in mind that your interviewer might have some inside knowledge.  It is bad enough to appear a bitter child, but you could also be proven a fool, as in Mora's case:

Although Whitehurst remains an obscurity to casual fans, it defies reason that Mora has never heard of him. During Mora’s first preseason game as a Seahawks defensive assistant, in 2007, Whitehurst threw 22 passes against Seattle. During Mora’s first preseason game as Seahawks head coach, Whitehurst threw 29 passes against Seattle.

Furthermore, Whitehurst, who holds most of the career passing records at Clemson, was a four-year starter in college; his final two seasons coincided with Mora’s first two seasons as head coach of the Atlanta Falcons, who make their year-round headquarters in Flowery Branch, Ga.

Clemson is 86.7 miles away from Flowery Branch. The coach on a crusade against lies and deception wants you to think he’s never heard of quarterback who starred on a campus that’s 86.7 miles away from where Mora used to work, who grew up in the same Atlanta suburb (Duluth, Ga., population 26,000) where Mora once lived, who retired as the third-leading passer in ACC history, who outplayed Jay Cutler in the Senior Bowl, who was drafted in the third round and went on to throw 51 passes against Seattle over two preseason games.
In this light, Mora's statement demonstrates he is either incompetent or dishonest, and I'm not sure which is worse.  Nonetheless, I have a little sympathy for Mora.  No one likes to lose their job, but his behaviour tells us more about him than he would probably want.

And this is my point.  What you do and say will say a lot more about you than you intend.  It is important to keep this in mind when searching for a job.

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