In Business, When Do You Recommend, and When Do you Recommend with Reservations?

Author J. Mike Smith is a executive, career, and leadership team coach, helping individuals, start-ups, teams and groups perform significantly better. 

The email from the prospective applicant family asked my thoughts regarding my son’s grade school.

It could have just as easily been about a place to work or somebody referencing an employee.

It brought to mind a simple question.

When do you shift from “highly recommend” to a more nuanced “recommend with reservations?

Just as the most qualified candidate may not be the best candidate for a job (“He had lots of great skills and experiences. Too bad he didn’t that extra dose of tolerance for the jerks with whom he worked.”), figuring out where to work, who to hire, or even where to send your kid to school can be fraught with challenges.

When I think of the perfect job for somebody it’s a sweet spot intersection between best company cultural fit, best place to deploy their technical skills, and best interpersonal fit with boss, direct reports, colleagues and what the person wants to do in work and life. Change one of those factors appreciably and that “best fit” candidate looks like someone who will change jobs soon – even if they don’t always know it.

Recommending a best place to work implies that you have a good bead on the talent, interests, and roll-of-the-dice outcomes when somebody joins a firm.  While I’m an unabashed Apple fan, I suspect it’s a bad place for some people to work: too much perseverance, stamina, and work passion for those who want the tidy 9-5 job with an absence of extra work and unanticipated urgency.

My son’s grade school does many, many, many things very well. Faculty and staff have been terrific, and most administrators have been great. It’s often that I think that my son, the only boy in the school with two dads, is thriving.

Is it perfect? No. Do I think it’s for everyone? No. Do I lack confidence that it will still be a good school for him when puberty kicks in within a couple of years – and when issues about masculinity pike up? Yes.

But like that job candidate who would be a great hire for many, but not all employers, I can strongly recommend the place. Just with reservations.

Author J. Mike Smith is a executive, career, and leadership team coach, helping individuals, start-ups, teams and groups perform significantly better. Over the past 25 years as a senior business executive, J. Mike has worked with Fortune 500 companies such as Genentech, AT&T, and Visa. You can learn more about J. Mike at Life Back West.

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