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The Golden Rule(s) for all Interviewers

Allow me to paint a story for you. A friend of mine interviewed for a new career opportunity several months ago. At the time, she was very excited about this role. It represented a very progressive step forward for her in her career. She applied for the role, was selected for an interview and went through three rounds of interviews. At each stage, she met with progressively senior people (as this was a very senior level/Director type role). She had a great interview with HR, then with the sector head (to whom the position would report to) and finally with the VP of the region. At every step of the way she was very impressed with their professionalism, how they sold the career move and the company. They were quite candid in discussing their “organizational warts” and were equally open about how they wanted to fix these things. After the third round of interviews, they asked for her references (and contacted them) and then indicated to her that they were interested in moving to the final (offer) stage.

The Golden RuleIn short, up to this point, this was the model for how to recruit, interview, engage and ultimately close someone. You had a qualified candidate who was singing the praises of this particular organization and raving about their employment brand (my words, not hers), but you get the point. There are so many companies that blow it with candidates during these stages – i.e. poor interviewers that ask ridiculous questions that don’t reveal anything about the candidate’s abilities, or companies that don’t create a favourable impression with candidates – i.e. interviews run late, someone doesn’t show up for the interview, etc. However, NONE of these things occurred and my friend was VERY excited to potentially join this company.

Then, a bizarre thing happened. My friend stopped hearing from this company. That is right – cone of silence, gone dark….NOTHING. She was led up this precipice of potential employment and then nothing. She has made calls back into the company to get an update – i.e. was it something in her references? (I know it isn’t because I know her references and what they said) Was the position put on hold? Did they decide not to fill it? Did they just decide they didn’t want her after all? All she was looking for was some feedback and ultimately some closure on this. This went on for several weeks – her trying to contact them, leaving messages with HR, the hiring manager, etc. Of course, you can well imagine that her opinion of this organization is now changing; however, she decided to give them the benefit of the doubt – perhaps there was some organizational upheaval (unplanned) that was causing this. Or perhaps there was a death or serious illness in the families of all those involved during the interview processes. I reminded her that that was about as likely as there being a catastrophic failure with their phone and voice mail systems that prevented them from receiving her messages and phone calls.

Still, she remained (somewhat) optimistic about hearing back from them. Three months later, she received some voice mail drivel (left by the HR person of all people) citing executive travel, etc. and that they weren’t sure if/when they would fill the position, etc. My friend was not happy at all and still did not feel she received any closure. She told me that even if they turned around and offered her the role, there is no way she would accept it. Her opinion of this company and their brand took a complete nosedive. Why? Because they failed to follow the golden rule of interviewing:

Thou shalt use the telephone and close the loop with all candidates that you interview and decide you do not want to proceed with
Thou shalt let all candidates that you have interviewed know, if you are not going to fill the position (for whatever reason) for which they have applied and been interviewed for.

It is as simple as that – the golden rule(s) of interviewing. Someone has taken time to manipulate their schedule to come and speak with you about a job with your company. The least you can do is have the common courtesy to follow up with them if they are not moving to the next stage, are not getting the job or if the job isn’t going to be filled after all. You owe it to these people to apply this common courtesy. Never leave candidates dangling and wondering where they stand in the interview/offer process. I am looking to you HR folks to lead the charge in this. Whether you think the hiring manager should do this or not, as HR/Recruiters we own this. We either coach the manager to do this OR we act as leaders and do this ourselves. To not do this damages your employment brand, your credibility and it is unbelievably discourteous to candidates. This golden rule applies to in-house recruiters, HR staff AND 3rd party agency recruiters. Quite frankly, I can’t think of a compelling argument why you wouldn’t follow these golden rule(s).

What about you? Do you practice the golden rule(s) of interviewing? Have you had a similar experience as my friend? As always, I welcome your comments and feedback.

Image courtesy of Matt Manning/ The Recruiting Cycle


4 Responses

  1. Hey Scott, so true! I’ve had this happen to me TWICE recently with two separate organizations. Took over a month in both cases to finally learn they decided to cancel the competitions. And that was only after leaving countless messages and annoying the poor administrative staff to frustration. My biggest problem with this is that they only decided to cancel after they checked my references. Waste my time OK. I’m looking for work, so it’s part of the gamble. Waste my references time, then I take issue. My references are outstanding and at a professional level such that I value that they are willing to devote any time to helping me secure a job. The last thing I want is some unprofessional organization wasting 15-20 minutes of each references’ time because they haven’t thought out their hiring plan. Very frustrating. Both organizations are well established and really ought to know better. Unfortunately, as a job seeker there is very little you can do.

    • Karen – I hear this story more often than I would like. It seems to be an almost epidemic problem with organizations. Part of the challenge is to change the cavalier approach companies have towards the people they meet with. You make a great point about the references too…. thanks for reading and commenting Karen

  2. Thanks for your post! It’s so refreshing to see that I was not alone with this terrible experience. I met with a Senior HR person, two physicians, a Director and the VP!! All those interviews went great. Just like in the article, they opened up with me and we were talking about how to fix some of their issues. There was great chemistry. Then, they asked to check my references and just like with the person above, my references are outstanding. Then I hear nothing from them. I have sent emails, called, or followed every tried and true sign of professional courtesy. Nothing! And I feel this big disconnect and lack of closure that it has been giving me a lot of frustration and confusion. My opinion of them changed drastically and even of they got back to me I would still feel very apprehensive about joining this organization. Thanks for sharing this article as it saved my weekend and Friday night!!

    • Jorge, it is unfortunate when this does happen to people. That is what many companies lose sight of – they are dealing with people. Hopefully you will find better success with an organization that values its candidates and employees. After all, like I tell many folks, would you really want to be a part of a company that treats candidates this shabbily?

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