Question

I went in for my interview and, as job opportunities go, all went great. I met with the HR manager and the Division Manager. They called me back in on Thursday to meet with the Regional Manager, since he was in town. It also went well. We mainly talked about outside activities and life experiences in a jovial laid-back manner. I went back in today to take a personality test.

I am forcing myself to not get too fired up about all of this. But, I have to think that no company would subject an applicant to all of this without leaning toward the hire. When should I begin to expect something in this process? I figure that there can’t be much more for me to do than meet with three six-figure managers and take a personality test. Is there?

Nick’s Reply

job opportunities“I have to think that no company would subject an applicant to all of this without leaning toward the hire.”

Expectations

Never, ever, ever succumb to this mindset. This is the point in the interview process where people start to set an expectation because they feel they’ve “invested so much.” They start to believe the employer is now “heavily invested,” too. And that sets their expectations.

Far, far worse, such expectations convince job seekers they can suspend further job searching “until this opportunity plays itself out.”

In fact, the best thing you can do next — once the interview process is done and you’re waiting for that offer — is to devote yourself to your next job opportunity. Let this one percolate, but don’t wait for the offer. You know what they say about watching water boil. Move on. Get your next interviews lined up!

Most job opportunities go south

The truth is, you have no idea what this employer’s threshold is for taking action. As a headhunter who has dealt with more interviews than you ever will, I can tell you that most job opportunities go south. Even when you think an offer is imminent, you won’t get the job. You’ll never know why. Don’t bother to guess. If you try, you’ll find nothing at the bottom of your frustration but self-doubt.

Do your best with this particular opportunity. Follow the process through. Ask for feedback and ask for a decision timetable. (That’s legit and important.) Maintain your enthusiasm, but don’t build expectations.

I’m not trying to discourage you. Motivation and a positive attitude are crucial. But never start believing “they’re going to make an offer, I can tell”. Because you can’t.

Don’t let this discourage you. I hope you get a great offer — and you might. But at this juncture it’s up to the employer. They control what they do next. Please use this advice to take control of what you do next. Never wait on the employer’s decision. Always be working on your next alternative — because most deals go south.

Were you convinced a job offer was coming, then it didn’t? What made you think so? Did you waste time waiting? If you’ve had this experience, what did you learn from it?

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40 Comments
  1. It’s naive thinking to believe that jumping through hoops, or investing a lot of time and effort in multiple interviews for a place that could care less about you, is going to result in a job offer. This is why job candidates need to learn to value their time, and not be afraid to cut their losses and walk when employers pull these shenanigans.
    As the old saying goes “it’s not over until the fat lady sings”.

  2. I had 11 interviews with a company over a six week period. Yes, you read right, eleven. There were both individual and team personality profiling tests. One video call with someone from their offices who helped people find housing and learn about the city. Two meets with the coworkers, 3 with the team of managers and multiple with the entire group. The job posting read like it had been written using my KSA’s. My references were all contacted (and said how excited they seemed to be bringing me on), the background cleared and I was starting to research moving companies when I got a canned rejection email. I was floored. When I called the hiring manager to ask what I could do better or differently for my next interview he said there was nothing they just had to make a decision and they picked the other guy. By the 7th interview I had falsely presumed I was the only one left in the process. You can never assume you’ll get the offer. I should have stopped them at round 4 because I had other interviews to schedule! Learn as you go.

    • I know the status quo will not change, but scenarios like this is exactly why there should be a point that candidates should start charging for their time to continue participating in these HR circuses.

      At least they have legislated the end of mandatory NDA’s – maybe some sort of mandate to reimburse these endless interviews will possible come to pass as well.

    • 11 interviews in 7 weeks tells me this is a company with serious organization issues…it screams “cannot make up or minds”.

      • The dead giveaway was the personality tests. My firm rule is to walk away from any and all. I walked into a situation where I was stress interviewed and tested like I was going to work for the CIA…for a marketing job in a healthcare organization that served the elderly and underserved of the Bronx. Some others have asked for tests since and I have refused despite needing the work.

      • Exactly. So why try to read the mind of a dysfunctional group of people?

  3. Most people don’t know how to hire and want to blame someone or something if the hiring decision doesn’t work out. Chicken entrails, star movement, and the sound of crickets can all be used to make a hiring decision. I know of a company that hired someone they shouldn’t have. The person was removed from his job but not dismissed from the company for 2 years. He would show up everyday, play on the computer, and eat pizza. He eventually got another job at another large company with presumably the same result.

  4. I think the problem is that candidates tend to view time spent interviewing as a measure of “investment”, if you will. Why would a company “spend” all that effort if there wasn’t a real interest? You don’t spend time and money on a potential mate unless you think there’s potential for a relationship.

    But it “costs” an employer nothing to add another interview or meeting to the schedule*. If an employer spends one hour or ten hours talking to you, the HR manager and division manager get paid the same. No entry exists in the balance sheet that says “hiring investments” where someone could question what the return on that time is.

    Of course, for the candidate, it *is* an investment. We have to take time off from work and spend uncompensated time preparing/doing research/etc.

    * As Nick has pointed out, there *is* a cost, namely the job going unfilled and the lost revenue/profitability that results. But companies don’t track that. If they did, then maybe time spent interviewing would be an indicator of interest. After all, if they’ve just spent 20 hours interviewing/reviewing a candidate, someone could start to ask, “Why don’t we just hire this person and get them working instead of wasting time talking to them about it?”

    • “As Nick has pointed out, there *is* a cost, namely the job going unfilled and the lost revenue/profitability that results. But companies don’t track that.”

      At least one company did (shees.. back in the ’90s). I interviewed with one company following a referral from a long-time friend who was working there. The manager I’d be reporting to revealed during the interview that managers were actually evaluated, in part, by how long positions remained open in their department. I suspect he mentioned in an effort to let me know that this wasn’t going to be a long, drawn-out interview process. It might have been in response to a question I asked about how long the position had been open. (I don’t remember after all these years.) At least one company understood the effect that long-term open positions have on existing team members. The extra work. The stress they endure from covering for that unfilled open position. Additional open positions may develop if that situation goes on for too long.

      • In all honesty, open positions are now considered contributors to the bottom line. Then the company can go to the press and bleat how they can’t find qualified people to fill their jobs. Who cares if the staff in place are overworked and underpaid?

        • Response to complaints and threats to leave? “Don’t let the door hit you on the way out.” Especially if you are older and not “diverse”. If you are diverse and cheap, they might make the effort. That is sadly The Truth.

    • @Chis: Wharton labor researcher Peter Cappelli famously pointed out that modern accounting systems do not account for the costs of leaving a job vacant. Good thing for HR and the managers that own those vacancies!

      Question is, are boards of directors aware of this? How about shareholders?

      • Nick, I will differ with you. Calculating the cost of the vacancy is too much work. They save on a salary and benefits that go straight to the bottom line.
        BOD wants a check, a good lunch, and no problems that create liability for them. Shareholders want increasing share price and dividends. They are way too distant to care.

        • @Dee in the book “Peopleware”, they refer to that as doing half of a cost/benefit analysis – noting immediate savings while not calculating the (negative) benefits resulting.

          • @Timothy, the savings are in $ while the negatives tend to be qualitative or extrapolated. Another reason why contractor rates have fallen into a well. Here’s the number, cut it by half.

      • This whole discussion seems to validate something one of my bosses told me back in the day

        “Upper management doesn’t want to know about problems ..because they’ll have to do something about them”

        I think executive teams, boards etc view “staffing” as administration. & who can get excited about administration. They in their wisdom have more important things to do. As such, pay no attention to it.

        The cost that hiring managers & their HR “partners” care about is the cost of bonuses and comp. Theirs.

        If companies gave recruiting & retention the importance it deserves it would be reflected in how they hold the major players accountable to them, and reward them (or not). For which they develop & use related metrics.

        Approve a req?..then trigger in some of the same metrics you mentioned that the sales team is managed by…and recruiting agencies use. how many calls have you made, how many visits/interviews, how many orders/offers, how many orders/accepts, how many referrals and so on. And how many do you plan to do next week? and so on until filled And performance to these metrics affect your pay. Deliver or exceed. I’ll reward you. Don’t & it will cost you.

        As to recruiting, or vacancies..there is a tipping point. If you don’t fill it by X you seemingly don’t need it & as such, I’ll keep the $ or give license to hire to another manager. And you’re still on the hook for your deliverables, and your delivery affects your comp, bonuses and retention

        Recruiting and retention are inter-related, but not the same. I’ve seen managers who recruit well (and often) because they pay zero attention, nor care about retention. They operate a revolving door while HR watches mouths agape.

        So I think your point about a metric focusing and acting on vacancy is well taken & would be very useful. Something easy to understand, and something tied to managerial compensation. It’s quite doable. Executive management’s message is “don’t have vacancies” their problems is they’d be held accountable to the same metric.

        This could invite unintended consequences..Don’t ask for people since asking creates a vacancy which could cost you if not timely filled. However avoiding it either burns out your team, or effects missed deliverables…which can cause attrition and more severe slippages which could cost you.

        Which good managers will avoid, by good recruiting and good management.

        • @Don: Stop me if I’ve told this one before… A major financial services company brought me in to teach its HR recruiters “how to do it like a headhunter.” The program went well and all the recruiters “got it.” Problem was, HR management wouldn’t let them actually DO what they had learned. So nothing really changed. But…

          The senior member of the team was so inspired that she submitted a business plan for a new role in recruiting: “internal” recruiter.

          The idea stemmed from discussions we had during the program about two things. (1) How the company often lost top performers to the competition. (2) How I once filled a position for this client with an employee in another department. That is, I earned no fee. During my research, I spoke with an employee who was perfect for the job, so I recommended him, he was transferred internally, and my search assignment for that job ended. (I made a lot of money on many searches from this client, so I had no problem forgoing one placement. It raised my credibility.)

          This recruiter’s plan was for a position that would allow her to recruit employees from one dept into another, just like I had.

          The biz plan was at first welcomed as out-of-the-box. But when managers realized they could lose employees to other departments, all hell broke loose and the plan was rejected.

          The point is, the recruiter’s plan was a great way to retain good employees. In Silicon Valley, we used to refer to companies that “ate their own young” rather than let the competition “eat” them. Why lose a good employee to a competitor when you can move them to something new they’d really like to do?

          Internal politics ruined a great plan. No long after, that recruiter quit to go to a competitor.

          • Most of the techie companies I worked for evolved to a process for applying for inside jobs..one reason for the objectives you mentioned.. and also to keep poaching to a minimum. And internal candidates had to be considered before you went outside. But ..
            to apply you had to have a “hall pass” from your boss. So it didn’t work as well as it could have.
            Always some boss who rewarded you for a good job and bringing value by chaining you to your desk. Eventually refusing to allow someone to move, resulted in them moving themselves..outside.
            Those pissed off bosses wouldn’t see or accept that the proposed internal recruitment could be a gain to them. Yeah you lose some people to other departments, but you can get people from other departments. And I’m sure the person who proposed the idea would include the need that close the loop, moving someone from dept A opening a hole, would work well when filling the hole either inside or outside. Realtors do it all the time with contingency sales. Selling your house is contingent on the buyer selling his.
            It’s not just retention, it’s also pro active career development. a win/win/win deal. Employee wins, managers win, company wins & wins well. I keep an employee of known value, I increase the value, I build credibility with employees re: growth from within etc.

            • I’m old school. I think one of the jobs of a boss is to develop people. Period. I’ve had people who wanted to move on. Not because I was an ogre, but either changing their direction. or simply for family or geographical reasons. Good people. Losing well performing professionals is painful. But they had my back, so I have to have theirs. If not an emergency you work out an exit plan.

              Back in the day I managed a tech support team(s). If it wasn’t engineering it was us…Software QA, Tech Writing, Lab management, the facility itself and grounds. you name it.

              Like other QA’s I managed, I’d hire people who aspired to be programmers, but my elite development friends didn’t think they’d cut it, or they had no openings etc. for example I’d hire customer support people who had great insights on how customers use software & the issues they had. They made good QA people, very good to the degree development would see the light and they’d transfer. I could have been an ass & refuse to, but everyone would lose. And it wasn’t lost on me that having developers who lived on the dark side was a plus. They made better developers, who made higher quality software. Ditto tech writers. I’ve even had a tech writer move into the pearly gates of hardware engineering, holiest of holies. Because he demonstrated he knew his shit .

              When recruiting for awhile I worked the Six Sigma circuit. There I ran across my model for a boss. I asked for referrals. And one day an applicant gave me his current boss as a referral. The only one ever. I called the guy & he told me That the guy was really really good, but he couldn’t do anything more for him. No growth room & to grow he had to go. And I thought wow, that’s impressive. (I did place the applicant)

              That proposal for an internal recruiter was a great idea which could only have benefited the company a lot. They didn’t have to just cut it in, They could have run a Beta test on it to try it out and iron the kinks out of it.

        • @Don, particularly in company cultures which are ‘bro’ or the corollary, ‘work hard play hard’. The heads are visionaries, the details are handled by the underlings, and for the privilege of being there you’d better work it, baby–but when it’s sold, here’s two weeks and some worthless stock.

          I guess I’ve been around that world too long…

          • that’s my career been there done that. The problem with some visionaries is they can’t execute. They don’t manage those underlings, or worse their peers don’t “get” the vision.

    • This!

  5. Let’s see here:
    HR manager
    Division manager
    Regional manager
    Personality test

    I would expect to be ghosted at this point. You’ve danced to their little game, now it’s time for them to have some fun with someone else who thinks that this company is a “great place to work”.

    Until the Purple Squirrel comes bounding out of the underbrush that is.

  6. After a pretty full career, I believe that employers are more scared of making the decision than going without. So the functionaries will jerk candidates around without any consideration of their time, because they can. And with some, wielding this power makes them feel good.

    In some cases, things are corporately brewing that postpone or terminate the hire, like funding, running out of money, or being bought.

    Sometimes if they close too fast–beware. You may be the sole sucker they got for a nightmare job. It’s happened to me a couple of times. If you need to take it, you do and try to get some value out of it, but then you’re in a situation that you’re in it and need to get out of it. Or walk.

    Do your due diligence, show up for the talks, thank the folks, and move to the next. If it happens, it happens.

  7. Tip-off #1 that this was a recruiting bomb: “We mainly talked about outside activities and life experiences in a jovial laid-back manner.” Only an idiot manager would spend his/her precious time yucking it up with a candidate. What? Is he short of friends? Did you show him how you would do the job for him? Did she ask? Because really, that’s all he is going to be graded on: Can his employees make it happen. The applicant’s job is to make sure the hiring company knows what they are doing (with the hire), that the company has their priorities aligned throughout the hierarchy, has a palatable work environment, among other things.

    Tip-off #2 “I went back in today to take a personality test.” Only a fool leaves his/her hiring decision to a personality test. This goes for HR as well as the candidate. What if the personality test says you are a potential ax-murderer? Do you really want to work for a company that thinks a standardized test knows better than the hiring manager who can do the job?

    I don’t take tests until I am hired. Has that cost me some jobs? Perhaps. Did I dodge a career bullet from those companies? Probably.

    • Yes, the personal chit-chat and the personality test as the outstanding features are big red flags for me. It’s great to be friendly, but a business meeting I like to talk business, and if we need tests, how about skills tests or work samples?

      • I think this Manager that was yucking it up knew exactly what he was doing..he was trying to find personal information that HR tells you that you are not allowed to ask. I think he was being sneaky.

        So what does your wife do? So, how may kids do have? So, what do you do outside work, etc., etc. Only not asked so point blank…You get my drift.

  8. I’ve been fortunate, when I was told an offer was coming, it came.
    But the prequel…is ghosting, seemingly good vibes, but talking to the hand when trying to get a response.

    I tell job hunters (& myself) that keep the cardinal rule in mind..it ain’t over til it’s over & you’re sitting in there with a badge. Until then keep on truckin right up to your start date. which connects to the cardinal rule

    Hunting for a job is a roller coaster ride..the car goes up up up you reach the top then dowwwwwwwwwwwwwwn it goes ..repeat.

    11 interviews! I think we all know that if you were told up front that our process is 11 interviews most people would say I pass. They seem to have the time & as others noted care nothing for yours. But you should notice that 11 interviews translates to indecisive. Likely takes that many approvals to buy paperclips.

    One of my managers did 1 interview. His. Unless it was a team leader or some such I didn’t interview his applicants. If he hired someone he’d just tell his team, I hired Charley, play nice. And give me an fyi.
    It worked just fine & was a lot faster for all parties.

    • The best manager I’ve had in my career – his name was Bill Wooton – hired me after a single interview.

      Since I have a different temperament, my style for hiring is/was a little different. You’d come in for a couple hours and talk to me and members of my team. If we thought things looked good, we’d arrange for you to come back for a programming test. That was like a simple, freshman-level computer science problem with no time pressure. Afterwards, I or a senior dev would go over it with you with a goal of getting insights into your thought process. After that, we’d make a decision and were done. So not a single interview, but still everyone could get on with their lives pretty quickly.

      One place I deviated from correct hiring practices was a bias toward giving people a chance. It turns out I suffered very little from that. What really hurt were the cases of someone seeming perfect… on paper.

    • Don, even if hired you may be cut after a day or a week or a month or 6 months. Sometimes on real problems found, but usually because the budgets were cut or the real job is different than what you were hired for. Cendant (no longer around, what is left is Avis Budget) used to do that all the time.

      • Dee, but that door swings two ways. It’s rare for “no shows” but within the 1st 6 months of a new hires, people cut out. Often because some seeds they planted when hunting bore late fruit and for a job they really preferred in the 1st place.
        Goes with the territory.

        • @Don: More than once I’ve placed a candidate after they turned down a job offer I got for them. They opted to go to another employer instead. So I’d lose a fee.

          I learned early never to get upset or write the person off. Instead, I stayed in touch, checking in regularly. “So, how’s it going? Is it everything you hoped?”

          I found that the first few weeks of a new job are the most unsettling. People often have buyer’s regret and realize the job was not what they expected. I gave them a shoulder to cry on. Then I took them back to my client and earned my fee.

          How’s that possible, you ask? Didn’t someone else take the job I failed to fill? It’s not hard to prepare the original client (whose offer the candidate rejected) for a second bite at the apple. It takes a bit of finesse, but smart employers can be reminded that job seekers make mistakes. It’s all about being there when they realize their mistake. Often, that job is still open. Sometimes the candidate is hired into another job. It’s no so hard to facilitate a “reconciliation.”

          • I agree. This is why I tell job hunters I coach to not walk away. Especially to keep in touch with anyone in the interviewing team who they thought they connected with.

            To check in to refresh memories.

            They are driving the bus. Don’t expect or count on the hiring side to remember you, to take time to hunt you down. Connectivity is up to you.

            as a recruiter I’d tell applicants who lost the deal to check in with me. I’d tell them It’s not age..I could have been a young man, and in a week I’d forget them. They’d be buried under current events. If really interested check in. Help me help them. I’ve had people do that & maybe it’s just luck, get a call when I’m looking for a placement & see that this person likely could do that job, though not in their main wheelhouse & place them

            As an inside recruiter, I’d go through the who process with people who say all the right things. Love the job, love this company, want to work for you guys..didn’t get an offer, & never hear from them again. Which I’d translated to “it really was only about the job anyway”

            And to another of your points on the other side. Hiring managers who take offer declines personally. Cop an attitude & write the person off. Like contradicting their own judgment. If you were a good hire today, with more experience on the market you can only be better next week. It’s a business for gods sake not your fan club.

    • @Don: Imagine the reaction from a VP of Sales at that company, if a sales rep said they’d called on the prospect 11 times and still didn’t have an order…

      • It seems in that company & companies like it, the VP of Sales would be one of the interviewers.

        This 11 tier pile sounds like it’s marinating in a concept called “buy in” which was popular in at least one of the companies I worked in. Where you didn’t move on until you have buy in from (fill the blanks). It seemed as if that included the window washers, gaining their buy in by holding up a specs and flipping the pages by his face. That was actually done for products. But sounds like this company employs it in recruiting.

        The flip side of buy in is huge loss of time & moving on, and no accountability.

        One supposes the 12 step is to bring in a consulting proctologist.

        • Or fly in an academic psychiatrist who does consulting for the CIA.

  9. In my time, I and my wife were interviewed by a shrink. For an expat assignment which are expensive in all ways, & which have above average failure rates. People move and the relo to new climes, places and cultures and it doesn’t take, flaming out spectacularly.

    • That is an example where there was a clear benefit to you and the company. It was smart.

      What I mentioned above with the health org for the underserved and elderly in The Bronx–why do you fly in a shrink from Minneapolis to NYC where you trip over them? Because the HR VP was getting a kickback, as I later found out!

  10. OMG! Nick can you please save us from ourselves?!?!

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