In the April 30, 2013 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a job applicant invests more than eight hours in interviews and asks why the employer acts like her time is free:

The rudeness of employers seems to be pervasive out there. I had interviews with a company recently. The second round involved four finalists meeting 12 employees over eight grueling hours. They said in mid-March that they would make a choice by April 1. I called the HR person on April 7 and got her voice mail. I said I wanted to know their decision based on the timetable she provided and asked her to call me. On April 17, I e-mailed the hiring manager to reinforce my interest and asked if they had made a decision.

The next day the HR manager responded that they hired a candidate who started work the last week of March. She said that a formal notice would be sent to other applicants within the week.

April is over. There’s been no notice. One of the other three finalists told me she heard nothing at all. Are manners and simple courtesy totally dead?

Nick’s Reply

Job applicants appear on time for interviews, devote hours of unpaid professional time to an employer, and then wait patiently for a hiring decision by the promised date. Inevitably, a company ignores its own timeline without any update or comment to the candidates. Why? Because candidates are free.

You could be bold instead of free. Send the HR manager certified mail with a copy to the hiring manager and the CEO of the company: an invoice for your time.

Am I crazy to suggest this? Would you be crazy to actually do it? Imagine the note:

pay-to-playDear [name]:

My time for our first interview was free, as it was an exploratory meeting. You requested more time for the second round of meetings, which I provided at no cost, contingent on your company fulfilling its commitment to respond with a decision by the date you chose, April 1. You ignored my calls, e-mails, and your own deadline, without the courtesy of a notice.

I am thus billing you for the eight hours of my professional time spent in the second round of meetings with your team. As a professional, I would never dream of being irresponsible with the time of my clients, my vendors, or my employer. Time is money. I live by the deadlines I commit to, and I expect others to do the same. Anything less would be irresponsible to our industry and to our profession. None of us could operate with integrity if we ignored our commitments. This is not a joke. I expect payment within 10 days.

Yours truly,

If this seems extreme, why should it? Is there a more polite way to notify a company that it has erred? Sure — but you’ve already done that, several times.

Every day, companies ignore these time commitments with impunity. Why is a deadline for a hiring decision any less important than a deadline to deliver a product to a customer? The company’s ability to meet either deadline establishes its reputation. (See Death By Lethal Reputation.) Yet, while companies worry plenty about dissatisfied customers, they don’t give a thought to what other professionals in their industry will say about them.

A job applicant treated with disrespect can do as much — if not more — damage to a company’s business as a dissatisfied customer. Do employers really think word doesn’t get around?

Maybe hiring managers just assume that their HR departments handle all the necessary niceties with applicants. But, just how accountable are HR departments? Does this company’s public relations department realize that while it’s spending millions on good press, the HR department is scuttling it? If you’re a hiring manager, and you’re not sure how job candidates are treated after they leave your office, please read Respecting The Candidate.

Your HR department might explain that processing applicants, job offers, hires, and rejection letters is cumbersome. Tell that to your customer who cancels the order that’s a month late, or to the prospect who’s waiting for a sales rep to return her call.

The technology to keep candidates informed is here. The will isn’t. Why? Because job candidates don’t cost anything. Companies can get all your professional time they want, for free, without any obligation to you whatsoever.

That’s wrong. Don’t you think it’s time for employers to put some skin in the game, if only because it would make them think twice about the costs they impose on applicants?

What if employers had to pay for job interviews? Should you really send an invoice if an employer ignores its obligation to you?

Good questions. Would it make any difference if you actually sent in that invoice? It might, if you copy the company’s public relations department and three leading industry publications. (Don’t forget to add me to your list.) To paraphrase Arlo Guthrie’s song, “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree,” imagine if 50 people a day sent interview invoices to employers. Employers might learn to behave.

You don’t want to ask an employer to pay you for an interview? Then consider Conrado Hinojosa’s provocative The No-Nonsense Interview Agreement instead.

Bad behavior is un-businesslike. I challenge any HR manager to explain why it’s okay to ignore even an implied commitment to a job candidate. If your company shines in this regard, I’d like to hear from you, too. In fact, I’ll gladly highlight your company in an upcoming column.

In the meantime, I think employers should start paying to interview applicants — perhaps then they’d behave the way they expect applicants to behave.

If you could carefully select job candidates for a job at your company, would you pay them to interview with you? What is a candidate’s time worth, anyway? Even if the person is unemployed, if they’re worth interviewing then they’re worth money.

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  1. Nick, this is very true. Many companies, not directly in customer services, often hire staff in the HR office that lack adequate human relations skills to deal with the public. Interested applicants are a company’s external public (in the jargon of Public Relations). But I am unsure how informing them of their negative branding will help interested applicants interviews, so I tolerate these kind of treatments. I often encounter HR clerks who do not know the details of the job advertised. They may not even look at my resume to check if I have what that position requires (e.g., professional license or a degree in a certain field).

  2. Brilliant!

    I could not agree more with the idea that Companies should take a lot more responsibility for treating attractive candidates in a professional manner.

    All too often this important step of treating people with courtesy and respect is forgotten in the race to find the best person for the job.

    Executives would do well to remember that EVERYONE was at some point in their career not right for the job they were going after. But not scoring a perfect 10 out of 10 for a specific job is NOT a valid reason to dispense with professional courtesy.

    Successful businesses are often very busy, and there are practical limits of responsibility employers have to give detailed feedback to candidates who don’t make the grade; It’s unrealistic to expect career counseling from busy line managers. But that doesn’t mean that the interviewer (or HR) shouldn’t build into the recruitment process the TIME to send some kind of response. At the very least thanking them for their time and interest in the company.

    In the Consumer Goods industry sector, where we focus our recruitment activities, I think that this fundamental courtesy is particularly important. The candidate who has expressed a keen interest in working at your company is also a CUSTOMER. I wonder how many tens of millions of dollars companies throw away each year when through their neglect and unprofessional conduct create “anti-customers” – or people who will never again purchase a company’s products solely because of the way they were treated as a prospective employee?

    I cringe when I hear HR – or unresponsive line managers – say, “It’s nothing personal. It’s just business.” as a way of rationalizing irresponsible behavior.

    A word to the wise: When you piss off a great candidate through neglect, particularly after they have a deep interest and love for your company, they take all that passion, creativity, skill, and shop it directly across the street to your competitor.

    For the BEST candidates, business is VERY personal.

  3. In the current US economy, the reason for rude behaviour is probably very simple: Because they can. Lots of people are desperate for jobs and do not dare to protest.

    What they forget is that they posion their own reputation.

    As a side note, the company I intially had as a first priority for my new job repeatedly turned out to not be able to coordinate its hiring. I have been repeatedly in contact with their technical managers, who last time, in January, said that there would be no openings in my field. Guess what: Literally four days after, they posted ads for hiring in my field! Turned out that HR worked a bit too independently. I submitted an application with deadline Feb 15th. Still no feeback at all. In the mean time, I have signed with another company.

    Luckily, I was warned. A friend of mine worked there in the same field and told me some of their inner workings. She now works another place…

  4. In my arena pay for interview wouldn’t matter. The candidates are chosen ahead of time and the interview process is largely a show. The same people are recycled through the organization. It’s who you know and what friends you make in the company that get you in the door or into a new position.

  5. Nick,

    While writing such a letter may give the candidate some self-satisfaction, and in the best of cases may even embarrass the HR person / hiring manager personally, do you really expect such an exchange to make a difference in long-term behavior? I would wager that such behavior is not only condoned but mandated to keep #2 and #3 on the hook in case #1 changes their mind after a week or two. Even if CC’d to the PR department, Customer Relations, or even Legal, I do not believe such an action would cause more than an amused discussion over the water cooler.

    Are you seriously recommending following up on the invoice with a lawsuit, levy of service and small claims court when a contract to pay never existed?

    I think a much better policy would be to publish their behavior in an industry trade magazine letter to the editor, or even try for a special interest segment on the local news if the company is a MAJOR player there. Of course you would have to live with that you are totally burning all your bridges with that company, if not the industry.

  6. Amen. Good article and good comments.

    I wish companies read your articles Nick.

  7. I’m not a lawyer, but isn’t sending an invoice without any sort of contract, stated or implied, mail fraud? Is that what you’re advocating?

  8. Nice get even letter, but it would be more likely to get circulated as an example of how you the candidate behaves rather than how the company behaves. Unfortunately, much as in the case of combatting the insolent request for past earning history, in this marketplace it’s all likely to brand you as “high maintenance.” I suppose you might at least get the satisfaction of blazing a trail for those coming up behind you who might get treated better.

  9. I just had a company that I’m very interested in, do an uncommon thing. They are putting me on a 2 week project. They will be paying me $1500 a week. This is essentially a contract to hire. I normally don’t like C2H situations, but I feel comfortable with this company.

    I interviewed with them about 6 months ago. I was their second choice. The guy that they hired did not work out. The employee before that did a good job, but was not happy in the position.

    I started networking in my local database professional community. About 2 days after I had lunch with one of these professionals, I got a forwarded email from him for a position that has not been advertised yet. It happened to be the company I’m talking above.

    They have several candidates, with me being the top one. They are extremely nervous about this position, as they have not been very successful in keeping it filled.

    I think this is an excellent idea, as it gives everybody a chance of getting to know me, and I my co-workers. Plus, they are paying me for this time.

    The company is about 15 minutes from home, in an industry that I want to be in (Healthcare), and they are starting to get into enterprise technologies.

    My biggest takeaway is to network with the “right” people. Keep interviewing until you have something. I’ve have been the second choice in 3 previous hiring situations. Persevere!

  10. Excellent points, Nick!

    Again, don’t think if you jerk around qualified people (even people that may not make the cuts) that word won’t get around about poor recruiting behavior.

    Think of it this way: if I was in a position to use your services, why would I want too after I had an inside look on how you operate? This is especially true for 3rd party recruiters and HH’s.

  11. Thanks for pointing out this dirty little secret of the “talent” industry: that their recruiting behavior exploits candidates.

    How pervasive is the practice? Are there a few “bad apples” out there or is this the common practice?

    If there are companies that respect candidates, then why not give hero and villain companies the recognition their behavior has earned?

    In other words, why not name them?

    For example, I traveled 400 miles to an interview in late January with a company that is in the Fortune 100 — in fact, in the top 20. I incurred the expense of a hotel, gas, meals, and my time. Three months later, I still haven’t been reimbursed. By any measure, the company is delinquent in their financial obligation to me — but what recourse do I have?

    After all, Consumer Reports evaluates products and services . . . what resource is their for job seekers to screen out employers?

  12. I disagree with the premise of the employee charging the employer. Both the employee and employer are giving up their professional time for their own gain. The employer is already burning their own cash by searching for candidates.

    If an employer is screwing you around, there’s no law against walking away.

  13. @Tim: You’re right, there’s no contract, unless you argue there’s an implied contract for both parties to “perform” their proper roles in the interview process. But I think that’s beyond a longshot. But mail fraud?? I don’t think so. More like, “Stupid, irresponsible, hypocritical, unacceptable, unprofessional behavior…” which of course is not yet illegal :-)

    Gets people thinking, though, doesn’t it?

  14. Hector Sosa, Jr. and Nick should interview this company to learn more about their approach. It seems to be a great common-sense approach.

    All the best wishes, Hector.

  15. @Marc: “The employer is already burning their own cash by searching for candidates.”

    Yep. And that’s actually the bigger point in my column, tucked away in the idea that employers should pay for interviews. Think about how much corporate time and money is wasted every day, interviewing candidates that the employer has not checked out or considered carefully enough. Then they run through the applicants and decide no one is suitable to hire.

    What does that say about the employer’s ability to select candidates for interviews? It says IT SUCKS. It would make a great topic for a board of directors meeting — Why is the company spending so much money and time to NOT hire anyone?

    The idea of paying candidates stems from my wish that companies look at the overhead cost TO EVERYONE of their lousy selection processes. They sit behind applicant tracking systems, pushing buttons, not thinking carefully. The cost is staggering — then they blame “the talent shortage.”

  16. @Hector: What a smart company you’re dealing with.

    @Marc: Please note that in Hector’s experience, THAT is a company that’s actually spending its cash to search for a candidate. Other companies are largely wasting their money.

    I’m still waiting for an employer with a good story to tell to post — I’d love to hear it.

  17. Hi Nick, yes, the company is wasting money and you are basically saying that paying more money (in addition to company time) will put an emphasis on the cost of finding an employee and get them to take the process more seriously. It’s sad but it might be necessary.

    Employers do pay those extra fees when they hire a headhunter.

    Companies really need two HRs. One HR takes care of internal programs. The other HR is a hunting division that is very well connected and constantly meeting and recruiting talent.

    Currently, the headhunter performs the role of the “other HR”.

    Any company that entrusts their future to a resume sorting drone in HR is in serious trouble.

  18. Genius! I went through something similar. I was simultaneously interviewing with 2 companies. Company A drug out the process, requiring me to travel to their location for interviews, and did not respond to requests for an update after their deadlines for a response had slipped.

    Company B did most of the interviewing over the phone, had one in-person interview, and paid my travel expenses. Company B also extended the first offer; I have been with them for over 3 years.

    Company A called for another round of interviewing, and they were surprised that I was no longer available. Their call happened within an hour of accepting the Company B’s offer, so I did not yet have an opportunity to withdraw.

  19. Amen Nick!!! How stressful it is to take a vacation day then leave the office early the day before to get to the airport and hope that you don’t run into someone you know who will ask you where you’re going. You sleep in a odd bed, wake up in a different time zone, forego morning exercise, have a weird breakfast, get to the employer’s office to wait 20 minutes for the first appointment, talk with 6 others who don’t give a rip about you before you’re on your way back to the airport. Then the return flight gets messed up and you finally get home after midnight. Then the employer expects you to thank them within 10 minutes of leaving their office? What a great day, thanks.

    The other employer abuse is with expenses. Why do they balk at paying candidates to drive 50 miles each way, buy airline tickets, eat crummy restaurant food, rent a car, or incur other expenses in order to meet with the company? Then they turn around and lie to you about feedback after the interview – “You were great but we’re going to rewrite the job description.” What?

    Marc’s comments above demonstrate employers’ arrogance toward candidates. We will hire one (maybe!) and the rest are bar rags.

  20. That thing known as “common courtesy” died about one generation ago. I’m old enough, but just barely, to remember it.

  21. Your e-Mails and phone calls should have been answered in some fashion, regardless of how goods the reasons for delay. Sending an invoice seems petty and unproductive. The hiring situation has a lot of moving parts. Easy to blame HR, but I have found it is the hiring manager who is more the source of slow responses to candidates. Slow to schedule interviews and to make a hiring decision. Focus on their preferred candidate, ignoring others. Today’s process of pre-employment screening adds to the difficulty of meeting a specific target date. I have on occasion told a candidate that a final decision had not been made, but if they have another opportunity, they should accept it. As a candidate, I figured out that the lack of communication with me meant that I was not the #1 candidate.

  22. @Phil:

    It may be petty, but there is a good point to be made here. The employer can say “jump,” and the potential employee must say “how high.”

    The issue, as a potent employee, I want to know where I stand, especially if I find your position most appealing. And I want all my cards on the table before making a decision.

    I also it would be in the employers best interest to keep things moving as well. Not only may you not get your first choice, but your 2nd, 3rd, etc. choices have moved on…

  23. Nick,

    Excellent article. As always, you get right to the heart of the matter.

    In a recent job search, I was disheartened and frustrated with the bahaviors of both HR departments and hiring managers alike.

    When I was a hiring manager there were some absolutes I did in the hiring process:

    1. Got HR involved only at the time of generating the actual offer letter, doing background checks, etc.
    2. Read every resume that came to me. Read, not scanned. Anyone who scans a resume for 30 seconds and decides on candidates is well, an idiot.
    3. Sent a personal e-mail to every candidate that did not get past the phone interview.
    4. Once I selected a candidate and received an agreement, I personally called the other candidates to inform them, and if asked discussed the reasons why. It’s the only right thing to do.

    PS. To my knowledge, I never got sued by anybody for being human and treating others with respect.

    • Now you seem like the kind of guy I would like to work for. I don’t know your field, but you seem like a true leader. You never want to leave someone with a sour taste in their mouth. The person who you turned down you might have to do business with (B2B variety etc.) in the future. Also, you might be interviewing with their company for an even higher level position and it is nice to know someone in the other organization.

      Case in point, I am a teacher. I interviewed in 2008 for a position and the principal at the time selected someone else. However, he was very nice throughout the whole process and called me and offered me advice on how to nail any future interviews. A few weeks later, he called me and told me to apply to a district that has an opening and he was friends with the principal at that school. He thought I would be a good fit at that school.

      Well, a few years later the same principal applied for my district’s superintendent position. Not only did he have an employee currently working for the district vouch for him, I called him personally and gave him some “inside tips” during the process since I wanted him to be my boss.

  24. @Nick – Your idea is great but I’m also wondering if going that route would burn bridges or mark you as “high maintenance”. During my times of unemployment, I reached out to several recruiters about my displeasure with a company’s hiring system. I got the silent treatment afterwards.

    This also reminds me of a time when I interviewed at one company and was told by one of the panel members, “we let candidates know either way. We’re not like other companies,”.

    In my mind it was refreshing to hear but my opinion later changed after sending a few thank you and follow-up emails. I never received a “thanks, but no thanks” and later took a job at a company that was a bad fit. I’ve since left.

    A few weeks ago, I ran into someone at a networking event that was a part of the interviewing panel at said company. The employee recognized me and I stated that she interviewed me. She was slightly embarrassed and profusely apologized and stated that “it wasn’t her”.

    I held no ill will towards her but the silent treatment from her company spoke volumes so I mark them as a place I would not want to work.

  25. @Lynn

    “During my times of unemployment, I reached out to several recruiters about my displeasure with a company’s hiring system. I got the silent treatment afterwards.”

    And this is why I take working with most recruiters with a grain of salt – especially 3rd party ones.

    One would think that it’s the recruiters job to actually smooth things over and keep things moving. Again, as I have said, where is the added value of having a recruiter (either internal or external)?

  26. I think it’s a brilliant idea; however, not enough applicants would do it. So, I would be left looking like a fool and rejected outright. Btw, I think patients should bill doctors who keep them waiting for appointments as well..

  27. One more comment. I work for a company that sends me work via the web. I’m paid only on production. If the senders decide to take a week or two off, they don’t bother to let me know, and here I sit waiting and waiting…If I complain about this, I’m considered to be a whiner, and I’m reminded that my options are to put up with their program or go elsewhere (so, I’m in the process of looking for elsewhere). Is this the type of treatment that we are to expect these days?

  28. What a timely article as I just received an email requesting I come in for a five hour interview this Friday — four hours of interviews (no agenda) and a one hour break for lunch (unclear as to whether or not lunch would be provided).

    It blows my mind that HR departments think that people with jobs can, with minimal notice, arrange to be absent from their job for 5 hours in the middle of the day.

    I’m wondering now if I even want to attempt to reschedule this as a 5 hour interview is never going to work with my schedule unless I call in sick or use my PTO. I don’t know enough about the position after one thirty minute phone conversation to determine whether or not it’s worth my time.

  29. Perhaps this is slightly off topic here, but I thought I’d include it here as evidence of how unbelievably slack some organizations are – the copy is unaltered & is 100% their wording.

    “Thank you for your interest in the advertised job Administration Officers (Communications), Department of Emergency Medicine. We received your application on 19-Aug-2012 & will advise you on the outcome in the near future….”

    Then silence.
    A follow up elicits the stock std response “we’re reviewing all applications & will get back to in due course”.

    Then yesterday (I’m not kidding) this rolls in –

    “….I am writing on behalf of the selection committee for the role of Administration Officers (Communications), Department of Emergency Medicine. I wish to advise that on this occasion you have not been successful in obtaining the position. The time and effort you have taken in applying for the role is appreciated and we hope that you will consider applying for other Queensland Health positions in the future ….”

    “in the near future”…. a decision 8 months later! I guess the positive is that at least they did reply which is a lot more than some do. But as for reapplying for other roles – not sure I could stand the suspense!

  30. Dear Mr Nick,
    Thank you very much for this blog. I have been in this situation, since one year and it negatively affected my well being. I go to interviews, the moment they want me, fill tons of apliications and take tests that I pass and then these companies disappear and I remain worried if there is something wrong with my resume and I want to know why they are disappearing?. Why do they let me do all this work, if they are not sure of their potential for recruiting me. Are they playing on us, in order for them to have a job and seem busy. I hope someone could solve this problem. Thanks

  31. Judy, earlier you wrote “Btw, I think patients should bill doctors who keep them waiting for appointments as well”

    I mentioned this to my GP when I saw him at 11:00 AM, for a 9:30 AM scheduled appointment. I noted that I travelled 30 minutes each way because I valued his diagnostic evaluations. Waiting times have not been a problem since then; he was just unaware of the gap between the scheduled and actual appointment time.

  32. Reading this was perfect timing as I got another reject email from a recent interview in my inbox today. I was thankful for at least that much but detest the manner of this delivery these days. As in business, time is money and in my case the unemployment runs out in a few weeks.

  33. What about those companies who try to poach information? They should definitely be invoiced at a consulting rate.

  34. As a candidate I am getting more upset about how employers are treating my references. I have had several take up references and then never contact me. Two even called me to hurry their responses as they were required to allow me to move to stage two. In both cases after doing so I heard nothing.

    I was concerned about what my references might have been saying and so I fished only to discover they said I was great and everything was positive. To prove this one then sent me their response. I was blown away to find it was essentially a 10 page questionnaire with two essay type sections. On checking back these senior people informed me they took over 2.5 hours to fill in these online references. I had no idea. Plus I did not know how to tell them that after all their hard work I didn’t even get a phone interview.

    If companies are going to take up references with this time cost to those willing to help others find a position I would have hoped they would respect their time as well.

  35. I find it amazing that in the beginning of 2012, a full 65% of job applicants refused their first offers from their hiring managers.

    I sure that the hiring companies were as astonished as they were cluless.

    I’ve had the full range of treatment, from VIP to “Rude Buddha”, and everything in between, and yes, my memory is long. Those naughty companies have been purged from my follow-up files.

    My most memorable as of late was a Saturday morning interview held at 7:30am. The incredible courtesy to accomodate people like me who can’t get out because they are trying to survive a survival job added years of hope to what has been a hopeless feeling because of the horrible treatment in what some have called Employment Armageddon.

    I was a hiring manager during the boom of the 1990’s. I know first hand what happens when unemployment dips below 2%. The employment “pipeline” is drying up. In less than 10 years, managers will be flagging people in from the street, begging anyone and everyone to please, please, come work for me.

    It happened before. I guess when it happens again we could call it Corporate Kharmageddon: it will be the companies’ turn to suffer when what goes around comes around.

  36. Not only HR groups, but headhunters as well. I understand they’re out to make a buck, but the lying, hollow responses, and total lack of integrity should account for something. If headhunters had to pay out of their commission for people’s time they waste, there would be a lot less of it. I’ve finally come to the conclusion that in Houston, headhunter ranks way below used car salesman in trustworthiness and follow through. LinkedIn has only exacerbated the problem of headhunters posting false employment positions to get resumes they can fish through for contract work. Vaco and Accounting Principals are the worst here. It’s a sad commentary when their people can sleep at night and be so unethical.

  37. DC,

    True about headhunters…eh, recruiters. I have developed some filters to vet out the resume spammers, but even recruiters who are on assignment for defined positions may do long telephone interviews, ask for resumes etc – and then disappear, withoute even a note saying “thank you, but not you this time”.

  38. @Karsten

    As I said before, if/when I have a choice to use these 3rd party recruiter/HH, my business just may happen to go elsewhere…

    The problem is that no one holds HR/Recruiters/HH responsible and actually hit them where it hurts.. Or reward them for correct behavior (sad to say)

  39. I find interesting the timing of the whole process…They told him he mid-March he would know something by 1 April only to later find out the candidate they hired started at the end of March…

    Assuming the candidate was not unemployed and negotiations on salary and benefits were nonexistent, in order to start at the end of March, they would have had to give 2 weeks notice (assuming they used proper protocol with their current employer) immediately after the second round…In essence, the employer knew who they wanted and made an offer…

    They could have sent out something after the offer was accepted but dropped the ball a number of times with the candidates not chosen…

    Pretty sad state of affairs…

  40. @Mitch,
    One resource job hunters have to screen out employers is Employer’s interview questions, salaries paid, reviews, and other info is online there. There are now a few competing websites that are similar. I am not affiliated with glassdoor. I have used them to evaluate employers though.

  41. While in principle Glassdoor seems to be an ideal resource for the job seeker, the reality is – as I’ve found out recently – they really don’t like any kind of criticism of employers for poor interview etiquette and experiences.

  42. In technical employment searches the most repulsive behavior I’ve encountered has been from HR personnel who are completely clueless about technical qualifications. There is a strong element of self-aggrandizement in these folks, who presume to label me as “overqualified”. Then they complain to project managers that they can never find potential employees that fulfill their criteria for hiring … job security for HR folks who, in a company that is really competitive, would be eliminated from the hiring process altogether. Probably the only way to remove the deadwood from an HR department is to prove that ignorance costs, and paying an interviewee is one obvious solution. Unfortunately, much of the deadwood in these companies was related to the bosses, reinforcing my hypothesis that many U.S. companies define profitability in very strange ways.

    However, I’ve also been on another side of the argument: expensive company-paid cross country trips for interviews that were clearly worthless wastes of time and money. They inevitably ended in lo-ball job offers, which I [predictably] refused. I suspect I was used as an excuse to send the job overseas.

  43. I’m an inhouse recruiter. Each of us in HR has a note pinned to their cubicle panel which I provided…”Even if the company doesn’t want the candidate..the candidate should leave wanting the company”..
    It means be a Class Act. Once, for whatever reason, and whatever way you engage with a candidate, you treat them with maximum respect through the whole process.
    You want to Wow them and make them your advocates.
    HR and particularly recruiters should get some basic sales training. Because they may not see it that way…but one of their ongoing missions should be to sell the company. Recruiters in this sense are customer facing. They are often the 1st person in a company seen by their case job seekers. It’s a small world and what goes round comes round…job seekers become decision makers..if not for you, for your competition or for your business customers. First impressions really are lasting, especially rotten ones & people act accordingly.
    On the staffing side companies get sloppy and lazy in poor job climates where there are more job hunters than jobs, and sloppy and lazy drifts into inconsiderate and uncaring. When the coin flips and there are more jobs than people…much better to have that Class A reputation, where referrals/word of mouth make a big difference. And it costs absolutely nothing to be decent

  44. @Don Harkness

    I think you are right on.

    I’ve given referrals to companies where I haven’t gotten a job, but where I feel I’ve been treated right. I figure I will “pay it forward”

  45. Why would an Employer pay twice? They already spent the money for the Monster/CareerBuilder/HotJobs Resume Sewage line into the HR Dept.

    In all seriousness, I can’t remember how many interview cycles I’ve been a part of but the final interview all followed the same script:

    -EMPLOYER: We are extremely busy here at (Big Dumb Corp) and this is a very critical decision. We need someone yesterday who can hit the ground running and will definitely, absolutely, without a doubt be making our decision shortly. We _____________ (1. consider you our lead candidate 2. consider you a finalist 3. really want to thank you for your time) and we will REACH OUT TO YOU to let you know our decision.
    -ME: Sure. When can I expect a decision and if you do decide to go in another direction can I expect follow-up in that situation?
    -EMPLOYER: Absolutely! Yes!! Without a Doubt. I mean, we don’t have time to fool around and we’ll be making a decision in the next day or two. We always follow up, I mean here at (Big Dumb Corp) we are professionals. We treat people with respect and it’s a small world so we don’t want to burn any bridges. [Shakes hand, big smile, asks plan for the evening/weekend]
    -Me: [Thinks to self – I will never hear from this person again…don’t forget to validate parking, wash hand.]

  46. In the situation where they give the candidate this rather long interview with something like 100s of people to meet, I would appreciate the first meeting to be with the hiring manager. If hiring manager didn’t think the candidate was a fit, I’d appreciate a good handshake, some kind critique and to be let loose from the rest of the process. It used to be this way.

    Now they let the youngest member of the team and everyone size the candidate up in the interest of egalitarian respect for everyone’s opinions. But somewhere along the line, you didn’t pass, so that person communicated that decision to everyone on the agenda. And they still have the candidate jump through hoops for the very long time they have scheduled for the process, knowing that it isn’t going to work and its a waste of time for the candidate and the company.

  47. @SoundAdvice and Lucille

    Correct on both counts.

    Three thank you notes, three phone calls, and three e-mails: I gave them nine weeks to do the right thing–just let me know one way or the other. Of course, the didn’t.

    That’s just plain rude.

    In addition to meeting the hiring manager first, I push to spend at least 5 minutes in the actual workscape–the arena I’ll be performing in. I also try to check out the shop floor bathrooms–if they look like the one in Das Boot, I bolt for the exit.

    When I have a telephone screening interview, I suggest to the person on the phone that 20 minutes with the hiring manager, walking and talking as we stroll through the workplace would make an ideal first interview, and would save us both hours.

  48. I actually had a *positive* interview experience with 2 companies recently. But this has not been the norm.

  49. @Omar: Imagine if a company’s sales people treated prospective customers the way HR treats job applicants. They’d get fired. (Oops, there’s HR again…)

  50. @Tom: I’m reprinting your list of manager to-do’s here in the hope more people see it:

    1. Got HR involved only at the time of generating the actual offer letter, doing background checks, etc.
    2. Read every resume that came to me. Read, not scanned. Anyone who scans a resume for 30 seconds and decides on candidates is well, an idiot.
    3. Sent a personal e-mail to every candidate that did not get past the phone interview.
    4. Once I selected a candidate and received an agreement, I personally called the other candidates to inform them, and if asked discussed the reasons why. It’s the only right thing to do.

    Every manager should be required to do all these things when recruiting and hiring. Otherwise, what is the point? My compliments!

  51. @Tina: Sorry for the late reply (the past week has been incredibliy hectic, and I hate missing out on the dialogue here!).

    Why not just tell the company you’d like to schedule your time for interviews differently. It could be a good test of the company’s flexibility and respect for applicants. If you feel strongly, I’d do that. It takes two to play the hiring game – and the parties need to cooperate to make the rules (and to win).

  52. @Mike:

    “wish to advise that on this occasion you have not been successful in obtaining the position.”

    I love it. You have not been successful. I play video games that tell me I’ve lost, using more direct and honest language.

    “We decided not to hire you.” How’s that?

    8 months???

  53. @SteveG: That’s quite a reference story. I wonder how prevalent that is? That’s a good one for a column: How do employers treat your references? I’ve got a recent story of my own. Thanks for posting this. Great topic – we’ll cover it!

  54. @Don Harkness: Thanks for the other side.

    “Even if the company doesn’t want the candidate..the candidate should leave wanting the company”

    My compliments. Any company that behaves as if it doesn’t know what this means, isn’t worth interviewing with or working for.

  55. @Lucille:

    “In the situation where they give the candidate this rather long interview with something like 100s of people to meet, I would appreciate the first meeting to be with the hiring manager.”

    That would solve most of the hiring problems today. Manager puts skin in the game, we stick to the critical path (Who cares what HR thinks if the manager thinks something else?), and act like hiring matters.

  56. @Nick

    Thank you!

    I did write back and asked if there were any other interview options and quickly got my answer — minimal flexibility as the hiring manager was unwilling to consider condensing the schedule, hesitant to remove the break, and wasn’t open to combining some of the interviews so that I’d could meet with two or more people at a time. Also, the 5 hour interview was only the first of what could end up being 3 in person interviews — yikes — not sure if all 3 would be 5 hours or how much time they’d expect of each candidate.

    I also asked for the starting salary range and got a classic response: “If you share your current comp, I can let you know whether it’s in the range for the position.”

    I thanked him for his time, withdrew my application and wished him the best.

  57. @Tina: It may have cost you an “opportunity” (what a word that’s become), but I doubt it cost you a good job. I’d like to reach through my display and hug you. My compliments.

    “If you share the salary range, I’ll tell you whether it’s in the range of what I’m looking for.”

    We couldn’t make this stuff up, Tina. We’re dealing with boneheads. B-O-N-E-H-E-A-D-S. Then they complain there’s a talent shortage and they can’t find good workers.

    They are not looking. They’re playing King Of The Hill.

    My compliments for your integrity, and for refusing to work with jerks.

  58. @Nick

    Thank you — reading your posts and newsletters for the past few years has paid off!

    Some people would tell me I’m crazy for passing on “opportunities” such as this and to jump through their hoops to see where this leads. However, in the back of my mind I kept thinking “if they disrespect my time as a candidate, they’ll most likely disrespect it as an employee” — pass!

    I had higher hopes since this was a start up company — unfortunately, a start up company with antiquated hiring attitudes (and there was no HR involved — just the Hiring Manager who would have been the boss).

    Down with the clowns!

  59. Back in January, I interviewed with a very large company (hint: Sheila Bair mentions the company as a systemic risk in her recent VOX column) and mailed their official reimbursement request form and receipts the next week.

    Almost 18 weeks later — 10 weeks more than the “6 to 8 weeks” promised on the official reimbursement request form — I received partial reimbursement. No explanation, no letter, no “sorry this is so late” note accompanied the check. When I double-checked the difference between my expenses and the check, this company omitted the hotel taxes I paid when I had to stay overnight for the 7:30AM interview.

    This experience with one of the biggest companies in the world has been surprising and disappointing. In the future, when I have to travel for an interview, I’m tempted to say, “if you want me to come, then you will pre-pay the travel expenses.”

  60. This is truly a far-fetched issue. People are acting butt-hurt over nothing: if you got hired, you know. If you didn’t, it very likely means you did not get hired. That’s all there is to it. And oh btw, if you don’t like the employment process, quit it. No one forces you to partake. Come on, life is simple. Yes, it often feels like you’re unappreciated, so what, get over it. Once again: if you get hired, you’ll know. Everyone else should move on.

  61. I read your comments and they are good. I, however, never allow others to abuse me. I ALWAYS require prepayment of expenses related to any interview and ALWAYS bill for the interview time. My time is NOT free – EVER! However, I like the idea of billing doctors for extensive wait times. I might just have a bill ready with me next time and let the person at the desk know that if the doctor is over 15 minutes late, I’ll start billing.