Friday, July 10, 2009

Being a Hiring Manager Doesn't Give You the Right To Be a Jackass

I write a lot about how to pen a great resume, what to wear to an interview and how to give terrific answers to tough questions from hiring managers.

Now, I think it's time I gave some pointers to interviewers. Not all of them need this advice, but I'm hearing enough horror stories from job candidates that I think it's worthwhile to give them some advice. I'm not going to name names. You know who you are.

Rules for being a good hiring manager/interviewer:

1. When you post a job, be prepared. Have a system in place to acknowledge that you've received a resume and/or cover letter when they come flooding in. This can be nothing more than a form e-mail saying "got it." It may cost you some time in the beginning, but it will save you in the long run when job seekers tie up your phone lines or e-mail asking, "Did you get my resume?" Besides, it's just common courtesy.

2. Be on time. You ask job candidates to be on time, yet you keep them cooling their heels in the lobby for an hour? It's unprofessional and rude. Don't forget, the business world is often very small, and you'd hate for your boss to hear of your behavior, especially if it turns out you really p.o.'d a top candidate. And wouldn't the boss think it was just peachy if a rant turned up online from the candidate criticizing your behavior?

3. Clear a chair. Don't invite someone for an interview and then show them to an office that looks like a landfill and hasn't had an uncluttered chair since 1995. They put on a suit, for goodness's sake, and you can't even get a space cleared for them to sit? Don't make them wish they'd gotten their tetanus shot updated.

4. Pay attention. While there are some badly prepared job candidates, there are plenty who have practiced their answers, done research on your company and are prepared to offer their take on industry trends. So, turn off your phone, your e-mail and put a "do not disturb" sign on your door. Paying attention to anything but what they have to say shows you're not doing your job. And not doing your job may mean you are on the other side of the interviewing table -- soon.

5. Be honest. Most job candidates are just looking for a clue -- anything -- that will tell them about their chances for the position. If you know you're never going to call them back (their skills are all wrong, they want too much money) then tell them. If you're going to call on Thursday, then call on Thursday. If you know the interviewing process is going to drag out another three weeks because the final decision needs to be made by the CEO who is currently fishing in Alaska -- then say it will be at least three weeks before a decision is made.

What are some other rules interviewers should follow?


Amber Shah said...

How about selling the company to the candidate?

Interviewers often assume that any candidate already WANTS to work there and that this is a one-sided sales pitch. If you do this, you're going to end up scraping the bottom of the barrel for job candidates. Even the best candidate who has done his research usually only knows as much as your website lists.

To snare the superstars, interviews need to be prepared to let them into some of the inner workings and sell the company as their top choice.

Anita said...

Excellent suggestion! You're absolutely right -- the interviewer also must be prepared.

Brad Shorr said...

Anita, This is a very good list - I hope lots and lots of interviewers read it. One thing I might add is close the interview professionally. Let candidates know what to expect next and give them a proper sendoff.

Anita said...

Appreciate your addition to the list...that's a good suggestion.

Anonymous said...

Closing the loop is always appreciated. Although some of the engagements may only be very short in duration, they are still a microcosm of the greater relationships we take part in.

Anita said...

You make a good point about much of our success now and in the future depends on how we behave in our interactions, no matter how great or small.

Lisa said...

Well said! I've had a few interviews where the HR lady kept me in the lobby for over half an hour - only to walk by without saying hello to tell me to wait longer. I almost left before the interview.
Maybe this economic environment can lead people to believe that they are desperate for a job. But sometimes, the job just simply isn't worth it.

Anita said...

"Sometimes the job isn't worth it." -- How true.
If they treat you unprofessionally, rudely or as if you don't really matter during the interview process, chances are that's a real indication of how the company is operated. It may be worth it to put your efforts into getting an interview elsewhere, and counting yourself lucky to have escaped -- even in this bad job market.

Sophie from the block said...

How about...

Don't build up the hopes of a potential hire by telling them they are the front runner, if you know that what you think isn't the final deciding factor. You may think they are amazing, but the XD may hate them. Follow the rules!!

Anita said...

I agree. I think candidates don't want to be given false hopes so that they stop looking for work because they feel the job is in the bag. Think how angry and humiliated that candidate will feel when they don't get the job -- they may never want to work for your company even if another opening comes along!

Anonymous said...

Great article! I've never had this happen to me but i heard a horror story just today about a friend who did!

Anita said...

Well, I wrote this for your friend and all those other people out there who are being treated badly. Let's hope it gets the message to those who need it.

Anonymous said...

I went to NYC for a job interview - traveled 4 hours from DC and the hiring manager made me wait half an hour, didn't even offer me a water or coffee. Then worse yet - when I got in to see the CEO he checked his blackberry during our 10 minute meeting twice. I didn't get the offer but I was actually glad. Who wants to work with a bunch of rude people like that?

Anita said...

Thanks for sharing that story. That's exactly what we all need to hear -- you rock!

Anonymous said...

One thing I had happen to me is the hiring manager asked me if I really wanted the position, since I had so much contract work on my resume. He and his assistant seemed to be of the opinion that I was not interested in regular employment. I was not surprised to not get the position and was surprised that they actually spent the time to interview me, if they felt that way.

I have heard of this happening, and have suspected it occuring at various times in my life. I always hear that temp work is a good way to get experience, but wonder if HR ever cares about it. I suspect it is often held against me and does not work in my favor.

Anita said...

I'm sure that experience for you was frustrating. You may want to contact the hiring manager and say, "Can you provide me some feedback on the interview I did? Was there anything that I can work on to learn from this experience?" They may be willing to help you out. If not, and this is happening on a regular basis, it may be worth working with a career coach to help you find ways to steer clear of misconceptions about temp work when speaking with hiring managers. It could be the situation will also improve because so many people are now taking temp work as a way to survive in this economy. I'd say HR is going to see that on a resume more and more.

Ian said...

Great list, I hope you will do one for recruiters in the future.

I can't remember the number of times me & other had discount the company, because the interviewer got caught pretending to know the answer an technical question; making the company to look like they don't know what they are talking about.

For HR, make sure to take 10mins to take to the manager to find out what are the important traits for the role.

Also make sure both HR & the manager have reviewed the posting, especially if it's a new role. Otherwise the company will just attract candidates that doesn't fit.

Anita said...

Good point: The interviewer is the first representative a job candidate will meet, and many will form their impressions based on this interaction. It would be tough to lose a top candidate because the hiring manager or interviewer didn't take the time to do their homework.

Unknown said...

My biggest issue...send a letter or email informing candidates who were NOT picked that the position has been filled. Something like "you had a great background, we had many great candidates, and ultimately chose someone who closely fit our search criteria and the job requirements." Many companies use automated candidate management systems that make it very easy to close this loop. Even if you don't use a software-based system, MS Word has this thing called Mail-merge. Hire a temp, write a form letter, handover an Excel spreadsheet, and a pile of letter and envelopes. If you can't be bothered for a potential co-worker, it makes me wonder how you handle your business leads.

Anita said...

It's about reputation, isn't it? If you treat people badly who come to your place of business -- whether they are customers or job candidates -- then the word can get around fast, especially with the Internet. Eventually, this job market will turn around and as an employer you may be begging people to work for you -- but they may check out your reputation and decide to go elsewhere.
Thanks for your comments.

Tom said...

I would like to small things from an interviewer:

a) When does the position start (this can be "October" or "next Monday" - just give me an idea)

b) When can I expect an answer about being hired or going to a second round of interviews?

And if you really want to be good, send a note (email or whatever one prefers) indicating that I was not selected for the position. I have had a few places send such a note and it was appreciated - otherwise the candidate wonders what happened to the process.

The Office Newb said...

This is so true!

I once went on an interview where the hiring manager didn't even bother to close the door to his office while we were talking and then interrupted me halfway through to bang on his office window to get the attention of an employee who happened to be walking by. How rude!