Tony Compton, Managing Director
There’s been a handful of posts lately about what job candidates need to do to be successful during the #hiring process. These articles have included do’s and don’ts for the phone screen, the in-person interview, and the salary negotiation phases of the hiring process. (Of course, there are other steps.) I found the articles to be valid, useful, and timely pieces of content. Though a bit one-sided. I’d like to turn the tables in this post. I’ve had plenty of interviews over the years, and I’ve come away with a number of observations on what companies should do during the hiring process to treat candidates with a measure of professionalism, courtesy, and, most of all, respect.
1. If You Schedule a Phone Screen, Make the Call
I get it. Stuff happens. And I’ve been more than understanding when a phone screen is scheduled, then postponed or canceled at the last minute. But I’ve been on the other end when this has happened more than once with the same person, at the same company. Companies should convey to their people that when a candidate schedules 30 or 60 minutes for a phone screen, the time invested is far greater than a simple hour. There’s prep time, research, homework, and setting aside time before, during, and after a call for all of the logistics. Plus the time itself that can be used to pursue other opportunities in a highly-competitive job market, in a mediocre economy. If you’re going to book my time for a phone screen, make the call.
2. Prepare, Yourself
If job applicants need to be prepared for all steps in the hiring process, so should all those doing the interviewing. I can’t tell you the number of times I got on the phone with somebody who said, “I just got your resume and haven’t had a chance to review it.” If it’s a cardinal sin for a candidate not to do homework on the company and the interviewers ahead of time, the company rep should not get a pass on this one. And by the way, it’s not just my resume that should be reviewed, it’s also my #LinkedIn profile, publicly-available samples of my work, and social media accounts.
3. Be On Time
Maybe you’ve had that phone screen set for 1:00 pm. And you wait. And wait. The phone may ring at 1:05, 1:10, or 1:15. If candidates consistently showed up 5-10-15 minutes late for #interviews, hiring managers would not be happy and eliminate those applicants from consideration. Why should candidates be expected to stand-by and wait by the phone?
4. Stop Asking for Free Consulting
It’s come to the point that I can smell this one a mile away and now flat out refuse to do any free #consulting during the hiring process. Over the years, I’ve been asked to review websites, write long-form pieces of content, and answer questions about solving specific business challenges. Being interactive and responsive during the hiring process is fair game, but there’s a line that’s crossed into the territory of free consulting. If you want to hire me as a consultant, there’s an hourly rate for my services.
5. Express Gratitude
I’ve been on both sides of the phone, and conference room table, during the hiring process. The effort, time, and investment made by candidates in the hiring process is extensive. If I’m doing the interviewing, I’ve made it a point to sincerely say “thank you” to the applicant for taking an interest in the company and participating in the process. And I mean it. Having been on the receiving end of treatment by companies that couldn’t care less about how their candidates are treated, I go the extra mile to acknowledge all applicants. I know it makes a big, positive difference in building personal and corporate reputations.
This goes beyond the “black hole” of generically emailed #resume submissions, online applications, and #career portals. I have little confidence in those. This refers to those interviewers and hiring managers who simply disappear during the interview process. Sure, they’re busy. (Who isn’t?) And again, stuff happens. But that’s the exception, not the rule. It’s incomprehensible to think that after one, two, three, or more good interactions that a candidate isn’t entitled to some form of response to a professional, periodic status check of the hiring process. Interested in another candidate? Say so. There’s no update? Say so. But don’t go radio silent.
7. Acknowledge Receipt
This is different than expressing gratitude. There have been times when I’ve been asked (instructed) to take an online test, only to finish the test and see and hear nothing. There have been times when I’ve been asked to submit samples of my previous work, only to see and hear nothing in return. No acknowledgement of receipt, and certainly no note of gratitude. If companies ask candidates to spend time taking tests, and reviewing their files to submit previous samples of work, they should acknowledge that those activities take a significant amount of time and at least provide a note of receipt.
8. Make Up Your Mind
I interviewed with one company in three different offices, with different people, over the course of three months. Another, I drove hundreds of miles on every round-trip, on numerous occasions. Yet one more process involved a ‘good’ phone screen, followed by a rejection email (that was later retracted) only to be followed by visit to a #tech facility where I was given a tour, then sat down and asked if I had any questions. I had to carry that conversation for almost an hour. The hiring manager didn’t ask one more question. Not one of those opportunities panned out. And those are just three quick examples. Life is too short to waste on companies that can’t figure out what they want to do and I have better things to do with my time.
9. Save It
Put away your checklist sheet of mundane questions. Don’t put me on the phone with somebody in #humanresources or #recruiting that knows nothing about the business challenges your company and industry face. And please don’t ask me to go online and fill out the website #application – only to be treated to silence in return. Those never-ending applications take too long to complete and do more for HR and recruiting to pump up their number of applicants than they do for the candidates, or for solving any of the business challenges keeping executives up at night.
10. Offer the Candidate a Glass of Water
This one I’ll always remember. I was on an out-of-town personal trip when I got a call from a #recruiter about an opportunity with a company that happened to be in the same city. Pure coincidence. Since I was in the neighborhood, I took a hastily-arranged meeting with the hiring manager. Our meeting took place in a restaurant/bar/grill – but the meeting was in the morning. As we sat down, I expected be offered a glass of water. But I wasn’t. There was no wait staff, so nothing was ever ordered to eat or drink. Strange. I always offer a glass of water, coffee, or tea to those I’m interviewing. Over the course of our 60-90 minute meeting, I was never offered a glass of water. This is the one and only time I can recall that ever happening to me.
I know that are no guarantees of a job at any stage in the hiring process. And nobody is a perfect hiring manager, or interviewer. But over the decades, I’ve grown to appreciate the opportunities to interact with every person, at every organization, when job opportunities presented themselves. I’ve also enjoyed meeting every person that I’ve interviewed. The market is filled with some very good people doing fascinating work, and there are companies who take the candidate experience seriously.
But if companies want job applicants to be prepared for the hiring process, their recruiters, human resources staff, interviewers, and hiring managers should do the same. After years in a bad economy, the days of companies having the upper hand in the job market are now over. Employees are now back in control of the direction of their careers. For those companies who treat candidates with arrogance and disrespect throughout the hiring process, they not only run the risk of losing talent, they run the risk of being at a severe competitive disadvantage.
Treat candidates the way you would like to be treated, and it’ll make a world of difference for everybody.