How NOT to interview someone who already has a job.

Answer:  Don’t Waste Their Time!


You can stop reading now since I already gave the answer. If you read on, I will talk about best practices for interviewing candidates whose time is limited, since someone in their infinite wisdom has already given this person a job.


Recruiters and hiring managers all want to hire the person who is currently working, yes? Why then do we waste so much of their time, and treat them like our company is God’s gift to their career? Hiring Managers, and their superiors, AND their recruiters, tend to take the attitude “Well if they want the job, they’ll make the time”. This is completely contrary to the attitude we should be taking toward these candidates. Maybe they don’t want the job, or they’re not sure; maybe they were referred by an employee, sourced by a recruiter, or have six other offers. I just don’t understand why we treat the prize candidates, the ones we claim we want above all others, like cattle.


I recently saw a job posting. You may have seen it. The company proudly boasted: “You will go through 6-8 interviews!” I thought: “YOU will hire a bunch of unemployed people”.


OK yes, this is personal, because it recently happened to me. I’m a Recruiter who was working on a finite-term contract, and I began interviewing for other positions. I was repeatedly stunned at the attitude these companies (and their Recruiters) took toward my scheduling parameters. A person can only have so many doctors or dentist appointments before it becomes apparent to their employer they are probably interviewing. Even when I simply say “I’m not going to be in for half the day on Thursday” it will raise suspicion after a bit.


Here is the worst example: I interviewed for a position in a city that was a 1-hour drive from home. This startup on the San Francisco peninsula conducted SEVEN interviews with me, including THREE separate visits to their office. They seemed to have no plan and no interview process. They just kept adding interviewers, like “Oh, the manager in London wants to have a say in who we hire now, so you need to talk to him”. On this particular day they dragged me back to their office so I could talk to him on the phone - something I could have done from home - while he was standing outside a conference he had just attended. This company also had interviewers bail on my in-person interview, and made me return to their office another day to meet with this person. They also called me on two separate occasions in the morning saying “Can you come to our office today?” Today? Are you smoking crack? What intelligent candidate would agree to go and interview, unprepared, at the drop of a hat? My conclusion was that this company wanted to hire someone stupid, desperate and unprepared, who would then turn around and disrespect future candidates by participating (as a Recruiter) in this inane process.


It amazes me how companies don’t put their best foot forward when hiring recruiters, and embarrass themselves with their own hiring process. The example above was the worst, but I have recently experienced several disorganized interviews, and processes, that were disrespectful of my time and made me wonder, 1) Am I going to be able to fix this when I get in there? or 2) should I decline this company because they are too large to accept suggestions or change anything?


My Mom taught me you don’t bring up a problem without proposing a solution. So here’s my solution:

ONE phone interview

Be on time, and be prepared. Remember the candidate is either taking time off from work to take the call from home, or they are taking the call in the hallway, outside, or in their car. Get the “info” you need as efficiently as possible. Decide from that phone call if it’s a go/no-go to proceed.

ONE on-site interview

Four interviewers are ideal. Length: 30-45 minutes per person. Do I have to say these are one-on-one interviews? Yes, they are. Don’t gang up on your candidate, unless it’s just a meet-and-greet where the decision does not lie with this panel (e.g., cross-functional folks, or direct reports to the position). The Recruiter doesn’t need to be on the panel: I greet the candidate and escort them to the interview room, stopping by to get them a drink or whatever they need. I get a feel for them during that time frame, and I can still provide feedback (was I more, or less impressed now that I’ve met them in person? Did they make a red-flag comment?) Each segment doesn’t have to be the same amount of time. Depending on the role of the interviewer, mix it up! Get the information you need and get the candidate on their way. Remember they are making excuses to leave work, and if they’re contractors, they are losing money every hour they spend away from their job. We should be mindful and respectful of that.

The End. Make a Decision. Communicate it to the candidate.

No second interview? No! Why? Just to make the candidate feel special? How much more special will they feel if you can make a decision from a single on-site interview? If your interview is organized, each member of the panel will know what qualities and skills they are probing for, the feedback will be meaningful and returned to the recruiter promptly, and there is no reason a decision cannot be made when you have 4-5 people meeting with the candidate. This is where the professional Recruiter comes in, guiding their business group regarding interview questions, feedback, timely responses, and a definitive yes/no vote whether to hire the candidate. This is also a place where the Company should defer to a veteran Recruiter’s guidance regarding this process.


Also, what’s wrong with going out and meeting the candidate for coffee? If there’s someone who is not on the panel, but who feels strongly about meeting the candidate, shouldn’t that person make the effort to meet the candidate (see above re: coffee, or breakfast, lunch, video conference, whatever)?


Companies who hire top talent are already doing the activities outlined above, with minor differences. I’m talking about the good activities! Not the 7-interview/3-visit one. This is really just a Golden Rule recommendation, after all, but the companies who are getting the best talent do it in an intelligent and efficient manner.


Cheers, and happy hiring of the top talent in your industry!

  • Craig Watson

    Hi Renee, Great post. One phone/skype interview and one face-to-face interview would be heaven! And recruitment companies when hieing their own talent are often the worst culprits...
  • Darryl Dioso

    Great post.


    "Today? Are you smoking crack?" - one of my favourite lines on this site. Ever.

  • Paul S. Gumbinner

    While I fully agree with you, this is the real world and it just doesn't happen that way.  Companies, and the people in them are, unfortunately, what I call corporate-centric.  They believe the earth and the moon and the sun revolve around them; and they treat candidates that way.  As a recruiter, I like to remind my clients that the candidate's time is just as important as their time.

    About a year ago, I had just the opposite thing happen.  A candidate was scheduled for seven interviews in three hours - that is about one interview every twenty five minutes or so.  By the time the candidate was finished he was completely turned off.  The last interview was with a friend of mine and I called him.  His comment was that the candidate seemed too "tired" for their culture.  Absurd.

    The hiring process is flawed.  As a recruiter, the best we can do is try to minimize the number of times our candidates have to visit a company.

  • Renee Mangrum

    Hi Paul! I think we're saying the same thing here. But, one can dream, Paul. One can dream.

  • Bill Schultz

    I agree with a lot of this post.  A recruiter has a tough job with a working candidate.  S/He has to entice and cajole and then turn it around and have the candidate pine for the position.  Has to do the same on the client side.  That's why we get the big bucks.



  • Raphael Fang

    Most of my candidates are employed and I will do my best to work with them.  


    I know that my clients want to interview candidates at their offices and asking the candidates to make up excuses to leave their work twice is absurd.  I like to meet with them for coffee after normal work hours.  



  • Luke Collard

    Renne - I read this just after I spoke to a client to get feedback on my candidate who last night attended a 5th interview...and they want him back for another !!! My advice to the candidate will be too seriously think if he wants to join a company that have to meet him 6 times before deciding whether he is good enough or not to join them. I wouldn't.

    I may just forward your blog to the client !!!! Gret stuff.

  • Renee Mangrum

    Forward away, my good man! At least maybe they'll see that you are not alone in your beliefs around Interviewing best practices.

  • Bill Schultz

    Most I ever heard was a candidate I interviewed said he was in process with a company and had 19 interviews to date.  I said "dude, they don't need to hire you.  They picked your carcass clean."

  • Candace Nault

    Excellent post!  Great way to articulate what can be a huge challenge working with some companies who aren't thinking about anyone but themselves in the process of hiring someone.  This one is a keeper!  Thanks!

  • Luke Collard

    Renee - a progress report on my latest comment (re candiate being invited back for 6th interview) -....he said "no", the client said "ok, well we will offer him anyway" (so why the need to request another interview), to which he said "thanks but I have accepted another offer" .  Snooze you loose and proves what you say in your blog is absolutely spot on.

  • Peter Ceccarelli

    I mostly agree with your points, but every position is different, so obviously a senior level position will entail more interviews than lower level position because of how they impact an organization and across that organization.  I also disagree that it's not okay to have more than one person in a session.  The reason a lot of companies have 7 rounds of interviews is because they are not grouping people.  I group people, therefore in a 3 hour period of time, they have been seen by 9 people during one round.  We always have a final/2nd round.  It's typically with the most senior people in our organization that are part of the decision making process and sometimes the hiring manger will spend one more round to make sure we've done due diligence with the candidate.


    The scenario that you personally described sounded insane to me.  I can't imagine a company presenting themselves that way and then believing any candidate would view them as a potential employer.  They don't deserve to be in business.


    Recruiting is like entertaining guests in your home.  We have to have good manners, be prepared for the visit, clean the house, be pleasant and present a positive image.  It's up to the recruiter to make sure all that happens.  If someone on my interview team does not meet that muster, then they are out of the loop on future interviews until they shape up.  Training hiring mangers and interview teams is also an ongoing process.  You can never do too much.  I do refresher courses all the time.  And it helps.


    Great post!


  • Renee Mangrum

    Luke: Wow. Just Wow. Sorry to hear that. Thanks for your nice comments.

  • John Comyn

    High on my priority list when I take a job order is "what is the interview process?" and if it is unacceptable I say so & give reasons. As you point out - if it is difficult for the candidate to do numerous on-site interviews, they need to get off butts and go and meet the candidate at a venue and at a time that is convenient for the candidate. Unless there is skills testing, profiling etc I would find 2 on-site interviews acceptable. The 1st being line manager/HR etc and the last being with the head honcho to get his rubber stamp. Max 15 minutes.

  • Ken Rosado

    Spot on.  I just lost a deal because my client took a month, and 3, two hour interviews, only to ask for another interview because one of the onsite interviewers had bailed.  My competitions client interviewed him twice and made in an offer in less that 2 weeks.

    My client then scrambled to make him an offer without that final interview. The candidate, whose become a friend, replied with, "Really? So now I'm important? No offense, but I'm going to accept the other guys offer. Thanks for your help."

    Another No-No; one of the interview questions was "why do you want to work for us?" and the candidate responded that he wasn't sure; he wasn't looking when I called, but he became interested when I told him that 'the client' was a great place with a great opportunity.

    I told the in-house recruiter who'd asked to see "employed candidates only" that it was up to them to woo the candidate.

    I'm hoping he gets it.

  • Paul S. Gumbinner

    The thing that is wonderful about is that it reminds all of us that we share the same experiences and issues.  What I cannot understand is that the issue for all of us is always talent and finding the right candidates.  Most hiring companies are so egocentric that they think that everyone is dying to work for them, especially in this economy, so they assume that everything they do is perfect and that candidates will do anything to work for them. @Ken is right on when he says that it is up to clients to woo the candidates.  We only find them and facilitate the process and occasionally can influence a decision.