Fooling Around with Candidates Everyday

A person recently contacted me through LinkedIn and requested some time to speak with me about their “complicated” 

employment situation. I wasn’t sure whether they were seeking my advice about their current employment or how to approach the search for something else. (They are currently employed, but looking for a new position).

They referred to several challenges in their situation making them feel it was necessary to leave their current employer sooner rather than later. While, I didn’t delve into all of the specifics with them, they shared enough that I would agree, they need to find a new source of a paycheck.

They have already been looking for a new job for several months but weren't satisfied with their progress, even though they have been contacted quite a few times for phone screens and onsite interviews. Based on that fact alone, it sounds like they are being reasonable about their qualifications in relation to the positions they pursue.  And, it sounds like they are at least minimally presentable on paper, online and perhaps in person to be invited to interviews.

So, then I thought a few other issues that could be going on preventing them from sealing the deal. One possibility is that once the conversation becomes more serious, they do or say something that disqualifies them from further consideration. Or, perhaps they don’t say or do anything wrong, but the hiring party “just isn’t that into them” for one reason or another. If so, either way, it’s probably something extremely subjective, and maybe even different each time, that it would be impossible to speculate about.

We talked more about the interviews themselves and what, if any, follow-up steps or feedback they inquired about and how they did so. They said the always ask about next steps and the timeline for those to take place. I asked if they ever get any hint, feeling, instinct about the interviewers’ perceptions during their call/meeting and if anything ever seems like a concern. They said “no, the interactions always seem positive and I’m given the impression that I’ll hear back soon to discuss further. But then, I never hear anything from them. My calls, messages and emails are never answered.”

At that point they said: “I don’t want to sound crazy, but is this normal? I mean that’s not how I do business. I call people back and answer my emails, so I don’t understand what is going on here!”  

I said, well unfortunately, it shouldn’t be normal, but it is extremely common to not get a response from an employer if/once they decide they won’t be moving forward with you. Obviously, that is not how it should be and you shouldn’t take it personally or let it get you discouraged. The best thing to do is not get too emotionally attached to any particular position at any stage of the process.

Remain optimistic and enthusiastic, but keep moving forward with a neutral mindset about each transaction. In a roundabout way, I felt like the only logical thing I could tell this person was to change their perspective to being “pleased” when they do get a response rather when “upset” when they don’t.

Essentially, the only way to avoid feeling like a crazy fool is to lower your standards. Now, isn’t that foolish?

Why can’t “our people” figure out the importance of showing some appreciation for the time, effort and energy candidates put into applying and interviewing for a position? If given the choice of being rejected or being neglected, practically everyone would appreciate the former.

Views: 1040

Comment by Will Thomson on April 2, 2013 at 3:14pm

Good post Kelly.  I like your writing!  "The best thing to do is not get too emotionally attached to any particular position at any stage of the process".  So true.  If you have been that candidate who hasn't had any feedback, then you will be the one who goes the extra mile when a candidate isn't selected.  A simple "sorry, but no" goes a long way. 

Comment by Paul Slezak on April 3, 2013 at 6:07am

It’s always nice to call a candidate, tell them how impressed you were with them at interview and either invite them back in for another meeting, or to perhaps even verbally offer them a job.

It’s not so nice to have to call a candidate, thank them for their time, but let them down gently and tell them that they have been unsuccessful. But this is still something you must do if nothing else to maintain a professional reputation in the market.

Please don’t send a standard email letting them know your decision to not pursue with their application. They more than likely took time off work to come to meet with you, probably did the best they could at interview, so please have the decency to call them let them know your decision over the phone.

Whatever happens please don’t let days (or weeks) go by without any news. Some candidates might think that “no news is good news”, while others might think that “silence can only mean one thing”. Don’t keep the unsuccessful candidates in a state of uncertainty. Provide them with feedback - whether it be positive or constructive - regardless of the outcome of their interview. They will be grateful either way and more importantly will respect your level of professionalism.

Comment by Nigel Coxon on April 12, 2013 at 6:11am

"A simple "sorry, but no" goes a long way"

Not for me I'm afraid. Maybe it's because we work with a largely well-educated and analytical candidate pool by nature (scientists) but just telling them "Sorry, but no" only leads to the inevitable "Why?"

It's not a whiny "Why?". It's a genuine question - most often what they mean (and indeed what they will often say) is "Is there anything I could have done better?".

Speaking as the "man in the middle" it can be very frustrating. I call my hiring manager for feedback and they're all focussed on the best candidate. I can hear how great they were, how responsive, driven, thoughtful, dynamic - and you know what? I know they're not going to care. After I've said "They'd like you to start next week" they probably don't even hear the next fifty words I say because internally a little voice is going "Whoop!  Whoop! Whoop!"

It's the other candidates who need to hear something more than "Sorry, but no", but trying to draw reasons for rejection out of most hiring managers is like pulling teeth. Plus there are some great lines in there than NO candidates want to hear..."The quality of applications was very high" (the candidate hears the implied "except yours" on the end). "You were our second choice" Oh Gee, thanks a lot.

Give them detail. "We didn't think your subject knowledge was as current as some of the other applicants" - it sounds harsh, but it's something the candidate can address. Make it constructive "You might want to try some volunteer work to refresh your lab skills".

I don't think "Sorry, but no" goes a long way - but I suppose it's better than nothing.


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