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!

Views: 26108

Comment by Craig Watson on November 16, 2011 at 4:27am
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...
Comment by Darryl Dioso on November 16, 2011 at 10:01am

Great post.


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

Comment by Paul S. Gumbinner on November 16, 2011 at 10:06am

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.

Comment by Renee Mangrum on November 16, 2011 at 2:59pm

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

Comment by Bill Schultz on November 16, 2011 at 3:19pm

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.



Comment by Raphael Fang on November 16, 2011 at 3:21pm

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.  



Comment by Luke Collard on November 16, 2011 at 5:40pm

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.

Comment by Renee Mangrum on November 16, 2011 at 5:48pm

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

Comment by Bill Schultz on November 16, 2011 at 5:52pm

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."

Comment by Candace Nault on November 16, 2011 at 7:06pm

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!


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