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: 25936

Comment by Luke Collard on November 16, 2011 at 7:21pm

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.

Comment by Peter Ceccarelli on November 16, 2011 at 7:22pm

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!


Comment by Renee Mangrum on November 16, 2011 at 7:39pm

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

Comment by John Comyn on November 17, 2011 at 2:17am

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.

Comment by Ken Rosado on November 17, 2011 at 10:36am

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.

Comment by Paul S. Gumbinner on November 17, 2011 at 11:13am

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. 

Comment by Cora Mae Lengeman on December 8, 2011 at 8:47am

Well done!

By the time some of these companies get around to FINALLY being done with interviewing the candidate s/he may already have a couple of offers from companies that recognize true talent. Sorry, you snooze, you lose.

Don’t companies know that while they are interviewing the candidate s/he is also checking them out to see if they want to work there? Sure, who wouldn’t love to work for a company that wastes valuable time – candidate and theirs – during the interview process?

Don’t they have any real work? Are they afraid to make a decision? How many other “meetings” do they have every week that takes people away from their true work at the company – helping the company make a profit just so one person isn’t blamed for making a decision.

One reason I’m a solo recruiter.

Comment by Cora Mae Lengeman on December 8, 2011 at 9:07am

Right on Ken!

Companies need to entice candidates!  That is why they are interviewing them, to try and get them to work there.  Yes, face-to-face meeting are important but let's not do a marathon nor take weeks (or months) to make a decision.  Companies sometimes appear to be clueless about hiring people - do they use the same process in regards to finding a new client?

I tell candidates: "If you don't like them during the interview process; you will not like working there.  Companies trying to entice you should be at their best when interviewing you.

It is during the interview process that candidates get to see how a company works through an issue/problem and come to a solution.  Companies need to put their best game in play - which they should be doing eveyday to keep the company healthy.


I've had very large companies interview candidates in coffee shops on Saturday mornings, at 6:30 in the morning for breakfast on the candidate's way to work, and in the evening after the candidate got off work.  Most of the interviewers have all been in the same position - looking for a new opportunity - so they know what it is like to try to make time to interview.  i have no problem reminding my clients of this fact.

Comment by John Comyn on December 8, 2011 at 9:51am

Couldn't agree more. Plus the chances of one of the interviewers disagreeing with the rest is always on the cards (in golf we say theres always one in every 4 ball) so the process takes a lot longer & they run the risk of losing a great candidate. Typically, when you ask why all the interviews are necessary, they will say it's to see if the candidate fits in with the company culture. What's this crap that peers need to give their approval ??? No more than 2 interveiws I say. One with line management and the 2nd with the top dog (CEO). One of the 1st questions I ask is what is the interview process & if it is a drawn out process I tell them it is unacceptable. My wife recently got employed by a large financial services company. The CEO was lat in line. He offered to take her for a coffee to have an informal chat at a venue close to our home. Now that's what I'm talking about!


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