Saturday, May 24, 2008

Confidential to Hiring Managers: Spank Alert!

Believe me, I totally get it. Being in the job market can be really unpleasant – especially for hiring managers. As much as job seekers are wondering if there is a place for them in the world, it’s no picnic being a hiring manager either. You have to interview a long line of candidates, most of whom fall on some point on the loser continuum. Perhaps you’ve heard your company’s leadership crow about “hiring for passion, training for skill” one too many times. You know the truth: If the candidate’s resume doesn’t connect the dots just so, you’ve got to spit that contender back out into the universe of yearning wannabes. It’s hard on them, it’s hard on you. It’s a big, fat drag.

Sorry, but that’s no excuse for some truly heartless behavior I’ve witnessed lately. Are we depressed? Too funky to function? Or have we just lost our Manual to Just Plain Common Decency?

The stories of rudeness – even downright cruelty – abound. For this particular posting, however, I want to focus on one specific behavior from hiring managers I’ve been seeing repeatedly: Insensitive lack of follow-up. To wit: The words, “I’ll call you.” Even worse, the words, “I’ll call you by the end of the week.” And then they don’t. Don’t they know how mean that is?

If you’re a regular Oprah (or Sex in the City) watcher like I am, you may remember the whole concept of “He’s Just Not That Into You.” Hearing the words “I’ll call you” at the end of a date may or may not mean that you’ll actually get called for a second date. So you shrug, think to yourself, “whatever,” and just get on with your life.

It’s an annoying, infantile behavior on the dating scene, but it’s positively unacceptable in the job market.

At the moment I have two friends in the job market, both talented, smart, passionate people knocking themselves out to find a great job that can make the best of their considerable skills. I’m proud to know them both, and any company who hires them will do themselves a big favor. But both have heard, “I’ll call you by….” And then…wait for it…nothing.

One friend never heard from that hiring manager at all, ever – even though the interviewer told her she was on the short list of candidates, and would call her “by Friday.”

The other friend, on an extremely short list for a high-level executive position, invested three solid days of her extremely valuable time in the interview process (not to mention a total of over 300 miles of driving distance – and we all know what that means in terms of a gas bill). She was told by her prospective boss, “I’ll call you Thursday or Friday with an answer.” Thursday and Friday came and went. So did the weekend. So did the following Monday – well most of it. At 4:20, the phone rang. It was the prospective boss saying, “Sorry I forgot to call you on Friday. We’ve decided to continue our search.”

The boss forgot?? How do you forget about a promise you made on something so important as a job the candidate is totally passionate about? You don’t forget. You keep your promise.

Just when I thought I’d heard it all, I heard a new riff on the similar theme. Yet another friend (I seem to have a lot of friends in the job market right now) was flown by the hiring company cross-country for a series of panel interviews. It was a lively, exhausting day. She left feeling cautiously optimistic (one of the panel members actually wanted the job in question…don’t get me started on panel interviews).

Weeks came and went. She heard nothing. Phone calls and emails went unreturned. And so she did what any sensible person would do: She shrugged, thought “whatever,” and went on with her life. Then one day, out of the blue, the hiring manager’s assistant called to request a phone appointment a few days hence. Hmm…maybe they’re interested after all.

So my friend waits with rising optimism. And then the conversation begins thusly:
“We have decided to continue our search. But I thought you would like to hear feedback from your interview.”

This is what I would call a one-two punch. To my friend’s credit, she heroically endured a half-hour’s worth of negative feedback. Thanked the hiring manager very much for her time and then called me. True…sensible job candidates are open to feedback on interviews but not like that. Don’t put candidates on a yo-yo of hope and despair and then wait until they’ve released all hope to then call them for one last parting roundhouse across the jaw.

Again, let me repeat: I know it’s hard to be you, if you’re a hiring manager. You have to interview a whole bunch of people – every single one of them – except one – will receive disappointing news. And that has to be hard on your own spirit.
But so is treating candidates callously. It’s tempting to put off making those difficult phone calls. But that helps no one. You’re prolonging your own agony as much as you’re prolonging theirs.

And you’re wrecking your company’s reputation when you behave that way. Remember my first friend in this article? As coincidence would have it, she’s been invited to apply for a job in the last company I mentioned. You can be very sure that I told her all about the third friend’s experience with them.

Is she going to go ahead with the interview? Sure. Will she go into the process whole-heartedly, passionately, and hopefully? Nope. She’ll be holding back – which is completely against her nature.

All over this country, we have a cadre of fabulously talented, but dispirited, candidates who have given up bit by bit. I gotta tell you: In a very large part, hiring managers have themselves to blame.

Be a mensch! Keep your promises! Make those calls!

1 comment:

Fiona Purdy said...

You know one day maybe these heartless Hiring Managers will go through the awfulness of what they've put job seekers through. The Universe has a habit of payback and a perverse sense of irony! Just found your blog on and I love it. I will be reading all of your archived blogs!


Fiona Purdy
Scottsdale, Arizona