Originally published April 17, 2007.
In an earlier article, I made a case for cultivating a more civil attitude during the interview process as actually a means of growing a long-term referral base and to stem negative reverberation from bad candidate experiences.
In this article, I want to highlight some of the actions that drive candidates crazy so we can try to avoid them at all costs.
The Top-10 Things Candidates Hate
- Having no clue whom they are meeting with for an interview, how long they will interview for, and arriving somewhere on time in order to wait alone in a lobby, room, or restaurant (and feeling very conspicuous when they don’t need a job!) while looking at their watch (every five seconds) for the late interviewer.
- Taking a personal day off on one, two, or three occasions to interview at XYZ Company, only to fall into the Black Hole of No Feedback and never to be spoken to again. Add that their wife continues to harp on the fact that they missed Johnny’s recital by taking personal days to go interview for a new job when “You have a perfectly acceptable one right now.” This is when your picture goes up on the dart board in their rec room.
- Learning after the fact that someone on the interview team thought that their resume showed too many positions when they actually worked for the same company for 10 years, but it changed names 10 times. This is the reality of never being able to address an objection, real or not, that comes up during the process that can be addressed.
- Navigating a ridiculous, invasive online application that does not save after each field, crashes unexpectedly, is hard to complete thoroughly, and yet is viewed as a negative if it is incomplete.
- Walking in to an interview with a person more junior than themselves to discover that said Bozo is reading the resume for the first time and is asking impossibly inane questions such as, “So, why do you need a job with our company?” when they were headhunted.
- Feeling like they really are the right person for the job but somehow can’t get an interview. Whether that is because of a poor resume, undeveloped communications skills, or not connecting at the right level.
- Going through a more thorough interview process than a candidate for the Supreme Court. I am ashamed to admit this, but I have actually facilitated interviews that have lasted longer than one year (fortunately NOT at Deloitte.)
- Enduring a background check that is conducted by hourly workers on a different continent who raise red flags on your background because your university verified your degree as a B.S. in Sociology and Anthropology instead of a B.S. in Women’s Studies (which is no longer offered). Did I mention that the candidate has already resigned, given their start date, and had their goodbye party? Yes, no kidding.
- Enduring a formal interview process, complete with a one-hour phone screen with HR, a call with a junior team member asking basic questions, and then getting the green light to attend a cattle call. All of this when the candidate has only agreed to being “open to talking” and is NOT looking for a job. In fact, they really only signed up to have a beer with a career-level counterpart on the inside.
- The number-one pet peeve of all candidates is talking to misinformed, condescending, and unoriginal HR generalists or entry-level recruiters who answer all questions with, “Because that’s the way we do it here and we cannot do it differently.” Or who answer every question with “I don’t know.”
This is not only a reflection of the corporate cultures of both big and small companies, but is made worse by third-party recruiters who send one qualified person to 12 companies and tend to generalize about them all.
We are all guilty of a few spineless process moments that cause our candidates pain and suffering. So what do they like? What wins every time with a candidate?
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The Top-10 Things Candidates Love
- Talking to someone who is knowledgeable about their background, their company, what their potential career path may be, and who can have an unbiased conversation about options that exist.
- Entering an interview process that is transparent.
- Getting a courtesy telephone call to the effect of, “What we have is no for now, not forever. We value your time and are sorry about the outcome.”
- Having someone help them go through the online application process or be on hand and be knowledgeable about the system.
- Getting a list of information that is needed to complete the online application such as W2s, phone numbers, references, and yes, even documentation to present in lieu of a real, live company that has since closed (Enron).
- Having an honest conversation about objections to their history and being allowed to counter.
- Getting help on resigning and also being granted some flexibility on start dates if they have real plans to travel, have surgeries, or a need to keep a schedule of their former employer.
- Being asked for feedback on the questions asked during the interview process or what they felt were high and low points of the interaction. Also, having the chance to weigh in on the overall candidate experience.
- Having flexibility in the process and a chance for their questions to be answered versus being interrogated without any real dialogue about their concerns.
- Being treated with respect at every level regardless of whether they are the right candidate.
I’m willing to hear arguments that being service-oriented in this process is going to reduce the quality of the process, the applicant pool, and the hiring manager’s ability to be selective. That’s a cop-out. It’s harder to do this in a high-volume, low-level environment.
But your role can be automated when you refuse to be the human buffer between the process and your candidate. If the worst outcome you get is that every candidate that you interact with wants you to represent them as their Agent for Life, that is not a bad thing.
In the future, it is the person with the candidate connections who will win, not the person who created the horrendous process. I bet that organizations unwilling to change or analyze the process will not win the next generational wave of top talent.