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When Interviews Become Disrespectful

Posted by Bob Corlett on May 29, 2012

Imagine you are interviewing a senior executive candidate for a position with your organization. The candidate is an expert in her field, and the job market is good, so you expect she will receive job offers from other companies. Naturally you are keen not to offend her, but you also want to be absolutely sure she is qualified for the job. How do you conduct a rigorous and thorough interview process without crossing the line into becoming disrespectful? How far can you push without being obnoxious or offensive?

Let’s review what is and what is not respectful in the eyes of most candidates...

RESPECT: Asking lots of tough interview questions (and smart follow-up questions) is perfectly respectful. Being rigorous in your selection process is fundamentally respectful. Anything you do to reduce your hiring risk (and their corresponding risk of taking the wrong job) is respectful. So go ahead and be demanding – you both benefit.

DISRESPECT: A poorly written, vague job description is disrespectful, it shows you did not care enough to outline what was expected of the person – you have shown no respect for the importance of the work. Think hard about your expectations before you start recruiting.

RESPECT: A thorough interview sequence with multiple people is perfectly respectful, as long as you do not request that the candidate visit your office more than 3 times. A group interview, or individual meetings with 5 or 10 people is fine, but don’t ask the candidate to come to your office more than 2 or 3 times. And it is polite to estimate how long the interviews will be expected to last - that shows respect for their time.

DISRESPECT: A disorganized, unplanned interview sequence is disrespectful. Rescheduling interview times, making the candidate wait in the lobby, forgetting to include a key decision maker, and adding interview steps at the last minute … all these common occurrences are incredibly disrespectful. Candidates notice when you don’t have your act together. They may politely endure it, but you have wasted an easy opportunity to look good by simply scheduling intelligently.

RESPECT: Work sample testing is perfectly fine, as long as you do not ask them to spend more than a few hours at home on the assignment. And I urge you to never ask something of the candidate prior to the first interview. (Yes, I’ve heard stories of firms that make applying for a job difficult, but I do not recommend this practice. It drives away too many good people who are simply too busy to play the game, and it is inconsistent with starting a conversation with those people you are actively recruiting). You can ask more of someone when they know they are one of 3 finalists for a position. When presented properly, almost nobody will take offense at work sample testing.

DISRESPECT: Letting weeks go by in between steps is disrespectful. Waiting for several days to hear back from an employer after an interview does not show respect for the candidate. Be decisive, let them know where they stand.

DISRESPECT: Failure to acknowledge the person’s time investment is disrespectful. From the beginning, a simple “thank you for your resume, here is our hiring timeline” email is the minimum for all candidates who apply. At the end, a simple “thank you the position has been filled” is enough. And for the few people who actually interview, a more personal update is appropriate. To do any less is disrespectful.

This article originally appeared in the Business Journal

Topics: Interviewing Executives