Archive for April, 2014

The Ebb and Flow of the Interview Cycle

April 23, 2014

In the last two weeks, one of my candidates was in the throes of closing on a new home. Do you remember going through that major life event? I surely do. The process involved multiple specific milestones that had to be accomplished within a stringent schedule – everything from getting an attorney to review the P&S, getting a home inspection done, and compiling stacks of paperwork – bank statements, tax returns, paychecks, etc., required by the mortgage company. All parties involved operated with a heightened sense of urgency. I even recall those specific words being emphasized at the beginning of the process.

Needless to say, my candidate has been completely unavailable. I’m sure that in his few spare moments, his mind was consumed with this home-buying checklist, let alone contending with the angst of making such a monumental financial commitment. I remember those sleepless nights like they were yesterday. Actually, they were yesterday, but were not talking about spousal snoring.

The home-buying/home-selling process is not unlike the job interview process. The difference, however, is the two parties – candidate and hiring company, are rarely in sync on the urgency front and don’t have legal documents and accompanying attorneys formalizing and pushing the process. Candidates have their current workload, family emergencies, planned vacations, and unplanned illnesses. Hiring managers have their current workload, fires to put out, Board of Directors and senior leadership meetings, quarter-end push, business trips, planned vacations, and unplanned illnesses.

There are simply too many reasons why the interview and hiring cycle can get delayed or completely derail. And behind the scenes, companies slow down the process for all kinds of reasons that candidates usually aren’t privy to. Here are the most typical examples I’ve seen:

* An 11th-hour candidate came into the fray and the company needs that candidate to catch up to the other candidates who are farther down the interviewing road

* The position’s scope and requirements have changed midstream, requiring all involved to take a step back and re-evaluate the candidates currently in the running

* The position itself is being called into question – is this the right role, right time to hire, right priorities organizationally?

* The company delivered poor operating results for the past two quarters, necessitating a halt to new headcount and reassessment of current roles and future hiring

* The company discovered an internal candidate who could potentially take on the role, making for a more cost-effective alternative than hiring externally

* The company decided to make a strategic shift in direction that renders the position irrelevant

* Product release date slipped, causing a domino effect that impacts new hires needed to support the product

* The company can’t get their act together on committing the time needed to manage the entirety of the interview cycle – due to being overbooked, unforeseen all-consuming situations, being poorly organized, or some combination thereof

While it is a widely accepted truth that time kills all deals, a lack of urgency/prioritization and sustained momentum on the part of both hiring companies and candidates hits more to the point. When I, the recruiter, find myself operating with the greatest sense of urgency compared to the candidates and hiring managers involved, I know there is likely trouble ahead. Inevitably, most interview cycles succumb to some hiccups throughout the process. After all, this is not a legally binding, formalized process like buying and selling a home. Yet, the more all parties involved operate with urgency and dedication, the more likely mutually acceptable results will occur.


Action items:

1. While it is unfortunate that the world doesn’t stop for candidates and hiring managers to get through the interview process, prioritization is key to a successful outcome. Don’t commit to hiring if you and your interview team cannot carve out the time and attention needed. Don’t commit to throw your hat in the ring for an exciting new position if you cannot make yourself available for phone and in-person interviews, let alone the time to research and prepare for them.

2. Hiring companies can delay or stop the interview process in its tracks for seemingly no legitimate reason. As a candidate, be aware and wary if such delays occur. Ask your recruiter or trusted contact for the inside scoop as to what’s really going on.

3. Hiccups do occur. Be careful not to overreact or read too deeply into them. With the first or second occurrence, give people the benefit of the doubt. If hold-ups and cancellations keep happening, then consider it emblematic of a more deeply-rooted issue.