"Officially I don't think I'm supposed to discuss it, but I'm willing to share some thoughts with you because I empathize with your situation and you seem like a nice guy. It's been a long time since I was in the job market, but I remember wishing that people would act a little more human after receiving resumes, and especially after conducting interviews. I think that after someone gives up their time to interview, they deserve the courtesy of a personal response instead of just a form letter."
Quote from a Hiring Manager to a candidate for a position within a local Engineering Firm
We can blame it on being busy, overwhelmed, understaffed, or just plain inconsideration, but companies by and large no longer take time to properly "let go" of their candidates. The quote above is directly from a hiring manager to a candidate of mine who went through a recent interview process. He was one of two final candidates out of a field of 100 resumes. And the offer went to the other person.
When it gets this close, the pain of loss feels intensely personal and the sense of defeat is devastating. Sometimes a little insight as to what you did wrong can help manage the pain and provide a valuable lesson on what to do differently next time. But how a company and it's representatives handle their communications with candidates can make a long term impact on how those one-time candidate's value that company and their people in the future.
Companies develop job description based on specific criteria relative to how that role serves the company and it's internal and external clients overall. Obviously they start with the key skill sets for the functional role, how the role interacts internally and supports the company's products/services, and determine the best fit for the team and corporate culture. Often companies will primarily seek expertise in the industry over core competencies. It makes sense that those meeting both the skill sets and industry experience will get first consideration.
A strong candidate will possess not only the core competencies, but also demonstrates deep industry knowledge and experience, will have similar philosophies and maybe even come from a similar corporate culture. Hiring someone with industry experience is just about the shortest and fastest path to success, including the time it takes to get them up and running in the position. So it also makes sense that these folks will command more attention from competing companies in your industry when they are in the job market.
So, what do you think happens when, for whatever reason, that individual failed to check all the boxes in the interview process and is left languishing for days, weeks or months while you, the interviewer, are moving forward in your interview process without communicating feedback on whether they're still in the running? Well, they've probably moved on or found another job. Maybe with a competitor. Maybe with a service provider to your shared industry
...or, maybe they are now one of your clients
...and they are a decision maker.
I can hear the phone ringing now...
"Hey there, Sally hiring manager, I just wanted to reach out and say hi...let you know I've landed at ABC Company. Yes, that's right, Head of Purchasing. Well, we've had to make a few changes over here and, well, this might hurt a little but..."
You get the picture. So we know what this kind of psychology is designed to engineer: As hiring manager you now solemnly promise that every candidate you meet has prompt and courteous feedback so as to avoid the inevitable "you reap what you sow" scenario outlined above. Granted this sounds more like an episode of the reality show, The Office, than the reality we all live in. But, it has happened.
As illustrated by the quote above from a conscientious hiring manager, acting a little more human can go a long way to creating the kind of long-term impact and word-of-mouth PR and Marketing that most CMO's dream about. I know my candidate has already contacted his brother, a client of the company he didn't get the job with, and told him their vendor was a highly ethical firm and that he would still consider working there should the right opportunity surface.
For my candidate, understanding what the defining issue was that lead to the company's final decision might make the critical difference in the next interview process. In this case, it was salary alignment and concern over flight risk. In hindsight, providing more detail as to what he believed would be a reasonable salary range relative to this role may have been the only thing he could have done differently. But that doesn't necessarily mean it would have tamped down internal concerns about whether he would stay on-board as the market begins to pick up.
But the lesson here is not so much why he didn't get the job as how the company managed his expectations. Further on in the hiring manager's feedback note he mentioned how he'd done everything right. The hiring manager was impressed with his qualifications and even noted that he thought they could have worked well together. He complimented his style saying "you presented yourself well, you have lots of knowledge, you followed up....there was nothing out of place. Candidates bring different experiences to potential employers....not only work experience from an ability perspective, but also from a progression perspective. Bottom line is that they hired someone with similar skills, but with salary expectations that were much lower."
In closing, the hiring manager reflected "I wish I could give you some advice that would guarantee getting a great job right away, but unfortunately, as we all know, the competition is tough out there these days. Many contributing factors that play into employer decisions are out of your control. I know it's a tough line to walk when you are forced to throw out a salary "requirement" - because, of course, you want to make as much as you can (especially when you are legitimately good at what you do), but are willing to work for less based on economic conditions. It's not easy."
My candidate was relieved to know salary was the defining factor, and not something like personal chemistry, lack of skills or experience, or worse, a bad professional reference that stood in the way of an offer. Yes, he could have played it differently on the salary question, but at the end of the day, would it have been enough to keep him feeling whole and happy in the job? We'll never know, but we do know it just wasn't meant to be. So the search continues, as does the hope that more hiring managers will behave like the one featured in this blog. Act a little human, it can go a long way to building a stronger brand in business, and in life.