Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Adventures In Recruiting: Standing Up A Candidate

I had an incident a couple of weeks ago.  A candidate who had been introduced to an agency in early January was on a last interview.  The client stood her up. Despite the client’s protestations, the candidate dropped out.  And I don’t blame her.

It was actually the third time this same agency had her show up in their offices and no interview happened.  The first two times, the hiring manager forgot to write the interviews in her calendar. (I was then instructed to send one of those Outlook Invitations, as if it were my fault.)  The final time was the candidate’s last interview and she was meeting the boss.  Somehow, despite the email chain confirming the interview, it was not on his calendar.  The candidate questioned the nature of the job and the company.  Ironically, I have placed several people at this agency and they all love it.  But can you blame the candidate?  No reason why she should take my word for it when the company’s actions speak much louder.

I have said it before, a candidate’s time is just as valuable to him or her as the time is for the people doing the hiring.  Standing up a candidate once in inexcusable.  Doing it three times is beyond explanation.

While national unemployment is steady at a little over 8%, I believe advertising unemployment is at about 12-14% based on 2007/08 levels.  There are lots of good people on the street.  And there are a lot of good people who are unhappily employed.  The hiring issue is always the same.  The problem for every company is always talent.  We get jobs from companies who have been trying to fill the job themselves for months and they cannot find the right combination of experience and personality.

All I can say is that when a company finds that perfect combination, they have to find a way to move quickly and nicely.  While speed is of the essence, being nice cannot be overstated.  Candidates need to feel good about potential employers.  After all, they understand that their potential employer is or should be on best behavior when they are interviewing.  If they can’t be nice during the interviewing process, what will they be when the employee gets there? 

As all recruiters - both on my side of the business and corporate HR/recruiters - know, there is a rhythm to a successful interviewing process.  The process may start slowly but it builds momentum.  If that rhythm is interrupted for too long a period of time, the potential placement may fall off.

When the aforementioned candidate was stood up the first and second time, I tried to get the hiring manager to apologize.  It didn’t happen.  But the hiring manager is very nice and her personality won the candidate over and back.  But when the boss missed the final interview, whatever rhythm and momentum was there was completely lost.  In the end, both the boss and the hiring manager blamed each other.  I begged them to reach out to the candidate; I thought it could have been repaired.  A simple, “I’m sorry” might have sufficed.  It never happened.

Then, of course, they blamed me.  And, finally, they blamed the candidate, "If she was so thin skinned as to be bothered by missed appointments, she didn't belong here."  What more can I say?


  1. She is better off. Being forgetful and disorganized isn't a great boss to work for but there are work-arounds. Someone who cannot apologize - that's a disaster hanging over your head. Stay as far away as you can.

  2. Rachel ChiavuzzoMay 15, 2012 at 12:16 PM

    Great article, and truly dispicable Clients for letting that happen. I agree - a simple apology can go a long way. And she's better off not working for a company that doesn't value her time.

  3. To both Rachels: The truth is that this is a really nice company. I have placed several people there and they are all happy. Unfortunately, the senior executives are too crazed to read their own calendars and neither of them have administrative assistants who keep their schedules. What I love most is rationalizing their rudeness by saying that the candidate was not tough enough to work there in the first place.

  4. Great piece, as usual, Paul. Great perspective on how everyone within an organization represents that company by their actions. I am sure there are many great people there, but a small few can paint a bad (and possibly false) picture over the entire company. The blame game was horrible. Honesty and apologies (when needed) say more about who you are as a company culture.

    1. I do some corporate lecturing and always remind people that they may be the only person someone meets from that company. How they conduct themselves is how the company will be perceived.

  5. The most galling part of this adventure is the company's unwillingness to apologize.

    Why is that so hard?

    With seniority comes responsibility, integrity and graciousness.

    If you make a mistake, man-up, say so, apologize and move on.

    Beau Fraser

    1. Very well said, Beau. But, sadly, you are a rarity.

  6. Earlier this year, I was in the final pairing for a global role with a Fortune 50 company based in London. I was advised to be prepared to be flown into London on four separate occasions between December 2011 and March 2012. Each time, something came up, and they kept postponing. I finally withdrew my candidacy, and I've since found new (and better employment.)

    It's a two-way street. Employers tend to forget that the candidates are interviewing them as well.

    1. And I will bet that the company was surprised when you withdrew.

    2. Sadly, I'm not sure they cared.

      I liked the people, and to be fair, they were very apologetic in the end. But, what concerned me more than anything was the clearly-evident bureaucratic and decision-making inertia. It's simply the nature of their heavy-handed compliance machine slowing down their system.

      The process was going on for nearly six months. I thought, "If it takes half a bloody year to sign off on flying someone to London, how hard will it be to make anything important happen?"


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