Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Should Companies Have Junior People Interview Senior Candidates?

More and more, I am seeing companies who are hiring senior executives having their subordinate  people meet with candidates during the interview process.  In most cases I am told that this is because the more junior people are long-term, trusted employees and they want to be sure they are good with the hire.  One client said to me, “We are a close knit family here and I want to be sure the new person meshes with the group.” 

It is a good idea, but it can be a double edged sword.

While an account director may not have the ability to hire a group account director, they can influence the decision.  Recently, we had a group account director candidate who met with an account supervisor who would be reporting to her.  The first interview, with the head of account management, went well enough so that the candidate then met with the supervisor who would be reporting to her. It appeared to be an innocuous twenty minute meeting.

The account supervisor dinged the potential employee.  By telling the hiring manager she did not like her new potential boss, she put the manager in a position where should could not easily hire this person. What she told her manager was that she felt that the candidate was somewhat condescending; she also thought the candidate was dull.  Was she?  Or was the supervisor just uncomfortable with a new person coming between her and the existing director.  That is the chance a company takes in this situation. 

Junior people, who are the ones who do the day-to-day work, have a good perspective on what they need from a potential manager. Their opinion often counts considerably.  No candidate should ever take one of these interviews for granted since people on the team can help to determine if there is good chemistry.  This determination can flag potential future problems. (This is also true of more senior people who are in the interviewing loop, but who may seem irrelevant and the interview is deemed a courtesy - never take these interviews for granted.)

Meeting the team can be good for the senior job applicant as well.  We had one case where a very senior financial person had to interview with a fairly senior person who would be reporting to her.  During the lunch a number of issues came up. The result was that the candidate felt that the person who would be reporting to her lacked certain knowledge which she felt should be known by a person at her level in this position. I discussed this with the hiring manager who confessed to me that he knew of this issue and was aware of the missing pieces.  He said that the person who lacked knowledge was a long term, loyal employee and the candidate, if hired, would not have the ability to change this person.  Subsequently, the candidate turned the job down feeling that she would have responsibility but no authority.  I believe that for her it was the right choice.

Surprisingly, few candidates ever ask to meet the people they will have working for them.  They also rarely ask to meet the tangential people they will work with. In the case of advertising, account managers rarely ask to meet the planners or creative people who will interact with them on a day-to-day basis.  I recently had a candidate request to meet with these people and the hiring manager was reluctant to allow it to happen because it would merely take more time and delay hiring.  I was able to talk the hiring manager into allowing the meetings and all worked out quite well; the candidate loved the group and the group loved her. However, interviews with the group are the exception rather than the rule. 

Meeting as many people as possible gives potential employees a wide perspective on the company and the job. It also gives the company an equally wide perspective on the candidate.

The more a candidate knows about a company and the more the company knows the candidate, the better the likelihood it will be a good fit and a successful hire.


  1. If one is a bona fide "senior executive" and the first meeting scheduled is with a "junior" in HR (or any other department), my personal advice is ... Don't take the meet!

    Because when you're 50 or 60+ and hear the proverbial, inevitable, and idiotic question "Where do you see yourself in 5 years?" coming from somebody not even old enough to be your daughter, you'll wish you were dead.

    My message being for all senior execs ... Take a "pass" and just suck it up, because maintaining your personal dignity at all times is the only thing that will carry you through the hard times ahead. Bill Crandall

  2. Senior executive does not necessarily mean senior citizen.

  3. Tks very much for your post.

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  4. This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.

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