A Lesson in Respectful Hiring Practices

by Marian Schembari on August 31, 2009


By Elizabeth Perovich

A good friend of mine, Margaret Thatcher, recently experienced the labors of Lady Luck herself.  Many months into her yet-to-be successful job search, Margaret began to lose the hope and optimism that propelled her desire in the first place.  Fighting for her place in the dog-eat-dog world of publishing, a place that she has certainly earned, Margaret was frazzle-dazzle excited when she received a phone call from Mark Twain, the hiring manager at Dream Company, asking if she would be at all interested in interviewing for an entry-level editorial position.

As a direct result of this phone call, Margaret suffered the inevitable cheek cramps of full perma-smile glory, displayed proudly for no less than three days.  She interfaced with Dream Company, following the various constituent parts of the interview process we have all come to know and hate.  Phone interview.  Successful.  Invitation for round one formal interview.  Wait for phone call.  Successful.  Invitation for final round formal interview.  Wait for decision.  Receive infamous phone call of regret regarding non-existent future with Dream Company.

With this rejection came much confusion.  Never leaving a stone unturned, Margaret channeled her confusion through professional inquiry, carefully penning a letter to Mr. Twain himself.  She was candid with her request for post-interview feedback and expected the same professional courtesy from Mr. Twain.  He did, after all, invite her to apply for this position.

Eager to utilize the sage advice of Mr. Twain, Margaret stalked her inbox.  Two days, 13 hours, 26 minutes and 42 seconds had lapsed before the following e-mail glowed on the screen of Margaret’s computer:

TO:         Margaret Thatcher

FROM:   Tori Spelling

RE:         Request for Interview Feedback glowed on Margaret’s screen.

_________________________________

Dear Ms. Thatcher,

I regret to inform you that company policy does not permit the exchange of feedback proceeding interviews.

Sincerely,

Tori Spelling, HR Associate


What just happened?  Margaret became acutely aware of her heart beat as it pulsed rapidly through her sweaty temples, spiraling downward through the clenched fist and elbow supporting her head.  Scattered thoughts abounded.  I e-mailed Mr. Twain, not some Joe-Blo-Nobody in the HR department. Tori Spelling is so not Mr. Twain.  Screw Dream Company.  He couldn’t even tell me himself that providing feedback is against company policy- I became some HR minion’s problem.

This scenario displays the ubiquitous lack of professional courtesy plaguing hiring practices today.  In 2006, Taleo Research surveyed over 1,500 job seekers; the study concluded that “the single most important frustration that candidates have today is the lack of good feedback.” This begs the question: Should companies provide feedback to candidates following rejection?

“An employer owes you candid, detailed feedback after a job interview,” states Nick Corcodilos, a seasoned headhunter and management consultant and author of How to Work with Headhunters & How to Make Headhunters Work for You.  Why?  “Because it’s the right thing to do.”

The vast majority of us never receive any feedback after a job interview, and we have come to accept this as just another part of the hiring process.  Corcodilos continues, “the answer is not to accept how companies behave,” rather, the job hungry public at large must “raise our standards even higher…expect more…let companies know it.”

Among other debated reasons, some companies feel that offering candidates constructive criticism poses the threat of a law suit or risks bad PR if the candidate is in disagreement with said feedback.  Others focus on the cost of doing so, acting under the faulty assumption that taking the time to provide “candid, detailed feedback,” does nothing to improve a company’s bottom line.  Companies do not realize that utilizing disrespectful hiring practices, as in the case of Margaret Thatcher, provides them with the bad PR they fear in the first place.  Do they think Margaret is going to spread the word about how Dream Company treats prospective employees with utmost respect?  Doubtful.

Companies must recognize each candidate as a prospective client, as a customer.  Dream Company lost Margaret’s service, along with however many other hopeful interviewees they “couldn’t” respond to over the years.  One day, Margaret Thatcher will be in publishing, and one day Dream Company might desire her services.  Unfortunately for Dream Company, she will be too busy advising the CEO of Second Choice Company, who also rejected her many years ago.  The difference?  Second Choice Company did so with courtesy and class, providing her with the feedback she needed to land a job at Third Choice Company the next time around.

*All names have been changed to protect parties involved.

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  • http://twitter.com/marianschembari/status/3673496728 Marian Schembari

    The Tale of Margaret Thatcher*: A Lesson in Respectful Hiring Practices http://is.gd/2JZjb

  • Sarah Rae Strunk

    This is a fabulous reminder of how employers can lose sight of individual potential when looking for new employees. Potential to be a customer, yes, but most importantly potential to do a wonderful job and bring a creative and new viewpoint to a company. A creative a new viewpoint similar to that of the author of this post. Well done!

  • Sarah Rae Strunk

    This is a fabulous reminder of how employers can lose sight of individual potential when looking for new employees. Potential to be a customer, yes, but most importantly potential to do a wonderful job and bring a creative and new viewpoint to a company. A creative a new viewpoint similar to that of the author of this post. Well done!

  • Marie

    Important points here. And perhaps companies could benefit from giving candidate feedback beyond fostering respect and credibility – it could be a way to constructively re-evaluate exactly what the company needs from applicants and employees.

  • Marie

    Important points here. And perhaps companies could benefit from giving candidate feedback beyond fostering respect and credibility – it could be a way to constructively re-evaluate exactly what the company needs from applicants and employees.

  • Nick Corcodilos

    A little bird led me to your blog and I think I’ll hang around for a while. I like it! You articulate the problem very well — and Margaret Thatcher has a nice little visceral reaction. Thanks for blurbing (or riffing) on my stuff. It’s longer than a blog post, but you’ll probably enjoy this story of corporate conseqences for bad behavior: Death by Lethal Reputation http://www.asktheheadhunter.com/halethalrep.htm

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