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Candidate Help & Advice

Interview Horror Stories–Even When It’s Not Halloween

Fail Job Interview photo from ShutterstockEach year as Halloween approaches, Hollywood and the rest of the entertainment business roll out the horror features that are always a staple at this time of the year. All of the “horror” stories, however, are hardly fictional or strictly limited to the movies and TV. Where the job interview process is concerned, there are all too many real-life “horror” stories taking place today in the job market.

Despite the fact that top talent is scarce, and rapidly becoming more so, many companies continue to treat such candidates badly, and in some cases, very badly. These top candidates are oftentimes treated with inexcusable disrespect and a total lack of common courtesy and consideration.

For now, these companies may be able to get away with such shoddy treatment of top tier talent, but in the long run, this practice will cost the companies and brand them poorly. I am already seeing social media backlash that, whether companies realize it or not, is already costing them.

Let me relate a few recent examples.

Interview Horror Story One

In mid-September, on a Friday afternoon, a $5 billion dollar firm had a “final” interview with a candidate. On the following Monday, the candidate was told he needed to come back in the next Friday for now, yet one additional “final” interview with another person at the company. A burdensome though hardly rare occurrence anymore. In the case of this particular candidate, though, who, in his current job, travels 50%-60% of the time, it was extremely challenging. He had to change his entire travel schedule for the week, rearrange customer visits, find a way to take yet another vacation day and had to pay some airline change fees out of his own pocket.

Still, after the “final-final” interview, it seemed that his sacrifices and minor inconveniences would end up being worth it. After an hour and a half conversation with this “final” person at the hiring company, he stands up and tells the candidate, “Welcome to the team! You will have an offer next week!”

Since it was the candidate’s wedding anniversary that weekend, he and his wife went out to celebrate both their wedding day and the pending great new job! You can imagine how crestfallen the candidate was when, on Monday morning, he got a call from the company telling him, “An internal candidate has surfaced and we need to evaluate him.”

Late this month the company called and told me that they had decided not to hire the internal candidate, and wondered if the above candidate was still available and interested.

(What I wanted to say when I took the call)

“You have got to be kidding, right?!”

(What I actually said when I took the call)

“No, I’m sorry. He already took another position with XYZ Company (one of the hiring company’s main competitors).”

Interview Horror Story Two

Another multi-billion dollar company had to fly the candidate our firm was presenting in to one of its remote locations. Due to severe thunderstorms the flight was diverted to an airport about 150 miles away. Since the airline had only one scheduled flight per day to that remote location, the candidate would have had to wait until the next day for another flight.

When the candidate called the company and explained the situation, he was told to rent a car and drive to the company’s remote facility. Sounded reasonable, but there was just one little, unavoidable problem: The candidate, who had been unemployed for a while, had cancelled all of his credit cards in order to avoid further financial hardship while he searched for a new career opportunity. And as you may be aware, one needs a credit card—no cash accepted!—to rent a vehicle!

The company’s response?

“We are no longer interested in the candidate because he doesn’t appear to be ‘fiscally responsible.’”

Actually, the reverse is the truth—the candidate was (and is) a very fiscally responsible individual. He merely did what any fiscally responsible person should do to make sure his financial house stayed in order, i.e., he cancelled his credit cards to avoid incurring unwanted debt during a time when he could least afford it. As was the case here, all too many hiring companies and hiring managers simply make invalid assumptions without having complete information.

Interview Horror Story Three

Another candidate presented to a hiring company had endured the crucible of the job interview process for 2 ½ months. During this period she had FIVE separate interviews!

While admittedly, the hiring company sought a particular skill set for the open position, the hiring manager was so impressed with the candidate’s obvious technical knowledge and new business development skills and history that he soon began focusing pretty exclusively on our candidate. He was doing what a smart hiring manager would do . . .hire for talent and focus on training skills. Plus, the candidate demonstrated considerable initiative by locating a colleague with the skill set the company sought and was doing some training with them to come up to speed on the required technical skill sets.

All of this, of course, impressed the hiring manager, so after the fifth interview, which took place on a Friday, the candidate was told, “We would like to make you an offer.”

The following Tuesday the company began calling the candidate’s references, had the candidate fill out an application and started the background check. On Thursday, a vice president with the hiring company stepped in and said the candidate couldn’t be hired because “She doesn’t have a proven track record within the skill set desired.”

I wish I could say that these three examples of interview “horror” stories are isolated incidents, or rare occurrences. Unfortunately, however, I can’t say that. These types of situations continue to routinely occur among great companies. Why? Maybe it’s merely a matter of the job market having been a seller’s market for so many years that some companies haven’t yet recognized that it’s time—way past time, actually!—to “shift gears” and start getting a more realistic picture of the pool of top tier candidates.

The number of TOP candidates for virtually all skill sets and in all industries is a finite number. Too many companies are at the very real risk of becoming widely branded as companies to be strictly avoided by TOP candidates!

Do you have your own interview “Horror” stories to relate? If so, I would love to hear from you!


Check out Skip’s latest book in the “Headhunter” Hiring Secrets Career Development/Management publications series, Career Stalled? How to Get Your Career Back in HIGH Gear and Land the Job Your Deserve—Your DREAM Job!

Going on a job interview soon? Know someone who is? Download Skip’s FREE PDF entitled,“How to ACE the Job Interview, by clicking HERE.