How to handle a "courtesy interview"?
April 9, 2014 9:02 PM   Subscribe

I work for Company A, a very large outift with multiple branches in my city. I have worked for company A since I graduated from college, at first with my Dream Job division (but not doing my dream job), then with my OK Job division. I still work in OK Job division and my job is pretty OK. I applied for my dream job with Company A last year. The person I would report to informed me that since they did not get enough qualified applicants, they would not be filling the position. I took that to mean I was not qualified and thought it was done. Now they're offering me a "courtesy interview." What?!

My dream job at Company A opened up last fall when someone retired. I applied but was informed by my would-be supervisor that since not enough qualified people applied, they would not even hold interviews. This spring my dream job re-appeared on the Now Hiring page. I did not apply because I wasn't qualified the first time and hadn't done or learned anything to improve my application. I ran into several colleagues from Dream Job division at a work function and they all wanted to know how my application to Dream Job was going, if I had an interview, etc. They were all willing to vouch for me and several said they put in a good word. All of those colleagues know I applied for Dream Job last year and didn't get it but must have figured I would try again.

Now, after not applying for the latest incarnation of Dream Job, I was contacted by my would-be supervisor to set up an interview. Would-be supervisor said she remembered my application from last year and that I came highly recommended. I scheduled an interview and got my hopes up. Today I received an email from her saying "Since you did not apply through the [regular channel] and we offered you a courtesy interview, we'd like you to send us [paperwork] before we speak with you."

Why would their HR, her, and everyone involved go through the trouble to offer me a "courtesy interview" and tell me it's a courtesy interview in advance? I don't want to waste anyone's time or take focus away from candidates who actually applied. How do I handle this situation?
posted by anonymous to Work & Money (17 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
You send in the paperwork and do what you can to legally/ethically get your dream job. It really sounds like these people want to hire you.

W/r/t the failed search last year, "not enough qualified applicants" != "I am not qualified". You don't say where you work, but where I work (for a state institution) we have strict rules governing how job searches are conducted. We could have an ideal candidate apply, but if we don't have enough applications or a diverse enough interview pool we can't continue the search.

It's not that we didn't like the ideal candidate. It's that the rules are structured to make sure the hiring process is fair to everyone (minority and historically discriminated groups; avoid nepotism and favored hiring; etc).
posted by sbutler at 9:09 PM on April 9, 2014 [8 favorites]

I think the term "courtesy interview" here means that they initiated the interview request, not that it is merely a formality that they are interviewing you.

It's your dream job. Don't give up the chance to interview! Even if you don't land it this time either, you'll be better prepared for when the next interview rolls around.
posted by samthemander at 9:33 PM on April 9, 2014 [4 favorites]

My read on it is that they now need to fill the job but they know there are no walk-in-qualified people so they have decided to develop someone into the role. They may even have to fill it or lose funding for the position. You come well recommended and have shown keenness in the past so they think you may be a possible fit for the job. Psychologically, this plays well in your favour - they already believe in you, you just have to prove them right.

How do I handle this situation?

1. Take a deep breath and then punch the air exhaling Yesss!
2. Complete the paperwork they sent you. Check and recheck before sending.
3. Prepare for the interview.
4. Got to interview and do your best.
5. Come back here and tell us what happened.

Congratulations on the opportunity!
posted by Kerasia at 10:03 PM on April 9, 2014 [4 favorites]

The "courtesy" in this case was scheduling the interview in advance of receiving the correct paperwork, not the interview itself.
posted by Kadin2048 at 10:38 PM on April 9, 2014 [19 favorites]

It's a real interview. You have a real chance at this job. They are trying to headhunt you. They think that you may be worth hiring.

How do I handle this situation?

Like any interview for a job that you want! Because that's what it is. So send them the documentation they want.

This is the perfect situation for you. You already have a job. You have nothing to lose, and lots to gain.

Good luck.
posted by His thoughts were red thoughts at 10:56 PM on April 9, 2014 [2 favorites]

Best case: Dream job!

Worst case: Networking opportunity with people in Dream Division.

How do you handle this? Dress nicely, arrive 10 minutes early.
posted by fireoyster at 1:44 AM on April 10, 2014 [6 favorites]

N'thing the advice to just ignore the part about "courtesy interview" and treat it like any other interview.

In my experience, this doesn't fit the normal working definition of courtesy interview. In the environments I've worked in, it was almost always the same thing: you have an external candidate either applying for a position they aren't a fit for, or perhaps you don't even have a position for them. But, they came to you through someone like a board member, an executive in the company, an influential customer, or someone else whose opinion you care about. In the normal course of things, the candidate wouldn't make it to an interview round, but you go ahead and "seed" them into an interview round anyway, knowing they have already not made the cut for whatever down select you've done. But the sponsor who got them the interview has held up their side of the bargain and the candidate feels like they had a fair chance to demonstrate their suitability. Even if they realize it is a courtesy interview, they'll still do it and take it seriously for all of the reasons listed in the comments above.

What you are describing here isn't that. Your real question here is whether courtesy in this context means zero chance for an offer. There isn't quite enough information here to make a guess. You say you are not qualified for the position; however, companies usually have more latitude in hiring internal candidates, so in your particular case, that isn't necessarily a deal breaker. As everyone else pointed out above, there is absolutely no downside to taking the interview seriously and seeing what happens. Good luck!
posted by kovacs at 3:47 AM on April 10, 2014

I also read "not enough qualified people applied" as "we can't hire anyone unless N>1 potential candidates apply", not "you are not qualified".
posted by katrielalex at 3:59 AM on April 10, 2014 [5 favorites]

I don't want to waste anyone's time or take focus away from candidates who actually applied.

Well, that's why they're requesting the paperwork, so you will have "actually applied." People don't set up job interviews with candidates they aren't seriously considering, especially candidates that didn't seek them out. The only way you'd be wasting anyone's time is if you were certain you wouldn't take the job.

They like you! Ignore the word "courtesy" and take this whole situation as a good sign (though not necessarily a slam dunk). Give it your best shot, and good luck!
posted by Metroid Baby at 4:26 AM on April 10, 2014 [6 favorites]

How do I handle this situation?

You submit the paperwork they're requesting, wow them at the interview, and seriously check your attitude at the door. They are trying to see if you'd be a good fit for this position and it sounds like they'd be thrilled to hire you. Don't sabotage yourself by second-guessing everything they're telling you.
posted by schroedingersgirl at 4:27 AM on April 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

I agree with the above that you were not necessarily unqualified last year, but also you are probably more qualified this year. Large institutions have lots of dumb rules about "n years of xyz experience" and such. It's possible that you went over some threshold in their imposed-by-HR hiring matrix in the past year.
posted by anaelith at 4:28 AM on April 10, 2014 [1 favorite]

It's an interview and you have an opportunity to impress these people. The end.
posted by J. Wilson at 5:00 AM on April 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

Yeah, I don't care if they said, "We aren't hiring someone, and even if we were, we wouldn't hire you, but we'd like you to come interview so we can laugh at how your socks don't match your pocket square." You STILL go for the interview and take your best shot at making it impossible for them to not hire you. Good luck!
posted by Rock Steady at 5:37 AM on April 10, 2014 [3 favorites]

In case you haven't got it by now and the answers so far: you're being dense and only seeing a pseudo-rejection/less than positive outcome each time, possibly through a lack of confidence in your abilities. There are plenty of positives here, you're just not seeing them.

since they did not get enough qualified applicants, they would not be filling the position. I took that to mean I was not qualified and thought it was done.

No, it means that not enough qualified people applied so they can't fulfill their hiring criteria. If you weren't qualified, someone else would have got the job. NO-ONE got the job. If you weren't qualified then, they wouldn't be contacting you now. They clearly have some rules on hiring that involve a certain volume of applicants.

Why would their HR, her, and everyone involved go through the trouble to offer me a "courtesy interview" and tell me it's a courtesy interview in advance?

NOBODY gets an interview unless they are interested in seeing that person. Interviews are a massive waste of time. No-one can be bothered to interview a candidate if they won't fit. They offered you an interview as a courtesy to the people that recommended you and because you applied before. If you'd applied this time as normal, you'd just be getting 'an interview'. The courtesy is because you got one even though you didn't apply.

By the way - what's happened here is that enough people (with sufficient respect in the company) have said good things about you that they have not only listened, but dug up your ancient application and have contacted you out the blue and offered you an interview. Even though you didn't apply for the job. They did this despite other people having spoon-fed them candidates for the job by applying. If that doesn't make you feel warm, fuzzy and wanted you need to slap yourself in the head...

"Since you did not apply through the [regular channel] and we offered you a courtesy interview, we'd like you to send us [paperwork] before we speak with you."

This just means - we need an application like everyone else or our system is screwed and if we hire you we may be in trouble for not doing our due diligence.

I don't want to waste anyone's time or take focus away from candidates who actually applied. How do I handle this situation?

You need to stand in front of a mirror and, frankly, have a fucking word with yourself. You 'don't want to take the focus away from the other candidates'? Do you not want the job? Because that is what trying for a job is. The WHOLE POINT is to take the focus off the other candidates. Push that focus your way because clearly you have a lot of people pushing you to get this job - not because they like you, but because they think you'll be good at it. People don't recommend people if that person getting the job will make them look bad later on.

You seem to have quite significant self-doubt here. So I have been blunt. Because you need to get over that stuff, stop worrying and see this as the opportunity that you have wanted for a while and stop trying to convince yourself you aren't qualified, or they're just going through the motions.
posted by Brockles at 6:14 AM on April 10, 2014 [8 favorites]

Listen to Brockles.

Where I work, we have to "fail" a search if we don't have a pool of at least X qualified applicants, and there are diversity requirements as well. If you were the only qualified applicant, we would have to fail the search and start a new search. Since we liked you, we would call you in for an interview for this new search, and have you be a part of the new pool.

My guess is that this is a real interview for the second search, but since the second search hasn't been formally started, they are calling it something different. Treat it like a real interview. You should have applied for the "reincarnation" and you should understand that you are damn lucky that they liked you enough to to remember you and invite you to be a part of the new pool.
posted by epanalepsis at 7:57 AM on April 10, 2014 [2 favorites]

Be sure to ask a lot of questions:

1. What quailifications does the optimal candidate need to best fulfill this job?

2. How does my current experience and skill set fit into this position?

3. What are things that I can do to prepare myself to step into this role?

These are all questions designed to acknowledge that while you may not have 100% of what they want, you've got 90% of it, you're a known quantity, and hell, they're actually considering you.

At the very least, you come away with information on what they specifically need to see to make you a mortal lock for the next opening.

These are NEVER a waste of time!

You never know, they may say, "Your hired, the first thing you're doing is taking a week long class on Gazingus Pins to bring you up to speed."
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 9:21 AM on April 10, 2014

This is a job interview for the position and hte "paperwork" is your application which thy need before the interview can be considered legit. Submit paper work and go to the interview.
posted by WeekendJen at 10:15 AM on April 10, 2014

« Older Resources for ADHD in children   |   Writing + Community + Speaking = Job Bliss Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.