You're the hiring manager... are you open or stone faced with the candidates?
March 6, 2007 2:46 PM   Subscribe

As a hiring manager, would you ever give a candidate a hint (subtle or not) that he/she has the inside track on the position, or is it always best to put in a poker face in this scenario?

I have been interviewing with a firm for a management job for over three months. I have been through five separate rounds, interviewing with my potential reports on up to the CEO and COO of the company. Though, I have been told throughout, that all of the feedback has been positive, they are interviewing a "handful of other candidates" and I cannot detect any hint at all that they are leaning either toward or against hiring?

Is this common with everyone else's experience? Setting aside my personal situation, what is everyone else's experience? Was there a job that you interviewed for that you were sure that you screwed up the interview, and they ended up making you an offer? Or was there a time where you were confident that you nailed it, and they ended up passing you over?

As a manager, is it necessary to to be non-committal up to the point of hiring someone, or would you favor passing hints to candidates that, you have to put them through the process, but you're pretty sure they should be looking elsewhere? I'm not looking for advice on my particularly situation (though that is welcome), I'm more interested in other peoples' experiences with same.
posted by Flem Snopes to Work & Money (14 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
My immediate reaction is that a hiring manager would not want to let such information slip. Two reasons come to mind. 1. If the candidate doesn't get the job, he/she may get upset, may claim discrimination, may claim he/she was verbally offered the job and sue, etc. 2. Disclosing such information could hurt the companies negotiating position if the candidate wants a higher salary,
posted by PercussivePaul at 2:58 PM on March 6, 2007

Have hired in excess of 20 people in the past 4 years.

Any good manager will wait until all interviews are done before deciding on a candidate. Sometimes you'll be 99% positive on who the candidate should be and someone else comes along and blows them out of the water. When this happens and you've led someone else to think they are a shoe-in it leads to very uncomfortable situations.
posted by Octoparrot at 3:07 PM on March 6, 2007

Generally we (HR) counsel hiring managers never ever to give the slightest hint, but in my personal hiring I sometimes do let someone know if I'm interested, depending on the market and what else they're up to. If they've been interviewing you for that long, they are probably very careful and formal in their hiring practices, so it doesn't surprise me that they're playing their cards so close to the chest.
In my personal life - yes both ways - I've thought I had the job and they passed me over, and I've thought I didn't have it and got the job. (I threw up in that job interview, surely that should have knocked me out of the running, but maybe they felt sorry for me.)
posted by pomegranate at 3:10 PM on March 6, 2007

Once upon a time, uh, about two months ago, I fell in love with a job and it seemed clear that they had fallen in love with me. During my interview day, after all the scheduled interviews, they also had me talk to high-level managers who basically were asking questions like "What can I say that will convince to you work here?" and "How can we prove we're better than that other company that's made you an offer?" All the guys I met were really cool, it seemed like a great team - I was genuinely stoked to be working with these people.

The next day they called me and told me that after a tough meeting, they'd decided against hiring me. I cried for hours - in fact, it still stings a little to think about it. I wish to god they hadn't led me to believe I had a good chance of making the cut.
posted by crinklebat at 3:45 PM on March 6, 2007

I can relate, crinklebat. I had a very similar situation at a company I fell in love with a few years back. It was crushing.

I learned from that experience, however.

My attitude today is: prepare your ass off, get a good night's sleep the night before, get in there and knock 'em dead, leave the building, send a cheerful thank you note shortly thereafter, and then forget about the whole thing.

Until or unless you get called back (or an offer), all you can do is speculate, so it's best not to twist yourself into a knot because of it.
posted by psmealey at 4:37 PM on March 6, 2007

When I first started doing job interviews, I would give people hints, against my boss's instructions. Maybe in the elevator on the way out, I'd say, 'you seemed really great at x, but we were a bit concerned about y...' After all, that's what I would want if I were being interviewed. Without feedback, how do you improve?

I quickly learned not to do that. Job candidates are often taught to consider themselves products to be marketed. And a good salesman never gives up. Although some candidates took it well, others would reply that they're fast learners, or I must have misunderstood their response, and please still consider them, etc.

Now I'm poker-faced with everyone. Which is a shame, because that's not how I want to be treated by others. Those are personal reasons, but ditto what PercussivePaul said from a policy perspective.
posted by molybdenum at 4:44 PM on March 6, 2007

As I'm actively looking for work, I've been interviewed about 10 times over the last few weeks. One has developed into a written offer (that I'm still considering) while others resulted in nothing more than a kind parting via email.

I've always approached it as a mutual process. I've talked with companies I wasn't sure I was interested in and a few that I've been truly excited about. In both cases, I've tried to be genuine. My skepticism or enthusiasm is plain.

I expect the same from the people conducting the interviews. Artificial dispassion or ardor are to be avoided. But genuine interest or the lack of it shouldn't be concealed.

That said, I never assume I'm a shoo-in. Nothing is final until it's in writing.
posted by aladfar at 4:49 PM on March 6, 2007

At Qualcomm, no one was ever hired after being interviewed by just one person. Several people would interview the candidate, and each of them would write a report offering their opinion and recommendation. Then we'd get together at a meeting, with a senior VP, and discuss the candidate. The VP would read all the reports, listen to the discussion, and then make a decision.

That kind of approach is pretty common in high tech.

Percussive Paul is right that no competent manager or interviewer will ever tell a candidate that he/she is the favorite or on the inside track, because if that person doesn't end up being hired they might be able to cause legal trouble. And it's just a lousy thing to do to someone, anyway.
posted by Steven C. Den Beste at 5:21 PM on March 6, 2007

At my company, HR screens candidates and schedules them to interview with the hiring manager. The hiring manager sends the candidate to their manager. By the time the candidate gets there, they pretty much have the job. The executive is just looking for any red flags but the decision is up to the hiring manager.
posted by Soda-Da at 6:15 PM on March 6, 2007

Nothing is ever final until it's final.

My boyfriend was up for a position at his former Professor's PR firm. She loved him, he loved her, etc. He was interviewed at the firm, and she started giving very direct hints, and in fact telling some of his former colleagues he was working with her! This got back to him and he was very excited!

However, it turned out there was no position actually available and he was despondant for months. I'm sure there was no maliciousness, but it still hurt deeply.

Not the exact situation but pretty close. Things can change quickly, so it's best not to let probable employees know their status until it's a done deal.
posted by yellowbinder at 8:04 PM on March 6, 2007

I went through a similar situation back when I graduated university. 5 different interviews over three months. Interviewed with everyone under the sun. Never had a single negative piece of feedback. They loved me. Then they told me at the end of three months that they'd decided to hire internally for the position. Thanks for wasting my time, fellas.
posted by antifuse at 2:21 AM on March 7, 2007

i hire a lot of people and i try to always have a personal touch.

if the person is definitely a no, my followup is short & sweet and always includes something personal and positive that they did: "i wanted to let you know that we went with a different applicant, but it was a pleasure meeting you, and we all felt that your thoughts about x issue were really interesting, thank you, byebye".

a definite yes is trickier because you never know til the very end. generally 10% of the applicants are good enough to be just great at any given job, but only one can get the job. my strategy as they leave the interview room is not to promise anything, but to try to give them peace of mind and a well-deserved ego boost, in the form of,

"at this point in time we haven't seen all the applicants, and there are a number of factors completely outside the scope of this interview that we have to consider. so there's no way i can give you a definitive answer. but i do want to tell you that i thought your presentation in this interview was exceptional; you're well-qualified and i like your energy and your sense of humour (or whatever), so i just want you to know you did a fantastic job in here- go home happy, because we like you, and whatever shakes down, please keep in touch."

if i really liked an applicant but didn't hire them, i'll follow-up with a phonecall or email saying the same, really trying to be specific about what impressive strengths they had and hinting that i would hire them in future (only if it's true).

as it happens, i encounter a lot of people i've interviewed after the fact, and they tend to thank me for the personal touch and say it was great to hear that they did indeed rock the interview, even if they weren't chosen.

from the other side of the table (the one being interviewed), my stance is that i only have control over half the equation. i can't make anyone hire me, and i can't magically become the thing they seek to hire. all i can do is research my ass off ahead of time, come in prepared and polished, be open, friendly, professional, charming, and on-the-ball, and most of all, show them what i personally bring to the table- what distinguishes me from 100 other applicants. i try to change my mindset so success doesn't mean "i got the job", because 99 of us will fail and that's too disempowering. for me, success means "i showed them an accurate and flattering picture of who i am, what i do well, and what it's like to work with me. they know my strengths and they now have a clear and accurate first impression of me."

i basically approach job interviews hoping they'll like me enough that- even if they decide i'm not what they need this week- they'd definitely refer me to a colleague, or think of me next week if something more suitable comes up. i can't make them hire me, but i can make them like and respect me, so i aim for that. from what you've said, you've already succeeded at your half of the interview- so go home happy, you did a good job.
posted by twistofrhyme at 3:14 PM on March 7, 2007

Ok. So I didn't get the job. Just found out today (on the occatsion of my 40th birthday, happy birthday to me). The only answer I got, delivered via email through my recruiter was that it was a "personality issue". Not that I had a personality issue, but they connected with someone else on the personality thing.

As a hiring manager for the past ten years, I know this sometimes happens. I know that you have to make tough personnel decisions based on intangibles like "chemistry".

Having said that, how pissed off should I rightly be that after three and a half months, and 6 rounds of interviews, I get a two word response delivered by email?
posted by Flem Snopes at 9:27 AM on March 13, 2007

I know that I should just let it go at this point, but I do normally like to get at least a little better feedback form such processes, particularly after having invested so much time into it. But, based on how the news was delivered (two days after it was promised), I now doubt the professionalism and character of the folks at the company in question.

So, just chalk it up, or do I bother soliciting feedback?
posted by Flem Snopes at 9:30 AM on March 13, 2007

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