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Job Interviews

So I find a nice job ad, send in my resume and after about a month, get a phone call from the recruiter who wants to set up phone calls with me and the product development manager and the software architect.  So I talk to both of them and the phone interviews go great.  The recruiter calls me back in a few days and sets up an interview for the next week.  I go to the interview and talk with a senior developer and I whiteboard the stuff I did at the last job and we talk about differences between C# and VB.NET, and I whiteboard an implementation of a few design patterns in C#.  I also broght my laptop to show him some work I've been doing, but we ran out of time.  Next I talk to another senior developer about .NET and he asked just general questions about stuff on my resume.  Next I talk to another senior developer (who used to be a developer at Microsoft) and we talk about socket programming and some general software stuff.  Then I meet with the architect (who didn't have my resume) and we talk a little bit about the architecture of the system as well as the position I was interviewing for.  Since the product development manager was out of the office, I couldn't meet with him.  Overall I think I did pretty well, and I had a good rapport with each of the members of the team.

The recruiter called me in the next few days and we set up another interview with the product development manager.
I go in and meet with him and the QA manager and discuss what I've done in the past and their current QA/Release schedule.  At the end of this meeting the development manager says "Well, it is down to you and one other candidate.  Do you have a list of references?"  So I give him a letter of recommendation along with a list of 5 references.  Then I interview with the CTO of the company and we talk about my resume and what I did and he talks about the company and how it is positioned for profitability.

So I wait a few days and give the product manager a call and ask him for status and if he's checked my references.  He says that he hasn't checked the references and that they are looking at some more candidates for the position.  I ask him when I can expect a call to let me know of their decision.  He says that he'll call in a couple of days.  It has been a week and a half and no call. 

I have a few questions:

1.  Why would he tell me that the decision is between me and one other candidate if that was not the case?

2.  Why would he tell me that he would call, if he had no intention of doing so?

3.  If I didn't pass the first interview, why invite me back for a second.

4.  If I didn't pass the second interview, why ask for references (the references were good ones)?

5.  Why couldn't he just tell me "Thanks, but you are not a good fit." in the second phone call.

6.  Why waste their time and mine by setting up interviews if they feel that I wasn't a good fit?

Tim
Friday, September 06, 2002

It could be worse. 
You could be working for those idiots.

Seriously, this is a Really Big Hint that this
place needs to get its act together.  And
if you do get an offer, you need to think long
and hard about whether you could tolerate
this sort of behavior five days each week.

Jeff Hultquist
Friday, September 06, 2002

In my experience, this type of thing is depressingly common.  Andy Rooney thinks so, too:

=================

"Unemployment" - by Andy Rooney (date and specific citation unknown)

Looking for work is one of the worst things to have to do.  There’s nothing good about it.  You don’t really know how to get started, you feel like a jerk and it’s demeaning every step of the way.

There aren’t many of us who haven’t looked for work at some time in our lives.  There are ten million Americans doing it at almost any time and I feel terrible for them.  I feel almost as bad for them because they have to look for work as I do because they’re out of work.  Being out of work is bad enough but having to look for it is even worse.  ...

Considering that just about everyone has looked for work, it’s amazing how mean the people with the jobs are to the people with-out them.  You’d think they’d never looked for jobs themselves.  You’d think they were born with jobs.

Once a person gets to be in the position of hiring or firing someone, he or she seems to forget what it’s like to be unemployed.  Why is that?

[rest snipped]

====================

J. D. Trollinger
Friday, September 06, 2002

I thought about that, too.  The company used to be large, then when they couldn't IPO it, they got rid of the deadweight, got some new upper management, started making sales and is now starting to hire good people.  The people I talked with seem pretty good, but the way I'm getting the run around makes me think that  this might not be for me.

Tim
Friday, September 06, 2002

Which one of these folks is the hiring manager, the one who will make the decision?  That's the only person who can answer your questions and even he might not know.  Sounds like you may have chance and got some good interview practice.

If you've developed a good relationship with some of the folks, they might just help you out in the future even if they don't have anything for you right now.  Or, you might be able to help them some day.  Don't spoil it by complaining too much.

Let them remember you as a professional who follows up and who appreciates the time they spent with you.

tk
Friday, September 06, 2002

The hiring manager is the one who is giving me the run around (he's the product development manager).  Should I call him again and request status or just write it off as a lame job hunting experience?

Tim
Friday, September 06, 2002

I hope it's not lame.  It makes me think a recruiter sent over a few more candidates that the manager felt obligated to interview.  They might be sharp.

Let's say, he tells you he'll call in a few days.  You say, "Do you mind if I call you next Monday."  You might even call the person with whom you had your best interview and ask him what is happening.

My main point, I think, is not to burn bridges and instead try to build relationships.  One of those folks might be able to help you some day, maybe with another job or another company.  Or, you may find someone you want to hire when you are the hiring manager.  Who knows.

tk
Friday, September 06, 2002

That is a good idea.  I don't want to come off as pushy and I am pursuing other companies, but I feel that this company would be a good fit for my skills and that I could grow/learn in the position.  So, I guess I'll wait a little longer then give them one more call to see what's up...

Tim
Friday, September 06, 2002

These guys are stuffing you around. Sometimes companies do this to find out what their competitors are doing.

Sometimes the interviewers are just jerks who are interested in what you've done, the same way they might be interested in a book. It doesn't cost them much to see you, but it costs you plenty.

Two interviews should be plenty. Three the absolute max. Any more, you need to front them and tell them it's not acceptable. These guys have no intention of hiring you.

Mist
Saturday, September 07, 2002

Never thought about that.  The companies that I've worked for in the past are not competitors to this company.  And it wasn't like they were trying to squeeze some intellectual property out of me.  I am starting to think that they have no intention of hiring me, also. 

Tim
Saturday, September 07, 2002

tk gives good advice.  I suggest that you don't read too much into the treatment you've received.  The economy is bad, and most companies that are hiring are swamped with interviews.  It takes more energy than you might think to interview four people in a day.

You don't know what is going on in the company.  Maybe the project manager has many duties and deadlines, and hiring another person is not on the top of her list. 

I don't want to treat people that I interview badly, but they do not get the attention given to people already hired or project needs. 

So chill out.  Keep a good attitude, but don't stop looking around if you need a new job.

A. Coward
Saturday, September 07, 2002

I am still looking at other companies.  It is just frustrating that what they said they'd do, they didn't do.  I am sure that they are busy, so I'll just chill out and not try to read too much into it.  I just felt that everything was going great and then received no response.

Tim
Saturday, September 07, 2002

Hiring in internal companies is fraught with internal politics.

A lot of the time, HR wants one person, and the line manager wants another. Sometimes a post is advertised, and they go to interview, just to convince themselves that the internal person who is in line for promotion really is up to scratch.... ... better than what's on the market.

Alternatively, they may have offered the post to someone else, who might still be considering the offer, or negotiating a package, and they want to hold on to you in case the first choice pulls out. Play it by ear... you may really be their fallback position.

Like a lot of people have said here, don't burn your bridges, build relationships.

Try and find out who makes the final decision in the hiring process. Speak to them. Hint how strongly you fell about wanting to work for them, but that you may have other offers on the table, and really would like to know, if not their final decision, when you can expect to hear from them definitively.

tapiwa
Saturday, September 07, 2002

Tim,

I agree with tapiwa.  I assume the other guy got the offer, and the company is now biding its time with you until they hear back from their #1.  Your calling is not going to do anything for you, but make you look desperate.  You may get the offer if he backs out.  If that happens, hiring mgr may be more comfortable saving face and just pretending he didn't get around to it.  So give that space.  Seriously., good luck, but give them space, and keep looking too. 

Just for closure, I would call in about 2 weeks, and say, "Clearly you went with someone else, but I wanted to say Thanks for the interview, and I liked your team.  Please keep me in mind if something else arises.  It was nice meeting you guys.  Thanks."    etc

I remember a company called me back 3 months after I interviewed.  I figire they hired someone and it didn't work out, and they were going back through their original short list.

Bella
Saturday, September 07, 2002

> He says that he hasn't checked the references and that they are looking at some more candidates for the position. I

Whoa! I missed that the first time.  If they reopened their search after seeing you, you're probably not getting an offer from this place.  Maybe someone vetoed you at the last minute.  Move on. 

Bella
Saturday, September 07, 2002

In general I agree with Bella's advice.

There's no way to know why they didn't go with you.  Maybe the CEO didn't like where you went to school.  Maybe one of the developers has a friend who just got laid off.  I'd give them a call and ask them to keep you in mind for any future positions.  I'd also be very wary of companies that are 'positioned for profitability' unless they  can explain the numbers to you down to the penny.  Been burned by that one before.

those who know me have no need of my name
Saturday, September 07, 2002

I just wanted to add that I have found this situation to be quite common in the last year; several weeks before you get the first call, at least two rounds of interviews, and a lot of waiting.  Most of the companies that I interviewed at seemed to be interviewing a dozen or more people (most of which were probably highly qualified) for each position.  With so many people out of work none of this is very surprising.

Anthony Rubin
Saturday, September 07, 2002

> He says that he hasn't checked the references and that they are looking at some more candidates for the position. I

Bella wrote:

"Whoa! I missed that the first time. If they reopened their search after seeing you, you're probably not getting an offer from this place. Maybe someone vetoed you at the last minute. Move on."

Yeah, that's what I think, too.  I just wonder why he said that it was down to me and someone else, then asked for my references?  I did interview with the CTO afterwards, maybe the CTO didn't like what I had to say?  Now, the thing is, why would he tell me that they reopened their search instead of just telling me "Thanks, but no thanks?"  And why would they reopen the search instead of giving the other guy the job (if they didn't want me) and then tell me "The position has been filled. Thanks for your interest."

Tim
Saturday, September 07, 2002

It could also be the post-nightmare employee syndrome.  When someone has flamed-out disasterously, the interviews for a replacement (or any employee) can get really strange.  People are skittish and start trying to find some sort of guarantee that you aren't evil underneath.  Which of course doesn't show up in an interview.

Contrary Mary
Saturday, September 07, 2002

Could be.  They didn't ask me about how I got along with boss, co-workers, etc.  It was mostly technical questions and general 'This is the position description' types of questions. 

Tim
Saturday, September 07, 2002

Hi Tim - a quick question that might be relevant since I once had a similar experience - was the company's main business working on a government contract?

Sarain H.
Saturday, September 07, 2002

I don't think so.  They do work with some large agencies that to work with the government, but they do not work directly with the government. 

I do know where you are coming from.  I interviewed for a couple of government positions to do some development work, at it took them forever to bring me in and interview me.  It all turned out to be a waste of time, the second interview was for a development position but they said that they were contracting the work outside of the company and wondered if I would be okay doing 'data analysis' for an ingres DB.  I told them thank you for your time and left immediately....

Tim
Saturday, September 07, 2002

> Now, the thing is, why would he tell me that they reopened their search instead of just telling me "Thanks, but no thanks?" And why would they reopen the search instead of giving the other guy the job (if they didn't want me) and then tell me "The position has been filled. Thanks for your interest."

Why the runaround?  Have you ever tried to tell someone to their face that you dont want to hire them?  Not easy, if you have a heart. 

PS: You're overanalyzing this entire episode.  Break out an 6402 Assembler book to keep your brain occupied. 

Bella
Saturday, September 07, 2002

Did you mean 6502? :)

S.C.
Saturday, September 07, 2002

Tim, I'll tell you what we have in Israel - if the answer is positive - you're
gonna hear about it. But if it's negative - they won't even call you, write you a
letter or something. So you transform this silence to "No" by yourself.
That wasn't the situation years before when everything was better. Unfortunately, it
is the situation right now. It even happened to me inside the company I'm currently
working for (!) - I was interviewed for another project and never got a response from them.
If they have so little respect for someone already working for them .. well, you
get me.

Why doing so ? Too many candidates, too many resumes and too little respect for
someone balancing between the two worlds. And yes, when *you* have a job - you quickly
forget how it is to be without one.

Wishing you to meet the guys who'll recognize your abilities and won't play
stupid games .. Good luck, Tim !

Evgeny Goldin
Sunday, September 08, 2002


Bella... come on.  Not telling someone "NO" when that is the right answer isn't a sign they have a heart.  Easy or not, it is just down right dishonest.

But you are correct... Tim may be overanalyzing the situation.  Sometimes it's a difficult thing not to do, but it is best to move on, and leave them with their loss.

Good luck Tim.

Joe AA
Sunday, September 08, 2002

Thanks, guys.  I have interpreted the "no response" situation to a "No".  I have may been going overboard trying to figure out why they haven't said 'something'. 

Tim
Sunday, September 08, 2002

Joe AA,

I wouldn't classify not telling you the verdict as "dishonest".  Sometimes it's just avoidance.  It's not easy to tell someone they're not up to snuff.  And certainly not to their face.  Esp, if you have a heart!  When I know it's not a fit, I still say "Ok, i think that's all I have."  I try not to lead them on, but I certainly don't say "No way."

Bella
Sunday, September 08, 2002

Alright, compare it to asking someone on a date.  A way to get someone to keep asking you on a date is this:

"let's exchange phone numbers and I'll give you a call"
Now, you really had no intention of calling, but you didn't want to hurt their feelings, and you threw the number away the minute they weren't looking.

a way to prevent someone from asking you out a second time:

"I have a girlfriend/boyfriend"

Now, which response is more professional/mature?

Tim
Sunday, September 08, 2002

This is what Joel has to say on this:

"First of all, get your recruiting department to stop being an obstacle. I don't know how many companies I've seen that have disorganized recruiters who just forget candidates and don't call them back. It took my last employer something like 3 months from the time I first contacted them to make me an offer. There's just no excuse for that.

Another thing I don't understand is why people have so much trouble telling candidates "no thanks." You would not believe how many companies I know that just don't tell the candidate anything, hoping they "get the hint." They do this even when there's a devoted recruiting staff whose whole job is saying "no thanks" 93 times a day.

When a candidate applies for a job, you should be able to schedule an interview immediately. After the interview, you should be able to give the candidate a straight yes or no answer on the spot. If you have to wait for references, you should be able to take care of that in a day or two, and keep the candidate apprised daily."

http://www.joelonsoftware.com/articles/fog0000000050.html

Tim
Sunday, September 08, 2002

Ring them once - and then forget them. Under no cirscumstances burn your bridges with them, just because they dont want you now doesnt mean that they dont want you in 6 months, except in 6 months you'll be in the driver seat as you will be working.

Alberto
Monday, September 09, 2002

Thanks.  In 6 months, I will have moved on to something (hopefully) better.

Tim
Monday, September 09, 2002

Hey, just be happy you're getting to the interview stage!  ;)

Seriously, being entry level right now leaves few jobs you can even qualify for and even fewer that'll call you up for interviews.  Fortunately it seems to be changing of late.

Lucas Goodwin
Monday, September 09, 2002

silence != no

I remember reading Liar's Poker by Michael Lewis.  http://www.amazon.co.uk/exec/obidos/ASIN/0340767006/ref=sr_aps_books_1_1/202-4842624-7673425

It is basically a book about the swashbuckling bond traders on Wall Street in the eighties. The whole recruitment procedure alone makes for an interesting read.

When you were turned down, they told you. When they wanted you, they said nothing. Seems they did not want to give you the pleasure of turning them down after they had offered you the job. Instead, after a few days of silence, you were expected to call them up and say, "I accept!"

tapiwa
Monday, September 09, 2002

Tim, another explanation is that the recruiter has sold them on you, but they can't really take on someone at the moment. The bottom line is that they have had ample opportunity to hire you but haven't done so. Forget them.

Mist
Monday, September 09, 2002

maybe they don't have the budget allocated for another person. could be 'n' different reasons.

you shouldn't take this personally. For all you know it might have been a business decision.

Try to learn as much as possible from this interview & use it in a positive way in other interviews.

Good Luck TIm.

Prakash S
Monday, September 09, 2002

Thanks.

Tim
Monday, September 09, 2002

> Seriously, being entry level right now leaves few jobs you can even qualify for and even fewer that'll call you up for interviews.

I disagree.  Entry level is a great way to control costs.  Not every programming spot requires a guru.  There are many grunt maintenance projects that are ideally complemented w/ a mix of young and new (ie: cheap and expensive)

Bella
Monday, September 09, 2002

Tim sez... "Now, which response is more professional/mature?"

Neither.  Both are dishonest.  The excuse offered for being dishonest is often to "protect someone's feelings".  Most of the time it is to protect the feelings of the one being dishonest... as Bella mentioned "avoidance".

How many people do you respect that you know are dishonest - filled with all those "white lies".  How do you feel when you find out you have been lied to... even under the excuse of protecting your feelings?  Were they "protected"?

Nothing mature nor professional about it.

Joe AA
Sunday, September 15, 2002

I just went thru the same thing.  The funny thing is, my husband and myself have expressed interest in this position (within the very large company that we already work for, both of us).  As someone who is very qualified for the position, it is very cruel to me for them to make statements like 'you are at the top of my list....' and the like for 2 months when they have no intent of hiring you.  This manager did this to both of us.  My personal belief after all this, is that some folks just dont have the nerve to say 'I have already went another way with this, but enjoyed meeting w/you and will keep you in mind'.  I mean-how hard is that?

betty scarborough
Monday, December 01, 2003

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