Are Your Hiring Tactics Unethical?
Hiring is one of the hardest tasks you'll ever undergo as a small business owner. Finding the right person can be a grueling process. But have you considered that, in your quest for perfection, you may have stepped into the realm of being unethical?
I was recently met with a situation that not only gave me pause, but made me appalled at the tactics of some HR pros. The example, however galling, should be instructive to owners regarding their own hiring process. Here's an email detailing the experience of one scorned job candidate:
I was recently turned down for a position with an American company overseas for a management role following a six-month process and 32 interviews over the phone, during a domestic trip to their headquarters and a trip to the company's site in central South America.
Combined, the two trips for interviews took eight full days of my time. My direct travel expenses were covered, but I had to take unpaid time off work. The icing on the cake was the silence when I got home and thanked them for their time, and more silence when I politely requested brief feedback on what was lacking in my candidacy. I was simply told by the internal recruiter that I did not get the offer, without any explanation.
While understanding that companies must manage risk in interactions with candidates and may have policies against providing feedback, from an HR perspective doesn't blowing off a final round candidate carry far more risk of harm to the company? While seemingly not the best fit in the end, I was obviously a pretty good general match and might have considered other positions with the company or recommended it to similar colleagues, if not for the above. Instead, I am now inclined to never consider any position with the company and actively warn friends (in a narrow field) away from them.
Finally, 32 interviews seems to me to verge on the absurd. At what point do you see diminishing returns with the number of interviews in screening a candidate?
He's right on all accounts. Thirty-two interviews is unconscionable. I'm willing to give them a pass on the amount of time he had to take off work if (and only if) a visit to the site in South America was central to the job. But, eight days was probably excessive (and undoubtedly includes some of the other 32 interviews).
Additionally, note how the company treated him when he "finished" with the interviews. Silence. Yep. Picture giving up eight full days of your time (and income), undergoing 32 different interviews in the span of six months and then nothing.
This is utterly ridiculous. And while this example lands on the extreme end of the spectrum, many companies think nothing of doing five, six or 10 interviews with candidates and then going silent. In one HR group I belong to, HR managers were justifying such behavior because candidates were stupid not to understand how hiring really works. This may be how hiring works, but it is unethical.
Your job candidates are humans. They are making sacrifices in order to come and interview. They are spending time and, often, money to meet with you. You are not obligated to hire everyone you interview, but you are obligated to treat candidates fairly and nicely. If you can't make a decision after two or three rounds of interviews, you should not be the decision maker. When people come in for an interview, you owe them at least an email to inform them what happened with the position.
The candidate who wrote me would have appreciated feedback as to why he wasn't hired. This isn't always a reasonable request, and there are often reasons not to respond with anything other than, "we decided to go another direction." But, after an international trip and 32 interviews, they owe him an explanation.
Additionally, if you're only externally motivated, and don't give a flying fig what rejected candidates think of you and your business, note what he says at the end: Not only is he not interested in working in any capacity for this company, he's going to tell his friends. This is bad for your business.
If nothing else, think of this situation as reminder of why you should treat job candidates like humans.
SUZANNE LUCAS | Columnist
Suzanne Lucas spent 10 years in corporate human resources, where she hired, fired, managed the numbers, and double-checked with the lawyers.