September 25, 2018

Warning Signs: This Interview Process Is Going Nowhere

by Scott Thompson

I recently worked with a great candidate who found himself in an awful interview situation. His search was entering its fifth month. To date he had interviewed with an insurance agency five times, had discussed an offer and was working on relocation. There was one problem though – the company never created a formal offer. As you can imagine, it’s kind of tough to sign off on moving expenses and resign unless you have that. They kept making excuses like, “Well, you just showed up a little sooner than we thought we’d find someone.” In fact, the agency hadn’t even let go of the person he was supposed to replace. I worked with him in this process and grew equally as frustrated. In retrospect, we should have cut and run a long time ago.

Has this ever happened to you? Can you relate to the frustration of a company that falls in love with the interview process? After some lengthy reflection I’ve come to conclusions I think will help others avoid the same situation.

What Are The Signs You Are Interviewing For A Position That Will Never Materialize?

  • Role Definition Regression- Title, responsibilities, compensation, requirements and organizational hierarchy becomes less clear as time goes on.
  • Process. What Process? – The interviewer doesn’t seem to have a sense of purpose. No rhyme or reason to interview timeline, accessibility or format.
  • It’s a Low Priority – In Sheryl Sandberg’s management training she states, “Saying you don’t have time is really saying it’s not a priority.” 3-4 weeks go by between interviews and feedback.
  • The Stalemate Is Your Fault – This is most telling. When the client is angry with you. They blame you for all the above problems (lack of communication, availability or plan of action). Um, last time I checked it’s still their job and their responsibility to hire, right?

How to Take Action If You’re In Getting Strung Along In An Interview

First, find out if something has changed. It’s the ‘benefit of the doubt’ question. “Has anything changed with the role? It seems the process has stalled a bit.” The employer won’t pro-offer this information. They think it will make them look bad. Actually, lack of communication makes them look worse.

  • If the answer is ‘yes’ and the role is dead, cut bait.
  • If the answer is ‘no’, rehabilitate the search.

Second, request a meeting. Specifically ask about:

  1. Position parameters
  2. Timing (force them to be specific)
  3. Compensation (does it match your expectations)
  4. Voice Concerns (politely but ask them for resolution)

From here is it is up to you. Do you want to continue the conversation? If not – it’s OK. However, remember that if you decide to go forward it’s got to be a clean slate. You have to give the company an honest chance. However, once you’ve had this conversation if any of the old behavior continues you should get out quickly and gracefully.


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