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Interviews Work Both Ways

After the Great Recession, employers picked up an array of bad habits when it comes to interviewing job seekers. Because they could, for a time. Now many of those habits are coming back to haunt them in a very competitive labor market. First and foremost, companies (hiring managers and HR) forgot that prospective employees are interviewing them as much as they are the job candidate. Job seekers’ experiences during the interview process often tells them what they can expect as an employee, good or bad.

Here are the ten most common bad habits companies need to break:

  1. Taking too long. During the last recession, hiring managers got in the habit of taking months to see what the market had to offer. Companies would and could circle back to their top candidate and they’d be sitting there waiting for the phone to ring. These days, top candidates are getting multiple offers in days, not weeks, and rejected offers are common. Taking too long tells candidates that the company is indecisive and will be behind the curve as a company.

  2. Too many steps in the process. Trying to mitigate the risk of a bad hire, companies added many extra people to the hiring committee. Sometimes candidates would be asked to come back for a dozen different interviews before getting an offer or a rejection. Additional steps include personality assessments, B-school-like problem sets, and presentations. From a candidate’s perspective, having to take multiple days off to interview, endure redundant interviews and “prove themselves” tells them that the company does not respect their time and that lack of consideration will probably continue as an employee.

  3. Being unprepared. If a candidate showed up for an interview and had done zero research on the company, they would be shown the door. Likewise for showing up late. Companies routinely are unprepared for a candidate interview and it shows. Keeping the candidate sitting in the reception area, lack of private meeting space, or interviewers who have not reviewed the candidate’s resume are very common. Another bad practice is not having everyone available – especially tertiary members of the hiring committee – and replacements getting added at the last minute. All of this sends a bad message that your company does not have its act together.

  4. One-way interviews. Grilling a candidate for the entire interview without giving them the opportunity to get to know the managers and the company will not win you the best candidates. Any good employee wants to get to know who they’d be working get an understanding of what would be expected of them.

  5. Not selling the company. As a recruiter, I get to know my clients and what they have to offer employees. Often managers cannot articulate why their company is a great place to work, which is a big red flag. During interviews, companies might cover pay and benefits but not get into the weeds much on the company culture, which is something every candidate wants to know. It could be big things, like the company’s sustainability efforts or community involvement. It could be little things like casual Fridays, flexible working arrangements, or company discount programs. Candidates want to know about educational or training opportunities, career growth, and any other reasons it’s great to be an employee there. Interviewers should assume that they are competing with other companies for top candidates or at the very least will have to sell them on why they should leave their current company and come work for them.

  6. Communication. The number one complaint job seekers have is the lack of communication. While most have accepted that just sending in a resume will normally net an automated response and little else, lack of communication once they have been engaged in an interview process is unforgivable. Recruiters often go radio-silent on candidates or companies can take days (or weeks!) to give feedback on an interview. It drives candidates nuts. It also is a big red flag on how they treat employees, customers, or vendors.

  7. Lying. A lack of transparency or simply being dishonest with candidates is unfortunately commonplace. Companies routinely downplay any negative aspects of a job (some overtime = every night and weekend) and oversell the upsides (unlimited commissions!). Often they are lied to about the hiring process – hiring managers will promise a candidate that an offer is coming their way, when they are really trying to keep them on the hook if their first-choice candidate turns them down. If candidates pick up on the fact you are lying to them, you will lose them either in the hiring process or shortly after they start working for you.

  8. Filler candidates. Companies have given themselves policies where they must interview X number of candidates for every position, even if they already know who will get the job. It is a colossal waste of time for candidates who are the extra candidates – and it is usually clear when a company is just going through the motions. This will kill your hiring brand for that candidate and anyone they tell for the foreseeable future.

  9. Posting fake jobs. Some companies routinely post jobs that are not real in order to start building a pool of potential candidates for the future. They will also post jobs that might exist but are a low priority for the company to fill, so they post and repost the job for months until they decide to start contacting candidates. Top candidates might apply to the first one but will stop after that. The assumption is that the company is not a serious one and will dropped from consideration.

  10. Killing their brand. Every organization has a brand – with customers and candidates. Companies often fail to recognize the connection between the two. Job seekers are potential customers or suppliers, whether in a B2B or B2C environment. If they have a positive or negative experience, whether they get hired or not, it will impact the company’s brand one way or the other. Here is a real example: A top logistics candidate of mine interviewed for a VP-level position with a transportation company that ghosted him after the interview. Weeks went by with no feedback after they flew him in & ran him through a full gauntlet of interviews. Later, he landed the top logistics job at one of the other company’s biggest customers. Within months he shifted his new company’s logistics spend ($40M+) to another company that was more professional in their dealings. The president that could not be bothered to call him back after the interview showed up hat-in-hand to try to save the account.

I’m sure there are plenty of other unforced errors companies make when interviewing candidates, but these are the most common ones. If you can think of others or have stories you want to share, we’d love to hear them!

We appreciate you reading and would also appreciate any comments or sharing with your network if you found this valuable.

The Rivet Group is an executive search and consulting company dedicated to matching the right professionals with jobs where they are excited to go to work in the morning. If you are ready for a new career opportunity or are ready to hire for your team, please let us know how we can help.

We can be reached at

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