There is a clear trend within the interviewing and hiring process that parallels our current national mood toward incivility, rudeness, and the overall breakdown in polite social interactions.
Way back in the old days, when I was a fresh-faced, eager, young recruiter, the interviewing process was entirely different (and it’s not because we received resumes from stagecoaches, carrier pigeons, or by telegrams) than today. We would receive a job order from a Human Resources professional. She was usually very polite, experienced, helpful, and would take the time and effort to explain the reasons for the job opening, why the person left his or her position or the reason for an add to staff, offer color around the team, and provide detailed information for us to share with prospective candidates. The HR person would also set-up a meeting with us and the hiring manager to learn as much as possible about what was required above and beyond the written job description.
After an interview was completed, feedback would be immediately provided, including both positive and negative comments and constructive criticisms when warranted. This was designed to help the candidate do better in the next round of interviews, or if the firm was not interested, the advice would help the person in their future interviews with other companies. Also, the recruiting firm would be able to fine-tune their process with this knowledge.
Throughout all the facets of the interview process, continuing into the offer stage, and on-boarding, there was constant human interaction designed to make the interviewing experience, which could be very stressful and intimidating, more pleasant and humane.
Over the last several years, this process has drastically changed due to a confluence of events. Please understand, I am not casting any aspersions or rendering judgment, but simply sharing the new norm, which may provide some clarity for experiences that you may be going through.
Technology has been deployed in HR, as it has been in all parts of personal and corporate life. Almost every company now has an IT software system, in which resumes are directed into a portal and screened by algorithms rather than by people. Most often there is not even an acknowledgment sent to the applicant informing him that his resume was received.
The ascension of LinkedIn, job boards, and job aggregators–such as Indeed, has made it exceedingly easy for people to apply for a job. This may seem good for a job seeker; however, it has adverse consequences. Everybody is either on their phone or in front of a computer all day long. Job postings are ubiquitous and the result is that companies are overwhelmed with a deluge of resumes. The volume of resumes is too much for HR people to reasonably handle (which interestingly created the surge in technology solutions). It becomes impossible, even for the most dedicated, devoted, and professional HR person, to provide individual attention to the voluminous hordes of resumes received. That is why you will hear people complain that their resume fell into the black hole of the internet.
In addition to posting a job on the various job sites and social media platforms, an HR person may share the listing with four or five recruiters. Recruiters usually work on a contingency basis. This means, like real estate sales, you only get paid if you make a placement. There is no prize for second place. When you have this infrastructure, there is not a high incentive for some not-so-ethical recruiters to be thoughtful and caring toward candidates that they believe do not have a chance to get the job. If you are a strong contender, they will lavish you with attention, if you are not, they have little or no interest in you. It sounds very cold, and it is.
Additionally, due to intense global political and economic tensions, there is a high level of worry and anxiety about our future prospects as a nation. Whenever there is uncertainty, there is a tendency to avoid taking action. A “let’s wait and see what happens” mindset takes over, which makes everything move tortuously slow. The average time period to hire a mid-to -senior level professional could take three to over six months. It becomes hard to keep all parties engaged and motivated over a long period of time, especially with breaks in interviewing, and it could unravel quickly.
Due to the current climate, hiring managers have become cautious because they are afraid to make a bad hiring decision, which may affect their own job. There is a tendency not to stick your head out for someone else, as you would not like to expend personal capital on betting on the wrong person and it will be deemed your fault. It is easy to do nothing and let the hiring process drag on indefinitely.
With the frightening proliferation of lawsuits, hiring managers and HR professionals are scared to offer feedback, worried that it could be construed by the applicant as racist, sexist, or some other prejudice, which could then lead to legal trouble for them. It’s easier to just not say anything.
Therefore, when you factor in the use of technology instead of real live people, outsourced hiring, the loss of experienced HR veterans, global economic and political uncertainties, the ease of flooding firms with resumes, litigation risks, as well as other factors, it becomes clear why the hiring process has become a challenging and frustrating endeavor.
So, unfortunately, the deck is stacked against you. It is particularly painful if you work in an area that is not too hot or the position could easily be moved to a lower-cost location. The only thing you can do to keep sane is understand that the game has changed. The niceties and feedback days, for now, are gone. Interviewing has become cold, impersonal, clinical, and harsh. Instead of a first interview in-person meeting, you will be required to have a phone conversation. It seems that they don’t want to waste any time, so if you sound like you are not a fit, the call will be ended quickly, without the attended discomfort of being shooed out of the office after four minutes. Companies will ask for your availabilities, then disregard them, and pressure you into times that are not comfortable for you. Interviews will be cancelled without notice. If you can’t make an interview, the firm will not be happy and move onto to someone more flexible. If you are deemed too old or expensive, there is little interest in the value you offer. If you do not possess the exact background, there is a belief that if the company keeps looking, they will eventually find the purple squirrel and an even cheaper price (I don’t mean a literal purple squirrel; it’s just a metaphor for a very hard-to-find perfect candidate). There will be days, weeks, and months of no communication. Then, they will demand you rush into the interview when they are ready – even if you are not. Companies will require you to meet endless numbers of people, so that they can make a consensus decision; therefore, nobody has to bear the blunt of blame if a bad hire is made. Offers are mediocre at best.
I don’t mean to be mean. It just is what it is. There have been times when employees were in the driver’s seat. Candidates would say that they have an offer with firm A and company B, waiting for an offer from corporation C, so why should I go to this interview, and how much more could they offer me than the other places? What will they do for me? And the companies would scramble to meet the candidate’s demands. Times change and circumstances change. I’m not suggesting that you throw in the towel, but I feel it is important to share the challenges ahead of you.