How do you prolong the torture that is ‘the interview process’?

Try telling the candidates that you will let them know by the weekend, and then don’t.

You are having a problem chasing up a reference for the candidate you want to offer the job to. Friday turns out to be unexpectedly hectic and there simply wasn’t time to ring everyone. You didn’t think through the implications of making all those phone calls and frankly it has been a long day at the end of a long week and the last thing you want to do is ring people up to tell them they haven’t got a job. What’s the betting they will want to know why? Some will hide their disappointment better than others and some will want instant feedback. You could ring up the successful candidate - that’s always a pleasure. It would be a good ending to your week and make their weekend. You could ring the unsuccessful candidates on Monday or get HR or one of the secretaries to send out a standard ‘thank you for attending interview but on this occasion you have been unsuccessful’ letter.

You could do any of those things, but here is why you shouldn’t:

  • You said you would contact them by the weekend, and they understood that to be by phone.
  • If they don’t hear by Friday evening they will fear the worst but still hope that there is some other reason why you have not called. They will spend the whole weekend thinking about it, trying to convince themselves that they are still in with a chance.
  • It’s bad enough not getting the job, but after all that effort just to get a standard letter. What about feedback?
  • You may have interviewed some very capable candidates who may be not right for this job at this time but are certainly someone for the future. How will they know unless you have that conversation?
  • If there is an internal candidate they are going to continue to work for you at least in the short term, so it makes sense to keep a good working relationship.
  • You just never know. Your professional paths may well cross again and your personal and professional reputation, and that of your organisation, will be enhanced by the courteous and sensitive approach you take. The opposite is also true.

Planning for interviews involves more than just drawing up an interview schedule. Leave sufficient time after the last interview for the panel to make their decision. Don’t assume it will be clear cut; there may have to be time for debating the merits of individual candidates, plus you need to be able to give helpful feedback to the unsuccessful candidates so you need to agree on their strengths and weaknesses.

Ideally, ring people at home that evening - much easier than trying to get hold of people at work. People always know what they are going to say to the successful candidate but what are you going to say to the unsuccessful candidates? After all, you don’t want them to feel the whole process has been a complete waste of their time and you certainly don’t want them to feel it was a fix. They are less likely to feel either of these if you ring them when you said you would.