What’s wrong with software development? Interview Rejection Feedback Timing

The big hand that says, “Not this job” can be kind about it

Dear Hiring Teams:

I have been an interviewer and an employed interviewee.

Here is what I assert: the risks and costs of being an interviewer are asymmetrical to the risks and costs of being an employed interviewee — even to an unemployed interviewee, when taken from a certain point of view.

Interviewers, except for when they take their work home, are being paid to interview. Employed interviewees are not, in fact they incur risks with their current employer and/or loss of vacation time. Unemployed interviewees are not being reimbursed.

An interview scenario can involve an initial screening call [30 minutes], a hiring manager call [30 mins to an hour], a tech screening call [1 hour], a take-home [90 minutes to roughly one week of after-hours work (8 or more hours?)], and then an in-person [half a day away from work: or a full vacation day if your company doesn’t permit half-day increments]. That is, in total, 1 work day minimum for the example process to, say, almost 4 work days for an interview process which ends in an in-person.

Unpaid.

This is not to guilt hiring managers.

Industry standards recommend many, if not all, of these practices.

I honestly believe that this convinces people they are making good decisions. I can’t contest the results based on what I know alone.

However, I am asking that you compensate the employees you reject in proportion to the amount of time they spent in the process.

I’m not recommending monetary compensation.

I’m recommending this: when you are considering the feedback you provide and the timeliness of that feedback, consider the amount of time the applicant spent [within reason] on the interview process.

For example, this is not made up:

I spent 30 minutes on the call with a company recruiter. I then spent 1 hour with the hiring manager. The company’s in-person interview required a trip downtown for 4 hours which I couldn’t make without taking a vacation day. In all, my cost was 1.5 hours plus a vacation day.

The hiring team didn’t get back to me in 3 weeks. I knew what the result was going to be, but the delivery was way worse than I expected:

Yeah, the company recruiter said, basically we’re going another direction on this because of [perceived deficiency]. However, if you can convince me that you don’t have that deficiency, then I might be able to convince the hiring manager to hire you. I’ll talk to her this afternoon, and I’ll get back to you in the next day or two.

My resume backed up that I had the requisite experience. I told the company recruiter I appreciated his help, and I assured him I had the experience. He told me he’d get back to me either way in a day or two.

He never got back to me. Never. Yes, I followed up. No, there was never a response. This was a recruiter who said if the one role didn’t work out, that he’d help me find another with the company. That didn’t materialize. And, no, I didn’t light anything on fire during the interview or behave in a way which should get me banned from anything.

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In another case, I spent an hour on the phone with the recruitment manager, another hour with a senior lead, then a vacation day and 4 hours in person in their office a city away. I sent a courteous and sincere thank you the next day. Three weeks passed. Finally, after prompting with LinkedIn, I got a call saying the role went another direction because they changed the role specifications after I interviewed. They were afraid I’d be bored silly with the new role specifications. Okay, but wouldn’t it make sense to keep me in the loop throughout this process?

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What I would expect is that a hiring team take into account the amount of time a candidate should have taken to get as far as he or she did in the interview process, and do the following things in direct proportion to that amount of time:

  1. Give useful feedback on how the interviewee could improve his or her interview game. HR and legal can be a guide here, but I would err on the side of being as candid as possible.
  2. If possible, help the interviewee make connections with firms which might appreciate his or her talents. You’re a captain of industry for a reason, and you probably know other folks in need of close-but-not-there-yet candidates for your role.
  3. Suggest re-applying after N months. Okay, it can’t be re-apply next week: but how about, hey, try us again in 3 months.

No matter what: don’t ghost.

Interviewing has asymmetrical costs for interviewees and interviewers. Always remember this imbalance. It might not be fun to spend part of your day frame-shifting from your critical work to the important job of interviewing job hopefuls, but you are being paid for it.

We don’t live in a world where you can pay an interviewee for his or her work and current job risk, but we do live in one in which you can be as considerate as possible in proportion to that interviewees time and risk incurred applying for your open role.

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When I see applause for a piece of mine, I want to write more pieces! Please applaud if you appreciate people writing about topics like this.

Disclaimer: I am a senior software professional with experience as project lead, team lead, and lead engineer in the greater Boston area. I am actively seeking a job while currently fully employed. The world of software development can be an ugly place, and I hope to expose some of the more bewildering and uncomfortable corners in the hopes of improving the industry and the craft. Out of respect for current and former employers, I will keep the names of employers and/or clients scrubbed and anonymized as best as possible in these reports.

Resident of Frogpondia.

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