Friday, August 24, 2007

Bad Form

A friend of mine  - let's call her Z - interviewed recently for a job.

Z didn't get it.

Which is OK, because a lot of the jobs you interview for you don't get. That's part of life.

What we both found surprising was how Z was informed that she hadn't gotten the job. Rather than getting a phone call, she got a perky little e-mail from HR letting her know that they'll "hold on to your resume for future opportunities that crop up here."

Which might have been OK if Z'd been applying blindly for an entry level position. Or even a more senior position. Which Z wasn't.

Here's the story (and why I think the little e-mail ding was bad form - and not very smart business).

Z has known A for many years. Z has, in fact, done consulting work for A over those years. That's how A knows that Z might have been a good fit for the C level job that was available at Company X.  A knew about the job because he's a board member and major  investor at Company X.

Company X, meet Z.

Z, meet Company X.

Although A is a private investor, and , thus, plenty aggressive, A is not the pushy type. He just made his introduction and got out of the way.

Z went into Company X and met with President and all the other C-level folks.

After the meeting, Z followed up with the President asking whether he was interested in moving the conversation any further along, etc. Here was Mr. President's opportunity for a graceful out. If he'd had another candidate in mind, here was his opportunity to call Z back - or send her a personal e-mail in the middle of the night - telling her "thanks, but no thanks."

Instead, Mr. President let a few weeks go by, then had an HR minion knock Z her Dear Z note.

What's bad form here?

Okay. I'm a hierarchical snob, but if you're applying for a C-level position, and meet with the President and all the other little C's, then you deserve a direct and personal  no-thank-you note from the President. Or someone very senior. You really shouldn't be getting the pro-forma "we'll keep your resume on file" (hah!) note.

What's bad business here?

Z did not come in over the transom. Nor was she introduced to the company by the cleaning crew or the new receptionist. Z was introduced by a Board Member and major investor. Wouldn't you think that Mr. President would have offered a bit of personal touch here? What was he thinking?

I'm not talking about feeling obligated to hire Z.

I'm talking about being savvy enough to say to yourself, "Hmmmm. A knows Z pretty well and seems to like her. Maybe I need to get back to her personally," - and let A know the outcome.

Wouldn't you think?

I know that it's hard to tell someone that they didn't get the job. I've had to do it a number of times, and always felt that  a personal call to all the finalists was the least I could do, especially when the job was at all senior level. (Let alone C-level.)

One time, having signed the paperwork and seen the offer letter, I made a mis-timed verbal offer to someone I was very eager to have join my team. P had worked for my group over the prior summer, and we were all looking forward to having him around. He was exceptionally bright and talented, not to mention a very nice guy.

Hours after I'd called P, a company-wide hiring freeze kicked in.


So, I called P back to give him the news, feeling like the dope that I was and feeling genuinely bad.

This was not a Boom Year for new grads, and I knew that P was looking forward to accepting our offer and working for us.

"I know just how you feel," P told me when I called.  As the managing editor of his college newspaper, P had just had to inform a very close friend of his that he had selected someone else for that position for the next year. "It's a really tough call to make, and I appreciate your calling."

Here was a 22 year old who was mature and savvy enough to know that you bear the bad news yourself - you don't let someone else do it - and mature and kind enough to try to make me feel better.

Wouldn't you think that someone who'd gotten to the level of President of a company - no matter how poky that company is - would know enough to have called (or e-mailed) Z himself?

Bad form. Bad business.


John Whiteside said...

Sadly enough, I have no such expectations of a president of a company, but that's a result of seeing some of the people who get to be presidents of companies. I actually think that's more of a basic manners kind of thing, and should extend much below the C-level.

I've had the experience of spending several hours with various people at a company on interviews, and getting a "bye bye!" from HR at the end. If I can give up several hours of my life to talk to your team, you (the hiring manager) can spend ten minutes writing a personal note telling me that you've not hiring me. Really poor.

The worst-ever brush off I got was from Microsoft, but I think they pride themselves on being rough and tumble in that department. By the time it happened I was having a gut feeling that there was not a fit, which is fine; I actually didn't expect there to be, but I was curious enough to go spend the day in Redmond, and figured I might be surprised by what it was like - but it was still fairly appalling.

Mary Schmidt said...

Well, Z should consider herself lucky. Sound like this would not have been a fun job. If the prez doesn't even have enough class to make a two-minute phone excuses, a good leader isn't a wimp and he/she doesn't pawn off the uncomfortable stuff to others.

Chuck said...

Today a friend of mine was fired without warning, counseling, or even a mention of dissatisfaction.

He was called into the office, told that he didn't display an appropriate sense of "urgency" and given 10 minutes to clear his desk.

This is a Fortune 50 company. Very strange. Sometimes managers display a lack of tact or desire to do the right thing. This post and his experience point toward that same dysfunctional tendency.

Bad form indeed.