Today most large companies have a close relationship with talent identification organizations. Companies give these organizations projects, just to become a hated employer, because of some miscommunication in the processes they execute together with these partners. I will shortly talk here on something crucial but still overlooked, because of ego or inconvenience, from most senior leaders searching for the next bright talent for their team skill – the feedback.
Here is a short story that is real and happened in 2019:
A friend of mine called me to ask how to react to a rejection from a company she has interviewed for a senior-level role. As she explained to me – she was contacted by an executive search consultant who explained to her what a great company she was going to interview with. Some of the words got in the direction of how open and direct the senior leaders at that company are. She was also told that if she is not a successful choice, she will get detailed feedback. After she has decided to try winning the role the executive consultant explained to her that the process will go through several steps and the time between first and last step is enough to react on each task given in the process of recruiting. Looking at her schedule my friend decided that she can be flexible and react within the timeframes communicated by the consultant. And everything was just fine until her application was presented to the employer. She has got a call from the executive search consultant a couple of days after their meeting and asked to do everything she can to meet the employer in 1 day. After she explained that she can’t organize it in her schedule she was proposed another option for the next working day in the middle of the day with the explanation that the CEO of the company has principles and does not allow meetings to happen outside the normal working hours. “Strong ethics,” thought my friend and agreed. She arrived 15 minutes before the meeting, but the meeting started with 10 minutes delay from the time agreed. After the meeting finished, she was told that further information will follow through the executive search consultant. The answer came on the next day which was Friday. The consultant asked her to prepare a business case including a detailed strategy in 4 different areas with limited information about the company and no one to ask. And again, she was asked to skip all her planned weekend activities and send the business case solution on Monday, as early as she can and present it to the employer on Tuesday. She agreed and started clearing her schedule for Tuesday. Working hard on the business case and skipping the time with her family she created the solution as she saw it and sent it to the executive consultant within the deadline. Monday after the working hours she received a call from the consultant to ask her to change the timeslot agreed, because of some urgent and non-planned visit. After she said that her next possible day is I a week after the timeslot agreed the consultant confirmed the timeslot agreed. On the day of the meeting the CEO, together with the other panel members delayed the meeting with another 15 minutes with the reason he was going for lunch outside the company building. After they started the presentation and discussion panel my friend was asked the same question from all panel members. They looked distracted and non-interested in her presentation. When asked why she didn’t get into details, she has explained that changing structures and policies requires good knowledge of business processes and everything else is just a theoretical model that may be or may not be appropriate for the company. She explained that she cannot give a practical solution without any detailed information. After the meeting was over the panelists thanked her and said to her that they plan to have such presentations with people for the next at least 2-3 weeks. When she asked why then the hurry with her presentation the answer was “Because we decided so.”. 4 weeks after her presentation the lady received a short e-mail from the executive search consultant thanking her for the participation in the process and pointing that the company has decided to finish the process with another applicant. Nothing wrong here, until she asked for some feedback. The consultant told her that the feedback was never shared by the CEO and the panelists. They just informed them that she is not the preferred choice and insisted that she had to be informed by the executive search consultant.
Then the lady called me to ask what she can do. She was affected not because she was not chosen, but because of the attitude and the actions of the employer. She felt like she was used and treated like a second-hand person. Her first reaction was to write a long letter to the employer explaining how she felt about the process and giving some feedback and then post a review about her experience on a platform, widely used from job applicants, sharing her opinion. After we had a long talk, I convinced her to not do that, but inform the executive consultant how she felt and ask to not be presented in front of such employers as a prospective candidate in the future. She agreed and a month later she accepted an offer at a company that answered all her internal standards, understandings, and values.
And the story goes beyond, but for now, we only need this part. An important lesson from this story is that you have never done enough if you did not communicate properly, clearly, and in full. Here are some tips to help leaders stop blaming their company’s reputation because of an unwillingness to take responsibility and communicate:
Plan meetings to others and time
Some leaders still live in a world where they are the center of everything. As fast as you as a leader, understand that in the center of your interaction with another person is your clear communication, but not your ego, you move up on the likeliness scale
Be on time
There is nothing wrong to be late if you have informed that before the meeting on the other side. The lack of a clear message makes the other side feel undervalued and think of the meaning of the meeting. The representative of the company is the one that paints the image of the company.
Talk with the applicant as with a potential partner
You want to hire someone so badly that you become impatient about the person standing in front of you. Well, this person has shown up in front of you not to lose your time, but to present the best version of itself. Showing how boring this is for you, looking distracted and not interested, puts more stress to the person and makes him/her feel undervalued in terms of effort he/she has invested to make this meeting happen
Finish the meeting without judgment and with personal engagement
I have heard it many times when interviewing with a senior leader: “You will get feedback in xxx time, from….”
What people who have invested time with you and your company expect is to receive some feedback from the person they have met. Even if your agreement with the consultant is to send negative feedback through him or her, the negatives are still for you if you did not formulate it the way it is informing, impacting, and positive. Remember that people do not talk negatively about companies, because they have received feedback, but because companies have ignored that part and did not give the applicants some direction for improvement. So, engage yourself with time and personal involvement in the feedback and communicate it the way you have chosen.
Be open for further touch with the applicant
Lacking good communication often makes the person you have interviewed with feel only negatives about the company. And this is created from you and your behavior. Investing time with meetings is often misunderstood as a one direction activity. As fast as you as a leader understand and accept that miscommunication loses people for your company now and in the future, you will change the negative outlook. Offer the applicant a way to connect with you directly if the feedback he/she has received from your partner consultant is not enough. This will create a positive outlook in its mind about you as a leader and your company as a prospective employer.
Conducting interviews is not rocket science, but still, everyone who is involved must take responsibility for his/her role in the process. When everyone in the process understands that its behavior and actions are crucial for creating an attitude toward the company and that this attitude can cost much more than one unhappy applicant with negative thoughts the situation will change. Leaders are no exception from the group of people interviewing and as much they understand that the level they stand on is defining for the company image the more positive outlook they can create for the people looking at their company as an opportunity for development.