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Column: When to reject a company recruiting you

Nick Corcodilos started headhunting in Silicon Valley in 1979 and has answered over 30,000 questions from the Ask The Headhunter community.

In this special Making Sen$e edition of Ask The Headhunter, Nick shares insider advice and contrarian methods about winning and keeping the right job, on one condition: that you, dear Making Sense reader, send Nick your questions about your personal challenges with job hunting, interviewing, networking, resumes, job boards or salary negotiations. No guarantees — just a promise to do his best to offer useful advice.


Question: After multiple interviews, a well-known company made me a job offer that I refused. The offer was good, considerably more than I earn now. But the deal was unacceptable because, from one meeting to the next, the team showed me the company is undisciplined, disorganized and incapable of conducting business with someone they want to hire. And they recruited me! I didn’t go to them looking for a job! This of course tells me they are not worth doing business with, period.

I’m writing to you because I’ve concluded that I should have cut the meetings off sooner. I was so focused on performing at my best that I didn’t calculate the problems that now appear so obvious to me. Can you poll your readers and ask them what signals during interviews tip them off that a company is not worth working for?

Nick Corcodilos: Don’t feel bad. In the throes of the evaluation process, a candidate is understandably trying so hard to impress that he or she dismisses signals that suggest it’s time to walk away. Nonetheless, there are indeed signals you should be looking for early in the process. You should not wait until after you’ve invested many hours and loads of effort to calculate whether an employer is worth it!

6 reasons to reject an employer

San Francisco recruiter Ken Hansell posted this story on LinkedIn, from a job candidate who rejected a job offer and declined to negotiate further. Like you, this candidate probably waited too long to tell the employer to take a hike.

I declined the offer… I’m staying where I am. The recruiter called me and asked why? This is one of the top companies. What’s the counter offer? Me: No counter offer.

1. I had six rounds of interviews.

2. I was grilled with questions but nobody took the time to explain what the job is like and did not even ask if I have any questions.

3. Lots of questions did not make sense – like why I am leaving my employer. I was not, your recruiter approached me and convinced me to come for your interview. Where I see myself in 5 years. They could not tell me where they see their company in 6 months.

4. The hiring process is too long, too disorganized.

5. The offer took too long.

6. The interviewers did not compare notes because during the six rounds of interviews they were asking the same questions. This should not look like an interrogation. They also looked tired and stressed.

 

If you want to hire talent, fix your basics. Treat candidates as people, not as applicants.

This job candidate has outlined six clear signs that showed the company was not worthy of consideration. All these signs are important, but the third one is key: The interviewers behaved as if the candidate is chasing the company when, in fact, the company is recruiting the candidate.

Who’s recruiting whom?

This critical distinction is lost on most people. Applying for jobs you have sought out is one thing. But when a company finds you, pursues you, solicits you, and convinces you to come talk about a job — then the calculus changes entirely. (See Reductionist Recruiting: A short history of why you can’t get hired.)

As you and the candidate in the LinkedIn story both noted, you were not looking for a job, so asking you why you wanted to leave your old job is not just presumptuous and rude — it reveals a totally misguided approach to hiring.

When you are recruited, an employer should do three things:

  • Roll out the red carpet
  • Present compelling evidence about why you should listen to its pitch
  • Work very hard to impress you

These are not unrealistic asks. Some employers do it right. (See Smart Hiring: A manager who respects applicants.)

When you are recruited, an employer who fails to treat you as an honored guest reveals a profound ignorance of how the world works. That’s simply disrespectful. It’s the sign of an uncouth, uncultured, stupid organization that’s bound to fail — one you’d be wasting your time with. (See Stupid Recruiters: How employers waste your time.)

Blind recruiting is spam

I’ll repeat that: When a company — whether its manager, its recruiter or its headhunter — comes to you and suggests it is interested in you, it should treat you with special respect and deference.

  • It must not ask you to fill out job applications.
  • It must accommodate your schedule for a meeting.
  • It must send the hiring manager to court you from the start — not some personnel jockey whose job is to check your teeth prior to your meeting with that hiring manager.
  • It must demonstrate exactly why it wants to meet you.

Blind solicitations are not recruiting; they’re spam. The trouble is, most people don’t understand this. They allow companies that recruit them to treat them like beggars. Don’t. You’ll save a lot of time if you separate employers you pursue from those that come to you.

This is not to say other employers can get away with not treating you respectfully. But when a company or recruiter solicits you, expect to be treated well — or walk away if you’re made to feel like somebody who applied for a job.

What the 6 signs really tell you

The six signs above tell you that an employer is wasting your time. Here’s why.

  1. It should not take six interviews to assess you. It should take two, perhaps three. An employer that needs more has no idea how to properly assess a job candidate.
  2. A company should not interrogate you. It should prove there’s a wonderful opportunity at the company for you. (If this idea seems foreign to you, you’re either brainwashed or you work in HR.)
  3. The interviewers should not test your motivations. They should justify theirs to you.
  4. An interview process should be a carefully tailored production — a compelling pitch designed to impress you favorably. If the employer uses interviews to test you, then it has no business inviting you in to talk because it clearly has no idea whether you’re a good candidate. Listen up, employers and HR managers and recruiters: If you have not researched a person in enough detail already to confirm they are a viable candidate, you have no business contacting them. Interviews are not for selecting candidates. They’re for selecting hires.
  5. An employer should make an offer almost immediately after interviews are done. Hesitation reveals doubt, doubt reveals poor judgment, and that’s the mark of failure.
  6. Those job interview meetings are the employer’s show. If the employer comes off looking bad, it means it’s not prepared and, in turn, not worth working for.

Dear Readers: What additional signs from recruiters and employers tell you the “opportunity” they’re dangling at you will be a painful waste of your time? Please be specific — let’s create a test kit that helps everyone distinguish opportunity from agony.


Nick Corcodilos invites Making Sense readers to subscribe to his free weekly Ask The Headhunter© Newsletter. His in-depth “how to” PDF books are available on his website: “How to Work With Headhunters…and how to make headhunters work for you,” “Keep Your Salary Under Wraps,” “How Can I Change Careers?” and “Fearless Job Hunting.”

Send your questions to Nick, and join him for discussion every week here on Making Sense. Thanks for participating!

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