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I’m a senior technical team leader at my company. Because of my role and experience, I regularly have to conduct interviews with candidates. I’m facing more and more frequently this situation: I interview people I already know will be rejected.

Reasons for this are multiple: candidates promoted from HR but without the technical knowledge/experience required by the position (a junior profile for a solution architect position), position no longer available, position already filled, people already rejected by a different interviewer in the hiring process, budget no longer available, etc.

I’m NOT asking suggestions on how to avoid useless interviews (they will always exist). I’m asking for suggestions about how to conduct these interviews: should interviews last the usual 45-60 minutes? Should I cut them as soon as possible? Should interviews be similar in content as standard? Or more simple? Should I send one of my team members who is less busy than me (even if they may not have any experience as an interviewer)?

EDIT 1: this question is not a duplicate of the one proposed by espindolaa: the behavior of the candidate has nothing to do with the outcome of the interview.

EDIT 2: "Why can't you just cancel the interview?"

I see many comments and answer focusing on changing the process and cancel the interviews: I perfectly agree with you! I spoke with HR people (even with HR main director) countless times about this problem, but they repeat that "Our policy is to do interviews that are already scheduled in the following 2 days after the position has become unavailable". So I ask precisely not to answer on the process itself because is is beyond my possibilities to intervene on it. if it were up to me I would call the candidates and cancel the interview. I hope this clarify my position!

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    Comments are not for extended discussion; this conversation has been moved to chat. – Mister Positive Sep 27 at 13:18
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    Are you a tool of policy, or is policy a tool that you use to help guide actions? It sounds like you, or HR believe that policy is immutable, but policies are infinitely mutable. Since HR seems to believe in the existence of inflexible policies, one wonders what their answer would be if you said "my policy is to not waste time doing useless interviews; what's your policy on what happens when two policies conflict?" – Eric Lippert Sep 27 at 20:06
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    On: "Our policy is to do interviews that are already scheduled in the following 2 days after the position has become unavailable" I think you need to clearly answer something important: can you hire qualified candidates from your interviews during this time period, or is there truly "no position available" while you are conducting these interviews? – taswyn Sep 28 at 0:54
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    "I regularly have to conduct interviews with candidates." Why. You didn't state what happens if you don't. You also don't say how your superior feels about this waste of time. "candidates promoted from HR" ((Why. They're HR. This is a clear opportunity to reduce a large cost to zero.)). "position no longer available" ((Then why does the interview need to occur? Why didn't HR manage it??)) position already filled ((Same.)) "people already rejected by a different interviewer" ((Makes no sense. Who told the rejected applicant their rejection was a mistake.)) – Randy Zeitman Sep 28 at 23:35
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    "...people already rejected by a different interviewer in the hiring process" How do you know this? Then why continue the interview? Uber, for example, just terminates the interview and thanks them for their time. Personally, I think everyone should conduct their interviews independently and submit their feedback without discussion to minimize bias. Then you can discuss as a group afterwards. – EntangledLoops Sep 29 at 1:29

21 Answers 21

23

Talk above HR about a waste of resources (and hence money).

I’m a senior technical team leader at my company. Because of my role and experience, I regularly have to conduct interviews with candidates. I’m facing more and more frequently this situation: I interview people I already know will be rejected.

Because of your skills, experience and role your time is valuable.

Apparently, HR value their time - the time a clerk would take to inform people they had been rejected already - as more valuable. That's pretty odd.

You need to make that case formally (in writing) to your superior and for eventual consideration above HR. The head of HR is clearly putting HR's resources before your own departments (not to mention the moral sickness of the concept itself).

I spoke with HR people (even with HR main director) countless times about this problem

HR departments everywhere have one thing in common, in my experience: they never admit they're wrong. Only someone above them can force a change and the best approach to this is, again in my experience, to quote relative costs.

Reasons for this are multiple: candidates promoted from HR but without the technical knowledge/experience required by the position

So HR screwed up promoting people and won't take responsibility? Worse and worse.

These are considerations you need to raise with people (via your "chain of command") to hope that people who will have the power and inclination decide to stop this madness.

I’m NOT asking suggestions on how to avoid useless interviews (they will always exist). I’m asking for suggestions about how to conduct these interviews

Do not. Refuse point blank and in writing to HR and your manager to conduct interviews that waste your time, the candidate's time (and money) and the company's money. State categorically that you refuse to accept responsibility for wasting you and your team resources without clearance.

You are a senior technical team leader, and your time is valuable. Make this clear and unambiguous and that you do not see conducting a 45-minute interview on your time to be in any way productive when the process can have no value to the company. Clearly, you are already an experienced interviewer so there is no purpose in wasting your time.

Contacting these candidates is a job for a clerk in HR, not for your skilled time to be squandered pointlessly.

Also, note that if these candidates ever find out their time has been wasted deliberately (and lies like this tend to get out in the end), it could result in significant legal problems for your company. It is absolute folly to pursue a policy with no purpose other than to shield HR from its actual function.

You have done all you can when management above HR declares it wants the insane HR policy followed. In the meantime, you argue money and relative value and potential legal costs as reasons for these interviews to be canceled. Your time and your work and that of your team are too valuable to squander on this.

If you do not pursue this, then you lose any hope of ever avoiding this waste again. You have accepted the policy.

Morally, this is a terrible policy, but even from a cold financial point of view, it's an unethical waste of company resources.

Edit : How to conduct these interviews.

In the case that senior mangers decide to endorse this bizarre HR policy then you have to carry out your orders and do the interviews. At this point it is for HR to come up with an explicit statement of how they want these (pointless) interviews conducted.

In particular they and they alone are responsible for what statement (if any) you make regarding the candidates selection.

They must also indicate if you can select one of these candidates despite their assertion that they will not be selected if, in your judgement, they are suitable.

Make HR shoulder their responsibilities because if one or more of the candidates discover what kind of farce they are being put through you need to be able to show, for legal protection, that you had clear and unambiguous orders and were not acting on your own, but were forced over your objections. You do not want to be the person or department that HR decides to shift blame onto (which, from experience, they will if there is a problem).

Do not accept a plan that lets you decide what to say about the status of the interviews to the candidates. That is for HR to decide as it is their policy. Any responsibility must be left firmly with HR for this madness.

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    This. The role of any senior position is to highlight changes to policy that need to be made. The fact that in this case an engineer is saying that HR policy needs to change shouldn't matter.... HR pushing back is just them being lazy, and someone needs to slap their wrist so they stop. – UKMonkey Sep 29 at 17:39
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    I'd like to highlight that is is not just OP's 45 minutes that HR is valuing over their five minutes, it's also every co-interviewer's time and the candidate's time that's being under-valued. – Haem Sep 30 at 11:12
517

There is only one answer here: Your company is absolutely unprofessional. I have to travel to your place, possibly wait some time, go through an interview, travel back home, and all that time you already know that I have no chance in hell to get a job.

The behaviour of your company is utterly disgusting.

You say "I’m NOT asking suggestions on how to avoid useless interviews (they will always exist)." Not at any decent place run by honest people. I'll just repeat this: What your company does is disgusting.

The best that you can do is to call the candidate, tell them that there is a problem (there is no budget, position already filled, position not available anymore) which makes it extremely unlikely they would be offered a job, and that you would be fully understanding if they didn't come to the interview.

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    +1 - and on top of that, also have to do the research and prep for the interview, most likely take a day of holiday, take the risk that your current place of work may find out and it may cause repercussions there, etc. – berry120 Sep 27 at 20:11
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    @berry120 - Not to mention all of the people who work on a daily rate. They're losing hundreds of pounds coming to an interview. – Richard Sep 27 at 21:31
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    @pacoverflow Frame challenges are generally accepted on StackExchange, although they are typically harder to write and tend to be judged a lot more harshly. As you can see by the votes however in this case the community seems to strongly agree this frame challenge is valid. As this answer puts it, this is 'digusting' behavior not done at any 'decent' place, so there is no good way to conduct such an interview. Which is a direct answer to the question. – David Mulder Sep 28 at 11:51
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    @emory "All OP knows is that the applicant will be unlikely to get a job" - I think you have misread the question. See "Our policy is to do interviews that are already scheduled in the following 2 days after the position has become unavailable". We're talking here about interviews where the OP knows for 100% sure there is no chance the interviewee can get the job, because the job doesn't even exist. – Jon Bentley Sep 28 at 14:23
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    @DavidMulder A frame challenge still helps out the asker in some way. I don't see how calling OP's company unprofessional and disgusting helps out OP in any way. It has so many votes because the question hit HNQ and people agree with the answer's sentiment. – pacoverflow Sep 28 at 17:05
147

Cancel the interview.

It is the only honest option. The candidate doesn't come for a pleasant chat, he comes with the purpose of getting the job. If he has a small chance, give him that small chance because he might surprise you.

But from your description he has no chance at all. No matter what he does, no matter if he turns out to be the perfect candidate - he won't get the job.

So you are just wasting your and his time, all the while pretending that he could get the job. That is both disrespectful and dishonest and I would refuse to behave like that in your position.

Cancel the interview and spare him the travel time and expenses as well as the wasted interview time. If your HR has a problem with that, ask them how they justify wasting company time like that.

Note that it is well possible that nobody has malicious intent in this. Maybe the processes in HR are just so that interview invitations are done all at once at the beginning and there is no feedback loop to the hiring decision. That doesn't mean you should feel forced to lie and swindle a person.

  • Honesty is good. But I disagree that cancellation is the only honest option. The OP could call the candidate and tell the truth, specifically discussing the prospect of the candidate canceling. The difference is who does it. – donjuedo Sep 28 at 19:27
146

If you have to interview these candidates, you should treat them just like any other person you are interviewing. Conduct the interview thoroughly, politely, and respectfully.

Remember, be respectful of the candidates time just as they should be of yours. Who knows, these candidates might surprise you.

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    Yep, if thats your role, do it professionally – Kilisi Sep 26 at 11:56
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    On your last sentence: if you mean that a candidate can be considered for other positions, unfortunately here is not possible. When I interview a candidate, this is for that position and that position ONLY. I personally interview 3 times in a month a candidate for 3 different positions and a candidate was interviewed 5 times in 2 weeks by 5 different team leaders for the same role but in different teams (for the record this candidate war rejected by 3 team leaders and promoted by 2...) – Alex Q Sep 26 at 12:26
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    @AlexQ perhaps not, but you could surprise you by being the interviewer in a job you go for down the line. You don't want them to be thinking negatively the second you walk in the door. – MattR Sep 26 at 12:31
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    And you could think of the interview as good practice for the interviewee - he may fumble through some of the interviewers questions this time but be better prepared for future interviews. – Hannover Fist Sep 26 at 21:04
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    And no job is filled until someone is sitting in the desk. If the original candidate renegs on the offer, you'll be happy you gave this one a full interview and can confidently extend an offer without having to bring them back in and waste everyone's time. – Cain Sep 27 at 12:36
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Don't forget that how a company interviews its candidates is part of the company's reputation.

So if the word spreads (in Glassdoor for example) that candidates are not well received, interviews are rushed and people come for already filled positions and lose time for nothing, it could impact the company's future reputation, and prevent good candidates for coming.

Just do a good interview like you would for any other wanted candidate. And don't send one of your teammates last minute to replace you on a situation you decided.

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    Glassdoor is not used here, but I agree that such rumors can damage company reputation – Alex Q Sep 26 at 12:28
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    @AlexQ, you mean your country blocks Glassdoor? – Bebs Sep 26 at 12:35
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    Your company might not 'use' glassdoor, people do.. – iLuvLogix Sep 26 at 12:37
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    In my country Glassdoor is perfectly accessible but nobody uses it. I was not able to find any single company from my country on that site – Alex Q Sep 26 at 13:03
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    Even without knowing of Glassdoor I will never send my CV to one research facility only because exactly this happened to my colleague. Even when they paid for his flight tickets and hotel to attend the interview. – Crowley Sep 26 at 22:47
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Pivot.

Change your stance and the reason why you are interviewing.

Depending on the industry, strong employees are a rare commodity. Even if the current position disappeared, they may be a strong asset to your company in some other role. It sounds like you have many positions that become available, so it doesn't seem unlikely that another appropriate position will open up in the near future.

Perform your interview thoroughly and remember the candidate for later, or hire them for future positions. Hiring only when you need someone will put your company at a disadvantage by limiting your options to whoever happens to be available at the time that you look!


Also consider:

  • In some countries, you typically don't interview for a position to begin with. You enter a company and then they decide how to best utilize your abilities.

  • Companies like Google don't hire you for anything specific. If I recall correctly, when my friend interviewed, neither the team, nor the country were even determined. That shows how much Google believes in their policy of grabbing every talented engineer they can.

  • Overpaying a strong employee to do simple stuff for a few months because you hired her too early is still probably preferable/advantageous over delaying a project because you don't have the skills you need, or starting the project with a much weaker candidate because they are the only one that was on the market at the time.

  • An under-qualified candidate may still be appropriate for another position.

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    Some companies interview without positions available to gain knowledge of the people and projects going on in the industry. If a certain candidate stands out, they hire them even though there is not a position and then create a project for them to be working. I think I read Mark Cuban did this to make his billions. – Keeta - reinstate Monica Sep 27 at 13:23
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    This is what I was going to say if no one else had. the interview has to happen, you can't change it in time for it not to happen, so it becomes a real interview. Interview the candidate and pull out of them as much as you can, not just for the position they were originally be interviewed for, but for any other jobs you may be familiar with. Then compile your notes and send them to HR with an honest assessment "yeah, sorry but this candidate won't fit into our corporate environment" or "don't we have ANYTHING? we want this person, not tomorrow, but RIGHT ... NOW ..." you never know. – CGCampbell Sep 27 at 16:20
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    You might want to add that the OP should tell the interviewee about the change before the interview. There's a no so fine line between hiring someone for a different position than they applied for and interviewing for a different position. The first can be shady and usually represents a bad business practice. The latter gives the interviewee the option to continue with the interview as well as setting correct expectations. This second option might not be perfect, but it's better than wasting everyone's time. – computercarguy Sep 27 at 21:05
  • @computercarguy From the sound of OP's comments, even OP doesn't get much advanced warning. But yes, I agree that it should be clear up front that this is no longer an interview for Position A – Mars Oct 1 at 0:26
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Take the company's policy to its logical conclusion

Interview them for real. If they are better, hire them.

Actively seek a candidate that is better than the one you just hired or that currently has the position.

Then if you get a winner, go back to HR and say "I like this guy better. We're hiring him instead of the other guy."

I would fully expect this to create a serious conflict point with HR, because this will be a nightmare for them. But this moves the mess back into HR's court, where it belongs. A lot of questions will get asked, and you say "Not my choice. You sent me to an interview even though the position was filled. I thought it was a very strange choice, but I did my job. You made a good call; the interview was fruitful. Why else would you have sent me to it?"

That will be the last time they do that!

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    Love this answer, brilliant approach. – Alan Dev Sep 28 at 23:34
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How much time do you have between realizing the interview is useless and the time scheduled for the interview?

If there is no reasonable time to pull back, go meet the candidate, apologise for the interview being cancelled in last second, be kind and respectful. Then go to the one who caused it and ask them to inform you earlier.

If there is time to pull back, go call the candidate, apologise for the interview being cancelled and move on.

There is nothing that can feed me up more than realizing all the effort I commited to something was, from the beginning, a completely useless waste of energy and time. What they want you to do is actually something like this*.

When I decided I would accept the offer from my recent employer the second call was to the company I was about to visit for the second interview to cancel it. It is waste of your time and mocking of the candidate.

Addenum to EDIT 2

It seems that your HR is not as lazy but unwilling to deliver any negative message. They are failing in their job.

If you cannot convice them to take a more ethical approach, is it possible to raise this issue higher? The way how you state the edit there shall be more people forced to do the very same useless and cruel task. Can you discuss it with your direct superiors and display your concerns?


  • I was looking for the sketch with Graham Chapman and John Cleese starring.
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    That sketch was exactly what I thought of as soon as I saw this question. – Joe McMahon Sep 27 at 0:21
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    HR may know for 2 days already that the interview is useless, sometimes at least call me some time before, sometimes they tell even to me a few minutes before starting the interview. – Alex Q Sep 27 at 7:12
  • @AlexQ You state the HR is defending "there is a policy to perform the interview anyway". Somebody has to write and apply such policy. Is it possible to question that policy as unethical? – Crowley Sep 30 at 20:20
11

I'm surprised no one has mentioned this point thus far:

Every unsuccessful interview may lower candidate's self-esteem, possibly damaging their morale and their future.

This is especially true for younger candidates seeking their first jobs. They may well take "No" to the heart and agonize thinking what they did wrong to deserve that "no". Don't do that to them! If you really have no way of canceling the interview, be an honest man and make it absolutely clear to them that they will be rejected and that it is in no way their fault. Sorry, I but that should be your first words.

High-qualified and mature professional candidates, who are on the other end of the self-confidence scale, would undoubtedly see that they did good during the interview and have good chances at being hired. Unreasonable rejection may eventually lead them to think the hiring process was unprofessional, at least.

Either way, the company lose reputation... So my advice is:
Be honest and apologize to the candidate for the pointless invitation, explaining them the situation as it is.

10

One simple question - Imagine candidate doing the same. He received an offer just before your last round of interview and he just goes on with it through the offer process only to 'not turn up' on the joining day. How would you react? What will be your suggestion to the candidate? Transparency is paramount in these cases. Its okay that company or candidate change their mind at any point. Its okay that circumstances change. What's not okay is to keep the other side in dark as they are the ones loosing out without a fault of theirs. They would atleast expect a clear and timely acceptance of the fact, then moving on.

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    Re: "Imagine candidate doing the same. He received an offer just before your last round of interview and he just goes on with it through the offer process only to 'not turn up' on the joining day": That's not "the same". "The same" would be if a candidate attends an interview despite having already decided not to accept any offer from this company. And, in fact, that's not so unusual. (But the reality is that the situation is asymmetric: it's much more harmful for a company to do this to a job-seeker than for a job-seeker to do this to a company.) – ruakh Sep 27 at 23:59
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Others have already given the most ethical solutions, and I agree with them, but I'd like to provide a potential alternative for certain cases:

If the candidate is very new to the job market, conduct the interview anyway, but as a practise tool.

I have had the misfortune of being at the receiving end of such an interview during my very first interview, over 8 years ago by now. The unemployment bureau in the region I live suggested me to apply to a position at a government agency that was outside of what I'd normally look for, both in task description and in the requirements stated in the advertisement (they asked for 5 years experience). I was a bit hesitant at first, but I ended up applying anyway because why not.

I surprisingly got an invitation to an interview a week or so later. When I got to the interview, they immediately said something along the lines of "Because this position is hard to fill, government regulations forbid us from restricting this position to candidates with a Masters degree. Because we do need a skilled employee to deal with this challenging position, we are going to insist on the 5 years experience. However, because you are newly graduated, we decided to give you this interview anyway as a form of learning exercise so you can get more comfortable in later interviews." Again, I'm paraphrasing here, but that was the gist of it.

They then conducted the interview as they normally would for the next hour, but at certain points they gave me advice, like taking my time to think for challenging questions and not being afraid to say I don't know something. At the conclusion of the interview, as I was being walked to the exit, I politely mentioned I was surprised they had invited me even though I didn't meet their base requirements. The person escorting me then said that government regulations required them to invite every applicant if there were less than a certain amount of applicants, again because of the difficulty of filling this position.

Now, I realize this is mostly an edge case since most positions aren't regulated like this, but it's still something you could do. Most first-time job seekers send out dozens of applications per month, and they'll be happy to accept any interview they can. They don't need to put time aside at their job to get to their interview because they're unemployed and should have the available time. Even if they're told upfront that they're not getting the job, they're likely to be glad that they can get some much needed advice on how to properly perform at a job interview. You can also give them some advice on their resumé. And of course, who knows, they might impress you enough to consider them for a different position.

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    Scrolled all the way down looking for this. If OP cannot change their employer's policy about conducting useless interviews, let the interviewee (not candidate!) know and give them the option of skipping the interview or coming in anyway for practice. Avoid wasting time by not doing the interview or by putting the interview to a different but good purpose. – studog Sep 27 at 15:24
6

Conduct the interview professionally and provide feedback to your manager and those setting up the interviews. The first issue is that they continue to happen with frequency. Until someone understands things like a lean talent pool is not assisted by wasting the time of the existing talent, this issue will persist.

To the interview itself, I agree with the others, conduct it professionally. Your time is largely already sucked up in the little details outside of the interview from details like not being able to start into the next step of your work because you have to get up in 10 minutes to just walking there and back. You probably have 45 minutes sunk in your day regardless of the interview length.

should interviews last the usual 45-60 minutes? Should I cut them as soon as possible?

Most any meeting should be guided primarily based on content. Time is more an upper limit than a lower. To sit uncomfortably for 40 extra minutes is trading one sad situation (that was a waste of time to come in) for another (that was a waste of time to sit through). Sure, if you're confirmed in two minutes, perhaps you can explore a bit about what led them to apply or things that both give them a sense of shooting for what they should not and you a sense of what to take back to the people causing your waste of time. But overall, artificial inflation serves little purpose.

Should interviews be similar in content as standard?

I really hope not. Don't get me wrong, having standard questions is not at all bad. But trying to cookie-cutter a process into a human conversation can really tie your hands. Take the questions where the conversation goes. Use the standard points as a framework. But once you confirm your suspicions, the only reason I can think of to insist on wasting everyone's time with questions that won't apply is leviathan companies more interested in not getting sued than finding quality fits.

Should I send one of my team members maybe less busy than me (even if they may not have any experience as an interviewer)?

Like others said, you're still a reflection of your company. Perhaps bring another along to at least help that person get the experience. Down the road, it could be appropriate to hand off some of these interviews to someone now also qualified, but overall be wary of the message you'd be sending by handing these off. "I'd do this, but I'm far more valuable than you. So you do it." Even if it's true, it doesn't sit well.

  • I once interviewed in a company where the manager invited a fresh salesman for the first 5 minutes to train him to pitch the company. – Bebs Sep 26 at 13:54
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    @Bebs yeesh. To be clear, my suggestion is to be an observer or participate in the actual process of interviewing--not to use an interview as sales training. – John Spiegel Sep 26 at 19:30
6

Ask HR to interview them first. If they feel the candidate can be offered a position, interview them. Explain there is no point in interviewing someone if you can't hire them and refuse to do so. If HR insist, speak to your manager and explain how much time (and money) is being wasted on these interviews.

If I was forced to do this, I would consider leaving the company unless a very good reason for this policy is provided. Otherwise, the company is willfully wasting money and letting their competitors pull ahead.

4

Per your comment on @Mister Positive's answer:

On your last sentence: if you mean that a candidate can be considered for other positions, unfortunately here is not possible. When I interview a candidate, this is for that position and that position ONLY. I personally interview 3 times in a month a candidate for 3 different positions and a candidate was interviewed 5 times in 2 weeks by 5 different team leaders for the same role but in different teams (for the record this candidate war rejected by 3 team leaders and promoted by 2...)

and your edit #2:

I spoke with HR people (even with HR main director) countless times about this problem, but they repeat that "Our policy is to do interviews that are already scheduled in the following 2 days after the position has become unavailable".

and parts of your original question such as:

position no longer available, position already filled, people already rejected by a different interviewer in the hiring process, budget no longer available, etc.

and one of your other comments to another answer:

HR may know for 2 days already that the interview is useless, sometimes at least call me some time before, sometimes they tell even to me a few minutes before starting the interview.

It sounds like you are describing a different situation than simply that the candidate will be rejected, but rather that the position is already closed.

If the position actually is already closed and you have no options to hire the person being interviewed whatsoever

I think you might want to consider that you, by following company policy, are possibly being a party to engaging in what very well might be a form of employment fraud. You are having "candidates" who are no longer even actually candidates for a position spend time and possibly other resources to come to interview for a position which they are not being considered for and/or which does not exist. The fact that you know there is not a position or it is one that they will not be even considered for means that you are knowingly interviewing them under false pretenses, unless that is what they were told.

This is distinctly different from simply generally "knowing" a candidate will likely be rejected.

I've interviewed plenty of relatively long shot candidates because there was a lack of clarity that I needed an actual interview to determine if they had "just enough" or not to make the position, particularly when dealing with sparse candidate pools. But that's a very different context than what you seem to be describing.

If you truly cannot change policy (see other answers), cannot simply notify candidates anyway (see other answers), and have no options to hire interviewees no matter their qualifications (see other answers)

  1. You should definitely be sure you are getting this all in writing and with explicit and direct clarifications (on topics such as "wait, the position is closed, I can't hire them for anything else, but you're telling me I can't tell them that the position is already closed and instead must pretend to give them a legitimate interview?").

  2. You definitely want to be sure you are talking to the right person in HR, and not just getting the same response from someone who doesn't actually know themselves what the proper procedure is.

  3. You may want to consult a lawyer, if this is really top down and solidly followed like you've described.

  4. You should also probably look for a way out as fast as possible if that's the case (start looking for another job).

  5. You could certainly try pushing this back upward, but you've been fairly adamant in that not being a realistic option.

  6. If you're feeling ethical, you may want to talk to your labor board (state labor board if in the United States) as a whistle blower, but you might want to talk to a lawyer first, and you should definitely consider that regardless of whistle blower protection laws, you'll want to be looking for work elsewhere.

I'm not a lawyer and I'm not qualified, particularly given the somewhat less than perfectly clear descriptions you've given, to offer any clarity on how likely or not what you are describing could possibly truly be a matter of legal fraud, particularly in whatever jurisdiction/country you may reside in. But the situation you are describing sets off numerous alarm bells for me and meets many of the qualifiers of prima facie fraud under a common law definition of the term, where one party through factual misrepresentation causes injury to another through their actions relying on the veracity of what was represented.

I can tell you, at least from my own related training and coursework, that your HR is failing to follow related industry standard best practices in hiring procedures, not only by engaging in interviews without an available position, but also in clearly (due to how you're describing this situation arising in the first place) not following any best practices in structuring how interviews and the selection process flow in terms of creating as objective as possible of a selection process and in terms of employing standard bias reduction measures that are part of that structure.

The fact that they are having these interviews go forward after closing the position speaks to the possibility that internally they have policies that a certain number of candidates must be interviewed for a position, and thus they think this hews to those policies as a "workaround" of sorts. It does not hew to the legal reasons underlying those types of policies and in fact any challenge on a related basis for those policies would find the behavior to instead speak to a knowing attempt to cover up problem hiring behavior through these lip service actions, even ignoring the arguable harm to these interviewees in having them appear for an already closed or non-existent position.

It's arguable that they were not yet promised a position, so they have not lost anything. At the same time, they were effectively promised to be fairly considered for a position, and there is case law regarding employer behavior where certain employees were not given any or equal consideration in the hiring process without having yet been promised employment (such as in cases of racial discrimination during hiring, etc). Given that there is no way that a premise of fair consideration could be upheld, but it was represented that they would be given it, I, at least, would not be comfortable of my standing in being a party to what you seem to be describing, either ethically or legally. Even if I was going to continue in terms of my personal ethical rubric (such as feeling troubled but that it wasn't worth switching jobs over), I would want rock solid legal clarification from a third party (my own attorney, not HR or the corporation's own counsel, assuming the latter exists or is even aware of this policy).

Personal Perspective

If I were in your situation as I understand it to be I would unequivocally find a qualified corporate employment lawyer to consult, as a first step. I would also make sure I had a very strong trail of very explicit written instructions and related explicit and direct clarifications (see farther above) from HR on this policy requiring holding interviews for closed/non-existent positions. I would record related emails in a way that I could independently retrieve if they were pulled/deleted centrally (probably by printing, depending on the backend system).

Depending on the company I worked for, I would consider pushing this up chain towards both legal and upper management and/or HR management as a question of related law and ethics (see other answers for plenty of additional cogent arguments about the harm involved both to interviewees and to the company as a matter of wasted resources), but I would only do so in a highly documented way and, again, probably only after at the very least consulting a third party lawyer to gain a firm legal perspective. I'd still make sure I had an available exit strategy planned and could afford to potentially end up out of work for a period of time if things went terribly wrong.

If there was no legal standing to challenge this internally as a matter of legal jeopardy and/or bring it before a state labor board, and I could achieve no traction through internal campaigning to change this practice on a basis of ethical abuse, I would simply find another job in any case. That's based on my own sense of ethics, personally, if nothing else. I'd also happily document the process and the issues on any related sites as a warning to anyone seeking employment with that company: to a degree you have to consider whether this can affect your future employment if uncovered and how far you want to take it (for example, submitting anonymous reviews versus going so far as talking to local news agencies about it).

Ultimately, you do you. Quitting a job over an ethical shortfall on the company's part is a relatively personal choice. From what has been described, though, the situation is clearly unethical. Personally it's something I've done before over other situations, something I've also failed to do over other situations in different circumstances and ultimately regretted, and something where I've chosen to avoid otherwise advantageous jobs over ethical issues related to the employer. That's me. You'll need to make your own choices.

Legal/Social Context Note

Note that this answer is coming from a perspective of employment laws in the United States. In other countries where certain practices that are quite illegal in the US are common and either legal or ignored, this answer may not be relevant, and while I'd like to think the ethical side still stands, practically if all other employers in the area engage in this it might have to be something that is instead continued to the best of your ability to make it marginally more ethical at least.

3

I’m NOT asking suggestions on how to avoid useless interviews (they will always exist).

I will respect that you are correct on this issue.
Since you seem to have done what you can to prevent it, I won't lecture you about it.

I’m asking for suggestions about how to conduct these interviews:
should interviews last the usual 45-60 minutes?

Given that you have to conduct them, yes they should be basically the same.
Do them as though you didn't know there was an offer going to be extended to someone else (or as though the funding was still there).

Should I cut them as soon as possible?

No, the interviewee has already come.
It is your job to waste their time (morally wrong as that HR directive is).
However, don't make it a complete waste of time for them. S/he came, so give the person a proper interview - they earned it by showing up.

Should interviews be similar in content as standard? Or more simple?

Similar.
A junior dev interviewing for an architect position will be poorly served if s/he thinks they might get an offer at the end of the interview.

Bad enough that you've been ordered to waste their time - they should at least learn something, e.g. that they aren't qualified!

Should I send one of my team members who is less busy than me
(even if they may not have any experience as an interviewer)?

That would give them experience as an interviewer, which is useful.
Some things interviewers learn, are only learned by doing a lot of interviews.


NOTE: I'm just answering the questions.
I'm not saying the process OP is doing is okay.

@alexq - I encourage you to keep pushing back on HR (gently enough to not get fired).

2

In case you are allowed to decide how to interview, try to divide the interview in two, one by phone/chat/video and another face to face. In that way, you can do a shorter interview and tell the candidates that the second interview is only for people who has approved the first interview. So, you'll perform the first interview as planned, get useful information from candidates and don't waste too much time calling them to the second interview.

2

gnasher729 has an interesting Point of view. But as far as i understood OP already tried his best to convince HR. Any attempts beyond that to cancel interviews would not match his role. But Maybe he could shorten them significantly.

I had a similar challenge. Technical interviews in which you realise, after 2-5min, that the candidate is not yet good enough. Since the interview is scheduled for 30-60min, its really difficult to end them after 5min.

Therefore, i asked my boss and HR, if they would consider online recruiting tests. You mentioned technical Knowledge is required, so i would assume that at least part of the Questions could also be outsourced to an online Recruiting tool. (Benefit for my boss: I save time; Benefit for HR: I can give more candidates a Chance; Benefit for the candidate: He gets the Benefit of the doubt in an objective test, Maybe he is not as bad as expected?). It gets as cheap as 5-7$ per candidate on some sites. And you could try to convince HR that this actually would be an interview. If they insist on a personal talk, you could have a 10-15min review of the online test. But that could be also given to a colleague who is less experienced and has more time.

0

You might start the interview with some statements such as,

Fortunately or unfortunately, this position has some very strong candidates that we have interviewed with, yet we'd also like to know some details about your exceptional skills in A, B, C, etc.

At the end, if the candidate was very good, which might be the case, you can add that,

Just in case, if we wouldn't be able to proceed with your application because of the competitive candidates that we already have, we'd certainly keep you in our mind for the future positions.


Also, you might want to let the candidate lead the interview such that s/he might surprise you with some talents/skills that s/he might have, rather than to have cliche Q&As.

This policy of your company is very surprising, though.

0

By email. Create a survey and invite 'candidates' to fill out as few or as many questions as they like. Hopefully they'll get miffed and let HR know it.

0

Call the candidates. Tell them about this HR policy and their situation. Tell them you are happy to proceed with the interview if they want to (e.g. for practice), but recommend that they withdraw. HR can’t stop them withdrawing.

-7

In addition to the other answers, use these meetings as practice for colleagues that are unused to perform interviews. That is, invite e.g. a junior developer and ask him/her to "lead" the interview and only interrupt when he/she makes mistakes. Then give your colleague feedback afterwards what he/she did good as well as bad during the intr

  • 29
    -1 from me. Please, don't do that to anybody. Don't suggest it either. Don't even think about it. Treating someone who actually wants something seriously as a training dummy is very cruel torture. If you want to practice interviewing skills, do it during training session where both sides know it is a training from the very beginning. – Crowley Sep 26 at 21:06
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    -1 from me, too. This is a very poor, unprofessional, dishonest, and immoral way to treat other people. I'd argue this would be fraud, since the only reason interviwee is there is at all is because you've led them to believe there's a job they might be able to fill, while knowing that to be a lie by omission. – code_dredd Sep 26 at 23:46
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    @code_dredd yeah, I'd be interested to see whether this would meet a legal definition of wage theft or something similar, since it's conning the applicant into acting as a trainer. – Geoffrey Brent Sep 27 at 7:39
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    @d-b: No it doesn't hurt the applicant any further, but you are suggesting cyincally profiting off the situation to the company's benefit, as opposed to any attempt to fix it in favour of the disadvantaged candidate. It's like suggesting that the best way to deal with colleague having a minor injury is to drink their blood because it is nutritious and would otherwise go to waste :-) – Neil Slater Sep 27 at 9:24
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    @d-b I know the question is about what the interviewer should do, but I think you're the one missing the point. The interviewer/company is the one acting in bad faith and defrauding the interviewees by bringing them in for interviews under false pretenses. The interviewers already know all candidades will be rejected. Given that fact stated by OP, they should not be interviewing anyone. Period. That's the point we're making, and while this is certainly focusing on the company's PoV, I'm not going to ignore the harm to deceived candidates. (Maybe there's not even an actual job...) – code_dredd Sep 27 at 22:59

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