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I applied for a software engineer position in a US nonprofit company about 30 people in size. The first stage of the interview was a simple multiple-choice Triplebyte test. According to Triplebyte, I have passed the test "particularly well", and they said they were going to fast-track me to the final stage of the application process.

However, the HR guy said they were not going to move forward with an interview right now (?!). He said if I thought it's a mistake, I could complete one task from a list to impress him. I did one of the tasks, which took a week (I know I wasn't ripped off, though, it was simply a list of exercises from a textbook). I sent him the results, and also pointed out a couple of projects I've done in the past, which were similar to projects on the list, and were mentioned on my resume. He said that I've convinced him he's making a mistake, and that he'll get back to me about next steps.

It has been 3 weeks and I never heard back from him. I know he isn't in a coma or anything, because I've seen him posting on Facebook. I've sent another letter 2 weeks ago, and he didn't reply that, either.

How big of a red flag is this? Is it like "the company is completely dysfunctional, stay the hell away from it" situation, or could it be just one bad employee, and the company is otherwise good? Do you think it's worth my time to contact the company through other channels and give it a chance?

  • Are you being charged any fees or being asked to send any money or give up personal information? – Harper - Reinstate Monica Apr 11 at 16:34
  • It doesn't matter what he posts in Facebook, especially if it's his private page. The questions are: Is the company running at all? was the HR guy fired? Both are pretty plausible scenarios. – Quora Feans Apr 11 at 22:52
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Chances are high, with the current Covid-19 pandemic, the company has temporarily stopped hiring new employees until more is clear about the current situation (specifically: how long it will last). Instead of flat-out telling you this, they might hope that everything will be normal quite soon and by stalling your procedure they're keeping you interested for this position. Or, equally likely, other than temporarily not contacting potential new hires, they have absolutely no clue how to deal with the current situation.

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    This would have been a good answer except for "However, the HR guy said they were not going to move forward with an interview right now (?!). He said if I thought it's a mistake, I could complete one task from a list to impress him.". That is a giant red flag that has utterly nothing to do with the virus. – eps Apr 10 at 22:10
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    @eps no it isn't. Everything is in disarray right now, and a company of 30 people you still have many people wearing many hats. Many public dollars are being reallocated to fight covid, which may result in a budget cut for the non-profit. Fundraising is way down too, surely. Hell, I'm having trouble with even big multinationals to give me a call back. – corsiKa Apr 11 at 3:04
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    I think there is merit in both the "Covid-19" confusion and the "suspicious" viewpoints here. Under normal circumstances I'd consider this suspicious activity, but anyone who actually hasn't had their plans wiped out by Covid-19 and knows what they're doing is in a very small minority, IMO. – StephenG Apr 11 at 17:00
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    Why wouldn't the company be upfront that the stall was due to COVID-19? There's no stigma in that. – Barmar Apr 11 at 17:03
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    @supercat Just say "We hope to resume hiring when things get back to normal." But I think that anyone who inferred a statement like that as a promise is just being an idiot. Anyone with a modicum of intelligence should realize that it's hard to make commitments during times like this. No one knows what the economy will be like when we get a handle on the pandemic. – Barmar Apr 11 at 21:52
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However, the HR guy said they were not going to move forward with an interview right now (?!). He said if I thought it's a mistake, I could complete one task from a list to impress him.

This is a gigantic red flag and has nothing to do with COVID. While pointing out there is a pandemic going on would be a correct answer for most questions involving hiring right now, it's a red herring in this particular case. Run away.

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    Absolutely (+1). I started to read the question and I had "COVID-19" in the back of my mind and then - this mind baffling circus trick suddenly expected from OP. Absolutely horrible. Run away if this HR person is representative of the company and not just lost their mind due to quarantine. – WoJ Apr 12 at 17:33
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Considering the current circumstances with COVID-19 the lack of hiring is most likely expected and wouldn't raise any flags to me if I were in the same situation.

However, the lack of communication would raise a major red flag. It takes about 60 seconds to send an email stating that hiring has been put on hold or that they aren't interested in moving forward.

If they can't find the time for such a simple and common courtesy I can't imagine that they would treat employees any better.

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    I just want to point out that I don't think it's much of a red flag given the situation. Yes, it would have been nice for the HR person to get back to you, but it doesn't really doesn't speak much about the company as a whole, especially given the current situation. – Gregory Currie Apr 10 at 16:09
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    It takes 60s for (1) a working employee (2) with access to their e-mail. Given the virus outbreak, (1) the employee may be off for a variety of reasons, or (2) may be in self isolation without access to his computer, or the company network. It does reflect on the company, but I would not qualify being unprepared for the first pandemic in a century as a "major red flag". – Matthieu M. Apr 10 at 16:34
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    @MatthieuM. - It's also possible they have been furloughed or laid off – NKCampbell Apr 10 at 18:12
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    I've (fortunately?) never seen an HR department that would be cut off at the knees by a stay at home order such that they couldn't even respond to emails. That strikes me as a situation that would terrify me if I were considering joining the company. While this pandemic is unprecedented in modern times, not being able to cope to such a significant degree as this that you don't triage work left by a fired or furloughed HR person would strike me as a significant red flag regardless of our times. – Kirk Woll Apr 10 at 20:26
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I think several others have pointed out that there are additional red flags that you might consider here, but to your original question, a delay of two or even three weeks is not unheard of (and especially in the current social circumstances).

I have seen past instances where the HR or recruitment team is not always able to keep up with the volume of open positions, for whatever reason, and candidates were not able to get interviews scheduled until a month or more after an initial contact or screening (and eventually did get hired).

That said, it's certainly not worth holding your breath on this or any organization that has not actually made you an offer. If they are interested, they will contact you, but if they are not doing so I would probably move on.

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There are many red flags here, and I would jump ship immediately:

  1. You were promised to be fast tracked to the final stage of the interview process, but then that promise was reneged on and you had to complete an additional interview stage. Make no mistake, this is reneging on a promise; it's not as simple as "circumstances have changed", this is a lie, and lies are always red flags.

  2. You were given a task that took a week of your time. This is not normal. Usually, take-home assignments take a couple hours, or a day at most ("a day" = roughly 6 hours). Requiring you to take a task that takes a week to complete is not normal. This is fairly abusive; if the company is OK with giving you 40 hours of unpaid overtime work ("40 hours" because it took a week, and "unpaid overtime work" because you didn't get paid, and you aren't working for the company) before you even have the job, what do you think is going to happen once you're on staff?

  3. You have to "convince him he's making a mistake". That seems very demeaning and condescending to me. You already passed their test "particularly well", and they promised to fast-track you to the final stage due to your performance (see above); the fact that you needed to further convince this person of your worth is condescending. If they don't trust the results of their test, by requiring you to further "convince" them that they are "making a mistake", then why did they waste your time with the multiple choice test in the first place? Why did they further promise to fast track you to the final interview stage? This sounds like a person who likes having power over people and playing with those he has power over, and not someone you want to work with. Any company which would keep this sort of person in a recruiting position, that speaks volumes.

  4. The fact that, after all of the above, the company has ghosted you for 3 weeks (this behaviour is called "ghosting"), shows how important they think you are to them; you put in at least a week of your time, plus the time taken for other tests and sending emails back and forth, that they have given you. They don't respect you, and they have pretty much said as such.

Get rid of this company. While you're at it, this situation seems egregious enough that, if it was me, I would make a nasty post on their Glassdoor profile (if you are in a locale that uses Glassdoor; if not then use your local Glassdoor equivalent) and I would also name and shame them on LinkedIn. This behaviour is quite frankly despicable.

EDIT: Other answers have quoted the current COVID pandemic as a possible reason why your interview process has been stalled. In most cases, if there is a stall or hiring freeze due to COVID, the professional thing to do is to simply say so: "We respect your time and your interest, but due to the pandemic we are no longer hiring; we will get back to you if the situation changes", or something of that nature. The fact that this hasn't happened says to me that the current pandemic situation is unrelated to this recruiter treating you extremely poorly and you should not excuse them from this behaviour "due to the pandemic".

EDIT2: Side note: Your last paragraph makes no sense to me:

How big of a red flag is this? Is it like "the company is completely dysfunctional, stay the hell away from it" situation, or could it be just one bad employee, and the company is otherwise good? Do you think it's worth my time to contact the company through other channels and give it a chance?

As the saying goes, "always make a good first impression". In this case, the company's first impression is this "one bad employee". The company has the power to hire and fire their people, even their people in HR; if this person was not properly reflecting the company's values and procedures, he would have been fired or relocated. The fact that this person is who the company has chosen (I use "chosen" very specifically, this was a conscious choice by the company) to make their first impression, shows what the company's values are and how they like to be reflected. The simple fact that this person was chosen to make the company's first impression is in itself a red flag of the magnitude of "this company is completely dysfunctional, stay the hell away from it", imo.

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There are many red flags here, but they don't appear to be with the company. What struck me with this question is:

  • He said if I thought it's a mistake, I could complete one task from a list to impress him (It appears although you think you did particularly well, he saw issues with your performance and did not want to continue - this is not stalling/delaying. This was directly declining, but yet he gave you a second chance - this is a positive thing not a red flag)
  • I did one of the tasks, which took a week (by your own words they were simple exercises from a book but took you a week, nevertheless 'He said that I've convinced him'. In this step the delay was your own)
  • I've seen him posting on Facebook (Easily the biggest red flag - you're stalking him on social media!? When you've been spying on him Facebook will add your profile to his 'recommendations' so he will likely be aware and may even have also checked what you post)
  • You already followed up with another letter and have paid no attention to the fact almost all companies are delayed by the covid outbreak. Even if your contact is working, he may have been asked not to process applications for a while
  • Your other question implies you refuse to answer personal questions (That's your right, but if it relates to this application you can't discount that. A company may think your reluctance is a red flag that your harbour views you know will put you in conflict with their other employees)

TL;DR: The interview has not been stalled in any way that's a red flag

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