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The company I'm interviewing for is quite appealing. The business idea is interesting, the office is well located, they pay slightly above market and offer lots or perks. The hiring process, on the other hand, is being terrible. I got duplicate emails from HR and the technical interview was a joke. It was a 30 minutes Skype interview with two guys. Only one of them showed up, 10 minutes late, obviously not even having opened my CV, and improvised a couple of lame questions. We agreed that the other guy would contact me for a second interview that same day, but a week later I had to remind them.

I'm not a person that needs perfectly organized and structured organizations and processes, but as most people I appreciate a certain amount of order.

How representative of internal chaos and lack of organization can I assume this process is?

12 Answers 12

118

How representative of internal chaos and lack of organization can I assume this process is?

You shouldn't assume anything.

I've worked for wonderful companies that had terrible interview processes. And I've worked for what turned out to be terrible companies that had wonderful interview processes.

Unless you are applying for an HR or recruiter job, you need to dig deeper than just "interview processes" to determine if the company is a fit for you or not.

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    Good answer.. I've found no real correlation between the interview process and the day to day experience of the company. – motosubatsu Jun 22 '17 at 15:15
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    I think this is the right answer, but I also don't think all of the negative experiences the OP has had should be ignored either. It's more about letting the interview process be one piece of the puzzle, and shouldn't overrule other positive interactions you've had with the team you'll be working with. – David K Jun 22 '17 at 16:34
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    @motosubatsu There's an argument to be made that if the interview process is not capable of differentiating the great from the mediocre applicants, a larger percentage of your colleagues will be mediocre. This might be more or less of a problem for some people (I guess it's nice being the big fish in a small pond) but it's something to consider. – Voo Jun 22 '17 at 20:35
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    You have to make some assumptions, in order to compare job offers. What are some examples of "digging deeper" that you have in mind? – employee-X Jun 23 '17 at 1:08
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    I have to agree with this one. The company I'm working for now is a very good place to work. As such, we have extremely low turnover (most are due to retirement or spouse moving) in a relatively small team (about 40 people). When you only do hiring every 10 months, or so, and it is for different roles, your process is a little ... undefined. – Wesley Long Jun 23 '17 at 15:27
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There is a great quote along the lines of "when someone shows you who they are, believe them".

I don't think there is a proper answer to this question, but my vicarious experience is that the interview process does indeed tell you a lot about who a company "is". If there is any exaggeration, it's usually in the positive direction, to the extent that this is the time when everyone is on their best behavior, so it's more common to have a slightly better impression of an employer than the reality.

Think of having a first date. If your date - no matter how attractive, wealthy or talented - shows up late or not at all, shows no interest in getting to know you, etc. would you agree to a second date, let alone agree to a LTR, with them? I hope you wouldn't. That's what's going on here, from what you have described.

I would run. Far and fast.

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    "When someone shows you who they are, believe them the first time." --Maya Angelou (I just wanted to add the quote's author) – Nick Weinberg Jun 22 '17 at 23:16
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    Hmmm...I draw the exact opposite conclusion or at least conclude that what you describe isn't the proper information to work with. Practice makes perfect. In regards to dating, people who are "players" tend to be quite exceptional at dating, especially first dates. That's why they are "players". They're well practiced. I wouldn't want to continue dating one of those people. Whereas, the person I really want to be with is that person that you bond with even though they may be inexperienced/awkward. Same goes for finding an employer, there's more important things to be on the lookout for. – Dunk Jun 23 '17 at 17:21
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    I agree with Dunk on this. As someone who just finished interviewing people for a new dev, who works in a startup, without an actual HR dept, where everyone is busy working on tons of things related to every aspect of their job... There is so much going on behind the scenes of an interview, we dont get time to practice what a good interview would look like. We're all too busy doing our real job, rather than studying lines to put on a play for someone. All Im saying is, dont be so critical of a company with a weird interview, especially without knowing all the details. – Oberst Jun 23 '17 at 17:49
  • @Oberst I can perfectly understand that attitude and the circumstances it comes with, but you should be aware that people will judge you on your interview process just as much as you judge them. And trying to hire the best people should always have top priority over pretty much everything else - that's just good mid-term planning. A good interview not just makes it more likely people will take the job, it also makes it more likely you'll find the right people you want to hire. – Voo Jun 23 '17 at 21:43
  • @Dunk: I'm about as clumsy a dater as they come, but I do know to show up on time and take an interest in my date. A ten-minute delay in a phone interview should come with a quick apology and possibly an excuse. – David Thornley Aug 23 '18 at 15:13
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I can think of 3 reasons why an interview would go like this.

  1. The people in charge of the interview are crazy busy and may not have the time to deal with a full sit down interview.

  2. They are not well organized and lack any interest in the interview.

  3. Its the interviewers 1st time interviewing or they are still new to it.

The 2nd option is unlikely in my point of view. This is because you stated several positive facts about the company and with all those factors considered I am leaning more towards option 1.

There could be other factors but the 3 I listed are the ones I have encountered the most.

Its really hard to judge your working conditions based of of the interviewing staff. Sometimes the people planning or conducting the interview have no clue how to go about one. It may be their first time being the interviewer. They could be rushed due to some deadline that is more important than the interview at the moment. Or many other possibilities.

I would continue with the 2nd interview and not judge the working condition until you have actually spent time working there.

I have had an interview that in my opinion was conducted by people that didn't know the subject matter and a general lack of understanding of the field. I did get a job with the company and I really enjoyed my time there.

Your experience may vary but my point is don't judge a job by its interviewing process.

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    I agree: Go to the second interview. If it goes as poorly as the first (and if you're concerned enough to walk away), you might try asking politely for clarification before giving up on them. – employee-X Jun 23 '17 at 1:05
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    Concur - an interview is a two way evaluation. The process is not just the employer evaluating possible employees. – Criggie Jun 23 '17 at 12:47
  • I agree with your 3 options. However, I'd think that most people would explain the situation if it were #1. "Sorry I'm late, we're swamped with work which is why we're hiring a couple of people." "Sorry I'm late, a system blew up this morning and we're in crisis mode right now trying to fix it." Something... That leads me to lean towards options 2 or 3... – FreeMan Jun 23 '17 at 13:44
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    @FreeMan: I have seen interviewers apoligise for their lateness and give a brief reason as to why they were late however sometimes they don't. Example: The interviewer is new being the interviewer and is not sure if it is appropriate to divulge anything related to company hangups to someone who is not yet part of the company. In fact in some situations it is not appropriate. Another reason is the interviewer thinks its not really important as you (the interviewee) needs to be the one on time and not him. This is not a good sign but happens. There are more examples but I am out of characters. – Sierra Mountain Tech Jun 23 '17 at 14:49
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Apart from the good points already made I think there's at least one more thing to consider: The quality of the (technical) interview process is directly correlated to the likelihood that your colleagues who went through a similar process will be at the top of their game.

Or otherwise said, do you feel that the "improvised [..] couple of lame questions" were sufficient for the two interviewers to get a good grasp of your personal skill in the area you're applying for or not? Because if not, there's a good chance that some of your colleagues managed to get through the simple interview while a more thorough process would've shown their weaknesses or limitations.

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    This. I am concurring based on 25 years of going for interviews (and joining at least one company with a lackluster technical interview process) plus a dozen years of conducting interviews myself. Even if interviewers are "crazy busy", e.g. in startups with 70-hour work weeks, hiring the best people must always be "priority #0", as an old boss of mine put it. – njuffa Jun 23 '17 at 17:05
  • No, I think those questions ("What do you think about Hibernate?") are far from sufficient at any level. And I totally agree with you in that bad a low interview quality doesn't help filtering out low quality workers. – user3748908 Jul 25 '17 at 13:13
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Here is an aspect to consider -

Only one person showed, he was late, he was unprepared, the other person didn't show, and had to be reminded, a week later, that you were supposed to talk.

Now, that might not be indicative of a company in trouble, but, clearly, we can safely say their recruiting and talent acquisition process is dysfunctional.

What is the purpose of the recruiting process? To identify and bring on board the best talent possible.

If the process for identifying the right people for the company is a complete crap-show of a mess, what are the odds that they are employing the best people and the best fits for the company? This company is going to be filled with employees gathered through this mess of a process. Chances are they will have missed or turned-off some of the best candidates out there. Chances are they will have hired people who are either not good workers or possibly not even technically competent. You can't take a process that clearly doesn't work and expect it to get results that a working, competent process would. This is like Demming's red-ball/white-ball experiment. The people working at the company are likely to be a random reflection of the applicant pool, with some very, very minimal screening out of the most obvious non-fits.

Since this is the process for selecting the employee pool with which you will be working with and interacting, it's difficult to imagine that it not effecting the company, overall, unless this position and these specific people assigned are uniquely new or inexperienced at the task.

How do you deal with this? Hard to say. If they are interested, find out what the next steps are (good luck with that). If they kind of stammer, don't know, or seem to be making it up on the spot, then maybe you should just walk away. If it's just the same two people saying they'll talk some more or make a decision, request some kind of brief interaction with someone higher up the food chain. A director, VP, or executive level person. A lot of companies do this anyway, so that would be ideal.

When you get in that room, after the usual back and forth, that person will ask you your impressions and if you have questions. Be very frank and raise the issue exactly as you did here - you like the concept, location, the job seems appealing, but then detail what happened in the interview process and tell him you are unsure if this was just a bad instance, or a reflection on the organization. His answer will either reassure you or leave you still doubting. Maybe he'll take offense and decline to hire, but I don't think you'll be worse off than just hoping for the best.

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The first contact for the best job I ever had was a complete, bizzare joke.

The second best job had a very painful first meething (not funny at all, rather hostile).

I stuck with both (for whatever reason each time), and both jobs where nothing like the interview process. In both cases, I worked with the people who interviewed me, later, and it turned out that they were great at what they do, just interviewing was not their forte.

So, if the "content" of those jobs is fine, I'd safely suggest to ignore the form. Unless, of course, you are shooting for a position in the HR department. :-)

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The interview process in most of the companies are:

  1. Technical round (minimum 2)
  2. HR round

The person undertaking the technical interview will most probably be from the team which has openings.

So, if you found the interview lame and uninteresting it doesn't mean that the company is not the sought after, appealing company it is but that the team which requires you is not motivated or passionate about hiring you.

The team you join into is of utmost importance for your career growth and so you should think twice before jumping ship.

  • I don't agree that you draw these conclusions. Interview can be lame simply because the person who is conducting it does not know how to do it;, I was in that position myself. It takes practice to learn how to conduct an interview properly. – Akavall Jun 25 '17 at 5:45
  • @Akavall The person conducting the interview will mostly be the experienced person in the team. If he is not conducting the interview in a organized manner, then you can't expect much from the team. The team's motivation depends on the attitude of the seniors in the team. Atleast that is what I have experienced. – Nishanth Menon Jun 25 '17 at 6:09
  • The most senior person might be very excited about the project and very knowledgeable about the technology, a great leader and hard worker, but be completely inexperienced about conducting interviews; it is a different skill set. – Akavall Jun 25 '17 at 6:17
  • @Akavall You're right, but showing up late and then pushing me it's wrong at a basic level. – user3748908 Jul 25 '17 at 13:16
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Let me first offer a possible scenario that I have seen happen on the company side. HR (if there even is an HR department, or just someone trying to do this in addition to their usual job) has gone ahead & set up a Skype interview with you. Some point that day, they send a meeting request to the 2 Technical guys (who are busy with their normal jobs) saying they should be involved in your interview. The senior one of the technical guys is too busy to look at his email until the end of the day, or has seen it's from HR and has put that into his "check later" inbox. The junior one sees a meeting on his calendar, turns up when he can and then discovers the HR person isn't there and nor is his colleague, so from assuming he would "just listen in" he discovers he is now leading the interview process without knowing any of the background or anything about you.

Now yes, if that is the case it tells you something about the company. But other than bad communication between HR & the technical group, that may not affect how you would be working day to day. If you get the second Skype interview with the other guy, or a later callback of some sort, when they ask you if you have any questions then start asking them about working conditions ("what do you like most about the job, what is the worst thing, how is communication between people and departments etc) If things are going well on that and you get a sense that things are actually fine, either ignore the chaos altogether, or actually bring it up and say the interview process hasn't been smooth, is that normal?

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I think a bad interview process is a warning sign, but not a good enough reason to completely disregard the company. Consider who your immediate supervisor would be and how he or she compares to the interview process. I would rather have a great boss working at a company with a poor HR/Interview process than a bad bass. No HR Department will make up for a bad boss. If they were that great, they would have already gotten rid of him.

They offer good pay, benefits and office space, so someone is doing something right. Maybe they're not so good at the technical part. That's why they're looking to hire you.

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Logistics? Not representative at all.

Substance of the interview, and cues of the company? That matters.

  • Developer jobs better involve writing or showing code at some point.
  • If you walk out of the interview thinking you have to be damn smart to pass that interview, that will tell you something about the employees.
  • Were 4/4 interviewers a**holes? That I would take seriously.
  • Did you see a single (other) woman at the company? If not, why not?
  • Did everyone leer at your butt as you walked through the hallways? That matters.

You are interviewing them as much as they are interviewing you. Ignore logistics. But substance matters.

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Some companies, especially small ones, are not willing to invest time to set up their hiring process very smoothly.

I worked for a company like that; it was a small tech company that was great at tech, and team work, but we did not know how to conduct interviews, nor did the developers, nor HR/organizers, we were just focused on tech.

When I was interviewing with them the process changed a bit a few times, and it did not look the guy who interviewed in person was prepared.

When I interviewed candidates, sometimes I did not have any time to prepare, I was just told that I need to interview a candidate in 5 minutes; it was a bit of a mess. But it was still great company to work for!

-1

If you would be late or look unprepared, it's most likely that your candidature would be rejected. The same should be applied to a company. Equal rights.

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    Completely Disagree. I run my own company. If I wanted to higher someone for a job and I was a few min late to an interview with a potential new employee it could be for a few reason. I was caught up in a staff meeting that went over the expected time, A high value client that called last minute and I need to take care of it first. HR related issues that cant wait. The list goes on. None of the reason I listed can be considered unprofessional. Also it is not always considered unprofessional for an interviewee to be late. Could be many acceptable reasons. – Sierra Mountain Tech Jun 22 '17 at 18:51
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    @SierraMountainTech i disagree - it really does cut both ways. A company might look at a candidate being late and say "unreliable" or what have you . A candidate can - and might well - look at a company acting this way and see it as emblematic of an internal culture they don't want to be a part of. – bharal Jun 22 '17 at 20:02
  • @bharal: I find that it is never as cut and dry as that. I have been through a few poorly conducted interviews and still enjoyed working for the company. My point is that you should not assume anything. Sometimes in this situation you may be able to tell that the company has some internal workings that you know you will not mesh with. That being said there are often good reason for situations like this and have no impact on the working conditions. Sometimes sure but it should not be a rule of thumb. – Sierra Mountain Tech Jun 22 '17 at 20:08
  • @Sierra Depends a bit on the culture. Being late is always unacceptable in Germany and similar cultures, it can be acceptable in the US (although in my experience at least larger companies and particularly higher up management which has a tight schedule will gravely count this against you) and from what I've heard (but not enough experience myself in business context) it's perfectly acceptable in some of the southern countries like Spain or Mexico. Still there are simple ways to minimize these events and it generally shows good organisational skill - or lack thereof - of the person. – Voo Jun 22 '17 at 20:55
  • @SierraMountainTech You have to assume something. You can't work for each company you're interviewing with in advance of accepting the job. The entire process is based on (hopefully accurate) assumptions, on both sides. Don't even take the risk is reasonable advice, especially since you cannot verify anything until it's too late. – employee-X Jun 23 '17 at 0:56

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