A blunt note to HR folks and interviewers

I wrote this quite a while ago, both to vent my frustrations and also to sincerely urge HR folks and interviewers to improve their practices.  I’ve had pleasurable experiences with most of the companies I’ve interviewed with in the past, but there has still often been quite a bit of room for improvement.  Also, I figured my rant below might make for a useful counterpoint to the plethora of interviewee-advice pages out there :-D.

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Dear HR folks and interviewers:

Write or call back when you say you will.  If you don’t, apologize.

Don’t ask us about our salary history.  That’s rude and completely irrelevant.  Perhaps we were working for the Peace Corp.  Maybe we were wildly underpaid at our last job.  Or crazily overpaid.  Instead, tell us (at least a range of) how much your position is paying and we’ll let you know if that’s aligned with our expectations.

Make job descriptions descriptive… complete with some day-to-day details.  Cut the jargon and market’y crap.  When your Craigslist ad contains verbiage about “best of breed solutions” and “every customer is #1” and “we offer GENAROUS [sic] benefits! [ahem, such as?]” we don’t know whether to laugh hysterically or run screaming.

Make the interview day pleasant.  Let us know the names and positions of each person we’ll be interviewing with.  Don’t have us sitting in a room alone for 45 minutes wondering what’s going on.  Maybe even take us out for coffee or lunch with a potential colleague or a group of colleagues if we’re one of the finalists for a particular position.

Consider starting off with at least a brief bit about your background to help establish a friendly rapport.  Help us see you as a (real, well-rounded) person we’d like to work with, not an adversary or mere interrogator.

Be respectful of us and our time.  Don’t manage your scheduled phone interview call time on a “+/- 20 minute” basis.  Don’t be on a speakerphone.  Both of those behaviors scream to the candidate “You’re not very important and I really don’t want to be interviewing you.”

Don’t be cheap-ass about reimbursements.  Reimburse us (promptly, please) for our transportation from the airport, for crying out loud, and the sandwich we grabbed in the terminal so we wouldn’t be starving when we sat down with you at the office.

Make sure you have our latest resume, not one that you got from the recruiter 6 months ago.

Remember that interviewing is a two way street.  You’re not just there for grilling us, you’re there to make us excited about your company and the position we’ve applied for (or you’ve recruited us for!)

Cut it out with the stupid “strengths and weaknesses” questions.  Ask us to tell you about a favorite project or least favorite project, talk to former managers about us, anything where you’re bound to get more interesting and less fake commentary (e.g., “My weakness is that I tend to get too into my work and forget to eat lunch sometimes…”)

Do share some of our key answers and info with future interviewers at your firm so we’re not asked the same question 5 times in one day.

If someone at your company is consistently an unpopular or lousy interviewer, don’t have them interview people!

Ask what we like in a job and work environment.  Ask what makes us happy.  Ask what stresses us out.  This is the sort of thing that’ll help determine if your job is a good match for us (and visa versa).

And, for the love of God, if at all possible… please don’t make us fill out an application—by hand!—after we’ve already given you a detailed resume and other documentation with all the same info on it.  At least let us type it… please?  We’ll all be much happier 😀


  1. Hi Adam,

    A lot of wise advice to HR-people all over the world! I doubt that the average HR-peson will agree with any of it, though. They generally seem to reach point-of-no-return in marketing jargon etc at a very early stage of their career!

    I’ve been through some incredibly frustrating job-inteviews lately. One where the interviewer repeatedly stated how incredibly busy she was and how difficult it was for her to find time to deal with the interviewees. Sure enough, it took her ages to inform the interviewees that they had been selected for an interview and even longer to tell those who didn’t get the job (me, for instance) that we were not among the chosen ones (no reason given, of course). I wrote and urged her – in a very polite way – to give a few reasons which I could use to improve myself. This was four months ago – no reply.

    In another interview the HR-person began the interview by telling me how incredibly well-qualified I was for the job – only to proceed by trying to force me to admit the I was hiding something in my resume. He ended up by askimg me to give him a detailed history of what I had been doing since I was 15!!! Just to show him that I had nothing to hide I complied. When I told him about my 18 months with the early Danish house-squatter movement, he jumped up and shouted: “I knew it – no wonder you didn’t put that into your resume” – to which I replied: “I didn’t put it into my resume because it was completely irreleveant for the job!”. He didn’t buy that – and I didn’ get the job…

    At present I am in a not very stimulating job – but the girl who hired me – and who is also my boss – is incredibly sweet and I have wonderful, relaxed and caring collegaues. Humanity is what matters.

    All the best,

  2. Jannik and Mladen, there are no good excuses for the treatments you’ve received, and I’m especially sorry to hear that you’ve had a bad experience with Google HR, Mladen.

    Jannik… I do agree with you that people MAKE the job.  You can shine even with less-than-stimulating responsibilities (especially by taking on additional challenges) when you have good people that trust you and back you up and make it worth coming in to work in the morning.

    And Mladen, definitely don’t be shy.  If you haven’t done so already, leave a short, polite voicemail with your recruiter letting him or her know you’re looking forward to hearing from them and still very excited about working at Google… and keep me posted on how it goes!

  3. 2 weeks and no reply? Hah! It’s been almost 3 months since I sent in the worksheet to Google, and not even so much as an acknowledgement of “we got it”.

  4. :-).

    I’ve send Google HR an email and I’ve got the response from the recruiter :

    Sorry for not getting back to you sooner. You did well on your worksheet and I know starting next week one of the recruiters should be giving you a call. Please bear with me we have a lot going on at Google.

    Unfortunatly, for such big companies as Google, one cannot hope anything from the interview. Although, the interview with Google, it is still something :-).

  5. I’ve got new email from Google HR.

    I noticed you are outside the US Unfortunately, as you may know, the cap for sponsoring VISAs has been reached in the USA. Most companies cannot currently provide sponsorship at this time. If you don’t need any form of sponsorship we will be happy to proceed with your application. This what has stood up the process.

    OK, now I know that I shouldn’t apply any more for jobs in Google in USA or in USA in general. :-).

    It seems that I don’t need call any longer.

    But, at least it is nice and friendly response and I have better opinion about Google HR now :-).

  6. Mladen,

    I know that we do our best at Google to get great people from around the world, and it’s frustating (for us and for you, obviously) when we run up against governmental VISA limits and such.

    Sorry this didn’t work out for you, and I wish you the best in your job search!

  7. Back when I was looking for jobs, the thing I detested the _most_ was PDF applications that you couldn’t fill in. Handwriting ones entire work history takes up hours of free time. Here’s hoping some company reads this and is motivated to make their applications fillable.

  8. Hey James. you say that one is simple and sweet sentence though u hate it, i don’t understand.
    Generally hr people do not want to use those wordings as they are getting good earnings if some one gonna select through them, mostly that wordings are for not deserving candidate.

What do you think?

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