A while ago I had an opening in a group I was leading. I did what anybody who has a need for staff (and budget to pay them) does: I interviewed people to fill the position. I went through the standard progression for hiring people. I requested and gathered resumes, and then went through them and made the first cut of people who had the minimum / desirable experience and expertise for the position. I then contacted this “long” list over the phone and had a short conversation with each candidate to ascertain their histories and capabilities as they had detailed in their resumes. After this conversation I again made another cut to the “short” list of candidates.
I then scheduled and had a more in-depth phone conversation with these candidates to understand how they would recognize, approach and solve problems associated with the position. I also wanted to get a start at understanding their various management styles and how they might fit into the existing team. At this point it was relatively clear that all candidates had the technical and hard skills required to perform the work associated with the position, and that the final decision criteria would come down to soft skills and which candidate would fit best into the existing team. The “short” list was then cut to the finalists.
The finalists were then requested to come in and meet face to face for a more in depth discussion on strategies, directions, tactics and methodologies that the candidates would use in performing the work, and interfacing with the other members of the team and other teams.
I was fortunate in that a clear choice emerged, and that it enabled me to make a good selection for the position.
That was the standard progression for the interviewing and hiring people. I think we are all familiar with it, and have probably gone through it at least once and probably several times in our careers. The point that I want to make here is not about the selection process, but about the communication that was then conducted with each prospective candidate who was NOT chosen at each stage of the process.
I had begun to think back to various times that I had interviewed for positions. I recalled that many times the process just seemed to end or go dormant with no feedback or reason given. After a while I would call to ask to understand what the next steps in the process were (after all they had shown interest in me), only to be told that they had already selected someone else. They hadn’t had the courtesy to let me know that I wasn’t selected.
I understand that due to the variations in positions and interviewing leaders no one will be selected for every position they interview for. The point is, that while no one likes to bring people the bad news that they were not selected, the hiring manager has the responsibility to see to it that the unsuccessful candidates are told if and when they are removed from consideration, and if possible to provide a short explanation of the basis of the decision. If you invited someone to the party, you need to stand up and tell them when the process is over for them.
The information needs to be straight forward, simple, and on a par with the position that they were at in the hiring process. If it is at the resume review or early in the process, then a short note thanking them for their time should do. If you have had significant discussions with them either over the phone or in person, I would think that the courtesy of a person to person phone call would be appropriate. I don’t think a detailed discussion or review of the candidate is called for, but at least hearing from you that while the decision was difficult, it was made, and that their participation in the process was appreciated.
I guess there were times in my past career where I would have appreciated that kind of closure on the interview process. Because of that I try to make sure that I provide that kind of closure to people who have gone through the interview process with me.