Saturday, March 25, 2006


Even when there is a strong in-house candidate for an open position, companies often expand their searches to include outside applicants. Sometimes the decision is driven by a genuine desire to find the strongest applicant for an open position, but often it's simply a matter of company policy.

I've never been a fan of company policies that force open searches even when it's already all but decided that the position will be offered to an in-house candidate. Under those conditions the search effort is merely a matter of going through the motions. Such posturing may adhere to the letter of the policy, but it's disingenuous to go through the process when, short of the in-house candidate's head exploding during the interview process, the hiring decision is a fait accompli. It's dishonest and wastes everybody's time.

Plus, the thought of spending time on a committee that serves little purpose makes me grumpy.

A reader from the Midwest knows what I'm talking about. She recently applied for a part-time job at a church, was called in for an interview that lasted nearly two hours and was asked for four references. Ultimately the church called back to tell her that, in spite of her "excellent resume" and "glowing references," she hadn't gotten the job.

It turns out that there had been an in-house applicant for the position who got the job. The position was advertised only to see how the in-house candidate "stacked up" against someone else. My reader was told that the church was going to hire the in-house person because she already knew the people there.

"In reality my time was wasted in applying for a job that was already filled," my reader writes. "I was perturbed that they wasted my resources and the time, energy and goodwill of my references."

Now, you may be thinking that the church wasn't disingenuous at all. Even with a strong internal candidate, it might have made good business sense to see if there were anyone stronger outside the organization who could do the job. You may even be right. But my reader's resentment over how the search was handled didn't stop there.

"The kicker came when I was told that I might have had a chance had Imade arrangements to be away from the job I currently hold and spent a Sunday morning at their church," she writes.

This wasn't feasible because her current employer, another church, specifies that she can miss only two Sundays a year.

"I was floored," she writes. "Is it ethical for them to require that I ditch an important part of my responsibilities for the week as part of the interview process? For a part-time job that pays less than $15 an hour? Am I way off base in thinking that this stinks to high heaven?"

If the new church made it a part of every candidate's interview process to attend one Sunday-morning service, and if it paid the candidates for their time, then it would have been a legitimate request. Even then, however, the right thing would have been to make clear to my reader that, if she didn't attend the Sunday service, she wouldn't be considered for the job.

If, on the other hand, that Sunday-morning requirement was simply an excuse for hiring the in-house candidate the church had planned to hire all along -- well, yes, it stinks.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

This example was about a particular church. Multiple times I've seen a favorite candidate in the corporate world pinned against others inside and outside. Once it was admitted that an unsuccessful candidate was better qualified and would do a better job.

Such decision-makers honestly believe they are acting in good faith and without bias. There's always a valid reason for justifying one's decision.

What are the ethics of this behavior? Unless there are laws or strict hiring procedures and policies, as in many civil positions, obviously being broken or not followed, I think this behavior is perfectly ethical. Here's why:

People are making judgements about who they want to work with and are free to do so as they please. Is it unethical to make a poor judgement, or a mistake? Do you have an ethical obligation to choose the best neighbor to lunch with? Is it unethical for you to choose not to spend time with someone, for any reason? Of course not.

A manager may feel less threatened with a less-qualified candidate even though the s/he or the organization may suffer as a result of the decision. It's their life, their organization, to do with as they please. In this case, I think it's ethical because the person(s) doing the choosing have to live with the consequences, whereas the unsuccessful candidate simply has to move on. Okay, maybe it's difficult, but that's part of being an adult.

Regarding increasing one's chances by going to another church more often, this is a red herring excuse. If it would have been done another excuse would have been named. Maintaining one's personal boundaries is more important than a job. (They didn't appreciate the committment to the current employer and realize the level of committment they would have received.)

The consolation for not getting the job--Karma prevails.
1. One may be fortunate not to have to work with those people. Be glad and carry on.
2. In the end the hiring manager or group gets what s/he (or they) chose to live with, perhaps a lower-qualified person who may not do as good a job, causing some degree of pain within their organization. Perhaps not. Who cares, it's their life.

C'est la vie, it isn't about fairness. In this case it's about allowing the other person's or persons' freedom to choose. The world isn't always rational or reasonable--with people or in nature. Life is rarely as we would like it to be rather it is exactly as it is. These are the consequences of freedom.