This is an amusing story. But to protect the guilty (and innocent) I'm not going to use real names. Otherwise regular readers of my blog would easily identify a few of 'em. I'll begin with the cast of characters:

  • TechCompany: a well-known technology company that's hiring software engineers. (No, it's not the company I work for.)
  • TechCompanyRecruiter: self-explanatory, right?
  • OtherTechCompany: another well-known tech company. HappyFriend, HappyHacker, and UnhappyHacker have all worked there at some point. HappyHacker still does.
  • HappyHacker: currently employed at OtherTechCompany.
  • UnhappyHacker: currently not employed at either TechCompany or OtherTechCompany but job hunting. Would like to work at TechCompany.
  • HappyFriend: a friend of UnhappyHacker and HappyHacker, currently employed at TechCompany.

Recently, HappyFriend thought "Gee, I'd like to get UnhappyHacker and HappyHacker jobs here. I'll submit their resumes for jobs and see what happens."

Well, as it happens, their resumes were under consideration for the same position. HappyHacker and UnhappyHacker discussed this before their interviews. There was no secret.

UnhappyHacker went first. There was a few rounds of phone screening and UnhappyHacker was ultimately told something like "sorry, we're not hiring for that position anymore."

This occurred roughly one day before HappyHacker was to begin a round of phone screening. HappyHacker thought it was odd that TechCompany would say that and not cancel the upcoming call. So HappyHacker decided to mail the person at TechCompany who was set to conduct the interview, asking something like "I guess we'll be talking in more general terms, since I understand that you're no longer hiring for the position we were supposed to discuss."

On the day of HappyHacker's phone screening, no word had come back from TechCompany. So the screening occurred and went quite well. The questions were basic and HappyHacker had no trouble with them. It went well. At the end of the discussion, the topic came up. The interviewer asked why HappyHacker thought the position was filled. HappyHacker explained that a friend (UnhappyHacker) had recently interviewed and was told that. The interviewer asked who it was. When the answer came, he realized that he'd interviewed UnhappyHacker. He said that his interview with UnhappyHacker had gone quite well and that he recommended UnhappyHacker with a thumbs-up.

HappyHacker relayed this info to UnhappyHacker (who was very interested in the findings, of course) in nearly real-time, thanks to instant messaging. After a bit of discussion, UnhappyHacker decided to e-mail TechCompanyRecruiter to ask for clarification. UnhappyHacker included the information that a friend (HappyHacker) had just interviewed and been told that the job was, indeed, open.

TechCompanyRecruiter responded that she'd look into it. No further communication has come from TechCompanyRecruiter.

Meanwhile, HappyHacker tells HappyFriend (via IM): "Hey, your recruiter people are funny. Here's what they did..." and explained the story. HappyFriend was then upset (rightfully so) that TechCompanyRecruiter either lied or genuinely screwed up. When HappyFriend asked TechCompanyRecruiter why UnhappyHacker was turned away, the response was roughly "we were looking for someone with more experience."

Strangely, nobody told UnhappyHacker. Furthermore, HappyHacker and UnhappyHacker have similar levels of experience (at least where it's relevant to this particular job). So one wonders if TechCompany will make the same "mistake" again.

The moral of this story, if there is one, probably goes something like this: It's a bad idea to lie to job candidates. And don't assume that candidates don't talk to each other. Assume they do.

Posted by jzawodn at September 18, 2003 08:36 PM

Reader Comments
# Derek said:

That is so gay... gay as hell, I tell ya.

on September 18, 2003 08:43 PM
# justin said:

HR people are slippery fucks. A while back I was unemployed and looking for work and experiences something similar with one of my friends. It is commonplace that they will not even give you a call if you did not get the job after several interviews.

Actually come to think of it, this happened when I was looking for apartments. When looking around you submit several applications and you have to practically tell them that you love the place and you will take it ASAP. Then if you donít get it they donít call. WTF.

HR = landlord, landlord = ahole!

on September 18, 2003 09:39 PM
# lame said:

companies that fuck with people are fucked.

on September 18, 2003 09:57 PM
# wil said:

I can understand why the guy was pissed but going back and asking the company based on evidence of another candidate? Doesn't that make him look extremly unprofessional and amateurish? That would be my take on it, anyway. To both of them.

Don't listen to hearsay from other candidates, even if he's your best friend. Ask the recruiter directly. Don't bring anyone else or any rumours from other candidates into it. That just makes you look like more trouble than you're worth hiring.

I'd want to hire a striaghtforward guy. One who'd ask me why he didn't get the job directly. No need for all this "oh, but xx said this ..". Just makes you sound like you're back on the school playground again.

on September 19, 2003 01:56 AM
# UnhappyHacker said:

I would want to hire a straightforward guy, but by the same token, I'd want to work for a straightforward company. Obviously, the latter was lacking in this case.

on September 19, 2003 04:42 AM
# wil said:

'position no longer available', 'our needs have changed..' are all just standard responses to job interviews. When companies come down to interviews they realize that their needs change a little, goal posts move, they interview someone who puts something into a different perspective, someone who doesn't do what's on the ad, but that would be great in another field.

They're not obliged to give you a reason and a lengthy report on why you're didn't get the posititon. These recruitment guys just use a stock of excuses. It's their best bet in trying not to hurt and demoralize those who don't get the job. Call it spin if you like. Alll companies do it. People do it. It's all about breaking bad news in a good light. Yes, this isn't what some people want, but it's the most time-effective for the company. Imagine sitting there and writing an appraisal on what went wrong to the 11 candiates interviewed over that two day stretch?

I wouldn't say it's the company's fault, more of an incompotent recruiter.

on September 19, 2003 05:43 AM
# Mike Hillyer said:

Yes Wil, we get it ;)

on September 19, 2003 06:42 AM
# Jeremy C. Wright said:

To be honest I'm surprised either one was considered. I've been told by recruiters that anything remotely resembling you not staying in your little black box, as a candidate, can blacklist you for quite some time.

I wrote a post about it and had several recruiters email me to tell me they agreed and that I was the dick. Ah well, life moves on, I keep looking for work and everyone smiles :)

on September 19, 2003 12:16 PM
# Chris said:

At my University we have our co-op program which is probably the only thing that University is actually known for. Basically, the school tries to help place us with professional positions three times (six month periods) during our five year education. Often times it works out (as in my case) and other times it doesnt...yet I don't think that people realize that co-opies DO share information.

As stupid as it sounds, if a company gets bad marks from someone who cooped there people are much less likely to even apply and the company is going to get people are much lower in talent and skills. Granted, no one says they have to hire them but the companies basically will go with atleast someone from the pool. While we don't have the power to say, change our salary or working hours or anything...we do have the power to influence to atleast a decent degree how we're treated. Instead of being stupid interns...we're treated more like full time staff. The power of communcation often does make a difference.

on September 19, 2003 03:06 PM
# Justin said:

Maybe someone should create a form or a website that rates companies interviews and other information on the job process. Be a neat way to fight back at the hr & talent searchers....

on September 19, 2003 03:19 PM
# trilobyte said:

whilst the scenario described above IS frustrating, one needs to realise that ultimately a business needs change - even day to day.

I didnt like the way the various "hacker" characters all communicated with each other - doesnt sound very professional to me, and actually sounds like a load of schoolkids all bitchin' to each other.

i'm not impressed - and i dont think the HR department wasnt either.

sometimes, NO communication with your peers is the best communication. And sometimes, you've just got to look after numero uno and forget your peers - sad, but true.

on September 19, 2003 03:51 PM
# funjon said:

Lemme guess, Chris, you go to Drexel University?

Heh. How's the ole' Drexel Shaft holding up?

on September 19, 2003 11:06 PM
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