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Wednesday, August 6, 2008

50 days, 4 interviews, a consultancy offer, and a missing contract

A reader writes:

I’m a consultant and I have been looking to join a larger consultancy. In hunting around, I found one... on its face, the organization seems to be perfect. My personal philosophy meshes well with their stated philosophy, etc.

I sent off an unsolicited e-mail, asking if they needed someone like me. Their CEO responded in 3 days. Over the course of the next two days, I talked extensively with the first interviewer. By day 7, I’d spoken with him at length and he passed me onto another interviewer.

Three days later (day 10), the second interviewer got in touch... We went on to speak that day. They also asked me to fill out two “team” psychological/personality inventories. I completed them that afternoon.

Five days after that (day 15), the first interviewer e-mailed to say that he wanted me to talk with two others on their team and to scheduled the next interview. Three days later (day 18), that interview was scheduled for the following afternoon.

Day 19 was interview three. It also went well. I didn’t want another long delay, so I e-mailed the first interviewer to tell him things went well. Four days later (day 23) I got a response saying that that was great... and that I now needed to talk with interviewer four.

At this point (day 24), I e-mailed the CEO again, as he had asked me to keep him abreast of how things were progressing. I told him that this was a gauntlet interview process. He e-mailed back to say that I’d not seen anything yet... that interviewer four was killer.

Interview four happened on day 28... and I received an e-mail on day 29 responding to my latest thank you with notice that they were going to start checking references.

On day 35, I sent a note to interviewer four, making sure that things were progressing well and that they were getting the info they needed from my references (I knew that they’d been talking with my references as I was getting feedback from the references after each call).

Nine days later (day 44), I finally talk with the CEO. He is interested.... but now wants to hire me as a consultant for the first few months to “try before he buys” me as a full-time employee. I tentatively agree, stating that I’m really on the market for full time work... but that as long as we were moving forward towards full time employment, I would be happy to work for him.

He seemed pleased and told me that he’d have someone on his staff get me a contracting agreement via e-mail to get us going.

One day later (day 45), and I received an e-mail from that staffer asking for my contact details to fill in on the template agreement. I responded almost immediately. I didn’t get anything back by the end of that day, so I e-mailed to make sure he received my info. On day 46, he wrote to say that he’d been having e-mail difficulties... that he now had my info (I had to resend) and that he’d be preparing the agreement.

It’s now 5 days after that (day 50) and I’ve not yet received the document.

Quite frankly, at this point, I’m more than a little frustrated. I obviously have continued to look for employment (thank god I didn’t stop when I had the first great conversation almost 2 months ago)... but this seems a little excessive. I don’t want to get snippy and send off an e-mail I might later regret. I’m looking for an outsider’s perspective on timing and pacing to know whether I’m being unreasonable in thinking that they’re REALLLLLLLLLLY slow.

I have a couple of thoughts and none of them are all that conclusive:

1. On one hand, they're not being all that slow in terms of response time. You got an initial response to your resume in three days and an extensive first interview within one week.

2. On the other hand, they appear to have 72 steps to their interviewing process. I'm actually all for being thorough, but I do think that when you have an extensive process like this, you should tell the candidate what the process will be at the start. You shouldn't have been left in the dark on that.

3. The "try before you buy" thing irks me for the same reason. This should have come up earlier. I might consider asking them, "Is this typical or is there something about my candidacy that has you less certain than usual?" The answer might be interesting.

4. All that aside though, the only thing that really bothers me about the timeline itself is what has happened at the end -- the delay in getting you the contract. I would contact them and ask for an ETA and explain that if you're going to accept the position, you need to begin wrapping up other commitments, and imply that you're not able to stop your job search until that contract is signed.

There could be a perfectly innocent explanation -- the guy preparing the contract has been out sick, swamped with other work, or whatever. But they owe you a status update, at least. If you can't get that out of them, something smells bad. But at this point, I wouldn't draw any conclusions just yet -- just keep sniffing around and remain skeptical.


HR Maven said...

A couple of thoughts. Agree with everything already written and ...

1. It was an unsolicited email that started the process going. They may not have had that exact opening and were in the process of trying to find 'a fit.' That involves conversation AND TIME, lots of it.

2. If you didn't, I would have encouraged you to ask earlier in the process about their process, helping you set expectations.

3. The consultancy thing has me the most concerned. Unless this is how they hire, something came up - either in your profile, references or interviews that gave them pause. I would find out what it is before accepting anything. And I would want an anticipated timeline for transition to a full time position. If they can't answer that, take a step back and reconsider. They want you to commit but are not themselves fully committing.

4. I hope that you are still networking. If this is how they work, do you REALLY want to work there? And, if you don't move into a full time position, how will you feel?

Good luck!

Ask a Manager said...

HR Maven: Excellent points, especially the fact that it was an unsolicited email for a position that didn't yet exist that started this. That could definitely add time and uncertainty to the process.

Anonymous said...

True, it was unsolicited. But after the first callback when interest is expressed. And after each successive interview, the tone of each conversation was CLEARLY that there were open positions - that they were always looking for good people - that they had an immediate need to fill.

In fact, during the first interview, the interviewer wanted to know if I was interested in other things as well, as they were about to lose one of their managers.

So I'm at #3 on HRMaven's list. And I'm also feeling #4, too. :)

almostgotit said...

Yours was an unsolicited application -- that's a pretty big thing to keep in mind,. Even if they need or want to hire, there may be a lot of steps at *their* end before they can make it happen.

Also, 50 days and a lot of steps may seem like a lot, but not compared to the hiring process as it happens at lots of large, complicated organizations (and I imagine a large consultancy, made up of a bunch of driven entrepreneur-types, could be fairly complicated indeed.)

Suggestion: be as patient as you can, then stop. No snippy emails. And no matter what, keep looking at other things meantime.

Anonymous said...

Some insights:

1. They are not reeeeally slow (IMHO). There has been full communication the entire way through, and they have an extensive interview process, which is a good thing. You get to meet more of their team, so you are more familiar with the company.

2. By sending an unsolicited email, you may have skipped several steps. For example, if they have an online application process, you may have had to actually take those tests/questionnaires while applying for the position.

3. It seems as if you never discussed a specific position that they have, that you are seeking to fill. In reality, this was an error on your part (and theirs). They may not have anything open right now (or approved) for you to fill, so the contractorship might be what they can swing to on-board you right now. Should that have been discussed earlier? Absolutely. I would wait it out for another day or two, and at the end of the week, touch base with the person who is supposed to be sending you the contract. I would frame it around their email issue earlier, and you're just making sure it hadn't been sent and lost. Follow your gut though...always follow your gut. If something smells fishy, it probably is.

Anonymous said...

I am currently having the same problem! I was so glad to hear I am not the only one.

I have gone for two interviews at a company, both of which went well. They then asked for my list of references, which I provided promptly. That was about 2 weeks ago. They have so far called one of my references (which they let me know had gone great). I can not understand what the holdup is, and it is really starting to make me look less favourably on the company itself, and I wonder if I should decline an offer should they make one.

It's been about 1.5 months since I first interviewed with them. This is for a fairly junior level job, so seems to me it shouldn't really take that long to make a decision.

Anonymous said...

(I'm the owner of the story.) Thanks for everyone's feedback... it's just been extremely unique in my experience in interviewing/hiring (I'm at an upper-level point in my career).

In the past, I've worked with several very large organizations... and generally speaking, I would say that they hire much quicker. I think it's that once a position is approved, most want to quickly fill it for fear that they'll lose the position if they don't get a body in the seat.

On the other hand, smaller organizations take their time, as the cost of a hire is higher. So they are more cautious. I expected this... and gave some exponential for the fact that it was unsolicited.

At the same time, however, based on their initial reaction, it appeared that they had two positions that I was being considered for. So I know they had an opportunity (I mean, frankly, since it WAS unsolicited, all they had to do was say "no, we're not looking).

Anyways, I got the first contract. It was for the wrong thing. A day later and I got the right template. Now I start negotiations. We'll see how that goes. ;) In the meantime, I got another offer. Woo hoo!

Thanks again everyone!

Oh, and to the other person who is going through this... hang in there!

HR Godess said...

As the Director of HR for a small company that typically does 3 hours of pre employment testing AND 4 -5 interviews, depending on the position (yes, even lower level positions), I understand the frustration. The only thing that eases the pain for our applicants is that I talk to them weekly or more often should they have questions. I am very up front about our process and why we do this. (For those of you asking why, we like to involve even the co-workers of the new hire. It makes the new person feel more comfortable if they are hired and the current employees excited because they have had some say in the process.)

And if the applicant isn't being considered, they don't have 5 interviews, they have 1 or 2.

It's the longest process I've ever worked with BUT, it's extremely effective. And we do try to combine interviews when we can so the applicant isn't here 4 or 5 times. We also do before and after hours interviews without question since it's not easy to interview that many times while working full time.

All I can say is hang in there. It may be a long process but if you really like the position, it will be worth the wait.

Anonymous said...

50 days is nothing. The hiring process for my last job took 6 months, 3 rounds of interviews with 7 different people and a noticeable delay between picking up my references and the ensuing job offer. Oh yes, and then the projects I was hired to work on were canned within 3 months of me starting...