A reader writes:
I'm in a bit of a post-interview limbo. After a month had passed on submitting an application, I received an out-of-the-blue phone interview (with HR) and an immediate scheduling for 5 hours (with 10 people!!) in-house interview.
I was sick the day of the in-house, but I medicated and prepared to try my best (I also, respectfully, declined hand-shakes). They all seemed nice, but it was quickly revealed that I was their first interview for this position. Furthermore, it was a technology position they had never done in-house before, and it appeared that they had little idea how to choose a good candidate.
Since some of the prospective tasks they mentioned for this position were, quite honestly, incomprehensibly large for a one-person job--I took a rather honest approach in my interview. I mentioned that, if I was hired, it would require some significant setup to get going. I also mentioned that the position sounded much higher level then what the ad suggested (I went in thinking it was a middle management position in an existing division, and it turned out it was a non-existent division which they were looking for a new hire to create). Frankly, I'm just out of grad school, and it would be shocking to have to put together an entire division with my limited experience (and a bit mind-boggling that they thought I could). I like challenges, really, but knowing the scope of technological expertise it takes to pull something like that off...I think I would be sorely short-handed.
There was also a weird moment in the interview when I was directly asked to reveal who I was interviewing for (note: I declined to respond with names, just made an ambiguous statement: "some other local industries and non-profits").
Other then these rather large points of concern, I felt that I reasonably communicated my abilities and how I could be useful to the company. I also tried to show them what could be done with the talents I had. Furthermore, I really liked the fit of the people I would be working with, and see a lot of interesting learning opportunities for me. After the interview, the HR person left me with a serious impression that I'd get a hiring notice the following week.
However, that didn't happened.
I was contacted post-interview, and the HR representative informed me that I was "still in the running" but they were looking at "other candidates." Since, I was the first that they interviewed, they wanted to try a few more and see how I "measured up." She emphasized that she'd like to be updated if any other companies made me an offer, and...that was it.
So, yeah. Very weird response, I thought. I'm use to a straight "yes" or "no"...not a "maybe." I really have no idea how to respond to this, or if I should even bother calling them back (my friends say this was a very unprofessional interview, since they clearly didn't know what they were hiring for, and they asked me to reveal my interviewing companies).
Yes. You don't want this job. You may not know it, but you don't. Although actually it sounds like you do know it.
They don't really know what they want. You think you'd be in over your head. They don't sound like they're equipped to make a sound decision on whether you're right for the job or not. And it sounds like they wouldn't give you the resources you'd need to do the job well.
This has all the makings for a disaster, and the last thing you need in your first job right out of a school is a disaster. If you're set up to fail, it can still look a lot like your fault to outside observers. You don't need that.
Regarding the HR person's response that they're looking for other candidates but want to know if you get any other offers -- each of those things are fine on their own, but I'm not crazy about combining them. So they're looking at other candidates; that's fine. People look at other candidates. They should give you some idea of their timeline for making a decision about you, but okay, not completely weird. But then you throw in "let us know if you get another offer," and the picture becomes murkier. That's what you ask a candidate to do when you're really interested in them and want to have a chance to make them an offer yourself before another company snatches them up. They're mixing their signals a bit, and I suspect it's because they don't know what they're doing.