Two crazy hiring stories in one day, in honor of Friday!
A reader writes:
We are in the process of hiring a director for one of our newer satellite offices. One candidate was referred to us by a client and looked very promising on paper. We brought her in for an interview and asked several questions about her business development strategy, among other things, since that would be a major part of this role. To be honest, her answers weren’t anything unique or “out of the box,” which was a bit of a disappointment. Ultimately, we decided to go with another candidate. I sent her an email to let her know that we were hiring someone else for the director role but would like to keep in touch as that office location grows. She never responded.
Fast forward two weeks, and we received an invoice in the mail from her for business development consulting services. She had a list of charges (at an enormous hourly rate) for both prep and the time she spent answering our questions in the interview! I went back and looked at all the pre-interview emails, and it was absolutely clear that she was coming to a job interview, not a consultation meeting. We are obviously not planning to send her a check, but how would you recommend responding to this? It has to be one of the most bizarre, not to mention ballsy, things I’ve ever seen during the hiring process.
I’m assuming that it was an action rooted in bitterness (“I gave them my great ideas and nothing came of it; they should have to pay for my time”) and not a genuine misunderstanding … since it doesn’t sound like there’s any way it could have been a genuine misunderstanding.
I’d either (a) ignore it or (b) send her a quick email saying, “We received your invoice for your recent job interview. Since that was a job interview and not a consulting meeting, it must have been sent in error. Best of luck to you.”
If she actually pushes the issue — which I bet she won’t — you can certainly state that never engaged her services or agreed to any fee, and that job interviews are widely understood to be unpaid endeavors, and that you won’t be paying her invoice, the end. But I strongly suspect this was simply done in a moment of bitterness and won’t be something she pursues.
For anyone tempted to feel sympathetic — because I know there’s someone out there reading this and thinking, “Well, companies do often ask candidates to give them real work without pay, so why shouldn’t a candidate bill for it?” — I say the following:
* If the candidate felt that was happening, it was up to her to speak up; you don’t invoice after the fact without prior agreement.
* A simple interview is not consulting work.
* Good hiring does include talking over ideas and what the candidate’s approach to the job would be. In many cases, it also includes simulations of the actual work the person would be doing (although within reason — not hours of it — and not for the employer’s use outside of the hiring process).
Speaking of that last point, I ask candidates to complete an exercise relevant to the work they’d be doing for nearly every position I hire for. On very rare occasions, someone balks at what they term “giving away their ideas for free.” These are invariably the weakest candidates; the strong ones understand that a 30-minute exercise can’t possibly “give away” their expertise, and they understand why demonstrating that expertise is key to hiring well.
Which brings us back to your invoice-sending candidate: Take it as confirmation that you made the right call.