companies that interview with no intention of hiring you

A reader writes:

Today I experienced something I had before. I felt tricked and cheated after I found out that the interview I had 3 weeks ago was fake – they had a candidate, but arranged to have interviews nevertheless. This already happened to me twice.

I feel frustrated for my wasted time, effort and the negative outcome of the interview. I hope you understand my frustration. I was just wondering – should something be done? And what can be done?

What do you suggest? It’s not really any different from when candidates go to job interviews when they’re pretty unlikely to accept the job. It wastes everyone’s time, but there’s no federal interviewing board that’s going to start fining people for it.

Yes, sometimes companies have a candidate in mind but feel like they should do a full round of interviews anyway (or in some cases are required to). In some cases, they’re not actually open to any of the other candidates they’re interviewing; in other cases, they are.

There aren’t really any ways you can find out ahead of time whether this is the case. Companies that do this are unlikely to tell you they’re doing this, and companies that aren’t (the majority of them) are likely to take the question as odd and paranoid.

It’s a risk you take when you interview — but then so is rejection, no matter how open to hiring you they are. I’d let it go.

{ 15 comments… read them below }

  1. class-factotum*

    They might have had a candidate in mind, true, but weren't necessarily looking to waste your time.

    Years ago, my office was seeking a new customer service rep. We put the word out and were almost positive that we were going to hire someone who had been working with one of of brokers. We knew her, knew her work, all liked her, etc.

    But we thought we should interview this other candidate just to be sure.

    The other candidate was awesome. She blew us all away. We thought the broker's assistant was great, but the OC was super. Once we had met her, there was no question about whom to hire.

    So maybe they had a candidate, but wanted to be sure there wasn't anything better out there. You might have been just as good, but it's easier to stay with a known quantity.

  2. Susan*

    This reminds me of when I interviewed for teaching jobs. I actually sat for four interviews, after applying to advertised openings, where it was disclosed that there weren't actually openings at that time or expected in the near future. My take on it was that the school systems I interviewed with were lining people up to either threaten current teachers in my field or use people like me as backups if their teachers quit on them. Either way, I'm glad they didn't have openings because these administrators would have been stinkers to work for. I ended up applying to an opening in another school system that actually was open, and I got the job.

    As for interviewing outside of the education field, I can see how you would be interviewed even if another person was in favor before your interview. I don't think that is a waste of time. The hiring manager and HR probably want to be sure they're hiring the best person for the job. As AAM wrote, some employers, such as government employers, must interview a certain number of candidates before they are allowed to hire someone.

    I wouldn't necessarily think the companies have no intention of hiring you. There is an actual opening, and they are interviewing you. You never know where your interview experience may lead. Even if you don't get hired, you may gain favor for future openings. At the very least, you can use the interview to gain information about the workplace and managers to determine if this is a place you would like to work some day, even if working there now is not an option.

    Good luck on the job search and interviewing. I know from my experiences that it is difficult to face rejection, especially when it feels like you never had a chance to begin with. Don't let it get you down.

  3. Anonymous*

    This just happened to me, too.

    I was told 6 people would be on the hiring/interview committee, and prepared all my questions based on that, targeting those six, etc., and only two showed up. This sent up a red flag, but I soldiered on, and made excuses for it in my brain. They rushed me through the interview in a very pro forma way, reading their questions off a sheet of paper, and seemed generally disinterested (but at least not unpleasantly so) in my relevant experience, as much as I tried to engage them. I was pretty deflated after the experience.

    I found out later from friends inside the organization that the fix was in weeks before I interviewed. I was the last one interviewed, but they had to interview regardless. I don't think it is that uncommon.

    It's very frustrating and disappointing, but there's nothing you can do about it, except move on, as AAM says. Good luck.

  4. Anonymous*

    I've had numerous interviews in which I was effectively used for interviewing practice. Generally speaking, I look for how they interview me.

    All you can do is move on, and at least it gives you some extra interviewing practice as well. Their loss.

  5. class-factotum*

    Anon, sometimes they are just checking off the boxes. I worked for a very short while for a small company helping them find an HR manager.

    They were concerned about EEOC, so they over-interviewed. They gave an intelligence test to everyone whose resume interested them, calling in groups of four or five people at once — people who met the bare minimum requirements. The only people who went further in the process were the ones who got above a certain score on the test, which I am pretty sure was illegal.

    I scored the tests while they waited but could not tell people who had not passed that they would not be hearing from us, which was RUDE. I argued with the owner that at least we should send a letter to these people, but she didn't want to do it.

    My point is that yes, in some cases, people are messing with you and it is very inconsiderate.

  6. Anonymous*

    What a lot of hiring managers and corporations don't understand is that when the economy turns around highly qualified people will remember how they were mistreated, tell others of their experiences with them and not patronize these companies. I was blatantly told by one interviewer that he just wanted to see who the person was with this stellar resume. Since then, I have seen the position that I interviewed for open several times. Hopefully when things gets better out there HR managers will not have to go through the 'ordeal' of having to interview and choose from so many highly qualified candidates.

  7. Missy Em*

    This has happened to me too and it was extremely frustrating! I resigned to the fact that companies generally do not intend to waste your time. If they found that you were better than the candidate they had in mind, they would have picked you instead.

    Nowadays I treat interviews as an opportunity to practice interview skills and to network. If you get the job, then great! If not, and the interviewer remembers for future opportunities, then that's a bonus.

  8. Anonymous*

    I had the same experience. It seems that companies have the chance to shop more, so they do that, disregarding the candidates feelings and invested time. I was contacted by a contracting company that I am a match for a position. I was matched the first day they were looking. I went through three interviews and was waiting for a decision. It was down to me and another candidate. Then I got a call from the contracting agency that the company decided to scrap their search and start over. Within the next 2 months I received more than 30 phone calls from various contracting companies because my profile fit the best.

  9. Anonymous*

    Yah this has happened to me also.

    I interviewed at a well known Hospital for an Administrative Assistant position supporting Executives. I interviewed with the CEO and the Executive Assistant of the Hospital. The EA was the first Interviewer and she practically told me that I had the job. So, she asked me to wait in the lobby and to see if the CEO was ready to interview me. I waited and while seated a lady came that I found out it was the CEO's wife. The wife had brought along a young girl which turns out was also a candidate but rather dressed way casual than I.
    So, I get in the Interview with the CEO and you should have seen his face.. he could care less if I put up a freaking broadway show…It was obvious he didn't want me there. He asked some irrelevant questions and ratherjust brushed my answers off.

    It was frustrating and RUDE to say the least.

    But while I didn't get the job I thought that I was BLESSED to not have to work with such a person.


  10. Deepak*

    4 months ago I was interviwed by one of the Fortune 25 company. First round was telephonic to screen the profile. Job agency told me that your profile has been shortlisted and company want to have further round of interview. Then 3 directors from U.S. called me for 3 days and were very impressed with my skillsets, they are looking for in the candidate. After hearing their feedbacks I almost got in to belief that I had made it. Then, I got a call from their HR that Manager whom I was going to report want to have last final discussion not interview, so they can finalize your offer letter. I went to their office by train some 300 miles by taking off from my office. I met HR director and my supposed to be Manager. After discssion of 1 hour, they said we are done and you will hear from us in 2-3 days.

    When I didn't hear from them in 7 days, I sent a polite email saying that I am inetersted in this position and want to know your decision. I also got an immediate reply that they will get back to me with updates. After 1 month, When I tried to enquired about the reason of not hearing from them from some of my resourses. I got to know that they had already finalize some internal candidate before the day of my interview. It's been 2 months, no response. Now I have given up the hope of getting any thing from them. I feel bad, if they had no intention of hiring me why did they call me to meet with them and wasted my time.

  11. Anonymous*

    I suggest you post their number on CraigsList, stating that you’re moving and have an enormous Plasma Screen TV you have to get rid of, and you need someone to come pick it up.

  12. Anonymous*

    I have the same experience you had. I was called for a job interview and later I found out from someone who works for the company the interview was a fake one. He told the manager of the unit about me but the manager told him the recruiter had already selected two other people for the positions. However, the recruiter arranged with the hiring team and conducted fake job interviews just to pretend that they are looking for the best potential employees. Unfortunately, I was one of the candidates (victims).

    Another fake interview happened to me again last January at a well-known insurance company. The recruiter arranged a job interview for me to meet with a manager. When I got there she told me the manager was not there but two other people will interview me. It was obvious that the two ladies did not know what kind of questions to ask me. I never heard from any of the ladies or the recruiter. It is disgusting the way those people treat others. I am pretty sure those deceivers will have to answer to someone with bigger power than them someday. I wish them good luck!

  13. Been There*

    I think this is common in larger companies with larger standard operating procedures. The company I work for now NEVER promotes anyone. You have to interview for the position with all the external applicants, etc. etc. takes weeks, even if your manager has already decided to promote you. Seems a big waste of time and money to me.
    I just chalk it up to more interview practice. Besides you never know if you are the one that could blow the doors off their already made decision. Good luck. I’m about to be out there with you!

  14. Sigrid*

    I wouldn’t necessarily call it a waste of time, after all if it is a company you are interested in working with it gives you a chance to let them to get to know you. View it as networking.

    It has happened to me in the past and the employer was upfront about it in the interview. Some months later he passed my details over to one of his aquintances becasuse he thought I would be relevant to an open position there.

  15. Bait and switch*

    I was called by an owner of a newly personal care home. The Doctor who purchased the home said he was looking for an administrator. He said the administrator that is employed with them now is from the old owners and things are not going well. We set up the interview. The interview had to be at his doctors office because he did not want the administrator know. Odd, and tacky I thought. I was interviewed by three doctors. The interview went well. I still felt weird that the interview was done in secret. I was than called for a second interview. I was to meet the other two doctors/partners. This time I was told that I was interviewing for the Memory care, adult day care administrator position. I questioned why the position changed and I was told they wanted another administrator just for the memory care unit. The doctors asked me some questions. I thought the interview went ok. However, on the drive home I felt something just was not right. Two days later the Doctor called me and offered me a floor nurse position. I mentioned to him that I did not interview for a nurse position. He said he knew, but, they felt I did not have enough experience. I have 7 years experience as an administrator. He also offered me $10.00 an hour less than I am making now. I thanked him for his offer, But, declined his offer. I suspect they were never attended to hire me as an administrator, but, called me on false pretenses. Hoping the could get me cheap.
    I felt insulted and mislead. There should be some kind of law about this type of practice.

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