Should Companies Pay for Interviews?

It’s Re-Run Friday! This post originally ran in May 2014.

Would You Pay A Candidate To Interview?

Last week I got my ass handed to me for daring to consider that those who interview with a company, should pay for interview feedback.  Not just normal interview feedback, like thanks, but no thanks, but something really good and developmental.  Most people think that idea is bad.  Interview feedback should be free.  It’s not that I really want to charge people who interview a fee to get feedback, it’s just I think we could do so much better in terms of candidate experience, but we have to get out of our current mindset to shake things up a bit.

This all leads me to the next idea (hat tip to Orrin Konheim @okonhOwp) what if companies paid interviewees for their time?

Cool, right!?

We’ve built this entire industry on shared value.  Organizations have jobs, candidates want jobs, let’s all do this for free.  What happens when the equation isn’t equal?  What if candidates didn’t want your jobs?  Could you get more people to come out an interview if you paid them?  How much would it be worth?  It’s a really cool concept to play around with, if we can get out of our box for a bit.

Let’s say you’re having a really, really hard time getting Software Developer candidates to even consider your jobs and your organization.  It’s a super tough market, and you just don’t have a sexy brand.  You also don’t have the time to build a sexy brand, you need the talent now!  How much would it take to entice great candidates to give you an hour?  $100? $500? $1,000?  What if I told you I could have your CIO interviewing 5 top Software Developers tomorrow for 5 hours for $5,000?  Would you do it?

I hear the backlash of questions and concerns already forming in your head!

– People would just take the money, but not really want the job!

– How would you know these people were serious?

– Why would you pay to have someone interview when others will for free?

– Did you get hit on your head as a child?

– This might be the dumbest idea since your idea last week.

When we think about really having a great candidate experience, shouldn’t compensation be a apart of the conversation.  For most interviews you’re asking someone to take time off work, losing salary, time off, putting themselves at risk of their employer finding out, etc.  At the very least, you would think that we might offer up some kind of compensation for their time.  I’m not talking about interview expenses, but real cold hard cash, we appreciate your time and value it!

If you started paying candidates to interview, do you think you would get and have better or worse interviews?

When you put value to something, i.e., an interview, people tend to treat it as such.  Now that interview that they might go, might not go, becomes something they have to prepare for, because, well, someone is paying me to do this.  To interview.  I’m guessing if you paid your candidates to interview, you would get a higher level of candidate, and have a higher level of success in hiring.  It’s just a theory, wish I had the recruiting budget to test it out!

Hiring is a Black Hole

Let’s be honest, the process of hiring is a black hole. Despite our best efforts (and all the fancy technologies we use), predicting how a candidate will perform within our organization will always be an unknown. We may think we have it all figured out until they fail, then we blame them, not our inept ability to select the right talent for our organizations.

I have two quotes from Seth Godin regarding expertise. 

1. “It’s easy to pretend expertise when there is no data to contradict you.”

    This rings true for many HR pros and hiring managers who boast of their hiring powers without evidence. We’re quick to dismiss inconvenient data that doesn’t align with the narrative we wish to make. “Well, Ted is one of our best managers, he’s been here a long time. Sure his 90-day turnover is twice as high as the next hiring manager, but that’s not Ted’s fault, he has high turnover positions.”

    2. Relying on the ignorance of a motivated audience, isn’t a long-term strategy.”

    These two quotes align perfectly. Often, hiring decisions are made by people who are rushed and under pressure to find talent quickly. When these factors come together, it doesn’t cause an immediate disaster, but it can lead to problems in the long run.

    While many claim to be good at hiring, true expertise comes from listening to data and resisting pressure to make bad decisions. It’s not easy work. If you listened to me at SHRM Talent this month you heard me loud and clear… Recruiting is hard. There’s no ifs, ands, or buts about it.

    Mastering effective hiring isn’t just a goal; it’s essential for long-term success. Challenge the norm, use data wisely, and avoid the pitfalls of poor hiring decisions. Your organization’s future—and your career—depend on it.

    There’s No Stupid Questions (said no one ever)

    When it comes to interviews, the questions you ask as a candidate can make or break your chances. Instead of providing you with stellar questions to impress your potential employer, I’m here to give you three questions that could send your interview spiraling downhill in just seconds. And believe me, these questions aren’t hypothetical; they’re straight from the playbook of real candidates we’ve encountered.

    1. “Do you conduct drug tests?” We do now! You might as well be waving a red flag. It screams I’m going to fail a drug test, and I’m convinced it’s a tactic to ensure they won’t be hired. Their loved ones probably just wanted them to interview. Trust me, I’ve seen it happen. Other question on this path – Do you do background checks? Do you do credit checks? Do you hire felons?
    2. “When can I start using sick time?” This question should set off alarm bells for any HR pro. It signals a potential attitude or attendance issue. Let’s be clear: if someone is already planning sick days before they’re even hired – you aren’t going to be happy with that hire. Other questions on this same path:  When would I get a raise? How soon can I use my health insurance?  What happens if I’m late to work?
    3. “Is dating coworkers allowed here?” *raises eyebrows. While it may seem innocent, it implies either ulterior motives or a lack of professionalism. Or I’m-still-a-frat-guy mindset. I once had a candidate ask this question and my immediate follow up question to this, without answering his question, was – “Are you dating one of the employees here?”  To which he said “No” – but that he ran into this at another employer and didn’t want to ‘have any problems’ again.  So, you’re assuming we have folks here who are just not going to be able to hold themselves back and must date you!?  Is what I’m hearing!  Which by the way, totally fine with work place romance, but don’t ask about it before you’re even on the team! Other questions on this same path: Can you drink alcohol on the job here?  Can you smoke pot in the work bathrooms?  Can you steal office supplies?

    What’s the most cringe-worthy question you’ve ever heard in an interview?

    Don’t Just Wait to Be Discovered

    As a recruiter, we’re always on the lookout for talent. Whether we’re at work, running errands, or enjoying time off, we are constantly searching for people with the right skills and drive.

    But, I’m here to tell you, opportunities won’t just land in your lap. If you’re waiting for someone to find you, you could be waiting forever.

    Because recruiters don’t stumble upon talent by accident. They look for people who are actively showing what they can do. Every single day. It’s like trick-or-treating – we only go where there’s a light on.

    Too often, I meet people who want a new job but aren’t doing anything about it. They’re afraid to let their current employer know they’re looking. But that’s not the best way to get noticed.

    Instead of waiting around, get involved. Connect with others in your industry and community. Let people know what you’re looking for.

    Even in today’s job market, there are plenty of opportunities out there. But you have to put yourself out there to find them.

    So stop waiting to be discovered – go out and make it happen. Success isn’t luck; it’s hard work.

    Ditching the Generics

    You might say you’re only hiring ‘top talent’, but you’re probably settling for generics. It’s like choosing between store-brand and name-brand meds – sure, generics might seem like a good deal, but do they really measure up?

    Here’s how you can tell.  Ask yourself why you hired one of your recent hires.  If it was because they had the skills to do the job, a nice personality, and didn’t smell funny, you hired a generic.  If you hired them because they can do the job and you can specifically say why they fit your culture, you hired a brand name!

    There lies the problem, you have a generic employment brand. It doesn’t have to be generic. You made it generic because it sounded safe and professional. Because it sounded like every other boring brand you have heard or seen. “Timmy, you don’t get it, we aren’t Google or McDonalds”.  Thank God. No one likes that crappy food and Google probably hires worse than you.

    At my company, we keep it real. We’re all about being down-to-earth, welcoming families and pets into the office, and valuing hard work over clock-watching. Yeah, we swear in meetings. We’re not afraid to take risks, and we value building strong client relationships. And yes, we’re pretty loyal to our alma mater, but that’s just part of what makes us unique.

    We don’t settle for generics; we look for people who fit our brand. Those who don’t, well, they don’t stick around for long. Because generics and brands just don’t mix. Brands build strong cultures; generics leave people feeling disconnected.

    So, it’s time to ditch the generics and start building a team that’s as unique as your brand. Because when it comes to talent, being generic just won’t cut it.

    The Truth About Reference Checks

    When I started in Talent Acquisition and HR, I was sold on the idea that checking references was the key to snagging top-notch hires. The whole “past performance predicts future performance” spiel is practically carved in stone tablets right?

    But around 100 reference checks into my HR career, I stopped believing it. Either I was a hiring genius (mostly true), or the reference check thing was a massive hoax.

    Reference checks are the perfect scam. And not just any scam, but a scam that everyone is in on. Everyone knows the set up: The candidate wants the job, so they want to make sure they provide good references. The candidate provides three references that will tell HR the candidate walks on water. HR accepts them and actually goes through the process of calling these three perfect references.

    Let’s face it: When was the last time a company passed on a hire based on a reference check? Most draw a blank; we hire based on references every single time. Is that a solid system? If you’re struggling for an answer or it’s always ‘never,’ maybe it’s time to rethink the whole reference check circus.

    1. Get Your Own References: Ditch the usual references candidates throw at you. In interviews, get the names of their old bosses. Give them a call – you might get some real talk even if official references are a no-go.
    2. Go Automated: Use fancy tech for reference checks that doesn’t make references feel forced into singing praises. It spills the beans on a candidate’s work style without giving away the game.
    3. Fact-Check with Tech: Google, Facebook, LinkedIn – they’re not just for stalking. Use them to fact-check a candidate’s story. With over half of people stretching the truth on their resumes, tech is your truth serum.

    Smart HR folks should question a system that gives the green light to almost everyone. Catching less than 0.1% of fakers isn’t a sign of quality; it’s just lazy.

    Break the mold, try new things, and maybe your company will see you as the one who can pull off walking on water.

    What are your tips for checking references?

    It Takes a Village

    In the hiring game, going solo just doesn’t cut it. It’s like raising a kid – you need a village. This village isn’t just HR and TA; it’s the whole organization.

    Dealing with clients who think we can do it all on our own is a challenge. Even if we’re an outsider, we still need input from TA, HR, and the hiring manager to know what makes their company tick and why a candidate would want to join.

    And guess what? The same goes for in-house hiring.

    For me, it starts with the hiring manager and the team needing a new member. Sure, TA does a lot, but the big cheese in hiring is the one making the final call.

    Some top-notch hiring managers stand out by doing a few basic things:

    1. Making it crystal clear what they need in a candidate.
    2. Getting all the info out there pronto, even redoing job descriptions on the spot.
    3. Jumping into the candidate search, getting the team involved until the job is filled.
    4. Making hiring a top priority in their schedule.
    5. Setting up a simple communication plan to stay in the loop without the drama.

    If more leaders did these simple things, hiring would be a breeze. Too often, though, we’re told to hire alone – just fill the position and stop complaining. Usually, it’s from leaders who are as clueless as us about how to make it work, so they vent their frustration this way.

    Give them these steps, and suddenly, they become team players. Define the roles, and things start moving smoother for everyone.

    Don’t let yourself get stuck hiring solo. Your gig is to lead a team effort. TA’s main job? Keep things on track and make sure everyone knows their part.

    HR and Recruiting: The Unspoken Rules

    Some unsaid rules guide us through HR. They’re not really hard and fast rules, just practical tips that we’ve learned along the way. Let’s break them down:

    1. Stay away from personal questions in interviews.
    2. Keep reference checks simple – just confirm dates of employment.
    3. Guard employee files like they’re top-secret.
    4. If it’s important, put it in a policy.
    5. Take every accusation seriously and look into it.
    6. “Mutual decision to leave” usually means otherwise.
    7. Measurement gets things done.
    8. Be careful about setting precedents.
    9. Expect things to go haywire on day 2 of your vacation.
    10. A candidate hasn’t really accepted the job until they show up to work on Day 1.
    11. If it’s on the ‘roadmap’ of your HR or Recruiting technology vendor, it means it’s not actually built and might never be built.
    12. Employees tattling on others probably have their own issues.
    13. Employee harassment stories are rarely simple.
    14. Open enrollment meetings need cookies.

    We love our rules in HR! Ironically, I love the profession so much because I’m a low-rules kind of person. The reality is, in my couple decades of HR and recruiting work there really has only been one Rule of Thumb that has been the same at every organization I’ve worked in. Big and small. Public and private. Across all industries…

    – Things change.

    This basic principle reminds us that flexibility is crucial in the ever-shifting HR landscape. What’s your go-to rule in HR and recruiting?

    Your Nose Is Growing! Top Candidate Lies

    This is a rerun that I like to share every few years because it never misses the mark. What other lies, excuses or categories am I missing? Drop your favorites in the comments!

    Every Monday morning I have a meeting with my recruiting team – it’s a great way to kick off the week – we share what we are working on, we talk about problems we are having on specific searches so the team can share ideas and tips, maybe even a possible candidate they know of, etc.  We also share stories!  Monday mornings are great for sharing recruiter stories – horrible interviews, funny excuses candidates have, negotiating nightmares – you name it, we talk about it!

    I was reminded this week how bad of liars candidates can be – we get a lot of candidate lying stories in Monday morning meetings!  So, as a shout-out to my Recruiters – and all recruiters – I wanted to put together a list of the Top Candidate Lies.  When I started thinking about all the lies, I found I could break it down by category – so here goes – hit me in the comments if you have a favorite that you get – or think of one I missed:

    The Education Lies

    – “I have all the credits, I just didn’t graduate.”

    – “I did all the classes, I just need to pay the fees to graduate.” (so you spent 4+ years going to school, got done, but that last couple of hundred dollars stopped you from graduating…)

    – “I graduated from ‘State U’, but it was a long time ago, I’m not sure why they can’t verify my degree.”

     “I had a 3.0 GPA in my ‘core’ classes, but a 1.9 GPA overall…”

    – “Well, it was an Engineering/Business degree.”

    The Background Check Lies

    – “No, I’m not on drugs.” Then fails drug screen. “Oh, you meant Marijuana as a drug…” 

    – “She told me she was 18.”

    – “They told me in court that never would be on my file, so I didn’t think I needed to tell you.”

    –  “No, I don’t have a felony.” (Oh, that felony! But that was in Indiana…)

    The Experience Lies

    – “When you said Java, I thought you meant experience making coffee.”

    – “I was a part of the ‘leadership’ team that was responsible for that implementation.” (So, basically you knew of a project that happened while you were working there…)

    The No-Show Interview Lies

    – “My car broke down.” (Either through some fantastic wrinkle in space, or gigantic amount of lying, candidates have more car trouble per capita than anyone else ever in the world who has driven a car)

    – “I couldn’t find the location.” (So, your answer to this dilemma was to turn around and go home and not call and let us know you got lost?)

    – “My son/daughter got sick, so I can’t make it.” (Again – crazy coincidences that happen with candidates and sick kids…)

    The Termination Lies

    – “It was a mutual decision that I left.” (“So, you ‘mutually’ decided that you would no longer have a job?”, is the question I always ask after this statement! Candidates – this statement sounds as stupid as it reads.)

     “I (or any family member) was in a bad accident and in the hospital, so they fired me for not showing up to work.” (No they didn’t – there are some bad companies out there, but no company does this.)

     “I play on a softball team and after games we go out and have a couple drinks. The next morning my boss smelled alcohol and fired me for drinking on the job.” (This was a true lie I got from an employee – it started out as me just giving him a written warning – until I went lunch, not joking – 10 minutes later at the Chili’s down the street from the office, and there he was belly up to the bar drinking a beer…upon cleaning out his desk we found a half a fifth of vodka.)

    Here’s my take on candidate lies – candidates continue to lie because Talent/HR Pros don’t call them out on it.  We (HR) also perpetuate this problem by hiring the folks who give you the crappy lie but don’t hire the folks who come clean and tell you the truth.

    I’ve Always Been a Straight-Shooter

    Like most recruiting teams, we deal with our fair share of “Repeat Offenders” – those folks who just won’t quit when it comes to job contacting you. Maybe we’ve called them, interviewed them, or even hired them at some point. But now, they’re like persistent shadows – calling, emailing, hitting us up on LinkedIn, and even sending friend requests on Facebook. Stalker!

    One of our recruiters said, “John Smith (a boring fake pseudonym, I know) won’t stop bugging me; he emails me his resume every single day!” We all know John Smith. He used to work for us at a client, and it didn’t end well. Now, he wants us to find him his next gig. But here’s the catch – it’s not about his skills; it’s his personality. He was a pain for the client and his co-workers, and frankly, he’s not the right fit for any job.

    So, here’s the burning question: How do you get John Smith to back off? This is a situation every recruiter faces sooner or later.

    Here’s my simple solution:

    1. Tell Them! Be honest. That’s it – no more steps.

      The problem with recruiters is that we’re scared to burn bridges. We worry about where the person might end up, who might hire them, and we don’t want to mess up our good rep. We’re all about the “Candidate Experience,” right? Well, that’s a load of nonsense. It’s just avoiding conflict. It’s better to give them that gift than let them walk around clueless. So, be straight up.

      Tell them exactly, very specifically, and calmly, with no ill intent: “I want to give you a gift. You might not see it as a gift right now, but I hope in time you’ll understand it to be a very valuable gift. I (don’t use ‘we’ or ‘us’ or ‘the company’ – you’re avoiding again by using those) – I think you have a significant personality flaw that comes across as annoying to me and, from the feedback I have received, to those you work with. If this does not change, I won’t be finding you any job in the future, and you’ll probably struggle to find one on your own as well.” OUCH! That hurt, right? But, read it again. Was there anything mean or untrue in the statement? If this person actually listens to the statement and acts on it, will they be better for it? You can change the reason for whatever issue the person might have – maybe it’s hygiene, maybe it’s a crazy laugh, who knows – but the basic message stays the same. You need to change, or I never want to speak to you again.

    It’s tough for recruiters because we’re trained to be nice, but sometimes being nice means stringing people along. It’s rude not to tell them what’s wrong. Stop with the blow-off lines and start telling the truth. At the very least, you’ll free up time to talk to the candidates who actually matter.