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Hiring White-Collar Workers – Setting Post-Pandemic Expectations

May 24, 2023

Laura L. Rubenstein

During the pandemic, I remember driving by a Royal Farms convenience store and seeing a Help Wanted sign outside that said candidates would be hired on the spot and paid the same day. Many companies at that time were desperate for staff, and it was an employee’s market. Many service industries had been forced to close their doors due to government-mandated shut-downs and other industries that relied on in-person guests, couldn’t continue to operate.

Nowadays, it seems the pendulum has swung in a different direction, at least for white collar jobs. In a recent article published in The Wall Street Journal by Te-Ping Chen and Ray A. Smith titled “9 Rounds Of Interviews And No Call Back”, they report that companies are reducing the back-filling of office jobs from receptionist to C-Suite executives. Companies are “slow-walking” candidates, “piling on new requirements ranging from more years of experience to higher scores on technical tests, to running prospective hires through additional rounds of interviews.” Chen and Smith report that these days, three to four interview rounds are the norm, up from one or two in years past, with companies moving more cautiously with new hires.

Job-seekers interviewed for the article reported spending countless hours preparing for and participating in multiple interviews for the same prospective employer. One person stated that he applied to 120 jobs and sat through 30 interviews at 19 companies before landing a position. Another person reported that after her fourth interview at the same company, she was asked to voluntarily create a marketing strategy for the company’s distribution channels, which would have taken upwards of 20 hours, just for a potential job.

Multiple employers and recruiters interviewed for the article commented that the interview process has lengthened while companies are hyper focused on hiring for culture, as opposed to just filling an empty seat. The idea is that if the right person is hired for the role, turnover is reduced. In addition, companies are reconsidering signing bonuses and other upfront benefits in this highly competitive with collar market.

Hiring for culture is paramount. Businesses are successful when there’s trust, teamwork and alignment. Before advertising for an open position, the hiring team should evaluate the job duties, discuss expectations for each interview, and try to interview as many qualified candidates around the same time frame. Companies owe it to themselves and candidates to be transparent about their hiring process, explain the time frame and reason(s) behind any delays, and inform the candidate when they intend to make a decision. Everyone deserves to be treated with respect and professionalism, whether or not they are ultimately selected for the role.

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