Have you ever appeared for a walk-in interview? Have you been the victim of a serial interview where you are shunted from table to table, spending just a few minutes at each? Or, for that matter, have you kicked your heels outside the HR managers office, while he processes half-a-dozen candidates who are in the queue before you?
You may think it is all very natural and acceptable; after all, you are looking for a job. But it is not. It is necessary that the company or organisation planning to hire treat you with a certain degree of respect.
The problem in India is that it is regarded as an interaction between unequals, says Mumbai-based HR consultant D. Singh. The company thinks it is doing you a favour by giving you a job. This is particularly so if it is for a junior position.
Yet, if you look at it more closely, the interview is probably your first exposure to the company. In the normal course of things, you will approach others. If everything else is equal, would you not join the company that has shown you the maximum respect?
Every next HR manager carries a chip on his shoulder, continues Singh. The profession is only now graduating from keeping musters and adding up the number of days leave taken. When they get a chance to boss around, they do it. They little realise that the person they are treating so cavalierly today may well become their boss a decade down the line.
In India and other former colonies, this could be somewhat expected. Every person in authority sees himself as a Napoleon ordering the rank and file to march on the double. Such people feel they have inherited the mantle of the British conquerors. Even today, some 60 years after Independence, they have to keep the wogs in line.
But, strangely, jobseekers seem to get short shrift in other countries also. A recent survey (see box) by Hyrian, an independent US recruitment process outsourcing company, says of its findings: The theme that rose to the top was the issue of respect. It appears that in many cases, potential employers are failing to show common courtesy to candidates.
The survey was essentially about job interviews. And very few respondents had nice things to say. It matters. Because job candidates are often in a relatively vulnerable position, the impact of discourteous treatment is magnified, creating negative impressions of a company that may carry over to future job searches, says the survey analysis. Hiring managers have a major opportunity to create goodwill and positive impressions of a potential employer by providing timely updates and / or closure to all candidates, and being better prepared for interviews.
In India, even the top companies are facing another recruitment risk today. In the mad scramble for talent during the past few years, they hired like crazy. In the current slowdown, they are showing people the door. This is ostensibly on grounds of poor performance. But when attrition rates were much higher, these poor performers were also valued. In the IT sector, people are being benched (put on standby until new projects come the companys way). They earn much less. On campuses, people who have been given offer letters are being asked to hold on.
All this hits a company where it hurts most its reputation. Unfortunately, it takes a few years for the damage to manifest itself. By that time, it may be too late.
A companys reputation in the outside world depends on the respect it commands from its own public, and that includes potential hires, says Singh. It has cleared them to the interview stage. It must treat them not as CVs without a face but as future stars in the organisation. Does it cost so much to offer a cup of tea and politeness?
What applicants dislike most about job interviews (per cent)
I never hear back from prospective employers 45
The time the process takes 35
The time it takes to get an offer 30
Discourteous delays in the interview 19
Hiring managers are not prepared 10
The number of interviews is excessive 10
Source: Hyrian survey of 231 US executives; each respondent was allowed to choose two factors