why do companies make it so hard for employed candidates to interview?

A reader writes:

If companies would rather hire people who are currently employed, why do they make it so hard to interview around a job?

I clearly state that in my cover letter than I’m currently a “Junior Teapot Designer at Hatter & Hare” and email is the best way to reach me, yet I’ve had recruiters call me at 3 p.m. and others ask me to interview at 11:00 a.m. with just two days notice.

WHY are they doing this?

Also, I was venting to a friend about this, he advised me to take the day off from my current job and not inconvenience the prospective employer, but two days is really short notice for a time off request. How much can I ask them to accommodate me?

Note: This is not all hiring managers. Several places have been very accommodating, offering to meet in the morning or late afternoon so I can slip out for a “dentist appointment.”

Well, first, you’re assuming that they’re requiring this of you, but they’ve simply asked if you can do it. You can offer a different alternative: “I’m booked up this week; would next week work instead?” or “Mid-day interviews are hard because I work during the day; could we meet first thing in the morning or in the late afternoon?” It’s utterly reasonable to ask this. They might tell you no, but plenty will be perfectly accommodating once you tell them what you need. But don’t get irked before you’ve proposed an alternative.

It does make sense to offer the soonest possible day you could do it though and not put it off until the perfect time, if the perfect time is more than a week away. It’s simply in your best interest to talk with them fairly soon, since many companies do have hiring deadlines, a vacancy they’re itching to fill, and/or are interviewing people on a rolling basis and will make an offer as soon as they find someone they like for the job.

And the reality is, many candidates are able to accommodate these requests, so it’s not crazy that they’re asking in the first place. After all, why wouldn’t they ask for what would be most convenient for them? They’re figuring you’ll say something if it doesn’t work on your end.

Of course, there are certainly some employers who will tell you that it’s their initial scheduling proposal or nothing at all. And there are plenty more who can be flexible on the day, but who won’t meet earlier or later than normal working hours.

But those who operate that way do it because they can. They have enough good candidates who are willing to meet with them on relatively short notice during normal business hours that they don’t have sufficient incentive to come in early or stay late for others.

Now, a great hiring manager who knows how much it matters to get the right person on her team will do what it takes to talk to strong candidates, even if it means coming in early or leaving late or meeting at an unusual time or delaying the interview for a week or two. (If you truly look like a top candidate; if you don’t, it’s less likely. And you don’t always know from the outside if you’re likely to be considered a top candidate or not.) But plenty of other hiring managers figure that if they have lots of good candidates who will meet on a schedule that’s convenient for them, there’s no reason to put themselves out.

It’s useful to realize that the answer to questions about “why do employers do ___?” is often simply “because it works just fine for them.” If they have plenty of good candidates willing to do X (whether it’s interviewing during the workday, or accommodating last-minute interviews, or accepting a lower salary range), then they don’t have incentive to inconvenience themselves for candidates who can’t or won’t do X.

Hiring isn’t about being fair to everyone, after all; it’s about an employer finding someone to do the job well in the way they find most efficient or easiest to accommodate on their end. A smart employer will ensure that they’re not putting up barriers to hiring the best people (and that means ensuring they’re making it easy for great candidates to talk with them, not just good candidates), but in this job market, they often have a lot of flexibility in doing that. And sometimes that means that their practices will align well with what works for you as a candidate, but other times it doesn’t — that’s just the reality of it.

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