April 29, 2013

Why employers should pay to interview you

Filed under: Interviewing, Job Search, Q&A, Readers' Forum

In the April 30, 2013 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a job applicant invests more than eight hours in interviews and asks why the employer acts like her time is free:

The rudeness of employers seems to be pervasive out there. I had interviews with a company recently. The second round involved four finalists meeting 12 employees over eight grueling hours. They said in mid-March that they would make a choice by April 1. I called the HR person on April 7 and got her voice mail. I said I wanted to know their decision based on the timetable she provided and asked her to call me. On April 17, I e-mailed the hiring manager to reinforce my interest and asked if they had made a decision.

The next day the HR manager responded that they hired a candidate who started work the last week of March. She said that a formal notice would be sent to other applicants within the week.

April is over. There’s been no notice. One of the other three finalists told me she heard nothing at all. Are manners and simple courtesy totally dead?

Nick’s Reply

Job applicants appear on time for interviews, devote hours of unpaid professional time to an employer, and then wait patiently for a hiring decision by the promised date. Inevitably, a company ignores its own timeline without any update or comment to the candidates. Why? Because candidates are free.

You could be bold instead of free. Send the HR manager certified mail with a copy to the hiring manager and the CEO of the company: an invoice for your time.

Am I crazy to suggest this? Would you be crazy to actually do it? Imagine the note:

pay-to-playDear [name]:

My time for our first interview was free, as it was an exploratory meeting. You requested more time for the second round of meetings, which I provided at no cost, contingent on your company fulfilling its commitment to respond with a decision by the date you chose, April 1. You ignored my calls, e-mails, and your own deadline, without the courtesy of a notice.

I am thus billing you for the eight hours of my professional time spent in the second round of meetings with your team. As a professional, I would never dream of being irresponsible with the time of my clients, my vendors, or my employer. Time is money. I live by the deadlines I commit to, and I expect others to do the same. Anything less would be irresponsible to our industry and to our profession. None of us could operate with integrity if we ignored our commitments. This is not a joke. I expect payment within 10 days.

Yours truly,

If this seems extreme, why should it? Is there a more polite way to notify a company that it has erred? Sure — but you’ve already done that, several times.

Every day, companies ignore these time commitments with impunity. Why is a deadline for a hiring decision any less important than a deadline to deliver a product to a customer? The company’s ability to meet either deadline establishes its reputation. (See Death By Lethal Reputation.) Yet, while companies worry plenty about dissatisfied customers, they don’t give a thought to what other professionals in their industry will say about them.

A job applicant treated with disrespect can do as much — if not more — damage to a company’s business as a dissatisfied customer. Do employers really think word doesn’t get around?

Maybe hiring managers just assume that their HR departments handle all the necessary niceties with applicants. But, just how accountable are HR departments? Does this company’s public relations department realize that while it’s spending millions on good press, the HR department is scuttling it? If you’re a hiring manager, and you’re not sure how job candidates are treated after they leave your office, please read Respecting The Candidate.

Your HR department might explain that processing applicants, job offers, hires, and rejection letters is cumbersome. Tell that to your customer who cancels the order that’s a month late, or to the prospect who’s waiting for a sales rep to return her call.

The technology to keep candidates informed is here. The will isn’t. Why? Because job candidates don’t cost anything. Companies can get all your professional time they want, for free, without any obligation to you whatsoever.

That’s wrong. Don’t you think it’s time for employers to put some skin in the game, if only because it would make them think twice about the costs they impose on applicants?

What if employers had to pay for job interviews? Should you really send an invoice if an employer ignores its obligation to you?

Good questions. Would it make any difference if you actually sent in that invoice? It might, if you copy the company’s public relations department and three leading industry publications. (Don’t forget to add me to your list.) To paraphrase Arlo Guthrie’s song, “Alice’s Restaurant Massacree,” imagine if 50 people a day sent interview invoices to employers. Employers might learn to behave.

You don’t want to ask an employer to pay you for an interview? Then consider Conrado Hinojosa’s provocative The No-Nonsense Interview Agreement instead.

Bad behavior is un-businesslike. I challenge any HR manager to explain why it’s okay to ignore even an implied commitment to a job candidate. If your company shines in this regard, I’d like to hear from you, too. In fact, I’ll gladly highlight your company in an upcoming column.

In the meantime, I think employers should start paying to interview applicants — perhaps then they’d behave the way they expect applicants to behave.

If you could carefully select job candidates for a job at your company, would you pay them to interview with you? What is a candidate’s time worth, anyway? Even if the person is unemployed, if they’re worth interviewing then they’re worth money.

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62 Comments on “Why employers should pay to interview you”
By Nick Corcodilos
May 7, 2013 at 11:21 am

@Tina: Sorry for the late reply (the past week has been incredibliy hectic, and I hate missing out on the dialogue here!).

Why not just tell the company you’d like to schedule your time for interviews differently. It could be a good test of the company’s flexibility and respect for applicants. If you feel strongly, I’d do that. It takes two to play the hiring game – and the parties need to cooperate to make the rules (and to win).

By Nick Corcodilos
May 7, 2013 at 11:22 am


“wish to advise that on this occasion you have not been successful in obtaining the position.”

I love it. You have not been successful. I play video games that tell me I’ve lost, using more direct and honest language.

“We decided not to hire you.” How’s that?

8 months???

By Nick Corcodilos
May 7, 2013 at 11:26 am

@SteveG: That’s quite a reference story. I wonder how prevalent that is? That’s a good one for a column: How do employers treat your references? I’ve got a recent story of my own. Thanks for posting this. Great topic – we’ll cover it!

By Nick Corcodilos
May 7, 2013 at 11:30 am

@Don Harkness: Thanks for the other side.

“Even if the company doesn’t want the candidate..the candidate should leave wanting the company”

My compliments. Any company that behaves as if it doesn’t know what this means, isn’t worth interviewing with or working for.

By Nick Corcodilos
May 7, 2013 at 11:32 am


“In the situation where they give the candidate this rather long interview with something like 100s of people to meet, I would appreciate the first meeting to be with the hiring manager.”

That would solve most of the hiring problems today. Manager puts skin in the game, we stick to the critical path (Who cares what HR thinks if the manager thinks something else?), and act like hiring matters.

By Tina
May 7, 2013 at 9:05 pm


Thank you!

I did write back and asked if there were any other interview options and quickly got my answer — minimal flexibility as the hiring manager was unwilling to consider condensing the schedule, hesitant to remove the break, and wasn’t open to combining some of the interviews so that I’d could meet with two or more people at a time. Also, the 5 hour interview was only the first of what could end up being 3 in person interviews — yikes — not sure if all 3 would be 5 hours or how much time they’d expect of each candidate.

I also asked for the starting salary range and got a classic response: “If you share your current comp, I can let you know whether it’s in the range for the position.”

I thanked him for his time, withdrew my application and wished him the best.

By Nick Corcodilos
May 8, 2013 at 9:03 am

@Tina: It may have cost you an “opportunity” (what a word that’s become), but I doubt it cost you a good job. I’d like to reach through my display and hug you. My compliments.

“If you share the salary range, I’ll tell you whether it’s in the range of what I’m looking for.”

We couldn’t make this stuff up, Tina. We’re dealing with boneheads. B-O-N-E-H-E-A-D-S. Then they complain there’s a talent shortage and they can’t find good workers.

They are not looking. They’re playing King Of The Hill.

My compliments for your integrity, and for refusing to work with jerks.

By Tina
May 8, 2013 at 9:36 pm


Thank you — reading your posts and newsletters for the past few years has paid off!

Some people would tell me I’m crazy for passing on “opportunities” such as this and to jump through their hoops to see where this leads. However, in the back of my mind I kept thinking “if they disrespect my time as a candidate, they’ll most likely disrespect it as an employee” — pass!

I had higher hopes since this was a start up company — unfortunately, a start up company with antiquated hiring attitudes (and there was no HR involved — just the Hiring Manager who would have been the boss).

Down with the clowns!

By Mitch
June 13, 2013 at 1:58 pm

Back in January, I interviewed with a very large company (hint: Sheila Bair mentions the company as a systemic risk in her recent VOX column) and mailed their official reimbursement request form and receipts the next week.

Almost 18 weeks later — 10 weeks more than the “6 to 8 weeks” promised on the official reimbursement request form — I received partial reimbursement. No explanation, no letter, no “sorry this is so late” note accompanied the check. When I double-checked the difference between my expenses and the check, this company omitted the hotel taxes I paid when I had to stay overnight for the 7:30AM interview.

This experience with one of the biggest companies in the world has been surprising and disappointing. In the future, when I have to travel for an interview, I’m tempted to say, “if you want me to come, then you will pre-pay the travel expenses.”

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August 5, 2013 at 8:45 am

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By Ask The Headhunter® | Nick Corcodilos – Why employers should pay job applicants
April 28, 2014 at 9:24 pm

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By bob bobsly
April 29, 2014 at 1:37 pm

This is truly a far-fetched issue. People are acting butt-hurt over nothing: if you got hired, you know. If you didn’t, it very likely means you did not get hired. That’s all there is to it. And oh btw, if you don’t like the employment process, quit it. No one forces you to partake. Come on, life is simple. Yes, it often feels like you’re unappreciated, so what, get over it. Once again: if you get hired, you’ll know. Everyone else should move on.

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