This week I was reminded of a line that morphed from Sex in the City dialogue to a self-help book and movie of the same name: “He’s just not that into you.”
Examples of saying one thing but doing another—besides the dating behavior that spawned the original, or course —include how we spend our time and our money. But the “he’s just not that into you” ethos also rears its head in the job interview process.
Recently, I worked with a candidate who was as great on paper as he was in person. He was smart, poised, had great experience and a great education. I was delighted to present him to my client so he could interview for this position that he said was everything he was looking for in his next career move.
But then it started to happen. I got voicemail when I called for a scheduled phone interview. No problem, it happens: meetings run long, or emergencies come up. But he didn’t call back. He didn’t even send an e-mail to apologize for missing our phone interview. I gave him four days (which, to be fair, included a weekend), then sent a nice note saying “Looks as if you’ve changed your mind – I wish you all the best.”
Apologies and assurances of his continued interest in the role arrived promptly. Fires needed putting out, then, travel prevented him from accessing email. Really? Considering this individual did PR for a tech company, I doubted this lack of connectivity, but against my better judgment, I let him back in the door. What came next was . . . you guessed it: more of same. Not sending information I needed immediately to schedule interviews, then apologies and reassurances about his continued interest.
Candidates’ behavior during the interview process is a good indicator of how they’ll work once on the job. I’m not saying that interviewing can never be put on hold if fires need to be put out. (Diligence at your current job could even be taken as a good sign.) But I am saying that communicating in a timely manner is essential if you want the interview “courtship” to continue.
The lesson here is the same one the ladies learned on Sex in the City: actions speak louder than words. People manage to follow through just fine (even enthusiastically) when they’re motivated and interested. If they don’t, the only thing an employer (or recruiter) can do, is read between the lines: he’s just not that into you . . . or the opportunity you’re presenting.
The interview process, like courtship, must be mutual. It’s always flattering to be wanted, and if the interest is mutual, move forward. If you’re unsure, explore—and have an honest dialog with your recruiter so he or she can facilitate your getting the information you need. And if you know it’s not the right match, communicate confidently with the recruiter, leaving doors open for the future, and then move on.