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I'm a first time manager at a mid-sized software/SaaS company. I am responsible for a small but important area of industry expertise, and implementing it though the service version of our product (historically on-prem, now in the cloud under my watch). I was hired as a subject matter expert, with the understanding that I would build out a team. 

 

My area of expertise is a fairly small industry. We have industry conferences that usually host 300-500 people. At a senior level, everyone who does this work is at most one degree of separation apart. Everyone I interviewed was either someone I already knew, or a friend of someone I know. Accordingly, while it's always important to behave professionally, it's even more key here because word gets around. Everyone I don't hire now is someone I may want to hire in the future, or someone who may want to hire me in the future.

 

There was one candidate who I had a particularly uncomfortable interview with. He was someone I sort of knew through mailing lists, but had not met in person before. We had a great phone screen and he had good qualifications, so we flew him in for an in person interview. He had a great face to face interview with my male boss. He spent the entire interview with me (female hiring manager) talking over me and interrupting my questions. He did the same thing to my female coworker. I'm not even sure he knew he was doing it, but I felt very disrespected. This is one of the classic ways that men can disrespect women in the professional world, and I won't have it on my team. 

 

While there were a couple of other concerns with this candidate, this issue was the primary reason we did not hire him. We found other candidates who fit the position and did not have any concerns along these lines.

 

I called him this morning to decline to move forward. I reached his voicemail, and left a message to let him know. He called me back three times, which I did not answer. He then emailed me back asking for feedback. I'm really not sure what to say.  I'm not inclined to be completely honest about this because I worry about offending him, especially since I'm not sure he realizes he's doing this, but I'm also not comfortable being completely dishonest. 

 

Thoughts?

Trev's picture

He's probably dismayed, maybe even shocked.  As a candidate (and human being), I would want to know where I could improve, and therefore, I would appreciate the feedback.  It's too bad because he had the makings of a very capable employee.

mrreliable's picture

You can be completely honest. Say he has good qualifications and you appreciate him taking the time to interview, but you have decided you will not be extending an offer of employment at this time.

You don't owe him any more than that. Just because there's more you could say doesn't mean you're being less than honest.

If he presses you and demands details, that will be confirmation that your instincts were correct.

Don't look at this from a gender perspective. Simply look at it from the perspective that this person was talking over you and interrupting you. Those are behaviors you can point to. "Because he's sexist" or "not even sure he knew he was doing it" is getting into attitudes, which will go nowhere. If you're explaining your decision to someone within your organization, saying "I felt disrespected as a woman" makes it personal, and could easily make it appear as if you have an axe to grind.

Someone who constantly interrupts is not listening and showing a lack of concern for what you have to say. A successful candidate needs to be able to figure out what you want them to do. Ignoring what you're trying to tell them or constantly trying to get ahead of you in a conversation indicates that communication will be an issue. You're concerned with the behavior. There's no need to analyze the "why."

Our last hiring process I had an applicant who was so impressive I was ready to hire her on the spot, but out of respect for the process and the other applicants I kept with the plan. During the process some behaviors gave me some concern - being a couple minutes late to everything, trouble following directions, some flashes of anger - and we decided not to hire her. She sent me livid emails, and all I could think was that I'd just dodged a bullet.

dtiller's picture

I agree with mrreliable that this may or may not have anything to do with gender but that is not the issue.  If he interrupted you and talked over you then that is enough for a no.  You do not need to look deeper to his intention.  Whether this behaviour is due to gender is not the issue.  The behaviour is unacceptable to anyone, therefore you decline to hire.

You are not obligated to provide more feedback other than the candidate is not moving forward as there are more qualified candidates.  Dont feel pressured, just be gratious.

Dawne

mrreliable's picture

FYI, here's the wording of the email I sent after the applicant insisted I provide more detailed feedback.

 

 

We appreciate you taking the time to go through our evaluation process for the [_______] position. You were among a great group of prospects with a high level of knowledge and experience. There were many factors that went into our final decision about which individuals will continue with our company. The decisions were not easy, but we are moving forward with the choices we have made.

We wish you the best in the future.