Professionally Speaking

Interview Merry-Go-Round

How many times can one company call a candidate for an interview before suspicions of a runaround surface?

I have interviewed, in person, with an IT consulting company four times in the last nine months. I have spoken with the HR manager several times on the phone; he has kept in touch via e-mail with me, wanting to know my availability. I have been considered for two network engineer positions and have been the company’s “second choice” twice. I was recently called for another onsite interview. I have three and a half years of experience in Microsoft network administration and design, an MCSE in NT and 2000, a CCNA and a degree in engineering.

Is this company really interested, or is it just jerking me around?
—Anonymous in the Midwest

Anonymous, Steve has given you some excellent things to think about. I admit that I was once in a similar position myself. I went for an interview, missed out on a role, yet was called back later for another interview. I was reluctant to waste more time, but had been assured that “there’s definitely a role here.” And you know what happened next—after that interview, I still didn’t get an offer!

I don’t think this company is deliberately trying to waste your time. Even if you wanted to believe in conspiracy theories about this, let’s face it: No employer wants to waste any of its valuable time unless it’s dealing with credible employment candidates.

In my case, I believe that the company wanted to hire me for the skills I would have added, but it wasn’t sure I’d be a good fit for the profile of the firm. It was a small consulting start-up that would have had a relatively high proportion of my income dependent upon my billable hours. In addition, a great deal of travel would have been required. At that time, we’d just started a family; my wife had left work (making me, for the first time, the sole source of income for the family); and I wasn’t interested in spending any significant time away from my kids. So I think the company had the sense to realize that, in the long-term, this arrangement wasn’t going to work out (or at least that’s what I told myself at the time). Either way, I think there was a gut determination that—as much as the company wanted this to work out—it had some reservations about hiring me and, sensibly, didn’t proceed further.

As Steve suggests, it may be helpful to find out what, if any, reservations the company may have about you. It may be the case of having too many good candidates and not enough roles; or perhaps there’s some small doubt in the back of its mind. Having said that, it would probably be unlikely to get much useful feedback this way, but you can only ask—it seems you have received more feedback than I would have normally expected. You might want to think back on your interviews at this company and consider some of the concerns that may have, explicitly or implicitly, been mentioned. Keep this information in the back of your mind the next time you sit for a job interview.

Most important, I urge you to think carefully about how much you really want to work for this company. From the information you’ve provided, it seems unlikely they’re going to hire you. It already knows a great deal about your skills, experiences and career triumphs. It appears more likely that any further interviews will dig out more reasons not to hire you, rather than the other way around. If this is truly one of the great companies, it’s probably worth being a little patient and going along with this convoluted process just in case it works out in your favor and you get hired. This doesn’t mean you shouldn’t keep exploring other options, nor does it mean you should allow yourself to be humiliated in the process. However, those few really great employers out there are probably worth some additional effort on your part. On the other hand, if this is just another company offering just another job, life is too short to put up with this. Move on and forget ’em.

About the Author

Greg Neilson is a manager at a large IT services firm in Australia and has been a frequent contributor to and

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Reader Comments:

Fri, Jul 5, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

this is the truth

Sat, Apr 27, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

Well said.

Fri, Apr 26, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

Many of us go through this over and over if the company wants less expensive staff because they feel they will be saving - yes in the short term they do but in the long term they loose!

Anonymous needs to ask himself/herself - why has the company had four positions open up in the past nine months? Is the company growing so much? Is it the same position opening up over and over again? If it is the same position - then I would question the judgement of the hiring manager! Of course I would not do any of the above before carefully and honestly evaluating myself first!

Sun, Apr 21, 2002 Vesuvio California

Excellent article. I think that you should continue to pursue your goal. However, through direct observation; some employers are intimidated by the employee that my have too many credentials than what the job requires. In your case this may be the case. I would say it is their lose and not yours. Shoot for the moon and if you miss you will be amongst the stars.

Sun, Apr 21, 2002 JET from NY upstate

Great article! It struck a nerve. I went on 27 such interviews the last time I changed companies. I almost did not go on that last one, I had interviewed there at least 7 times over the years and did not get the job. SURPRISE!! I got the job, and it is the best I have ever had! Hang in there it is darkest before the light.

Wed, Apr 17, 2002 Jeff Illinois

Good article... Sometimes is not always about you, but most of the time it is. You really need to be honest with yourself to figure that out.

Wed, Apr 17, 2002 Almost an MCSE Jacksonville, FL

Wow, I can really identify with what "Just another MCSE from Allentown, PA" says. I have no experience, but from what I have heard and read, turnover is a real problem in the IT industry.

Wed, Apr 17, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

I've had the same problems. I more or less have stopped answering the calls from 3rd party recruiters (so called consulting firms) because results from them (for me, anyway) are trivial. I usually don't even get a formal interview, just a technical screening and I am being submitted for the position. They don't even know if I have a swastika tattoed on my forhead (I don't).

Tue, Apr 16, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

Good article. Look forward to the chat

Tue, Apr 16, 2002 Just another MCSE Allentown PA

Being the Director of IT for my company, I have to hire fellow engineers. Besides, following the resume, background checks, and testing; when you hire someone you have to make a decision, is this person the right fit for our company, will his personality collide with other employee’s, will he stay here for years or is this job just a stepping stone to what he really wants. I look at the candidates work history, experience and attitude. I would rather hire a person that has no experience and has a great work history than someone with MCSE, CNE or CCIE that has had 5 jobs in 2 years. There is something to be said for people that can hang in there when the going gets rough or during budget cuts. So Anonymous in the Midwest, you need to give us the entire story and ask yourself this question, what is it about this company that makes you keep going back for the interview? It sounds like there might be a match, but something is making the company afraid of you. It never a hurts to ask the employer what is it they are looking for. That shows you want to succeed.

Tue, Apr 16, 2002 Serghei Dallas

Excellent article!
It makes me not even deal with recruiters anymore just to anger them. :P

Tue, Apr 16, 2002 Flex Philadelphia

4 times??!! I mean come on! If you can't take a hint.......I think this persons best bet or anyones for that matter, is to just stop answering their calls. If they seem like they are giving you a run around it's because they probably are. If they don't hire you on the first interview, chances are they're not going to hire you. With the credentials this person has, it seems he should have his pick of the litter. He should stop settling for 2nd best. For those of you experiencing this same problem, keep job surfing. There are a lot better fish in the sea!

Tue, Apr 16, 2002 Anonyms me

I think You made the right impression, I also think there is excess IT professionals than there is demand, I will recommend a high enough IQ for the people who really have the skills, and want to be beneficial to the new-born industry, instead of just hanging around in interviews, Let them ask themselves this question: "Do I really deserve this Job? Well, If the answer is yes, well go ahead... but if the answer is no, you're harming the industry as a whole, train first then speak.


Very good article, I have developed some personal principles
-Know your worth: The job market is like any other market, everybody is out there trying to sell their skills, if one employer does not like you, surely another one will if you float your CV as wide and as a effective as possible...sometime last year I walked out on an employer because they kept me waiting for two hours, later On I called and HR did not seem to think they had wasted my time, so I wrote a letter to the Director explaining my position, they called to offer me another interview, I checked how much they would offer and it turned out to be way below what I was currently earning!
-Never stay on oner job for too long, I have changed jobs about 4 times in the last two years...result: I have had such a varied experience and that is how I managed to get an International posting! from a third World country...!
-NEVER, AGAIN NEVER stop learning, I do not have an IT background but Iam triyng to enter this market, I have enrolled for CISCO acadamy... see?

Tue, Apr 16, 2002 Fritz Indianapolis

Very good article... I haven't been in the job market now for over a year, but I realize how tough it is even for experienced and certified individuals. Not only do you have to have the proper credentials and know-how, but you have to be liked, have to "fit-in" and all the rest. It is very difficult if you don't know the company or the people. I feel the best job is one that was referred by a friend in the company or formerly with the company. They can fill you in with the personalities and needs of the company you are to interview with. This underlines the absolute necessity of networking.... not the kind with servers and workstations, the kind with people... You must meet others in the IT world, other companies in your industry, etc. This is rather difficult for many IT/IS types, because I find that people skills are often lacking in us computer people. One piece of advice I often give is.... along with keeping up your certifications and training in strictly IT topics, throw in a couple "human" courses... communications or people skills types of courses... This will take you about as far as your extra few letters at the end of your name....

Mon, Apr 15, 2002 Anonymous Virginia

As an Instructor, Systems Analyst and Consultant I must say that most of the comments were accurate. You must realize that there is a lot flux in today's market with the change from a Group Management System/Philosophy to an Enterprise environment. A lot of IT pro's do not comprehend the complexities nor do the companies. You can't take Windows 2000/XP/.Net out of the box and install in one afternoon. Enterprise is 80 to 90% planning and 10 to 20% implementation. Once everyone understands those rules we "Business Owners and the IT Staff" will come to a much better understanding. I am 50 Years old and I hold an MCSE NT and 2000, A+, Net+, CNA, CNE and will hold a few more to keep up with the times within the next few weeks. I have been in this industry for over 25 years and have seen many changes during this time. THANKS FOR THE ARTICLE "Well written"

Mon, Apr 15, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

The problem actually is a matter of IQ. So far, 100% of the IT managers I've interviewed with have been of average IQ. My interviews usually last at least 2 hours. That's how long it takes them to realize I'm a genius. In tours of most companies, I find that properly planned, most companies could expect a 30 % savings. The average IT personnel are just not smart enough to understand the
complexities of networking. But, I will never be hired because I have too much depth.

Mon, Apr 15, 2002 Anonymous Louisville,KY

That is what alot of up IT professional have to go through. The outsiders see a bunch of people getting paid too much to play on the computer all day. But they dont understand the hassles and politics of just getting and staying at a job. I am glad that you took an honest look at our field. The IT field is starting to get saturated in spite of the fact they claim there are tons of unfilled jobs. Please get more reality stories like this one

Mon, Apr 15, 2002 Anonymous Florida

Thanks for a great article. I get the feeling that I've outgrown my current position. The fact that it's my first IT job, and that I really stumbled into it, makes me an interview novice. I appreciate the honest answer. It will help me keep things in perspective.

Mon, Apr 15, 2002 Anonymous Wyandotte

Very Good

Mon, Apr 15, 2002 Guy Albuquerque

Also-Ran is a very dirty set of words in my house now. Now I know what might be happening to me now with a certain Huge ISP.

Mon, Apr 15, 2002 Max Anonymous

What - only 4 times??? I know few agencies here in NYC who are constantly sending me e-mails with "new opportunities" and never arranged a single interview with the actual client. This is going on for about 3 years now - I'm on their mail list so they keep shooting mails to me, talk to me on the phone, and nothing happens.
Just stop counting on them, reply politely, update your resume and so on, but keep other things going.

Mon, Apr 15, 2002 Anonymous Pasco/WA

well said!

Mon, Apr 15, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

nice one

Mon, Apr 15, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

You hit the nail on the head

Mon, Apr 15, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

very good

Mon, Apr 15, 2002 Steve Willis Tx.

Very good article, Thank You!

Mon, Apr 15, 2002 James W Neiswonger Pensacoal Fl

Very good. I know why I'm having a problem finding work here in Pensacola. This is a economically depressed area and there just might be too many IT Professionals available. It's my age. at 61, no one wants to hire a person that will be retiring or could present a medical risk. That is me.

Mon, Apr 15, 2002 Paul Bucharest, Romania

It happened the same to me with two or three employers. Some companies are making "pools of resources", that is, they :) ping the candidate once in three months to see if available; others do interviews to probe the market or to make stats for salaries and so on. Nothing special in your case, you're not the only one. I think you'd better go to more resolute people...

Wed, Apr 3, 2002 Anonymous Anonymous

kind of written in merry go round fashion

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