How to Handle a Courtesy Job Interview


During the job search, applicants need to be aware of the courtesy interview. A courtesy job interview is one in which the company recruiter has no intent of hiring the candidate, but conducts the interview anyway. The courtesy interview is known to human resource departments, and is a practice carried out by every level of the hiring process.

There are also interviews which are ceremonial. The reviewer has already made up his or her mind to hire the candidate, and the meeting is perfunctory. The courtesy interview on the other hand, is a pretense of interest. There are some professionals who believe it exhibits a lack of respect toward the job applicant. At the least, it leans to an incredible disservice to the applicant, and a waste of time for both parties. If conducted carelessly, it can leave the candidate with a bad taste in the mouth. Why then, do recruiters, headhunters, former colleagues, Fortune 500 companies, etc. conduct courtesy interviews?

The answer is found in two types of courtesy interviews:

• After about ten minutes or so, it is clear to the interviewer that you are not the right fit for the company. But he or she wants to be polite, and will continue the interview for another twenty to thirty minutes before thanking you for your visit;

• The interviewer is only seeing you out of an obligation or human resource policy. Whether or not the interviewer is interested in you, he or she will proceed anyway out of courtesy and/or respect.

How then, do you know you are in a courtesy interview? Here are some samples:

• The first sentence may be, “I just wanted to see where you are in your career search”. This is a fishing expedition. The interviewer is curious about what you have done since your last job, which companies you have talked to so far, or to pump you for information not relevant to your job hunt;

• “We had already finished final interviews when we received your resume. After looking at your impressive cover letter and resume, we thought we should talk to you before making a final decision”. This means a person higher up in the company asked the candidate to apply. That information was in the cover letter. For the interviewer, he or she is only doing it out of respect for, or fear of, the company executive.

• “As you know, we are an equal employment opportunity firm. We take that seriously and under consideration when we interview applicants”. This is done to avoid discrimination lawsuits. Some firms who accept government funds are required to conduct at least 3 interviews with applicants of diverse backgrounds. On a positive note, it could also mean the company is sincere in hiring a diversity of applicants, you included.

Ten to fifteen minutes should be long enough to know whether or not you are in a serious interview or talking to a person just going through the paces. It is clear that he or she has no desire to hire you. What then, should you do once you realize you are in a courtesy interview?

• Ignore the interviewer’s irrelevant questions, and do the interview of a lifetime. Dazzle and impress. Why? He or she may decide to refer you to another firm who would love to hire you. Or, the recruiter may think you are not right for the current job, but is perfect for another open position at the company;

• Using great tact, end the interview. Say you do not believe you are the right fit for the job, and do not wish to waste either of your time;

• No matter how you feel, do not be rude or show how angry you feel. You may see this person again;

• Always thank the interviewer for talking with you. Depending on how you and the interviewer clicked, ask for a referral so you don’t feel it has been a waste

• Do an assessment of the interview. Take note of the positive parts. When did your conversation seem to excite the recruiter? What topics made him or her ask you follow up questions?

It is always tough to go through one interview after another, not knowing whether or not you are wasting your time and energy. Do not take it personally. The job hunting market is extremely competitive. Look at the courtesy interview as one piece of several that an unemployed person will experience during the job search.

Job applicants should look for employment like a daily duty. You must be diligent, consistent, and determined to find work that fits your skills, experience, education, and temperament. Your task is to convince a company that you are the right person for the job.

A positive attitude will go far toward putting a negative meeting in the past. Don’t let one bad interview experience kill your spirit. Look forward; maintain your daily job searching routine, and work on getting an interview with the next company you like.

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