The way an employer schedules and conducts an interview with a potential employee can attract the best talent or drive away recruits in a hurry. That's because the particulars of that meeting can offer a window into company culture -- and a negative light may be all someone needs to take his resume down the street.
Many CEOs are unintentionally choosing the latter strategy and repelling workers. Employees who encounter terrible circumstances for a job interview may see an awful future at a company with an unappealing culture: expanded working hours without a rise in pay and an on-call lifestyle. That's exactly what many foresaw when encountering the interview policies of CEO and entrepreneur Mac Lackey, who chronicled his tactic in a LinkedIn post called "show up at 6:30 in the morning."
Here is how Lackey begins:
With our first company, my business partner and I would schedule interviews at the coffee shop at 6:30 in the morning.
Sure, I get up early. I think that's important. But, I really wanted to see how people reacted to a 6:30am interview.
I understand that if you're not a morning person, being ready and on for a 6:30am interview is a challenging situation. But how you react to that challenge tells me a lot about not only your character, but also how you choose to handle situations that take you out of your comfort zone.
Lackey notes the following would be unacceptable reactions when showing up for your interview: running late due to family and traffic, commenting on the early hour or appearing tired.
On the other hand, Lackey will allow compliments on being a fellow morning person, discussing your own early-morning routines and telling him how educational this experience has been.
It's hard to make this stuff up.
This is a TED talking point masquerading as business savvy, and there are plenty of lessons that job seekers and employers alike can draw from Lackey's 350-word testament to self-regard. Mostly, though, this is an opportunity to note that job interviews cut both ways.
And it is critical for job seekers to remember that.
An interview is your chance a potential employer by how it represents itself in the room. The judgment calls in and around this process say a lot about a company's level of professionalism, about its culture and about its staff, and this is all especially critical in smaller organizations where outsized personalities can have a large impact on your working life.
It's important to make the most of this opportunity, because it may be your only chance to look a future boss in the eye before deciding whether to work for him.
A few flags can include companies that lie about the position or others that try to blind you with a lavish process.
Up until the interview, everything hides behind text, and reality is a lot easier to fudge when it comes to posting something online. This is your chance to look behind the curtain, to try and get a sense of the people you'd be working with, and maybe dodge a toxic environment.
After all, if an employer can't even be bothered to show some respect during the application process (when, in theory, the company is competing for your talent), imagine what life will be like once you depend on the company to make rent.
Imagine what working for Lackey must be like.
This is a guy whose first move with a potential employee is, proudly, to play mind games. Where someone else might have the good grace to apologize for the inconvenient hour, he not only pats himself on the back but expects you to do so too. He considers flattery a test of character.
Employers take note: run from this strategy. Run far and run fast, because that's what all of your applicants will be doing.
For a job-seeker this could not be a bigger warning. It's a raw power move. In scheduling the interview for 6:30 in the morning, Lackey is showing that he has no regard for your time or convenience but that he can force you to show up on his schedule. When an employer expects you to jump through these hoops it's a sign of culture. It signals a firm that has no control mechanism to stop abuses like this one.
It is also, far from Lackey's deeply self-satisfied manifesto, a sign of profoundly poor judgment.
Too many managers have fallen prey to a culture of buzz-words and pop-psychology solutions. Flattered that they have some insight into the human condition, CEOs and entrepreneurs serve up business hacks such as this one and are often applauded for it.
The trouble is that Lackey's insight is as deep as quoting Sun Tzu in a college break room. A night person is no less productive than a morning person, nor does getting the kids to school convey habitual tardiness. A comment about the early hour is an ice breaker, not a character flaw.
Let's call a spade a spade: Lackey hasn't stumbled upon a test for character, he has simply created an efficient sorting mechanism for suck-ups. The person who will praise your innovative sunrise-interview is exactly the kind of Yes Man who will compliment your tie, walk your dog and agree that now is precisely the right time to invest in MySpace.
The rest of the 6:30 interviews will fall into two categories. Some will fail to meet Lackey's standards and be shown the door, hopefully with a complimentary cup of coffee for their troubles.
The rest will sleep in, because they can afford to say no. They're the top-tier talent. The only people who will show up at Lackey's morning table will be the ones good enough to get a call, but without the talent or the luck to have better options.
Lackey has written a post that shows exactly what he thinks of anyone who works for him, and employers and job-seekers alike should read deeply.
For job-seekers it's a timely reminder to use the interview process well.
For employers, it's a reminder as well. By all means, schedule your next round of interviews for 6:30 in the morning. It's an excellent way to weed out the talent.