The background to this request started about three weeks ago when I noticed an advertisement for a non-executive director role with a renewable energy company based in the eastern states. The ad clearly stated that candidates could be domiciled anywhere.
This sector interests me, particularly coming from an industry that is energy hungry and for whom energy; at most sites at least, is expensive. I am therefore interested in anything that can assist in reducing that cost.
I also felt that I could add value to the company because of my previous board experience and in addition, my presence would bring diversity of experience to the board.
As I noted earlier, their ad clearly indicated that candidates could be domiciled anywhere in Australia, otherwise I would not have even considered applying.
Early indications from the company concerned were positive, in that they responded very promptly to my letter of application. They also provided me with a copy of an offer document for a capital raising that they are currently undertaking and invited me to provide them with a critique of the document as well as something in the way of a SWOT analysis.
I found this exercise interesting because, being a small scale offering, the document relied on some exclusions under section 708 of the Corporations Act. I noted the following statement on page 4 of the document with interest, having previously been involved in the preparation of a prospectus, “In particular, no verification of, or due diligence exercise on, the information contained in this Offer Document has been undertaken by any person for any purpose.” Very much a case of DYOR (do your own research).
A couple of days later I sent back my review. I received no acknowledgement of my submission.
Some six days later I received an email advising me that they had now arrived at a shortlist of candidates whom they would like to meet face-to-face and I was invited to attend a meeting in either Melbourne or Sydney, this being described in the following way, "This meeting will be casual in nature (around 30 mins) and provide an opportunity to meet the management team and discuss the role in more detail.”
My eyebrows were certainly raised by the suggested brevity of the meeting. Whilst I agree that one can often determine within the first few minutes of conversation whether a candidate has the right "fit" for an organisation, but in my opinion, one owes it to the company and the candidate, to explore their capability and character in full, before making a decision. I certainly don't believe that 30 minutes is a sufficient duration in which to make that sort of call.
Nonetheless arrangements were made for me to attend a meeting in Melbourne on Wednesday 7 October.
The email setting the time and date for the meeting was silent on the question of travel and I responded by asking whether or not the company concerned would like to make my travel arrangements or whether they wished me to.
Again the response was slow in coming, indeed a weekend passed before I received a response, which advised me that the company would not be paying any travel expenses for this round of interviews!
My decision was easily made and I responded, advising their representative that I would be withdrawing my candidacy. I subsequently wrote a letter to their managing director expressing my concern over the degree of discipline and rigour that had gone into their selection process.
As I pointed out to him, in my 35 year career I had never once been expected to travel at my own expense to attend an interview and I certainly had no intention of doing so on this occasion. I went on to comment that, even as a student seeking sponsorship to attend university, my travel to and from interviews and where necessary, overnight accommodation, had been paid for by the potential sponsor.
I believe that at this stage in my career I have a reasonable concept of how a good recruitment process works, having been through it many times both as a candidate and as a client.
Whilst I have undoubtedly made some bad recruitment decisions, particularly early in my career, as with most skills, experience and training have improved my abilities in this area over time so that I believe that I am now at least competent to pass comment on other people's processes.
The fact that the meetings were scheduled to be of such a short duration to me suggests that very little screening had been done to arrive at the supposed "short list" and indeed I strongly suspect that it would be better described as a "long list".
In my view there are two possible causes for this lack of filtering. Either it was simply laziness on the part of the person managing the recruitment process, or the requirements for the role had not been clearly defined, therefore there was no criteria on which to base a decision whether or not to include candidates in the shortlist. It even occurred to me that maybe they hadn’t clearly defined why they are creating this role.
If they were unable to apply some culling of candidates from the applications received and the feedback on the offer document, and still wished to gain a greater insight or “feel” for each of the candidates prior to arriving at a shortlist, then this could have been done via telephone or Skype calls at limited or no cost. Following those calls they would have been in a position to arrive at a shortlist of probably three candidates who would then be invited to attend a more formal interview, probably lasting at least a couple of hours.
Following those formal interviews I would have expected the preferred candidate to be invited to visit their base and get to meet the rest of the team, just as a final check before they made their final decision.
If the cost of travel was a significant factor for them, then surely they should have limited their search geographically, at least initially, to within their home state and if unable to find suitable candidates there, extend the search further along the Eastern Seaboard.
The fact that the position was advertised as being domiciled anywhere, indicated to me that they were more concerned about finding the right candidate with the right skills, than they were about the cost of that person travelling to attend interviews or board meetings.
I am not suggesting that I was necessarily the right person to fill that board vacancy, indeed I may not have been suitable to have made it to the shortlist. As I don't have a clear picture of exactly what attributes they were looking for in a candidate, it is impossible for me to make that assessment. The troubling thing is, I wonder if they do.
They will undoubtedly fill the role from the candidates who are not put off by the need to cover their own travel expenses to attend the interviews, or who reside in Melbourne or Sydney where the interviews are being held. Whether they are the best candidates or just those that need the job, they will never know.
What are your experiences with recruitment processes? Have you ever been asked to pay for your own travel expenses to attend an interview and if so did you?