A posting on Slashdot ask the posed the following scenario:

“I have been lamenting with friends in the industry about interviewing woes and the candidates that we find. Consider a hypothetical job candidate comes in after some how making it through screening. In the team technical interview they prove beyond a shadow of a doubt that not only is he (or she) not as adequate as he thinks he is, but has demonstrated that he is a danger to any code base. Do you tell them? Quietly step away, usher them out and say nothing? Play with them on the whiteboard the way your cat plays with injured mice? Should you leave them as their own warning to others? Is there any obligation to guide them to gaining real experience? Can you give them any advice or is it all liability?”

– Some Entertainment –

Going back almost 10 years to one of my first job interviews with an electronics supplier, I received a functional interview. I was taken through a sample case and given a written test with two sections, one specific to their technician roles the other engineers. Long story short, the technician section I answered completely with 100% correct, the engineering portion on the other hand was a different matter. Not having worked on those specific problems in some months, I was only able to list the relevant equations but not the procedure for solving them. After turning in the test, the next person through the door asked, “What! You think you’re too smart to have to answer all the questions?” I was then given about two minutes to explain before I was escorted from the building.

Now compare the previous story to that of a peer of mine. After completing his MBA program he was applying for marketing positions. He managed to network his way into an interview with a local shipping company. The interview consisted of meeting with several people culminating with a case study. The only problem, he was never provided the case materials. Turns out the HR manager never had any intent to hire him, she just wanted his friend off her back. Needless to say, he did not get the job.

– Poor Hiring, Bad Culture or Both? –

The point of these two stories is this, just as your marketing program gives your company a voice so does your hiring process. Just as customers spread your brand by word of mouth, so do your employees and those you interview. By giving potential new hires advice, regardless of whether you hire them, and/or taking the time to give them a legitimate opportunity you provide them with a favorable image of your company and perhaps they will correct their shortcomings to become a future asset.

A regional VP at a company I used to work for, who started out as a janitor, was always saying “Be careful how you treat people, you never know who they may be someday.” The old rule is that a dissatisfied customer will tell 10 other people about their experience. In the new Web 2.0 world in which we live, that is no longer the case. Remember the story of Radio Shack laying people off via email. I have certainly not forgotten the names of the two companies in the stories above and should our business paths cross in the future, how do you think they will be perceived?