The Problem with "Trapdooring" Candidates During On Site Interviews

November 16, 2015 at 12:53 PM by Rob Stevenson


One great fear among the multiplicitious and ever present recruiting nightmares is the "trapdoored" candidate. Your hiring manager brings a candidate on site only for the team to want to eject them before they've met the full interviewing panel. A couple early "Definite No" scorecards can tempt both recruiters and hiring managers to pull the rip cord and send someone home early, but as I'm sure you'll come to agree, trapdooring candidates represents a failure on the company's part, in addition to presenting the interviewee with a reprehensible candidate experience. Here's why your organization should stop trapdooring, and how you can go about eliminating it.

Why it's Bad Practice

Firstly, when you invite someone on site, that invitation shouldn't come with an eject caveat in the event they don't blow the socks off your entire interview panel. It's not a simple thing for a candidate to block an entire day for interviews, so if they're going to come in to your office, at least honor your invitation and give them a chance to meet with the entire team.  It's dreadfully bad candidate experience, and you want to leave candidates with the best impression of your team possible. There's no warm or diplomatic way to say "we're cutting this short because the team thinks you're blowing it", and there's a real chance people you eject will leave confused or insulted.

Clearly, the argument for trapdooring will go something like "it's a waste of the team's valuable time to continue interviewing someone who is obviously not going to get hired". This mistakenly assumes, however, that there's nothing to be learned from "Definite No" candidates. You ought to be having post interview discussions no matter the performance, including the "Definite No" and "Definite Yes" interviewees. Committing to the full amount of promised time with each individual will enable a more accurate and comprehensive course correct afterward, meaning you'll be less likely to bring in bad fit candidates for full interviews. 

Most importantly, your team wanting to cut the process short is not the fault of the candidate. You are expected to build a reliable process, and if that process is bringing in poor candidates, you can't punish the individuals it yields for merely exploring career options. Instead, you need to look inward and figure out what part of the system led to their making it so far through the process.

Identify the Crack in the System

Bringing a poor candidate on site, put simply, is the fault of someone in your hiring process. Let's break down the various responsibilities of people along the cycle, which will help you determine who is to blame for bringing in a candidate the team wanted to trapdoor.

The sourcer or recruiter's job is to find someone worth the hiring manager's time. If they aren't putting quality candidates in front of the hiring manager, then the hiring manager needs to do a better job of defining the needs of the role. Even in this case, these candidates shouldn't be making it all the way to the on site. It's also the recruiter's role to prep the candidate for the interview, giving them some pointers on how to prepare and present themselves. If they think they're coming in for a friendly meet and greet and they end up getting grilled by your VP of Sales, you can't blame the candidate or the hiring manager.

The hiring manager's job is to ensure candidates are worth their team's time. If the team begins interviewing and is so completely certain that this person is not even close to the right fit, then the hiring manager has either brought in a poor candidate or failed to prep the team on the parameters of their individual interviews.

The team's job is to help the hiring manager make a decision by assessing the candidate on their technical abilities as well as their likelihood to fit in with the team. The only blame you can place here is if the team member is unclear on their own interviewing responsibilities, which will come back to the hiring manager not prepping them or recruiters not stepping up to make sure the team is actually good at interviewing.

Is it Ever Acceptable?

Obviously, in the extremely rare case where a candidate says something horrifically offensive, it may be judicious to pull the plug. Short of this, the only acceptable trapdooring will be for a hiring manager or recruiter to interject themselves midway through the process and discuss with the candidate how they think the day is going and whether they were overtly surprised by anything. This gives them an opportunity to admit if something doesn't feel right, as well as reveal if they weren't adequately prepared or expected something totally different. More often than not, what you'll find here is that you and the candidate end up agreeing on how the process has gone for them. This will allow you to see the candidate's side of things, and allow them to retain some dignity as they possibly remove themselves from the process.

How do you proceed when team members want to trapdoor a candidate? Leave a comment or tweet @EnteloRob!


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