100+ interviews in 6 months: Does the “unicorn candidate” exist?

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November 19, 2015 by lucychlin

Recently I relocated countries, moving from Toronto, Canada, back to my hometown of Sydney, Australia.

As an individual who moved countries, the task of finding a new job is inevitable. It is an advantage to move back to the country where I am a citizen (unrestricted by visa requirements), but the job seeking process is still difficult.

I think it is fair to say that the job searching process is widely recognised as a tedious and a time consuming one. Finding a job seems to be a full time job in itself and harder if you are already in a job, without needing to make too many excuses to doctors/dentists/personal appointments and without raising suspicion.

For the job seeker, it is the constant feeling of nervousness if any employers will call and the anxiety of approval or rejection following resume submissions and interviews.

For the employers, it is wondering if there is the right candidate out there to fulfil the role. Good talent always seems to be scarce.

For both sides, it is a matter of timing, marketing channel (where the ad is featured) and plenty of luck that both sides are looking at the same place, at the same time.

Last week, I had a first round phone interview with a well-funded start up. I was introduced to the role by an external recruitment company and the interview was with the Head of Marketing (who is the hiring manager, I am a marketer).

Unicorn searchThe interview was supposed to start at 5pm, but he was late by 15 minutes for the scheduled 30 minutes interview. After 10 minutes of conversation, he stopped and told me that he didn’t “feel it”, so I spoke more of my experience and skills to convince him otherwise, but I could feel that it wasn’t making much difference as his mind was already made up, so then we spoke candidly.

He confessed that he had already interviewed over 100+ candidates in the past 6 months, even admitted that he was looking for a “unicorn”. I was floored.

I know that I have been out of the country, but is this how recruitment works these days? I really hope not!

Example of a bad employer

Doing the math, 100 candidates in the past 6 months is 17 interviews a month, which is just over 4 a week. What kind of manager has time and capacity to conduct an interview almost every day in the past 6 months? Here are my thoughts about this kind of manager:

  • Low level of time management, prioritisation, productivity and urgency skills: As a hiring manager myself, I wouldn’t have the time or capacity to conduct 100 interviews (which equated to around 50-100 hours spent) for a role if there is too much work to do. If there is a genuine need for someone to do the job, I would be putting in all my effort to find someone as soon as possible, or even getting contractors into the position, as a matter of urgency. Without this sense of urgency, I questioned if there was even a role available?
  • Is the job description completely wrong? How can one interview 100+ candidates and not find someone? Is the job description completely wrong? Does the employer have unreasonable requirements or management have the wrong objectives? With the hiring manager unsure about who they are looking to hire or what they want in a candidate, this will only waste everyone’s time.
  • Shouldn’t Human Resources (HR) be involved? The job of internal HR or recruitment is to source and short-list candidates so the hiring manager doesn’t need to see so many candidates themselves. I question if this company has a HR function who is assisting with the hiring process, and if there was one in place, I’m sure there will be a limit capped on the candidates they will see. Within no limit in place, when will the hiring manager stop until the “unicorn” is found? At 1000 candidates?
Tips for candidates

I have over 10+ years marketing experience and have worked in a range of high performing organisations and industries. Personally, I am in total disbelief that such an inept Head of Marketing is in place at what I had originally perceived a reputable and dynamic organisation. New or junior candidates may not have the confidence to believe that this is the fault of the incompetent hiring manager and not as part of a normal recruitment process. Here are some tips for you if you run into this person in the future:

  • This is good insight into this company’s (bad) culture, management style and their decision making process.
  • Sometimes, the job market is not just looking for the “best candidate available”, but “uniquely the best candidate in the whole mythical universe” – best to avoid these unicorn hunters.
  • Horrible bosses and inefficient management do exist and they are not just in the movies.
  • You do not need to add them as a contact on LinkedIn, especially when they send a connection request immediately following a terrible interview (I couldn’t believe it!).

In my career, I have been to many interviews and have also conducted interviews, but this is the first time that I’ve encountered this situation. When faced in this (rare) situation, the best advice is to move on and keep looking elsewhere where time is a higher priority, decisions takes shorter than a 6 month period and work for a company that genuinely needs someone to do the work.


Lucy Lin is result-oriented marketing professional with 10+ years proven strategic, analytical, project management and leadership skills. A global citizen, she has working experiences in Australia, Canada, Japan, Taiwan and the United Kingdom. Passionate about innovation/technology and adept at negotiations, communications and collaborating effectively across organisations, Lucy holds a Master of Commerce and consults for start-ups to Fortune 500 companies. Contact her at: http://lucy-lin.com/

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