On unprofessional behaviour in professional recruitment

Here is a not entirely hypothetical situation for you to consider…

You apply for a professional position with a scientific research body governed by international treaty, and are shortlisted for the job. It looks to be an exciting opportunity, and is a job for which you are fully qualified, even if for a number of reasons your chances of getting it are not high.

An interview takes place in the UK, although the job itself would be based in a land far distant from these sceptred isles. You spend a considerable amount of unpaid time preparing for the interview, and invest an entire day travelling and attending.

Several months later and you have heard nothing further from the employer. And it’s maybe worth pointing out that the boss is someone with whom you have worked closely in the past, and broken bread in the family home. No stranger, this one.

By email you ask for an update on the application process, and receive a friendly apology for the delay. The employer (“Dr X”) and UK-based interviewer (“Dr Y”), both of whom you have known for nearly 20 years, and until now regarded as diamond geezers, explain that you are neither the first ranked candidate nor the second of those interviewed. You are told that the favoured individual turned down their offer, and the second ranked was negotiating contract terms. Still, you are promised a personal notification as soon as the ink is dry.

You wait, and then wait some more. Finally, in frustration, you visit the website of the organisation in question, only to discover three separate blog posts welcoming “Dr Z” as the new manager of
“Project X”. Being of a charitable disposition, you silently wish “Dr Z” well in their new role.

But what of “Drs X and Y”, whose unprofessional behaviour has left you feeling less than charitable toward them? Ignoring the personal acquaintance in this case, is it acceptable to be treated in such a manner when applying for a job?

There is a correct answer to this question, and it isn’t “yes”.