Essence Digital Interview Case Study

Application

I applied online. I interviewed at Essence in August 2017.

Interview

The interview process consisted of two steps for me:
1. INTERVIEW WITH RECRUITER (Phone)
The day after I submitted my online application, a freelance recruiter for Essence e-mailed me to arrange a phone screen. She was cordial, but unengaging -- it was obvious she was going through the motions to tick the boxes on her checklist.
The recruiter asked standard screening questions like why Essence, tell me about yourself, etc. There was nothing difficult or unexpected.
The odd part was that she tried to shoehorn me into a role different from the one I had applied for without telling me. She acknowledged this only after I pointed it out. While I don't mind considering other roles, recruiters should be up front with candidates about significant shifts like this. Despite this, our conversation concluded positively.
She contacted me the next day to say the hiring manager wanted to speak with me, and to arrange a one-hour Google Hangouts meeting with him. This process was quick and fairly smooth, although I did have to ask questions about certain interview details twice before getting answers.

2. INTERVIEW WITH HIRING MANAGER (Videoconference)
The following phrase best describes this interview: Strange and unpleasant .
The hiring manager was unengaged from the beginning, displaying his boredom by constantly leaning his head on his hand. He was a complete cold fish when it came to any social exchange, whether it be pleasantries, or asking/responding to questions

Although the recruiter had told me the interview would be behavioral and skills based, the hiring manager asked me no such questions. Instead he focused on fact checking background details that had nothing to do with my experience or how it applied to the position. This included asking about my current place of residence, and when I had left for/returned from working overseas. All of this information had already been clearly stated on my resume and to the recruiter, yet he seemed skeptical. If he had such doubts, why did he ask me for an interview in the first place?

About 15 minutes in, he aburptly said he needed to leave soon for a meeting with his CEO, who was in town for a visit. He acted like he had just remembered it. Although this was the first time I'd experienced an interviewer trying to duck out early, I could immediately tell this was an outright lie. No one forgets a meeting with their CEO, unless they're incredibly incompetent. And the CEO works out of the exact same office -- this info is on Essence's website and noted in several magazine articles.

I respect managers who have the maturity and integrity to professionally and honestly end an interview when they determine someone is not right for a role. Cowardly excuses demonstrate poor character, as well as poor leadership ability.

The interview dragged out another 10 minutes, which he allotted for my questions. At this point, I knew I absolutely could not work with this person, even if I were to receive an offer, but any interview practice is valuable, so I put on a fake smile and asked my questions. At the end of the interview, he said he appreciated my international experience, and wanted me to talk to other team members. I knew this was another lie, but thanked him for his time.

Post-interview I followed my usual etiquette of sending a thank you message to the hiring manager, and responding promptly to the recruiter when she asked how my interview went. Normally, I find it easy to send sincere, positive feedback, but I couldn't dredge anything up for this one, so I opted to give her a brief, factual recap of what was discussed without expressing much opinion.

I had already crossed Essence of my list and moved on to other opportunities when the recruiter sent me a rejection e-mail several days later.

Interview Questions

  • 1. Where do you live now? Where in that state?
    2. When did you return to the U.S. from overseas?
    3. Did you move overseas right after college?
    4. Why isn't your experience from before moving overseas listed?   1 Answer
Essence 2017-09-05 15:20 PDT

Application

I applied through an employee referral. The process took 2+ months. I interviewed at Essence (San Francisco, CA) in April 2014.

Interview

I applied through an employee referral towards the end of March 2014 for the graduate rotational program in San Francisco and was shortly contacted by the SF HR office to set up a phone interview with the HR in London. When the HR gave me a time for the interview, she did not specify the time zone, even when I e-mailed to clarify. The next day I sat around waiting for the call, waking up early in case we were operating on Eastern Time (as I was based in Boston). When I did not receive a call, I assumed we were operating on PST so I waited. Still, no call. I followed up with an e-mail and was told 'Sorry for the delay!' and had my phone interview rescheduled for the following week. Once again, the time zone was not established and I had to ask again. After a series of e-mails and coordinating schedules and time zones, we finally set up a time and date for the first round interview.

The call was pleasant, very simple and straightforward. I spoke with a lady in London and was told to move forward to the second round for the online aptitude test. Normally after phone screens, the HR is supposed to follow up in regards to the next steps in the interview process. I did not hear back until I prompted the SF HR asking for the link. Per her instruction, I finished the online test within 24 hours so that we could speed up the recruitment process. The quantitative assessment included questions like those on the SAT math portion, only it was free response and took 20 minutes to complete.

Once again, after finishing with this stage of the interview process, I waited to hear back from the HR in SF. When a week passed, I e-mailed her asking for updates on my application. She stated that because the HR in London was away on vacation that no decisions could be made and that she would get back to me as soon as she returned. After another week of no updates, I followed up again. The same day I received a response from the HR in SF and she asked if I could take the online aptitude test. I replied letting her know that I had already taken the aptitude test... two weeks ago. Then I was told the same story again--that she'd get back to me.

Eventually I did receive a response and was asked whether I could be at the San Francisco office that week. As I had stated before, I was based in Boston so that complicated matters. However, in the phone interview I had with the London HR I was told that the NY office could conduct the interview. So when I told her that I would not be able to come into the SF office but could still make arrangements to go to NY, I did not receive a response. I believe there is a huge lack of communication between the London and SF offices. I followed up with her a week later and was asked if I would mind having a video call for my third round interview. As usual, I responded with a date and time, but still, no response. Ten days later, I followed up yet again and was finally given a time to interview...for the next day. Because of the time difference, I did not see the e-mail until early that morning and when I did reply to confirm the interview and provide times to reschedule if it was no longer an option, I didn't receive a response. Five days later I followed up and promptly received a response asking to set up a phone call with the HR in London.

At this point, I no longer had high hopes to partake in this program or join the Essence team. I'd been waiting for over two months now and was extremely frustrated with the recruitment process and lack of communication. When I got on the phone with the HR in London, I was un-surprised to hear that they had already filled all of the positions in the SF office with candidates who were in the process before me and that I unfortunately could not move forward. While I understand that this is common in many companies, I am disappointed with the lack of transparency and slow response rate. I do not want to make any accusations, but I can assume that the HR in SF chose to ignore my e-mails as she often responded within the hour or same day usually after my second follow-up e-mail. Had they been clear and honest with me in regards to the recruitment process, I could have spent my time much more efficiently. I understand that the job hunt is always a gamble but I did not feel respected in this interview process. Through it all, the lack of respect that I received gives me hope that my future recruitment experiences will be much more positive.

Interview Questions

Essence 2014-06-03 09:25 PDT

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