Three articles on dangers on the way to being hired have come out. The first was from top employment writer Liz Ryan of Forbes, this past weekend. Titled “Ten Ways Lousy Recruiters Use Fear To Keep Job-Seekers In Line,” it reports on the problem of headhunters, who work in the gaps between employers and the prospective employed, acting as if they have all the power in relationships with the latter. It outlines ways that some of these recruiters intimidate those looking to be hired, seeking “to keep candidates feeling fearful and desperate,” by insisting on collecting “personal financial information,” threatening to drop them if they don’t cooperate with unreasonable requests, telling them their credentials are commonplace and marginal, and pushing them to accept any offers immediately. Ryan points out that top-flight candidates are rarely common, even in an employer’s market, and that even bad headhunters would not submit anyone for positions for which they were not solidly qualified.
Second, last month and also by Ryan, addressed companies bringing in people for job interviews only to collect information that would help them solve problems. That is a common potential concern, as answers to questions assessing applicants’ skills may reveal ways of doing things better than the organization has known previously, and is hard to completely avoid. Yet there is a point at which such gathering becomes not only primary but even the exclusive reason for the interview. Per Ryan, that may have been reached if “your interviewer has very detailed questions for you, and takes notes on everything you say” but will not share much about their own situation, if queries about the rest of the hiring process and the job itself elicit no substance, and if the interviewer generally seem to be more interested in the candidate’s specific methodology than in how they might fit in. She suggested, logically enough, that someone being treated as a consultant should act like one, giving only general ideas and even offering a contract.
Third, by J.T. O’Donnell in Inc. in March, dealt with an “ugly recruiting tactic,” also called “the exploding offer,” one which expires in 48 hours or less. (I’m not sure that two days is an insufficient time, but requiring an answer sooner than the end of the next business day would clearly qualify.) O’Donnell saw these short deadlines as a pure pressure tactic, indicating not only an urgent need but fear that longer amounts of time would precipitate losing the potential employee. She advised against that device, not only since it could encourage workers to leave later, but would cause “employer shaming” on online forums.
How can jobseekers defend themselves against measures like these? One way, described by Ryan on October 30th, is being willing to leave a job interview in progress. That may seem taboo to people in a process where the other side is known to hold most or even all of the cards, but it’s not as simple as that. Sometimes in these meetings things can happen that mean the end of any future there. They would include a long impersonal set of interview questions followed by a refusal to talk about the job itself; a bait-and-switch replacement of the position with something less desirable; a requirement to pay for office equipment, office supplies, or the likes of background checks or drug testing; a need to sell products to friends and family members; or a need to work unpaid for a day or more as part of the hiring process. If such information comes to light, Ryan advocated politely standing up and saying something like “it’s been wonderful to meet you, but I’m very conscious of the demands on your time and it’s clear we don’t have a good match. I’ll get going now, and let you get on with your day. Thanks very much for your time!”
As I have written before, the hiring process will always be an adversarial situation where each side tries to get the other to make mistakes. New ideas there, and revived old ones, pop up all the time. And, despite the permanent jobs crisis, a jobseeker is not, as Ryan put it, “a desperate beggar,” but has personal and professional value along with choices. That thread runs through this entire post. If you are looking for work, don’t let yourself be conned out of that.