Wednesday, November 9, 2011

Five things Employers Do In the Interview Process that Suck! (it is up to you to be prepared for them)

Thanks to everyone for reading my blog.  Last weeks article about job hunting tips must have struck a nerve because I got some terrific responses from you.  First, let me start by saying that I feel your pain.  Looking for a job sucks!  It is demoralizing, debilitating, tiring, emotional and humbling.  It is something that consumes you and in short is a pretty horrible experience.  I wish I could change this for you but I can’t.  One of the reasons that this happens is because it sometimes feels like the companies doing the hiring are cold, heartless places that just don’t care.  If this is how you feel you are partially right.  However, if you know how to set your expectations right you can avoid feeling this way and focus your energies on more positive efforts – like getting that job!  Below are five things you can expect in the hiring process that suck.

1.  Companies will not acknowledge that they received your resume

Back in the day when there were horse drawn buggies and people used this thing called the postal service.  (Full disclosure – I looked up the postal service on Wikipedia and it is apparently this organization that delivers actual mail to physical locations.  It was a big deal back then).  Before the advent of emails people would actually take the time to send their paper resume directly to companies.  The time intensive nature of  this meant that typically there was significantly less volume in the number of applicants for jobs many organizations would acknowledge the receipt of resumes.  Fast forward to today and this is just one of many, many personal touches that have left our culture.  The most that you can hope for is the internet’s equivalent of a pre-recorded message that acknowledges that the email went through.  From there you are stuck.  If the position is with a smaller company you can call to check on it but I have to advise that this may not do you any favors as you may get lumped into the list of 100 – 200 other annoying or desperate (I know you aren’t but this is how the employer perceives it) that called as well – just to make sure that the resume came in.  If you want to keep sane it is almost better to assume that you will never hear back so that you are excited when someone actually does. 

2.  Companies will not tell you if they have chosen another candidate

This one really hurts.  You’ve been through  three interviews and you know you are going to get the job and you wait for the call… and wait… and wait… and wait.  Finally, you decide to call the employer to find out what the hold up is.  You are ready to start the job already.  The HR person politely tells you that they have selected another candidate and they actually started yesterday.  It feels like a kick to the stomach.  There are several reasons that this happens.  It could be because you were choice 1A and they wanted to wait and see if the other person took the job before letting you down.  It could be because they didn’t care.  The best way to handle this is to ask when they plan on making the decision and then follow up around this time.  If the company does not respond – assume that they haven’t made the decision and move on.  What you shouldn’t assume is that they don’t like you.  There are a whole host of reasons why a company doesn’t make a decision on time.  Dogs can die, people can go on vacation – hangnails happen.  Unfortunately at this stage it isn’t about you.  Remember that the other thing that companies won’t always communicate is if there is a change in their schedule.

3.  Companies will not follow up when they say they will

If you operate under this assumption you will  be disappointed less often.  For some reason even the best companies can not seem to keep to a schedule when hiring people is involved.  In the interview they will tell you things like we are planning to make a decision at the stroke of midnight right after the royal ball – and they say it with certainty.  Then, when the clock strikes twelve the candidate gets all wound up because they haven’t heard from them yet – It must mean that they don’t like me.  Better yet – a company indicates that they will be presenting an off on Friday morning – it’s 12:01 PM and you haven’t heard from them – they must have changed their mind right?  Very rarely is this the case.  Please remember that unless you do what I do for a living, hiring someone equates to an extra part time job for most hiring managers.  They still have the same deadlines and expectation that they always did – but now they have to conduct interviews, reference checks, create offers and meet with higher ups for approval.  This takes time will take a back seat to any crisis that comes up that affects their real job.  I’ve seen offers come in three weeks late and it had nothing to do with their interest in the candidate.  It is not always about you and any delay is not meant as a slight.

4.  Companies will not listen to your salary needs or other specific needs

People hear what they want to hear.  When a candidate says that they are looking for a salary in the $45K - $55K range it means that they want $55K.  When a company says that they are hiring in the $45K - $55K range they want to pay $45K.  It’s all about perception.  The interview process is all about misperceptions.  You need to be prepared that a company either didn’t listen to you or didn’t hear you right when it comes to your salary and other needs.  Remember this and expect this.  One other thing that you need to know is that companies do not intentionally go out to piss you off with an offer.  It is pretty contrary to the whole we want you to come work for us idea.   They also typically don’t try and lowball people.  Keep this in mind and understand that if the offer is way off of the mark it is because they didn’t understand you or hear you and that it isn’t meant to demean you.  Go into the offer stage expecting that they will get it wrong and that it is no big deal.

5.  Companies will not read your cover letter and all parts of your resume

Your resume and cover letter are an advertisement.  It’s job is to create sufficient interest for the company  to call you and learn more about you.  Do not assume that the person calling you has read the entire resume and cover letter or that they even remember doing it if they did.  Also companies will more than likely ask you questions where the answer is on your resume.  They aren’t doing this because they are lazy or illiterate.  They are doing it so that they can hear it in your own words and gain more insight.  You live in Florida and are moving to Alaska.  When the company asks why you applied for the job in Alaska – don’t say “It’s in my cover letter.”  Tell them your story.  It’s not rude – its just reality.  Assume that the interviewer is working with a blank slate and go from there.

So why do companies act like this?  Is it because they don’t care? Is it because they are busy?  Is it defensible?  I don’t have good answers for this.  Even if I did it wouldn’t really matter.  When your food is running late do you care if the kitchen is slow?  What matters is that you are aware and prepared for them to act this way so that you don’t get angry.  It’s an emotion that won’t help you find a job or improve your career.

As always please let me know if you have any comments or questions at

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