Needlessly Offensive Hiring Practices


On a typical search we’ll review 200 – 500 resumes.  Even with the right staff, finely honed processes, and a state-of-the-art applicant tracking system it’s a lot work.  And hiring is all we do.

So really, I understand when employers feel overwhelmed getting through a mountain of resumes unassisted.   But far too many employers are needlessly hostile to their potential future employees.  Not just unkind, hostile.

Writing in, blogger Liz Ryan comments on how this phenomenon plays out:

“Their job ads are unfriendly (’Candidates lacking two or more of these qualifications will not be interviewed or contacted’) … Their careers sites are like stone-walled fortresses. Their interviewing manner is cold, and their overall hiring processes signal to candidates, ’Go away and die.’

“What right-thinking company would drive talent away? It sounds incredible. Yet we see it, every day. The best employees, of course, are also the most marketable ones. They get to choose their employers. Companies that treat job seekers like dirt can expect to hire the most-needy people with the fewest alternatives.”

Here are Ryan’s top six ways employers signal “DO NOT ENTER”:

“1. Their auto-responder message is unfriendly.

An auto-responder from an employer’s careers site is not a bad thing in itself. At least when you get the auto-response email message, you know they got your resume. But if you were the one writing that auto-response message, wouldn’t you write “Thanks for sending us your resume!  We’ll review your resume as soon as we can. We’ll contact you if it looks like one of our job openings is a good fit for you. Otherwise, we won’t contact you again, but we welcome you to apply through our site whenever you see a job opening that looks right for you. Thanks again for applying, and enjoy the rest of your week!”

Here’s a shocker: auto-responders from career websites don’t read like our fictional example above. They’re terse and unfriendly. “Your resume has been received and you will be contacted if we wish to interview you” is typical. Why would employers be so forbidding and stand-offish if they wanted great people to work at their company?

2. Their communications style is hostile.

One friend of mine got a voicemail message that said “This is XYZ Company. [The caller didn’t even leave her name.] We will call this number at 2:00 p.m. tomorrow for a phone screen.” In other words, if you have a life that includes an appointment at 2:00 p.m. tomorrow, you’re out of the running. Who wants to work for a company that treats people like livestock? We have to expect that these companies are the ones in the worst financial straits, since organizations that mistreat job seekers tend to treat employees badly also, and badly-treated employees don’t usually take great care of their customers. If your telephone or face-to-face interview begins, “Today, we’re going to ask you questions to decide whether you’ll make it to the next round — if you make it that far, you’ll get to ask some questions yourself” you have my permission to get up and leave the interview. An interview is a two-way conversation. If you don’t get air time — and friendly, open air time at that — hit the road, because you will not like working for this company if you do get the job.

3. They want your life delivered, before an interview.

You can fill out an application form online, and you can provide a writing sample on an online form, too. That’s where I draw the line. I wouldn’t give up your social security number, and I definitely wouldn’t give up your references’ contact information before you’ve so much as talked to a human being in the employer’s shop. That’s your personal information.

4. They keep you waiting.

It’s normal to sit in a lobby or five or ten minutes, but a thirty-minute wait screams “You are nothing to us.” It’s even worse when they fetch you from the lobby and take you into a windowless conference room and deposit you there. Three to five minutes of that is about as much as most people can stand. Fifteen minutes of abandonment in one of those tiny rooms is torture. We have to take interview-day behaviors very seriously, because at this early stage in the relationship, they don’t own you. If job applicants are treated badly, imagine how they treat their employees!

5. They don’t talk about salary.

By the second interview — or between the first interview and the second one — the employer should bring up salary. It could be a waste of your time to pursue an opportunity if the money isn’t going to work for you. Bring up the topic by asking “Shall we talk about compensation, to make sure we’re in the same ballpark?” when the HR person contacts you to set up the second interview. If you get all the way through the pipeline without any dollars discussion (don’t do it!), expect a low-ball offer at the end of the line.

6. They act like they’d be doing you a favor to hire you.

Be cautious of organizations that behave as though getting a job with them would be the greatest thing that ever happened to you. You have value in the equation, too. You’ll be doing some employer a great favor when you choose to work with them. If the company’s attitude is “Get in line — everyone wants to work here,” you’re better off somewhere else.”

I agree with Liz.  If you are doing any of these things, change now. The job market (in DC anyway) has changed dramatically in the past 9 months.   Top performers are already on the move, and you can be sure they will all be moving away from you.