With the economy flagging and unemployment rates soaring, it certainly has become an employers’ market. The abundance of capable individuals available has made firms searching for talent salivate. Unfortunately, this luxurious position has enabled companies to also act in insensitive and disrespectful ways.
A friend of mine, Joe, applied for two positions posted by an organization that he had already done contract work for, in fact for the same department and in the same role. The postings were identical, including posting and closing dates, except for the fact that one was a permanent position, while the other was a contract for less than a year. Joe, who was unemployed, applied for both, although his preference, obviously, was the permanent spot.
The permanent position was addressed first, and a committee was empanelled to perform a single interview of selected candidates, scoring them on a standard set of questions. Weeks went by and finally Joe was informed of the firm’s decision to move forward with another applicant. Nevertheless, Joe also learned that shortly they would begin the process to fill the contract position. Joe questioned what that meant for him, as he had worked in this role in this department within the past year and had just completed an interview by committee for the matching, permanent role. Despite this, he was told that he would need to be interviewed by committee again, to be considered for the contract position. Joe wrestled with what to do, and finally decided, based on the redundancy and inefficiency of this hiring process, that he would forego it, and conveyed his decision to withdraw himself from consideration by e-mail. A sense of vindication came over Joe, as he was simply not willing to succumb to the whimsical demands of the hiring organization—he stood his ground, drawing that proverbial line in the sand.
My own experience recently was different, but equally disconcerting. Working through a recruiter, I applied for a position with a local technology firm. Having passed through the first stage, an online profile test, I was scheduled for my first interview with a vice-president and a hired consultant. The first meeting was orchestrated, unbeknownst to me, to be demeaning, condescending, obstinate, disrespectful and unprofessional, specifically designed to test the mettle of candidates. Leaving that interview, I was livid. There was no way I could work for a firm like this, I thought.
The recruiter called me later that day and informed me that the company loved me. As well, I was one of only eight who had survived this ordeal, and they wanted to see me in two days for a second interview. Although still seething, I was curious to see what kind of company would concoct such a subterfuge, and, I think, my ego had been somewhat stroked, as the only one to pass through this gauntlet successfully. The second interview was more traditional, and it led to a third. Despite my original misgivings, things appeared to be moving forward in a positive way.
In preparation for the third meeting, an agenda was developed by the firm, mostly focusing on my thoughts on strategies the company could utilize in their target markets. This last meeting went well, evidenced by the fact they asked for references. I believed we were heading down the home stretch, and I provided those references. Days went by and nothing; I began to wonder. Then the recruiter sent an e-mail announcing that the company was moving in a different direction—they didn’t see me as a ‘fit’ for their organization. I wondered: did I get played?
Like Joe, I sent an e-mail, not as an attempt to resurrect my candidacy, but to communicate my disdain for the company’s hiring process. My note addressed the lack of respect they displayed for the applicants, as well as the firm’s lack of professionalism. Although it wouldn’t change what happened, it certainly was cathartic, and Joe echoed similar sentiments regarding his e-mail. Did I regret having gone through this? No, my only regret was not following my initial instinct, as Joe had done, and walking away after the first interview. Our communications, to the respective firms, were liberating and energizing, and it signalled a renewed self-respect, one that we would not easily surrender again.
It’s easy to talk about principles, but having the conviction to act on them can be costly. In a weak job market, as we are currently experiencing, a strong stand may result in a candidate being screened out. However, yielding to the demands of an organization, especially from the outset, allows firms to assume control and power, eroding one’s dignity and respect. The question is: are you willing to pay that price?
Ryck Marciniak (guest blogger)