If You Thought The Job Search Was Rigged Against You, Here’s Why You’re Not Wrong

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You would like to think that the interview and hiring process is always fair and just. However, unfortunately, like many things in business and in life, that’s not always the case.

There are questionable practices that employers, human resources and talent acquisition, hiring managers and recruiters deploy that may not be in the best interests of job seekers, including posting fake jobs, ghosting candidates, pulling a bait-and-switch, lowballing offers and other questionable tactics.

Posting Fake Job Listings

There are a number of reasons why job applicants will see online job postings for positions that companies are not actually hiring for. For example, when there are layoffs or it’s a challenging economic climate, some businesses will post “fake” jobs to create the illusion that the company is doing well and growing. While the role may be real, the company doesn’t have any intention of hiring someone for the position.

Often, jobs are posted on a company’s career website and scraped by job aggregation sites. As time goes by, the human resources person forgets about the listing, and it remains online as if it’s still available—much to the chagrin of job seekers who never hear back from their résumé submissions.

Companies can gain a sense of the marketplace by posting phantom jobs. By the responses, they can determine how much money their competitors offer and whether or not the role is hot. If the company is looking to downsize or cut a few jobs, the phony roles can provide insight into how hard it would be to find a replacement and at what compensation level. Businesses also place phantom job ads to build a pipeline of candidates for the future, with no plan to hire currently.

Ghosting Candidates

Ghosting is a widespread issue and has become one of the biggest sources of aggravation for job seekers.

According to Urban Dictionary, “ghosting” is “when a person cuts off all communication with their friends or the person they’re dating, with zero warning or notice beforehand. You’ll mostly see them avoiding friend’s phone calls, social media and avoiding them in public.” Since its inception, the trend has crossed over from dating to the business world. Believing that an applicant isn’t the right fit, a hiring manager will cut off communication with the candidate, leaving the job seeker confused and defeated.

In a 2021 Indeed survey, 77% of job applicants said they have been ghosted by a prospective employer.

Some companies, lacking in transparency and ethical hiring practices, prioritize their own convenience over candidate communication. Not all companies foster a feedback culture, leading to discomfort or avoidance of giving constructive criticism.

Moreover, providing feedback can open companies up to potential legal challenges, even if unintentional. Hiring managers might fear saying the wrong thing that could be misconstrued as discrimination or unfair practice. In some cases, ghosting might be used to avoid awkward conversations or negative feedback, especially if the reason for rejection is perceived as subjective or difficult to articulate.

With heavy workloads and tight deadlines, HR and recruiters often feel overwhelmed and prioritize tasks with immediate deadlines. Providing personalized feedback to every candidate may fall by the wayside.

Lastly, unequal power dynamics between recruiters or hiring managers and candidates can contribute to ghosting, as some might feel less obligated to provide explanations.

Lowballing Salary Offers

To “lowball” a job seeker means offering a compensation package that is significantly below the job market’s standard and the candidate’s expectations. The negotiation tactic erodes trust between the employer and the job applicant, and leads to challenges in attracting and retaining top talent.

Companies leverage a candidate’s urgent need for employment by pressuring them into accepting a low offer without sufficient time for negotiation or exploration of other options. In all fairness, sometimes budgetary constraints limit flexibility within set salary ranges, even if the candidate’s qualifications exceed expectations.

Companies will often offer lower salaries for entry-level or junior positions, assuming candidates are willing to accept lower pay for gaining experience. If there’s high unemployment or a large applicant pool, employers assume that candidates are desperate for any job and more likely to accept low offers.

Some companies prioritize short-term profits over employee satisfaction and might see lowballing as a way to cut costs. Some businesses might be out of touch with current market rates, leading them to make unreasonably low offers. Biases based on gender, age or other factors can unconsciously influence salary offers, leading to lower pay for certain demographics. That is why, for job seekers, researching industry-specific salary data is crucial.

Giving Unfair Advantages Out Of Nepotism

Individuals in positions of power will often show preference and favoritism to family members or friends, regardless of merit. Nepotism can lead to candidates being hired without going through the formal application and interview process, leaving qualified external candidates without a chance.

Insiders can leverage personal connections within the company to network and advocate for their preferred candidate and influence hiring decisions. Nepotism can erode trust and fairness within the organization, as employees may feel that their hard work and capabilities are not valued. When workers perceive that less qualified individuals are being favored based on personal connections, it can lead to resentment, frustration and decreased job satisfaction. Employees who feel unappreciated due to nepotism are more likely to seek opportunities elsewhere, leading to increased turnover.

Prioritizing Cultural Fit Over Qualifications

There is heated debate over the practice of companies prioritizing cultural fit over qualifications when interviewing job candidates. Some business leaders and hiring managers say that cultural fit is an important ingredient in creating a cohesive, collaborative and productive workforce. It’s believed that employees who are aligned with the company’s values and culture tend to integrate more seamlessly in the existing team, and are more engaged and productive.

The counterargument is that cultural fit criteria can be subjective and susceptible to unconscious bias, favoring candidates similar to existing employees and limiting diversity. Employers must strike a balance between cultural fit and qualifications to ensure that the hiring process is fair, inclusive and results in the selection of the most qualified candidates.

‘Bait-And-Switch’ Tactics

Professionals who have accepted a job offer and soon regretted it blame their employers for misrepresenting the job during the application and interview process with bait-and-switch tactics.

This is when the company, human resources, internal talent acquisition, supervisors and others who are involved in the hiring process say things to attract and secure talent, and don’t honor their word once the candidate starts the job. This leads to frustration, disappointment and loss of faith in the organization and their personnel. Some ways in which the hiring team misrepresents the company is by advertising a generous salary range, only to later find out you are not being offered the amount discussed and shared in the job description.

Another way employers mislead applicants is when the job description paints a picture of a fulfilling and engaging role, but the reality is completely different. You’re told to do mundane, dead-end tasks that were not listed in the job specifications and won’t help you grow professionally. The advertised corporate title sounded impressive, but upon starting the role, the position lacks authority, decision-making power or the responsibilities typically associated with that level, creating a sense of false prestige.

Additionally, during the interview process, you’re told about a flexible and balanced work culture, but come to find out that it involves long hours, requiring you to constantly be on call and prioritize work over your personal life. The lush benefits you were verbally told about may end up being subpar, with high out-of-pocket expenses, and now you’re in a bind of whether or not to accept the opportunity because you feel tricked.

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