Self Esteem & Happiness

How Employers Make the Job Search Process Suck Even More [10 ways]

Searching for jobs and dealing with employers is like going on all those blind dates from Tinder.

You swipe right on a few faces (you send in a few job applications) -> Some of them reply (some employers get back) -> You chat a little (screening call by the recruiter) -> You set up the first coffee date (first in person or video meeting with the hiring team) -> You set up somemore dates and this may even progress to long, drawn out dinner dates (take-home assignments, multiple interviews/presentations)

And then….Crickets. Or they get back – 4 months later.

It’s equivalent of getting played or getting ghosted on dates. Why do employers do this? Well, because they can. And although it’s more of an employees’ market these days, employers still wield quite alot of power over job applicants and can decide to do what they want during the hiring phase.

So how do employers suck the life force out of us during the job search? Let’s count the ways

#1 Taking too long to get back or dead silence after interviews

You’ve probably experienced this. You go for an interview, they tell you they will get back to you with next steps and then…. crickets. You may have emailed them to ask for a followup, but still…. crickets. Rude and inconsiderate, yet sadly so incredibly common with many employers. It’s like they don’t realise that people could be really keen to leave their jobs and are waiting on the outcome of this one to make a decision.

One tip to get over this is to treat each and every single interview as a standalone event. You met them, you may have vibed with them well (or not) and they may have promised to let you know what are the next steps and you never heard from them again.

Interviews are always dynamic situations. And anything could happen during the recruitment process. Perhaps the organisation decided to pull the role, or to promote someone from within. HR may suddenly have other priorities to attend to etc. There’s usually alot of things going on in the organisation during recruitment that candidates are not aware of.

So yes, go for the interview, do your absolute best and then go about your life and don’t expect to hear from them again. If you do, it will be a pleasant surprise. This way, you wouldn’t be so hung up on one position and feel absolutely deflated when it doesn’t happen.

#2 Wasting people’s time attending interviews although they already filled the position

You have no way of knowing this, but sometimes companies have already someone in mind or have already filled the position, but still need to go through the official employment procedures of putting up a job ad and getting people in for an “interview”. It’s shady but it does happen. The equivalent of being led on, on a date.

This is what some employers do to keep the employment rules but still, you know, hire whoever they want to. A company that I used to kind of work for did this for a high level role once. They already interviewed for and hired the person who was taking over my line manager. But because of local employment practices in my country, they couldn’t do that without putting up a job ad and getting people to send in their resumes. So that’s what they actually did.

This is entirely out of your control, which is why it’s important to keep in mind that each interview should be taken as a standalone event and it’s best if you don’t expect to ever hear from the company again.

#3 Last minute interviews

Some companies have the habit of just assuming candidates can take leave anytime they want to, to come in for interviews at short notice. And that it’s an okay thing to do. Depending on the industry that you are in, or your organisation and line manager, it might be impossible for you to take leave at short notice.

Also, despite pandemic and working from home being the new norm, many companies still want you to go down physically for a very “short chat”. Couldn’t those be done virtually?

Last minute interviews are not the biggest problem around, but it can be if you are working in a job that doesn’t allow for much leave and where potential employers are not flexible with that. Which brings me to my next point

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#4 Interviews at ungodly hours/no flexibility around interview timeslots

I absolutely dislike companies that force the candidate to be interviewed only at a certain time, without giving the candidate options to choose from. This is particularly so for companies whose interview teams are in another part of the world. I understand the time zone issues but couldn’t we meet somewhere in the middle?

This happened to me recently, where a company based on the other side of the world insisted on doing the interivew between 7am to 9am my time. I mean not only would I be preparing to get to work usually, but who on earth wakes up at 630 in the morning for a 7am interview? I was so tired and groggy I couldn’t really focus. All that whilst the hiring manager was seated comfortably at her dinner table, 7pm her time. It just came off as if my time wasn’t that important and to hell with it if I had to do it at an ungodly hour. I also wondered if that meant that I’d be working ungodly hours if I had gotten the role.

Another issue is the flexibility when it comes to available time slots. If you are serious about hiring someone, please be more flexible with your scheduling. Like I mentioned above, most candidates aren’t able to waste their leave at such short notice.

#5 Time-consuming take home assignments

This is the thing that truly sucks about the job search process these days, especially if you in the tech/research space or the creative industry or one with a specific skillset. Employers will always ask for a portfolio and even if you do, they will still ask you to complete a take-home assignment, usually in the second round of the interview.

I understand why employers do this – lots of people can talk up their skillsets but may not be able to perform on the job. It is also done to weed out the people who are unwilling or not able to put in the time or the effort to complete the assignment – this sometimes show how much they want the job.

So designing a clear, short assignment that takes no more than an hour to complete seems reasonable. If the employers have designed it properly,

Where I have a HUGE problem with are assignments that:

  1. Take ages to complete, hours and days – completely disrepsecting the fact that the interviewee may not have the time at such short notice or you know, cause people actually have a life after work
  2. Are given to you before you’ve even been screened/interviewed by a single human (please don’t waste your time on these)
  3. Poorly designed assignments that have unclear instructions and under-estimate timelines (this happens often)
  4. Are then used by the company for their own purposes, and passed off as their own. This has happened quite often.
  5. Are requested and then you get ghosted by the company. Rude, annoying and incredibly inconsiderate (a company who did this to me recently came back saying they were still interviewing candidates. Er, then maybe interview all potential candidates before sending any of them the assignment?)

So you spend all these time on an assignment, maybe like doing up a presentation deck, spending days on it. You send it back and they probably only took 10-20 minutes to look at it (or maybe not if they’ve already hired someone) before rejecting your application.

Companies may tell you that you need not finish it or have the perfect solution, but somehow as a candidate, you’ll always try to go above and beyond to do whatever you can, especially if you the job. And even if you thought you did a good job, your work will still be criticized in some form when you are presenting. Many of them already have an inkling of the solution they want and yours has to fit theirs.

Instead of take-home assignments, an on-site, timed tests during an interview round is a much better way of assessing candidates. Make it simple yet challenging enough that it weeds out people who lack an important skillset. And it prevents people from cheating. I don’t know if companies realise this – but it’s incredibly easy for some candidates to outsource their assignments and get people they know in an industry to do it for them.

But, assignments are not going away and I believe it’s becoming a norm for many companies in different industries so here are some tips to deal with this part of the interview process:

  1. If you are spending WAY too much time on it, you might want to consider abandoning it. Of course this means that you have to give up on being interviewed by this organisation.
  2. If you have to search up how to do the task or search up the terminologies/hjargon used in the assignment, then perhaps the work that they do may not be a good fit for you or the industry that you are trying to get into may be too big a switch
  3. A good thing about assignments are that they are pretty representative of the work that you will be doing if you get the job. So if you struggling with it, it may be a sign that you’d struggle with the general tasks at the company.
    So, even if you get the role, you might be struggling with it might end up you know, failing.
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So be discerning about assignments and trust your judgment. They are there to serve a purpose, but if you are struggling to do it, do consider that you may struggle in the role too.

#6 Employers who kickstart the hiring process without knowing what the role entails

Say what?

Yup. I’m not kidding. In the recent round of interviews I’ve been doing, most companies I’ve encountered happen to be expanding and are hiring new researchers to join them. Well, most of them don’t even know what the role looks like/would look like.

Of course they may argue that they’d have a clearer picture as time goes on or as they see more candidates. But take caution, that you could end up in a role where your tasks are not properly defined and you may end up doing things that aren’t relevant.

OR. On the bright side, as you are the pioneering person in this role, you have more leeway to create it in the way you want it to look like. Shape it so to speak, and because yo are the first person employed, you’d probably have more autonomy to suggest what would/would not work and this would be beneficial if you know what you want.

#7 Insane number of interview rounds

In the past, I’ve heard of someone who went through as many as 10 interview rounds, only for her to get hired and then had to leave after a couple months because it was just so toxic.

Honestly, you don’t actually really need more than two or three rounds to really determine whether someone is a good fit for your company or not. If you need so many rounds to determine that, you probably aren’t a really great hiring manager or your team in incredibly indecisive.

And if you think you are an employer reading this and think that job applicants should jump through all those hoops to show their dedication to the role, please come off your pedestal – your organisation is probably not all that great, and this isn’t some hazing ritual for a sick game. Skilled, talent employees – the ones that you actually want – will look at your process and bail. They probably have other job options with less ridiculous demands.

One thing needs to be said though – if companies need many rounds to determine someone who is being employed at a higher level, say c-suite or mid-level, then I totally understand. Because of what is at stake and the amount of responsbility the person has when they are in the company, it makes sense to have more rounds (though definitely not 10). But if it’s for a more junior role, there really isn’t any need to and you are just wasting your time as a hiring manager.

#8 Ridiculous JDs who seem like they are only hiring unicorns

Have you seen interview lists where there’s like 20 or 30 bullet points in terms of what they’re looking for in a candidate? You’d probably have seen everything from personality traits to, skill set and a ridiculous number of years of experience as well (usually for a more junior role). This actually shows me that the hiring team/manager/company does not know what they want, they cannot discern what is absolutely critical to perform the job vs what isn’t.

A tip for employees though – if you see a list of traits and you feel that you don’t qualify for some of time, just take the chance and apply. I’ve learnt that many times, although companies may have a 20-bullet list, they are usually describing their ideal candidate.

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But many a time, they will end up choosing whoever is a relatively better candidate amongst their pool of applicants. In reality the situation is always that Candidate A may be have more experience but Candidate B is more skilled in this particular niche skill they are looking for and they need to then decide. Sometimes, it’s through sifting through candidates’ cvs and resumes that the company gets a clearer picture of what are the critical skills they need to see in the new hire.

Of course, the downside to this is that, companies that put out ridiculously long JDs are actually not looking to hire anyone because they’ve already got someone. They probably need to fulfill some labour criteria – sad but it happens (see point 1 above).

Some companies also do believe that such perfect applicants apply. In that case, they’d be in for a rude shock and in your case, from an applicant’s point of view, you’d probably not be

#9 Rude AF interviewers

Seriously, go learn how to be a good interviewer/kind human being. I don’t know why people even feel the need to be rude to job applicants. It must feel veryy powerful to be making decisions on someone’s possible career huh? Feeling yourself too much? Cause you could be on the other side of the hiring fence at any time in your career, and yes karma is a bitch and it will come back and haunt you.

I’ve heard horror stories of interviewees being interrogated about their personal life (violating some laws in some countries as a result), getting people to fly out for an interview only to have it rescheduled at the last minute, interviewees being made to wait for hours just cause the interviewer forgot etc.

If you are one of these people – shame on you. There is no need to be unnecessarily rude to people who are actually trying to get, you know, a job to pay the bills.

Every hiring manager/HR whatever needs to equip themselves with the basic personal skills to actually be able to conduct interviews like a decent human being. If you cannot even do the basic, please do everyone and yourself a favour and go for some courses! Observe and role-model good interviewers. It’s not hard. It’s whether you want to put in the time and effort to build up your interviewing skillset or not.

#10 Recruiters who don’t know much about the role

This is a slight annoyance but I’m guessing the recruiters do want a bigger pool of candidates for hiring managers to select from. But sometimes I’ve honestly doubted how I fit the job, after hearing the description and yet they will still move me on to the next round.

Cue the awkwardness when I meet with the first round of interviewers and realise that my skillset has no fit and I can’t answer the questions they are asking.

Small annoyance but sometimes screening people from the get-go will save everyone’s time!

Last words…

So yes, employers do make our job search process suck even more. But the key thing to remember is – unless you really need to move right now, do take the time to suss out their treatment of candidates. If they are wasting your time, disrespecting your time, rude at anytime during the process which is beyond your tolerance levels, take note – these may be red flags and you may want to withdraw your candidacy.

Of course, our tolerance levels are all different. What is disrespectful to me may be perfectly okay for you. So discern for yourself – tune into your intuition and check your feelings.

If it’s the right job for you, it would feel right.

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