We are at the beginning of the great reopening. The job market, suffering through a long lull, is finally gaining momentum. The mood of the country, after millions of people were vaccinated and states dispensed of restrictions, has dramatically improved. Now’s the time to start searching for a new job. Be forewarned; it's not perfect. If you haven’t looked around in a while, there are a lot of pitfalls to watch out for.
Sadly, it's naive to think that the company you’re interviewing with has your best interest at heart. This doesn’t make companies evil—it's just business. It's kind of like when you sell your car. You want to get the best price. The buyer has a different motivation. They want it as cheap as possible.
Keirsten Greggs is the founder and CEO of TRAP Recruiter, a recruiting consulting and career coaching firm. Greggs advises people on the job hunt to “execute your job search with precision and forethought.” This entails knowing “what your nonnegotiables and must-haves are and don’t be afraid to stay true to them.”
She urges candidates to “ask questions early in the process, so if necessary, you can get to the NO (next opportunity) before you’ve gotten too far into the recruiting process and begin to make concessions that will later make you unhappy.” You also need to boldly “articulate your value and how your skills and experience connect to the roles you’re pursuing,” Greggs recommended.
The first landmine to navigate is the job description. You won’t find the real-world stuff you really need to know. The advertisement will be stacked with unreasonable requirements, but glaringly neglect to mention that the boss is a mercurial micromanager. The description conveniently leaves off that this will be the third time the job is open due to employee turnover, but demands that you can juggle chainsaws while riding on a unicycle in a lion’s cage.
You’re excited about being invited to an interview. Similar to what you see on dating apps, the interviewer brags about how awesome he is and all of the wonderful, big things they’re doing at the company. We get it. They need to show their best side. Just as a guy on Tinder won’t say he’s broke and living in his parents’ basement, the company will avoid talking about the lack of upward mobility.
If you don’t ask, it may slip the mind of the hiring manager to say that there’s only a .01% raise. Also, by the way, since it wasn't in the offer letter, you’re not guaranteed a bonus or stock options. It wouldn’t be shocking if the human resources professionals weren’t aware—or forgot to mention—that there may be layoffs on the horizon and the company is getting acquired by a larger rival.
Recruiters are hardworking and dedicated professionals. You’d think that they’d share all of the mission-critical details about the job you are interviewing for, including potential pitfalls. Sadly, this is not the case. Sometimes the representatives at the firm only provide them with the positive talking points. Real estate brokers focus on the beautiful features of a home and steer you away from the leaky, rotting roof and rusted pipes. Recruiters may, on occasion, gloss over the challenges of the job.
There used to be a time when companies shared feedback and constructive criticism to help candidates successfully navigate the interview process—now, not so much. With the ubiquity of job postings and everyone having a phone, there’s a deluge of applicants submitted for every job listing. There’s such a large volume of job seekers, it's nearly impossible for internal human resources professionals to get in touch with everyone.
You’re excited. After six months of interviewing with over 10 people, you feel that an offer is imminent. Time goes by and nothing happens. It's code silence. The emails, texts and phone calls have all abruptly stopped. You follow up to no avail. It's natural to think that you did something wrong. However, that’s not the case. It's much easier to ghost the candidate and hope they get the message.
You won’t get real feedback after your interview. They’ll say some cursory polite things, but not what they really think. Ed Han, a top experienced corporate recruiter at Cenlar FSB, the nation’s leading mortgage loan subservicer, said, “You will almost certainly never get substantive, actionable feedback. The issue is the simple fact that a lot of the most valuable feedback might be misconstrued.”
Han gave an insider’s take, offering that it's a lot easier to fall back on "we are moving forward with other candidates" or, perhaps, "we are moving forward with someone who is an even better fit for the position." Han, who provides daily positive and actionable career advice on LinkedIn, said, “I don't intentionally ghost, nor do I believe that the bulk of recruiters do this. I might, as a flawed and imperfect example of humanity, occasionally forget.”
There’s a concern that if something said is misconstrued, the applicant may then complain to the person’s boss or file a grievance with a regulatory agency. In today’s litigious society, employees and companies are afraid of being accused of discrimination and the real prospect of lawsuits. This is an unspoken and the main reason why you don’t hear anything back—or if you do, it's bland corporate jargon.
You have to worry about ageism, even if you’re in your mid-30s. It's complicated. Compensation plays a big part. Experienced employees tend to earn more money than their younger co-workers. In a belt-tightening environment, companies desire to cut costs. It's expedient to achieve this goal by letting go of a 55-year-old and hiring a person in their 20s or early 30s, who would be compensated far less.
There are corporate trends that disadvantage middle-aged and older workers. In an effort to save money, corporations have culled middle-management positions. As mid-level jobs were eviscerated, higher-paid workers found themselves unemployed. These positions are restructured to attract younger, less-compensated workers. This process of juniorization of jobs has squeezed out older people in favor of the young.
Jobs have steadily been moved to lower-cost states in the U.S. and to other countries. It's a salary arbitrage. The position that was once based in New York City or San Francisco is now based in a less expensive place, and the holder of the job isn’t invited to relocate. The salary offered would be much lower too.
Remote work became the standard during the pandemic. Seizing an opportunity, major corporations, like Twitter and Facebook, have said that they’ll hire talent from anywhere around the country—or even the world. It's highly likely that they’ll look for the best people who happen to live in inexpensive places and are younger, so that they could pay them less compared to their older peers. You need to be alert to the company pulling a bait-and-switch, by first saying you could work remotely only to pressure you to return to the office six months later.
Now that you get a sense of all of the landmines you need to navigate, you can take action. Do a lot of homework on the company. Learn everything you can about it and the people who work there.
Mark Anthony Dyson, a leading career advisor, writer, podcaster and advocate for job seekers, says that a job seeker should “be assertive and position yourself as the talent the employer needs on the team.” Dyson advises interviewees to ask “straightforward questions that require candor and forthrightness” from the company.
An example of Dyson’s tough, valid line of questioning to determine “how resilient the hiring manager is” is by inquiring, "I know the pandemic was a powerful experience for all of us, but how has company culture improved while working remotely during the pandemic?" Dyson adds, “If you feel in your gut that they haven't changed, or they are holding back, you should consider walking away.”
Don’t be shy. Askhard-hitting questions to ascertain the real deal and truth about the work-life at the organization. Hit up your friends, co-workers and people in your network to find out if they have any insider intelligence on the company and its employees—particularly the hiring manager. You need to sell yourself in the interview process, but it's okay to keep a skeptical mindset to ensure you don’t get seduced into a bad situation.