Employers that Abuse Job Applicants

We have all read about the self-defeating mistakes a job applicant can make at a job interview.

The woman who brought her toddler. The guy who took the phone call from his wife. The girl who wore a revealing T-Shirt and flip-flops.

It is less well understood that this is a two-way street. Employers make “mistakes” too.  Some employers use tactics that are abusive to potential employees, who often have no recourse to complain.

A potential employer is in a power position. The employer has what the applicant wants – a job. For that reason, most job applicants seek to please. However,  some employers seem to feel that by consenting to an interview, the applicant has forfeited his or her right to be treated with dignity, respect and fairly.

The Society for Human Resources Management exhorts its 250,000 members to abide by a Code of Ethics that includes: “Encourage my employer to make the fair and equitable treatment of all employees a primary concern.” That tenet should be broadened to apply to job applicants also.

An applicant found her dream job at a non-profit organization halfway across the country. She was offered the job and moved there with her children. However, in the month between the offer and her arrival, there was a management shakeup. When she arrived, her job description had changed and she was reporting to a new supervisor who had not participated in her job interview. Furthermore, the new supervisor was 20 years younger, far less experienced, and was hostile from the start. The applicant estimates it cost her about $8,000 to relocate for the job, and that it will cost her many thousands more to relocate again – not including lost pension benefits and the emotional distress.

In another instance, after meeting with the Human Resources person, a job applicant for a position in Long Island  literally waited six hours sitting in a chair outside the boss’ office. At one point, he heard the boss  talking on the phone, laughing, and making plans for dinner.  The interview was finally conducted at the end of the day. It lasted about ten minutes. To add insult to injury, he was stuck on the drive home in Long Island’s infamous rush hour traffic for about two hours.

One applicant, an unemployed father of two, says he was strongly encouraged to fly to Philadelphia to meet with a prospective employer, who indicated he was a finalist for the position but could not be appointed without a face-to-face meeting.  This was a job at a state agency that, he was told, had no travel budget.  Upon arrival in Philadelphia, the prospective employer administered the equivalent of a standardized test  that he said he was giving to all applicants.  The “test” could easily have been conducted over the phone. The applicant, who didn’t get the job, advises:  “Never pay for travel!” (Suggest Skype – it’s the equivalent of a  face to face interview and it’s free.)

Finally,  an attractive woman in her mid-50s recalls a job interview in Connecticut with a direct supervisor that was going well.  The supervisor said the company president planned to stop by and say hello.  At one point, a man in his 40s walked briskly into the supervisor’s office, took one look at the applicant, and, wordlessly, turned on his heels and walked out. There was a long  and awkward silence.  After a few moments, the supervisor,  a woman in her 30s, left the room. When she returned, she said the boss wouldn’t be able to meet with the applicant after-all.  The applicant suspected the man who entered the room was the company president.  She was devastated. “I guess I was too old?” she says.

When a prospective employer makes a mistake or uses abusive tactics, more often than not, the job seeker pays the price. You may not get the job. If you do, you may end up feeling used and abused. And you have little recourse.  The woman at the Connecticut interview might argue she was the victim of age discrimination but what she wanted was a job, not a costly and time consuming lawsuit (assuming she could get an attorney to take her case).

Of course, an abusive employer may lose a valuable potential employee and engender ill will that could cost the employer business in the long run.  And, what’s the point?

Suffice to say that it is amusing when a job applicant makes a snafu but it is troubling when an employer does. The employer exerts power and control over the interview and a bad employer can wreak both emotional and economic hardship on the applicant.

These are difficult times. An unprecedented number of Americans are out of work and ripe for exploitation. A job advertisement for a menial position can precipitate a line of hundreds around a block.  Job applicants need to beware and employers need to insure that their processes accord dignity and respect to all job applicants.

2 thoughts on “Employers that Abuse Job Applicants”

  1. I had been to interviews where very abusive. I have a Business Management diploma from community college, Property Management certificates from University, 13 years security, writing property guides, 4 years building security supervisor, 1st Year Apprenticeship Electricity, Computer/Electronic repair, Professional drivers license etc. I also take care of my parents condos in British Columbia, Canada.

    I went to one job interview last October fora JR condo manager, no real estate license or experience necessary. The employer asked me first question, “How did you pass your condo management course?” Then he went on about the Sun the Moon and the Stars and questioned me about what I knew. I gave him the correct answers. He started getting angry and threw a piece of paper around and said, “You are just like a heart surgeon out of school. He then started to scream at me “point show me where it says AGM!!” (Annual General Meeting) he then screamed do you know what happens at an AGM. After I told him that I take care of my parents condos, taken my courses and worked security. After he said, “You have security and condo certificate but don’t have condo council experience and we can not hire you.” I said I worked with condo councils in defeating illegal actions in my parents condos and in security where we get our orders from.” He then said I have related experience but not direct experience.

    Another place I went to for the same job the hiring manager never said hello or anything just when I walked in he pounded his fist on the desk, “I don’t want you wasting my time, I don’t want you wasting my time!!!”

    Another job interview I went to the requirement was 70 college credits for a hearing aid technician apprentice. Since I have my Business Management diploma for the past 20 years I applied and along with my electricity and computer repair certificates. I went to the interview and the first person I talked to was the vice president. This is a family owned business. He said to me, “Do you have any letters of reference?” Then he got up and left and his brother walked in, he started to scream at me “Do you have 70 college credits?” I said yes, he started screaming at me like he didn’t believe me until I showed him my Business Management Diploma from a well known college across Canada. Then I showed him he then said, “I never heard of this place, I am sure it must exist!!!” Never called back

    One other place I went to told me for an building administrator, “Call us back when you have a real business Management Diploma.”

    I have been to several interviews and the employer does not read my resume or says to me first thing, “You don’t have a Business Management Diploma!!” or “You can’t driver!” or “Your Diploma looks real!” or “He looks retarded!!” I have mild cerebral palsy that does not stop me from doing my job. to be discriminated like this and work at low paying jobs because the stuff I can do some idiot who has a delusional mind about whatever about me.

    1. As someone who has had to endure interviews with what I charitably refer to as ignorant jerks, I get it!!
      Next time you might consider taking a very indiscreet (not noticeable!)) tape recorder so you can get it on the record if someone remarks negatively on your mild cerebral palsy, I don’t know the law of Canada but I suspect that a lawyer might be interested in hearing that.

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