Why Employer Bad Behavior is Getting Worse

Job seekers increasingly feel they have no choice but to put up with it.

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Alison Green
The longer the economy struggles, the worse some employers seem to treat job seekers. And job seekers, feeling a lack of power, increasingly feel they have no choice but to put up with it.

[See the best careers for 2010.]

People who are looking for work are encountering more and more plainly bad behavior from employers, such as:

  • Employers who never bother to get back to applicants with a decision after putting them through a battery of time-consuming interviews
  • Employers who miss scheduled phone interviews with no warning or acknowledgment, after the candidate arranged his or her schedule to be free and is left waiting by the phone
  • Interviewers who are rude, arrogant, and exude an "I hold all the cards here" attitude
  • [See 5 lame but common interview answers.]

    Obviously, employers who behave like this are short-sighted. Good candidates know that how they're treated during the interview process tells them something about a company's culture and how they'll be treated as an employee. If an employer is rude or inconsiderate to job candidates, there's a good chance their employees don't feel valued either.

    But when job seekers are desperate for work, they don't feel generally that they have the luxury of writing off an employer for bad behavior. And that means that more and more of them are putting up with this, which in turn leads to increasingly poor behavior and outrageous demands from employers, who experience no repercussions from conducting business this way.

    [See one thing you should never do at an interview.]

    I'd like to see more job seekers address this bad behavior at the point in the process when the power shifts from employer to candidate--when an offer has been made but not yet accepted. For example, in a conversation about the offer, a candidate could say something like: "I always think you can learn a lot about a company's culture from their hiring process. I noticed that scheduled calls with me during this process were nearly always significantly late, and sometimes didn't come at all. Mistakes happen, of course, but how common is this kind of thing in your culture?"

    Will workers do it? My experience tells me no--the power balance is simply too slanted. But I wish they would.

    Alison Green is the author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Leader's Guide to Getting Results. She is chief of staff for the Marijuana Policy Project, a nonprofit lobbying organization, where she oversees day-to-day management of the staff as well as hiring, firing, and staff development. Her writings have been published in the Washington Post, the New York Times, Maxim, and dozens of other newspapers. She blogs at Ask a Manager.