It’s Time for a Job Seekers’ Bill of Rights

Even in a flooded market, it behooves employers to treat job seekers with respect.

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Alison Green
As the job market continues to favor employers, job seekers are increasingly reporting poor treatment—from employers who never show up for scheduled interviews to inappropriate demands for private information on online job applications.

Employers may feel they don't have to pay much attention to the candidate experience in such a flooded market. But this is short-sighted, because the best candidates have options and will turn elsewhere. It's also unkind to people who are in a vulnerable and anxiety-producing spot.

It’s time for a job seeker’s bill of rights, to improve the hiring process on both sides!

The Job-Seeker’s Bill of Rights:

1. Stop playing games on salary. Employers love to demand that candidates name their salary expectations up-front, while simultaneously refusing to divulge the range they plan to pay. There’s no reason for employers not to share that info, other than that to make the hire at a lower price. It’s unfair and they usually get away with it, but we’d all be better off if employers simply shared the range they plan to pay and put an end to all the drama and coyness.

[See 10 Tips for Negotiating a Raise.]

2. Provide clear job descriptions. Too often, employers post jargon-filled, incomprehensible job descriptions that make no sense to anyone outside their organization. Job candidates shouldn't have to struggle to figure out what an employer is looking for, or whether they might be suited to providing it.

3. Share the hiring timeline. Whether through an auto-reply after an application is received or direct contact with a hiring representative, employers should have some way of telling candidates when they can expect to hear back and what the next steps will be. Leaving candidates hanging isn’t professional and could eventually come back to haunt you if you end up wanting to hire that person in the future.

4. Just say no to unfriendly online application systems. More and more companies are switching to endlessly long online application forms that are often riddled with technical problems. Having to spend an hour wrestling with an onerous application system simply to submit a resume is a bitter pill to swallow.

5. Rein in the invasions of privacy. Increasingly, companies are asking candidates to submit their social security number, references, and even driver’s license number with their initial application. There's no reason to require this kind of information from candidates who haven't even gone through an initial screening round yet.

[See The Best Way to Take Control of Your Job Hunt.]

6. Show regard for candidates’ time. From last-minute cancellations without apology or acknowledgment of the inconvenience, to not paying attention in the interview, some employers act like their time is the only time that matters. Most candidates go to a lot of trouble to prepare for an interview—reading up on the company, taking time off work, and often traveling—and their time should be respected too.

7. Don’t misrepresent the work. Interviewers who make the job sound more glamorous than it really is or downplay less attractive aspects of the job—like long hours or a tyrannical boss—are guaranteeing they'll end up with a resentful, unmotivated employee. Truth in advertising works to everyone's advantage, because candidates who won't thrive in the job or the culture can self-select out before they become disgruntled workers.

8. Interviews aren’t a one-way street. Interviews aren’t just about determining whether the company wants to hire the candidate. They’re also about the candidate figuring out if he or she even wants the job. Employers need to be open with information about the job, the company culture, and the manager, so job seekers can make informed decisions about whether the fit is right on their side too.

[See How to Position Yourself to Change Careers.]

9. Keep commitments. Interviewers are notorious for telling candidates they’ll hear an answer within a few days, only to disappear for weeks. Of course timelines change, but candidates should be notified when this happens. Companies that would never treat a customer this way think nothing of being cavalier about the commitments they make to job candidates.

10. Send rejections. Many companies never bother to notify candidates that they’re no longer under consideration, even after candidates have taken time off work to interview or traveled at their own expense. Candidates are often anxiously waiting to hear an answer—any answer—and end up waiting and waiting, long after a decision has been made. This is about simple respect and courtesy; it just doesn't take that long to email a form letter.

Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues. She's also the author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Leader's Guide to Getting Results and former chief of staff of a successful nonprofit organization, where she oversaw day-to-day staff management, hiring, firing, and employee development. She now teaches other managers how to manage for results.