Looking for a job is rarely fun, but looking in today's job market is especially difficult. Sometimes, it's downright unpleasant. Here are the 10 worst things about job hunting in today's market:
1. Contradictory advice. There's loads of job-search advice on the Internet, and much of it is contradictory. Confused job-seekers are bombarded by rules that often conflict—from whether or not to use a resume objective, to whether to follow up on your application with a phone call, to how you should handle talking about a past firing. And most of this conflicting advice is presented as must-be-followed gospel.
2. Online application systems that barely work. While online application forms have made things more convenient for employers, job-seekers report regularly running into systems that won't upload their resumes, ask yes/no questions that don't fit many candidates' situations, and require information that few have on hand (like a high school GPA or the exact date you started a job 15 years ago). And when candidates know there's a good chance they won't even get so much as an acknowledgment, having to spend an hour wrestling with an onerous application system simply to submit a resume is an especially bitter pill to swallow.
3. Job descriptions that don't match the reality of the job. Job-seekers regularly find themselves interviewing for jobs that bear little resemblance to what they thought they were applying for, due to poorly thought out advertisements and job descriptions that change on the fly.
4. Employers who set up phone interviews and then never call. It's not uncommon for an employer to schedule a phone interview with a candidate, fail to call at the scheduled time, and then not bother to get back in touch to reschedule (let alone apologize). Meanwhile, the candidate has often spent time reading up on the company and preparing for the interview, in addition to scheduling child care or time off from work to take the call without interruption.
5. Interviewing and then never hearing anything back. 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 have 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.
6. Employers who insist on knowing your salary history but won't reveal what the job pays. Employers regularly insist that candidates name their salary history or 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 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 the drama and coyness.
7. Having your new salary based on what you used to earn, not what you'll contribute to the company. Candidates often find themselves locked into a small increase above their last salary, rather than having a new employer make an offer based on the value they'll bring to the new role. For candidates who are underpaid, this is especially frustrating.
8. Not being considered if you're not a local candidate. As difficult as the job market is for most people right now, it's even more difficult for job-seekers who are searching long-distance. Because there are so many qualified local candidates, many employers won't consider those who are out-of-state at all, even when long-distance candidates are willing to pay their own relocation expenses.
9. Routine invasions of privacy. More companies are requiring that candidates submit their social security number, driver's license number, and references with the initial application. And it's often not optional, since many online application systems won't accept an application without these items. But there's no reason to require this kind of information from candidates who haven't even gone through an initial screening round yet.
10. Employers who say they'll give you an answer within a week and then go silent. Interviewers are notorious for telling candidates they'll hear an answer within a few days or a week, only to disappear for weeks—or sometimes months. Of course time lines change, but employers should have the courtesy to notify candidates 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.
The good news for job-seekers? The market will eventually turn around, and employers won't hold all the cards forever.
Alison Green writes the popular Ask a Manager blog, where she dispenses advice on career, job search, and management issues. She's also the co-author of Managing to Change the World: The Nonprofit Manager'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.