Halloween might have ghouls and ghosts, but for plenty of people, job searching is the real fright show. Here are eight scares you should hope to avoid if you're in the job market this Halloween season.
1. Discovering that the job you're interviewing for is completely different than the one in your ad. The ad seemed perfect for you, but when you show up for the interview, the job description has changed so much that the role now requires software that you don't know, other skills you don't have or work you aren't interested in doing. Of course, by this point, you've taken time off work to interview, put an hour or more into preparing and bought a new suit – and it turns out it was all for nothing.
2. Employers who don't give you the full picture. As bad as it is to show up at an interview and realize the job is nothing like what you're looking for, it's worse to accept a job that you think is the right fit and then discover once you're working there that the job isn't what was described to you.
3. Online job application systems that seem to exist only to torture job seekers. More companies are switching to endlessly long online application forms that are often riddled with technical problems, meaning that you might spend an hour filling out a complicated form and then encounter an error that means everything you've entered is lost.
4. Interviewers who seem uninterested you. From checking email or texting to just plain looking bored, interviewers who make it clear they'd rather do something else can really rattle candidates and leave them wondering why they were brought in at all. (To be clear, the behavior is generally a sign of a bad interviewer, but it's hard not to take it personally when you're sitting in the candidate's chair.)
5. Interviewers who know your current boss. If you're like most job seekers, you go out of your way to make sure your job search stays below your current employer's radar, so that you don't get pushed out earlier than you're ready to leave. That's why it can rattle even the most composed job candidate to discover that the interviewer knows his or her current manager. Most interviewers will be discreet if you ask them to be, but no job seeker likes having to risk that danger.
6. Recruiters who say you're perfect for a job and then disappear. Anyone who's been job searching for a while knows this drill: A recruiter reaches out, bubbles with enthusiasm and says that your résumé is ideal for a job opening, then says she'll be back in touch about an interview. But then she never gets back to you or returns your calls. This frustrating experience is a normal part of today's job market, but never gets less infuriating.
7. Flaky employers who can't make up their minds. Does this sound familiar? First the job description seems to be a work in progress that keeps changing. Then you're told that you'll report to Finance but later it changes to Administration, then back to Finance. And when the hiring manager tells you that she'll confirm your interview time within 48 hours, a week later you've still heard nothing. If you're frustrated now, guess what it's going to be like to work there?
8. Employers who pull job offers after you've already accepted. Easily the scariest of all are employers who make you a job offer and even set a start date and then retract the offer, even if you've already resigned from your old job. Fortunately this doesn't happen often, but it can happen, and it leaves job seekers in a terrible spot.
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.