Job Hunters Behaving Badly

While I know that people in the HR/Recruiting world tend to get cited a lot for “conduct unbecoming” out there in today’s job market, however fairly or unfairly, let’s also not forget that it’s a two-way street and that job hunters, as well, need to make sure they maintain a high level of politeness, professionalism, and decorum!

As a case in point, prompting this post, an HR Manager I know recently wrote me to share the story below, involving a job seeker who didn’t make the most professional impression on her:

“Matt: I know you always love ‘you gotta hear this one’ stories about the job market, so let me share this one that just happened to me!

I had been looking for a senior executive assistant a few months ago.  A former coworker referred a candidate who was still employed but looking to leave.  Glowing reviews of this person’s performance, and I put a lot of stock in my former coworker’s opinions.  He’s a straight shooter and doesn’t recommend just anyone.

After several days of trying to set a time for an initial phone screen (she would not offer any times during the work day, ultimately I asked her if she could perhaps consider going out to her car) we finally spoke.  She turned me down flat after hearing the salary, which was fine.  A couple of months later, long after we’d filled the position, she called back in a panic wanting to know if the job was still open because she’d been laid off.  Message to me: I don’t want your job, I just want to be paid.

Flash forward to yesterday morning…on my voicemail is a message from this woman, stating she’d found a new job (great!) and had been there a couple of weeks.  She made some comment about having to adjust to her new responsibilities (from LinkedIn it looks like it’s not as high of a level as she had before) so I was anticipating being asked if I had any admin jobs open.  I was wrong!

She went on to ask me about using our facility as a venue for her daughter’s upcoming wedding, and specifically, were there any “friend-of-a-friend” discounts available that I could offer her, especially since she’d talked with me previously and knew one of our founders.

I’m happy to help people connect and find the resources they need, but I was surprised to be asked for the insider’s deal on catering and special events.  By someone I’d only spoken with twice, one time being when she turned ME down!  Good grief!”

What do you think folks?  Is such behavior acceptable in today’s professional arena?  While obviously this person may have felt she “didn’t have anything to lose” by asking for a discount, I definitely think it displays a lack of emotional intelligence on her part — and a failure to realize that polite behavior is almost always the best bet, since often even the smallest interactions can have larger consequences down the road.  Word gets around, especially in a small town like Seattle, and you never know when “alienating” somebody might come back around to haunt you!

So ultimately, while this is far from the most shocking story I’ve ever heard about people “behaving badly” out there on the job-hunting circuit, these types of subtly negative interactions tend to take place far more often — and are a reminder to all of us to mind our manners and be vigilant about never burning a bridge!

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4 Responses to “Job Hunters Behaving Badly”

  1. I wonder how someone with such poor behavior can be recommended and considered for a “senior” executive assistant position. Can you imagine having to trust her regarding issues that might require good judgment or diplomacy?
    I have also seen very bad behavior among recruiters and hiring managers. What about a “global” recruiter who asked me (at the time the candidate) to call her from abroad (and pay for the international call) because she could not dial internationally?
    We need to stop the recruiter versus candidate approach, “us versus them” mentality. Unfortunately, good business etiquette seems to be scarce these days.

  2. This behavior sounds like it’s from a person where everything is focused on her—from where and when to talk; details on the job; needing to know if she could still have the job and asking for use of the space.

    Had she given a bit more consideration, she may not have left such a poor impression–perhaps something like, “I’m calling to find out if that position is still available. I completely understand if it’s not…..” etc.

    I’ve seen this type of behavior before with job seekers with their personal network as well as with an employer. Sadly, I’ve also found that even after multiple repititions of how to interview well, training, etc., if there is not an internal conscious awareness of impact on others, the training does not stick.

  3. This is very interesting because believe many job hunters are behaving badly because they think they are being encouraged to do so. When no one from the company or the recruiters ever communicate and job search guru’s are telling everyone they have to use gorilla tactics and be more aggressive, is it any wonder that people who are not used to being aggressive marketers cross the line? Take follow-ups on job applications as an example. An experienced sales person might have a good sense for that, but many, especially those who have not had to look for work in many years don’t and need help in making that determination. Unfortunately, companies don’t provide feedback so even after a person has lost out on an opportunity they have no idea whether it was because they didn’t follow-up enough or followed up too much or just didn’t know how to give their follow-ups the proper tone.

    Companies are also behaving badly in the hiring process. I’m not sure why, but clearly a large number of companies have adopted a “power over the powerless” mentality. They appear so anxious to cut costs in the hiring process that they’ve forgotten that the most expensive part of the process is hiring people that are not good fits. Unfortunately for them, their systems have not found a better way of determining fit than having an insightful person conduct an in-person interview. To make matters worse, interviewers seem much more likely to take the approach that the interviewee’s job is to show they can put up with insolence from their potential boss-to-be. It is easy to say that such a company may not be a place you want to work if they treat people like that, but when jobs are scarce and you have no idea whether the interviewer is an aberration, it is hard to decide how or whether to proceed. Unfortunately, I’ve learned that these “aberrations” are far more common than they used to be. Is it because hiring managers are stressed and worried about their own jobs? Is it because these impersonal selection systems have led to a lot of hiring managers lacking in interpersonal skills? Who knows, but as frustrations mount among job seekers, it appears logical that some might mistakenly behave badly thinking they should try to show what they think the company is unwittingly demonstrating they want; insolent people who can’t or don’t communicate well.

    To be sure, there are plenty of applicants who behave badly. Some don’t know better. Some don’t have people skills. Some are nervous. Some are just trying too hard. What people need is training on how to research and read their interviewer, how to respond to specific interview situations, detailed follow-up methods from standard to acceptable creative approaches. It is hard to believe applicants needing a job would behave badly if they knew they were doing so. A lot of people talk about branding, but few talk about the things people unwittingly do that detract from their brand.

    In the example, it may not be so hard to imagine someone thinking that they were actually showing that they liked the company so much they were willing to become a customer (Amazon asks applicants why they don’t have an Amazon account) or showing how bold they were by asking for discounts might demonstrate how hard they would work to get the best deals for the company. Actually, it probably was just an applicant who didn’t have a clue and the interviewer probably wasn’t a jerk. However, Stressful times make people resort to unfamiliar and sometimes drastic methods. When nothing else works, why wouldn’t someone try something outrageous hoping to make an impression that is different than all of the rest of us who are trying to appeal to the largest number of hiring managers? Applicants can’t change the way companies are hiring and complaining about the system won’t help them get a job. Job search, follow-up, and interviewing skills are the things they need.

  4. WOW! Sophomoric behavior for sure!

    Burning bridges is real, and if one thinks “Seattle is large, whatever” hasn’t seen the magic of LinkedIn with people popping up that it thinks I should connect with.

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