It’s not uncommon that job descriptions can sometimes be…misleading.
You can read the job description and the company’s website a hundred times before applying for a job— and then re-read it a hundred more times before the interview – and still discover, during the interview, that perhaps deception took place.
If you have never been down this road before, consider yourself lucky. The old bait and switch is a practice that, unfortunately, exists. I have fallen victim to this as recent as earlier this month. I applied for an executive leadership role, only to discover in the second interview that the position was really for an outside “sales” role. No worries though, there were “growth” opportunities that could lead to the position that I originally applied for…SMH! I suppose I should have been satisfied with the four-tier system of “growth” …that if I “qualified” for could take me “an estimated six to eighteen months” to achieve?!
Was this deflating and a huge waste of my time? Absolutely!
But, before we file this away as the worst job interview experience ever, let’s learn from it by analyzing each step the of the interview process and instead label it a teachable moment. By focusing on the lessons learned, we can change the narrative- from negative and soon to be forgotten — to a positive experience, where valuable lessons were learned and remain with us so they are not to be repeated.
If you have had one of these moments, start by reflecting on every part of the experience. Look for clues in each interaction that might have signaled deception with the posted job. Below are four areas to consider:
- Did you apply for this position? If you have been applying for multiple positions, it’s easy to lose track of every job you applied for. Fortunately, when organizations contact candidates one of their first lines (after determining that they are speaking to the correct person) is that they either found your resume, came across your resume or that you applied for the position they are speaking of.
If your resume was “found” – try to recall where they said they found it? Was it on a site that you still use? If you haven’t used the job board in years, chances are you have an old resume out there; either update it or take it down. If they “came across” your resume, are they most likely a recruiter? Did you sign up with the staffing agency or have you worked with them in the past? Again, do they have the most current version of your resume? Finally, if you applied for the position and found that the posted job and actual job were not a match – go back to your emails or files and find the job description. Once retrieved, analyze it for inconsistencies. Did they use a lot of jargon, were they vague on stating the actual job? What was it that appealed to you? make notes, and use this as your guide moving forward.
- How were you contacted? Did the hiring manager or a representative from human resources contact you? These are typically where the call should be coming from. I have yet to have a good experience when a seemingly random person from the organization called to schedule an interview. The person on the other end should not be simply, Jamie. The individual on the other end should be Jamie from HR, Jamie from the Finance Department at XYZ, or a recruiter from XYZ or from a staffing agency/firm that you signed up with.
Receiving a call for an interview is exciting— it’s easy to get caught up and miss key information like the name and title of the person you are speaking with. If you missed key information like this in the past, make a note – the next call you get for an interview, take a breath and get the full name and title of the person you are speaking with. Also, remember that you are in the driver’s seat of your career. Be excited, be inquisitive and ask questions about the position.
Asking questions is a standard practice that I have for myself and the individuals that I work privately with. If the job is legit, the HR Representative or Recruiter will be able to answer each of your questions. By asking questions you are showing that you are excited about the opportunity and are actively preparing for the interview. This is practice is also handy if you suspect a disconnect between the posted job and actual job. If your questions are repeatedly side-stepped with a pledge that “the hiring manager will go over all of that” — proceed with caution.
3. Perhaps the biggest red flag, the resume, and survey combo! First, the resume. My train of thought is very much in-line with logic and efficiency – so, if I have a hard copy of my resume in hand, there is no logical reason to rewrite my resume in the waiting room/lobby. This type of busy work is a dealbreaker and a red flag – think about it, if this outdated practice is still in rotation for the interview process, what other shenanigans are going on?
Second, the data collection. I am all for collecting data to use as a learning tool. However, I am skeptical if at any point in the interview process I am asked to complete a survey— specifically a survey that is to be completed with paper and pen. In the past, I’ve been asked everything from my driving status to the year and model of my car, to hypothetic situations where I was to terminate one of two employees based off of minimal information. The “personality analysis” which the surveys are commonly referred to, is to help determine “compatibility”. However, at first sight of a survey, I become immediately doubtful of the whole operation, and you should too. Why? Simply put, the paper and pen data collection method and motives are a far cry from IRB standards. The questions, which I have seen anywhere between ten to fifty (yes, fifty) – tend to be ambiguous, unstructured and off topic- which is saying a lot of personality tests. It’s enough to make me lose my trust in the entire organization. If you find yourself in this position, know that you have been warned!
4. If your gut tells you something is up- follow it…all the way to the internet! We live in a wonderful time where we can enter a company’s name into a search engine, and within minutes find out everything there is to know about them—from latest press releases to stock prices to their quarterly earnings. Everything is out there, be sure to do your homework and (really) check out the organization. If you can’t find a website or even a LinkedIn page for anyone from the organization…well, you know the deal!
Bottom line, protect yourself. Your time is valuable. The goal is to find a new career opportunity, something that is going to help you grow professionally. If at any point in the interview you feel like the job description was misleading — use this, and your past experiences to filter out what’s going on – and cut your losses. You are building your career, you are going after your dream job…do not let these sloppy mix-match job descriptions distract you.