This article was originally posted on Katherine Spinney Coaching.

When we experience hardship at the hands of others and then rise to the position they once held, we are left with a choice- treat those who come after us the same way we were treated (why should they get off easy) or provide them an easier path. We see this play out in any number of scenarios- in college fraternities, on sports teams and perhaps most commonly, in job searches. Even though most of us have struggled through the job search process, once we are in a position to make it easier for others, we choose not to. Instead, we send the message, time and time again, that we do not value those who wish to work for us. Here’s how:


Some job seekers are already employed and are casually looking for another position. Others are unemployed and in desperate need of work. We don’t usually know, but everyone’s time is valuable and we should treat it as such. We’ve all heard the adage that searching for a job is a full-time job, and while this may be a bit of an exaggeration, it is undeniable that finding a job takes time. This is largely due to the process’ inefficiency. We say we will get to back to candidates by a certain day and we don’t. We say the process takes a certain amount of time but it ends up taking longer. This leaves candidates anxious and unsure and prolongs what is already a long and challenging process.


Keep looking until you have the offer you want in hand. It can be tempting to stop looking when an offer seems imminent but too much can happen to derail the process. Keep networking, keep applying and keep looking. Secondly, follow up with the company. If they are supposed to get back to you and don’t, follow up and ask for a status update. If the hiring manager finds this pushy or annoying, this says more about him than you. Examine what this says about the organization and if you want to continue the process of working there.


As a second job, I once applied to be a dog walker. I filled out the application which required 8 references (yes, 8), all of whom the company contacted. I then had to take an online test, followed by another online test, after which I was informed that I had made it to the next step (not the last one). I inquired how many more steps were involved, and when the recruiter told me “at least 3,” I withdrew my name. Six steps (at least!) for a part-time job I might not even get? No thank you. I could have become president easier. Unfortunately, this is not uncommon. Many companies employ multiple-round hiring processes that drag on for weeks or even months, and in too many cases, the candidate has no idea how much longer it will be. If, at the end of the process, the candidate secures the position, it can be argued that it was all worth it, but what if she doesn’t? All that time and energy. Plus, research shows that hiring managers make their decisions almost immediately and that subsequent time and questioning only serve to reinforce that. We are hiring longer, not smarter.


Do not go through the process blindly. During the first interview or phone screen   ask what the remaining process looks like. Decide for yourself if you are willing to go through it. If so, learn more about the organization each step of the way and determine if it is a good fit for you. Secondly, as mentioned above, keep looking until you have the offer you want in hand. It can be tempting to stop looking when an offer seems imminent but too much can happen to derail the process. Keep networking, keep applying and keep looking.


I’m not sure why companies like to pretend that money doesn’t or shouldn’t matter to candidates, but it does. Of course it does. Yet as job seekers, we are told that we shouldn’t ask about salary during a first interview because it will look like all we care about is the money. Give me a break. I’ve heard several reasons why organizations don’t advertise salary ranges, but none that ever satisfied me. For most job seekers, there is a minimum salary they can accept to take care of their needs, and there is no point wasting everyone’s time if the position does not meet that minimum.


If you really don’t want to apply for jobs without salary ranges, don’t, but know that this will limit your options. If you want to ask about salary during a first interview, that is your right, but know that some interviewers will view this negatively. The conventional wisdom is that it is acceptable to ask during a second interview (but even then, some interviewers won’t like it). Evaluate your timeframe, your financial situation and the amount of time you can dedicate to the search. How you choose to navigate the salary situation is ultimately up to you and different hiring managers will interpret this differently. It is a tricky one. Secondly, be realistic. Do your research and know what the average salary is for that title in that sized company in your area. This should give you an idea of what the range may be (though it certainly does not guarantee it.) Lastly, ask about benefits and inquire about whether there is room for negotiation. You then have the power to decide if you want to continue pursuing that company or not.


We often do not give interviews the time and attention they deserve. Our questions are not well thought out and we haven’t even reserved the room to conduct the interview. Many times, we don’t even know there is an interview until just before it occurs. We keep the candidate waiting, nervous and unsure of what to do. We do all we can to make an already uncomfortable situation even more unsettling.  


 Put your best foot forward no matter what happens during the interview. If they are running late, you still make sure you are on time. If they are scattered and unprepared, you still make sure you are prepared to ask and answer questions thoughtfully and effectively. Present yourself as the best candidate you can be. And then decide if this is a company you want to work for. Do you get the sense that this was an extenuating circumstance or have you gotten other signs that this company is disorganized and unprepared? Have they treated you respectfully throughout the process or is this yet another example of them treating you as unimportant? Remember that you are interviewing them as well.


Every organization has a budget and some are tighter than others. It is important to be responsible and thoughtful when it comes to expenses including salaries, but all too often, we try to cut corners by shortchanging our most important asset- our staff. We may do this by setting salaries lower than we are capable of. Or basing salaries on the candidate’s salary history (now illegal in some states, thankfully). Sometimes we even lie about our ability to pay more. This is harmful in several ways. For starters, it prevents us from hiring the strongest candidates and if our goal is not to get the best candidates, why conduct a search at all? Why not pull names out of a hat instead? Secondly, if we do not value our staff financially we may not value them in other ways and staff will pick up on this. The result will be a disgruntled and less productive staff with higher turnover- an expense far greater than what we could have invested in in the first place. Lastly, if staff finds out that we lied about paying them the most we possibly could (a situation that unfortunately happened to me), the trust will be broken, unlikely to ever be repaired.


 Decide what you want to be paid and what you are willing to be paid (this may or may not be the same amount), and do your research on the average pay for the specific position in that sized company in your city. Factor in benefits and other perks (or drawbacks) of the job- commuting time, overtime expectations, etc. Learn how to negotiate. Know your rights about what employers can and cannot ask (e.g. it is now illegal in some places for employers to ask about salary history). Know your worth and your financial situation and when you have the power to walk away. It may not seem like it in the moment, but there are more jobs out there, and if you have the resources, wait until you find a job that pays you what you deserve.


Some organizations choose to post job openings even when they know who they are going to hire; others, like the federal government, are required to. Either way, it is a formality that unfairly takes the time of unsuspecting job seekers. In some situations, we hire the boss’ nephew, or the CFO’s college roommate or some other personal connection who is often less qualified than the candidates we are rejecting. In other situations, we reject someone because of their race or gender or appearance or any other number of reasons we are not legally allowed to use. But we do, consciously or subconsciously. We list qualifications and requirements but often hire based on personality or connections.


If you have the benefit of knowing that the organization has already chosen its candidate, do not waste your time applying. If you do not have the luxury of such knowledge (which in most cases you won’t), go through the process as you normally would, and keep applying other places. If you get the sense you are being discriminated against, know your rights and advocate for them.


We mislead and sometimes outright lie to candidates when they ask us about company culture or promotion opportunities. We include an “other duties as assigned” clause in the job description that ends up entailing most of the position’s actual duties. We tell candidates what they want to hear or perhaps are simply not self-aware about what is really going on inside the company. We paint a picture of what is not as a way to fill the position.


 In all cases, get as much information as possible about the position, the company, your team and especially your supervisor. Use LinkedIn and your other networks- virtual or otherwise- to connect with people who know about the company. Set up informational interviews with past or present employees to gather more information. Read online reviews and articles. Do your homework. It will pay off in the long run.

As job seekers, it can feel as if you have no power and that you are at the mercy of the employer. In many cases, you need a job and you need it now. You do not have the luxury to hold out for something better so you take what you can get. You know best about where you are and what you need. If you have any freedom to wait, however, it will benefit you to do so. There are jobs out there- wonderful jobs that will value you financially and otherwise. If at all possible, hold out for one but if you can’t, take what you can get and keep looking for one until you find it.

As employers, it is vital that we hire the best candidates we can, and this requires a process that attracts the best candidates possible. We need to put the necessary thought and time into our hiring process and demonstrate our values by respecting and honoring the time and needs of the candidates wanting to work for us. This will attract candidates who share our values and will leave candidates with a positive impression of our company.

The hiring process is a challenging and time-consuming one for everyone involved. Let’s do a better job of making it easier and more effective in a way that everybody wins. After all, isn’t that the ultimate goal?

Katherine Spinney has spent her entire career working to improve the lives of others. Educated at the University of Virginia and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Katherine has earned Master's degrees in both teaching and social work. She has worked in diverse environments from urban to rural to suburban as well as four years living and working overseas. With extensive experience in the public and non-profit sectors, Katherine has been in management for nearly a decade. She has combined her experience, education and passion to create Katherine Spinney Coaching LLC in order to support others on their own professional journeys.

This article was originally posted on Katherine Spinney Coaching. You can read more articles by Katherine Spinney on her blog, follow her on Twitter here or get in touch directly here

Originally published November 27, 2017

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