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Career Advice From A To Z: “B” For “Bullshit In The Job Interview”

Part 2 of our 26 episode series “Career Advice From A To Z” is about the question why employers do not always tell the truth in the job interview.

It happens regularly that candidates pass the interview process, sign a work contract and find out on day 1 that this is not what they has been discussed.

What are the reasons and what can you do to minimize the risks that this will happen to you?

  • External reasons: The economic environment can change faster than we think (e.g. from April 2011 to now), the loss of a major client can have an impact on entrepreneurial decisions. Depending on where you or your major clients live, political factors can influence the strategic decisions of your organization
  • Internal reasons: An infrastructure can change and if key-players join – or leave – an organization, this can have an impact on the role you discussed in the job interview. Also, a strategy can be revised for whatever reason and divisions can be outsourced, sold or closed. Investments that were approved when you were hired (and which should should have paid your salary) can be cut

 

How can you reduce the risks this will happen to you?

  • Do your homework: Not all jobs have a job description and as of a certain level, you cannot ask for one if you want to remain credible. However, 75% of what you should spend your energy and time on should be defined in advance. Ambiguous answers on your questions can be an indicator that things will change (namely everything your contact was not able to respond to)
  • Ask specific questions: “How will my performance be measured”, “What will define my success or failure?”, “Which changes will the organization undergo in the next 6 months and how will that impact this role?”
  • Ask general questions: “What can change from today until then?”, “What could go wrong?”, “The job seems clear to me. Is there anything we have not discussed that could have an impact on the job?”

 

Conclusion:

Surprises are usually good for a kids’ birthday party and usually bad in a corporate context, especially when it’s about job interview that will determine the content of your next career move. And if your new job changes during the first months, this will be bad most of the times.

Yes, the future is unpredictable and in rough times like these, things can change fast.  Benjamin Franklin said “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure”: Do your research, reduce risks as good as you can – and if it still does not work out, call a headhunter you trust.

Best regards

Jorg Stegemann, direct line +33-1-45645424

  1. Anil Reply

    Jorg- Couldn’t agree with you more!

    Too often vague / evasive / dismissive answers by interviewers are ignored as the “warning signals” by eager/ desperate candidates. I have experiences that validate this observation.

    Researching well is the best thing to do, but at times, it may not be practical as there may not be enough connections / insiders who can validate your apprehensions.

    Candidates who catch these signals during an interview will more often than not be happier off.

  2. Charbel Reply

    Indeed, Anil is right: when someone is desperately looking for a new job, he/she does not pay attention to warning details or simply ignores them if he is unhappy with his current employer.

    But the situation is different for someone having a successful career path with a good relationship with his employer, but who accepts another job as a way of rising his profile and progressing in a larger or more generous organization, or sometimes because he reached a ceiling with the current employer and is looking for a higher grade or bigger responsibility. If things turn bad, the same person who was few weeks ago recognized as a champion is his old firm, will find himself struggling to understand his role and corporate culture and to learn how to deal with his new colleagues.

    Add to this the environmental challenges described by Jorg, and the situation becomes a risk adventure.

    So better be prepared (financially and emotionally) before starting a new job. Who knows, you may find yourself soon looking for another one!

    • Jorg Reply

      Thanks, Anil and Charbel. Good points

  3. Janet Reply

    I particularly like your third category of questions. Candidates I’m working with often ask me what questions they should ask at interview and I think these ones are particularly useful, especially in today’s world of constant org change

  4. Vince Reply

    I agree Jorg although in my experience even the interviewers don’t necessarily know what is going on…..!

  5. Vince Reply

    Jorg,
    Sometimes not even the interviewers are aware of the full picture, which may only be known amongst a small number of executives.

    • Jorg Stegemann Reply

      Vince -

      I agree this can happen. And then you might have two frustrated people: the new hire and his manager…

  6. Michael Reply

    It may happen that the interviewers have a bloated opinion about the nature of the position and the job descriptions. Sometimes this happens because they are ill-informed. Separately it can also happen because by bloating the job description they are bloating up their egos, suggesting it comes down to their need to feed their self-importance.

    To the first point, on one position with a very large corporation back about 45 years ago, I took a position that seemed to carry a high level of responsibility. Once on the job, though, despite my efforts I have nothing active to do for about 30 days. I jumped up two management levels to define my position and I got my first real task: Interview all GMs of the international corporation to find if my job was necessary. That task required about a week and I wrote a report: Job not needed; resigned immediately.

    Turned out that the contract folks had a bloated idea about their successes, bragged this down to operating management, and it was all an illusion.

    • Jorg Stegemann Reply

      Michael -

      What a story! Thanks for sharing!

  7. Alissa Reply

    This situation actually happened to me – bullshit in the interview! The woman who was to be my immediate supervisor knew when she was interviewing me that she was being promoted and leaving her current role; yet, she never mentioned it, and totally led me to believe I would be reporting to her. My first day, she was gone, and I had no supervisor. The department was a mess and no one at the helm, because no one filled her role. The others in the department did not want the ‘new hire’ in the first place, so I was set-up for failure from day one. Three painful months with an majorily dysfunctional organization.

    • Jorg Stegemann Reply

      Thanks, Alissa, for sharing. What a terrible situation! I understand you left after 3 months and I guess this is the best thing you could do!

      See also point 1 in Do you want to get a promotion this year?

    • Suresh Reply

      I too went thru exactly the same situation, and it’s frustrating, to end up in a situation like that, and added to that is the whole situation is internally orchestrated and not because of some uncontrollable external factors.

  8. Sarah Reply

    Thanks very interesting article.

    How can we avoid employers bullshiting on salaries? Very often they say it is the best offer they can do and after a while in the company you notice that it was not true and you are underpaid ie frustrated… Is there a way to be better prepared?

    • Jorg Stegemann Reply

      Excellent question… I do not have a good answer on this. Does anyone of the reader has one?

      • Terri Reply

        It would be interesting to learn why the writer thought they were underpaid. Was it because they learned another person’s salary? Or, were there so many more job duties and responsibilities placed upon the employee, perhaps? If so, embracing those responsibilities and doing great at them would be good evidence for a possible pay increase. Using knowledge of someone else’s salary can be a good way to lose one’s job since that is highly confidential information. (I am writing from the US however, so things may be different elsewhere)
        To prepare, search a number of salary sites to get some numbers. And also, while most expect a pay increase when taking a new job, do NOT be afraid to negotiate. You may not get everything you ask for, but you’ll probably get something additional.
        Hope some of this helps a bit!

        • Jorg Stegemann Reply

          Thank you, Terri. Good points!

  9. Marcus Reply

    Jorg

    I would have to agree, have recently found myself in this situation, and have now had to re-evaluate my situation. The bigger question is, how to explain to your next potential employer the rational for why you stayed only 6mnths?

    I would also add that it is a good idea to have a lawyer look at the contract before you sign, if you are going for a high position.

    • Jorg Reply

      Marcus, Thanks for your comment. I guess the answer will be to tell the truth by respecting the rule to never talk bad about a former employer. This works in an interview but the resume is what it is…

  10. Anonymous Reply

    Thanks for this article. It is very relevant.

    In my case, I lost my job on my joining day (reorganisation => job disappeared), because (I guess) I was “bullshitted” during the recruitment process. Nice start ?

    I assume that the best way to detect this kind of issue is to believe your first feeling and to be extra-cautious in case anything is not 100% crystal clear during the recruitment process…

  11. Antoine Reply

    Not lucky at all ! After having resigned and left his employer to another one, he finds himself unemployed.
    Charbel (above comments) recommended to be emotionally and financially prepared. I hope the commenter was.

  12. Nigel Reply

    Good advice. My own experiences have taught me to ask better questions at interview.

    Questions like:

    - How many customers contribute to your top 50% of revenue?
    - Do you foresee any problems with your top ten customers?

    Yes they come across as a bit forward, maybe even pushy, but if they want a yes man, they can interview the next guy… If they “um” and “erm” a lot then at best they haven’t prepared and at worst there’s a problem.

    And if it DOES all go wrong six months down the line, don’t let the answer to “Why didn’t you tell me?” be “Because you never asked!”

    • Jorg Stegemann Reply

      Good questions, Nigel! Thanks

  13. Liam Reply

    I’ve had this problem often. Dealing with interviews where they have no idea what’s going on. Positions that have just been created days ago. Recruiters who actually know very little about the field. Or very high pressure interviews that don’t even really give you a chance to speak.

    • Jorg Stegemann Reply

      Liam, thanks. This can also be hiring managers. For what you call “high pressure interviews”, I have conducted approx. 2,500 interviews but did not yet find out what their purpose should be…

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