the 10 worst things about job hunting

Looking for a job is rarely fun, but being a job-seeker in today’s job market is especially difficult – and sometimes downright unpleasant. Here are the 10 worst things about looking for a job in today’s market.

1. Contradictory job search advice. There’s loads of job search advice on the interview, and much of it is contradictory. Confused job seekers are bombarded by “rules” that often conflict – from whether or not to use a resume objective, to whether to call to follow up on your application, to how you should handle talking about a past firing. And most of this conflicting advice is presented as must-be-followed gospel.

2. Online application systems that barely work. While online application forms have made things more convenient for employers, job seekers report regularly running into systems that won’t upload their resumes, ask yes/no questions that don’t fit many candidates’ situations, and require information that few job seekers have on hand (like a high school GPA or the exact date you started a job 15 years ago). And when candidates know there’s a good chance they won’t even get so much as an acknowledgment, having to spend an hour wrestling with an onerous application system simply to submit a resume is an especially bitter pill to swallow.

3. Job descriptions that don’t match the reality of the job. Job seekers regularly find themselves interviewing for jobs that bare little resemblance to what they thought they were applying for, due to poorly thought-out advertisements and job descriptions that change on the fly.

4. Employers who set up phone interviews and then never call. It’s not uncommon for an employer to schedule a phone interview with a candidate and then not call at the scheduled time, and not bother to get back in touch to reschedule (let alone apologize). Meanwhile, the candidate has often spent time reading up on the company and preparing for the interview, in addition to scheduling child care or time off from work to take the call without interruption.

5. Interviewing and then never hearing anything back. Many companies never bother to notify candidates that they’re no longer under consideration, even after candidates have taken time off work to interview or traveled at their own expense. Candidates are often anxiously waiting to hear an answer—any answer—and end up waiting and waiting, long after a decision has been made.

6. Employers who insist on knowing a candidate’s salary history but won’t reveal what the job pays. Employers regularly insist that candidates name their salary history or expectations up-front, while simultaneously refusing to divulge the range they plan to pay. There’s no reason for employers not to share that info, other than that to make the hire at a lower price. It’s unfair and they usually get away with it, but we’d all be better off if employers simply shared the range they plan to pay and put an end to all the drama and coyness.

7. Having your new salary based on what you used to earn, not what you’ll contribute to the company. Candidates often find themselves locked into a small increase above their last salary, rather than having a new employer make an offer based on the value they’ll bring to the new role. For candidates who are underpaid, this is especially frustrating.

8. Not being considered if you’re not a local candidate. As difficult as the job market is for most people right now, it’s even more difficult for job-seekers who are searching long-distance. Because there are so many qualified local candidates, many employers won’t consider out-of-state candidates at all, even when long-distance candidates are willing to pay their own relocation expenses.

9. Routine invasions of privacy. More and more companies are requiring that candidates submit their social security number, driver’s license number, and references with the initial application. And it’s often not optional, since many online application systems won’t accept an application without these items. But there’s no reason to require this kind of information from candidates who haven’t even gone through an initial screening round yet.

10. Employers who say they’ll give you an answer within a week and then go silent. Interviewers are notorious for telling candidates they’ll hear an answer within a few days or a week, only to disappear for weeks – or sometimes months. Of course timelines change, but employers should have the courtesy to notify candidates when this happens. Companies that would never treat a customer this way think nothing of being cavalier about the commitments they make to job candidates.

The good news for job seekers? The market will eventually turn around, and employers won’t hold all the cards forever.

I originally published this at U.S. News & World Report.

{ 103 comments… read them below }

  1. Kerry*

    For me one of the most frustrating things in my last round of searching was not getting interviews for jobs I knew I was qualified backwards and forwards to do. I understood it was a numbers game, and that with so many good people looking for work, it’s bound to happen, but I can’t count the number of times I sat refreshing my email thinking, “I would be AWESOME at that job! Call me in for an interview already!”

  2. Kelly O*

    You absolutely hit the nail on the head Alison! I’ve experienced so many of these in my job search, and it’s beyond frustrating.

    The one that’s killing me right now is the third-party recruiter who just disappeared after a very positive interview. I followed up with a hand-written thank you note, emails to check in with him, and I’ve had zero response.

    Thankfully I don’t keep all my eggs in one basket, but it was quite disappointing, especially after providing all my personal information (drivers license, SS card number and copies, references) and feeling like it went straight down the drain.

    1. Anony-M*

      Yikes…I´d be weary that you gave out all your personal info (especially SS number!) to someone without hearing back…it could be a scam.

      1. Kelly O*

        No, it was a legitimate agency, I just think it’s one reason you shouldn’t have to provide that information until you’re ready to actually go out and work for a company – if they don’t place you, who wants all their information sitting in someone’s file?

        1. Nancy H*

          I agree Kelly O. Same has happened to me. Gave all my information because that’s what you have to do, they give me papers to fill out and you can’t say “uh no I’m not comfortable giving you my information until I know I got the job for sure” If you do than you take the chance that you look like an odd ball, or a trouble maker, and you know they will never call you just for that.
          It’s hard enough to get called for an interview, forget about not giving personal information, I always had a problem with giving it, but I knew I couldn’t refuse. You just know you can’t refuse, the odds are so against you getting the job in the first place, not going to chance it more than I have to.

    2. Yup*

      Keep the faith. Sometimes these things came back around full circle, for the good. Example: I once interviewed with a recruiter who swooned at my resume and said I was a perfect fit for an open position. She promised to call me the next day to set up the interview with the hiring company. I never heard from her again. (Despite polite, puzzled follow-up on my part).

      Several years later, the *same* recruiter had to interview me again as the final rubber stamp step in an already negotiated offer. (The hiring company had already made me an offer, but did all hiring through this weird temp-to-perm arrangement.) Again, she swooned and said wonderful things. I smiled pleasantly reminded her that we’d already met when she interviewed me 2 years earlier. And that I looked forward to working with her at my upcoming new job, where I’d be her client.

      Hang in there. :)

  3. Anonymous*

    I’ll add one more on the salary issue: Lowballing currently unemployed candidates.

    And yes, I have experienced all the others.

    1. A*

      Yup, I just got a job offer and was seriously lowballed. I’ve been out of work for almost 1.5 years. There was no room for negotiating either. It’s back to square one and paying dues again.

  4. HL*

    How about having your initial screening performed by someone with the working experience of a newborn?

    1. Kelly O*

      I don’t know if I’d go as far as “working experience of a newborn” but it is sort of hard sometimes to be grilled on every aspect of your resume by someone clearly fresh out of college, especially when that person acts like the interview is the first time he’s seen your resume.

      And then of course that is the same person who will go through with the red pen, asking what your salary was at each position and asking tons of questions about why you left (even though it was eight years ago…)

      1. HL*

        Exactly! Also, when you ask a few initial questions of your own, they have no answers – not one.

    2. mh_76*

      Amen! I get calls from “recruiters” (vs. recruiters) who are in their first job out of college, as you so aptly say “with the working experience of a newborn”! Of course I somehow manage to remember to grill them about their recruiting experience after the call ends…oops. The recruiter I’m currently working for has worked in industry and recruiting is his 2nd career. The new one who’s been calling is about 10 years out of school (and is giving me lots of crap about one of my references…who I think she hasn’t even tried to call…more griping about that in my comments on the burned-bridges). I might have to dump the new one because a scheduled phone interview was cancelled but I’ll see whether/how she replies to my email first (asked if she or the co. cancelled & explained the value of my reference from long ago). It’s not the age that I take issue with – my boss and co-boss are both younger and it doesn’t bother me (though I thought it would before I stared a week ago) – it’s that someone with zero prior work experience is grilling me exhaustively about mine.

  5. Anonymous*

    I had an employer come into an interview with preconceived notions of my resume; he even had a list of what he was going to say. He didn’t hide that list too well, and with good eyesight, I can read things upside down. I could see that everything he had written down was all negative. When he went down his checklist, he gave me the briefest of time to answer his questions, and with each of my answers, he refuted them. I didn’t realize an interview turned into a debate with him thinking that he knew everything about the life I’ve lived from just a piece of paper. To this day, I don’t know why he interviewed me.

    1. Anonymous*

      Oh, and let’s not forget the college grads who are receiving outdated advice (you mentioned contradictory advice) from their college’s career offices.

    2. Jobhunting*

      I had a similar experience to Anonymous above who had a negative interview. In fact, the first thing the interviewer said was Oh it’s a “pretty” resume but I don’t want to ask you anything about it – I can read whatever I want to know. He then went on to belittle my college vs his degree from an Ivy league (but in a jokey jokey way) – “I can usually tell the MBAs from {insert his school name here} since they’re just trained differently”. It felt like he’d already made up his mind – and was just a very negative vibe all around.

      1. ChristineH*

        What is the point of bringing a person in for an interview if the interviewer is just going to be negative the whole time?? Sorry you had to experience that!

      2. Piper*

        I had an experience similar to this. I feel like the interviewer just brought me in so she could belittle me and make fun of me the entire time. Why do people do this? It’s such a waste of time.

      3. Anonymous*

        He didn’t do that for me. But all of my jobs that I had thus far had specific begin and end dates and all were related to the college. They all had my university’s name on them in the resume, but he still accused me of job hopping.

        Same here…his mind was already made up. I just don’t know why they can’t at least be friendly. Are they afraid that their initial choice might be the wrong choice (no offense to the person who actually ended up with the job and not to sound arrogant)?

  6. Suzanne*

    I’d add the phone interviews that are not set up ahead of time.

    You apply and someone calls, unannounced, to ask you a few questions about your application. I’ve had this happen several times. I’ve been job hunting off and on for the past several years and have had a handful of phone interviews; only one called first to set up an appointment. So, for the others, I was interviewed while in pj’s, or with my coat on as I was about to head out the door, or with the radio blaring in the background. Sure, I could have said, “This is not a good time”, but in this market, I have no doubt that would have knocked me outta the running immediately.

    It’s an employers market right now, and I am convinced that they don’t give a rip what they do because they know they can get away with the most egregious behavior and will still have people lining up for jobs.

    1. mh_76*

      yep, very annoying indeed. There was a previous post mentioning phone calls at inopportune times that had some great advice in the comments. I usually ignore anyone who isn’t the recruiter I’m currently working for and call everyone else back. On Monster and other online things, I use my google voice number instead of my cell phone. I have “do not disturb” turned on on the GV and the voicemails are (badly) transcribed into emails. It saves me from having to deal with the spam calls that Monster & co. generate. I also have a separate email address for just that purpose. Anything “legit” is transferred to my cell phone and main email address.

  7. Anonymous*

    I agree that employers won’t hold the cards forever, but I highly doubt they will change the annoying online system across the board.

  8. Anonymous*

    Can you write something about finding jobs overseas? Is it a trend? Why do some employers cringe at US Citizens and others give incentives?

  9. The gold digger*

    And when candidates know there’s a good chance they won’t even get so much as an acknowledgment, having to spend an hour wrestling with an onerous application system simply to submit a resume is an especially bitter pill to swallow.

    Yes. Spending a lot of time composing a cover letter and answering their questions knowing that the fact that I’ve been unemployed for six years means I probably will get thrown out first is very frustrating. For what it’s worth, I have not been looking for a job for six years! Maybe I need to start telling them that the only reason I am looking now is that my husband wants to run for office and I have to get out of the house or become part of the insanity. I have NO INTEREST in being part of a political campaign!

  10. ChristineH*

    A big Amen to #1 – contradictory advice!! Alison (or anyone else), how would you suggest handling this? That might be a good idea for a future post, as I’m sure the answer probably isn’t simple enough for the comments section :)

    1. fposte*

      Christine, it’s also worth trying to get the view of somebody who’s actually in the field you’re applying in, since some of these are field-dependent conventions.

  11. Piper*

    #3 – Job descriptions that don’t match the reality of the job and #8 – Not being considered if you’re not a local candidate

    All of the points are frustrating, but for me #3 and #8 are especially annoying. For crap’s sake, my husband lives in a different city from me. This is not fun. I am trying to get a job in his city so we can live under one roof again and I am still getting the “sorry, you’re not local” excuse. Seriously? What part about my husband lives there and has an address did you not quite understand?

    And #3, oh #3! This happens all. the. time. Even better when they wait until after they actually hired you to pull the bait and switch. Then you’re stuck in a crappy job with barely any prospects of getting out and the employer is just like, “oh well, it is what it is.”

    I cannot wait for the tide to turn and for employees to start having the upper hand again (and in the tech industry, this is supposedly going to happen soon- not soon enough if you ask me).

    1. K.*

      Is your husband’s address on your resume? I’ve read that this is a good technique to use when job-hunting out of state (or country), putting a local address on your resume so that they at least think you’re local, and then if you get to the phone screening stage, explaining your situation in more detail.

      FWIW, my best friend got an offer out of state (a recruiter presented the job to her) AND they paid to relocate her and her family, so it can happen!

      1. Piper*

        It sure is on my resume. And I actually have a short line explaining in my cover letter with a clear note that I don’t require relocation assistance and can start immediately after giving two weeks’ notice at my current job, so there really is no difference between me and a local candidate. Doesn’t matter. I’ve been looking for a job out of my state on and off for the better part of 10 years. The song and dance is always the same, regardless of whether I have a local address or not.

        My husband and I are to the point that I will likely have to quit my job and just move. Which of course, then I’ll be unemployed and discriminated against for that. It’s a no win situation.

        1. moe*

          Are they finding out that you’re non-local based on your current place of employment? Wondering if your resume is being lost to the quick-scan and some recruiters are missing that you are (in a sense) already local.

          Alison, would removing the location field from previous employment be appropriate in this situation? This sounds super frustrating.

          1. Piper*

            It is worth a try. Except my current place of employment is globally recognized and its location is very well known…

    2. Suzanne*

      Yeah, a former co-worker took a new job and had her manager point blank tell her, after she started working, they she had been lied to and the job she was promised was not the job she was given.

      1. Piper*

        This exactly happened to me, too. I always wondered if I quit, would I be able to collect unemployment because they told me the job I was hired for didn’t exist? I have a paper trail to prove this. Mind you, I know this is (probably) legal since even though I’m a contractor, I’m not in a legal contract, and I’m not looking to sue anyway. I’d just like to quit and be able to collect unemployment for it so I can move to my husband’s city with a least a little bit of my own income.

    3. HL*

      I’ve learned to ask for a copy of the COMPLETE job description, and wondered if I’ve disqualified myself by requesting this before I would discuss salary – especially if the posting appears to be scant, or the results of a “job description generator”…

      1. Piper*

        I don’t know. I had a copy of the complete job description when this happened to me. In my case, the job didn’t appear scant. It was a full two-page description. It was actually an insane job description filled with all kinds of ridiculous jargon, but it was definitely a full job description that didn’t come from or some kind of job description generator.

        So, even then I don’t think you’re protected. Basically, the employer can do whatever they want to do, regardless of what the job description says, whether it’s one that’s auto-generated or if it’s well-written.

        1. HL*

          I agree – there are no absolutes here – you can inform yourself, complete all the steps properly, have killer skills, take notice of all the “red flags”, etc., and still end up in a situation where the position offered has been misrepresented.

          It’s happened to me, and I imagine to other readers of this blog.

          Asking for the complete job description is just a useful tool to help determine if the employer genuinely wants a new contributing member of their team (and have actually thought about how that individual will fit and add to goals), or just a warm body to carry out all the “scut work”.

    4. ChristineH*

      “And #3, oh #3! This happens all. the. time. Even better when they wait until after they actually hired you to pull the bait and switch. Then you’re stuck in a crappy job with barely any prospects of getting out…”

      This happened to my husband, and that was back in October, 2000, when the economy was in better shape!

    5. mh_76*

      Piper, I know that you have to put your address / employer locale on black-hole sited but you don’t have to put your address on your resume itself, just your name, phone (opt.), email address, and LI link (opt.). Wouldn’t help 100% but if you avoid the black-hole, it might help a little bit

      Does your company allow you to telecommute? Could you say that you work for an out-of-town company but live with your husband? In this economy, BS is sometimes gold…no, platinum.

  12. Rana*

    “Entry-level” jobs (with entry-level pay) that require “5-6 years of experience” and a laundry list of advanced, specialized skills.

    1. K.*

      Similarly, people who want 10 years of social media experience when social media hasn’t been around that long.

    2. Macea*

      So agree….
      It is next to impossible for 20 something year old to find work in their field these days…

      1. Rana*

        Or a 40-something-year-old looking for work in a new field because the old one is dead.

        But they don’t really care about that, do they? Just getting as much work done as cheaply as possible.

        (Yeah, I’m feeling cynical today.)

        1. Piper*

          Or a 30-something who is trying to advance in their field and is only being offered these so-called “entry-level” jobs because suddenly entry level requires 5-10 years of experience and despite having a track record of working up in their field for the past decade or so, it doesn’t matter because no one wants to pay them for what they bring to the table and they are expected to take a huge pay and title cut but do more work.

          /ran and /runonsentence

          Also feeling extremely cynical today.

          1. Kelly O*

            +1,000,000,000 ^ 99999999

            Yeah, I have an Associate’s Degree and over ten years of experience and I have to fight for entry level interviews. Because I don’t have enough management experience to be management, and I don’t have the pretty piece of lambskin saying I went to college four years, so I get relegated to the bottom of the heap…

            Cynical must be in the water….

            1. Piper*

              Ugh. It doesn’t look any better when you’re sitting on a Master’s degree. Does. Not. Matter. I never went to grad school in hopes that I would get a better job (I’m not that naive) or to escape a bad job market (I worked my way through, full-time in my field). I went because it was a personal goal and I’m a learning junkie, but good grief, you’d think it would count for at least a little bit, especially since it directly relates to my field of work.

              1. JL*

                Right there with you Piper with my MBA hanging on the wall. We worked hard for those advanced degrees and if nothing else, the work showed us what we are capable of working full time and going to school. We can withstand these hard times – we have proved we can stay focused on a goal. Best wishes to you on your search.

              2. primIt*

                i have been seeking a hr admin in the healthcare field, to help me maintain while i go back to school to get my mha with no avail! i can’t do one without the other because i do not have the luxury to do so, and the thought of my masters not really being able to land me a job upon graduation, is a very scary thought.
                right now i am just going to hope that getting a hr generalist certificate will boost my chances of getting a hr job. hopefully there is a light at the end of the tunnel!!

          2. mh_76*

            +1 more! I’m mid 30’s and seemingly eternally stuck in “e-level” jobs. The flip side is that I don’t have 5-6 years exp. in any one thing because I’ve had a lot of jobs (mostly contract, “perm” for first 7ish years out of coll.).

            It also -feels- like new/recent grads are exempted from the experiential/skills requirements that are keeping a lot of us out of those very same jobs. If you look on LI for people who have a job title that interests you and cross-reference the new/recent grads’ prior experience with the “requirements” sections of job listings…

            1. Liz*

              The LinkedIn check you describe has been incredibly depressing for me too. At first I thought there must be a fairly small pool of qualified candidates. Then after more time in the market, I realized that there are a LOT of candidates with much greater qualifications, but for some reason these aren’t the people being hired.

              If I had to take a guess, I’d say that employers in this city are posting positions with a laundry list of almost random qualifications at least in part to discourage too many people from applying (understandable, because every open position gets hundreds of applicants). I don’t know what happens between the time the job is posted and the time the person who doesn’t have half the qualifications is hired, though. Wish I did :)

        2. Rana*

          Heh. Thought of another “worst thing” –

          Not letting one’s bitterness and frustration show during the job search process. I want to be positive and hopeful about each new opportunity, but it gets tiring after so many rejections, you know?

          1. Flapjacks*

            Agreed! I already have to work hard to suppress my self deprecation–being positive and upbeat after nine months of searching makes it even harder!

          2. Piper*

            YESSSSS! It’s so freaking hard when you’re dealing with all of these “worst things” and then some to be all sunshine, rainbows, and puppy dogs in a job interview. Thank goodness for all the theatre training I had as an adolescent and in college…

          3. Suzanne*

            Rana, that not letting the frustration and bitterness show is really hard!

            I truly really believe that the greatest part of the lousy economy is employers’ inability to figure out what in the heck they want in an employee and how to hire them. So, the wheel of progress are a gunked up mess with job seekers getting frustrated and angry and employers doing the same because they can’t connect to the workers they think they want.

    3. Liz*

      This! I especially love hearing people who posted these kinds of ads complain about hearing from “over-qualified” older applicants. It is like every employer expects to find the field’s equivalent of Doogie Howser.

    4. emily*

      ^this!!! how is that entry level. i’m only 22 with a few months out of college how am i supposed to have 5-6 yrs of experience

    5. Anonymous*

      OH, this!

      I graduated October 2008 and am still unemployed because all the “entry-level” jobs aren’t that at all, and everything else is asking for high-level management.

      I have experience in my field thanks to internships and part-time jobs while in school. But because this was not full-time ongoing employment it doesn’t count in this job market.

    6. Sophie*

      I hate that so much! Right now my department is offering what I consider an entry level or just above job, and they want 3-5 years of experience, and preferably a master’s in the field. And of the course the pay is pitiful, so all the good candidates are dropping out after they learn the pay is non-negotiable, and then my manager vetoes any of the average candidates because he doesn’t think they will stick around or they aren’t “perfect.” GAH!

  13. We're all in this together*

    A subset of #10: not having a clear hiring timeline in place. I had a preliminary interview for a manager position that went well, but in my preparation I came across a listing for an executive director position at the same company. I suspected that this was the person to whom the manager position would report, so I made a note to ask about it. I was correct. Moreover, they haven’t decided if they want to hire the exec first and then fill the manager position, or hire the manager and then bring in the exec (and of course, the exec could come in and fire the manager right away for whatever reason – s/he wants to structure the department differently, s/he has staff they want to bring with them, etc.). If they do decide to fill the exec position first, the HR person said she anticipated that hiring process taking “months” (it’s a prominent position at a prominent company, so it stands to reason that it would take a while to fill it). It seems like a huge waste of everyone’s time to screen candidates for a position that you may not be filling for 5 months.

    I also had a company pull a disappearing act on me, and from what I’ve heard (checking their website and using contacts I have at the company) the position is still vacant, so I don’t know if the company just moves slowly or the position was frozen (which I have also had happen, although at least I was notified when that happened) or what. I have so many stories – and I’ve only been at it less than three months!

    1. ChristineH*

      This is exactly why I hesitate to consider jobs where they are simultaneously recruiting for the position you’re interested in (position A) AND the position to which you’d be reporting to (position B). It’d make more sense to me to fill Position B first, THEN Position A.

  14. Lindsay H.*

    Ugh! Check to all ten! Plus, if I have to pull on that uncomfortable suit one more time . . . *plants tongue in cheek* I may just go in shorts and a tshirt since dressing up hasn’t done the trick yet! :P

  15. Kelly O*

    I went on an interview today, and what I ran into was sort of twofold – first, the job description I received just said “receptionist and front desk administrative support”. So I get to the office and find that the real problem, the second piece, is that they’ve been burned by receptionists over the last year or so, and although they want someone at a higher level, they’re having a hard time figuring out what that person should do, because the people they’ve brought in have all claimed they were too busy to do whatever. So is it really too much work, or is it the people just not wanting to work?

    We did wind up having a great conversation about the challenges of staffing administrative positions when companies want to run so lean. But seriously y’all, this manager should totally read Alison’s column, because some of the horror stories she has about people mysteriously sick on Mondays, or who come in early and leave late, or who ask if they have to come in every day, or who don’t think they have to catch every call… I mean seriously what is up with some people?

    That gives the rest of us searching a really bad name, and makes it harder to earn that trust to do your job well.

      1. Kelly O*

        Seriously you would not believe some of the things that get pulled in offices, even as tight as the market is. A few examples she and I discussed yesterday:

        – The student receptionist who balked at doing anything aside from her written out duties because it cut into her homework time.
        – The person who was consistently out sick on Mondays following Fridays off.
        – The person who figured out the time clock rounding, and would quite routinely clock out seven minutes early in the evenings, and clock in seven minutes late in the mornings.
        – The person who forgot you can see the time her parking card swipes and claimed she had to wait for an elevator a long time during construction periods.
        – The person who asked truly if she had to come in every day.
        – The person who asked truly if she had to answer every phone call (in a receptionist position.)
        – The person upset because she could not smoke at her desk. In 2012.
        – The chronic smoke break takers who need to go downstairs half a dozen times a day.
        – The person who could not figure out if someone calls for Thomas Jones it’s a cold call, because anyone who knows him knows he goes by Art (or something similar.)
        – The receptionist who cannot seem to remember to tell you first and last name, what company the person is calling from, and even which line they’re on with any regularity. (You get a little of it, but nothing’s the same any time.)

  16. Liz*

    11. Constantly being advised to network, but then also being dismissed as nsot worth talking to as soon as people find out you’re unemployed.

    12. Requests for unpaid low-level work from organizations that won’t introduce volunteers to others in the non-profit world. It is nice to have something for my portfolio but doing grunt work for an organization that can’t hire me and doesn’t otherwise expand my network isn’t a favor from you to me, it is a favor from me to you. Do your own data entry if it adds so little that it isn’t worth a thank you.

    13. Regular “hey you should apply for this” referrals to jobs that were filled before they were posted.

    14. People who use a new person’s request to network professionally as a chance to troll for dates – if you want a social meeting ask for one.

    15. People who remove all the header information about a job listserv before forwarding the job, and people who refuse to share job board information in general.

    16. People who forward job postings that are six months old, say things like “I have heard that a lot of jobs are on the Internet now – have you tried that?”

    A lot of people are really nice, of course, and I am not entitled to some sort of job search red carpet. I don’t think job seekers deserve the extra kicks we get, though, from the kind of people who seem to see vulnerability as an opportunity to make themselves feel big.

  17. Obvious*

    I was referred by a current employee of an Airline to apply for a baggage claim position mind you I have a Bachelor’s degree in Accounting. The manager told my “network” that he couldn’t find my information. I emailed the PDF I had luckily saved but he still could not pull my file – he asked for my ssn and I gave him only then was he able to locate me from the “rejected files.” I had an interview the same day and a week later I met with the other manager, now I am in the waiting game.

    I say all this to warn you out there that the online application systems are rigged, I think I was “rejected” because I have a degree and to think of the hours I spent filling out the application is sickening. I told myself the next position I apply I will simply sent a resume and cover letter.

    Please use your network, I might or might not get the job but at least I went for the interview. So many of your applications never make it to the so called Hiring Manager.

    1. Anonymous*

      The online application systems, while certainly flawed, are certainly not “rigged.” Chances are if there were screening questions, you may not have chosen the answer they require. That’s how it works, no more, no less. Not every recruiter, HM or HR person is going to bother checking the bin for rejected candidates to see if there were any viable candidates.

      I’m surprised your contact didn’t have you put in your application via a referral program at his work, if there is one. A lot of larger companies have employee referral programs where they can refer people to apply for positions and if the person gets hired and I think makes it past a certain amount of time as an employee, they get a bonus. Or at the very least get in touch with HR to keep an eye out for your name.

  18. Steve G*

    And remember to add (keeping in mind I am gainfully employed):

    1) Being called by recruiters for jobs that are disguised Sales jobs, some of which are not salaried. My experience has nothing to do with sales. I also have nothing to do with the industries. I eventually figure out that the job is a sales job and am not interested. Do the recruiters not think I’ll figure it out??
    2) Being headhunted for “excellent opportunities” that pay alot less than I do now. Is my resume bad? Or do recruiters think they can pull a quick one and get me to leave a job for a lower paying one??

  19. Anonymous*

    Being screened out because you’ve been unemployed more than x period of time. That is frustrating!

    Also job ads that are confusing and that you have to read 3 or 4 times in order to fully absorb the information. When you’re scratching your head, trying to figure out if this is even a job you qualify for, that’s not good.

    1. mh_76*

      There is/was a bill somewhere in Congress to [attempt to] ban discriminaton against the unemployed. I’ve lost track of its progress.

  20. Adrian*

    Recruiters spelling their own email address incorrectly. Yes, it’s an employers market, but when you don’t even bother to check critical information… It’s just embarrassing and comes across as incredibly unprofessional.

    1. Jen M.*

      Haha! It’s not just the email addresses, either.

      The other day, I saw an ad for an “administrative assistent.” (Yes, I almost applied, but then I read the job description.)

  21. Charles*

    AAM – as always, a great list.

    There is one BIG thing that I would like to add; and, perhaps, it was left off your list because it is too obvious. (yet, you do state it somewhat in the first paragraph – “looking for a job is rarely fun”)

    Job hunting is NOT my job! It is no one’s job. Yet, at the same time, it is everyone’s job.

    Unfortunately, it is like we are all forced to do sales (the product being ourselves) when we have a passion for doing something else. That, to me is the biggest “worst” thing of job hunting. Most of us would rather . . . than look for work.

    1. Rana*

      Oh, gosh, the “sales” part of job hunting is precisely what I hate about it. If I was good at selling things, I’d have a job… selling things.

      Simply put, that’s not where my skill set lies, and it never has been. I’m half convinced that this is the reason my employment history has sucked so badly over the years: an inability to sell myself effectively. I can do the work once I’ve got the job – I simply don’t apply for jobs where I can’t – but it’s getting _to_ the interview, and getting _through_ the interview, that I stink at.

      (AAM’s advice is great for both, but I still loathe this part of the process.)

  22. mh_76*

    Some of these bug me more than others but overall an excellent list. My current gripe is that a phone screen was cancelled and I’m not sure if the recruiter did it or if the co. did…more on that in some of my other comments here & in the post about “bridges”.

  23. Elizabeth West*

    #6 is my pet peeve. I need to know what the job pays because if I can’t live on it, then I’m not going to waste your time and mine applying. Also, if you want 5+ years of front desk experience, you shouldn’t be paying minimum wage. Cheapskates.

    I just found out today via grapevine that my exjob hired an admin to do some of the things I used to do but that she can’t even write a memo to save her life. I’ll betcha a dollar they’re paying her way less than what I was making. Well, you get what you pay for. Jerks.

  24. Anonymous*

    I think one of the reasons for “local candidates only” is that if they end up firing you after 3 weeks, they don’t want to feel bad that they made you move.

  25. Anonymous*

    I agree to all of these, especially the uploading of resumes and the not even bothering read to resumes. My best interview was for an organization down the street from me. They emailed asking about particulars and when I passed that test they set up an interview. I did all of my research, walked to the interview (yes it was that close), and then they tell me they do not like the fact I am local. Why waste my time and theirs when you obviously saw I was local by the address on my resume and when we chatted on the phone to set up the interview!
    Job hunting is frustrating enough, but the people who get my hopes up that their is actually a position and instead waste my time make it more frustrating.

  26. Editor*

    Getting daily emails from online job boards with job postings that are out of date.

    And the person who complained about selling yourself is also right. Being shy or having been out of the job market for years makes it harder, but employers don’t seem to allow for that.

    Too much bias toward young and attractive candidates (maybe that’s the problem with the company that has continuing problems hiring a receptionist) and not enough emphasis on competency.

    Alison’s list included the complaint about salary ranges, and I would say that is my biggest complaint, and one hiring managers should pay attention to. Just put in the ad what you’re willing to pay. It helps describe the job and it warns off people who don’t want that salary.

    1. Jamie*

      “Alison’s list included the complaint about salary ranges, and I would say that is my biggest complaint, and one hiring managers should pay attention to. Just put in the ad what you’re willing to pay. It helps describe the job and it warns off people who don’t want that salary.”

      I know I’m a broken record on this – but THIS! For goodness sake post a range and save everyone a lot of time.

      As long as I’m giving unsolicited advice to anonymous hiring managers again – company size is very helpful for certain positions. Director of IT or CIO – if your company has 20 people, a couple hundred, or thousands makes those completely different jobs and in the blind ads without a company name to google it’s hard to know if it’s something you even want to pursue.

  27. De Minimis*

    I have so many….it’s sad but some of them have happened so many times now that I don’t even notice them anymore [like not hearing back from interviewers.] I’ve gotten to the point where I consider that to be the norm and it’s pretty sad when I consider it a pleasant surprise when someone does let me know they decided to hire someone else.

    I’d say I have three main ones.
    1. Interviewers who have unreasonable expectations regarding gaps in employment, especially gaps that are years in the past. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to explain about why I only worked sporadically while attending graduate school full-time back in 2005-2008. I have worked since then, but sometimes interviews still want to “explain” that gap in employment. At that point I usually come to the conclusion that they are looking for a reason to disqualify me.

    2. Recruiters and sometimes even interviewers who aren’t familiar with the field for which they are recruiting/interviewing.

    3. And yes, requiring years of experience for lower level jobs, while at the same time not wanting to consider employees for those jobs who have “too much education.”

  28. Moses*

    In my experience, I find this list extremely obsolete and overblown. At least in the UK market (in IT).
    While most of this was true 5-7 years ago, as a person that has been actively job hunting in the last few months, I have found that the overall situation has improved considerably since the days of yore.

    #1. Contradictory advice.
    Not so much anymore. I have found that there are a lot more useful resources available now than before. I have seen quite a few websites offering great advices including this site. Just do your research and use your common sense.

    2. Online application systems that barely work.
    So untrue. Comparing to how things worked before, online applications are so much more streamlined now. Gone are the days when for every position and every new agent you had to fill your full detailed information. Or some strange limitations to 100kb CVs.
    Just overall applying for the jobs online is A LOT easier now.

    3. Job descriptions that don’t match the reality of the job.
    4. Employers who set up phone interviews and then never call.
    Never happened in my experience although I’ve applied to hundreds of jobs. (IT field)

    5. Interviewing and then never hearing anything back.
    I find this overblown. Who forbids you from calling up to check? Maybe it’s just me, but I always check up on the state of things, so I don’t find this to be any problem. I would say the bigger problem is that they often delay the answer for weeks (or forcing you to make a decision within a few days), but as long you understand that most interviewers are not perfect and it is YOUR responsibility to check up on things if you want the job, you should be fine.

    6. Employers who insist on knowing your salary history but won’t reveal what the job pays.
    Most of the jobs I applied for have a salary range. It is quite rare to see a job with a rate which is “Negotiable” or a “Market Rate”.
    In fact, most of the job sites have a requirement to enter a salary when posting a job, and it should be numbers too, so only about %5 of jobs posted do not have a salary range.
    But even if the job does not say what the it pays, you should have a minimum price you will work for that you can state upfront.
    That will solve such problems.

    7. Having your new salary based on what you used to earn, not what you’ll contribute to the company.
    In my experience this was REALLY annoying 5-7 years ago when everyone and their dog wanted to know your previous salary, but these days, not all that many people ask about it.
    I think the situation with this has improved considerably over the years. Besides, you could just prepare a few stock answers on how to deal with it if it bothers you so much, and you would be good to go.

    8. Not being considered if you’re not a local candidate.
    Never been an issue in UK. It is quite common to relocate to different parts of UK for a new job around here and is considered quite normal. As long as you state clearly that you are totally fine with relocating (and maybe don’t ask for relocating expenses) this is not a problem at all.

    9. Routine invasions of privacy.
    Again, never happened to me. I worked in both low level and high level jobs and never heard questions about my marriage status, religious few, national insurance number and such. Hell, no one ever asked me for my references!
    If anything, I was the one to sometimes come up with a sensitive information when explaining my situation.

    10. Employers who say they’ll give you an answer within a week and then go silent.
    This might be the only one I agree with. But then again, a quick follow up (or a hard one, depending on how evasive an agent or employer is) is all you need to find out your situation.
    It is your responsibility to find the job and solve the problems as they come up in the jobs searching.

    I would imagine a problem solving skill is something that is required in almost any job. If you are unable to solve relatively simple problems that come up with job hunting, why should the employer want to hire you?

    I find most of these issues either overblown, obsolete or can be easily avoided with a little preparation.

  29. Moses*

    I see.
    Looking at what I wrote, I realized it might have come off a bit aggressive. I apologize for that and I want to say that your advices are always very sound and practical, among the best I have seen online.
    Which is why I was so surprised to see something that was so different in my experience. Even though job related advices are quite universal in nature I guess there are some advices that only apply to specific locations and areas.

    1. Anonymous*

      Yes. Things are quite different here in the US. We put up with quite a lot of “bullhockey.”

      You all over there seem very fortunate where this is concerned!

  30. Maria*

    Online applications. They are the bane of my existence. They take forever to fill out, and is really just data entry of information I already have on my resume, which is a searchable document. Adding all the glitches and missing entry fields and it can take HOURS to fill out one application. Which as a recent grad, I’m not even sure I really qualify for!

    As for experience in entry level jobs, I blame internships. Students are expected to have 3-5 internships under their belt MINIMUM by the time they graduate, thus giving them the “experience” needed for the entry level jobs. I didn’t do any because of my full year study abroad, and now I feel like I can only apply to internships (which are almost all unpaid and require you be in university and receiving college credit for to justify your slave labor to their company). If I had known that, I wouldn’t have studied abroad (regardless of how valuable it was to me as a personal growth experience) and just dropped out or only taken a class a semester and just do internships so I could qualify for them forever. But I have overall disagreements with internships and universities which this is not the appropriate place to discuss.

  31. Tara*

    I am in tears as we speak. I thought blogging/ complaining would release some of my tension but reading this post, I’m bawling all over again.
    After a rather, let’s just say, annoying phone interview yesterday with the hiring manager at a very well known company, I felt completely deflated. I comforted myself by saying that it could not have been as bad as it seemed. Then, not even 6 hours later, the rejection letter came and I could not pretend anymore.
    It feels like the back breaking straw. I have experienced all three issues mentioned in the post and some. I continually take responsibility that it must be something I am doing wrong-for the sake of self improvement-but I’m running thin on ambition at the moment.

  32. Long Term Unemployed*

    Employers who have been with their company for years in secure jobs don’t understand the recession, or why so many people are unemployed. They question why you were laid off from your previous job, thinking it was all your fault. Then they think you are a loser or unemployable if you did not immediately find a new job.

  33. Roy*

    I know this article is no longer “hot off the presses”, but I wanted to let you know it is still extremely relevant.

    All of these, and more, I have personally experienced.

    I filled out an application earlier today, it took three and a half hours by the time I received a “thanks for your interest…” message. Am I qualified? You bet. Will I hear back? Probably not.

    Add the job seeking frustration to some terrible treatment I have had while employed, and my motivation is non existent. I guess I’ll drink some Pepto Bismol, fill out some more forms, talk to some more recruiters, and see how long it takes until I develop ulcers.

Comments are closed.