is this job application horribly invasive or is it just me?

A reader writes:

I’ve been looking for work for quite a while, and came across a job that looked fantastic. I was more than qualified, had a passion for the work, and per the job listing, there were benefits like telecommuting that really piqued my interest. The company was extremely small, which I liked, so I sent my cover letter, resume, and multiple portfolio pieces and waited.

Yesterday I got a response email, which came off as extremely long, rambling, stilted, and poorly worded, but since this position is to help address those issues, I figured they weren’t good communicators. However, I’m a bit concerned about several items. They requested I fill out a form with every position I’ve ever had. They’re adamant that positions aren’t combined (every page states as such in huge capital letters) and that I must include every position and attach more paper if I need to. For each position, they want to know the contact information of the company (address, email, phone, fax), what kind of work they did, my direct supervisor, my title, start and end dates, my starting pay in that position, my final pay in that position, how my supervisor would grade my performance, why would they grade it that way, did I leave on my own, did they ask me to or was it 50/50, give more detail about my leaving, favorite parts of the job, and least favorite parts.

Also included in the email was this:

A final step in our hiring process is for candidates to arrange personal reference calls with their former manager and others. We ask you to do this for three reasons:

* Your development – We have found that the candid, confidential insights of bosses and others can be used to help you move smoothly into your new job and help us work with you to create a powerful individual development plan.
* Verification – Confidential reference calls from bosses and other will help add credibility to the information that you have provided throughout the hiring process.
* Ease – It it can sometimes be difficult to get former bosses and other to talk with us, but we have found that high-performers can usually arrange for those discussions.

I’m incredibly uncomfortable with how invasive this feels. This job isn’t in finance or insurance, and it doesn’t require a security clearance that would justify something this in-depth. Think being in charge of presenting a new design line and monitoring its sales. On top of that, some of the things they ask for are impossible. I can’t remember every contact from every job I’ve ever had, or how much I was making in retail when I was 16 years old. Some of my old managers are dead or in jail or I have no clue where they are, much less how to contact them and arrange a conversation.

On top of this, I haven’t had an interview yet. To me, it feels incredibly unfair that they get access to all this information when I haven’t gotten a chance to talk to them about the position. Am I being ridiculous, or have I just been lucky to not experience this before?

Nope, you’re not being ridiculous. They are.

They’re asking you to invest an enormous amount of time in this before you’ve even had a conversation with them to determine mutual interest.

And they’re asking for information that’s just unreasonable to request. They really, really don’t need to hear your favorite and least favorite parts of every single job you’ve ever held, and asking you to spend time writing that out — especially at this early stage, but really at any point of the process — is rude and inconsiderate of your time. They also don’t need to know the starting and final pay for every job you’ve ever held, and if they want to know how your boss would grade your performance, they can ask you about that in an interview when you’re having an actual conversation.

The reference piece of the email actually isn’t outrageous, although it’s really premature for them to be discussing it at this point. But if you were at the finalist stage in their process, it would be reasonable for them to ask you to set up reference calls with people, for the reasons they list. But it’s way too early for that … and they’re also sort of over-explaining it, which is weird. Most people don’t need to be told why employers request references, and there’s something almost defensive about their explanation here. Again, weird — if they want to defend and explain something, it should be the rest of their over-reach for information, not their request for references.

Anyway, these are people who (a) don’t know how to hire well, (b) haven’t thought through (or don’t care) what’s reasonable to ask candidates to do, (c) don’t recognize that hiring and interviewing are two-way streets, where strong candidates will have options and won’t put up with time-consuming and invasive processes like this, especially before they’ve even had a chance to talk to someone about the job, and (d) are out of touch with normal hiring conventions. Proceed with extreme caution, if at all.

Read updates to this letter here and here.

{ 311 comments… read them below }

  1. TCO*

    When I see a bad hiring process, it always makes me wonder: who else have they hired to work there? In a case like this, a lot of in-demand candidates might not bother with such a time-consuming and amateur application process if they have other options. Does that mean that my coworkers in this new job would be more likely to be lower-caliber? Would the leadership have similarly out-of-touch practices in other realms of the business?

    1. dragonzflame*

      This. As I’ve read time and again on here, pay attention to how they behave when they’re trying to woo you. This is when everyone’s going to be on their best behaviour, so if there are red flags now, what will it be like when they’re no longer trying to impress you?

    2. Sherm*

      I suspect a lot of such companies (after telling themselves “There must be a shortage!” in response to the trickle of applications) eventually give up and select people who ignored the rules and sent application materials missing much of the requirements. So then the companies wind up with staff who don’t follow directions.

    3. Chriama*

      I kind of got the impression that this is a small business and someone got their high school kid to handle the hiring process. It’s just so outside professional norms that I can’t imagine anyone with much hiring (or even just employee management) experience doing this. No matter what though, it’s a huge red flag for working there. I wouldn’t risk it if I had other options. If I didn’t have other options I would probably half-heartedly fill out the application (leave blank everything I don’t remember, put salary as ‘confidential’, etc) and assume that no one else is following the directions that closely either.

    4. MW*

      My first job, only a few years ago, was with a tiny tech startup with some seriously sketchy practices. I had poor CV/interview skills (hadn’t started reading AAM!) and was desperate to get into work, so I wound up taking the job even though, on retrospect, their terms were terrible.

      The weird recruiting practices definitely influenced who was on the staff. The tech lead, my boss, was heavily underqualified for his position, so much so that we theorised that he actually tricked the CEO with his credentials. He was a nightmare to work with. Then there was a really talented programmer with zero qualifications and no professional experience who, like me, got paid peanuts (in his case, lack of a degree made it very difficult to get a job elsewhere in the industry). The staff were basically exploited by the company, or exploiting the company.

      I got out after 9 months. At least it taught me a lot of valuable lessons about red flags from employers!

  2. OP*

    Thank you so much for answering my email!

    I actually responded to the employer a few days after I wrote you (as there was a 7 day deadline I didn’t think to mention). The person who wrote me had proudly mentioned they used a certain hiring process, and after researching it and seeing 1) what I was in for and 2) that they happily bragged about using an outdated hiring methodology from the 90s, I sent the following response:

    “I want to thank you for reaching out to bring me into the next step of the process, but after researching the Topgrading methodology, I must decline. Thank you again for your interest and best of luck in finding a candidate who meets your needs.


          1. OP*

            “While I would have no problems connecting you with my references, all of which would be glowing, I find the process Topgrading espouses incredibly invasive and one sided. As an A-player/Top Performer, I have the freedom to pursue positions I’m interested in, meaning my interviewing a potential workplace as much as they’re interviewing me. To dedicate time looking up every job I’ve had for the past 15 years (some of these companies have shut down, or merged), trying to figure out who my managers were, going that far back into my records for my beginning and ending salary, all before I’ve even had the courtesy of a phone interview, comes off as incredibly one-sided and disrespectful of my time. In addition, a 4-5 hour interview spent rehashing jobs from a different era and completely different industries, that have absolutely no bearing on the work I do now, and starts us off on an unbalanced relationship. The Topgrading method appears to be steeped in mistrust, and a company that promotes those methods is not a company I feel would be a good fit for me.”

              1. OP*

                Thanks, I’m pretty proud of it! Now if only I could turn my skills for passive aggressive snark into job offers!

                1. MommaTRex*

                  The next time my job description is rewritten, I’m adding “passive aggressive snark” into the list of skills.

              1. Jerry Vandesic*

                The thing is, they probably don’t feel the burn. They probably feel like they just avoided someone that they wouldn’t have wanted to hire. Maybe they are both right, and it wasn’t a fit. I personally wouldn’t have even responded to their request, but they might sincerely believe that this process gets them good employees.

            1. Bonky*

              Oh, good for you. I’ve never heard of that recruitment process before – it sounds atrocious for all the reasons you’ve outlined, as well as being a tremendous and ineffective time-suck for whoever’s doing the hiring.

            2. Bonnie Fide*

              Probably a good thing they didn’t ask for feedback. If a company already feels that every candidate by default is hiding something that they MUST uncover, that nothing short of this invasive method will suss out, sending them your eloquent letter would only cause them to double down.

              Once again you must be lying, whether it was sour grapes because you knew you wouldn’t pass muster (making claims about being a top performer without offering an opportunity to verify it) or some other nefarious purpose.

              No, sending such a letter would only have a deleterious effect. Weeding out people this way helps this company keep up their delusions of exclusivity, so anyone recusing themselves from the process is proof their system works.

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      I googled ‘Topgrading methodology’ and this wikipedia quote would make me withdraw too: “Topgrading methodology assumes that the standard interview process can be and is often plagued by dishonesty from job candidates.”

      Yes, there is dishonesty, but if you start out distrusting me, then I’ll be happy to not deal with you at all. (That’s also a reason I dislike CostCo, since it feels like I’m being treated as a potential shoplifter when exiting the store. Do what you think is best, and I’ll go elsewhere, you didn’t need me anyway.)

      1. OP*

        The entire system is based on the assumption people lie on their resume. They discuss TORC, or “Threat of Reference Check” as a way to keep applicants honest, and the over involved application (and 4-5 hour interview that comes after it) are designed to mentally and emotionally exhaust you so you’re incapable of “elaborating”.

        1. Koko*

          No need for all that. Technology has made life a lot harder for the Frank Abagnales of the world in the past 50 years.

        2. Collarbone High*

          Wow. Sounds like they don’t even care about hiring the right person, or making sure the job and company are a good fit for the candidate, only about laying time-wasting traps to catch people lying. Why do I suspect they don’t treat their employees well?

          1. Stranger than fiction*

            Right. I’m now picturing them monitoring every single email, phone call and instant message between employees.

        3. neverjaunty*

          That is the dumbest thing I have heard all day, and I say this as someone who keeps up on politics.

          1. JBeane*

            Your comment is the first thing that’s made me laugh since the beginning of the month, so thank you for that!

        4. Ted Mosby*

          what?! Reference checks are a normal enough part of the hiring process that they shouldn’t be a threat to any normal, sane candidate. There is something so wrong with you if you are baseline assuming every candidate you interview will be afraid to have their references checked.

          1. babblemouth*

            In my last job application process, the manager that currentJob called for a reference told me that usually by the time a company calls reference, they’ve almost made-up their minds and are just checking that you are not inventing half of your CV – they’re not deliberately trying to catch you in a specific tiny lie. So if you’ve been generally truthful, a small discrepancy between how you remember an evet and how the manager remembers the same event will not matter.

            I’ve found since then that it was true, but I wished I’d known about it before; I was completely panicking about reference checks before.

        5. Mabel*

          If this weren’t so obnoxious, it would be kind of hilarious. They have an acronym for “threat of reference check”?!

        6. Glad I Don't Work at THAT Company*

          Those sound like some of the techniques a cop would use to interrogate someone accused of a crime, when there is evidence that they committed a crime.

          In this case, there is no evidence yet, they’re just declaring everyone guilty until proven innocent.

          I remember hearing back in the 90’s that some companies were doing “stress interviews” to purposefully try and make the interviewee break; this must have been the methodology behind it.

        7. Not So NewReader*

          This sounds like they are projecting on to other people what they are doing themselves.

          “We lie, so of course, you are lying, also.”

          Companies that believe people lie a lot on applications do not suddenly start trusting someone who is under their employ. Once employed there you probably be accused of stealing also.

        8. Chairman of the bored*

          Good grief. Are you allowed an attorney to be present for questioning and will they provide you one free of charge if you can’t afford one? *eye roll*.

        9. Candi*

          I ran into something like this (though not quite as detailed) once. 13, 14, 15 years ago.

          I was in the WorkFirst state jobs program at the time. We were allowed two online applications a week (out of fifteen* for that week). The job posting had the application linked; print out this 15+ page thing, fill it out by hand, fax or bring it in.

          The WF worker was checking to see if anyone needed any help, and saw that. She told me not to apply for that -that at best it was a bad job and at worst some kind of scam.

          And yes, it was a small business. That apparently wasn’t around a year later.

          *Fifteen jobs a week to keep TANF. Luckily two malls and several business districts were easily accessible via bus.

      2. Koko*

        This is INSANE: “We met with just the #1 Human Resources executive in just the largest 100 companies in the world and they admitted only 20% of the people they hire turn out to be high performers who fit their culture. The average hiring success rate of tens of thousands of hiring managers we have polled is only 25%. Three out of four people they hire disappoint.”

        Everyone makes a bad hire or two at some point, but the idea that the average manager regrets three out of every four hires they make? That seems WAY too high.

        1. Koko*

          Also, I find something deeply unsettling about the way they refer to people who use the method as Topgraders. Way too much personal identification with a product. I tell people that I use Zero Inbox method, not that I’m a Zeroer. It feels creepy and cult-like.

        2. Kyrielle*

          Depends! Did they actually _say_ the people disappoint (the hiring managers), or did the people writing it up interpret people not being “high performers” always disappoints? Because honestly, a “high performer” in my lingo is a superstar, someone who is above what you expect. A disappointing hire is a “low performer”. And the majority are somewhere in the middle. Maybe the hiring managers really said 3/4 disappoint – but more likely that’s an interpretation on the part of these folks (who stand to gain by it) regarding the folks who aren’t “superstars”. (And some roles don’t need, in fact a few probably can’t detect, superstars either.)

          Also, that was talking to the HR executive at the top of the ladder. How many of those 100 companies use stack ranking? Because you can’t tell me the top of the HR chain at the one of the 100 largest companies in the world knows much about an individual employee; they only have the numbers. Stack ranking or any other form of ranking that forbids top rankings will also artificially mess with the numbers. Raises tied to rankings, such that giving out too many 4-5 scores blows the budget? Same issue…..

          1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

            Yup. I don’t necessarily want all high performers. Of course I want to grab them where I can, but if I have 100% high performers, I’m going to have high turnover because I won’t be able to promote and engage ALL of them at the rate their skill level will demand. Medium performers who are content to stay put are quite valuable!

            1. Ted Mosby*

              I don’t think you can really have all high performers. At a certain point the standard at your company will just be raised.

              On average, everyone is always average.

            2. My other bike is a broom*

              Ah this is like when I worked for a start up that ‘only hired A players’. The developers never got anything done because there was too much ego and bickering, they all insisted on using their own code base etc etc

              1. Artemesia*

                I knew someone who worked for a ‘wholeocracy’ where there were no common processes for people doing the same thing, where mission critical tasks were not assigned to anyone because ‘everyone should have ownership’ so wheels spinned but those tasks didn’t get done, yadda yadda. Oddly they had terrible problems getting business — because no one was in charge of those tasks.

          2. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*

            Well if all of the respondents hired high performers 100% of the time, guess what? THEY’D ALL BE AVERAGE.

            We need a law that the only people allowed to quote stats have passed a stat class as…high performers.


            (Wakeen’s human hiring practices do just fine, thank you very much. And I can actually hire people because they can complete the application and interview process without Feats of Strength required. FFS. I’d be sitting here looking a rows of empty cubes if I tried that crazy ass….FFS. )

            1. Not So NewReader*

              A group of only high performers raises the new normal, just like you are saying here.

              I would also add the most companies are not equipped to deal with the productivity that happens when everyone is a high performer.
              I remember one company in the 80s, who set Christmas sales goals of x dollars. They built an incentive program, increased store shipments and the many other things that are necessary when you set a goal like this.

              They forgot to buy extra products to match the sales goal. (They should have bought an amount more than the sales goal, but whatever.) As they got closer to Christmas the company spent a fortune shipping items between stores to satisfy customers’ requests. The extra stock in the warehouse dwindled. The sales staff sold much more than anticipated, sales were on fire.

              The next problem was the overseas supplier needed 4-6 months lead time to fill an order. When nothing came from the warehouses stores used up their own small backstocks. And individual store backstocks dwindled. We were not allowed to ship between stores, if another store had the item, the customer had to go get it.

              We were into March and April STILL explaining to people, “no we are not going out of business our shelves are near empty because Christmas sales were very good.”

              The discouragement started in December, by April employees were so discouraged it became very hard to show up for work. A lot of good people left. It was into September before the company was able to fill the shelves again.

            2. AMT*

              For whatever reason, I interpreted “high performers” to mean “high performers by the standards of the industry,” not “performers in the top X% of that specific company.”

          3. Turtle Candle*

            Yeah, exactly. The way I use the terms, the majority of people would be medium performers sort of… by definition? Unless we’re living in Lake Wobegon, all your performers can’t possibly be above average, because that’s not what average means.

            1. ScholarlyCactus*

              Haha. “Average means”.

              Sorry, I just wanted to take a moment to be amused by the (unintentional?) pun.

        3. Jennifer Needs a Thneed*

          So that sounds like 20% of the people who get hired are high performers. That’s about right, isn’t it?

          > Three out of four people they hire disappoint.

          This sounds like the same thinking that says only 5-star reviews (out of 5) are acceptable, and 4 is just as bad as 1. And this is exactly why I no longer rate Amazon items. “Good” is acceptable to me, but anything less than “Exceptional” gets the sellers dinged. Unfair to everyone.

          1. Candi*

            I get suspicious of consistent five-star ratings, mostly because there’s always that one Not Always Right customer you couldn’t satisfy with Prester John’s wealth and power, and they’re usually far more noisy then your average satisfied customer. A 4-5 range is fine for me.

        4. Alton*

          Even if those statistics are accurate, it doesn’t seem to follow that the disappointment is based on dishonesty. Someone can be completely honest about their experience, credentials, etc. but still not be a great fit or get along with that particular manager/department. And while I suppose references tend to be skewed toward people that the candidate (understandably) trusts to give good references, there’s never any way to guarantee that any feedback on an applicant is going to be fair or trustworthy. The fact that an applicant can supply professional references who are willing to speak highly of them is, in itself, a good sign.

          In general, I think both applicants and managers present their best sides during the hiring process, and it can be natural for that to change a little with time. No one (or job) is perfect. But I have to question those statistics. There’s a difference between being disappointed in a new hire because they’re really a bad fit/a bad employee and simply finding that they have some flaws.

      3. myname*

        I don’t work for Costco and am not aware of why they made that policy, but I have on various occasions had the receipt checker tell me that I was charged for something twice and that I should get that taken off. I was, on purpose, buying multiples of something that people only usually buy one of, but it’s small enough that both of them are not easily visible in the cart, so it triggered an automatic warning in the checker’s mind since it *was* unusual.

        1. LawCat*

          I’ve had that happen too. I think it’s part of the Costco member agreement that you agree to their receipt check policy (though I suppose that wouldn’t apply if you’re not a member, e.g. just going in to buy something that doesn’t require membership.)

          I am fine with Costco checking my receipt and cart when I exit. They’ve been a good place to shop. Other stores… well, I’ll often just tell them no thanks and go on my way. Nope, Best Buy guy, you can’t go through my stuff.

          1. Candi*

            Costco pays its workers above min wage without being legislated into it. And the owner gets that happy employees mean more profits -even if some of the shareholders don’t. That’s enough reason to shop there, even with a receipt check-which, as pointed out, may well fall in your favor.

      4. Rachel*

        They do the receipt checking when you leave at Sam’s Club too. I’m guessing it’s a standard practice at warehouse stores like that.

        1. Allison*

          Yep, especially when there are a lot of self-checkout lines, it could be so easy to leave something expensive in your cart and not pay for it if there’s no anti-theft device. I’m not sure how accurately they can really check my cart against the receipt, but I’ll bet it’s a good deterrent.

          1. HR Caligula*

            An exit clerk at my local Costco looks at my approaching cart as and states the amount spent before looking at my receipt. He’s been within 5 dollars every time.

      5. MsChandandlerBong*

        I just emailed Walmart about their receipt-checking policy. I have no problem with it when someone is walking out with a giant television, but when the security guard just stood there and watched me scan all my items at the self-scan, swipe my debit card, and put everything into Walmart bags, it’s annoying. I have started saying “No, thank you” when the greeter/guard asks for my receipt. You are not obligated to show it (you are at Costco because it’s in the membership agreement). I spend about $500/month there on groceries and household items, and I don’t appreciate being treated like a criminal.

        1. Natalie*

          Yup, I never stop for receipt checkers other than Costco (since, as you say, I agreed to it when I got my membership) and I don’t stop if I set off the stupid alarm. I’m busy and your loss prevention strategy isn’t really my problem.

          1. Lass*

            This is really one of the only effective loss prevention methods though. The hoops you have to jump through to successfully catch a shoplifter in the act are ridiculous and mean you can’t catch most of them. You can watch someone put something in their bag, but unless you keep your eyes on them while also calling a manager, and then while waiting for a cop to show up to confront them (if they even respond), you can’t do squat. Take your eyes off them for one second and they can claim they put the item back if you ask about it. The other option is a salesclerk following every single customer to watch if they’re stealing. When I worked retail, we had three shoplifters who would come in together and regularly steal hundreds of dollars from us. It took so much evidence and an extreme amount of luck that one day a cop actually was right around the corner and got there in time.

            1. Natalie*

              I’m not really concerned about it’s effectiveness, though. In my state, they have no right to detain or search me or check my receipt, and I decline to consent.

            2. Candi*

              And that’s why Target has a bazillion cameras and someone watching them. A digital file showing they put it in their pocket and kept it is awfully persuasive.

              But cameras are expensive (rolls eyes), even though shrinkage somehow isn’t…

        2. Not So NewReader*

          I totally agree with you. And knowing that they treat their help worse than this just adds another layer of misery in my mind.

          If employees are treated like they are going to steal they will probably be more inclined to steal. Some retailers believe that 10% of the employees will never steal. On the other end of the range is the 10% who ALWAYS steal. The 80% in the middle are sitting on the fence and could go either way.

          To this I say, shut your doors, your biz is over anyway because of your own adversarial stance with your own employees.

      6. KH*

        To be fair to Costco, one time the receipt checkers tipped me off to a purchase I forgot to pick up from the security cage. So it’s not just to catch shoplifters, it’s also to make sure people leave with what they paid for!

      7. Aglaia761*

        I would love a series of posts from Alison about various hiring methodologies and their pros and cons.

        I don’t remember the name of it, but I had one pre-screen where I had to go and complete a series of 10 or so questions before they would even interview me. I failed…not sure why.

      1. Collarbone High*

        I’m not understanding the part about “because CANDIDATES arrange reference calls, you verify everything.”

        If I’m arranging the reference calls, seems like it would be pretty easy to ask friends to pose as my former managers.

        1. Snarkus Aurelius*

          Right? It’s surprisingly easy to fake this stuff no matter who picks up the phone on the other end. Just ask Stephen Glass.

          Also wtf is this?

          “Topgrading has been thoroughly vetted by employment law firm Seyfarth Shaw. We are aware of no charges against any company for use of Topgrading methods.”

          Why even mention this?

          1. TCO*

            My guess is that since companies could get charged for using methods that result in illegal hiring discrimination, it’s actually reassuring to some of them to hear that this system is supposedly neutral.

      2. SusanIvanova*

        Looks like they aren’t hiring A-level copyeditors:

        “Then they conduct thorough interviews that reveal all the candidates, strengths and weaker points.”

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Oh, Topgrading! Ha, ha. They’re not using Topgrading. Topgrading practice is to ask those sorts of detailed questions in a late-stage interview after there have been several other discussions. It’s absolutely not supposed to be a questionnaire you send people before you’ve even interviewed them.

      There are a bunch of other issues with Topgrading, but they’re not even following it.

      1. k*

        It sounds as though they got a guidebook on Topgrading, skimmed through it, and then copy and pasted random bits into that email. I almost wish OP had gone further in the process, just so we could get a follow up with whatever other wacky tactics this company came up with.

      2. babblemouth*

        I’m trying to understand hwo Topgrading works – as a candidate, do I have to supply my entire job history? Like, including the bit where I was a cashier to pay the bills through university? Or is it all the jobs I still list on my CV (as they are applicable to the kind of positions I apply for)?

        What kind of dishonesty are they trying to catch that way? Flat out lies, or exagerations of responsibilities and/or competencies?

        1. LQ*

          I get listing the cashier job in college. But do I have to list when I worked for 2 weeks at a summer camp when I was in high school? Or the job I had in 6th grade pouring milk at the elementary school cafeteria? Or the thing I did for a summer where I helped 2nd graders do creative writing? What about baby sitting jobs? I couldn’t even tell you the names of most of those people?

          1. Starbuck*

            Well, why would you even try? Even if they ask for it, or say they require it, there’s no way for an interviewer to find out about those sorts of things if you just leave them off. As long as the time gap doesn’t amount to much (and summers in college and high school could also reasonably be left blank) I don’t see what they could do about it.

    3. Bex*

      Even if the Topgrading methodology wasn’t so questionable, they’re doing it wrong. All of that information is supposed to be covered in an in-person interview, not in an application! It really sounds like you dodged a bullet.

      1. Stranger than fiction*

        So they’re lazy as well as out of touch. They’re practically using the method in replace of interviewing.

    4. Gandalf the Nude*

      I’d just bet that they took your dismissal of Topgrading as an indication you wouldn’t be honest enough to hack it.

      1. k*

        And if they weed out multiple candidates this way, that just proves how many sneaky scoundrels are out there and how smart they were to implement this method.

    5. Anna*

      Great response and potential response. I think the bragging about it is another mind game thing. As if they think that by telling you you’ll never pull a fast one on them, you’ll be wowed by how clever they are.

    6. Mmmmmk*

      Yep, I’ve had an interview like this before (Topgrading) at a local branch of a national nonprofit and they are so invasive and absurd. Also, the org didn’t hold on to its people so it obviously didn’t even work. Not sure why they kept doing it.

  3. designbot*

    My current job was almost as bad as this. It turned out that they didn’t even read all of the information–I got the impression that it was some application form they downloaded from a website, not something they’d thought through in any way. I did leave a couple of fields black, like salaries from really old jobs (I agree, who can remember?) and my social security number, and nobody mentioned it at all. Also the further back the job was the shorter description I wrote for it, and again nobody mentioned a thing. So maybe there’s a way to respond to this that shows interest and value for the important parts but gets past the nonsense more quickly?

    1. Not So NewReader*

      They probably cannot read and digest the huge information dumps they do get. The answers are too long, too involved and too time consuming.

      I be tempted to ask them how much it costs them in labor and materials to use this way of hiring and what is the return on all that money spent?

  4. Happy Lurker*

    OP – good for you. As others mention here quite often: These people showed you who they are and how they operate. I would consider this a bullet dodged. Good luck with your search!

    1. tink*

      I’ve seen pretty invasive, but this one is definitely up there with some of the most security-intense applications I’ve ever filled out. That level of time consuming is definitely not something I’d be willing to go along with in a field where massive security issues are effectively a non-issue.

  5. Snarkus Aurelius*

    I’d also add that, depending on how many applications they get, there’s no way anyone is going to read through all of that for every application. Employees have other stuff to do in addition to hiring process. For one candidate they could literally get over a hundred pages.

    And even if they did have they time to do all that? I’d wonder why they weren’t dedicating their time to running a business.

    Don’t bother with them. I say move on.

    1. Joseph*

      Came to make the same point. Every time I see these massive applications, I always wonder how exactly people have the time for that. Most companies get literally dozens of candidates for each opening. Even the most basic “1-page application form, resume and cover letter” reviews already take a ton of otherwise productive time – yeah, it’s only 2-3 minutes per candidate, but when you have 50 candidates, it adds up.
      I guess you could argue that this process greatly whittles down the number of applicants you have to sort though…but unfortunately, it does so by removing all the good applicants and only leaving people who are so desperate that they can afford to spend literally days tracking this stuff down.

      1. DeskBird*

        My company has a massive application – it usually takes at least 45 min. to fill out – and our max time was something like four hours. And the answer is – nobody reads them! Our HR guy gave our receptionist a stack of them that he had approved to get interviews so she could schedule them, and she had to go back to him and point out that one of the guys had a felony conviction for murder – and was he sure that we wanted to call this guy? So clearly nobody is giving these are hard look. Probably the person who thought of the questions that should be on the applications is not the same person who actually has to read them. That is how a lot of paperwork happens around here.

        1. Joseph*

          one of the guys had a felony conviction for murder
          Ironically, you would have actually been *more* likely to catch this with a simple one-page application, because it would still have included The Box…and the HR guy would have actually read it.

  6. Nea*

    it doesn’t require a security clearance that would justify something this in-depth

    Nothing justifies that nonsense. I once applied for a position with the Department of Homeland Security and *they* didn’t ask for all that!

    1. The Expendable Redshirt*


      If the Department of Homeland Security doesn’t have such an in – depth hiring process….well….. Chocolate Teapot Co. should relax a bit.

    2. MegaMoose, Esq.*

      I have twice been involved in the screening process for lifetime appointments to the federal judiciary, and THAT application doesn’t ask for as detailed employment history as this absurd process.

    3. The Southern Gothic*

      In the past two years I have worked for the US Postal Service and applied for (and was offered) a position with Homeland Security.

      Our own Government is not as interested in being this far up a candidate’s a$$ (as this employer is).

      I wonder if the OP would be able to tell us what field this was.

      Sounds very much like they’re about hiring anyone who doesn’t know better – most likely they are looking for unsuspecting people to underpay and overwork.

          1. Natalie*

            What!? This is the best part.

            They don’t happen to have insane, stream-of-consciousness ad copy, do they?

          2. The Southern Gothic*

            One more thought:

            The amount of information you were required to give feels like it could be used for some kind scam – sort of Pyramid / Multi Level Marketing “info mining” scammy…

            Or, you know, they could just be a bunch of lunatics.

          3. Martinij*

            I applied for this exact position and also chose to bow out when I received this email! Small world! Shame, because I agree wholeheartedly with the company mission.

            1. OP*

              It IS a small world! I congratulate you on your excellent taste, and side eye you as competition… ;) I’m starting to doubt even this part of the email was true… “I would like to commend you because, quite frankly, most applicants don’t get this far.”

              1. martinij*

                I am very curious about your background and if you are continuing to apply for the same sort of position I am… best of luck we both find a great fit! I spent too long contemplating whether this was an automated response, but there was such a significant amount of time that passed before I received this email, and I did on a Saturday morning, so not sure of the variables at play with this company. Bullet dodged, for sure!

                1. OP*

                  Same here! I basically started in website design and development, grew into a role where I did the jobs of 5 people, brand strategist/project manager/digital marketing/content writer/web developer with a focus on e-commerce. Made the company a lot of money, stayed even though the money wasn’t great because I am loyal and had tons of creative freedom, but the owners are retiring so I’m looking to grow. Ideally, I would like to work remotely as a strategist for an agency, but am pursuing positions that fit all my previous roles locally as well.

                  How about you?

        1. The Southern Gothic*

          No snark intended here:
          Could there be a cultural component to this process? As in, does this company originate from somewhere other than the US?
          Not at all to excuse the abject horror of the Topgrading nonsense – while reading the OP, I sensed this may be acceptable hiring practice in other cultures (countries)…the employer might be trying to translate their hiring philosophy into something that incorporates their values while looking for American workers.

          Or, you know, they could just be a bunch of lunatics.

          1. OP*

            The person in charge of the hiring process is the CEO, and most definitely an American. I don’t want to give out too much information as it would be extremely easy to look them up with the info I’ve given elsewhere in the thread.

            The overall impression I got was big fish little pond, looking to make the jump to the next level.

            1. AthenaC*

              Probably not related, but a few years ago I did some work for a company that fit those descriptions. I could totally see them putting potential hires through the wringer like that.

              But again – probably just a coincidence.

            2. The Southern Gothic*

              Thank you for the details, OP.

              Gonna go ahead and agree with everyone;
              That bullet? You dodged it.

    4. Miss Displaced*

      My hubby had an SSBI and they did go to this length, including having the FBI conduct in-person interviews with the references. But that process came after being hired and the initial screen/background was to have a good indication you would actually pass the SSBI.
      I wouldn’t feel comfortable with it at all, but I guess it depends on the job. And this was actually before 9/11

  7. Buggy Crispino*

    Maybe I’m a little dense, but I don’t understand the whole aspect of setting up your own reference calls. I mean, are they asking me to call my reference and schedule a time for the reference to call them? Do I have access to everyone’s calendar and appointment schedule? This sounds like way more than just giving a previous manager a heads up that someone might be calling them within the next few days. I don’t see how I could ever make something like that work.

      1. OP*

        Buggy is right, I was supposed to arrange the calls on their behalf. My husband thought their third bullet point sounded suspiciously like trying to subvert standard reference norms, and thought they might be illegal.

        1. Manic Pixie HR Girl*

          It’s definitely not illegal, but it is bizarre. Also, some companies have a “confirm dates of employment through HR ONLY” policy, and even “top performers” won’t get around those firewalls.

        2. Nea*

          I don’t suppose that they’d accept a ouija board as arranging a call? Not all of my previous supervisors are still “on this plane.”

        3. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Definitely not illegal. But so you were supposed to get the reference-checker’s schedule and then find times that would work for both people? That’s absurd. Although I imagine it would have been more like “I can talk at 4 on Thursday — arrange it for then,” which is not how you schedule things with someone who’s doing you a favor.

      2. Buggy Crispino*

        Oh, ha ha – I read “arrange personal reference calls” as me calling my previous managers … “Hi Ruthie, it’s Buggy. Listen, I might possibly be interviewing with this lame company next week and they’d like to speak to you. They have openings next Thursday on the half hours between 2 and 5, what time can I put you down for?” I guess my brain is just making stuff up today!

        1. Teclatrans*

          Looks like you were right, though! And it is how I read it, too. Something about how references would only be willing to do it this way for “top performers.”

          Actually, this reads like they don’t understand that reference calls are the norm, or that they (the employer) could just cold-call references.

  8. Green Tea Pot*

    OP, good for you! Well done.

    I am not familiar with their process, but it raises some red flags for me. My experience with less-than-professional companies is that private information, when revealed unnecessarily, can be ultimately used against you.

  9. Sunshine Brite*

    Oh my, most of my previous managers are doing different things, moved who knows where, retired, etc and I’ve only been working fourteen years (since 15). Some were ill fitting and quit quickly or worked shifts where I might be able to remember a first name but not such in depth info

    1. SarcasticFringehead*

      Yeah, the first two places I worked have gone out of business (it wasn’t me, I swear!) and I barely remember my managers’ first names, much less their contact info.

      1. Collarbone High*

        I was once asked for previous supervisors’ MIDDLE NAMES. Sorry, never had a convo with my shift manager at Burger King about her middle name.

        1. k*

          Years ago I had a manager at a retail job that refused to tell any of the lower employees his last name! He was a bit of a conspiracy theorist type, but paranoia aside was perfectly nice. We were also paid under the table and the store closed shortly after I left, so for a while that was a tricky one on job application that asked for former supervisor info or they tried to verify past employment.

    2. Kyrielle*

      If I’d faced this process while at $PReviousJob I’d have had to bow out on the supervisor thing alone. Which is fine, because this is a “run away” scenario anyway. But I mean….

      How ’bout that guy who hired me. And then he worked elsewhere and I reported to someone else and someone else and then he came back and I reported to him again and then he left teh company for a bit and then he came back…I did change managers and titles over my time there but seldom simultaneously, and how to keep track of them all I’ve no idea. O.o Two former supervisors are deceased, several worked for $PreviousJob but just in different roles than I reported to at the time I was applying….

      1. Rachel*

        This. I’ve had several jobs where I had multiple direct supervisors due to those people leaving the company or getting promoted or moving to other departments. (This happened all the time when I worked in advertising – it was quite common for people at all levels to be moved to different account teams depending on client needs.) Do they really need to know every direct supervisor I’ve had in each position? I don’t even remember them all!

        1. MsMaryMary*

          Yeah, I had ten different managers in ten years at OldJob. That’s not project managers or team leads, that’s actual people managers. One year I had four different people managing me (I got promoted, one manager left the company, our director temporarily managed some of us, and then they hired someone on permanently). Would they want to know about all ten managers?

      2. Retail Lifer*

        Seriously. I got my first part-time in 1993. Since then, a large number of the companies I’ve worked for have gone out of business. Who knows what’s happened to those managers since then? I know some had been fired. The first place I worked at rotated managers around to different locations and I never had the same one for long. I couldn’t tell you any last names and I don’t even remember most of their first names, and I surely don’t remember the start and end dates of those early jobs. I couldn’t complete that application even if I wanted to.

  10. Bee Eye LL*

    Sounds like the HR department is trying to do as little as possible when it comes to job apps. Been there, done that.

  11. Nico m*

    In the long run, is there any benefit to responding to this sort of shite with a “normal” reply, and a polite and diplomatic “take it or leave it” note.

    Now, the shitforbrains recruiter can think “OP wasnt up to our super methodz” but perhaps if they are kneedeep in partially completed applications from good candidates, the penny might drop.

    1. Marisol*

      I think this is how I would handle this too, if I had enough interest in applying. I would approach the application process as being negotiable, leaving requests for inappropriate information blank or putting “n/a” or maybe something like “see attached” with my own accompanying explanation. I have only ever filled out applications after being offered a job though, as a sort of formality, so I’m not too savvy about how it all works. Seems like you’d have nothing to lose by going this route though, if you were set against their hiring method but still had interest in the position.

  12. Mazzy*

    I’m going to revert to something I often say here that comes up in various circumstances.

    If you send long paragraph wall of text emails, someone has to spend time reading them to understand what you’re talking about and want.

    If you want people to add comments to accounts, someone needs to be reading and acting on them.

    If you request data, someone needs to upload it or analyze it or process it in some way…..

    My point is always, be careful before you ask for too much input or information. Yes, “big data” and having as much transparency is great, but when there is so much information that it stifles decision making or is impossible to be reviewed and analyzed with the staff on hand, then there is a problem.

    I think this company is going to have a huge issues actually processing and reviewing applications this lengthy, especially given that the data being submitted is pretty subjective.

    1. fposte*

      That’s a really good point. The data requested should be proportionate to what’s digestible at that stage of hiring, and, frankly, proportionate to the position. Otherwise the employer is signaling considerable naïveté and lack of skill in managing resources as well as people.

      tl;dr: only ask for what you can actually read, otherwise you’re making your company look bad.

    1. Lemon Zinger*

      Not jail, but I have a story you might like!

      At my first job, one of my managers always had weird mood swings. One minute, she’d be your best friend, and let you go home early after a long shift. The next minute, she’d make you stay late and mock you for not knowing procedures for X and Y. Her behavior got more and more erratic, and on her last day, she wrote “Sayonara, b*tches!!!” on the whiteboard in the staff room.

      Several years later, I found out that she’d been abusing prescription drugs, and that she faced legal trouble from an incident at her next job. Apparently she was responsible for a barn burning down.

    2. OP*

      One used their manager powers to embezzle money from the company. Another one was slightly inappropriate with me, but I ignored it as a naive 19 year old. The next year he was in jail for sexual assault of a minor, apparently he made a habit of it.

      1. ALICE*


        There are things I let slide when I was young and working, including not raking a very big pharmaceutical company over the coals when I was pushed into a closet by a cleaning staff member and nearly assaulted – and how they handled it later. (he wasn’t punished or fired, just moved to a different building on the campus and I became terrified to go to work and ended up quitting)

        I really wish I had done more, because I wonder now all these many years later what other girls or women he’s hurt. :(

        1. ArtsNerd*

          His behavior is not your failure. It’s his and your ex-employer’s. Your top priority is always to take care of yourself. Please don’t beat yourself up over this. *hugs*

    3. ginger ale for all*

      I have two managers who were arrested for doing illegal things at my part time seasonal job. It is especially awkward because they were the only managers who knew what they were doing and treated their employees well. There is never an employee handbook or a best practices left for the next manager that is churned through the system so with every replacement, we get someone who learns the job by the seat of their pants. So I am now a bit suspicious of the competent people there.

  13. Duffel of Doom*

    So this is a perfect example of the hiring technique “top-grading.”

    It’s awful. My company uses a modified version, and even our light version is obnoxious. If you interview with these guys, be prepared to discuss your ENTIRE personal history; including high school experiences. I’m not kidding.

        1. Fyva Prold*

          “I was asked to prom and was even voted a Prom Queen, but then they dumped a bucket of pig blood on me!”

    1. Epsilon Delta*

      So, I had an interview once, when I was just out of college, that sounds a lot like this. They spent about 75% of the time on my HIGH SCHOOL jobs, what my HIGH SCHOOL teachers would have thought about me, etc. Then towards the end they asked me a few cursory questions about my college job and professors. I had been out of high school for 5 years at that point. It was really hard to remember that stuff, and it was so stilted towards who I used to be, versus who I was now! And my experiences from high school and college were the reasons I thought I would excel in the job, not what I did as a high school kid!

      But one thing that still makes me laugh is that they asked me if I’d ever worked with Big Data, and I said yes, I had worked with “thousands of records.” Ha! Oh boy… I know better now!

      1. A Cita*

        Ack! Why do all the good things like this never happen to me?!?! I would LOVE to go through this–just imaging sitting there, spinning yarn after yarn of nattering anecdotes, acting like I’m still emotionally invested in some high school drama, with loads of side stories and inane detail, all told with breathless wonder and stocked full of incredible “facts” that become more and more fantastical until it slowly dawns on them that they’ve been had.

    2. Miss Displaced*

      I don’t know if it was “top grading,” but I once went on an interview were they wanted me to start with my very FIRST job and go the whole way up to present. I was taken aback and even asked them if they wanted all the part-time and seasonal jobs or just the ones on my resume. They did say I could quickly skim the early and seasonal ones, but it was total overkill. Who the heck wants to talk about babysitting, cleaning and working in a supermarket? Has zero to do with what I do now. Dumb process, glad I didn’t “pass” that job.

      1. Duffel of Doom*

        That was almost definitely topgrading. Supposedly the goal is to identify patterns and growth in the applicant’s performance throughout their entire life.

  14. Nea*

    Okay, once I found out that this was connected to Topgrade, I went and looked that up. The amazon reviews for the Topgrade inventer’s book on the subject are *hilarious!* I especially liked the one that mentioned that in the interview process “waterboarding is optional.”

    1. Jennifer Needs Your Thneed*

      But but but! “Topgrading is the Proven Best Practice for Hiring”. It says so, right on their web page!

    2. Mookie*

      I especially liked the one that mentioned that in the interview process “waterboarding is optional.”

      Crikey. That’s nauseating.

  15. Persephone Mulberry*

    This reminds me of a crazypants hiring process I went through a few years back, for a $15/hr admin assistant position: resume/cover letter, phone screen, DISC personality assessment, meeting with the recruiter to go over the assessment results, three hour interview with the actual hiring manager, followed by a request for FIFTEEN references and ANOTHER personality assessment, this one complete with essay question. As with the OP, it was about this point that I Googled the third-party company named on the assessment form and discovered it wasn’t just a hiring protocol but an entire management system package that these guys had bought into (literally, $$$$$). I Noped right on out of there.

    (Other fun details from that process: during the three hour interview, the hiring manager revealed that they’d been unsuccessfully interviewing for the position for 6 months. Out of morbid curiosity I kept an eye on their staff page and they hired someone about 6 weeks after I opted out…and then they were advertising the job again six months later.)

    1. purple cup*

      FIFTEEN references???? There’s absolutely no way I could come up with that many. Maybe if I listed all my friends……? jeez.

      I did get rejected for a job largely based on a personality assessment once. I was offended at the time, but then I realized that if they hired people based on one assessment then they probably made a lot of other boneheaded decisions and I’d dodged a bullet.

      1. Rincat*

        Me too! I got an auto-rejection for a job recently that had the same title, description, and required years of experience for the job I do now. After I submitted my application, I had to fill out a 20 page assessment that talked about what I do when I get angry and how I feel about manipulating people for my own gain. Then they asked if I enjoyed taking the assessment and felt it was fair – I answered “no” on both questions, and I’m pretty sure that’s why I was rejected. :)

          1. Natalie*

            Reference Name: Hank
            Position: Best Puppy in the World. Yes, Who’s a Good Boy? You Are!
            Comments: Applicant could improve at sharing resources and institutional knowledge, particularly with regard to people food and location of treats.

            1. Relly*

              Reference Name: Bella
              Position: Queen Empress of All She Surveys (Domestic Housecat)
              Comments: Applicant provides a comfortable surface upon which to recline and performs adequately at important tasks like feeding and worshipping cat. Applicant has unfortunate tendency to acknowledge the existence of other cats.

              1. Aglaia761*

                Gretchen…is that you?

                Listen, I understand that you are the Mistress of All Things. However as I am the one who provides gushifood, pettins, and my incredibly comfortable bed you use as a cat palace. I’m allowed to acknowledge and even nurture the other two lesser beings who inhabit your universe

                P.S. Stop sitting on Grace’s head when she’s sleep
                P.P.S. Pushing Zoe off the bed so you can lie down in her spot is rude. Stop It.

      2. Natalie*

        I was rejected for a job because of an assessment in which 95% of the questions were about the acceptability of stealing from employers and selling drugs the co-workers. I still have no idea why I failed, unless I was supposed to indicate I was very much looking forward to selling drugs to co-workers.

      3. Miss Displaced*

        Me too! It was one called the Caliper Assessment.
        I think the job was at an insurance agency. Thing is they rejected me without even interviewing me, but after the personality assessment. What a lousy way to hire.

      4. Elizabeth West*

        That happened to me–and in the interview, no less. I successfully argued that it wasn’t entirely representative of who I was as a worker, and I got hired. I quit the job three days later because the co-manager was CRAZY. No, I will not tolerate you yelling at me like that.

        I should have known it was a bullet but I didn’t dodge it–ouch!

      1. Rincat*

        They’ll make the references fill out reference applications! They’d probably want their complete salary history, too.

        1. sometimeswhy*

          I once got a reference form on which the section requesting my credentials was almost as long as the part asking about the applicant. That on top of the facts that the applicant hadn’t asked/given me a heads up about listing me as a reference (and I wasn’t direct supervisor so I doubt it was an automatic thing) and that I had literally NOTHING good to say about them and I noped my way right on out of that process.

    2. Seal*

      When I went up for tenure here I had to supply 5 references. But getting tenure as an academic librarian implies that you’ve spent a number of years in the field after getting at least a BA/BS and MLIS. Fifteen references for an administrative assistant position? Ridiculous.

    3. Sas*

      “followed by a request for FIFTEEN references” Ok, my dog and my cat. And, those are the references that I’m worried about. One of them might fart in to the phone. Eh you get what you ask for.

  16. hayling*

    I had to fill out an application once (through Taleo, everyone’s favorite ATS) that asked for every single job and how much I made. It was with a university hospital. It felt horribly invasive, and leaves you totally out to dry in terms of negotiation (the job had a public salary band but it was pretty wide).

    1. babblemouth*

      The whole salary history thing gives me hives – I’ve never faced it, and I hope I never have to apply for a job that requires it. That’s also because my salary history makes very little sense:
      – I’ve worked in 4 different countries with 4 completely different tax rates which influences directly your salary;
      – I’ve worked a long time in a non-profit, which like many non-profits paid far below market rate. i accet that of a place that pays my salary out of someone’s donation, I won’t accept it of a highly profitable corporation;
      – for a long time I had no idea how far I could negotiate my salary, so also used to accept compensation below what I should.

      All in all, my salary history is bound to make someone low-ball me. I want out of that loop, and anyone asking for it will most likely just get a withdrawn application.

    1. Grayson*

      Quick aside- is your name on AAM’s forums a reference to the D&D session where the player attacked a gazebo?

  17. Liane*

    If–IF–I were going to do this application, I think I would answer “Stupid, overly-nosy application process” to the “Least-like part of job” question for Every. Single. Job I held.

  18. Sami*

    Prior to my current long held job my resume looked like a phone book. When I was a student and just out of college I had at least three part time gigs at a time (usually another over the holidays). Filling this out would be digging out old tax returns.

  19. Allison*

    I work in tech hiring, and all we ask is for people to upload a resume and probably fill in a few fields like name, e-mail address, location, and work authorization. We don’t even require cover letters! In my opinion, that’s all an application should be. A few details, a resume, and maybe require a brief cover letter if you must (or at least give people the option if they want to explain something). I’m job hunting now and I hate all the hoops some of these employers make applicants jump through. No, I do not want to create an account on your employment website and make a profile!

    Look, if I talk to you, and I like you, and you like me, and you wanna hire me, I’ll be happy to fill out a whole stack of forms for you. But for a job I think I might want? Nah, kid. Nah.

    1. Rincat*

      That’s how I feel, too. I almost cry tears of joy for the applications that only take me a few minutes.

      1. Allison*

        And when they let you apply with your LinkedIn profile, I can hear angels singing!

        This is a big part of why I’m happy to keep working on HR teams in the tech industry. Not my passion, but there are benefits (literally) to working for a company that needs to stay competitive.

    2. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*

      We hire enough (pretty much constantly) to warrant an “upload your stuff here” system on our website, and we have our own in house development so we can make anything we want or integrate an existing system.

      Instead, we’re sticking with “email us your resume” because we think it looks more friendly.

      Do you think so?

      We want easy, clean, friendly. We think that letting people email whatever they want is the easiest.

      1. Allison*

        Personally, I’d prefer a quick and efficient online app that lets me upload my resume and put in some details to be the best, but being asked to e-mail my resume is fine too. I don’t find online application systems rude or impersonal, but I’m a millennial, I also kind of like not having to include pleasantries in my application, and I like that my application is going directly to the ATS rather than someone’s inbox where it could get buried, or worse, sent to the spam filter.

          1. Allison*

            Do you mean “interesting” as in “I didn’t realize that”? Or “interesting” as in “that’s not the right attitude, little lady”? That word can mean a lot of things. I didn’t mean to insult you, I just wanted to give you a job seeker’s impression. When you have two months to find a new job and you’re firing off applications left and right, efficiency is everything.

            1. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*

              Ha ha, oh my gosh, I must not be hanging out here enough lately for you to think I mean that. :-)

              I mean, genuinely interesting.

            2. Not So NewReader*

              WTL is a very cool person, Allison, I can vouch for that. She will actually think about your inputs here and see how it applies to her setting. She’s done this before.

          2. Trig*

            If the UI/form is well-designed, it can be friendly! Do you have UX people on your in-house dev team? They could definitely guide you in making a friendly interface to meet both applicant and recruiter needs (heck, it could probably just email whatever the applicant enters to that existing shared inbox, so your recruiters wouldn’t even need to change their habits.) As people in my company keep pointing out, millenials are now the biggest demographic in the workforce, so understanding and meeting their needs is important. (I smirk, because, as a millenial, I know we aren’t a uniform bunch!)

            The whole “only asking for information that you actually, absolutely need” thing goes a long way though.

            I’ll note that even though you know on your end that an email isn’t going to disappear into a spam filter or someone’s overfull inbox, the applicant doesn’t know that. So an email may seem friendly to you, but it might not inspire confidence, as Allison mentioned!

          3. super anon*

            On the other side of the coin, I’m a millennial and I hate having to fill in application forms. I especially hate the online forms that want all of the information on your resume retyped into boxes (and often they also want your resume uploaded as well, but it won’t pull from the pdf to the boxes. ugh). I also don’t like application forms because you never know if you’ll get sprung with a surprise 15 hour personality test standardized quiz. Ugh.

            I much prefer emailing my cover letter and resume to someone if it’s an option. Second to that is online application forms, but only if they ask for minimal information and it’s more of an “upload your documents here and be done” situation.

          4. Liz*

            A bit late, but if you have an online form that has an entry to upload a resume, and a entry for a cover letter with a paragraph above saying this is all you need, I’d find that very friendly. I know exactly what you want and don’t have to worry about being friendly enough / too friendly in my email with attachments.

      2. babblemouth*

        I much prefer emailing my resume to filling in field by field. It gives me space to expand on what I think is worth it, and shorten what is irrelevant to the job I’m applying for. And without going into scented, pink comic-sans kind of formatting, I also like that my CV looks a bit different from the rest of the other applicants.

      3. hayling*

        Oh that’s interesting! Having done some hiring, I can’t stand the disorganization of having the emails in my inbox. Much easier to use an ATS (our form is very simple, no Taleo-like trouble).

        1. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*

          The emails go to a dedicated, shared in box so the recruiters are happy with the system. (Two HR people share the recruiting responsibility.) It’s very easy to work with shared boxes in our outlook system.

          Their needs would probably be our impetus to change unless we come to the conclusion that a system would be more applicant friendly. In our division we target mostly new grads or 2nd job after college which was why Allison above’s input was so interesting.

          1. orchidsandtea*

            Oh, Wakeen, tell me more about easy shared inboxes in Outlook! My new team has 12-20 people checking one inbox in IBM Lotus Notes and it is chaos. We plan to switch to Outlook soonishly; please tell me more about this promised land.

      4. Starbuck*

        I much, much prefer the simplicity of just attaching my resume and a cover letter and then emailing. I am applying for jobs at the moment and I’ve yet to meet an online app system that I liked or seemed well-put-together. Usually it’s retyping everything in my resume into little boxes.. then being asked to upload a resume! Or better yet, answering questions like “why do you want this job?” in a box with a character limit- and then being asked to upload a cover letter. Another reason I prefer applying via email is that I almost always get a response (from an actual person) acknowledging having received my materials and letting me know when I would hear back about interviews etc.

    3. Epsilon Delta*

      I feel so, so fortunate that I now have the option to Nope out of applying to jobs that want me to take a personality test or create an account on their website just to send my resume.

  20. Rincat*

    This sounds like an application I recently filled out that wanted the starting and ending salary to every job I ever had, as well. I seriously don’t remember what my salary was at the Renaissance Faire I worked at when I was 16! I do remember my least favorite thing, though: EVERYTHING. That was a horrible job. (I worked in one of the kitchens making desserts, so not anything fun.)

    1. ThursdaysGeek*

      I do remember some of my early jobs. Do I include the one where I did yard work for an older lady who couldn’t afford to pay me minimum wage, so I worked for 50 cents an hour? Oh wait, I don’t remember her name, although I bet the year was 1981. And I also hauled wood for the lady across the street for $1/hr, but I usually only worked for a half hour or so every week or two. I was probably 10-12 years old, so maybe early 70s? I think she thought I had a bad attitude. She would have been right.

  21. Ty*

    I work in insurance and even in that profession there would be no way I would be going through with that type of process.

  22. Serin*

    Both the application and the Topgrade materials you’ve quoted have the sort of gleefully resentful misanthropy that I associate with Redpill. “Everybody sucks. Come closer. Let me tell you all about how I know. Oh, the things that I know.”

  23. HRish Dude*

    I literally did not know my first manager’s name at my first job – I didn’t know who to quit to when I quit. Who knows how on earth that would work.

    1. fposte*

      I once worked with a woman whose first initial was A and whose last name was Guy, and she took great delight in signing in places as “A. Guy.” Try putting that :-).

      1. Chriama*

        Haha, I remember hearing about someone who’s name was Irene Forget (apparently it’s French and sounds like four-jay) and she would sign her name I. Forget.

      2. SusanIvanova*

        Our email and chat IDs follow the first initial/last name pattern. Imagine the fun when someone showed up in chat with the ID “you” – yes, first name starts with Y, last name is Ou.

  24. Is it Friday Yet?*

    OP, I sympathize. A year ago I went to an interview, and when I arrived, they handed me a paper application and a pencil and ask me to complete it. It asked me questions about my employment history, manager’s name, starting pay, ending pay, job title, description, address, phone number, FAX(seriously!!) and on and on. I was very mad at myself for staying to complete it. Mind you this was for a Marketing Manager position, and I had already submitted my resume and CV online.

    1. Allison*

      I’ve had to do this too, it’s the worst! They already have the information they need, why ask me to write it down? Where’s that form gonna go? Are my interviewers gonna look at it? Or are they going to read off the questions to verify all my answers? OR are they just trying to keep me busy?

    2. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*

      We had a Dark Period, before our current awesome HR regime, where HR insisted that this horrible horrible thing you described had to be done for (dun, dun, DUN) Legal Reasons.

      It. Was. Mortifying.

      I think it was only 3/4 of year but the insistence was everyone including a guy I was trying hard to recruit for a 90K a year job. Pencil, paper, fill in the boxes. I wanted to die.

      New HR regime director tore that process up her first day of work.

      1. Is it Friday Yet?*

        Yeah I really half a**ed my interview because I knew that even if they offered me the job, I was not going to accept it.

        I can only imagine how difficult it was to recruit for that position!!

      2. babblemouth*

        But how could anyone even do that on the spot? It’s hard enough to receive a questionnaire like this at home where you might be able to access your old salary slips, but how the hell can anyone just remember it without warning?

        1. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*

          It wasn’t super detailed or if people couldn’t remember stuff they were told to leave it blank. It was just….old school paper application like if you were applying at the grocery store in 1993. And why, why, why.

          Why? Legal Reasons.

        2. Is it Friday Yet?*

          There was a lot that I couldn’t remember, so I either left it blank or took my best guess. I had a callous on my finger by the end because I never write that much anymore. UGH

        1. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*

          You could write in pen. I blame dramatic effect for saying “pencil”. I was trying to evoke the era of green eye shades. ;)

  25. Dzhymm, BfD*

    I get the funny feeling they are going to *remain* an “extremely small” company if they keep this up. How are they going to hire ANYONE at this rate?

  26. Angela*

    I’m dealing with a situation where applicants who have either declined or were not offered a position are still being asked to complete an online application system (they have already interviewed) as a formality and for the company’s policy (?). The company is leaving multiple voicemails and emails requesting that the applicant (who, again is definitely not accepting a position with them at this point in time) finish their “pending application” for their records.

    1. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*

      Ok so did my previous HR (see paper pencil post above) come to work at this place and upgrade to an online system only to *still* have it be ridiculous and mortifying?


      1. Angela*

        There are some…things going on with this company that lead me to believe the HR dept is in a little bit of a panic, but can you imagine the indignity of being rejected for a job only to have the company badger you to fill out MORE paperwork?

        1. Chriama*

          Voicemails? I would block the number. And never apply for another job with them again. And post a rant on glassdoor. And maybe tweet it at them (ok maybe not the last one).

        2. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*

          My understanding for my own Legal Reasons issue above was that previous HR had *badly* misunderstood best practices to show EEOC compliance/records.

          This may be the same thing.

    2. Mabel*

      The company is leaving multiple voicemails and emails requesting that the applicant (who, again is definitely not accepting a position with them at this point in time) finish their “pending application” for their records.

      And now they never will accept a position with them after this badgering.

    3. Mephyle*

      That is so bizarre – how can the person(s) responsible for this imagine that any of the no-longer-applicants would do so, since they would have zero, no, negative incentive to comply with the request.

  27. rubyrose*

    Don’t have time to read the previous comments right now, so hope I am not duplicating something here.

    There are times we talk about it being a kindness to inform an employee or job applicant of something, for their future endevours. There is no way I would do what the folks are asking. I wonder, however, how one might kindly tell them their process is so off-putting that good people will probably select themselves out. Or do you just forget kindness here and say thanks, no thanks, and move on down the road?

    1. The Southern Gothic*

      The OP does not owe these clowns the favor of telling them Topgrading sucks.
      This employer will not listen to anyone who disagrees with their awesome decision to use this crap to hire people.

    2. Chriama*

      I would not offer unsolicited advice to someone who has shown such bad judgement when I don’t have a prior relationship with them. It’s not worth the risk.

    3. designbot*

      I think that the way she declined told them that pretty clearly. She specifically said that she was backing out due to their use of Topgrading–I’m sure they won’t listen right away, but once they have had a few people say they same the message becomes loud and clear that good candidates don’t need to go through this BS.

  28. aelle*

    This is so absurd it’s kind of hilarious. I would have fun filling in past salaries – they have ALL been in different currencies so far. Does my internship stipend of 800 Malaysian Ringgit mean anything to you? That’s at the 2005 exchange rate by the way. Also, I can absolutely put you on the phone with previous managers, but I hope you speak Japanese, Korean, German, and enjoy scheduling your reference checks in the middle of the night.

    1. k*

      Obviously you are required to provide translators. How could you not understand that that is part of “arranging” the reference calls? Clearly you are not a good candidate :P

      1. Lily in NYC*

        I was going to make an age discrimination joke because I assumed Galleons and Knuts were medieval currency. I’m very glad I googled to make sure.

    2. Lanon*

      The methodology they use (TopGrading) asserts that only candidates who can work all of this out on their own time and their own expense are worth taking into consideration. (The others are “low performing” “B and C players” by default)

  29. Workfromhome*

    I’m making a guess here but it might be similar to something I went though once where an employer overcompensates for a past hiring failure.
    I made to the final interview for a job (which I was actually lead to believe I had been selected for and was just a formality). I had two fairly informal interviews before and was brought to HQ to speak with various team members. No tests no requests fro past references etc.
    I did not get the job (and they didn’t tell me for more than a month even though I knew the day they made their decision via other sources).

    A few months later the hire they made was terminated and I found out that they had committed several acts of fraud.
    The same HR person contacted me to see if I was still interested. When I said I was interested in talking they sent me several rather time consuming tests (some of which appeared to be honesty questionnaires). When I called to ask about this I was told that even though I had already gone though multiple interviews with this same person that I needed to start completely over, take these tests and complete reference checks up front.
    At that point I simply excused myself from the process vowing never to entertain a position with that company again.
    Point being the HR person made a bad hire and looked bad. So he felt the need to overcompensate to show that they would not make that same mistake ever again. He focused on avoiding the same mistake rather than a proper hiring process to find the right person and then do an in depth check on that one person before committing. The position went unfilled for over a year. That HR manager is now gone.
    Point being that this company may have made a mistake from before and is acting out of fear. You were very smart to just move on. This probably isn’t a place you want to work. When you have people that incompetent in charge of hiring the chances of its being great place to work with highly skilled and helpful coworkers is pretty low. Its probably a s___t show there ;-)

  30. Siobhan*

    Pretty sure some of my references would say, “I haven’t seen her in years so can’t provide valuable feedback about development needs.” I know I’ve said the same. Some of the people who put me as references for their early-career jobs, have grown up a great deal as people since we’ve worked together.

  31. Hot Pink Squirrel*

    Smells like data mining where your information would be sold, or possibly even identity theft. Even if nothing nefarious, little good if any at all is likely to come from submitting to such demands. Walk away quietly.

  32. AstroDeco*

    As I was reading the OP’s letter, my first thought was “WTF?!?” and my second thought was that this job application process was somehow a scam, or at least it could have been an attempt to get applicants to send in work that the company might then use to their advantage (OP wrote that OP sent “multiple portfolio pieces”).

    What kind of scam, I don’t know… the quick thoughts that came to mind were some kind of data mining to build a relational database, which seemed ridiculous (although my mind likes to brainstorm so usually I let it). Or that it could be a company who hoped that if an applicant spent so much time immersed in the process and already made to feel part of the team (“Applicant! Help us hire you by getting your references lined up. Look, we’re already a team!”) with intent to ask for money for security screenings, drug testing, classes or materials for Applicant to feel more of a team player and so on…

    After reading the comments, I know this theory is way off-base, however I wanted to give this paradigm anyway. OP, bravo for knowing you don’t want to work for this company and I hope you do get to send your Notepad email.

    As for suggesting to the company that their hiring practices are not practical [to say the least], I can go either way on this. If you have a sense that the company is run by decent people who might be in over their heads — and if you think they’d be receptive to applicant feedback — then this would be a kind thing to do. Otherwise you’re probably wasting your time and you’ve already spent enough time with their ridiculous hiring procedures.

    Good luck in your search!!

  33. Elizabeth West*

    I don’t know if anyone already said this (probably), but RUN. RUN LIKE THE WIND.

    There is NO WAY this job is good enough to justify this kind of hiring process. If they’re this controlling, what will it be like to work there!?

  34. Milton Waddams*

    This is very very common — maybe even the new normal, although I certainly hope not. The cause is a desire for CYA by HR folks in organizations that promote based on who avoids blame the best, combined with a lack of training in how to do good hiring — the “Why train when they might leave?” mentality also affects entry-level HR, and even in cases where the company is willing, the field itself has collapsed; you can’t rely on SHRM or HRCI, and the basic research branch is long dead, which leaves businesses to cobble together best practices by stealing from other disciplines at best, and through BS and management fads at worst.

    This leads to a principal-agent problem where it is safer and more profitable for individual employees to hire the “safest” candidate or no candidate at all, even though the long-term impact of this on companies is usually Very Bad. Often it is a sign that senior-level leadership have lost control of their own companies, or that the owners have passed off duties to an MBA who only cares about their stock options rather than about the success of the company in the long-term.

    I’m not sure if there’s a good solution to this, sadly. Once a culture of blame has been allowed to take root at a company, it can be very difficult to stamp out.

      1. Milton Waddams*

        Perhaps it is regional, or only limited to certain fields — I certainly hope so. However, many folks I know wouldn’t bat an eye at an application requiring every position be listed; if anything, the odd part is that it sounds like they are still doing this by paper rather than through an online form. I’ve certainly seen my share of online forms that refuse to accept a job as valid without every sub-field filled out, including pay and reason for leaving — as I imagine others have. It’s certainly absurd, but is it really unusual out in your area?

        Mandatory references with previous managers are also quite popular in many circles, although there are of course still hold-outs who will allow you to choose your professional references rather than just going down the list of companies. The big twist here seems to be that they are requiring an introduction so that it doesn’t seem like a B2B cold call when they ask to speak to each of your old bosses.

        Part of this also might be that some of the folks here are on the “executive hiring” track which has very different standards. Generally for executive level positions at CYA companies, the new employee has an influential internal sponsor, who no reasonable person would expect HR to defy; as such, HR also avoids any blame for bad executive hires, which makes the hiring process much more straightforward.

        1. Wakeen Teapots, Ltd.*

          This wackadoodle company asked for way more than that in the OP. There was an entire sheet of paper per job or rather at least one per job with essentially essay questions about each job.

          Way back in the Olden Days, ’70s/80’s, we certainly had job apps that asked for your entire job history, salary ranges, supervisors and reason for leaving. I don’t think any of that’s new (or less annoying now than it was then).

  35. House of Gourds*

    I always wondered about job interview information collection too. I had about 7 interviews in the past few months. In all of them, before the interview started, HR required me to fill in a super application form requesting my complete job history, referral contact, my contact, my identity number, my next of kin, my grade school extra curricular activity… I never dared to question it, too scared for the companies to mark me as a troublesome candidate, but I always wondered (after failing most of the interviews), like, what does HR DO with the information? Is my private details stored in a cabinet somewhere in a company I am not a part of?

    1. Cbelow*

      I just had a similar experience. I was asked to fill out an extensive job application and then bring it with me at to the job interview. This was for a high level corporate position and not a cashier at the local Piggly Wiggly.
      I didn’t fill it out and went to the interview anyway.
      The HR person who was supposed to meet me first (and collect the application) didn’t even show for the interview. I was met in the lobby by some guy who didn’t know who I was or where I was supposed to go. He was just told to go find someone (me) in the lobby and bring them upstairs.
      The interview process was such a trainwreck. I’m glad I didn’t waste my time filling out the application. I was offered the job but declined it. In addition to the interview snafus, they wanted me to accept a verbal offer given over the phone while I was driving, When I asked them to send the offer in writing because I was on the road, I was told they do that until AFTER a candidate accepts the offer in writing. (“that’s just the way we do things here”).

    2. Rachel*

      I’ve had a couple interviews where the company sent me a rather extensive application to fill out and bring to the interview, I spent lots of time and worry filling it out, and then the interviewer didn’t collect the application – didn’t even ask for it! Talk about a waste of time!

  36. Chris Hogg*

    I know it’s hard to believe, but there are actually people out there who are in the phishing business: their bait is a “supposed” job opportunity, and they’re phishing for desperate job seekers who will comply with their requests, no matter how bizarre. They’re not interested in the job seeker, but in the names and contact information of those references. The thinking typically is if you’re looking for a job and if you’re unemployed, there’s something wrong with you but we would like to recruit your references. And if you’re looking and employed, then we don’t want you but definitely want your current and former bosses, references, and etc. It sounds like this might be a real but clueless employer, but then again, there may be a pretty big hook in that advertised job. Good for you in how you followed up. Also, more generally, there is no federal law that says we have to comply with overbearing HR requests, and such requests can be an indication of what it will be like should one actually get hired there.

    1. Rachel*

      At one staffing agency where I interviewed, the guy looked at my resume, saw that I had some temping listed on it, and told me I needed to send him a version of my resume that listed every single temp assignment I’d been on along with the name and contact information of my supervisor at each assignment before we could go any further. Needless to say, I never sent it. First of all, like I even REMEMBER every assignment I had 10 years ago! Second, it is not my job to provide leads for him.

    2. AstroDeco*

      This, phishing: the bait is the job opportunity and the hook is the process. Both play on the applicant’s desperation.
      Also the phishing seems like it could be a recruiter that’s trying to think out of the box for prospects and contacts, although this approach seems much too elaborate for that theory.

      Thankfully this company doesn’t seem nefarious, just clueless, and I’m glad the OP questioned the process and walked away.

      Reminder: If something seems off then it might be. A good interviewer won’t waste one’s time by making unreasonable demands and the interviewer shouldn’t mind a reasonable query to clarify the process (although that can get touchy because interviewers differ on fielding any questions and “reasonable” is too subjective).

      For some reason these reminders also come to mind: *Never* leave your driver’s licence or other forms of ID “at the door” whilst you’re at your interview and be ready to run if told your interview is to be conducted with other applicants (although this could be legit in certain circumstances).

  37. Cbelow*

    I had never heard of Topgrading before reading OP’s letter and responses. I then went to research it.
    Wow! Just wow!
    All I can say is when I look for my next job, my first question of a prospective employer is “Do you use Topgrading?”. If they do, I walk away.

    1. Lily in NYC*

      Your comment led me to go googling and holy crap, it’s awful. From the FAQ:
      Q: What leading companies have embraced Topgrading?
      A: Hundreds, including General Electric (when it became the most valuable company in the world), Barclays, American Heart Association, Honeywell, Lincoln Financial, Maxion (largest wheels manufacturer in the world), Argo (global insurance), and more than a dozen leading private equity firms.

      I wonder if any of these companies still use it or if it was just something they tried in then past for a bit. For example, the way it’s worded makes me think that GE no longer uses it. My former boss’ wife works at Honeywell; I’m gonna ask him about her interview. She’s incredibly assertive and not too keen on authority and I can’t imagine her putting up with this type of process.

  38. boop the first*

    Blech! Meanwhile, apply to any minimum wage retail job (that you know you’re gonna hate anyway), and you’re required to do 45 MINUTES of personality questions. 45 Minutes!!! For each application! And they’re all questions like “I use tools provided for me to solve problems: untrue/true/verytrue/na”.
    And if you don’t answer all of the questions exactly the way they WANT you to, you don’t even get an interview, so you’re required to lie your face off during all of this because how many people out there “Feel positive and energized after dealing with a difficult customer?”

    1. Lily in NYC*

      Oh my god, is that really one of the questions? (the one about the difficult customer)
      I’d never even make it to the interview stage.

  39. Lanon*

    So apparently they’re using “Topgrading” methodology.

    I just read the wikipedia page on this, and apparently the idea is to thoroughly scrutinize every aspect of a candidates’ life and that only the ones who can a) keep records of EVERYTHING, b) can produce a reference call with EVERY SINGLE MANAGER THEY’VE EVER WORKED WITH, c) Are willing to sit a 4(!) hour interview including at least 10 questions about each and every job they’ve ever held and d) Don’t find this process stupid or wasting their time are even worth taking into consideration.

    This is one of the dumbest things I’ve read this year, and it infuriates me that big companies are practicing this.

  40. Rachel*

    Google “Topgrading Career History Form” and you will find plenty of examples of the application the OP is talking about. OMG, this is horrible. Besides all the work information, it asks for your _high school_ GPA and class rank, your college GPA and total credit hours completed, any part time or summer work you did in high school and college, and how you financed your college education. Why would any company need to know this?

  41. The Southern Gothic*

    “Why would any company need to know this?”

    THIS is an excellent question.

    What would make an employer feel like they were entitled to this depth and amount of personal and professional information?

    Anyone care to comment?

  42. Rachel*

    I live in Louisiana, and this all sounds pretty standard. I’ve completed numerous job applications like this and didn’t realize it wasn’t normal.

Comments are closed.