FROM THE TRENCHES: Illegal, Immoral or Just Plain Stupid?


Should we answer job interview questions just because we’re asked?

I thought it might be a cool plan to make a little pocket money on the side (blogs like this don’t pay a lot, no matter how popular they may be). So, a few weeks ago, I searched around Craigslist for a part time gig. Sure enough I got a response to my application for a virtual part time assistant (15 hours a week, schedules, phones, travel plans, and such like – no benefits) and the business owner and I set up a time to speak.

It started to get weird right after that.

My first call was an intro. I suppose to find out whether I actually could form an English sentence. We set up an actual “interview” call for about 10 days later. The time came to speak and though I was not instructed to, I sent a confirmation email. I got no reply but called anyway on schedule to find that the gentleman had blown me off for a more important appointment without letting me know. He didn’t apologize, assuming that I should understand or at least play along and only asked me to reschedule. I was miffed and said so. After all, I arranged my schedule to be available during that time slot and made it clear that I was at my desk, ready to work.

Only slightly apologetic, he scheduled the next call. By now, about 2 weeks had passed since my first communication with this man. You might be wondering – and rightly so  –  why I was still interested. The interviewer suggested use of some of my other talents and I thought the job was a good match for my current needs.

The call went well enough for him to ask me to go further and take a Kolbe Index test online. “Only a handful of candidates are asked to go this far in the interview process,” he said. This test measures your natural instincts and “allows you to begin the process of maximizing your potential.”  The rationale for the test was that this was the first and very important hire of its kind at this firm. This was actually a way for him to know what motivates me far more than for me to know anything about myself.

Ok, I took the test. A 36 question ten minute sort of fun and interesting exercise with instant results I could see but none of which was news. I guess it’s important at this point to interject that I am not a recent graduate nor a first time test taker. I’d even been told by this prospective employer that were I to be considered a serious candidate I would be asked/required to do this. Because I wanted the job enough, I actually took the sample test in advance on my own.

The follow up call came about a week later. This time my employer guy emailed me on a weekend to ask if we could speak Monday but, after I responded, never followed up with a set time.  At least he was consistently unreliable.

By the time the next phase of this protracted process happened, I had enough reason to be concerned that somehow the shape of things was pretty skewed. At the start, I asked about the agenda for this third call, thinking there was an awful lot of time and energy going into qualifying candidates for this part time position. It was then that things got super strange. Under the guise of “really knowing the people I work with”,  my interviewer friend would be asking me questions about my family and my finances.

STOP! I thought. Really? Not just unconventional but illegal. Maintaining my control of the situation, I chose not to answer.  He then said I put him on the defensive whenever we spoke so he thought it was best to discontinue and I agreed.

The moral of the story is this: the job market is rebounding but not as fast as some of us would like. Sometimes, opportunities appear to be perfect fits on paper and when the human factor is added to the equation things inevitably change. We part timers or even full timers aren’t obliged to tell anyone anything that treads on unacceptable ground. In this case, the source wasn’t even verifiable though I had the man’s business email, web address and several phone numbers. Truth was, I never met him face to face and whenever we spoke, he answered his phone “hello”. There was never any switchboard or business-like answering service.

I am sorry there was no job offer at the end of this long, drawn out and somewhat awkward few weeks.  Yet, I do have the comfort of knowing that there isn’t a Craigslist stranger out there with my personal, family and financial information at his disposal.

Post Script: Ironically, the hiring company specializes in stress-reduction work techniques.

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