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January 25, 2002
Unfair Interview Treatment on the Rise
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The competition for jobs, brought on by the recession and fueled by an overall climate of uncertainty, has made the job-interview process a breeding ground for unprofessional treatment by hiring managers, experts tell the Christian Science Monitor.

"What you're seeing are people who are panicked, and they're acting the way human beings do in the worst of times, which is badly," says Suzy Wetlaufer, editor of the Harvard Business Review.

Most managers "do understand that they have candidates' hopes and dreams in their hands," Wetlaufer adds. "It's not maliciousness, but the extreme uncertainty of these times."

The Monitor points to an October survey by Chicago headhunter Wendy Tarzian, who found that 80 percent of survey respondents had experienced at least one "bad" interview in most cases during the past one to six years.

Experiences included:

" Interviewers telling interviewees that another candidate had been selected, but that the firm required that they conduct interviews nonetheless.

" Interviewers asking questions that are illegal under state or federal antidiscrimination laws. These include probes of candidates' marital status, plans for conceiving children, religious beliefs, and political views.

" Interviewers providing no resolution regarding a job search and ignoring candidates' attempts to follow up, even after multiple interviews with the company.

Eighty-four percent of the respondents who experienced a bad interview said it negatively colored their perception of the company. Perhaps more importantly, 89 percent told at least one colleague or friend about the experience, while 30 percent told as many as a half-dozen others.

Tom Beeson, a manager with Aeon Intercultural USA, which recruits English speakers to teach at 275 Aeon English-language schools in Japan, told the Monitor that insincere candidate treatment is sometimes cultural.

"Americans frequently say things they don't really mean or can't back up, and that happens in interviews, too," says Beeson. "Especially now, when there are so many good candidates looking for work, HR managers don't want to lose a person they may eventually want to hire, but it's cruel to treat candidates that way."

Based on his own early job-hunting experiences, Beeson helped establish an Aeon policy that requires recruiters to provide every interviewed applicant with a specific date by which they will be notified whether they will be offered a job.

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