Friday, February 3, 2012

On recruiters, bad companies and the importance of company reviews by ex-employers

It is commonplace that companies try to hire the best workers they can, even if they are not good companies to work for, and recruiters only want to maximise their revenues. They usually don't mind if you are overqualified for a job and generally have no consideration at all for your expectations. They think that only salary and perks matter to job seekers, while usually, the opposite is true.

The most important thing is that you have to like your job. As a matter of fact, people don't change job just for a better salary or more benefits. If one decides to leave one's job, there is usually a number of complex reasons behind, because of the many implications such a change has. These include the effort it takes to get a new job, to adapt to the new working environment, to acquire the skills and experience to do well in the new position and sometimes even to relocate to another city.

You obviously preferred to avoid all the troubles involved in changing job often. This is why it is better, before accepting any job offer, to make sure that it is really the right job for you. Even if you are on the dole or very poor, by no means accept the first permanent job offer that comes your way. They may not deserve you and you would soon realize that. You better temp and drudge to make ends meet until the right steady jobs comes. Remember that stable jobs are not easy to get rid of, because of the required notice period, which may increase in time. A job that you don't like and can't dismiss right away can easily become a torture and affect negatively other aspects of your life.

Because of this some people prefer not to look into permanent jobs but only contract and temporary ones, even though this means giving up both benefits and work stability. It is true that most stable jobs are subjected to a probationary period, but even for getting out during this time there is a notice period to observe, which is usually shorter than the one that applies when you are confirmed (tenured), but still amounts to a significant fraction of the overall trial period duration. For instance, 15 days of notice over a probationary period of 3 months! When you resign, some companies may decide to lay you off earlier, but this is entirely "at the discretion of the company" itself, as most job contracts say.

This is something hard to understand in terms of logic for holding back the wrong person during the notice period is no good, both for the company as for the employeer. But, of course, there is a logical explanation: companies usually use longer notice periods to punish employees with hard work and mobbing, and they take pleasure to do that even during probationary periods. Any notice period during one's trial period should not exceed one or two days by law! You better read your job contract carefully to spot such traps and ask for modification before you sign. That can save you fifteen days of useless anger and stress, because you won't get a good reference from that bad company in any case.

But the point is that it may be difficult to evaluate a company you have never worked for and you don't know anyone who has. Very little information about prospective employers crops up during job interviews. These are basically a one-way exchange of information in that interviewers mostly want to know about you and are not willing to reveal any weakness of the company, rather they highlight only its merits.

Furthermore, most jobs handled by recruiters are advertised using generic descriptions that tell you very little about how the job will actually be and even the exact skill set that is needed. One has to be suspicious about these adverts: there is usually something dodgy behind. This is no accident because the majority of permanent positions become available when other employees resign from the role and nobody will tell you the reason why your predecessor left. Even if you dare to ask for it, you often won't be told the truth. If this reason has to do with the company - as it usually does since you can safely assume the best jobs are kept rather than left - it is very likely the same problem will affect you too, sooner or later.

Remember, you, as a job seeker, have at least the right to refuse all job offers that are not up to your skills and level of expertise. Another advice is to try to get a job without a recruiter, but it may be difficult in some areas and industries. Anyway, there are some companies, both big and small, that do their recruitment in-house and you should prefer them to the ones that resort to external agencies. View this fact not as a mere indication that they are cutting corners, but rather like a good sign, that they don't trust recruiters.

For most jobs recruiters are not even able to assess candidates very well, because they lack all of the technical skill needed to do so. They can only help companies by doing some pre-screening work, which is often not needed, except in the case of very popular job offers with a lot of applicants, usually unqualified. Even in this case this selection can be accomplished in other more efficient ways, without the need for a recruiter. For instance, candidates can usually be more effectively put to the test through a technical questionnaire, either by email or on the Web. In the latter case this can be conducted interactively with some definite time limits applied. No recruiter can usually do better than that.

Of course, there could be some honest and professional recruiters out there, but to my experience, the majority are just cheat. A safe assumption is that if a job is blindly advertised through a recruiter it is usually because the company cannot find anybody who wants to fill that position and hence it is unlikely it is a good job.

Once a recruiter finds you a position and appoints an interview, it will probably ask you to stop looking and applying for other positions and even to turn down all other pending offers. Don't do either of them! The only offer you should turn down immediately is that of the recruiter who is telling you to do so, because this is an attempt to violate your rights as a job seeker and by no means is in your interests. In fact, you can't be sure to get and like the proposed job until after the interview, and if you don't you may loose both time and other better opportunities. The labour market is a free market, workers aren't slaves. Nobody has your sole.

Surprisingly enough, there are very few web sites where you can read reviews by ex-employers, which could be very helpful to assess a company that makes you a job offer. To my knowledge the best one is Glassdoor is another one, but reviews are censored and you won't be completely free to express your opinion. I advice you to avoid it. I doesn't even deserve I put a link to it.

We should all review past companies we have worked for because in doing so we would help others and ultimately ourselves to avoid any bitter disappointment, which costs us both time and money. Surely, more sites like Hallway are needed, but it seems that bad companies and dishonest recruiters don't like them. They don't want the truth to be revealed so that more people can fall into their traps. I hope some company-review sites targeted to the European job marked will shortly appear, but meanwhile we can all use Hallway.

1 comment:

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