Re: Illegitimate Questions?????

Subject: Re: Illegitimate Questions?????
From: "Steven J. Owens" <puff -at- NETCOM -dot- COM>
Date: Thu, 6 May 1999 15:33:46 -0700

Ivan Gelicall writes:

> I just had a telephone interview and the interviewee asked me: Are
> you interviewing with other companies currently? Who are those
> companies?

A couple of people have responded to this, but I've been rather
outspoken in the past on the topic of job shops, etc, so I thought
I'd throw in my two cents.

> I found these questions completely inappropriate, but rather than
> lose my cool I answered politely that I would like to keep that
> information confidential so as to protect the other companies.

This is a good neutral response. The context is important - if
it's an employer, a job shop, or a headhunter, the meaning of the
question changes. It's also important when they ask - during the
screening, during the prelminary interviews, during the real
interview, or after the real interview.

For a direct employer it's a good question for them to ask, and a
good question for you to address proactively. As somebody else
pointed out, whether you're talking to other companies gives them an
idea of how quickly they need to make a decision, and how much in
demand you are. I'd always answer "yes", just to keep my options open
in case I learned about a position I'd be interested in.

If you have an offer in the works, or even better, on the table,
tell this employer that they have to move fast. Don't tell them more
than you have to - if the offer is in the works, tell them that
another employer is making an offer but don't give them details. If
an offer has been made but you haven't decided to take it yet, tell
this employer that you're considering an offer from another employer.

For job shops, I always answer "yes" to the question "are you
interviewing with other companies?" In fact, I usually don't wait for
them to ask, since I bring it up in the course of discussing job
shopping with a firm. I'm very forceful in stating that they
absolutely must have my permission to submit my resume to a firm,
because I deal with several job shops at any given time. This is as
much for their protection as it is for mine.

Of course, in the job shop's ideal world, you'd only deal with
them and they wouldn't have to check with you before putting you in
for a job, and you'd take whatever job they find for you. However, we
don't live in that world and I choose not to make my world any more
like that than I have to. And many job shops in my experience have a
problem understanding this, so I have to be very forceful. I'd
suggest you keep a notebook and write down any details, particularly
date, time, job shop, employer and job details. Authorizing the shop
to submit you for one job and one employer is not a blanket
authorization to submit you for any job at that employer.

The trust issue comes up; the recruiter may be afraid you'll go
around them, or may voice such fears. My first response is, if they
can't trust my professionalism enough to tell me who they want to
submit my resume to, how can they represent me to an employer?
Likewise, if they don't trust me enough to tell me that, I don't
*want* them representing me.

Employers are people who have some degree of day-to-day authority
over us. Most of our early lives, people who have authority over us
are parents or in loco parentis (teachers, etc). This creates the
habit of responding to employers - and job shops - as if they were
parents. You have to break out of that habit and regard them as
customers. You're selling a product - your time - they're buying it.
That's it.

For most really large employers, there's the additional issue
that the large firm can't hire you directly once they've started
negotiating with a job shop about you. Or rather, corporate policies
usually forbid the manager involved from directly hiring you once they
start talking with a job shop about you, since that might embroil the
corporation in a lawsuit with the job shop.

I haven't had many dealings with headhunters, but presumably it's
a similar situation.

Steven J. Owens
puff -at- netcom -dot- com


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