I have always advised client companies to tell me the truth about jobs. If a client is tough, I should know it because I can then screen for candidates who do well with difficult clients. If a supervisor is rough, I can screen for people who do well with tough bosses. By being truthful, I can manage expectations from the get-go. And it will cause fewer problems down the line.
Yet I hear stories all the time about agencies, well, not lying, but shading the truth when they interview. When people interview for a job, especially when there is no recruiter involved, companies often misstate the assignment (they misstate it to me, too) or omit critical information. They often give candidates answers that they know the candidate wants to hear. Unhappy employees tell me this all the time. I have given this subject a lot of thought.
First, and I have written about this many times, companies tend to hire résumés. What I mean by that is that when someone has a great résumé (great is relative to the company and the specific job), especially if they have category experience, the company wants to like them, even before they come in. They are almost hired before anyone has met them.
So the people doing the interviewing frame their answers and address issues in a way that will satisfy the interviewee and put the job in the most positive way. They are not concerned about lying or exaggerating – they just want to hire the person and worry about it after the candidate starts. As a result, they may gloss over negatives or not deal with them at all.
The most common complaint I hear is that jobs are highly executional rather than strategic. Yet during the interviewing process, the hiring manager(s) tend to stress the how strategic the job is. Another complaint is that their supervisor is a nightmare. Managers are always on their best behavior when interviewing lest the candidate should discover that they are rude, abrupt or otherwise disagreeable. And their supervisors rarely acknowledge that the hiring manager is difficult.
In most businesses, not just advertising, filling the job as quickly as possible is the hiring goal. Never mind that six or eight months later they will be filling it again. The objective is to get a body in place now.
Rarely do agencies talk about and deal with the negatives during the interview process. I actually took a job once with a horrible client – so horrible that he actually punched me (in the arm) in a fit of anger and frustration. No one told me about him or his vile temper while I was interviewing. In fact, the agency was angry with me when I refused to work on the account after the client hit me. (I found another job about a month later). The worst part is that the agency had lost two previous account people because this client was so bad. When I was interviewing, I asked them why the job was open, they told me that the previous person had left, but never told me why. That is glossing over the truth.
The irony is that if they had told me about the client and had managed my expectations, I might have looked upon this particular client as a challenge. Once there, they never gave me direction about how they wanted me to handle this particular person, so I was left to my own devices. (In retrospect, I probably should have hit him back!)
Telling people during the interview about the negatives of the job is a smart thing to do. It allows people to make an informed decision in terms of accepting the job. It also allows them to take the job knowing what to expect and managing expectations can help in tough situations.
It also speaks well of the organization. For a candidate to know going in that the company recognizes the difficulties and works together as a team is actually a positive.
The truth never hurts.