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When Interviewers Prey on Job Candidates

Sexual harassment in the workplace is still a persistent issue, even after all the work the #timesup and #metoo campaigns have accomplished. I learned this recently while helping a client prepare for an interview.

We were reviewing the interviewing process when the client shared that she was rejected for a recent position. As we started discussing what could have went wrong, since it was an entry-level position, she added that one of the interviewers had approached her afterwards and offered to help. Apparently, this interviewer – a male – was impressed by the client and offered to help her land a job with the same company she interviewed at.

I was initially excited for her, until she revealed that the interviewer had approached her later and suggested she should have lied for two interview questions. I froze and my antennas started flaring from my head. Then there were questions which I thought she had answered well where he was unhappy with because, as he explained it, she was “too honest” with her replies.

I nearly stopped breathing, not because the client was receiving advice that can potentially ruin a career she’s trying to build, but because the interviewer had convinced my client to continue working with him. By the end of our conversation, my reaction to the client was, “There’s a difference between coaching you and grooming you. It appears this fellow is trying the latter approach”.

What made me finally come to that conclusion is that allegedly, according to this gentleman, the client had made a total mess out of the entire interview. He had absolutely no positive feedback to share, only to offer to “help” her by suggesting that she needs to lie during an interview with his company.

Needless to say, after our conversation my client did not look well. She genuinely believed that this man was trying to help build her career. I finally told the client point blank that no interviewer would ever ask you to lie unless they want to use that as a bargaining chip after you’re hired.

I see this happen over and over again. I will admit that I’ve had male recruiters try and pull similar fast ones on me too, but I called them out on it – and went straight to their supervisors – and this was only during the interview process. That this deceitfulness continues to this day, and in this age, is not only shocking but dangerous.

An interviewer’s responsibility is to hire the best candidate for a position. They can provide feedback if the candidate requests one, but they’re not expected to coach anyone for a future job unless they have some hideous intention. And preying on vulnerable clients like mine is hideous. Were there red flags with respect to this incident? Yes. First, the obvious was he suggested she lie during an interview he was going to conduct. Second, he approached the client and made her feel bad by implying she did absolutely nothing right during the interview. Third, he is attempting to encourage an ongoing relationship while deceiving the client into thinking that the whole thing was for her own good. That’s not the way the interviewing process goes.

As alarmed as I am by this situation, there’s not much I can do except to feel confident enough that the client saw the severity of this man’s actions and heeded my advice. The next step is to ask her permission to turn this man in to his supervisors. Fingers crossed the client and I have an opportunity to rid the workforce of such blatant madness.

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