We all like to get something for nothing. It's a fact of life.
Unfortunately for job seekers, a lot of employers have learned to excel at it in a market that heavily favors them and leaves candidates at a disadvantage.
In a recent post on Business Insider, a reader from New Haven, CT wrote to reporter Henry Blodget about his experience applying for a job and feeling pressured to do a "try out," that really amounted to giving a lot of free advice to the employer before ultimately being turned down for the job.
His story is hardly unique these days.
He tells of applying for an administrative assistant job at an antique dealer in nearby a nearby town. He writes:
This seems like a real bait and switch to me, with the employer posting for one job and then asking the candidate to prove his expertise in an unrelated area. Along the way, she was happy to glean ideas that would help her build her business without any intention of compensating the "losing" candidates-if there even was a winning candidate-for their time. In this economy, unfortunately, this is not uncommon.
Employers in any field know how over eager job candidates are and some take advantage of that. But certain industries are especially known to use job interviews nefariously. On the website for WNYC's Brian Lehrer show, Sarah from Philadelphia writes: "I am a graphic artist in the fashion industry and have been to a few companies that are known for using a job opening ad to bring designers in so they can fish their portfolios for new ideas. It's hard to know what is real and what isn't..."
As my unemployment stretches out and I pounce on any interview opportunity that comes my way, I wonder how I would react to a requests like the ones above that require big time and effort on my part in exchange for a small (or no) chance of winning an actual job. It's a tough spot to be in and is clearly, discouragingly, exploitative. Hopefully as the economy improves, these employers will earn a deservedly bad reputation and have a hard time finding good people when they really do need them.
After all, just because Americans like to get something for nothing, that doesn't mean employers should routinely be able to.