is this job application horribly invasive or is it just me?

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A reader writes:

I’ve been looking for work for quite a while, and came across a job that looked fantastic. I was more than qualified, had a passion for the work, and per the job listing, there were benefits like telecommuting that really piqued my interest. The company was extremely small, which I liked, so I sent my cover letter, resume, and multiple portfolio pieces and waited.

Yesterday I got a response email, which came off as extremely long, rambling, stilted, and poorly worded, but since this position is to help address those issues, I figured they weren’t good communicators. However, I’m a bit concerned about several items. They requested I fill out a form with every position I’ve ever had. They’re adamant that positions aren’t combined (every page states as such in huge capital letters) and that I must include every position and attach more paper if I need to. For each position, they want to know the contact information of the company (address, email, phone, fax), what kind of work they did, my direct supervisor, my title, start and end dates, my starting pay in that position, my final pay in that position, how my supervisor would grade my performance, why would they grade it that way, did I leave on my own, did they ask me to or was it 50/50, give more detail about my leaving, favorite parts of the job, and least favorite parts.

Also included in the email was this:

A final step in our hiring process is for candidates to arrange personal reference calls with their former manager and others. We ask you to do this for three reasons:

* Your development – We have found that the candid, confidential insights of bosses and others can be used to help you move smoothly into your new job and help us work with you to create a powerful individual development plan.
* Verification – Confidential reference calls from bosses and other will help add credibility to the information that you have provided throughout the hiring process.
* Ease – It it can sometimes be difficult to get former bosses and other to talk with us, but we have found that high-performers can usually arrange for those discussions.

I’m incredibly uncomfortable with how invasive this feels. This job isn’t in finance or insurance, and it doesn’t require a security clearance that would justify something this in-depth. Think being in charge of presenting a new design line and monitoring its sales. On top of that, some of the things they ask for are impossible. I can’t remember every contact from every job I’ve ever had, or how much I was making in retail when I was 16 years old. Some of my old managers are dead or in jail or I have no clue where they are, much less how to contact them and arrange a conversation.

On top of this, I haven’t had an interview yet. To me, it feels incredibly unfair that they get access to all this information when I haven’t gotten a chance to talk to them about the position. Am I being ridiculous, or have I just been lucky to not experience this before?

Nope, you’re not being ridiculous. They are.

They’re asking you to invest an enormous amount of time in this before you’ve even had a conversation with them to determine mutual interest.

And they’re asking for information that’s just unreasonable to request. They really, really don’t need to hear your favorite and least favorite parts of every single job you’ve ever held, and asking you to spend time writing that out — especially at this early stage, but really at any point of the process — is rude and inconsiderate of your time. They also don’t need to know the starting and final pay for every job you’ve ever held, and if they want to know how your boss would grade your performance, they can ask you about that in an interview when you’re having an actual conversation.

The reference piece of the email actually isn’t outrageous, although it’s really premature for them to be discussing it at this point. But if you were at the finalist stage in their process, it would be reasonable for them to ask you to set up reference calls with people, for the reasons they list. But it’s way too early for that … and they’re also sort of over-explaining it, which is weird. Most people don’t need to be told why employers request references, and there’s something almost defensive about their explanation here. Again, weird — if they want to defend and explain something, it should be the rest of their over-reach for information, not their request for references.

Anyway, these are people who (a) don’t know how to hire well, (b) haven’t thought through (or don’t care) what’s reasonable to ask candidates to do, (c) don’t recognize that hiring and interviewing are two-way streets, where strong candidates will have options and won’t put up with time-consuming and invasive processes like this, especially before they’ve even had a chance to talk to someone about the job, and (d) are out of touch with normal hiring conventions. Proceed with extreme caution, if at all.

is this job application horribly invasive or is it just me? was originally published by Alison Green on Ask a Manager.

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November 23, 2016 at 05:05AM

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