In the October 22, 2019 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter the headhunter turns the table on readers who encounter hobgoblins when job hunting.

Nick’s Question

This week, I’m going to change up the Q&A. Rather than take a question from one reader and answer it, I’m going to ask all of you readers a question that seems to be at the root of many problems.

job huntingWhat are you afraid of when job hunting?

I’m prompted to ask you this question by the many Talk to Nick troubleshooting sessions I’ve done with people from all walks of work. Every one of them seems to be afraid of some aspect of the job search experience.

It literally scares them.

Successful, talented, competent people go job hunting only now and then — it’s not an experience they’ve mastered. So they tend to look for a safe, simple model of behavior to follow.

And the models they find are wrong. You can’t write a resume or profile, look for “matching” jobs, apply and get interviews and then job offers.

It doesn’t work.

Faced with this unfamiliar challenge — to pick a job and then get hired — where the usual rules of business fail, otherwise competent people become incredibly frustrated and confused. When they’re at their jobs, they know exactly what to say and do. But suddenly, they’re treading water, waiting for someone else to determine their future.

They try to control their panic as they realize it doesn’t matter how good they are at the work they do. The “employment system” demands something else.

But — What??

What frightens you when you’re job hunting? What do you dread?

Your reply

Post your responses in the comments section below, and let’s help one another out!

Please don’t be afraid to share your fears. We’re here to put an end to them and give you the confidence and control you need over your job search! So bare your soul and we’ll all do our best to find answers and solace among friends.

: :

  1. My biggest fear is having to deal with recruiters which is pretty much the only way I can get an interview in the pharmacy/bio-tech business. I never know for sure if they’re being honest with me and the position actually exists. It seems there are always other hoops to jump through than originally explained such as the recruiter has to first get approval from his/her manager to submit me, or the hiring manager is out of town for a few weeks, or the position is now “on hold” indefinitely, or they now they’ve changed their mind and want someone with more experience.

    Frankly, the experience feels degrading sometimes because I am depending on a SALESPERSON to evaluate my candidacy for a niche science/medical-based position that they cannot do, nor are qualified to do, yet they are judging me for a position that they will make money from, should I get hired. Many times these recruiters are in their first job post college and have no discernible work experience yet.

    Some agencies want my references upfront before they’ll submit my resume, which I seldom give, but honestly, sometimes I have to play the game when the position is very attractive and a good match. The worst thing is when I need an answer/update and I can’t get a response from the recruiter. The confusion that comes with no interview/no offer without a reason why is very off-putting when I think I am a perfect candidate and I’ll see the same job posting days later.

    • I once had an interview where I found out the person screening me was basically straight out of college and had been working for the company for only six months… HR. No experience whatsoever in what the position actually did. I found myself having to explain basic terminology and lingo/abbreviations. It was utterly disheartening.

      • I get this all the time: recruiters who have no background in the field they’re recruiter for. Often their previous jobs were health club/pizza joint manager yet here they are… recruiting for senior IT positions. Talking to them is like talking to junior car salesmen: “I’ll have to ask the account manager about that.”, etc. etc.

      • I had this same problem and was given a low rating by a recruiter, just meeting minimums but it got my resume in front of the actual hiring manager. He took one look at my resume and degree and called me immediately for an interview. I was hired and supervising people who had also applied for the position.

    • “having to deal with recruiters which is pretty much the only way I can get an interview in the pharmacy/bio-tech business”

      This is the fallacy that keeps job boards and dialing-for-dollars recruiters in business. This is the fallacy that many HR execs sell to their corporate management team — that picking names off of job boards including LinkedIn is the best way to find good job candidates.

      But please step back and consider: Virtually everyone who posts their stories on Ask The Headhunter tells us it doesn’t work. The only reason job hunters keep turning to job boards and greenhorn recruiters is because this is what HR demands of you.

      Just say NO.

      Most jobs are found and filled through personal contacts and trusted referrals.

      The way to identify good job opportunities is to hang out with people who do the kind of work you want to do. Attend professional and industry events, training programs and conferences. That’s where you will meet people who will refer you. Talk with a company’s own circle — employees, vendors, consultants, lawyers, accountants, anyone that does business with them. Ask for insight and advice about the firm — then for the names of people who can tell you more. Don’t hunt for a job. Find and meet new friends.

      This takes time. But how much time do you waste each month on recruiters with nothing to show?

      This may help you get started:

      You’ve already said it: counting on recruiters is a waste of time for many reasons, including their inability to assess you properly. So please — stop doing it!

      • Unless I’m missing something (wouldn’t be the first time), I don’t see how this works long-distance. I’m looking for a job 800 miles away. I can’t fly in every weekend to hang out with contemporaries.

        • One way is to become an expert in their area, and present yourself as one. Read everything you can about the company, their technology, draft a cover letter that clearly explains what you know and why the company should use it. basically, become an offer they cannot afford to refuse. Then, call the relevant managers directly, and say “I’m interested in working with you because of X, Y, Z. I can send you the info on why I am the right one one email. Would you like to make a Skype call and talk shop”?

          Sure, it is better if you know them or get a recommendation. But even if the manager is a stranger, this approach is better than sending resumes through ATSs.

          • @Karsten: That’s an assertive approach. I like it.

        • I agree.

          Suggesting job hunters abandon on-line searches is short-sided.

          I don’t disagree that networking directly is more effective overall, but my experience is candidates should be using a multfaceted approach combining tactics that work best for them and their circumstances.

          • Nothing “short sided” about abandoning tactics that don’t work.

            Why bother spending 20+ minutes (often more) to fill out a silly application that replicates the information in one’s resume, only for said application to be summarily rejected by a bot?

            That’s as bad as the rookie driver who spins his wheels when he’s stuck in the snow. The only thing that’s accomplished is burning out the transmission.

  2. I have noticed that with some employers, you only get one shot at interviewing with them, and if you get rejected then you won’t get another change for quite a while, even it if is in a different department. I fear wasting that opportunity on a job that I am not very competitive for, or just having bad luck and being interviewed by a bad hiring manager.

    • @MollyG: That usually happens when you go into a company through HR. For who knows what reasons, HR tags candidates with a big NO on their files. The candidate might be right for another job, but HR judges the person out of context. The only way to get rejected and still be considered for another job in that case is to go direct to the hiring manager the second time — because the manager’s option is to talk to you anyway. Please search this site for “get in the door.” There are all kinds of ways to do it!

      • I’ve seen – and experienced – too many instances where I’ve networked directly to the HM only to be told, even after a conversation and the HM is interested, that I ***MUST*** go through HR to get approved for an interview.

        A LOT of companies are clamping down on this now.

        • Exactly!

          You could spend literally thousands of hours networking and cultivating contacts before getting a good lead on a job, only to find that HR is still the gatekeeper. I’ve even seen company websites say that if you try to talk to anyone other than HR, you will be immediately disqualified.

          This is why we have got to kill this myth that networking is a better strategy. *Sometimes* it works, but it also does not work a lot (I say most) of the time.

          • Better off to deep six the HR department. It’s worse than useless.

          • Networking is, IMHO, still better than throwing your resume into the ATS and praying.

            Ideally, perhaps the best is networking to someone who then puts you in as an employee referral?

            • Totally agree.

              Employee referrals can be effective, although often difficult to get given how nervous companies make their employees about taking risks.

              That is, it’s one thing for a friend to simply submit your name (potential spiff), versus assertively reaching out to Talent or the hiring manager and recommending they interview you.

  3. Great question Nick. My greatest fear has always been if the grass is greener or just another shade of green.

    I know it’s my job to interview the interviewers and I’m good at it. But at the executive level, learning politics and styles is complex, even when you are on a new job.

    So is is the better play to stay where you are 60% happy or to chase that elusive “better” job? As my career has gone on, it’s been harder to not play it safe. There are so many red flags that companies give off.

    • @Dave: This is why it’s so important to cultivate your place in your professional community, so that over time you learn lots about the companies you’re most interested in well before you discuss a job with them. The rule is, ear to the ground all the time!

      This article may be helpful next time you talk with a company:

      I don’t advocate changing employers for the sake of it. But if you’re 40% unhappy, I think it’s wise to explore.

  4. paranoia here, but I fear there is some blacklist that recruiters share, so if I inadvertently scoff one recruiter, no others will work with me.

    age discrimination, and those “personality” tests, because I never know how to answer those questions.

    • It’s not paranoia. Blacklists exist, and not just among recruiters. HR people do it too. I’ve been told so by a recruiter I trust implicitly, who has seen such in action multiple times. They told me that at the HR meetings they’ve gone to, there are often no-records-total-deniability sessions where HR people exchange – all verbally of course – lists of people to not hire.

      • As owner of a staffing company, we do have a “never hire” list generally made up of people who have caused our internal staff to fear for their safety. You might also get onto the list if we’ve placed you in four different jobs within a few months and you can’t seem to get to work regularly. For the latter scenarios, wait a couple of years and you might convince us to try again.

        In general, I’d say the black list is limited, if it exists, and there’s so much turnover in these entry-level recruiting departments that, for most companies, it’s not the worry.

        General age discrimination, on the other hand, definitely exists. We frequently have to counsel clients to just plain old STOP IT.

        • Safety? Yes, I can see that.

          The black lists to which I’m referring are grudge lists. We don’t need uppity folk lists.

          Short story: I am, I dare say, infamous for asking “inconvenient” questions about the hiring process, and openly. On my blog and old LI profile I had quite a few essays about hiring, employment, etc. Unemployed at the time I leveraged my late father’s Harvard connections and got an appointment with a Professor of HR.

          Sitting down, he was pleasant enough at first, but turned to my essays saying I needed to take them down. When I asked “OK, but please tell me – where, in what I’ve said, am I in error?” He stared at me cold-faced: JUST TAKE THEM DOWN. I’ve had people say I’m “angry” or “unmanageable” or whatever… same question: So what’s not true? No answer.

          They’re naked emperors in HR, in the C-suite. And they RESENT like crazy when someone points that out.

          The thing that amazes me about age discrimination is the question that I ask on LinkedIn quite often when people post about it: “Do those who commit ageism not grasp they, too, will be ‘too old’ soon?”

          • I’ve noticed that with some people, calling into question current HR dogma quickly makes them call you bitter, angry and butt hurt.

      • Yep, agree.

        Being a frequent hiring manager myself, I’ve attended Talent/Recruiter meetings reviewing pools of candidates for roles I was trying to fill and heard them refer to candidates they had “flagged” with filters that were “off the books” tracking.

    • The alternative is to avoid recruiters altogether. Raise your standard. Talk only with hiring managers and members of their teams — and people who are your peers.

      • @Nick – I don’t think this practical advice for many candidates. A comprehensive search strategy should include a multifaceted approach. That said, I’ve had tremedous issues working with unprofessional recruiters. They tend to the norm now rather than the exception.

  5. I fear the required “personality” evaluations/quizzes and what the future is bringing in that regard. I once had a good opportunity shot down by Quest Diagnostics because the hiring manager saw one thing from a simple 30 minute on-line quiz. Every other person I interviewed with openly said I would be great for the job. In another interview (for a job I actually got), I was told that no one else at the company had undergone the evaluation, yet somehow, magically, they could use it to tell if I was a good fit for the company.

    Everything about these reeks of black box magic, and “AI enabled” stuff like that Wade & Wendy company is only going to make it worse. At least now, companies reject you because you don’t have some keyword in your resume. That you can at least try to fight. With this new stuff, employers will outright reject you and have no idea why.

    New corporate espionage idea: Instead of trying to hack into companies’ systems to steal data and IP, hack into their AI enabled recruiting system and corrupt it so it rejects good candidates so you can hire them.

    • @Chris: There is no such thing as “AI enabled” recruiting and hiring. It’s marketing and bunk. And HR eats it up because it provides plausible deniability. “We failed to hire but it’s not our fault! The SuperDuper Candidate Test rejected every single applicant!

      There are many companies that hire and fire thousands of people quickly. Churn and burn. They automated the process because they’re playing the odds. It’s stupid.

      Unfortunately, what you’re left with is the choice: Should you even bother with industries where that’s the standard? Or, find the best firms in that biz and talk only to them.

      It’s smart to ask around before you go in. Don’t succumb to wishful thinking.

      • Agreed on the marketing bunk. I saved screen captures of an “interview” with one of these things. I wanted to see how they worked. It was basically just a fancy animated web form that could not comprehend anything I entered. Hell, it didn’t even do basic validation when asking for things like a phone number or salary. (I put in some verbiage about needing more details about the job.) The old text based adventure games like Zork had more functionality.

        I wonder how they can sell this to companies or if companies even try to use it themselves to see what it’s like. The presentation/demo must be a complete fabrication to get companies to buy the service.

        • @Chris: Zork! That’s it! But in Zork, you could actually get somewhere.

    • It’s a risk-avoidance mechanism. Everyone wants the “risk free” hire, irrespective of the fact that – as in any human endeavor – there is no such thing.

      You see, it’s easier to complain there’s a SHOOOOORTAGE of qualified candidates than to hire someone at 80% and train them.

      Here’s something I wrote that still resonates. And for which I still get into trouble… and, channeling my last comment, when I ask “So, what about what I said is incorrect?” I get some form of “It’s wrong because shut up.”

  6. Bait and switch is my greatest fear. The number of times that I’ve been offered one position and found upon start that the job and reporting relationship has changed and not for the better. I’m in that situation now and looking for something else. But will the next company try it again.

  7. I hate the fact that it is an inefficient process. Only some jobs are public. For the rest you need to magically match a “unicorn” description and then be lucky enough to know the particular head hunter or hiring manager in order to even find out about the job. Even if you are working with a known executive search outfit, if you are working with Jill and John is managing this search—-then you won’t be considered!

    • @Annoyed: You’re absolutely right. And the best way to deal with this problem is to be that unicorn by wiring the process for yourself.

  8. My fear is captured in an old joke:

    A man dies and goes to the pearly gates. Saint Peter says “You’re borderline; you could actually choose either destination.”

    The man asks “Can I try both out?”

    “Sure. Start with Heaven.”

    The man tries Heaven out for a day. Singing praises to G-d, sitting on clouds, reading, discussions… pleasant but pretty tame.

    Then he goes to Hell. It’s a raucous party – drinks, drugs, s*x, any hedonistic pleasure he can imagine is right there and available.

    He goes back to Saint Peter. “I think I’ll take Hell.”


    He lands in Hell and it’s a burning wasteland of scalding flames and choking smoke.

    “But… but… but wait, what about the parties, the alcohol, the women…” the man gasps out.

    “Oh, yesterday you were interviewing. Now you’ve decided,” said Satan.

    Out of all the fears I have, it’s being dazzled by the interview process and taking the plunge. Which has happened to me. I left a solid but stable job for a glitzy “bleeding edge” place and it was a huge mistake.

    • Fabulous Joke…..Perfect for today’s job market… a busy nail salon on a busy NYC street, its about the churn not the customer

    • Had to laugh at that joke. About two jobs ago, I was hired on as a consultant to help a mid sized company fix their SAP accounting system. They used incorrect accounting methods, then loaded those incorrect amounts into SAP and converted the data into various foreign currencies. Absolute nightmare to unravel what happened and what should have happened. Never thought to ask a company if they actually follow GAAP accounting standards or not.

      The company was set up as a corporation with a few large investors and somehow the company was able to pass an audit every year. They used a second tier accounting firm but still – yikes.

  9. I agree with many of the comments above and share those fears. However the one that is really holding me back is my age. I don’t look my true age, however, it’s fairly easy for an employer to discover at some point in the process. I think that once they figure it out, I will be rejected based on that.

  10. If I had to sum it up, I guess I’m afraid of being a victim of fraud perpetrated by:
    * Unethical third-party recruiters.
    • Employers trolling for candidates merely to fill a recruiting pipeline, rather than for needs that actually exist today.
    • Hiring managers who have never actually performed the job for which they’re filling, and hence have no legitimate credentials by which to evaluate potential candidates.
    • Deceptive and prolonged hiring processes.
    • Companies proudly claiming to be “an equal opportunity employer” when they clearly don’t practice what they preach.

    • @Garp: I think you’ve just provided the outline for an HR handbook about recruiting and hiring — one that every board of directors needs to see!

      “Is that OUR company???”

    • Agree, great list, but still just the tip of the iceberg relative to the dysfunctional process of trying to market your skillset and experience to companies and organizations that could be better if you were part of their team.

      The highest annoyance on my hierarchy of issues is the recruiters that “ghost” candidates that have gone deep into the final selection rounds, only to hear nothing but “crickets”. No follow-ups, no responses to calls/emails – zero closure. This behavior has become more the norm than the exception.

      For example, I recently went through five rounds of interviews with a Big 5 consultancy for a Director level role where I was told by the recruiter, “you’re doing great, they (hiring mgr and staff)love you, etc. It was all favorably on track, until it wasn’t.

      I went from rock star to persona non grata overnight for no stated reason and CERTAINLY no feedback. And when it became obvious they weren’t proceeding with me as a candidate, they even ignored my request for minor out of pocket interview expenses.

      To compound this example of recruiting/interviewing dysfunction – other recruiters in this firm still contact me regularly to start the cycle all over again for similar roles.

      • FIVE interviews? And they can’t even give you a yea or nay, let alone any feedback??

        And then they wonder why candidates are starting to ghost employers.

      • I have been ghosted even when I had an out-of-town interview – multiple times! Insofar as an employment agency, I have dealt with several of these over the years. There was only one that actually delivered – they placed me not once, but twice – in jobs I enjoyed! (There were reasons I left on my own accord – one was because I was going back to school full-time for awhile, and the other was because I got an offer with a 66% pay increase.)

        I may be promoted to manager soon – you can bet I will be getting in touch with that same employment agency, though they are over 2000 miles away, as we have many people who will probably retire in a few short years. As for those other agencies who didn’t deliver when I was a candidate? Sorry, but I just won’t be giving them business anytime soon.

        Note to recruiters and potential employers: If you ghost an applicant, think about what might happen if the tables are turned, and they will turn.

        PS: If I don’t become manager, I am fine with my job right now.

        • I have read several articles about the growing trend of employees (not job candidates) ghosting their jobs. Not quitting without notice, just not showing up, calling, or anything.

          The pros…analysts, experts, people in the know are complexly mystified. The rest of us, even if we do not approve, understand exactly why it is happening

          • I know of an example of employee ghosting that happened about 30 years ago, in an office that I had worked in previously. An employee announced that she was going on vacation for a few weeks, but she had already accepted a job elsewhere. At her “old” job, she left some personal belongings behind (old shoes, coffee mug, and whatever). She departed for her “vacation” (new job), and the former manager then had a mess on her hands. The manager waited and waited for this employee to return from her vacation. I don’t know how long she waited or whether she eventually found out that the employee had left her job without any notice whatsoever. So, many weeks were lost in that department before they could hire a new employee. I thought it rather funny, because I had left that same department a few years before, after giving 2 weeks’ notice (but I did not have a new job waiting for me).

  11. Nick,
    No fear but more like anxiety. At 63, I am looking for my final job. Probably out of state for 5 or 8 years before I retire.
    The interview is the easy part. I just turned down an interesting job because the salary was just too low. Big pay disparity between North and South Jersey!
    It is the move, the location, the where that has me troubled. I am trying to find a place that I can live comfortably and is affordable AND not boring or crazy. Leaving CONUS is a possibility.
    Open to suggestions!

    • @Tony: I think you need to start by picking where you want to live. Then research and identify 3-4 companies in that area that you’d love to work for. Find out where they hang out — industry events, conferences, etc. Buy a plane ticket and go. Mingle. Chat. Ask questions. Ask managers from each company for insight and advice about the other companies.

      I think that’s how you’ll get introduced to your next employer.

  12. My biggest fear is the “other duties as assigned” part of the job description that somehow eclipse the work you were hired to do because *someone* has to do the nasty scut work. It’s the slow-motion version of bait and switch that Susie Smith described above.

    My biggest annoyance is fighting the prior salary disclosure requirement; I’ve had job offers withdrawn because I refused to send them a recent paycheck stub. Luckily, I’ve been able to find other jobs, but I’m in the contracting world now, so I know I’ll have to fight it again when the current contract ends.

    • @Carol:

      Let’s deal with these separately.

      1. This is so common that it ought to be illegal! The only way I know to avoid this is to request, after they make you an offer, meetings with (a) people on the team you’d be working on, (b) people who do work upstream from your job — that is, a department whose output is important to your own work, and (c) people in jobs downstream from your job — that is, people whose work will be affected by yours.

      Have some brief meetings with these folks and I think you’ll learn all you need to know about how jobs really “work” at that company.

      2. You must make it clear when you accept an offer (in writing) that your prior compensation is confidential and that you will not disclose it as a condition of employment. That’s the only way I know to accomplish this. Because if you take the job, you’re automatically subject to all the rules that other employees live under — including forking over salary history. If you then refuse, that’s grounds for dismissal. You must do it up front. And I agree with you — it’s nobody’s business unless you let it be!

  13. I don’t fear recruiters, HR, jockeys, application systems, stupid interviewers or anything like that anymore. Simply because I do not play their game anymore, and I will tell them if necessary. May not get the job, sure, but regard that as a bullet dodged.

    Because I have a quite good network. But, I do have some fear: What will the references say? Some candid things I should know? Have I kept enough in contact?

    • @Karsten: I hope others read why you’re no longer afraid of what scares/bothers most people.

      As for references, you’re right — it’s important to stay in touch if you want to know what they’ll say. But there are tricks you can use, and done properly, I don’t think either is unethical.

      1. Pay a reference checking service to check your references. I think most will do it. You’re buying a service.
      2. Have a manager who’s a friend make the call to check your references. Both of you must be very careful about how this is done — do not lie. But odds are, the call can be phrased carefully so it’s honest though tricky and a bit sneaky.

      The best way to handle references, though, is to call them yourself first, and recount the work experiences you had together. You’ll find that most of the time, the reference will then recite pretty much what they discussed with you on the phone with the person doing the checking. If they avoid you, I’d probably omit them as references.

  14. I don’t know if it’s a fear per se, but there’s something I really don’t want to face in a job and there’s no foolproof way to avoid them: assholes. Assuming similar levels of assholery, a bad boss is worth 2-3 bad colleages, and they’re everywhere. There’s all kinds of them, from extremely insecure people who will lash out at anything and everything, to proud, stubborn and condescending ones who are incapable of seeing or acknowledging their own mistakes, are quick to criticize others, want things done their own way… overall terrible team players. And don’t get me started on the bad bosses, micromanaging your every move, belittling your best efforts, nothing is ever enough. Yeah…

    I’ve avoided bad bosses since my first job with one (whew!), but bad colleagues are much harder to detect.

    Anecdote: we had a joke in my previous job that went more or less like “if you can’t find any asshole in your job, the asshole is you”, as a way to explain why the worst employees think everything is just fine and at the same time their blindness to their own flaws. When the employees who inspired the joke quit, I was very worried, I couldn’t find any asshole… could it be me now?
    Very good for self-awareness.

    Ok yes I dread the idea of starting a new job that looks great and then finding out I’m going to team up with that kind of people; it’s kind of like the bait and switch of Hell that David Hunt described above.

    • Okay, folks! Pentalis is asking a great question. How do you recognize assholes before you get stuck working for them?

      • Trust first impressions and your gut feelings.
        Listen to what is not said even more than what is.
        Have a basic understanding of body language.

      • Ooh, good one, Pentalis. I recently left a position in part due to MAS ( multiple a**hole syndrome). Just read a book by Aaron James: Assholes, a theory. Highly recommend it for definitions, typologies, and how to deal with them (TL:DR, you can’t because they see themselves as entitled to act as they do). In my due diligence next time I’d ask them to tell me about a successful project they recently completed. If it’s all about them and no one else, classic narcissist. What do they think is a challenge the organization faces? If the answer doesn’t include how they need to address it, bingo. If they won’t take the time to listen to you as a person or exchange ideas, big red flag.

        My personal fear for the next position is both age discrimination and that I’m looking for a less senior position in order to balance family commitments. In our workaholic, squeeze the blood out of the rock climate, I wonder if they’ll give me the time of day. Back to networking!

      • Make people become specific. In a hiring process in my company, we skipped an otherwise very well qualified candidate, because he clearly had a too big ego. He bragged about colleagues praising him for being creative, but could not give any clear examples. If the candidate brags about how fantastic they are, or are evasive, skip it. And the same goes for employers.

      • There is a book called “F*ck Feelings” by Michael Bennet and Sarah Bennet. It taught me to recognize assholes.

      • I say you discover them by the first line people you interact with from the start. The receptionist for one. How you are treated when you first walk in the door. I also believe managers reflect the workers and culture. Jerk manager/managers in initial interviews are a preview of the colleagues. I never followed this on the past, and man did I take some hard falls.

    • If you have time… ask around at industry-related events.

      Once company I worked for, alas, had a reputation as an ego-maniac-driven sweatshop. It was only after I joined that I learned that.

      Also, if you can, search LinkedIn for people who USED to work there and DM them.

      • @David: I’m a big fan of vetting employers at industry events. Nobody’s talking about jobs (unless they read this site!). They’re talking shop.

  15. Biggest fears:
    Wasting my time on illusory/imaginary vacancies.
    HR departments. (Is there a greater divide between good applicants and employers than the HR department?)
    “Career opportunities” for positions that are clearly amalgamations of three jobs.
    Non-compete forms.
    Mandatory and spontaneous drug tests. (don’t fear them, but don’t approve of them)
    The ‘any good ideas you have while under our employ become our property’ form.
    Answering the same ten interview questions over and over again.
    Being lied to about how a company values initiative, does not discriminate, rewards hard work, promotes from within, etc.

  16. I fear not asking the right questions in an interview that will help me decide if I’m getting an A+ performance from a C- hiring manager. This happened to me recently. I thought I had a fairly accurate impression but have been completely wrong. You can’t fix stupid.

    • @LB: Try this. Ask the manager to describe the problem or challenge the new hired will be expected to tackle, fix, improve, make better, etc.

      Then ask what the deliverables will be on this job in 3, 6 and 12 months.

      You’ll learn most of what you need to know about whether this manager knows what they’re doing and whether they’re worth working for.

      No, you can’t fix stupid. But you can do your best to avoid it.

  17. Dealing with recruiters who are 1/2 my age, who cannot interpret my CV as have worked in academe and in the healthcare workplace, and who already have a bias (says the literature) towards people who are “like them”. Additionally, there are many who think that if you have been an academic, you cannot “do”, and will not give me an interview on the basis of that alone.

    • @Fran: Please see my comments and those of others about this above. The answer is to avoid recruiters just like you’d avoid stepping into a deep hole of unknown depth.

      • @Nick: It feels like age discrimination is one of the most frequent fears listed and we just had to scold ANOTHER employer yesterday (we work mostly with small companies who have no HR) on this topic.

        I apologize if you’ve done this already – you have covered so many topics – but perhaps this is one that could use more focused attention?

  18. 1. Age. I swear that businesses would rather give a six figure salary, a six-figure bonus and a company-paid Tesla to some kid fresh out of college rather than give a decent salary to an experienced person with a “touch of grey”. Back in the runup to Y2K it was a Porsche. At least they are consistent.

    2. More so if you are a Veteran. Pick a conflict, any conflict.

    3. Even more if you are a Veteran of the Vietnam Era. There always has been an extreme prejudice from HR and front office managers who spent their college years in the anti-war protest movement.

    4. If you are a “hit your marks, say your lines, and keep the heat and lights on” worker bee, you will be passed over for some Wunderkind who can dazzle management. At least for a while.

    5. My resume cannot be deconstructed and rewritten neatly into your “one size fits none” ATS. Not easily, not with difficulty, not with painfully extreme difficulty. Can. Not.

    • Did you steal the content I was going to submit? Word-for-word?

      My 6th item was this: “When you find out who got that “perfect job” – it will invariably be someone less qualified. And in a year, they will have moved on – having been less than stellar at the job. Where you would have been a rock star and stable for years to come.

    • As someone who went completely gray at a young age, I can say that ageism is alive and well. I am still pretty young, but the difference between interviewing with my hair dyed or not dyed is truly disheartening.

      Companies want years of experience from a group who could not possibly have the number of years of experience they are looking for.

      • Precisely.

        The also “more white space” on the resumes.

        When Hollywood reached this point, the old studio system partially collapsed, and a number of leading producers went independent.

        That works for leading producers, but the independents can starve. I see no solution.

        • If you see no solution, I would suggest trying to find one. I find perseverance pays off. If it doesn’t pay off I try to find out why.

  19. My biggest fear – more like a concern – is that I am viewed as “too old” to be in the workforce. (I am 67).
    Even removal of obvious clues, there is always the specter of age discrimination.
    With all the reports of lack of experienced, qualified workers, it is hard to believe that age still is an issue.
    Many of the comments address other issues – unscrupulous recruiters, distracted interviewers, and unqualified HR personnel. All are valid and do exist.

    • Sue, I’m with you 100 percent. My overwhelming fear is that my age (52) is causing doors to slam in my face. I look younger, but I don’t look like a Millenial. I’ve been searching for a job for over a year, used contacts on three occasions, and still nothing. In one instance the contact blew me off. I’ve read that your resume shouldn’t go back further than fifteen or twenty years, so there’s that. I deleted my college graduation date, but I’ve read differing opinions on that tactic. Nick, what are your thoughts on omitting graduation dates if you’re an “older” worker?

      My other fear is that my skills are no longer valued. Project management, organization, clear communication seem to me like timeless skills. Then again, I AM 52 and I’m probably a bit out of touch. I’m also disgusted and discouraged and trying very hard not to be angry.

      • I’ve been encouraged to leave off the majority of my experience, too (I’m 57). But my biggest asset is my 40 years of experience! I’ve cut my resume down to the past 15 years, but I feel I’m doing myself a grave disservice. As a member of the support staff who has evolved with rapidly changing technology, I apply a lot of what I learned 10, 20, 30 years ago to today’s tasks. All that experience helps so much, especially with my attitude–there ain’t nothing I haven’t seen that I can’t handle, friends. But I feel I have to come off as a quasi-ingenue to get a job. Seems no one values depth of experience anymore.

      • MHO on leaving dates out: a savvy resume reader will know what you’re doing… and thus make inferences anyway.

        • I don’t leave dates out. I leave entire decades out before 2005. Everything I list has accurate dates, including my degree and internship, since I didn’t complete those until about 10 years ago. Looking at my current resume you’d never know I was over 35. So, nope, even a “savvy” reader would have no idea how old I am. But thanks for the inference that I don’t know what I’m doing.

        • Oh, and “IMHO,” using stupid Internet shorthand doesn’t make you look younger. It makes you look like a terrible communicator.

  20. My biggest fear has been the interview process, whether on the phone or in person. I have Aspergers (a form of autism) so I’m terrible at nonverbal cues plus I am nervous when I talk. Also, it’s not just me that is a bit apprehensive about the interview process: I was told point blank by a Department of Rehabilitation Services guy that most likely the interview is where I’d lose the job and that my best bet is to have an “in” with the company where the formal interview process is NOT the main thing making or breaking me getting the job.

    My second fear, as silly as it sounds, is more a long term fear. It’s “if I take this job now, and I could get a better one later, will I get pigeon holed into this field or spot by employers who only see last jobs and skills or will they let me climb into other areas later?” (The other side of the coin of this, though, is that the longer you are not employed, the more you get labeled as “damaged goods”. So it’s not so clear cut.)

  21. >This takes time.

    Which can be awkward if your in a job that is unwilling to give you the time off to go to these kind of events.

    Or you live in an area without them. Otherwise how do you meet these people?

    Forums and email lists can only do so much.

  22. Age is an issue. With LinkedIn asking every day why I won’t post a photo, I tell them the color of my hair (silver) is no one’s business. Oh, but having a photo is so much more personal! Yeah. Right.

    I’m afraid I won’t interview as well as I used to. The idea that you have to be “on” is daunting. I’m just not an “on” kind of person anymore; I just quietly do my job and do it well.

    • Oh, yeah, the “tell me about a time…” interview questions!! ACK!!! I can’t wait until this ridiculous and useless interviewing trend dies, but by the time it does, I’ll be too old to work anyway (or long dead). My heart fills with fear every time I hear that phrase. And they’re such bullshit questions! “Tell me about a time that a coworker passed off your idea as theirs.” Me: “Well, that never happened.” Them: “Okay, what if it did?” What I really want to say: “What kind of coworkers am I going to have???” What on earth do my answers to these dipshitty questions have to do with the job I’m applying for? Yeah, Denise, seriously…strikes fear in my heart.

    • I ask on LI the following whenever someone says “You need a photo on LI!”


      The conventional wisdom is to not have pictures on a resume to avoid discrimination. Fair enough. Then why, on the SM site where any possible employer is going to look, is it critical to have a picture that would – per the same logic – lead to discrimination. Can someone please square this circle?”

      I get many positive comments about that. And no answers. Because the two CANNOT be reconciled.

      I wear a kippa; I have been told, point blank by a number of people, to “lose it” when job searching.

  23. FWIW, in my case, which is probably somewhat unique (20+ years of experience, primarily in technology consulting and enterprise software startups across a variety of industries, some very successful, some not, performing technical & consulting roles early on, and executive channel sales & ecosystem building roles later), the most challenging part of a new job search is figuring out what I REALLY want to do next.

    Until that happens, most of my job searches have consisted of going through the motions (you need a plan and discipline, even for that) and gathering knowledge of what I might get excited about. I have realized that I can not successfully fake enthusiasm (I tried. It’s obvious and doesn’t work!) for the roles that I could successfully perform (and which might be great for my pocketbook), but would do nothing for my mind.

    My LinkedIn profile states as much: INTERESTS: Stuff I haven’t done before. Stuff that needs figuring out. Not exactly custom built for automated keyword searches :-)

    • This is my second ‘fear’: boredom.

      Some employers insist on only accepting people with thorough experience in one field for jobs where a fast learner will do just as good or better. For me those jobs are kryptonite, because I know what they’re looking for: someone who can easily complete the tasks assigned from day 1 and is not expected to do anything different. Ever.

      To me that feels like mental and professional stagnation and just the thought of it makes me imagine my life fading to grey out of soul-sucking boredom.

  24. My fear: being stuck in one dead-end job after another because I can never make it past the d*** ATS, and I don’t know how to “sell myself” to any powers that be.

    Oh wait – that describes my reality….

  25. #1 fear, since it has happened to me and was terrifying: the offer will be rescinded. #2 fear: I won’t be hired at all because I’m “too old.” These two things have kept me at my current job for way too long because I’m afraid to look! And the irony is that the longer I wait, the “too old”er I get. I hate my job so much right now that I daydream about quitting, packing a truck, and moving to my target city, which is just foolish.

  26. My biggest fear would be not getting a really great job that I would be great at. Most of the time, though, I leave the interview, thinking that this is not the right job for me.

  27. Not really fears any more, because I have taken myself out of the traditional job market. Main reason is my health will no longer allow 50-60-70+ hour work weeks, which seem to be expected for “senior finance professional” jobs. My specialty has always been transitions and messes, and I have proven results. But somehow companies think that I should be happy to take their project for 60% of what they were paying the person whose shoddy work I’m cleaning up.

    I’ve solved the problems by working directly for a few different small businesses. Don’t make anywhere near what I could in a corporate role, but don’t have to deal with HR BS, stupid company rules, unreasonable hour demands, etc. And if one of them pushes too far, I can afford to say goodbye…

  28. I fear being stuck in a broken system by not being able to find people who do the work I want to do. I work as a middle-manager in Logistics in a large company, and there just doesn’t seem to be a place where people in those roles congregate. There are several niche functions within logistics, but none really seem to have an professional associations that meet in person regularly.

  29. I live in a country whose language is not my mother tongue. I’m pretty fluent, but still feel anxious when picking up the phone and calling the hiring manager. Having a conversation in a foreign language over the phone is more challenging than face to face, as you cannot see the person you’re talking with.

    Still, I think it certainly increases my chances and gives myself not only a chance to ask about the job, but also an opportunity to form a first impression of the manager, so I do call. To make it easier, I prepare a couple of questions in advance and write them out on paper so I won’t need to search for words.

    Recently landed a job this way. After talking to the manager I did follow the standard procedure, sending my CV and a motivation letter (carefully formulated and checked by a native speaker) to HR, but at least the dialogue had already been opened.

  30. Coming from a libraries/archives background, my big gripe/fear is dealing with the “good fit” narrative. “We think you’d be a good fit for this position.” I’ve since read that that concept leads to a homogeneity amongst the employees which comes out in the following: aversion to new ideas or outside the box solutions problem solving, anyone who doesn’t fit this entrenched mold of X degree with Y accreditation even though the position doesn’t require it or the person has transferable skills, and of course, the oldie but goodie: the same tired abstract interview question that seems to go “Tell us about a problem you faced and how you solved it and what would you do differently and what would you do and what would you do the same and how would you do it again and would you still do it that way?”

    • Absolutely true. One of my friends flew in for a job interview and we were lucky enough to be able to meet up for dinner. He mentioned the issue with “transferable skills” and he literally got a standing ovation from several other tables in the restaurant. Clearly this is an issue that has touched many people!

      Employers need to focus on problem solving skills and learning new things as both of those are critical for the current business landscape.

  31. Not sure fear is the right word, loath and despise is closer to what I feel. While I have never enjoyed job hunting, things are getting pretty bad. Hunting for a new job used to be like going to the DMV, not fun but not the worst thing you could do. Now it is more like a full on IRS audit where you are facing serious jail time and fines if you lose your case.

    First off companies post jobs all the time they have absolutely no intention of filling from online submissions.

    Second so-called recruiters search the internet endlessly for job opening and then spam everyone who is unlucky enough to be on their email list.
    These fly by night job posting spammers waste everyone’s time. They deserve every bit of scorn Nick and others have sent their way.

    Third HR has always been a pain in the butt but lately they are just the most unreasonable and ridiculous gate keepers. Modern day HR reminds me of The Black Night from Monty Python, where he refuses to let travelers pass until both his arms and legs are cut off and then he begrudgingly lets them pass.

    Fourth the time table some companies have set for hiring new people is flat out nuts. One company called me and I had to look up my job search notes to find when I applied for the position. I applied to the company almost four years ago? When I mentioned this to their HR person, they stated, “Oh yah – you did apply a while ago.” Really? What the hell? I halfway expected them to say their first call was to Aeschylus as they really liked his in-depth knowledge of Athens but they couldn’t seem to reach him.

    Overall, I would say that the cost in both time and effort for finding a new job – makes me very reluctant to look for a new job. My current company takes pretty good care of me but I would like a bit more upward progression. My friend mentioned a position his company is hiring for and said he would put in a good word for me. If they hire me, I am planning on taking a vacation from my current position to start working at the second one. You simply can not be too careful these days. Heck, I have heard of people who had a position rescinded after the paperwork was signed. True – the company offered them thousands of dollars in compensation but at the end of the day they do not have a job. That kind of sums up the job search these days – total and complete nightmare.

  32. Job hunting for me is really difficult, especially as I have two small children and a spouse who is in school full time, along with the “gap” that I worry will automatically rule me out from consideration. I look for positions that relate to my education and work experience; where I meet the minimum qualifications (and then some), and I adjust my resume and cover letter accordingly depending on the job description. I just find the whole process terrifying, especially now, because if your application package doesn’t have the “buzz words” from the job announcement and you push the “send” button online, you don’t really know what happens for ages after receiving the generic “We have received your resume etc” email. I tend to find that “Human Resources” lately is neither human nor a resource – You can’t ask for feedback as to why you didn’t get considered for at least an interview, and you’re not even sure whether your application was reviewed because of the ATS.

    • Especially when you don’t know if the company actually intends to fill the position, or if a human will ever see it. I once saw a job posting that I was very excited about, and spent nearly a full day writing a cover letter and tuning my resume for the position. Within literal seconds of submitting my documents, I had a rejection email in my mailbox. Fast enough that it was clear that it was an automated response.

      • It’s nonsense like this that is so discouraging. We are constantly told to tweak and retweak our resumes to match the position, then write an attention-grabbing cover letter to accompany said resume…only for it to be summarily dismissed, never having been seen by human eyes.

        Time to fight fire with fire: if they’re going to subject us with automated rejections, the least we can do is bombard them with automated applications. Why pour time and effort into something that gets rejected in nanoseconds?

  33. Here’s an interesting story: A manager at work is going back to his home country and announced that his position would be open. He said we could apply in an all hands staff meeting.

    Apply I did. It was using my company’s applicant tracking system. All I had to do was upload my resume and write a message to the hiring manager.

    A few weeks later a corporate recruiter contacted me through the system. I responded through the system and on corporate email. She needed my HR person’s name (which I found on my profile page on the intranet). A few days later it came back saying I was eligible for the promotion.

    In the meantime I have talked to the person who is in the position, and he spent a lot of time with me. My manager is aware and I think the guy who hired me may be aware. I know it will be a number of weeks.

    As a side note I did get information about this position through third parties (LinkedIn, indeed, etc). I smiled / I already knew about the position!

    Now I don’t know if I will get this promotion or not, but knowing that I am eligible at least tells me something positive, because I also like my current job.

    Bottom line: There may often be things happening behind the scenes that you don’t know about. So I will continue on in my current work performing well.

    Interestingly, I find myself more aware of how I present myself and a desire to be more professional.

  34. Other commenters have summed up my own experiences and fears quite well. I think the bait and switch/disappearing job are some of the scariest scenarios of all because of how much damage it can do to you personally. @Anna Mouse is right, you can’t be too careful these days. Better to use vacation time to vet out another job before making the jump.

    I’m sure I’m not alone in that I try to anticipate what a potential employer is going to lob at me if I dare to show interest in a position with their company. No, I don’t want to take your bs personality tests, participate in your cattle call interviews, do free work in the guise of “candidate assessment”, hand over my references before we’ve even had a chance to speak, answer the same inane questions over and over again for panels of people who have barely looked at my resume and are only tangentially relevant to the role I’m interviewing for. The list goes on. The problem is, unethical behavior and incompetence is the norm now rather than the exception. And like others, it’s not that I don’t have relevant experience, education, certifications. There’s just always something about my candidacy, inexplicably, that’s “not a good fit”.

    I think I have job-search PTSD at this point.

  35. Pentalis, how I figure out personality quirks is by observing the interviewer closely. Instead of being in my own head, thinking about my thoughts and feelings, I put my mind into observing the other person. Listen to what they say, watch their eyes and body while keeping a pleasant look on your face. A-holes say things like “are you okay with working overtime” or “we need someone who can be flexible.” If one is an older adult, they will say things to hint around about your age, “why would you want to change jobs at this time?” or “we are a very fast paced environment, so you think you can handle it?” — stuff like that. Now all of these questions or comments could be very innocent and truthful without it being an abusive employer situation. I also notice if the interviewer talks all about themselves or if they ask canned questions such as “where do you see yourself in 5 years” which really is dumb. One can also tell that someone is just not interested in you or your skills by their body language. Are they giving you a pleasant face with a smile and eye contact, or just going through the motions with little eye contact and no response to your responses to their questions.

    My fear is frankly, age discrimination because my last two job interviews were young people who made it pretty obvious they thought I was too old, even though they did not overtly break the law, their comments and demeanor told me their jobs were going to be a no for me.

    • Thank you for your insights Kathy!

      One thing I did in my current job to test the waters and ease concerns was to offer to work for 3 months for a lower pay as a sort of two-ways testing period. It doesn’t work with big companies, but it did work with the small company that hired me. These 3 months have almost passed and renegotiation went well just two days ago. Thanks to this I could survey the company and find out I’ll only have to work with 1 unpleasant colleague and that everything else was acceptable/passable: good enough!

      I did it because even though I try to apply the advice that Nick and the readers here give, like paying attention to the questions you just mentioned, we still won’t really know if we’ll really like the job until we have to do it (there’s so many variables), and in a way this also goes for employers; so, this ‘testing period’ was my way to give both sides a safe time to see if we’re a match. This company is small enough that there’s no HR department, I’m sure this negotiation would have failed if they did.

      As for age discrimination I also see it as a serious issue, and one that shouldn’t be an issue at all! With the upcoming pensions crisis worldwide, they should be thankful that citizens of any age want to be part of the workforce. Some of history’s most brilliant scientists had their peaks very late in their lives, what makes employers think that the best years of prospective employees are behind them instead of ahead?

  36. First off let me say how much I enjoy your expertise, Nick. I can confirm that all of my positions throughout my entire career came about primarily through contacts. Now I am again in the job market, but without a good network and subject to age discrimination. So those are my dreads: No contacts; too old. I’ll likely never secure a position in my area of expertise but I hear Walmart is always looking for greeters…

    • I wish you well, Doug. I hear the angst and anguish of us older workers and ageism. I’m 62 and looking, although I’m still employed, and there until I’m not. Just thinking outside the box, I deal with a lot of manufacturers in my day job. I deal with a lot of small to mid-size CNC machine shops and metal fabricators. I’ve been seeing more “gray heads” working in these places, not so much in skilled trades, but as worker grunts. I’m also seeing a lot more older guys driving trucks. Many are well in their 60s+. These employers are both finding, and saying, that the older guys have better soft skills, willingness to learn and do different duties, and are more dependable. I’m not wondering if maybe guys in your position might suck it in and do some laborer job? You won’t make doctors wages, and it’s not glamorous, but less stress, hassle, and sometimes the best job is the only job. Better gig than a Walmart greeter, and if one has to shake their death rattle, then why not go out gracefully.

      • Thanks Antonio. I’ve pretired for about a year now, and it has helped me reset my attitude. Frankly the only reason I need/want to work is for medical benefits since I’m not yet Medicare eligible. To that end, I’m willing to forget my ego and take on a “General factory” position at a local manufacturer once my COBRA coverage expires. It’s not how I planned to go into retirement, but I agree it would be less stress and hassle. I understand there are some employers who also offer medical benefits to part-timers, so that’s an option too. Otherwise I’ll be waving to you at the front door of your local Walmart… haha.

  37. So, why is it that those with a history of extensive experience, education and positive outcomes are passed over for a new graduate? Age, cheaper, other?

    • Life’s biggest mystery, Fran!
      Nobody knows. Or, if they know, they are not telling.
      Personally, I think it’s all a scam by HR / recruiters to guarantee themselves full time employment.

    • In some companies I have seen it as a costs-saving measure (I know…). A senior who knows what they’re worth will ask for too much, while a young, hip new employee who “can do overtime”, “can handle a fast-paced environment” and is “flexible” is a more attractive option, especially because they can be “infused with the values of the company”.

      Depends on the field, but I’ve seen this trend in technology, where most of the new jobs (Chile) are offered by new companies started by people in their 30s and 40s, who want to hire an “enthusiastic workforce.”

      There’s a widespread belief that you can’t teach an old dog new tricks. And on the other hand, a very young employee is easier to exploit: they don’t know their rights.

      • They’re also dog-panting eager.

        Example: After a beautiful summer weekend – salubriously solar the whole time – I was in when my mid-20’s cubicle mate came in. I asked how his weekend was. He said that he’d had some ideas so he came in both days to work on them. (Gratis, of course, but doubtless billed to the customer anyway.)

        My thought: “You’re young, single, and good looking, and you can’t think of anything better to do than come in to work both days on a gorgeous summer weekend????”

        I’ve gotten funny looks in interviews when I answer, honestly, the question “So, what motivates you?”

        “I like to solve problems and be challenged, but when push comes to shove my motivation calls me ‘Daddy!’ when I get home.”

        You probably won’t be surprised at the number of sour looks I’ve gotten at that.

        • A career counselor once told me, “Job interviews are a ritual that you have to go through in this country.” She went on further to say that the key is giving certain answers and behaving a certain way. So while I take pride in being a father – it is the one thing in life that means the most, the interview “ritual” says that I must give an answer that says work related things motivate me. Give the right answers and do the interview well, that’s generally what it takes to get a job.

          I think we need other ways of assessing candidates.

          • That falls in the same category as “Why are you the most qualified canidate.”

            I usually answer with “I have no idea if I am That requires me to reach some solid conclusions knowing that I have not examined all the available data. There is a reasonable chance that I am not.”

            All the good people I have worked for appreciate that. I do not come to conclusions lightly. But the usual response I get is along the line of using a Jump to Conclusion Matt.

            The “why do you want to work here I usually go along the lines of “Having researches this company, this is a place where we can mutually benefit from my skills and experience.”

            Too often, they do not know what to do with answers like that.

        • I like your style. Not like most engineers I’ve worked around.

      • The workers overseas don’t make as much money but also the companies save on benefits.

    • Yes on all counts, Fran. Experienced workers are usually more savvy, which means they will seek a decent wage and benefits whereas a new grad may take what they can get. In addition, younger workers are less expensive from a benefits perspective (ie better loss ratio on medical insurance), they are often more inclined to sacrifice more of their time to work (ie job before life), and are sometimes looked at as sources for new ideas (ie not old school). It’s a flawed way to view experienced workers, but it’ll always be that way. Hence why contacts are a job hunters best friend!

  38. Most of my fears are internal – will I ever find a job again?
    But over time, I’ve become enured of my fears and I try to change my reactions to strategize on how I can get what I want.

    Too old (and too expensive) – you get what you pay for. And I’m worth it.
    Too female – look what I can do. Nevermind gender. And no one out there takes improving EEOC stats as a goal.

    If the interviewer is wasting my time or treating me disrespectfully, I take it as a bullet dodged and I don’t want to work there. And I write down the names of each company I’ve dealt with and my impressions. So I don’t waste my time a second time.

    • At this time, I am being considered for a promotion at work at age 54. It is for a management position- while I have management experience in a different field, doing so in my current field is a new experience.

      My company has determined that I am eligible for this promotion, although that does not mean I will get it. Even so, they know me and also know what to expect.

      Similar positions at other companies require similar experience. In all fairness, they don’t know me, so they would want a track record to consider me.

      Yes, age and gender discrimination are alive and well, unfortunately. At the same time, Bear in mind that as time progresses, there are fewer and fewer jobs that require a high degree of experience.

  39. Not a “fear,” but what I hate about interviewing/searching/networking is the time it takes away from being with my family and involvement with activities.

    If given the choice, I would much rather spend an evening working on creating a quality program for my (and other) kids than talking about work with people that I have no particular interest being around.

  40. I’m 62, and I’ve been around the block a few times, as they say. I have both a full-time job, and a part-time evening supplemental gig that I love, but no shot at full-time, at least in the immediate future. My day job of 7 years is in a toxic small mom and pop company that’s tanking. I’ve been looking, but nothing but dead end time wasting interviews, low ball wages, must apply online, and then lots of “we are moving along with other candidates”. I’m looking at another 8 or so years in the workforce too in my case. What I fear, or should I say dread about the job hunting process and changing jobs? 1.The being called in at 90 days, blindsided, and told “You’re not working out”, or some other vague reason (good old at will employment). I now grill employers about this prospect in the interview (often to their visible annoyance). I have learned to trust my gut, and ask what the expectations are upfront. While many are vague or dishonest, some prospective employers will answer truthfully. 2. The jerk interviewer/interviewers who have the attitude of “your prospective livelihood is in OUR hands”, or if you’re unemployed “I’m/we’re employed and you’re not”. At least being employed now, I can walk away, nothing ventured, nothing gained. 3. Ageism. I’m told I look like I’m in my mid-late 40s, and that throws some of these HR types off the trail, plus I have a condensed resume that masks and hides dates. 4. Chump change and low ball offers. Burning up valuable PTO time to go to wasteful dead end interviews. I no longer accept a face-face interview unless there’s a phone interview first. My line of questions usually disqualifies me, or the prospective employer, within minutes. 5. Intrusive and personal (often illegal) questions that are none of their business!! The lust, for me, is endless.

  41. Well, a new fear (of sorts) just popped up and I’d love to see what you have to say about it. I did some searching through back issues of your newsletter (which I keep) and couldn’t find anything relevant.

    The situation: I got a job offer (written) that requires relocation to “City X”. I accept, agree to a start date (verbally), then decided to visit the city this past weekend.

    We don’t like it there and we don’t want to live there. I’m more than willing to do the job from my current home and even travel to the job site every once in a while as needed, but there’s no way I’d move there.

    What’s the best way to handle this? Can you simply rescind your acceptance of an offer?

    A Long Time Reader (you may recognize the email address but I want to remain anonymous)

    • @A Long Time Reader: Unless you’ve signed an employment contract that obligates you to show up, my guess (I’m not a lawyer and this isn’t legal advice) is that you may rescind your acceptance before you start, just like you’re free to quit any time after you start. While it’s hardly a nice thing to do, it’s no different from an employer rescinding a job offer. It may tarnish your reputation in some circles (probably limited), but you have to consider all the factors. You should have checked out the city in advance. I missed this question from Nov. 4 — another reader brought it up. I’d love to know how you handled this.

      In general, you are as free to rescind an acceptance as a company is to rescind an offer. Consult an employment attorney if you need to.

      • You have zero legal liability if you decide to rescind the offer unless your Offer Letter specified otherwise, which is unlikely.

        You didn’t indicate whether your city visit expenses were out-of-pocket or reimbursed, which some offers stipulate you need to repay if you withdraw. Again, that needs to have been specified and you needed to have executed an agreement to that effect to be enforeced.

        I would suggest if you really like the job otherwise, you consider laying out your concerns about relocation to this city with the hiring manager and counter with an offer to work remote and combine with light travel. If they decline, that would give you a more elegant exit from the offer.

        Although American corporations are in one of the few remaining First World legal systems that still practice draconian Employment at Will laws, you actually have some remaining recourse here without a written contract.

        But I’m not the Headhunter.

        • Perhaps I’m missing something, but what exactly is so “draconian” about employment at will? I get that many (most?) people prefer the supposed security of an employment contract, but holding such preferences hardly makes the lack of a contract “draconian.”

          Like just about anything else, employment contracts (and employment at will) is a two-edged sword. You could just as well argue that employment contracts are merely a modern form of indentured servitude, where the worker is stuck until he fulfills his obligation.

          • Knowing that any day could be my last day at my job is enough to keep me looking over my shoulder. There are situations where I could push back against my manager such that we would get a markedly better result, however, I have seen people do this in previous jobs and get fired on the spot. So I go to work, do my job, speak up if I have a question, and go home at night while looking at new possible jobs and starting my own business. I try to always be ready for the “walk of shame” and being escorted out. This is American business.

            PS: Last time I quit a job and gave 2 week’s notice, my then-current manager tried to keep me. I’m glad I kept walking – I would have lost my job 2 years later (the company made job cuts – the owner is a micromanager).

  42. @Nick: You really hit the motherlode on this post…sorry to say. Very revealing.

  43. This past week there were several articles/news reports about the phrase, “OK, Boomer” (see link as an example).

    First, this seems disrespectful. I would never speak to anyone of any age this way. It is name-calling and stereotyping.

    Second, this is sanctioned discrimination/ageism, as there are many applauding this behavior.

    It does make it very hard to job search when it is clear that if you are of a certain age, you are disrespected (and sometimes loathed) from the beginning. For me, competence is the reason to hire a person. It is unacceptable that folks are being allowed to discriminate, but many times they are the ones in charge. Ethical work practices seem to have gone out the door.

    • Today I was looking at the list of the Top Employers in my province.

      Each of the top employers profiles include the average age of employees.

      Several that I have looked at so far have an average age of 36/37.

      I did also find one that had an average age of 47, which seems better.

      I’ve placed all the employers’ names in a column in a spreadsheet.

      I think it will be revealing to list each company’s average employee age in the next column.

    • Replace “boomer” with the N-word and see how it flies.

      Uh huh.

      What truly baffles me, and has for years because I ask this question again and again and again with no cogent answer: TO THOSE WHO COMMIT AGEISM, WHAT MAKES YOU THINK IT WON’T HAPPEN TO YOU IN TURN?

  44. While I definitely agree with you, I dare say this is nothing more than the age old battle of the generations. For how older generations may sometimes feel about youth, I refer you to the following:

    NUMBER: 195
    AUTHOR: Socrates (469–399 B.C.)
    QUOTATION: The children now love luxury; they have bad manners, contempt for authority; they show disrespect for elders and love chatter in place of exercise. Children are now tyrants, not the servants of their households. They no longer rise when elders enter the room. They contradict their parents, chatter before company, gobble up dainties at the table, cross their legs, and tyrannize their teachers.
    ATTRIBUTION: Attributed to SOCRATES by Plato, according to William L. Patty and Louise S. Johnson, Personality and Adjustment, p. 277 (1953).

  45. I am not quite a boomer, but nearly. “Okay boomer” is a response to insults. Before you get your undies in a bundle about what they’re saying, look to why they’re saying it.

  46. I read the article. I saw a lot of excuses, but no real reasons for why the teens think it’s okay to stereotype older adults as “out of touch” or “hypocritical.” If they bristle at being stereotyped as “snowflakes,” then they should be the last ones to engage in stereotyping. The fact that they’re doing that makes it…hypocritical. Two wrongs don’t make a right.

  47. I have to agree with a lot of the fears mentioned, but for me it would be the age thing! Respect from the younger generation for anybody older or any age is hard to come by these days. I come from a time where (most) children were not coddled, given trophies for losing or just showing up! It carries over into their adult lives and if they simply don’t like something or somebody they can find a way to trash them on social media, claim racial or sexual discrimination/harassment, or just stomp their foot and make everyone’s life hell until they get their way! I see it a lot! But the biggest thing is the age factor! I realize that the millennials and on down the line think if you are over 50, you are going to need a nap midday, drink all the coffee in the break room and smell like moth balls! But the fact is, we are a pretty hip generation and didn’t grow up playing video games and watching movies all day! No, we were outside riding bikes, socializing with other kids, building forts and tree houses and fighting bullies and chasing girls! Which in itself honed a different skill set! What they don’t realize is, we’re probably more healthy at 55 than they are at 35. Not only that, pride won’t allow us to be outsmarted, we’re just as capable of keeping up with technology as they are! Plus we don’t have kids to take and pick up at school, stay home with when they’re sick, go to PTA and school plays! We are wide open to travel or work late if necessary and have a hell of a work ethic because of how we were taught! It’s a shame, but due to a divorce in my 40’s, I lost mostly everything and therefore will be working for at least another 20 – 25 years if I stay healthy! So do I shave off my facial hair, stain my hair black and knock 15 years off of my resume?

    Disclosure: No millennials or any other age/ethnic group was harmed during the writing of this comment and no offense meant or intended to anyone living or dead.

  48. Nick, I would be very interested in hearing your thoughts on the reply from “A Long Time Reader”.

  49. My biggest fear is that even though I am highly educated and highly intelligent, that I will go to my grave never working in a job that maximizes my ability to use my education and intelligence, and allow me to build on what I already know, and to never work in a job that allows me to live a socioeconomic lifestyle other than the one I have always known as a result of being born into a low income family. All of this because I haven’t mastered whatever insider secrets there are to simply land job INTERVIEWS let alone job offers. If I could just get enough interviews, I am a good enough interviewer that eventually someone will hire me.

    • You & me both, brother. Ever since I finished college lo these many moons ago, it seemed to me that finding a job was like a game where everyone else knew the rules, but I was kept in the dark. 30+ years later, I still don’t know the rules of the original game, but now they’ve all changed yet again with all the BS injected into the process by useless HR lackeys.