Bait & Switch Corp. (not the real name) offered me a job and lied about what the work would be. When I tried to discuss this, my new boss told me they fudge job descriptions because they can’t get the kinds of skills they need. “We’ll still pay you what we promised.” He thinks his exploding job offer was pretty clever. I quit.
Aren’t we supposed to be in a very tight “worker’s market” that makes it hard for employers to fill jobs? So why do they lie?
Take a look at this article: Employee Finds Out The Job They Accepted Wasn’t Work-From-Home As Promised, Quits In Style. The worker in this story was conned much like I was. Is this a thing now?
Unsavory employers are nothing new; nor is the exploding job offer. (Today’s column covers a third example.) But the company in that article and the company you quickly quit reveal a new motivation for bad behavior: they are desperate. When desperate people try to be clever they usually wind up worse for it.
Exploding job offer #3: Bait and switch
I expect we’ll see more bait and switch because most employers really stink at hiring. These are companies that go dumpster diving in the “job boards” for job candidates then have no qualms about treating them like trash. But what does that say about job seekers that are found in those dumpsters, waiting for just any employer to pluck them out?
The truth is, job seekers often lose control the moment a job offer is dangled in front of them. Most become so giddy that they’ll accept it without reservation. And that leads to what I believe is the main reason people go job hunting: They took the wrong job to begin with because they failed to negotiate the terms.
The only way to minimize the chance of such a catastrophe is to get it all in writing.
You have a choice: Get it in writing
Employers are loath to put everything they represented about a job in writing. They don’t want to be obligated to anything except perhaps paying you, although I’ve seen the “salary bait and switch,” too. I know people who were thrilled to get a job, only to learn when onboarding was over that they were assigned a lower-level job and a lower salary.
Anyone that reads this website knows employers try to get away with what they can. While laws to protect employees are creeping up on companies, short of a costly lawsuit the job seeker has little recourse today. (See attorney Larry Barty’s advice in Job offer rescinded after I quit my old job.)
The inscrutable economy we live in makes it difficult for even honest employers to fill jobs. Many are throwing away the playbook and taking extreme measures to find and hire the workers they need. The honest ones are offering higher pay, better working conditions, work from home, bonuses and other enticements. The dishonest ones are just plain lying.
The job seeker’s playbook used to say, “Employers don’t provide detailed employment contracts because they don’t have to, so don’t bother to ask for one. You have no choice.”
The new playbook: Get it in writing
Today, employers are indeed desperate to fill jobs, so it’s an excellent time to make prudent changes to the playbook. A good place to start: Request a detailed employment agreement, no matter what level the job is, rather than just an offer letter. Insist that the terms as you understand them — and I don’t mean just salary! — are spelled out in writing. Did the interviewers discuss job definition, work schedule and location, who your boss is? Get it all in writing. A contract is best; a signed, detailed offer letter is the bare minimum; a purely oral or informal job offer is off the table.
A verbal job offer is wonderful because it tells you where you stand while the company prepares the formal written offer or contract. But a verbal offer is like a wet noodle: It doesn’t stand up very well.
Get everything you’ve been promised in writing. Don’t accept a job offer — even verbally — until you have all the details that matter in writing. A good employer will comply. An employer that really needs you will make the commitment.
Will a good written agreement absolutely protect you? Not if the employer is completely dishonest. Lawsuits involving even top executives who have solid contracts are not uncommon. But you’re better off having it in writing, if only because your insistence on creating that document shows the employer you’re not naïve about the employment market.
Avoid the exploding job offer
What terms should be spelled out? I’d love to hear from our community what you’d add to this list (which is far from exhaustive).
- The exact pay for each pay period
- The job title
- Definition of the work and objectives and deliverables expected from you
- How you will be measured
- Your work schedule, location and environment (this may include tools you’ll need, whether software or a hammer)
- Whom you will report to directly
- If a commission or bonus is involved, how much, when it will be earned and when paid, a clear and objective definition of criteria to earn it, and a clear definition of metrics to be used
- What your vacation time and sick leave will be and how they are calculated
- Term of employment, if it is for a set length of time
- Terms of separation, whether you are terminated or resign, including severance
- A clear definition of “separation for cause”
Recruiters, HR managers and career coaches will tell you, “The employer will never go for that!”
But, why would you “go” for a job offer without all of that?
You already did. Other readers please take note: The OP’s experience hurt.
Leverage today’s job market
In many corners of today’s economy it’s definitely a job seeker’s market. (That’s just one reason I think this article by Bernie Dietz was prescient: Employment Contracts: Everyone needs promise protection.) So use that. You get to set some of the rules. You get to negotiate terms that are good for you — not just for the employer — because employers may need you more than ever. Be reasonable, but be firm. Get some, give some. But know in advance which terms are non-negotiable and be ready to walk away if the employer will not meet them.
If all this sounds like pie-in-the-sky, and you believe no employer will agree to what I’m suggesting, I think that means you have no leverage in negotiations because the employer doesn’t need you enough — or that the employer is lying to you. Why apply for jobs like that? (“Because I found them on Indeed” is not a good answer.)
The actual terms you negotiate are clearly important and will vary. But the terms you get mean nothing unless you get them in writing.
Do you get your job offers in writing? Have you started a job only to find out it’s not the job you accepted? What terms do you negotiate? What terms do you consider deal breakers?