In the July 7, 2015 Ask The Headhunter Newsletter, a reader gets fed up with a company president who dawdles.


I just had my first — and I think best — “Nick C. ATH” interview with a start-up. I communicated only with the president — two interviews, one phone, one in person. At the end I said, “I want this job!”

All seemed well — he discussed salary (we are both on target — he spoke first about their salary intentions, I congratulate myself on this) and then… it happened. A total regression to stupid, pointless, time-wasting, moronic game-playing.

call-the-shotsHere I am, hoping, praying to the employment gods that the offer is imminent. But it wasn’t. He said, “Well, I have one more person to interview. What I’d like to do is maybe have you come into the office to fill out an application so we can run your background check.”

Floored and disappointed (and I’m sure it showed), I struggled to remember what Nick says to say in this situation. Couldn’t remember, then calmly asked, “When do you intend to make a decision?”

“About three weeks,” he tells me. Three weeks? WTF?

Shook hands, yada yada, I went home like a stunned bunny. By the time I got there, I was feeling furious!

My take is, it’s over. He’s not going to offer, and I’ve decided I will only fill out paperwork and do the background check when I have a firm offer on the table in writing. If it’s contingent upon a drug test and references, no problem, I’m aces. But I gotta have the offer.

Later that day, I got an e-mail from a previous employer (HA!) asking me to apply for a particular position. I intend to use this to get the first employer’s best-best offer on the table, if by chance I should get a call back from him. My sister suggests I call him personally to let him know that “something suddenly came up” and that this prior employer tagged me for a job. I think she’s right.

Any insights? Thoughts about this employer’s behavior? Is he gaming me?

Nick’s Reply

No one bats an eye when an employer lays down the rules and says they’re going to talk to more candidates, or makes an offer and says you’ve got three days to make a decision about it.

Employers do this to maintain control over the hiring process, and because they control the purse strings. But, in today’s “talent shortage,” good job candidates control an important asset, too — the talent. Without good talent, employers can’t run their businesses.

Of course, no matter who is calling the shots, it’s always a risk. There are no sure things in this process. Jobs disappear, but so do great job applicants. The question is, are you always on the receiving end of ultimatums, or do you give ultimatums, too? (We discussed this once before in Why & how you should give employers an ultimatum.)

It’s time to show some control. I’d let the employer know you want the job, and that if they’d like to make an offer within five business days, you’d welcome it. (Of course, you’re still free to reject it if you don’t like the terms.) Explain that, past five days, you respectfully withdraw your application. If they ask why, tell them you’re discussing a job with one of their competitors — and remind them there’s a talent shortage.

(Caution: Do not disclose who the other employer is. It’s not hard for one disgruntled employer to nuke your offer from another.)

Who’s always in charge?

The problem for job seekers is, employers feel no pressure to make a decision. They drag out the interview process beyond what’s reasonable. Give them a friendly, reasonable deadline, and you’ll find out how serious they are. If they’re not serious, why bother getting frustrated with them?

Of course, you must decide what’s reasonable. Do you think your interviews are really sufficient for this employer to make a hiring decision? Since he’s the president of the company, it might well be. That call is yours to make. Is five days to make a hiring decision adequate, or should you ask for a decision on the spot? Again, only you know best.

Call some shots!

The point is, sometimes you should be the one calling the shots. If your gut tells you it’s a waste of time to stretch out the waiting process, then get it over with so you can pursue other opportunities with a clear mind. Waiting on a dawdling employer can be incapacitating.

Let them see that you made the decision, and that you ended the engagement. Let them go figure out what just happened. Meanwhile, there’s a good employer out there that will deal with you candidly and quickly, whether they hire you or not. Someone actually understands that talent can quickly disappear.

Learn to say “We’re done!” to indecisive employers who think they hold all the cards.

Have you ever told an employer to fish or cut bait? Do you think that’s an unreasonable position to take in some situations? Or do you think employers always hold all the cards?

: :

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This classic is available only while the limited supply lasts!

“Thanks for making The New Interview Instruction Book available.  I bought a copy as soon as you announced it, it arrived quickly, and I finished it in two days. I have been following you and recommending ATH for some time. Even so, The New Interview is right now helping me as I am trying to find a new position — glad I ordered it! Also, thanks for the hand-written note on the shipping document.  Nice to know that you still take that kind of personal interest. If I had ordered The New Interview Instruction Book about three days earlier, I think I may be having a different outcome on my most recent job interview.”  – Chris Hogg


  1. I love the leverage that the slightly improving economy is giving me. I’ve recently walked away from a lowball /non negotiable salary, a few nickel and dimers, etc.

    I now chuckle, rather than get angry when I see positions re-advertised for the 4th or 5th time in 18-24 months. I know that they are holding out for the purple squirrel or, as I’ve been saying lately, “Jesus”, but I don’t care anymore. I’m too busy as a freelance consultant meeting deadlines and meeting people!

  2. “The point is, sometimes you should be the one calling the shots. If your gut tells you it’s a waste of time to stretch out the waiting process, then get it over with so you can pursue other opportunities with a clear mind. Waiting on a dawdling employer can be incapacitating.”

    This is EXCELLENT advice, but there is a second issue and that is the creeping, under the radar, anger of top candidates who are mis-treated by so-called blue chip firms.

    Corporations want the high priced spread in terms of people to hire, but it treats candidates like bottom of the barrel bad apples. (Sorry for the mixed metaphor)

    There are several large firms in the major Midwestern city where I live that advertise continuously for the $100K+ specialty that I deliver. After a couple of run-ins with them over the past few years, like the one described here, I wouldn’t touch any of them, or their screwed up 3rd party recruiters, with a 10 foot pole.

    IMHO firms devalue their brands by mis-treating candidates especially for highly compensated positions. Maybe if there was a way the CFO could measure how many people would not want to work for the firm, and show it as a charge against earnings, then the company might wake up and smell the coffee.

    Until there is a visible, bottom line, impact of this type of behavior, some firms will keep doing it.

  3. I was on a contract-to-hire basis with a company, and they kept dragging things out. I finally told them they had 3 weeks to come to an agreement and complete all paperwork to bring me on board full time (i.e., I had to be a full time employee in 3 weeks, not in the process of being hired). After the non-committal response I got to that ultimatum, I left after a week. My supervisor left within a year or so after that. (He was a good guy. Corporate was dragging its feet, and there was nothing he could do to speed it up.)

  4. I went through a programming test for an interviewer, then they wanted to give me a phone interview. Cool, I can do that. Phone interview came with an NDA. Sure, no problem, I’m used to NDAs.

    The NDA included the craziest non-disparagement clause I’ve ever seen. It applied to the company, the company’s products, the company’s employees, the company’s business relationships, in all cases in the past, present, *and* future, on every single possible medium (with “twitter” and “private blogs” and “internet forums” specifically mentioned as examples), *and it lasted forever*.

    Technically speaking, if I signed that NDA, and two years later the company happened to hire Nicolas Cage, and a few years later the company fired Nicolas Cage, I would not be allowed to say “I do not like Nicolas Cage” on my Twitter.

    Needless to say I did not sign that NDA. The recruiter went and talked to Legal, then came back and told me that the NDA was mandatory and could not be changed. I still did not sign that NDA. Just not worth it.

  5. Carl,

    I’ve been contacted by three different recruiters for the same position. The original recruiter contacted me back in March. He submitted my name, but the client didn’t pursue things.

    I match probably 80% of the job description and have experience both within and outside the necessary industries. Not even a brief screening call.

    Obviously, I couldn’t work with the 2nd and 3rd recruiters. However, I tried my best to make sure the 3rd recruiter knew that the client had been looking to fill that position for months. I hope he realizes they’re looking for a purple squirrel, and it would waste candidates’ and (more importantly) his time to try to fill it.

  6. I think this type of thing if job seekers get the cajones to do the right thing and walk away from bad behavior.

    I’ve even heard of people being asked to provide copies of their performance reviews at their current/last job. If enough people didn’t do that, they would have to relax their “requirements”

  7. @Mayor Bongo: Alas, there is no oversight of HR by CFOs or anyone else. In most companies, HR is dreaded and no one wants to touch its “icky” work. And that’s astonishing because a company’s people really ARE its most important asset (in spite of HR beating that expression into a meaningless pulp). I’ve long advocated to boards of directors that they should take a long, hard look at their HR operations – but they won’t do it. Meanwhile, the lousy corporate reputations HR creates leak into other areas. Does Marketing really think that dissed job applicants will ever buy a company’s products again, or not bad-mouth the company at every opportunity? No one realizes it, but what HR sends around comes back around. It’s pathetic.

    @Ben Rog-Wilhelm: Thanks for sharing that NDA. So if a company is THAT worried about what employees will say about it, what’s that tell us about the company, its products, and its customers? Sheesh. Talk about letting the cat out of the bag. Good for you for saying no.

    @Dave: Nothing will change until “the talent” starts saying NO.

  8. Its time to play “I’ll give you want you want if you give me what I want” from the book of negotiations; i.e. you want my performance reviews I want a reference check (banker, employee, client or vendor etc.) on your company. Want my pay stubs may I have a copy of your tax returns or financial statements. If they balk tell them “nothing personal it’s just business”.

  9. @Retired: Ain’t it something how APPALLED an employer would be if you dared ask for such information? After they pry into every nook of a job applicant’s life? As if hiring you is so much more risky than you accepting their offer?

  10. Nick,

    You are spot on with the comment about dissed applicants not buying a company’s products. My husband is a restaurant manager and was interviewed last year for a fast casual Tex-Mex chain that is expanding in our area. They made him jump through hoops and demanded instant availability for interviews but dawdled in their “decision-making” process.

    My husband accepted another offer and, though their food is quite good, we will never eat at that Tex Mex chain and we’ve shared his poor treatment with friends and colleagues.

  11. Some years ago I applied for a job in a company that was about 40-50 miles from my home. I had 2-3 interviews at this company, which went well. I got an offer from them just before a 3-day holiday weekend. The job sounded interesting, but the commute (via car or public transit) would have been horrible; my body was stressed out that weekend, just thinking about the commute. So, on the following Tuesday, I called them and tried to negotiate for “relocation expenses” so that I could move to their city. The company rejected my request, and I subsequently declined their offer. My moving expenses would not have exceeded $500-$1000, because I intended to keep my home and then find a small apartment in the city where the company was located. But I had to listen to what my body was telling me, dreading the commute. I soon found another job closer to home. The first company lost me just because they weren’t willing to spend a few hundred dollars.

  12. Ben: What does “NDA” mean?

  13. What a change in mindset taking back our power makes. I dealt with a company looking for an illusive purple squirrel a while back. I met with the CEO and Felt good about it, met with the VP of Operations and saw her attention was all over the map. After countless ‘they are so busy they haven’t had a chance to make a decision’ conversations with the recruiter that brought me in, I listened to that gut feeling that said get out. I have seen the job advertised several times since. Now, I just chuckle at the time and money they are wasting.

  14. Sandy-“NDA” means “Non-Disclosure Agreement”. It’s a document common in the tech industry where you sign to promise you won’t reveal proprietary company information to third parties.

  15. Gloria,
    Thank you!

  16. If only the C-level folks realized they should treat potential employees just like potential customers. There is a small cottage industry for the customer experience. If a customer would be outraged by their treatment at your firm, stop buying your product, and tell many others about the negative experience, so will job candidates.

  17. Yes, children, we are moving in the right direction. I have had some appalling “offers” recently, have come across more job scams and other indications of Neanderthal employers still attempting to beat a dead horse. The only way to handle it, is to turn ’em down, and be sure and tell them why.

    If we could get this message to the younger generation, so they would avoid the “build your portfolio” junk jobs and insist on fair wages, the job world would change rapidly.

    The same jobs are now turning over every few months, which shows that the expectations and wages are not matching up. Meanwhile, many cities are raising the minimum wage and when good people retire, it can take a couple of people to attempt to replace them.

    Carl, you are spot on. I am getting consulting work and meeting people, and every time the latest door mat employee gets mad and leaves, they need me–again.

    Ben Franklin said it best: “We must all hang together, or assuredly, we will all hang separately.” Refuse lousy offers and tell them.

    I am holding out for a real job with decent people. After all, it’s WORK–not a party!

  18. Hear, hear, Nick! Thanks for another excellent blog. I recently wanted to apply for a job, and was told by the employer that I would have to take tests (the dreaded personality tests) and undergo a background check BEFORE I could apply. I contacted the hiring manager, who informed me that HR is in charge of the “process” at this stage, and when I spoke with HR, the reason they gave me for the backwards process is that they don’t want to have to screen anyone unless they pass the tests. I wrote to the hiring manager and to his boss and let them know that despite being recommended for the position (person who recommended me knows the hiring manager well) I would not be applying because I refuse to undergo a background check and take personality tests prior to being made an offer, much less submitting a résumé or filling out an application. HR gets so many applications that they can’t handle it, so they want the backend screening done before people apply. I explained that I wasn’t giving out my personal information for no good reason, and given the trend towards outsourcing this task to 3rd parties, I didn’t want someone who owed me nothing selling my personal information to anyone and everyone who wants to buy it.

    The hiring manager wimped out to HR’s new, kooky rules. My friend told me that hiring manager was complaining that they couldn’t find good workers. I called him to tell him what happened, and said this is why they can’t get anyone. I am convinced that HR (generally) must be on drugs to come up with these “rules” (which they then blame on the government). I’m tired of all of the bullshit, and getting more discouraged. Then the same jobs will be posted again….well duh.

    A former colleague at a job I had 15 years ago who was also a Marine told me “sense is not common” when I had grumbled about the lack of common sense among some of my younger colleagues. I thought of him and his statement after reading about the changes to the hiring process in recent weeks AND my own experiences–too many are not only not using any common sense, they’ve decided to stop thinking as well.

    @Survivor: Thanks for your most timely Ben Franklin quotation. Although the situation was not employment, it is certainly most apt in today’s job hunting market.

  19. By Nick Corcodilos
    July 7, 2015 at 11:14 am
    @Mayor Bongo: Alas, there is no oversight of HR by CFOs or anyone else. In most companies, HR is dreaded and no one wants to touch its “icky” work. And that’s astonishing because a company’s people really ARE its most important asset (in spite of HR beating that expression into a meaningless pulp). I’ve long advocated to boards of directors that they should take a long, hard look at their HR operations – but they won’t do it. Meanwhile, the lousy corporate reputations HR creates leak into other areas. Does Marketing really think that dissed job applicants will ever buy a company’s products again, or not bad-mouth the company at every opportunity? No one realizes it, but what HR sends around comes back around. It’s pathetic.
    Hear, hear! A note of interest – it has become a trend that HR is to hire within its department, paralegals or lawyers to supervise all HR reps. Currently, my company has a HR dept with typical positions, but one HR rep who came in last year is really a paralegal, but doesn’t advertise this in her signature of the email that she sends out. I figured it out when she kept asking, via another HR rep, the same incisive question that only a lawyer could demand, in a conference call.

    In addition, when I was terminated by one company years ago, the head director of HR was immediately replaced by a lawyer who revamped the department to a higher level. I called the dept for a reference a year later – she answered and was very cordial in referring me to another department head for help.

    A lawyer, whom I consulted after being terminated, used to be the head director of HR at a large insurance company and then at a well-known mutual fund company. He spoke of crazy stuff that happened and gave me numerous insights as to how to be aware of the nuances of dealing with HR department.

    Maybe HR is where lawyers should be, instead of courtroom?

  20. This is another fine article, Nick C. Still, I think it is worth reminding myself and others (your readers, perhaps) that all transactions are based, at least to some extent, on the principle of “Value”.

    You don’t quite seem to emphasize the vast value that a ‘key employee’ can have.

    As a recruiter myself, for 25+ years, I have had the experience of placing individuals with a ‘market capitalization value’ in excess of $1 billion… a value that (while theoretical at the time of the placement) was worth that $Billion and more, possibly by several factors.

    My point is simply that the Theorem (which I think you have successfully proved) that “Don’t let the Employer always call the ‘shots'” is really an understatement.

    Employers who disregard the concept of “Value” are actually quite tasty, crunchy, and good to eat with Sriracha or Chinese Mustard.


  21. Hi Nick C., I think this president had a set idea of how his interviews would progress, and then I stepped in and expressed that I do business a little differently, essentially putting the monkey wrench into his works. I get the fact that this would throw someone, yet at the same time, by expressing my concerns for privacy, and let’s face it, the need for simplicity and even transparency in the hiring process, I anticipated a better response than snarky comments.

    His 5 days are up (lol) and I’m tempted to send a warm, brief note with my specifics for declining, mentioning of course the ubiquitous ‘talent shortage.’ I’m sure any explanation would fall on mostly deaf ears since I really tweaked the ego of the All-Powerful Oz. But, perhaps it would be worthwhile. Occasionally, people can learn a better way. He’ll hire the other person, if he/she exists, someone exactly like him and every other employee I met there, (poor team-building happening at this firm) and his company will continue scrambling when one alternative was to have me actually tackling the problems they’re facing. All this because ego gets in the way of critical thinking.

    I made a good decision for myself by not playing the game with only his rules in place. And it reminds me for my next working meeting (I refuse to call them interviews anymore) to look closely for that so important quality of flexibility.

    So thanks again, Nick – you rock!

  22. Something to remember about this is the VALUE of your time.

    Wasting your time on an employer who is hopelessly backwards is foolish. As Nick stated elsewhere, you should never rest upon one job “offer”—keep looking.

    The old saying is doubly-true for job hunting:

    A bird [written job offer] in the hand in the hand is worth two [verbal “committments”]

    Rather than become an unpaid teacher to these unwilling students, leave them be and continue your job search. To waste one more second on these fools is to take time away from your primary goal!

  23. @Survivor: Well put! “The only way to handle it, is to turn ’em down, and be sure and tell them why.” If you don’t tell them, they have no idea they lost and that their methods are faulty.

    @marybeth: We couldn’t make this stuff up. Companies complain they can’t hire the talent they need, but “the hiring manager… informed me that HR is in charge of the ‘process’ at this stage”

    What dolts! Managers let HR screw up hiring while the managers go back to sleep. They should all be fired. “the reason they gave me for the backwards process is that they don’t want to have to screen anyone unless they pass the tests.” Even more astonishing is that they ADMIT this! I compliment you for telling them to take a hike, and why. What you’ve learned is that the managers in this company don’t manage the company. HR drones do.

    @Nicholas Meyler: Make mine honey mustard!

    @Sara: Thanks for the follow-up on your story, which I featured in this week’s Q&A. For others reading this, Sara is the author of the Q in this column, which I edited from her comments on another blog post.

    @Bryan: Well put!

  24. If the candidate/employer discussed whether the candidate was also pursuing other positions, then it would be perfectly reasonable for the candidate to get in touch with the employer to say they have been approached by another company for a position they will be pursuing and in the interest of full disclosure, the candidate just wanted to make the employer aware, in case the time frame for their decision might change. I don’t agree with using one offer to play off another…I think that is bad form. If an offer is not what you want, just reject it, after reasonable negotiation. If it doesn’t work, it doesn’t work. I had two employers pull job offers from candidates when the candidates played hardball during negotiations. In both cases of course, the candidates were stunned and disappointed the offer was pulled. Lesson learned for them.

    I suggest that is every interview, candidates let employers know they are pursuing other opportunities (assuming it is true!). What is the downside? The employer is pursuing other candidates…

  25. @Lori: So, there are rules of engagement in interviews? (I know, I’m baiting you, but it’s friendly.) If there are any rules, it seems they’re all designed to benefit employers. I can’t think of one thing employers are supposed to do out of respect for candidates. But applicants are constantly and sternly warned by HR and “career experts” about what to wear, say, not say, how to act, and so on.

    Would you give your SSN to someone who asked you out on a date, before the date? Or take a test before dinner? Of course not. Employers’ expectations are bizarre and self-serving.

    I don’t agree with you. If using one employer to force another employer’s hand might work, by all means do it. You point out that employers interview lots of candidates; and they often say, “We found some other very good candidates, so we’re not making a decision about you yet.”

    How’s that statement any more legit than, “I’m talking to another excellent employer who is interested in hiring me?”

    On the other hand, if you don’t want to disclose that you’re talking to other employers (or who they are), then it’s also legit to decline to disclose even if you’re asked.

    A job interview is a negotiation on all levels. Be honest, be polite and professional, and demonstrate integrity – but don’t pull any punches to get what you want. And if the employer plays at being offended or appalled — move on to someone who is an adult.

    As for employers who pull offers because the candidates played hardball, that’s the employers’ prerogative. It’s also up to the candidates to decide whether those employers are worth working for.

    The double standard has long been in place. It’s time to remove it. Employers have a lot to lose by disrespecting job applicants.

    (For what it’s worth, I’ve seen employers end interviews when candidates admit they’re interviewing with other companies. That’s akin to dumping a date who says they’ve been on other dates. We’re dealing with naivete.)

  26. ” HR is in charge of the ‘process’ ”

    Back in the early days of HR owning the One Ring That Rules Them All, I worked for a manager who came up through the ranks from roughneck in field operations to where we were. And he really wanted to have his team be full time employees during a reshuffle.

    Eventually he came to a couple of us and asked why he never saw our resumes “come upstairs”, and of course we didn’t know as we had been submitting to every one of his requests faithfully.

    One day he took us, our resumes, and we all went down to HR. Point blank he asked why our resumes and applications had not been sent to him, as we were part of the team he wanted.

    Point blank the HR manager told him that he had instituted education requirements for every position at that location that included a four-year degree from a brick-n-mortar college, preferably XYZ University (his alma mater).

    Eventually the entire team moved on to other opportunities, and the manger went back to field operations, where he reported things were saner.

  27. @L.T.: Your story reminds me of a similar story told to me by a colleague at a job I had 25 years ago. She was telling me how arbitrary the hiring process can be, and just how random (as in throw everything you can think of and hope something sticks) it can be to get through or not get through. She was older than me and said that when she was in college she had a summer job working for a business. Her boss was in charge of hiring, and regardless of the qualifications of the applicants and the jobs for which they were applying, she told me that her then-boss had her sort all of the résumés into two piles: those who had a Bachelor’s degree in anything from Boston College and those who did not. It didn’t matter if they had degrees from Harvard or Stanford or Bunker Hill CC or no college. All those who had the degree from BC got reviewed by her boss, and his preference was to hire from that group. Patty mentioned that he rarely hired from group B. But this was before online applications, ATSes, and electronic screening and expecting new hires to be profitable from the second their butts hit their chairs. She said he was willing to train and place BC grads anywhere. Anyone else, no matter how experienced or smart, he wasn’t interested. That’s pretty random, but the reason for the BC degree preference was that her boss had graduated from BC. Nothing more.

    Like you, she finished college and graduate school and moved on to a saner employer.

  28. I’m reminded of the time my would-be boss — who had taken me to a long lunch by himself — was hot to hire me, but HR (and possibly others) gave me the thumbs down. The only thing I know for sure is that I did not circle enough synonymous adjectives on the bogus personality test that HR had bought. (A headhunter was involved, and he seemed genuinely perplexed by the outcome.)

  29. @Everyone
    Posted this on the wrong thread, so let me correct.

    As of today “Ivan” posted the same job for which I interviewed three times. LMAO

    Guess the mystery second candidate he kept throwing in my face didn’t work out.

  30. @Sara: Ivan himself is your best revenge. Move on. He’s stuck with himself.

    • Hi again Nick, just wanted to post a follow up. I’ll be as strait forward and objective as I can.

      I have been unemployed for three years. The advice, your work are excellent but I feel the advice lives in a future-perfect business world. Real unemployment figures are at approximately 30%, not the baloney served up by the government. Real people – qualified people I know- are going without (food, electricity, car repairs) because there is a larger agenda in play. I won’t go into that agenda.

      I say with all due respect that the information here has not once helped me to secure a reasonable position, within my field or outside of it. My son graduated high school this year and is securing a starter job at a bowling alley. I am applying for the food service counter there, 8$ an hour.

      That is living with reality.

      Being talented, qualified for many many positions, utterly professional, lovely, spirited confident and capable, and self determined, is useless unless one is closely connected to someone within the company you want to work for. Nepotism is all the rage again. I am in the midst of 3 major employment centers and cannot get work other than a bowling alley.

      There is more to all this than meets the eye.

      I apologize if I’ve given offense, Nick. I respect your work but it seems more fantasy than reality at this time. No one I have encountered in the business world responds to the very reasonable, respectful ideas recommended for handling oneself as the candidate, and certainly not to the doling out of ultimatums. What I should have done (yes I said should) was submitted to this jerk’s background check request and taken the job, which likely would have been offered at that meeting. Yes a crappy job with a crappy boss, but over this last year, I could have swung things in my favor at another company simply by virtue of being employed in my field.

      One year later, after working my tail off, I remain yours, unemployed,

      • Sara: I offer the best advice I can, but in the end, everyone must use their best judgement and do the best they can in the situation they’re in.

        “unless one is closely connected to someone within the company you want to work for. Nepotism is all the rage again.”

        Sometimes it’s nepotism, but mostly it’s employers hiring through personal referrals because they trust someone they know more than someone they don’t know. The challenge is to cultivate good contacts and to get referred – that’s always been how companies prefer to hire, and it won’t change. To call it all nepotism misses the point. Employers rarely hire someone just to do a favor, and they’re unlikely to hire a deadbeat just to be nice to someone. They hire the person they believe is most likely to deliver the work. When someone refers a hire, that person is on the hook to make sure they succeed, or the person making the referral looks bad.

        You’ve given no offense. I know you’re very frustrated. I can’t wave a magic wand any more than you can. You’re right – there is a weird agenda out there. Employers are skittish. They’ve been convinced they can find the perfect hire, so they hem and haw and hesitate to hire anyone. Perhaps you should have subjected yourself to the background check, but that’s still no guarantee you’d have been hired. Have any of your observations changed? Has “the ego of the All-Powerful Oz” changed?

        “then… it happened. A total regression to stupid, pointless, time-wasting, moronic game-playing.”

        What you see is usually what you get. I’m sorry if in the end you’re not happy with my advice. But please don’t beat yourself up about using your best judgement in that situation.