How to Avoid Job Application & Interview Scams –  Part II

By Zipline Careers Team • July 10, 2018

In our last post we highlighted some real-life interview scams we’ve seen to trick you into free work in the interview and application process.
In this post, we’ll cover some of the tactics and perks companies use in job listings, interviews and application processes that you should be aware of.  Almost every company has some form of these tactics and they are good to reduce workplace stress and entice strong applicants.  However, it’s important not to get obsessed with them when assessing a potential new job and its worth.

So now, let’s cover what to watch out for and a few real-life examples.

  1. The Benevolent Approach Method

Typical Phrases: “We’re a Family” & “We Treat Everyone with Respect”

Why this is weird: First of all, the company isn’t your family and you shouldn’t get suckered into thinking some stranger you just met would give you their kidney.  Companies use this phrasing to lean into you hard when negotiating salaries and other benefits.

For example: Your interviewer or company representative asks, “Can’t you take this lower salary/hourly rate? Everyone works really hard here to do their fair share and you’d be taking away from the rest of the community here if you wanted this extra benefit.”

This strategy is used to out-maneuver applicants.  It’s a psychological tactic to make you feel as though you’re responsible for company issues unrelated to you. It asks you to contribute without any promise of a return, even though the company is responsible for setting pay rates far in advance.

As to the second phrase, “We treat everyone with respect.” You should ask yourself, “Why do you (the company) have to say that in the first place?”  Let them show you through their personal interactions (in interviews and timely correspondence) that they actually do treat people with respect. 

  1. The Endless Perks & Goodies Method

Typical Phrases: “We have a ping pong table/A fridge with snacks/On-site gym.”

Why this is weird: How easy is it for us to be bought off with sugar? It’s nice to have an office that isn’t just filled with file cabinets and moldy old carpets. But really, you’re at work to do just that, work! If you’re getting paid extra (hourly or overtime) to just play ping pong or hangout, by all means take advantage! Otherwise, you’re just wasting your own time and staying at work longer.

For example: You work at a salaried job and your co-workers want to make a ping pong tournament at the end of the day.  Assuming you stay for an extra hour or two after work, that is lowering your effective hourly wage for the day (you’re staying longer at the same fixed salaried pay).

However, it is important to be involved in team building and get to know your co-workers.  The key is finding small meaningful activities to participate in without seeming aloof or detached from you co-workers, bosses, and important workplace goals. If you love your job and coworkers so much you can’t live without them, then disregard this advice.  For the rest of us, know when to say, “No.”

The difficulty is that most companies encourage you to affix your identity to their company. So, make sure you’re cognizant of the never-ending fine line you have to dance between workplace activities and your actual life.

  1. The “Nobody Actually Works Here” Method.

Typical Phrases: “We Believe in Work-Life Balance” / “Our Positions are Flexible”

Why this is weird: This is another instance where you should be asking, “Why is the company claiming this in the first place?” Moreover, people have different conceptions of what “flexible” and “long working hours” are.  With these platitudes your potential new employer isn’t being very clear or straightforward, despite the nice sounding environment.

For example: In an interview your future employer assures you that they value family time, outside activities, and “work-life balance.”  Upon accepting the job, you find that in reality you end up working 12 hours per day just to meet all your goals or workplace duties.  Later, when asking for a sick day off 4 months later, you’re rebuffed with someone saying, “We need you to be here to contribute.”

Often the most grueling companies are the ones touting these kinds of “flexibility” arrangements.  This is generally because the company is aware of their bad environment and look to distract from this fact because it causes immense turnover and repels new and talented job applicants. In effect, their definition of flexibility means something like, “we’re flexible if you’re not working 24 hours a day but aim for 20 hours a day” or some other insane standard

Here’s the bottom line: Focus on what is best for you.

 It is important to find a job with good benefits and luxuries. But don’t let yourself get so excited about a few perks that you overlook work you hate, an awful workplace environment or low pay.

Stay tuned for our Part III post, where we’ll cover “free work” and networking events that are actually worth your time.

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