Candidate Blacklisting: A Real Concern?

//Candidate Blacklisting: A Real Concern?

Candidate Blacklisting: A Real Concern?

Let’s say that you really want to work at Microsoft.  Or Boeing.  OR T-Mobile.  Or Starbucks.  And you keep seeing numerous positions listed on the “employment” pages of these companies that fit you like a glove, but that you can’t seem tp get a response around, for the life of you, even after carefully tailoring and submitting your materials for each of the opportunities in question.

Could it possibly be that you’ve been (cue the ominous music) permanently BLACKLISTED from the organization?

Recently, there’s been a lot of buzz out there in the job market around this concept, as opposed to years past, when I can’t remember anybody even talking about this issue or using the famous “McCarthy Era” term in this particular context.  Candidates are understandably worried about the possibility that the lack of results/response from a certain company (especially one they’ve interviewed with in the past) might be due to the company adding them to a “do not hire” list of some kind — effectively blacklisting them from any future interviews.

Does this phenomenon really take place, however?  Is it a legitimate concern for today’s job hunters to worry about or just a boogeyman concept that masks the multitude of other potential reasons (e.g. competition level, imperfect credentials, corporate waffling, etc.) that might lead a person to not hear back from a given organization, even after multiple attempts to get on their radar screen?  And if it does exist, how prevalent is it?  And is it of a “formal” variety where companies literally make database notes barring people from further consideration — or more of the “informal” variety where recruiters might just happen to remember a person’s name and some negative experiences from an interview they conducted previously?

I’ll confess, I don’t know the exact answer.  For all the increased discussion about this topic, I still find it pretty hard to believe that companies would engage in wholesale discrimination against certain candidates based on a single bad interview in the past or an unsuccessful bid to land a different position within the organization, earlier on.  I also don’t get the sense (at least when talking to many recruiters and HR people) that most companies are even ORGANIZED enough, on average, to track and disseminate this kind of information throughout the entire network of recruiters and hiring managers within their organization.  Hard to say, though.  In a day when applicant tracking systems (ATS) are becoming more and more mainstream, at least among mid-to-large-sized employers, the technological capability certainly exists for most companies to share detailed information and hire/no-hire recommendations on individual candidates.

At any rate, in an effort to increase my own knowledge about the truth/falsity of this phenomenon, I recently posted a question on the LinkedIn “Answers” section that I was hoping would attract some insightful feedback from people in a position to know the answer.  You’ll find the question posted here along with the nine answers that it attracted during the week it was available for comment.  As you’ll note, the answers were all across the board.  Some people were 100% certain that companies today were flagging people as being permanently ineligible for hire, while others said the phenomenon either wasn’t happening or was happening on such a small, informal scale that it wouldn’t likely ever be an issue for most professionals in transition.  And others, still, claimed that the idea of “blacklisting” in any form represented illegal discrimination — which I’m not sure is the case, legally.  Doesn’t a company have the right to say “we never should hire this person” as long as they’re not basing this decision on illegal factors such as age, gender, or ethnic considerations?

Again, I wish I could be weighing in with a clear-cut answer on this issue for all of you, but alas, it’s still eluding me.  I know that I DID talk to a few recruiters I know personally, including a few over at Microsoft, and they all said that while they obviously had a way to take notes about their experience with various candidates, there certainly wasn’t a “magic button” or “special field” they could fill out that would instruct other recruiters within the company to permanently disregard the individual from hiring consideration.  In fact, they were pretty offended by the very suggestion of this!

HR and recruiting personnel out there — can any of you shed some light on this mystery?  Is there anybody who has any direct evidence that various companies do or don’t engage in “blacklisting” practices (or whatever we might choose to call them) to any degree?

By | 2016-10-20T17:38:06+00:00 August 9th, 2010|Job Searching|11 Comments

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  1. James C. Patterson January 8, 2011 at 3:35 pm

    Blacklisting has become a relatively refined activity now that office compuers are on literally every desk. I experienced the effects of blacklisting when I was a Boeing employee almost 20 years ago.

    Typically, back then, I would see an opportunity posted and would send my resume and a cover letter to the hiring manager. In several specific instances I was initially considered a hot prospect, with the manager calling me and verbally indicating that they wanted to bring me on board. Then, as the activities were routed through HR, the demeanor changed, often I observed that the manager would just cut and run, with no further contact nor consideration.

    I attribute this bizarre situation to the fact that I had the misfortune of clashing with a manager who was
    an absolute terror to work for. I would have literally chewed my own leg off to get away from that individual but I was instead put on a short leash and placed in a seried of “set-up” assignments all intended to either discredit my abilities or to simply place me in a demeaning role.

    This experience, even though it occured nearly 20 years ago, led me to believe that there had to have been some sort of organized approach to the blacklisting and further, I had to have been one of many who were so treated. My take on it was that the machinery was in place to blacklist and destroy a career and worse, use of that capability was loosely supervised and subject to abuse.

  2. Riley July 8, 2011 at 11:56 pm


    I think that I may have been in a similar situation. I, too, had a clash with an employee at a former job. She was very violent and used provocative language toward me. I, a very shy employee, told managers about the situation often. However, because of her seniority, no one wanted to fault her for anything, regardless of the fact that they knew what she was up to and knew that she was trying to get me, an extremely hardworking employee, fired. I asked to switch departments, but the supervisor would not allow me to do so. It was obvious that they wanted to torture me. Finally, I quit the job.

    After circumstances, I tried to reapply, but found out that I was blacklisted. The trouble-causing employee is still at the location having the time of her life and torturing others.

  3. James C. Patterson July 11, 2011 at 9:28 pm

    There really doesn’t seem to be much activity on this “Blacklisting” subject but it might be worthwhile to make a couple of observations.

    Of course you will never find a corporate entity with a clearly defined “Department of Blacklisting” on their org chart; that does not serve as evidence that the practice does not exist.

    I would agree that companies should have the right to identify those
    individuals who they would not rehire, providing they are not basing their decision(s) on legally protected attributes. Sometimes the good guys do not win.

    In all reality, once someone detects that they are on the short end of any position, the smart thing to do is to quietly move on – quit. In
    the event that there is a lot of money on the table, e.g. relocation benefits that would be forfeited or retirement benefits that might not become vested, then there may be a hostile workplace that must be endured.

    Bottom line, it’s only a job and it’s not worth destroying your career

  4. Greg August 19, 2011 at 8:05 am

    James’ and Riley’s experiences address the blacklisting of a current employee – a company response to an employee who chooses to stand his or her ground when faced with the challenge of an unsavory manager, and ethical conflict, or any of a litany of possibilities that constitute a corporate mine field for many hard-working, intelligent, and values-driven individuals. Are existing employees ever blacklisted? I believe so, after skimming an HR memo accidentally left in a copier which explained how selected managers had met and concluded that a peer and friend would see no future growth in our company. Granted, that occurred ten years ago, but I see no cause to assume that the company and organizations like it have found a conscience that was absent a decade ago.

    Microsoft, Boeing, T-Mobile, and Starbucks – companies I’m told that prize fit above skills and will ostracize employees who aren’t in perfect lock-step with unwritten corporate values, i.e. those who aren’t ready to drink the corporate Kool-Aid. My direct experience from the candidate angle comes through Starbucks. Six months ago, after applying to a role for which I was well-qualified and suited, I was contacted to interview for a series of positions that were notably junior to the role to which I’d originally applied. A phone interview and several hours of in-person group interviews ensued. While I was over-qualified for the roles we discussed, my skill level would have made me a quick-impact employee and a bargain new hire. Weeks after the strong interviews, I received the standard rejection e-mail from HR. Two interviewers had kindly offered to field any additional questions I might have at a later time, so I contacted one from the contact information she’d provided, professionally requesting any tip or guidance that might help improve my presentation in future Starbucks interviews. Within two days, I received a phone call from a Starbucks HR manager, warning me not to continue “stalking” Starbucks employees. Initially confused, I explained my interest in seeking feedback and acknowledged my brief, benign note to that effect sent to the hiring manager who had offered further counsel. “We don’t provide feedback, and you were out of line to seek any”, was the reply I received. Rather than press my case, I respectfully acknowledged the correction and concluded the call.

    So, five months later, a contractor contacts me because he knows I’ll take long-term project assignments, and he’s got several with his best client – Starbucks – that appear ideal given my experience and skills. The response he received after submitting my credentials to business groups I had never spoken with: “We’ve already seen and taken a pass on your candidate.” Prima facie evidence of candidate blacklisting? Maybe not, but it strongly suggests that notations – accuracy aside – are made in the applicant tracking system that both live on and get shared across different business groups.

    The upside to the experience? Gaining enough insight into the true culture of Starbucks corporate to know that – in the areas of integrity, character, and values – it’s probably the wrong place for me to work. I’ll take a pass on the Kool-Aid and stick with water, thank you.

  5. Ivan King October 14, 2012 at 9:48 am

    It’s totally happening. Blacklisting is a practice that companies are using, and I can say from experience that Starbucks is doing it.

    I worked for the company for two and a half years, and moved up to a keyholder within six months of getting my job there. I was passionate about Starbucks, but my age and life at the time brought a few storms to weather.

    I was ganged up on and fired from Starbucks once a new manager took over. (These things happen. I didn’t take it persoanlly.) However, I anticipated the result event and arranged to be rehired at another store in the next city with the Manager that left my store. Before being rehired at the new store, I was told that I could not be rehired, that the manager that fired me placed me on a “blacklist” and the manager that was hoping to hire me was written up (The only one she’s ever received in her 8+ years with the company) for attempting to rehire me. I asked WHY all of this was happening because of me and I was told to contact HR and receive my “file” which should explain my situation. The “file” did not.

    I have tried more than enough times to be rehired to the company I still have a lot of passion for. I even wrote a letter to the District Manager, and two store managers I was hoping to be rehired by, and I never received any type of response. I am still very confused why I have been treated like this by these females and this comapny they represent. It has put a bad taste in my mouth, but a part of me does not blame Starbucks. If Starbucks knew that some of their people where doing this to people who are passionate about their company and willing to put their all into their company are being blown off like this, I would be the store manager to a local store and those ladies would be he ones on the outside. Sure of it. Starbucks NEEDS someone like me to work for their company.

    So is blacklisting real? It is out of the quotations. I know from experience and if it is happening to one, it happens to many.

  6. Will Not Say August 17, 2013 at 8:56 am

    Blacklisting does exist, and if it doesn’t then I am surely 10 monkeys uncle. I worked for a company that was building the new 787 Dreamliner’s for Boeing before Boeing came in and took over the operation in North Charleston SC back in 2k9. I was trained by them and within two years had been with the company and was earning more than I ever could of have imagined at my age at that time and in this area. I worked hard and I knew how to make work easier for everyone, I finished my work on time and most of the time before it was even due to be finished. I saw that this agitated the team lead because they would not have any other real work for me to do, so in order to win them over(because they are the influence behind my pay increase) I started to drag some of the work out so that it would last the whole work day. Well this didn’t work either, I believe I was just one of the ones that had a mark on my face and everybody knew it except me. I must be honest I earned time off and I used it legitimately, my wife and I had recently had an increase in my family size by four kids and they seemed to have to have appointments every week. I tried my hardest to schedule their stuff after school and around working hours but it wasn’t always possible so I had to use paid time off. I tried explaining this to the managers and immediate supervisors but it seemed to be of no use their minds were already made. I was late three times within two years and it was told to me like I was late every day I just couldn’t seem to be on these peoples good side for noting. At one point it felt like all of this stuff was behind me, I was working harder than ever before and the supervisors were basically commending me for the work I was doing. I felt as though I was working all along but maybe it was just my time to be recognized and that’s the way I took it. I came in early and stayed way later than I should have because of the passion for the work and what I was doing I didn’t take the job for granted and I was extremely proud of the work I was doing to be honest it almost brings tears to my eyes to even sit here and type this out because I never told anyone how I felt and how it made me feel. I was never fired before and I grew up all my life working so this was hard to take, I even analyzed the situation from their prospective and I still felt the same like I was done wrong. These people formulated their opinions on me and they caught me at an extremely vulnerable time and they made their move and once one manager has their mind made about you the rest of them would follow I could of literally liked their you know what out of the toilet (if I were that type of person to stoop that low) and the still wouldn’t have like me. It’s been four years and every position that I get an alert in which I am qualified for I apply, and they always come back the same; their going with other candidates this has gone on for four years. And I don’t know what kind of peer review I had, I guess it was more like a shotgun review because if any coworker said anything about me I know without a shadow of a doubt I would of have been back to work in no time. I can go on and on, but my point is that the so called blacklists do exist within these corporations, it might can’t be proven but they are there in fact within the past month I even heard from a recruiter of an external contracting agency for that company out of their own mouth over the phone that my name was on the list not eligible for rehire, and on top of that I ran into a few coworkers yesterday at the barber shop who educated me of this infamous blacklist; so there you go it does exist and while I was there I saw some people do some really unbelievable stuff and was fired and later came right back. It’s amazing, and I know that I am not the only one out there, it happens to hard working people all over but the only thing you can do is move on. The unjust will never prosper

  7. John Smith December 8, 2013 at 4:10 am

    I had a problem with that as well. I was to blame. I was (and still to a lesser degree) an arrogant asshole and quit a really good job because I didn’t know how to control my frustration with management. They did everything they could to keep me, but I was a brat. It’s be 15 years and I still can’t find in that industry or area code. These guys had a lot more power than I thought. I’ve tried switching careers but my work history catches up to me and it seem a few short days after the interview they decline to hire me. I assume they make a few calls and somehow that black flag is discovered.

    But there is light at the end of the tunnel for those of you who are like me. Determined, focused, self-directed, and committed to a vision (aka – an asshole). You no longer have to be a good little monkey and do as the corporate masters say. You can instead, wage an all out war on those employers by creating your own blacklist against employers to be posted on forums, job boards, and blogs (hint, hint). And, you can go into direct competition by opening your own business. That is what I did. I make a lot more money, I have more time to spend with my family, and I only work for clients that are on my page.

    The other thing you can do is stop working with recruiters all together. There are many jobs that you can get by dealing with the owner of the business direct (as in walk-in interview).

    By thinning out the resume labor pool, you will force them to abandon the black list because they will have no choice…after all, a recruiter only gets paid if he gets someone a job. So why use a black list if it reduces your income?

  8. Is This The American Dream? April 28, 2014 at 11:14 am

    Blacklisting is demoralizing and it devalues professionals. I have never committed a crime. I have a right to work and support my family financially.
    I have had a successful career in my degree’d field for over 30 years. I love what I do and am good at it. However, I am nowhere near retirement age and not ready to end my career or retire. Apparently, after 30+ years of no issues or problems, I have been blacklisted due to something someone else did. The misfortunate fate of my career and income ended in the hands of a reckless reactive recruiter who is ignorant of the repercussions of health and wellbeing due to blacklisting resulting loss of career and financial means. The blacklisting practice is outrageous and God knows how many relationship breakdowns and suicides it has led to. Is this the concept behind HR – is to control whether people live, become homeless, or die? I know their main purpose is to fire employees. How sad to like doing that job.
    Blacklisting is an unskilled form of bullying practiced by insecure people who had to learn it in order to survive, so they hide in a computer to do their naughty bullying. Companies are excited about hiring me until they get the [unwarranted] blacklist news, then they must feel compelled to blacklist me too – unknowing of the reason or circumstance. It spreads like VD, and no antidote or cure. Blacklisting is poison and recruiters and HR personnel who practice this must own up to your acts of destruction. I have read from so many recruiters that blacklisting is casual and rare. The public knows better. If you are ashamed, then don’t do it.

    I never hear back from recruiters. Sorry to say, but this reluctance makes recruiters seem very shallow and rude. Maybe offer workshops to recruiters to educate on how to instill manners, email etiquette, understanding first and reactive last, how to work with (professional) people and not against them, and how to curb and filter destructive blacklisting. They need controls. There should be recruiter-client privilege as there is with physicians and lawyers, sans the very offensive and criminal candidates. I wouldn’t want to represent someone who jeopardizes my reputation, either (Hmm sounds familiar only reversed). Some have suggested turning the table on recruiters who blacklist. How?? Is there a site out there where I can read and write reviews? I am not a vindictive person, but I have evidence and need to control the unwarranted damage somehow. Maybe boycott a list of HR (companies/corporations) and recruiters who have blacklisted recklessly and relentlessly.
    Since I have not yet been able to secure a position in my professional field I have plenty of time to write and document.. so what have I got to loose by writing this.

  9. James C. Patterson April 28, 2014 at 2:23 pm

    In response to Matt Youngquist’s latest writing let me say first that indeed you appear to be a victim of blacklisting. Judging from your well written comments you are clearly intelligent and that may have worked against you. Some of the managers you and most of us have likely encountered will include the occasional pychopath who will do anything to anyone just to cover their own lack of talent.

    As a blacklist victim who has simply aged out of the work force, let me make a couple of

    First, much of this blacklisting is built on fraudulent information, in order to make you
    into a bad guy worthy of blacklisting, there has to be some lies built into the equation.
    Not always, but I bet in most of the cases, various individuals have done nothing other
    than fall into a personality clash with an off the scales manager.

    Ok, in my view the problem is that employers are able to spread lies with impunity. I
    am convinced that we need “Truth in Hiring” laws just like thare are “Truth in Lending”
    laws. You can clean up your credit report if there are errors or outright lies in it but
    you can’t even get a chance to review and comment on your “Blacklist file”.

    I recomment that everyone who has been victimized in this manner contact one single
    person who I believe might have the will to address this issue.

    That person is Senator Elizabeth Warren, United States Senate, 317 Har Senate Office Building, Washington, DC 20510-2102. Her fax was listed as 202-228-2072

    If you do take the time to write, and several of you are good writers, be on point in that
    what we really need is a Federal Law giving us the right to review and correct our files
    held by former employers. We need the Federal government to enforce such rights
    and put some teeth into any law they do write.

    This is a big issue and more people are affected by blacklisting than might be obvious.

    If there were a “Truth in Hiring” Law, a good part of this problem might be solved.

    That’s just my two cents worth.

    James C. Patterson

  10. susannunes May 4, 2014 at 11:30 am

    I was illegally terminated by my old employer, a school district, when their administrators screwed up over handling my absences as a result of illness. They knew I hadn’t faked anything or did anything wrong, but it was all CYA with them. I was scapegoated and fired to cover their butts. This was six years ago, and to date I have not found full-time, regular work in any field. This outfit has people labeled “do not rehire” for “at least” two years. I may or may not still be blackballed from them, but the district has been sued at least twice over this designation by employees. After years of being destitute, I am going to try and get into the education field again, but I am going to find out if the “do not rehire” is still there. If so, I am going to sue this outfit.

    • James C. Patterson May 4, 2014 at 4:19 pm

      Nothing is so humiliating as having your professional reputation smeared by a manager or management team. They have all the power and some of them are
      unethical. Having said that let me strongly encourage you to just let it go and
      try to get back in the game. Unless you have a slam dunk case of discrimination
      that can demonstrate that you should be compensated a huge amount, you are
      better off just hiding the hurt.

      Those people who were willing to treat you unfairly when it was not necessary
      will most certainly hit you with everything they can if you take them on with a
      weak case.

      If you still get vibes that you are on a blacklist, it’s easier to detect than to prove.
      You might want to consider working as a 1099 consultant, that could bypass some
      of the “hiring” protocol or, like a couple of people have said, start your own small

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