Given the tight economic conditions over the last five years, and the buyer’s market that this has created in terms of the employment scene, a great many job hunters have expressed frustration with how they’ve been treated by potential employers — and some of the crazy hoops they’ve had to jump through in pursuing opportunities.

The stories (we’ve all heard them) range from having to fill out pages of redundant application forms to being overtly disrespected to being offered ridiculously lowball salaries to being completely ignored by a company, even after multiple interview rounds.

In fairness, of course, the more negative stories tend to get circulated a LOT more than the positive ones and you can’t paint every employer with this same broad brush.  There are unquestionably many employers out there who continue to maintain a wonderfully civilized hiring process, treating candidates with courtesy (even if they don’t hire them) and practicing the golden rule at every step along the way.

But as the job market continues to improve (see the latest economic report here) it will be interesting to see if the power differential shifts a bit — and if candidates are able to recapture some of the leverage they’ve lost during recent years.  In fact, I’ve recently come across several articles discussing this notion and proposing some specific ways in which a candidate might push back and demand fair treatment from organizations.

One recent article, posted by Nick Corcodilos in his Ask the Headhunter blog, contemplates the idea of whether employers should actually compensate job applicants for the time they spend interviewing.  Or at least reimburse them for any of their time that gets wasted when the company drags their feet, reschedules interviews at the last minute, and/or doesn’t follow through on their promises.  Wouldn’t that be a turn of events?  Give a quick read to the piece here and see what you think.  I personally don’t think this day will ever come, but it’s an interesting notion to contemplate, regardless.

Along those same lines, the above article also references a “No-Nonsense Interview Agreement” you’ll find here that was written by Conrado Hinojosa, suggesting a specific contract framework that a potential applicant might ask an employer to uphold, prior to moving forward with hiring discussions.  Again, I have to believe that this idea Mr. Hinojosa is proposing is a symbolic one, not a serious suggestion, but it’s still fun to entertain the idea of job hunters regaining this much power in the process.

Lastly, I also came across another intriguing piece here in the terrific Ask the Manager blog, by Alison Green, that discusses the question of whether job applicants should ask for references from their prospective managers — basically along the lines of “Now that you’ve checked MY references and decided I’m good enough to work for you, I’d like some specific proof that you’re a good manager and somebody I’d enjoy working for, in return.”  Personally, I’ve never heard of an interview candidate doing this, at least in the direct manner suggested.  And from my perspective, a candidate would have to have a massive amount of gumption to pull this off, since they’d risk alienating the person across the desk and losing the offer.  But read Alison’s thoughts on the subject in the article and see what you think.

(which reminds me, Alison also published a related article here a few years ago, too, discussing whether it was time for a “Job Hunters Bill of Rights” to be created; also a thought-provoking read on the subject of candidate treatment during the hiring process)

At any rate, just wanted to share some quick thoughts on this topic that seems to be heating up, in parallel with market conditions in general.  So for those of you out there who have been feeling a bit disenfranchised lately, who knows?  Perhaps some relief is on the way…