Several months ago, I came across an article that I’ve been meaning to write about ever since — given that it deals with a common issue in today’s job market, involving situations when hiring managers actively mislead employees about the role they’re considering or the culture/morale within an organization.

In this case, however, somebody decided to actually do something about it.  See the article below, where a top executive at the Gates Foundation decided to sue the company based on a claim they misled him about the nature of the assignment.

Now I’m not sure about you, but based on the facts shared in this article, I must confess I have little sympathy for this individual’s position — and should he somehow be successful with his legal challenge, I’d encourage the majority of the American workforce to lawyer up and look for a similar payday.  Simply put, job descriptions change.  Quickly.  And the needs of assignments today, almost by definition, are going to morph, grow, and evolve constantly based on the changing needs an organization is forced to deal with.  Any expectation that you’re going to walk into a job knowing exactly what’s expected or what challenges you’re going to face is, frankly, naive.

So when it comes to somebody asking for millions of dollars simply because he felt the interviewing process didn’t accurately depict the opportunity in question, I agree with one of the comments underneath the article that observed:

“Priorities change at any organization. You’re an asset if you’re flexible. This lawsuit almost seems unreal. Clashing with other employees? Your role changing direction? The role being different than what you’d hoped for? Please! Welcome to the workforce.”

In fact, given what I’ve observed dealing with thousands of people interviewing for new positions, I’d say that it’s almost more of the rule — rather than the exception — that a candidate receives only partial clarity about a given job opportunity before accepting it.  Along the same lines, it’s also probably a safe bet to say that most job candidates exaggerate their credentials, overstate their accomplishments, or gloss over some of their past failures to at least some degree when pitching themselves, in return.  Everybody puts their best foot forward, right or wrong, and neither side is entering into the new relationship with full and complete information

This being said, for those who have suffered through situations where the reality of the job turned out to be a far cry from the promised potential — and who want to do as much due diligence as possible to avoid future surprises — here are a few potential tips for consideration:

  • Track down online reviews about the company via sites like Glassdoor, Careerbliss, and (rankings of companies by women, for women) to see if there are any telling and consistent comments regarding the culture, hiring process, and/or management team
  • Conduct thorough research into the company’s current operations via obvious sites like Google, as well as deep-dive databases such as ProQuest and Factiva available through your local library; also set up a Google Alert on the company’s name to track breaking news and extremely recent developments
  • Pay attention to how you’re being treated in the hiring process; is the process running smoothly/professionally or is it plagued by missed appointments, sketchy details, bullying behavior, and other warning signs that might give you a hint of the situation you’d be walking into?
  • Observe other employees you encounter at the company, such as the reception staff, to see if they seem genuinely relaxed and happy — or instead give off vibes of being stressed, micromanaged, or marginalized
  • Use LinkedIn to track down people who used to work at the employer in question and consider reaching out to them (often through a mutual friend) to see if they can shed any light on what it’s like to work for the organization or some of the key leaders involved
  • Last but not least, and especially if your intuition is telling you the interviewer might be doing a “sales job” on you and omitting some important details, don’t be afraid to ask some pointed (but polite) questions regarding the history of the position, the expectations, the tenure/morale of the team, the potential risks involved, and similar matters — or even to ask to speak to other members of the staff before making your final decision

Again, no job offer situation is foolproof and an unscrupulous recruiter or manager can certainly still try to pull the wool over your eyes — and withhold key details about an opportunity and what it involves — but generally, using the above methods, you should be able to sniff out the cases where something is really off base.

Even then, though, should you find yourself in a situation like the executive above and discover that the circumstances of the job don’t match what you expected, I doubt you’ll have grounds for legal recourse.  That seems like far too slippery of a slope for the courts to want to monkey with.  So just move on, learn from the experience, and get even better about asking questions and conducting research the next time around.

Agree?  Disagree?  Any good (or bad) stories out there about how a hiring manager might have bamboozled you about an opportunity — or about how the responsibilities of your job changed dramatically, on the fly?