07/19/2010 05:26 pm ET Updated May 25, 2011

Say No to Job-Candidate Abuse

Dear Liz,

I saw the earlier post from Karl, who had gotten a job offer that included relocation, and decided the costs of making a family move were too high. When Karl brought this up to the HR person at the employer, the HR person told Karl to 'show his numbers.' In other words, there was some disagreement between what Karl thought his moving expenses and cost-of-living increase would be and what the company thought they would be. Karl didn't like the request and he didn't take the offer.

Sometimes companies and recruiters make legitimate requests in the job hiring
process that seem out of hand, too probing, etc. Many times these requests are
legitimate and are aimed at trying to assist them in doing their jobs better.

In the case of Karl they may well have wanted to see if some of their policies
and guidelines were non-competitive. If you are concerned they might use this
to counter offer you could just say up front that you are not interested in
another offer but would be happy to share the reasons you felt the offer was not
strong enough.

This idea applies in many different scenarios in the job search process.

We tend to complain about HR and recruiters. I think this can shade our
perspective when one is trying to do a good job and understand their processes,
compensation, attractiveness, etc better.

You mentioned you were not willing to relocate so I would ask why you were
pursuing, to this extent, a position out of town. (Maybe the reality of not
being able to relocate came p during the process.) This is a totally rhetorical

As a recruiter representing you I would have looked at this as not an issue with
the offer but a relocation issue. The next thing I would do is ask myself what
potential red flag(s) I had missed in the process. Usually there are some.

Again the bottom line is most of us want to do our jobs better. Some questions
aren't as out of line as they may appear on the surface.

Be well,


Hi Max,

I agree with you that it's reasonable for a recruiter or hiring manager to want
to talk about the numbers (cost of living, relo expense, etc.) in the process of
negotiating an offer that includes relo.

Unfortunately, about the worst way to conduct that fact-finding and
brainstorming exercise (if we want the employee to join us - and why are we
extending an offer, if we don't?) is to say to the candidate, "Show us the
numbers you've come up with." That's an unfortunately typical, directive (a/k/a
bossy) corporate approach. If I were the HR person on the case, I'd say "You're
disappointed with the offer, Karl? Wow, thanks for letting us know that. That's
not good! I hope it's obvious that we want you to be delighted to come and work
here. Let's dig into the numbers together and see what we find. We want you on
the team!"

We can and should expect recruiters, hiring managers and HR people to explain
their reasons for every request they make of a job seeker. I don't subscribe to
the view that HR folks use unfriendly and bureaucratic-seeming processes and
protocols for very good reasons that are simply hard for job-seekers to
understand. When I've consulted with organizations on their hiring processes,
those good reasons, under examination, melt into two puddles called "uniformity"
and "control" (maybe that's one puddle, after all).

It's an HR person's job, a recruiter's job and a hiring manager's job to make
the obscure reasons behind their rules clear to job-seekers. If a request is
legitimate (your word, from your post above) then it's up to the requester to
make that legitimacy obvious. Of course, legitimacy is in the eye of the
beholder. The beholder is the job-seeker. If talented people get fed up with
bureaucracy in a selection process, they'll bail, as they should.

I don't think there's any question that many, many recruitment-and-selection
processes make requests and have expectations of job-seekers that wouldn't be
considered legitimate by any reasonable person. We talk about that issue in our
group nearly every day. The pendulum has shifted so far over to the side of
"employers rule, and job-seekers grovel" that 'candidate abuse' is nearly a
given at almost any large corporation. Against that backdrop, wouldn't a sharp
and people-aware recruiter, hiring manager or HR person take the opportunity to
over-communicate at every opportunity, to make sure that the candidate
understands and is comfortable with every request that's being made? I'm not
seeing a lot of that over-communication happening. Now that I'm thinking about
it, I'm not seeing any.

It's a national (perhaps international) shame how shabbily job-seekers are
treated. Leaving this specific issue and relo-negotiation out of it, can we
really say "These hiring policies and processes are legitimate, but poorly
understood" when the very people who could inject transparency, clarity and
logic into the communication process aren't doing it, in spades? I'm not so