FROM THE TRENCHES: Illegal, Immoral or Just Plain Stupid?


Should we answer job interview questions just because we’re asked?

I thought it might be a cool plan to make a little pocket money on the side (blogs like this don’t pay a lot, no matter how popular they may be). So, a few weeks ago, I searched around Craigslist for a part time gig. Sure enough I got a response to my application for a virtual part time assistant (15 hours a week, schedules, phones, travel plans, and such like – no benefits) and the business owner and I set up a time to speak.

It started to get weird right after that.

My first call was an intro. I suppose to find out whether I actually could form an English sentence. We set up an actual “interview” call for about 10 days later. The time came to speak and though I was not instructed to, I sent a confirmation email. I got no reply but called anyway on schedule to find that the gentleman had blown me off for a more important appointment without letting me know. He didn’t apologize, assuming that I should understand or at least play along and only asked me to reschedule. I was miffed and said so. After all, I arranged my schedule to be available during that time slot and made it clear that I was at my desk, ready to work.

Only slightly apologetic, he scheduled the next call. By now, about 2 weeks had passed since my first communication with this man. You might be wondering – and rightly so  –  why I was still interested. The interviewer suggested use of some of my other talents and I thought the job was a good match for my current needs.

The call went well enough for him to ask me to go further and take a Kolbe Index test online. “Only a handful of candidates are asked to go this far in the interview process,” he said. This test measures your natural instincts and “allows you to begin the process of maximizing your potential.”  The rationale for the test was that this was the first and very important hire of its kind at this firm. This was actually a way for him to know what motivates me far more than for me to know anything about myself.

Ok, I took the test. A 36 question ten minute sort of fun and interesting exercise with instant results I could see but none of which was news. I guess it’s important at this point to interject that I am not a recent graduate nor a first time test taker. I’d even been told by this prospective employer that were I to be considered a serious candidate I would be asked/required to do this. Because I wanted the job enough, I actually took the sample test in advance on my own.

The follow up call came about a week later. This time my employer guy emailed me on a weekend to ask if we could speak Monday but, after I responded, never followed up with a set time.  At least he was consistently unreliable.

By the time the next phase of this protracted process happened, I had enough reason to be concerned that somehow the shape of things was pretty skewed. At the start, I asked about the agenda for this third call, thinking there was an awful lot of time and energy going into qualifying candidates for this part time position. It was then that things got super strange. Under the guise of “really knowing the people I work with”,  my interviewer friend would be asking me questions about my family and my finances.

STOP! I thought. Really? Not just unconventional but illegal. Maintaining my control of the situation, I chose not to answer.  He then said I put him on the defensive whenever we spoke so he thought it was best to discontinue and I agreed.

The moral of the story is this: the job market is rebounding but not as fast as some of us would like. Sometimes, opportunities appear to be perfect fits on paper and when the human factor is added to the equation things inevitably change. We part timers or even full timers aren’t obliged to tell anyone anything that treads on unacceptable ground. In this case, the source wasn’t even verifiable though I had the man’s business email, web address and several phone numbers. Truth was, I never met him face to face and whenever we spoke, he answered his phone “hello”. There was never any switchboard or business-like answering service.

I am sorry there was no job offer at the end of this long, drawn out and somewhat awkward few weeks.  Yet, I do have the comfort of knowing that there isn’t a Craigslist stranger out there with my personal, family and financial information at his disposal.

Post Script: Ironically, the hiring company specializes in stress-reduction work techniques.

First in a Series: Q&A Leaders On Leadership 


Hank Fieger, President, HFA, Barcelona Spain

Hank Fieger, President of international management consulting, training and coaching firm, HFA, based in Barcelona, Spain, has worked with many Fortune 100 companies in over 20 countries. His expertise is in Behavioral Executive Coaching, Team Building, Executive Presentation Skills and Leadership Communication Skills. Using a model of open and honest communication, Hank combines his knowledge of business and psychology to help others embody “people management” skills in leadership roles. Hank’s first book, “Behavior Change…A View From The Inside Out”, a handbook on the art of change, is available on Amazon.

Q&A (unedited) On Leadership

If you had to name three characteristics of great leaders what would they be?

They have a clear vision for what’s possible.

They have the ability to communicate that vision to the hearts and minds of their followers.

They are in tune with what people are wanting.

As organizations get larger there’s often a tendency toward dampening inspiration. How do you encourage creative thinking within your or your clients’ organizations?

I encourage creative thinking by reconnecting people to their core values? By understanding what is most important to them, they begin to see what’s possible.

In order of importance or weight, what do you feel is most important: mission, vision or core values?

I think core values are most important, followed by a vision. The mission is the working statement that captures the values and the vision.

How do leaders ensure their organizations activities are aligned with their own core values?

Communicate, communicate, communicate.

What is corporate culture and how is it crafted?

Corporate culture is the unspoken, and sometimes spoken rules about how things are done here. It’s crafted usually from the key individuals at the top of the corporation.

What do you believe is the biggest challenge facing leaders today?

I think that every true leader has a bit of a revolutionary in them. Most people resist change, and yet what leaders need to do is to help people and organizations to change and adapt to what is needed in order to be sustainable.

What is one mistake you see leaders making more frequently than others?  In your opinion, is it different for women leaders?

The one mistake I see is that leaders sometimes make decisions that they think will keep them in the role and keep them having power. I think that women leaders also fall into this trap and sometimes to prove themselves in a “man’s game,” they may even try harder. They also revert back to managing the transactional day to day business, rather than staying focused on the big picture.

What advice would you give someone going into leadership position for the first time?

Is your advice different if that person is a woman?

Be true to yourself and to your values. It’s a privilege to be in a leadership role, so go for it. My advice for a woman is no different. Don’t give your true power away in the attempt to be more like a man, or to succeed in what you may believe to be a man’s world.

What is one behavior or trait that you have seen derail more leaders’ careers?

To sell out to what they believe people want from them, rather than being true to what is really needed.