Interviewer: “Where do you see yourself in 5 years?”
Me: “In your chair, but asking better questions.”
–Internet interview meme
During a job search, you may encounter companies that interview with no intention of hiring you. A sham interview can be conducted in bad faith by legitimate companies that need to comply with corporate policies, local rules, or federal equal opportunity and anti-discrimination policies under Title VII. A fake company or employment service that has nefarious motivations might also conduct a sham interview.
The 15 fake interview tactics below offer examples of ways companies that interview with no intention of hiring you might perform these actions before or during the interview session. Knowing how to spot a fake interview will save you time, prevent frustration, and perhaps keep a criminal from stealing your information.
How to Spot a Fake Interview: 15 Common Examples
Examples Before the Interview
1. The Job Seems Perfect
Scammers often prey upon those who are desperate and vulnerable. Similar to the work-from-home scams stuffing envelopes of yesteryear jobs that sound too good to be true require careful deliberation. If the proposed salary seems outrageously high, research pay at comparable businesses and ask tough questions.
2. Company Information Does Not Exist
Do your research before agreeing to an interview. Look for information about the company on search engines, social media, and other sources. Remember that anyone can create or pay someone else to create a fake homepage, so you should look for more than a single website.
3. You Receive Unprofessional Correspondence
Letters or emails that have poor formatting, misspellings, and other errors offer a big red flag. Given the importance of complying with local and federal equal opportunity laws, true employers carefully screen and review correspondence. To prevent litigation, they will never permit a representative to send unprofessional communications.
4. Correspondence Lacks Company Contact Information
If you receive communication about a proposed online interview, assure that letters or emails have clearly visible contact information. The person who contacts you should have their job title or contact details readily available to you. If the interviewer is self-employed, do additional research about them.
5. Only a Vague Job Description Exists
Review position descriptions carefully. Do assigned duties match with the position qualifications for applicants? Remain skeptical of any dream jobs that promise great latitude with little structure.
If unsure of work-related expectations, ask specific questions during the interview. What exactly does “other duties, as assigned” mean, especially if these duties are a substantial part of the job (more than 10%)? It makes more sense to walk away from a “dream job” now than find yourself in a nightmare later.
6. Interviews Require Unreasonable Costs
While some job agencies require a fee for the use of their services, be sure that you fully understand any associated costs. For online interviews, be wary of scams that require you to download unfamiliar software that may cause viruses or bugs. Although you may have to purchase a new suit for an interview, refrain from purchasing any expensive or proprietary software if it is a stated requirement just to get an interview.
7. Questions Get Too Personal
Before sharing your Social Security number or similar sensitive information, do your homework. Search for the company’s name with the word “scam” on the internet.
If a legitimate company wants to do a background check on you, they will have the resources and ability to do so. Only release sensitive information after investigating the company.
8. You Receive an Unsolicited Interview or Offer
If you join a job search or recruitment website or express your willingness to work on social media, recruiters may send unsolicited messages. However, if you receive an on-the-spot request for an interview or are offered a job that you have never heard of before, be careful.
Interviews involve research and screening by both the applicant and potential employer. Skepticism works in your favor when you are unexpectedly contacted about a job. You should never expect an offer of employment at the beginning of the interview, before you have even asked your first question.
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Examples During the Interview
9. The Interviewer Seems Impersonal
If the interviewer fails to make eye contact or answer even the simplest questions–only recording your answers on paper–persist at asking questions you have. Certain companies increase the number of interviews they conduct to create an impression that the business has the advantage in the supply-versus-demand equation. Managers at stagnant companies may also hold interviews to give the impression that they are very busy.
10. Interview Lacks Contact with a Live Person
While technology makes it possible for many parts of the job search to happen online, interviews conducted by chat or instant messaging do not allow you a proper opportunity to assess the company. Video calls let you see people; instant chat allows the supposed interviewer to maintain an uncomfortable level of anonymity.
11. The Interviewer Claims There Are Many Qualified Candidates
In nearly all job searches, an employer will interview more than a single candidate. Some companies have a policy that requires a review of outside candidates before promoting an internal candidate. An interviewer has no need to inform you that the search includes many internal and external candidates with great qualifications.
12. Your Questions Do Not Get Answered
A job interview involves two-way communication. By asking questions, you show an interest in your prospective employer. Receiving silence or non-answers sends a negative message back to you.
You should receive clear responses about where the company is in its search process, when the candidate can expect to begin work, and what the expected salary range will be.
13. The Interviewer Mentions Other Opportunities
If an interviewer tries to open other possible doors rather than the one you wish to enter, you may feel as if this bait-and-switch is simply another waste of time. Unless obvious reasons exist for an interview to change course and include mention of other jobs, you should not have your hopes dampened before you have a chance to ask a single question.
14. You Receive a Perfunctory Interview to Fill a Quota
Beyond the experience some candidates endure because a company wants to meet an equal opportunity mandate, college students may experience interviews to fulfill a different type of quota. In order to maintain a strong relationship with an institution’s campus recruiting career office, some employers may schedule fake interviews with students as a way to keep their feet in the door for more lucrative graduates.
15. You Receive a Bait-and-Switch Offer
The final example of companies that interview with no intention of hiring you is when an advertised paid position becomes an unpaid fieldwork or internship, perhaps for experiential or college credit (that also requires payment of tuition). Refrain from taking this voluntary bait-and-switch if it offers you no tangible benefits.
A Word to the Wise . . .
Although state and federal laws prohibit certain acts of discrimination, they generally do not prohibit an employer from conducting excessive interviews with people who have little chance of securing a job. Trust your instincts and avoid companies that interview with no intention of hiring you.
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