Mar 21

When Job Interview Crosses Over Into Free Consulting

.  Despite the recent surge in employment openings, there are still more job applicants than positions.  Employers have implemented more hoops for candidates to jump through and are requesting the candidate to provide valuable benefit to the employer during the interview to prove they are the ‘perfect’ candidate.

.  Some employers are even resorting to posting ‘fake’ job openings.   I am aware of at least a few human resource agents who post fake job advertisements on a regular basis.  They do this in an effort to justify their existence, appear busy, gain free consulting, and avoid having their name on the company’s pink slip list when funding is low.  If you ever see the same job advertisement posted every 90 days, that position has to be ‘the job from hell’ to have that type of revolving door, or the HR director is trying to look busy.  Either way, don’t waste your time.

.  Employers have begun turning the interview process into a deceptive method of obtaining new ideas, a fresh outside perspective and brand strategies.  The applicant has no guarantee of being selected.  Yet, he is being asked during the interview to provide valuable information for free in the hopes of being picked. The majority of job openings today require several rounds.  After multiple rounds, the top two candidates will be asked to demonstrate their abilities.  In my opinion, I find that at this stage many employers can cross the fine line between job interview and attempting to seek free consultant work.  Job candidates are not automobiles.  It becomes exploitation if you try to take them for a work product test drive.

.  If you are asking to see samples of what the candidate has created in the past, this would be an appropriate method of reviewing the candidates portfolio.  If on the other hand, you are asking the candidate to create a new work product item that is specific to your company, that is where it slips into exploitation.

  • Does this assignment require more than 1 hour of preparation/performance time?  If so, this is leaning more toward free consulting.  This is a job applicant, asking them to ‘donate’ more than 1 hour of work effort without any guarantee of a job is unfair and not right.
  • Are you planning on implementing this work product that was created by the job applicant?  If so, that is an outright and blatant act to obtain free consulting and work product.  To require your job applicants to ‘donate’ their time to create you valuable work product is unethical.

.  Recently, colleague of mine has experienced this.  After four rounds of vigorous interviews, she was informed that she was a top-two candidate and was now being ask to craft a specific donor solicitation letter specific to the organization.  When she inquired as to why a sample of her prior work was insufficient, they stated that they wanted to ensure that she understood their core mission and how to articulate it to a donor.  Two months after not being selected, you can imagine her reaction when she received a donation request letter in the mail from this same non-profit.  Moreover, the letter she received was actually her ‘sample’.  

.  I would like to note that this non-profit also violated my earlier blog article about not informing her that she was not selected.  She had to read their Facebook page announcement that they had selected an internal candidate.  Not only was she already disgusted with their treatment of her during the interview process, their act of using her work product without her consent was a slap in the face.  As you can imagine, this unethical non-profit will never be on her donation list.  She is actually thankful not to be employed by them.

.  Nevertheless, hearing about her experience taught me a valuable lesson.  If an employer seeks a work sample specific to their organization, put the following copyright type language on your sample.  Not only does it place them on direct notice that they are not entitled to use your work product, it makes it easier to take steps to stop them if they do. 

©(your name).(year), any use or duplication of this file, which is the work product of the author, in any manner or form is strictly prohibited without the written authorization of the author, (your name).

.  Good luck out there and protect your work product.  If you don’t value your brand enough to protect it, no one will find it worth paying for.

© Reina Ashley Canale, Esq., My Advice Blog, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Reina Ashley Canale, Esq. with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Jan 03

Job Advertisement Seeking Photograph

No_Photo_available_-_female.  Recently, I have begun noticing a highly disturbing trend where job ads outright request or highly encourage the submission of applicant photos.  

.  Although requiring photographs is not uncommon abroad, under Federal EEOC Law and California DFEH regulations, it is illegal for a job advertisement/application to outright require and/or suggest that an applicant submit his/her photograph as part of a job application.

.  Several years ago, it became illegal to ask applicants the year of high school graduation as a roundabout way of committing age discrimination.  This is because most individuals graduate high school at 18, so if you subtract the current year by 18, you will know the age of the applicant.

.  Requiring a photograph is prohibited due to the fact that it is a direct way to improperly exclude applicants from even obtaining an interview.  A photograph would show an individual’s age, weight, sex, gender identity, possible ethnic style of dress, disability, or other protected factors.  This is a blatantly illegal manner of improperly screening candidates.

.  None of the above examples are advertisements for modeling.  A persons physical appearance does not make someone more skilled, educated, experienced and/or competent.  Therefore, these advertisements have absolutely no logical reason to be requesting a photograph other than to illegally discriminate.

.  When the applicant is never even called in for an interview, the applicant has no way of determining whether the employer did not find them to be a suitable candidate properly for their lack of experience or skills or whether it was based improperly upon their race, gender, age, etc.

.  To potential applicants, this manner of job advertising can deter an otherwise qualified applicant from applying.  The applicant may assume that s/he may not be the certain “type” a shallow employer is hoping will apply.

.  The sad fact is that in this economy some desperate applicants will submit to this illegal job ad requirement.  Martin Luther King stated, “I have a dream that my four little children will one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character.”  Let’s hope that one day employers will live up to this dream and the law.

© Reina Ashley Canale, Esq., My Advice Blog, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Reina Ashley Canale, Esq. with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Oct 03

Job Advertisement Lacking Salary Range

download.  One of the biggest frustrations of the job market is employers who refuse to disclose what a position pays.  Why do employers keep salary secret?

  1. They are hoping to catch a deal.
  2. They don’t want to discourage overqualified candidates from applying.
  3. They don’t want an applicant to assume that they will be offered the higher end of the spectrum.

.  While most job ads will fail to disclose any salary range, some job ads will actually include a ‘provide salary history’, ‘provide salary requirements’ or even ‘ failure to disclosure salary history/requirements will automatically disqualify applicant from consideration’.

.  An applicant has to make the difficult decision as to whether to disclose their confidential salary history and decide how to determine their required salary range.  This is the ultimate head game.  The applicant is forced to micro-analyze:

  • ‘Did I short change myself?’,
  • ‘Am I asking for too much, causing my application to enter the circular file?’,
  • ‘Was the employer going to pay more, but I just low-balled myself into a lesser amount’, etc.

.  In the nonprofit sector, the salary range of the position has already been dictated by the terms and provisions of the grant contract and yearly budget.  In these cases, I do not understand why a nonprofit would fail to disclose what the true amount is.

.  Recently, I was talking with an alumni attorney.  He expressed annoyance at a nonprofit “wasting his time” for a position that he never would had applied to if the salary had been originally disclosed.  He disclosed that he had underwent four interviews with this organization over the course of three months.  After calling his references, they called him to extend an offer and for the first time finally disclosed the salary.  According to this applicant, he was insulted by the salary range offered.  The position was for a Staff Attorney, but my classmate stated that he could “make more as a store supervisor at Walmart”.  He seemed extremely perturbed at having expended significant time, gasoline, interview prepping and suit dry cleaning costs in pursuing this position.

.  By the same token, this employer has also spent considerable time and energy pursuing a candidate that their budget could not afford.  Once this candidate rejected their offer, the employer was back to square one in the process.  If this was a position that has been vacant for the three months, the delay could frustrate current employees who have been pulling the load.

.  What about the runner-up?

  • Perhaps after selecting applicant #1, the employer had already sent a rejection letter/email to the runner-up.  It could be quite awkward to contact the runner-up and re-express interest in hiring him or her.
  • If significant time has passed, the runner-up may have already found another position.
  • In addition, would the runner-up be offended by being chosen by default?
  • Would the runner-up accept the same salary that applicant #1 turned down?

.  Yes, the job market is still saturated with candidates desperately seeking employment; however, due to high student loan debts and the high cost of living, not all candidates have the financial ability to work at a lesser rate of pay.  Moreover, not all applicants are unemployed.  If an applicant is already employed, the interviewer is definitely on notice that this talented applicant will never leave their current employer for a pay-cut.

.  My recommendation would be for an employer to disclose salary either in the advertisement or at a bare minimum when contacting the applicant for an interview.  Why go through the entire interview process, especially as some interviews can last as long as one hour or more, for an applicant who will never accept your salary range?

© Reina Ashley Canale, Esq., My Advice Blog, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Reina Ashley Canale, Esq. with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Sep 12

How To Answer Illegal Interview Questions

download (1)Recently, it has become the norm in many companies to implement panel interviews.  Unfortunately, many individuals selected to be on these panels have ZERO experience with the procedures of human resources.  In addition, these individuals possess absolutely no knowledge or training regarding the Federal and State laws that dictate what questions are permissible to ask during a job interview.

Any questions that reveal your age, race, national origin, gender, religion, marital status and sexual orientation are off-limits.  State and federal laws make discrimination based on certain protected categories illegal, such as national origin, citizenship, age, marital status, disabilities, arrest and conviction record, military discharge status, race, gender, or pregnancy status.

Despite laws to the contrary, I have experienced a few interviews during which illegal questions were asked.  At that point in the interview, the dilemma becomes:

  • Does one answer the question, despite it being illegal and improper?
  • Does one change the subject?
  • Does one politely decline?

In my experience, it seems to be an inexperienced interviewer on the panel who will blurt out an illegal question and then become offended if the interviewee declines to answer and/or they are informed that their question is illegal.

When a candidate is deciding to join the ‘team’, illegal questions can lead to unintended bad impressions about the organization.  The candidate may feel that the organization is disorganized or get an impression of  illegal bias from panel members.  A few of my alumni members have disclosed to me that they have opted not to accept certain job offers because an illegal question gave them an impression that a panel member was racist.


On a separate but related subject, I have never understood why some organizations will ask line staff employees to sit on a panel to select their future supervisor.  In my experience, most highly unprofessional and illegal questions have come from line staff members.  This is due to their zero to minimal experience and knowledge in human resource laws.

Furthermore, in my own opinion, employees should never have a voice in selecting their future boss/supervisor due to bias.  Some employees can  possess secret motivation in selecting an individual who will not hold them accountable once hired.

In addition, line staff employees may not be the most unbiased in grading future coworkers either.  One may mark down a qualified candidate based upon fear of being out-shined by him/her and/or an inner desire for one’s friend to be hired instead.

For organizations, this leaves some food for thought….  Are you scaring off talented candidates due to the illegal questions being asked by your unqualified interviewers?  Is your interview process failing to select talented candidates due to having improper interviewers on the panel?

© Reina Ashley Canale, Esq., My Advice Blog, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Reina Ashley Canale, Esq. with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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Aug 25

Nonprofit organizations should always respond to job applicants.


According to a recent survey on CareerBuilder, a whopping 75% of job applicants stated that they did not hear back regarding a position they had applied for in the past year.

This is a huge NO NO for nonprofit/not-for-profit organizations.  I have heard numerous excuses from human resource representatives as to why they are non-responsive.  None of the reasons provided justify the silent treatment.

Excuse # 1 – They are too busy.

In times of high unemployment, there will be a flood gate of applicants emailing their applications.  Many applicants have spent significant time and energy crafting a specific cover letter, supplying work samples and possibly filling out supplemental questionnaires.  It can be extremely frustrating to the applicant if he does not receive even an acknowledgement of receipt to verify that his application was not lost in the abyss of cyber space.

HR can easily set up an application email with a generic auto-response reply.

For example:  We are in receipt of your application.  Due to the number of applicants, we are unable to contact every applicant individually.  If you are among those selected for an interview, we will contact you.  Otherwise, we wish you the best in your future endeavors.

  Fundraising aggressive organizations should also include:  “On — date, we are having our annual fundraiser event at —-.  We hope to see you there.”

Excuse #2 – You were not chosen.

Most applicants would rather get a friendly, “Thanks, but no thanks” email than the alternative — silence.  If this applicant has taken the time to dry clean a suit, use gasoline for travel to/from your office, interviewed in person with you/the panel, and sent a post-interview thank you note, the bare minimum that HR should provide is a post-interview email to provide closure.

Many HR representatives will state that they feel awkward in having to tell someone that they were not selected.  All applicants realize that there are many qualified applicants applying for only one job opening.   To provide an interview applicant the cold shoulder is outright rude and unprofessional.

Excuse #3 – They are afraid of legal issues.

In today’s litigious world, many HR individuals worry that almost any excuse can be grounds for a lawsuit.  This “silence is golden” rule is an utterly horrible public relations policy for nonprofits.

First of all, I have never heard of a single employer being sued over a generic copy/paste email informing a candidate that he was not selected.  Plus, emails are free, so you cannot use the cost of postage as an excuse either.

Here is an example of a generic courtesy email to copy/paste and send to all of your interviewed candidates.  “Thank you for taking the time to interview with our panel.  With so many qualified individuals, we had a difficult task of selecting only one individual to join our team.  Unfortunately, we decided to hire another candidate.  We wish you the best in your future endeavors.”

Volunteer aggressive organizations should also include:  “Although you weren’t selected for this position, we would like to invite you join our volunteer committee.  Please contact our volunteer coordinator at —@—.com.”

The reality – By not responding, the door is closed for BOTH parties.

When it comes to public relations, a nonprofit organization should always remember and follow this cardinal rule.

  “A nonprofit never-never-never wants to burn a bridge that it might have to cross over again!!!”

The HR representative may only view their position as the individual that recruits and retains talent for the organization.  He may not realize that his job duties can affect the public relations profile of their organization.  The following are the two biggest ways that an HR representative’s behavior can detrimentally hurt an organization.

Although the HR representative quickly forgets and cannot remember the names of the applicants who received the silent treatment, those applicants will remember your organization and how your organization treated them — FOREVER.

First, many disgruntled job applicants will be less likely to reapply to your organization in the future.  Perhaps HR interviewed a candidate and felt that he was not a good fit for the position at hand, but would be better suited for another position down the line.  That applicant would be less likely to reapply if HR was already rude to them during a prior recruitment.  This can hurt the organization’s ability to recruit future talent.

Second, every single job applicant is a potential future customer and donor for your organization.

Today, the individual may be applying to your organization for an employment position.  However, tomorrow, this same individual may win the lotto, launch the next Fortune 500 company, begin working for a potential grant funding organization and/or become best friends with the head honcho at a private endowment.  While HR may view this applicant as disposable, the head of your fundraising department is going to be pulling his hair out when he discovers that HR was rude to this potential BIG donor and/or person who can whisper in the ear of a potential BIG donor.

There are over 1 million nonprofits in the United States alone.  Every year, there is an ever shrinking pool of money available to fund the operation of nonprofit organizations.  As Federal and State grants are decreasing, the act of securing individual donations becomes increasingly more important to the survival of nonprofit/not-for-profit organizations.  Therefore, a nonprofit needs to always realize that they must build rapport with every individual that comes into contact with their organization.  This is regardless of whether that individual is a job applicant, client, vendor, ex-employee, volunteer, grant committee member, etc.

If a company treated you unprofessionally, would you want to donate to the organization?  Attend its annual fundraiser?  Encourage friends/family to donate to the organization?  Follow its social media presence via Facebook/Twitter/Email Newsletter/Website?  I wouldn’t, and I doubt you would either.

In conclusion, regardless of how ‘busy’ HR is, HR needs to take a few seconds to acknowledge every single applicant with a generic confirmation email.  You never know if an applicant may be that future big donor who will provide the vital funding which saves your organization from closing its doors in the future.

© Reina Ashley Canale, Esq., My Advice Blog, 2015. Unauthorized use and/or duplication of this material without express and written permission from this blog’s author and/or owner is strictly prohibited. Excerpts and links may be used, provided that full and clear credit is given to Reina Ashley Canale, Esq. with appropriate and specific direction to the original content.

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