Recently, a friend of mine quit her job because she objected to the ethics of her most recent employer. For one thing, he’d ask her to post job positions on Craigslist, with no intent of ever filling the job. For him, it was a cheap research tool–he’d cull the incoming resumes for the most qualified candidates, and then call them up and ask them what their expected salary/rate was. What he got was solid information on the current salary range for a variety of positions; what the job seekers got was false hope.
It’s a low-down thing to do, especially now, when more than a few people are out of work and willing to work for less than they normally would. But I’ve seen worse in the publishing and advertising field.
I particularly remember going in for an interview for a p.r. position at a monitor manufacturer when I was still young, unemployed, and hungry. After a cursory review of my resume, my interviewer told me she’d like to see me write a sample press release for an imminently shipping product, and set me at a desk with a computer and the spec sheet. I diligently worked away, and had a good draft done within half an hour. Then, I went to find my interviewer.
After hunting around for her in vain, I finally found an engineer who told me she’d left about 20 minutes earlier to go “work from home.” Lost and puzzled, I headed home myself. When I finally got a hold of her in a follow up call, she asked me for my consulting rate, told me she’d get back to me, and never did.
However, a month later, I did have a job at a magazine and received a press release from that company. It read suspiciously like the one I’d written as a “test.”
It could have been even worse, however. I worked for a few months at an advertising agency in Oakland, and the owner didn’t hesitate to remind me that more glamorous agencies, in downtown San Francisco, got much of their work done with volunteer labor. They merely had to create an internship, dangle out the promise of a job in the industry (which they themselves would not provide), and change out interns every 3 months.
He wasn’t lying or exaggerating–from London to San Francisco, we’ve heard reports from people who were happy, nay, even thrilled to be getting experience in such a glamorous field. As for those interns, I know none who ended up with a career in p.r. or advertising, much less for the client they’d labored for for free; and why would they, when the agencies can easily find fresh volunteers with stars in their eyes and a smile on their lips, month after month, and year after year?
It must be terribly tempting for unethical employers to play such tricks with “internships” and jobs which will never be filled, especially when hiring is soft and it’s all too easy to take advantage of job- and career-seekers. As for my part, I’ve been lucky enough to land work with honest companies. And though it’s been 15 years since I was conned into writing a press release for just a promise, I’m still happy that that monitor manufacturer went under just a few years later.