Yeah, I think I’ll pass

As an hourly rate contract programmer, I feel it necessary to always keep my eye on the local tech job postings, and apply for anything that looks interesting. Because there is no job security in my position, my goal is always to be ready to take something else either before or as soon as possible after my existing job ends. That means not just looking to see if there is anything better than what I’ve got now, but also making sure my resume is still attracting attention and making sure my interview skills are honed and practiced.

I’d never take an interview just for the sake of an interview, though. I always intend that if the job is sufficiently good, I’ll take it. (But “sufficiently good” will vary depending on how much I like my current job and how secure I feel in it.) It just wouldn’t be fair to the other people to waste their time just for the sake of practice. But because you can’t get a full sense of how good a job is just from a description on Monster or LinkedIn, though, you may not know if the job is one you’d take until you’ve been there and talked to the other developers and managers about the project. That’s especially true if you’re going through a head hunter because they try to hide details from you so you don’t bypass them and apply directly. (I’ll bypass the rant about the time that the head hunter hid the minor little detail that the job was only open to US citizens until after I’d accepted the job and handed in my resignation on my current job.)

I saw this ad on LinkedIn. It was pretty vague, so I asked about it. The person gave me a few more details so I sent her a resume. The only problem is that their main line of business is SEO (Search Engine Optimization) and SMM (Social Media Management). That’s a bit of a red flag – there are two ways of doing SEO and SMM, the ethical way, and the “spam every blog and forum and Facebook and Twitter with links to your site” evil way. So I knew I’d be spending any interaction with them examining them minutely for any sign of which side of the fence they sit.

I got an invitation to an interview. Ok, I hadn’t noticed before that they are in Buffalo, not in Rochester. That’s not a deal breaker, but I’m not happy about it. They also sent a “Employment Application”, and it’s a typical one you see from certain companies that look like they wrote it for every position in the company from janitor to CEO. I find it slightly insulting to be asked if I have any “Special skills” with checkboxes including Word and Internet Explorer as special skills. As far as I, or just about any other software developer in the world, is concerned, the only special skill you need with IE is how to use it to download a real browser. Again, not a red flag, but annoying.

And then I got to the “Consent and Disclosure Form”. The form asked for permission to produce this “investigative consumer report” for processing my application. It said “the report may include, but is not limited to, searches of … financial or credit agencies; criminal history information… and motor vehicle records”. It authorizes them to do this report “now, or at any time while I am employed by the Company”.

I wrote the HR person back and said I’m not interested in signing away those sort of rights to a company before I’ve even talked to them. She insisted that they wouldn’t actually do the search until after they’d made a conditional offer and accepted it, and said that they wouldn’t actually look for credit information or motor vehicle records. To which I replied that if they don’t want those rights, don’t make people sign papers giving them to them, and reiterated that I wasn’t coming to interview with them.