6 Fibs Employers Tell Tech Candidates

Female founders

For instance, in an effort to impress top technical prospects, an employer may paint an overly rosy picture of the work environment, or make promises they can’t keep. Here are some of the fibs you’re almost certain to hear during a job search—as well as some ways to uncover the truth.

“We Have an Awesome Culture; Everyone Gets Along and Hangs Out Together”

Nearly every tech company wants to be “cool,” so they try to mimic the culture in the most successful Silicon Valley firms, noted Shaharris Beh, CEO of HackerNest. Be aware, however, that it takes more than fun and games to encourage camaraderie and build a true collaborative culture.

“Ping pong and beer Fridays does not a community make,” Beh said. “Talk to the people in the trenches, sidle up to them and ask questions to see what the work environment is really like.”

“Salary for the Position Depends on Experience”

Actually, the salary is determined by the budget and market value for the position. For example, an employer isn’t going to pay a programmer 50 percent above the salary range maximum just because he has 10 years’ experience.

“Employers have a salary range in mind 99.9 percent of the time,” said Jennifer Price Hegener, director of recruiting for V-Soft Consulting. Having more experience or knowledge can help increase your value, but there’s a maximum amount an employer is willing to pay—no matter how much experience you have.

Research the company and the market rate for someone with your skills in your geographic area. That will give you a reasonable salary range for when you speak to recruiters and hiring managers.

“We Only Hire Rock Stars, Our Teamwork is Phenomenal”

As experts have also pointed out, companies that only hire so-called “rock stars” are often beset by internal rivalries and other problems.

“Rock stars aren’t indicative of a great environment, because they aren’t team players,” Beh said.

So if you’re looking for team chemistry and a stress-free work environment, you may want to avoid companies that focus on hiring high performers.

“We Offer Unlimited Opportunities for Growth”

Don’t rely on unsubstantiated promises about career advancement; ask for a career plan or map. Also, be sure to verify the company’s promotion rates and policies with current tech staffers, because the percentage of employees receiving promotions has held steady at about 9 percent since 2010, according to data collected by WorldatWork.

“We Will Only Consider Candidates Who Fit the Job Description”

Don’t let this phrase dissuade you. In fact, the successful candidate rarely meets all of the requirements in the original job description.

“The job description is just the starting point,” Hegener said. “Most tech managers don’t know what they want until they start interviewing and get a better sense for the talent available in the market.”

“We’re Incredibly Innovative”

“Innovation” has become the new buzzword in recruiting. But in fact, very few companies are truly innovative; and worse, many recruiters and hiring managers don’t understand the difference between creativity and innovation.

“Many companies claim to be innovative, but innovation is not creativity,” Beh said. “Creativity is about coming up with new ideas. Innovation is about executing and monetizing those ideas.”

So if you really want to create brand-new products and solutions, figure out what the company means by “innovative,” and more importantly, what it will mean for you.

For instance, will you be allowed to spend 15 percent of your time developing new products or solutions? How much risk is the company willing to take on new ideas? And how will you be rewarded for the things you develop? Just make sure that you and the hiring manager are on the same page so you won’t be disappointed if you accept the position.

26 Responses to “6 Fibs Employers Tell Tech Candidates”

  1. Heard IT All

    I have heard all this for the past several decades. Bottom line is, work for a company that values YOUR VALUES. Otherwise you will be miserable until shown the door.
    Here is fib #7, corporations value “diversity”.
    Nonsense, corporations want a “diverse” group of people who look different, but all think the same.
    Every CEO “advocates” diversity, yet every night they go home to their gated exclusive communities, and Junior goes to private school.

  2. John Doe

    Why bother with any of this nonsense? Work for yourself, if you can. I’ve been told more than just those lies. . . and they are lies, not “fibs”. I’ve been very upset with being lied. It actually is very confusing. Did they think I was lying in my interview? Do they think I was just talking? I came to the conclusion they thought once they got me that I would just stay no matter what. Sad. What a waste of time and money. I had one particular company go through an extraordinary interview process of having me interview with 5 people and several levels of management as well as an expensive background check etc only to not hear me or ignore what I told each and every one of those 5 people about what was a deal breaker for me. I ended up quitting 2 weeks in without a notice because with just 2 weeks why bother? I guess they thought I was one of those people that would just “suck it up”. I interview for a reason. . . not just to get a job. . . but to find the right job. Anyway, the one above about “rockstars” is so true from my experience. When I read that in an job posting I just click next. Not only does it sound obnoxious but the environment is every bit as toxic.

    • Lynelle

      And there is the problem right there. You young people don’t want to suck it up and work, you just quit whenever your feelings get hurt, or when you don’t get along with others. A job is a paycheck, NOT a social club!!! You get a job, work two weeks, then quit never intending to work there any amount of time. That makes you just as much a liar. In the meantime, I would die for a job right now. Nine months of beating the pavement with no income and not a bite. If I get the worse job in the world I would hang onto it for dear life! Don’t think these “fibbers” are the only liars out there. A lot of workers are lying to themselves as well hoping to get rich quick, or to get promoted quick, or to make a quick buck…. quick. It’s a job, nothing more….

  3. John Doe

    Wow,this is so familiar. Unfortunately, we are so blind-sideded because majority of the time you either want to leave the miserable position that you’re in now . And don’t pick up any of the indicator that are presented in front of you so you unconsciously choose to ignore them even though you know that they’re clearly visible. As one of your comments stated I’m going to work for myself. Fuck this corporate shit.

  4. John Doe

    Don’t believe – “We pay bonuses each year!”

    NEVER count a bonus into the overall pay. You will be sadly disappointed, because usually there is always some excuse on why they are not paying the bonus. If the company is the exception, and actually pays the bonus that they promised to you – then consider it that – a bonus.

  5. John Patterspn

    Here’s another lie, but related to “executive compensation”: “We have to pay to attract and retain top talent.” No, you don’t. You can offer whatever you believe is fair. If a CEO candidate won’t go for it, move on to the next one. Also, there isn’t a lot of “talent” required to swoop down with your cronies and fire people to look tough for Wall Street.

    • Curt Cornell

      John, that line of BS is insidious. After a scandal where some top management was golden parachuted out to keep from having the Feds prosecute the company, the corporate mouthpieces trotted themselves out to all the workcenters to “explain” the actions. When someone asked why these people received such compensation as they were being let go, (MILLIONS of Dollars each), the mouthpiece spit out the same old line about how they had to do it to “attract quality talent”. I immediately responded with the following; “That’s not true. You did NOT attract quality talent; You attracted CRIMINALS!!” End of meeting!!!

  6. Pierre C

    If men were entirely good this precept would not hold, but because they are bad, and will not keep faith with you, you too are not bound to observe it with them.
    Nicolo Machiavelli, The Prince 1513

    This is not a brand new thing, really, and is not exclusive to tech fields. Employers want to get the most in a market where there is a shortage of competence. It is important to demonstrate subtly that you can do something else, or go somewhere else. For example, tell your colleagues how happy you are that your trading options brought in $5000 today, and be ready to show them the numbers. Do not bluff, though. Really make the $5000.

    • Lynelle

      Sorry, there is NOT a shortage of competence in the IT world. There is an overabundance!! Too many people trying to get the same few jobs out there. Employers are being extremely picky, hiring short term, then throwing good employees out the door in order to hire another at a ridiculously low salary so they don’t have to give payraises. The IT world is a scandal now.

      • Hugh Aholes

        Your comments are spot on. Saturated talent field. Jobs that were well paid are going to shitty contract firms. My phone blows up everytime a desktop support position that used to pay 25 to 30 an hour is now 14.00 an hour temp. It sucks because they hire shit and they get shit. Keep buying the generic and not the quality. And temp to perm is a fucking lie also. Please beleive me. These are puppy mills for IT. You will start heavy drinking after 2 weeks from the stress and shitty training and incompetence.

        • Techlifer

          Good points. I’d like to add my personal favorite “We are looking for someone who sees the BIG picture” It’s been to my dismay that the people usually asking have no clue how to see a big picture. Then you get crucified for trying to bring new ideas to the table because they weren’t their ideas or they can’t grasp what’s being put down. There’s nothing worse in the workplace than a YES person. Especially if that person is in management. In a proper working environment the workers should be telling management what works and what doesn’t then that should be filtered upwards to upper management. Not trickle down. I’m sure somewhere there is a company that gets these things right however welcome to Corporate America. Nowhere is perfect. If you think you’re going to go somewhere else and things will be better it probably will be the same. I don’t mind the beer and ping pong approach. It builds relationships with your co workers and is always a good opportunity to network. I thrive on those things. I once had a manager try and get rid of me because I will stand up for my team mates and what he was doing was wrong. He couldn’t do it though and point blank asked me if there was anyone I didn’t know. Nope. I started out over 20 years ago on the ground floor now I’m at the pinnacle. What used to be who knew the tech is gone. The market demands people who have the soft and hard skills. If you can’t find a job in 9 months then you’re doing it wrong. I’ve been through the dot com bubble burst, bad economy, mass layoffs and always had a job. Successful people will adapt, reinvent and find ways to keep moving forward. Tech moves fast! If we don’t we get left behind. We can sit here all day and talk about what employers will or won’t do, but what can we do to take hold of our own destiny and create our self brand? Never put your career or happiness on someone else’s boat.

  7. Steve Garrison

    Near my region (Boulder and Denver) recruiters talk up the “ping pong and beer”, culture, as though it’s a wonderful benefit. Sounds kind of weird to me; I make my friends my own way, while biking, skiing, or in other social settings. Further, I don’t drink beer and think the current fad of microbrews is just that.

    A professional doesn’t need artificial culture to somehow provoke teamwork or cooperation. One will naturally be respectful of others and understand all must work as a team to get the job done. When I hear about all these social outings or “beer team events” related to a new position I run the other way!

    • Lynelle

      Yeah, I get that all over Colorado. They always mention it during the phone interview. But when they see I’m an older person in the face interview, talk of “culture” ends. I guess these tech companies here in Colorado want young drunk workers. Hey, I can be a happy old drunk worker! LOL This is my mantra: a job is a paycheck, NOT a social club!!

  8. WorkCynic

    “Sidle up” to a current employee to chat about anything? I don’t know how this writer thinks interviews happen, but I’ve never been on an interview (never) where you’re not in a separate room, even in a separate location, and the only people you meet are those involved in the interview. After the interview gets serious, you may get to see the workplace on a guided tour, but that’s also not happened until after hiring. It’s not just that employers don’t want prospects to talk to people or see the place; a lot of places have security concerns, such as they don’t want competitors seeing things or work on legitimately secure projects.

    Of course, another reason why you don’t see the office, meet employees who aren’t part of the interview or anything else is that then you will see what bad choices they make in spending money and how totally non-diverse their workplace really is.

    Not everyone in tech works in Silicon Valley for a company trying too hard to be cool.

    Working for oneself is probably the best choice, but much the same weasel actions will happen in initial client meetings. I guess that can tell you what clients to avoid.

  9. Jane Doe

    This article is spot on. I know it can’t cover everything but I have to add in the “house bowler” for a boss scenario. It’s happened to me now at the last three places I’ve worked. The managers have NEVER worked anywhere else, so they are home grown. My current has been with the company for 20+ yrs and doesn’t even hold a degree in IT. He “learns” about everything by reading a few articles. My ideas and suggestions, which are lessons learned from larger companies I’ve worked at, are scoffed at and he is now passive aggressive and hostile with me every time I try to help because he feels I’m ridiculing “his” past/current decisions. I’m going for the self employment angle, I can’t deal with insecure back stabbing anymore. There is no team environment when your boss only looks at you as competition.

    • Lynelle

      Hey, I don’t have a degree in IT either. Many of us learned on the job. I bet he helped build up that IT department, and remember he has his boss and company accountants to answer to. I made lots of suggestions myself to my boss but was rebuffed. When a company is set in it’s own ways, you gotta learn to play with them. When in Rome…. and yes, he probably does see you as a threat because you don’t want to play along. Make informed suggestions, but when the boss says “that’s not how we do things around here” then leave it alone and do the job you were hired to do.

      • Jane Doe

        I do the job I was hired for, and then some- I work very well with my co-workers. I am also a team player that volunteers to take on extra that my manager needs done. They just choose to not address any of the glaring issues they see. That isn’t the problem. It’s actual culture vs advertised culture, which was the point of the post. You can take offense if you’d like but there are people out there that work very hard to further their education and experience to be an ASSET. When you work for a company that hired you stating they “really love the experience you bring and look forward to you bringing us up to speed” then are hostile at every suggestion that comes out of your mouth to fix serious issues that you are consulted on….really!?!?! Promotion from within is a good thing, but the individual also needs to work on their own skill set to keep it relevant. These companies are the first to say the “fib” of we hire rock stars and are innovative! That is a fear based environment of being afraid to lose your job due to lack of relevant skills, which should make you happy you hired people willing to take on extra to help. I fully understand the “go with the flow” attitude of companies. You can’t change a company wide mindset alone but when you see basic things that have been overlooked, like company wide antivirus and WSUS in this day and age you have to wonder…….you made an assumption based on very little. While I may believe in the “shut up and do your job” philosophy I also believe that if you see a problem you should be an active part of the solution. So, obviously some people would rather let the ship sink because it would cause “conflict” than fight to patch the hole. You work yourself out of a job that way as well….just saying.

  10. Being hip, being perceived as cool is important to many of the tech related companies in Puget Sound but I have enough data now to also say that being young is integral. I’ve been told by software and aerospace companies that I just didn’t have the right “cultural fit”. I got through the technical interviews, often discovering that I knew more than the interviewer or that they knew less than I did, but I’ve learned to read that look of discomfort they have with someone over 40 who has more experience and a different work ethic. It’s very much about age. Sometimes, they slip up and say it out loud. Sometimes, I don’t see anyone else my age there. Sometimes, it’s the culture euphemism. Sometimes, it’s a manufactured excuse. This is why – after a year of trying – I will have to work for myself. Just remember, hipsters: What goes around comes around.

    • Lynelle

      Try over 50 and being female. After nine months of unemployment with not a bite I’ve decided to go another direction and reinvent myself. I’m wasting too much time studying for certificate exams I’ll never use. Today’s IT world is the most discriminatory field I have ever seen or known. I’m done with IT and all it’s backstabbing and lies. I’m better off scrubbing floors at a gym!!

  11. Lynelle

    Here’s another “fib”:
    “we’re offering you the position on these conditions” (usually dumb stuff like short term when the job description said full-time, or you don’t get benefits when the job description said you would and it was discussed in two interviews).
    “start date depends on background checks” (then make you sign a dozen forms, none of which guarantees a job, and no background check was actually performed)
    Two weeks later “oops, we decided to hire back the guy who left”
    The company has no intention whatsoever of hiring anybody, but wasting everybody’s time nonetheless just in case the former employee does not come back from extended leave. Maybe they should have asked the employee first….
    (this happened to me twice)

    Also, government contractors who say they are hiring but what they’re really doing is collecting a pool of applicants just in case they get that contract. When they don’t that pool is tossed out. I wish they wouldn’t consider posting jobs until they get the contract. It’s a waste of my time.

  12. winston

    Jeez, all this just makes me feel even older. Corporate culture, bonus BS. I’ve never worked for a large corporation. If I can’t go talk to the big boss any time I want, I pretty much haven’t worked there. (Un)fortunately the culture in a small firm is usually “family” and you are, or are not, part of the family. A generation change can oust you without warning which is pretty much what happened to me. One day you’re working for a generous, self-made entrepreneur, the next day you’re working for his cheap, entitled daughter and son-in-law.

    I’m trying to make it again on my own. Nothing else seems even remotely feasible. I don’t have enough work, but it’s good work for good people. Self-employed people for some reason get more respect than employees. No matter how small, we’re out there taking the same day to day risks without a guaranteed paycheck and even the most odious CEOs will have some respect for that. I watched my respect vanish overnight when I signed on with a big customer as an employee. I was paid well, but the respect was gone. I sucked it up and took the money. Perhaps that was the wrong decision, but I have to play what I’m dealt.

    The corporate list of jobs all look the same to me. And I agree it’s about creating a list of qualifications no one can fill. I probably couldn’t get one of those jobs but if I did, I could probably literally do nothing for a year or two before they even noticed.

  13. John Doe

    There are two ways that this disgrace of an IT industry will improve:
    1) when there is a job board that does not accept adverts without a posted salary and IT staff consistently use it
    2) when either the IT industry gets a decent professional society like those that exist for lawyers or doctors, or it gets unionized.
    The first will stop the race to the bottom as far as salaries are concerned (driven by HR departments colluding with each other to determine lowest possible rates), as IT staff will apply for jobs that they think they are worth and ignore the rock-bottom salary jobs posted by companies like Wells Fargo
    The second will ensure that IT staff have a common level of excellence (just check the Internet for articles aimed at ‘IT staff’ from India on how to get a job as a programmer with no experience using a crib sheet), and will set minimum levels of salary and decency as far as employers behavior are concerned.
    Just look at the number of failed major programs in this industry to see just how bad things are, and it is employer behavior in trying to get the cheapest labor that it causing this. Would you try and find the cheapest or best doctor to treat you, and yet billion dollar programs are handed out to offshore companies with the lowest rates and that fail again, and again, and again, and again, without consequence.