I think I went to a fake job interview

A reader writes:

I applied for a job on Craigslist online three weeks ago. I was called to come in for an interview and learned it had been posted by a temp agency. So I went in for the interview and I thought it went really well. The recruiter who interviewed me told me that that particular position had recieved many applications and she wasn’t sure if they would be doing any more interviews. She said she thought they were close to hiring someone, but that she would keep me in mind for any future opportunities.

This was on a Friday. After the weekend, I got up and logged onto my computer to start my job search again. Lo and behold, the exact same ad had been re-posted that Monday morning.

Now I don’t know what to do. The recruiter lied to me about the availability of the position and now I think the whole thing was just bait for them to sign me up with their agency. Should I email the recruiter who interviewed me and tell her I’m concerned? Or will that minimize my chances of finding a job with that temp agency in the future? I find this really frustrating.

There’s a strong likelihood that it was bait to sign you up with their agency, because this is how many, many staffing agencies work. They post boilerplate ads for jobs that don’t really exist (although they’d probably tell you that they have many jobs similar to it that they fill all the time) in order to build a database of candidates who they can call on in the future. Sometimes they call on them for jobs that are indeed similar to the one you applied for. And sometimes they aren’t. But yeah, they’re often fake ads.

It’s also possible that that’s not the case here. It could be a real job, and they are indeed close to hiring someone for it, as the recruiter told you — but most places keep their job ads active until they’ve made an offer and had it accepted … because offers sometimes fall through: candidates turn them down, they can’t come to terms over salary, etc. So you do sometimes see this happen, and it doesn’t indicate anything deceptive is happening. But when you see it from a staffing agency, odds are good that it was just a bait ad.

By the way, staffing agencies that do this don’t see anything wrong with it. If you asked about it, they’d tell you that since they fill similar jobs all the time, there’s nothing devious about the practice. (Of course, that conveniently ignores the fact that they make up lies like “Oh, that job has just been filled.”) So I wouldn’t bother complaining to the recruiter — first of all, she won’t agree with you that there’s an issue, and second, yes, she’ll just discard you as a pain in the ass after that. (And third, if they actually did tell you the truth — which is possible — then you’ll look crazy.)

If you don’t want to work with a staffing agency, you of course don’t have to. But there’s no harm in hearing from them in the future about what they might be able to offer you. You’re always free to take it or leave it.

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