Avoid Eating Unpopped Kernels of Corn by Doing Your Research Before Heading to that Interview

Following a recent brief phone interview with a recruiter, I received an offer for an in-person interview for the next day. Exciting news, right? Read on.

The recruiter told me the company’s name (I confirmed the spelling with him), that they are a growing global company expanding into my region, and they have a niche market for the products they sell. I specifically asked for and received assurance this was not a sales position — my interview was for a management position. Several flags went up during the 10-minute conversation. Among them, the interviewer tried to butter me up so much (overly enthusiastic about my responses – what recruiter shows their hand like that?) that if I had believed him, I would have resembled soggy, over-buttered popcorn.

Like all things in life, you need a delicate balance when buttering your popcorn.

As soon as I got home, I searched for the company on LinkedIn (and anyone employed there) and on Google. Nothing.

What type of information was I seeking? My basics include:

  • The company’s annual report and/or financial standing
  • Do they have a diverse employee population?
  • Do they have a social media presence?
  • Are their employees on LinkedIn?
  • What do employees (and past employees) say about the company?
  • What is the approximate average tenure?
  • What reasons do former employees give for leaving the company?
  • What do employees say about the company culture?
  • Are there any complaints against the company’s employment practices?
  • What community and/or charitable organizations does the company support?

It wasn’t until I used the interview location as my search criteria that I found references on ComplaintsBoard.com to other companies with slightly different spellings and older complaints for a company with a different name, but located at the same address, among other complaints for the same companies, but different addresses. To make it more confusing, their name is disturbingly similar to a reputable company in the same field.

From the Complaints Board postings, each potential applicant recounted a phone interview identical to mine. The chief complaints center on:

  1. In-person interviews (like the one I was invited to) being mass interviews (you are not told this by the recruiter)
  2. Hard-sell pitches to join their company in sales or sales management
  3. Requiring you to pay the company for training and licenses upfront

There were also rebuttals from then-current employees and family members of employees with lots of big numbers and impressive names intended to back the legitimacy of the company. I followed up with research on LinkedIn, Google, Indeed, and Glassdoor under the various names I found – resulting in an alarming mix of good, potentially bad, and bad information.

Truth matters to me, and indications of dishonesty destroy credibility.

This company sprinkled just enough popcorn kernels of truth (my popcorn theme again) in the full, rich, buttery bowl they were offering (i.e., their recruitment efforts) that the desperately unemployed may grab the bowl expecting a satisfying popcorn experience without checking what they were eating.

For some of you, this may be the opportunity of a lifetime – your pathway to financial security. For those of you to whom this applies, and you get an offer similar to mine, I wish you much success. My concern is for my unemployed or underemployed brethren who may feel obligated to accept a job at which they may have few chances of success, while spending money they can’t afford upfront on training or licensing they may or may not need. For me, there were too many flags – I need a job with which there is a realistic expectation of success; I don’t need a hard sell during a mass cattle-call interview.

I don’t care how much butter you put on it, an unpopped kernel of corn is disappointing (reaching in the bowl to only find unpopped kernels) or painful (if you chew one). An unpopped kernel of corn can never be a satisfying popcorn experience –because it’s not popcorn. Do your research ahead of time so you know what to expect and can make a decision that is right for you. Because of my research, I saved myself the aggravation I would have experienced if I had attended the interview.

Have you had a similar experience? What sites do you use to research potential companies? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

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2 thoughts on “Avoid Eating Unpopped Kernels of Corn by Doing Your Research Before Heading to that Interview

  1. Katie

    NOT that there’s anything wrong with sales positions, of course, and I think you’d be fabulous in Sales, but I get your point. And I recommend you brace yourself for all kinds of interesting solicitations during your quest. Posting your resume out in the ether has pluses and minuses.

    My recommendation? Move away from the phone and join a board for an organization or non-profit you’re interested in. Meet some “real” people and get to know them. Worst thing that can happen is you do good, have fun, and forget about the grind for a bit. Best thing: You do good, make connections in your community, and have new experiences to add to your already stellar resume.

    • Jennifer Nauss Conway Post author

      Hi, Katie, thanks for the comment. You are correct; there isn’t anything wrong with sales, and I know several people who excel at it (my son-in-law for one). Truly, Sales and I do not get along. I’m fine with small sales stuff. For example, when I worked in room service (one of my part-time jobs several years ago in addition to my full-time job), I’d always pick one extra item each meal and try to upsell it so that my friends/co-workers would have a larger bill = larger tip. Then I’d track (because I’m anal) which items sold better. My income didn’t depend on this because I got paid by the hour, and no one, but me, tracked my success. Heck, I didn’t even like selling Girl Scout Cookies when my daughters were in scouts. Anything bigger (like a requirement to make “x” number of calls a day or even increasing client billable hours) would mean loathing coming to work each day and increased visits to my general surgeon for ulcers. One should always know their weaknesses — that’s mine. Now, I’d love to write the promotional/marketing materials for whatever someone wants to sell.

      What really upset me were the tactics used by this recruiter. I would prefer that recruiters be honest about the positions and companies they represent. Dishonesty at the start of any relationship does not bode well for its future.

      Have I mentioned that I serve on the Steering Committee for the Young Women’s Futures Symposium held each year by Junior Achievement? It’s an amazing event that really makes a difference in the lives of the girls who attend.


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