I recently consulted with a job-seeker somewhere in-between a career change and a life change. Her former career having been less than kind, resulted in a bit of time off while she cleared her head.

Fast-forward three years and she was ready to return to the field for which she was well trained, qualified and at times well-suited. She landed an interview, which she said went well and received a job-offer almost immediately – via voicemail.

O.K. In an era where some jobs are being offered on the strength of resumes and references, without even a face-to-face meeting, I suppose we can accept that an offer might be left in a voicemail, sans particulars such as wage, benefits and other terms.

Of course it shows a bit more tact to leave a message, asking for a call back to make the offer ‘live,’ but considering the call was placed late on a Friday and the caller was gone for the day minutes later the reasons for this unusual approach began to crystallize.

Fast forward three days and more details emerged.

The job for which this job seeker applied apparently wasn’t yet funded, but another job was in need of someone fill it. Though in the same general field, this other position was substantially and substantively different, and my client was justifiably apprehensive.

Terms for the Job A, the one for which she applied, were not available. Terms for Job B, the one offered, were inadequate and essentially non-negotiable.

Moving on.

I’ve encountered this sort of bait and switch in my own travels. Years ago I went in to interview for a back office position and wound up in a somewhat more desirable public-facing role for which I delivered some of my most record-breaking sales.

The reality of the hiring process, if those doing the hiring have heads on their shoulders, means perceived aptitude and potential trump paperwork. Unless a particular specialty is required, such as might come with biochemistry or engineering degree, good managers know many skills are fungible.

In the case of my client, the switch was not made of opportunity but out of desperation. The job she was offered remained vacant for months, while the one to which she applied was never filled.

The notion of a “bait and switch” typically applies to retail – advertising an incredible value on a car that’s simply not available but used to lure shoppers to the dealership so they can be pressured in to buying something else of lesser quality or higher price.

Bait and switch in advertising is considered to be fraud, and those committing the perceived offence can be sued for false advertising if the seller not only pushes potential buyers away from the advertised product but in fact does not have the advertised goods available.

If the employer who offered my client the position perceived to be inferior was held to the same standard, they could also be subject to suit though the scenario would be difficult to pursue as the precise terms of the ‘bait’ job were not known and may never be available.

Nonetheless, her experience as well as my own and that of countless others no doubt serves as clear warning to those pursuing their dreams in minefields of potential nightmares.

If you’ve ever been offered a job or position inferior to that which brought you in the door – whether or not you accepted, I’d like to hear about it. Share your thoughts in the comment section below, or feel free to send a direct message.

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