Candidates interviewing employers

Hi everyone, hope I'm posting in the right place. I have a 7000 dissertation coming up and am trying to think of a topic. I'm really interested in dysfunctional workplaces as I think there's an epidemic of them, at least here in the UK, and that's why productivity and mental health is suffering. I think it won't be long before candidates interviewing employers becomes the norm as more candidates become aware of how to spot a dysfunctional workplace and it's this topic I'd like to explore in my dissertation. I'd be interested to hear other people's views on this.

  • Hi Catherine

    'Dysfunctional' I think is a descriptor that needs far more precise definition (and indeed perhaps thinking about whether or not a different word would be more appropriate). As does your assertion about an 'epidemic' of this dysfunctionality - or indeed that the candidates for employment are changing in the ways you say.
  • In reply to David:

    Hi David, thanks for replying.  There are a number of books and blogs on this topic which state that its characteristics are: poor communication with either meaningless meetings or no meetings at all,  leaders whose behaviour causes fear, anxiety, gossip and rumour to spread, leaders whose behaviour is erratic and inconsistent, data being hidden or not shared. Review sites like Glassdoor highlight these issues now for some organisations and it does put people off applying. But for others they only find out too late after they've joined. If people can learn to spot signs of dysfunctional organisations earlier they can decide if they want to join or not. If enough people do this by asking pertinent questions at interview then organisations will have to start addressing these issues properly.

  • In reply to Catherine:

    I've had lots of jobs Catherine. Many of them with self confessed 'good employers'. However, most of those who professed to be good employers turned out to be run of the mill, in that they were not very good a practising what they preached. One of main offenders by occupation were outdoor management training centres who all preached about 'good management' yet never did much of what they preached.

    Go back a couple of thousand years and read some of the comments from the great roman empire and you'll see that bad management practiced then is hardly any different from bad management now.

    But if an organisation is 'dysfunctional', then shouldn't you take the view that by definition the company can't function, then it will stop making a profit and go bust? - which is why a definition, like David mentions might just be needed.
  • Employees often interview employers albeit their questioning tends to be subtle.
    Interviews are a two way process and most employers recognise this by putting on their best face to be attractive
    With social media and the internet candidates are increasingly doing more research on whether they want to work for a particular employer
  • Hi Catherine

    You seem to have several hypotheses:

    * Many workplaces are dysfunctional,
    * That is the cause of productivity and mental health suffering
    * Candidates will become more aware of how to spot a dysfunctional workplace
    * Candidates will start interviewing employers as a result.

    For a 7000 word dissertation, I’d suggest you pick one hypothesis. I would also think about how you will gather data and analyse it to see if it supports your hypothesis or not. I think you will struggle to carry out a credible piece of research if you want to investigate broad trends in society such as these.
  • In reply to Elizabeth:

    I tend to agree with Elizabeth that your scope is too wide and too far ranging to get down to 7,000 words - just a literature review would probably go way over that on that range.

    The one where I think you could add most value and conduct a good piece of work is Elizabeth's 4th question. As Peter says there is always an element of recruitment being a two way process. I wonder if you could design some research that tested this and see if it varied with level/seniority, age , gender etc? Also what actual triggers or signs potential employees were looking for - and where in the process these were?

    Is it "interviews" or a number of signs along the way? How much research do candidates actually do on employers (and again does this vary?)

    How much weight do candidates put on some/all of the various bench marks (Best Companies, IiP etc) and if an employer has these how does it affect their decision making process?

    Is Glassdoor any more than a niche of a niche in the UK?

    How equal is the recruitment process for some/many candidates - my experience is that very few people offered a job turn it down - is this because they pre select out the process earlier (and if so when/why) or is it because candidates are willing to ignore even pretty big warning signs on culture fit to get that job?

    7000 words will rush by
  • In reply to Keith:

    Hi again Catherine

    Colleagues have helpfully expanded upon the caveats I was trying to point towards before.

    Any academic dissertation is usually supposed to be a serious research study that will contribute towards development and / or better real understanding of a particular body of knowledge. In order realistically to do that, unless you’re a latterday Sigmund Freud or Adam Smith or Albert Einstein or Isaac Newton you’ll need to focus upon a manageable (to you) and meaningful facet or portion of that body of knowledge, as opposed to the meaning of human motivation or political economy or the universe or gravity or whatever.

    There’s plenty of dissertation guidelines out there, such as


    Most of them state much the same things, one way or the other, but for a very good reason.
  • In reply to David:

    Thanks everyone. All your contibutions are really helpful. Yes there are alot of factors and the seniority of the job/experience of the candidate will play a big part in how they conduct their interview. I think employer review sites such as Glassdoor and Indeed are becoming more popular and people are becoming more empowered with knowledge about what a good employer looks like . So my theory is that employers will become more challenged on their workplace practices in the interview process. My dissertation would focus on this.
  • In reply to Catherine:

    "I think employer review sites such as Glassdoor and Indeed are becoming more popular and people are becoming more empowered with knowledge about what a good employer looks like "

    Now thats a statement in itself that could be challenged and open to a good piece of research - good luck

  • In reply to Keith:

    I've already posted on the statistical validity of the data (not "information") posted on Glass Door. My last employer (a bit less than a quarter of a million employees) had a few hundred posts concerning salary and employment conditions. Given that the company undertakes massively different activities (including oil exploration and production, commodities trading, water treatment, waste collection and disposal, nuclear power stations, operating giant screens at concerts in stadiums, dismantling Chernobyl, office facilities services....) the figures reported for a couple of hundred posts could only be described as "disparate and confusing" at best, and at worst "lacking in any statistical representativty". Glass Door presents as much a challenge for potential candidates as for companies........
  • In reply to Ray:

    Hi Ray, thanks. I think it's more about
    - Are more types of candidates raising more challenging questions in interviews as a result of review sites, blogs and information about work practices?
    - Are employers preparing for this or not?
    I do think people are becoming more informed about what a good workplace should look like. Look at the popularity of TED talks for example and there are a lot of talks about workplace practices on there.
  • In reply to Catherine:

    I get the impression you have already decided on your conclusions and are working back from there. There's nothing wrong in using your dissertation research to test a pet theory provided you go about it using the methodology and methods specified by your university. Would an analyisis of Glassdoor etc reviews count as original research and meet your dissertation requirements? I don't see much scope there to demonstrate your skill with quantitative methods. You are clearly very interested in these ideas - always a plus before you get stuck into the research! - but I'd keep checking back that you don't allow your interests to lure you off the main topic (and you do need a main topic) and into citing unreliable sources.
  • In reply to Catherine:

    Sorry Catherine, but like colleagues I feel there is a fundamental flaw in your suppositions here. While candidates are increasingly able to review employers due to internet informative resources, most candidates ability to analyse the data they obtain meaningfully is limited; their ability to form meaningful (and suitably framed) questions is even more limited, and employers' investment in answering the questions they might be asked by candidates is almost negligible.

    You seem to be suggesting that, instead, candidates should (and will) focus on data analysis, formulate searching, investigative questioning of corporate stability, and seek flawlessly accurate summations of working conditions, practice, and management strategies from their prospective new bosses as a primary objective.

    I do not see that as a realistic, or productive, proposal.

    Being a smart interviewee is not the objective. Interviewing smart interviewees is not the objective; getting the right people with the right knowledge about the job you want them to do IS. As is being able to do the job you're interviewing for!

    As has already been pointed out: Truly dysfunctional businesses don't survive. In addition, dysfunctionality does not happen overnight, it is a continuum with a millions shades of grey from functionality to dysfunctionality and in anything but the smallest businesses, growing dysfunctionality (caused by , say, a given problem, group of employee, or manager(s)) is counteracted by others, immediately or in response to its growing significance. Almost by definition, it is not a stable (or sustainable) -state

    So why would it be of any value for anyone to become a passed-master at avoiding being hired by a dysfunctional workplace, when the sensible (and productive) alternative objective is to actually become good at the job you're interviewing for? Because if the employer then hires functional people (like you) it won't be (or remain) dysfunctional; will it?

    ...and how many employers do you believe would sit still for a candidate at interview asking them a stream of searching and (again by definition) impertinent questions about their (dys)functionality and still have the slightest wish or intent to appoint them?

    As Peter rightly said earlier: "Interviewing is a two-way street", but its relevance and objective for the employer is not to struggle through their candidate's grilling; it is to fill its current vacancy with a talented and able employee who expresses an enthusiasm to work for the company,

    (Not a conditional concession to do so based on statistics from "Glassdoor" or the like).

    So the best moment to research and decide whether a company is worth working for (on any grounds) is always going to be before you fill out the application form, not when you're each crossing the final "t"s an dotting "i"s at the end of your otherwise successful interview.

  • In reply to Peter:

    Hi Peter,

    Thanks. I do think there are some assumptions that need to be challenged here. The candidate might have more than one interview and is using the interview process to make a decision on which culture they are most likely to thrive in. Also, we are assuming organisations have a huge talent pool to choose from when in reality they are competing for skills. And yes, dysfunctional organisations  shouldn't survive but many do for years. How many corporate and public sector scandals are reported each year?

  • In reply to Catherine:

    Interesting question. Is a “scandal” a indication of wide spread dysfunctionality? And are there many? Given the number of businesses there are? Now that would be an interesting topic for research.