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Why The Undercover Boss Should Be An Undercover Job Seeker Part 2 Of 3

This is Part 2 of a 3 part series on how a VP Marketing at a Minneapolis company became an Undercover Jobseeker to apply for a job at her own company.

Click this link for Part 1: Why The Undercover Boss Should Be An Undercover Job Seeker Part 1 Of 3

The job had been open for about six weeks with very little action on it and was essentially the same position “Julia” was offered many years ago. Knowing the position well and of course the manager of the group along with the HR/Recruiter team we did the following:

  • Created a new identity including email account
  • Created a resume that was a near identical match to the job opening
  • Created a few online profiles with new identity
  • Bought a cell phone with pay as you go plan

Julia and I agreed to go this far (more than I expected) as she wanted to play this out the whole way up until an interview would be scheduled with the idea of getting the complete experience of applying at the company.

We did not post the resume online (we did not want to mislead anyone outside the company) and the online profiles were created so that if a Google search were done her identity would come up. Their company has in the past done such a search and this being a marketing opportunity we wanted a couple of profiles that could be found as likely would with other potential candidates.

Julia kept a log of the date, time, how the resume was submitted, when she was contacted etc. As you will see, this was not as much as work as one would expect (not a good thing).

She also kept notes about how she felt. She did her best to play the role and you will see a few of the comments are very to the point.

Week 1 (week 7 of opening)

  • Tuesday: Resume submitted through the online form found on the career page of the corporate web site. This process took 27 minutes. A window popped up on her screen that her resume was submitted.
  • Friday: No word from the company
    • Comments: “Did they actually get the resume? How do I know for sure?”

Week 2 (week 8 of opening)

  • Wednesday: No word from the company
  • Thursday: One member of the team has been interviewing at another company and received an offer. After a long meeting with the employee they find major factors for looking were working conditions, hours and stress of being short staffed. The employee chooses to stay with some modifications to their responsibilities and salary.
  • Friday: Julia sits on HR/Recruiter staff meeting to gauge the progress of hiring in general and hoping to hear about this particular job. It is not mentioned.
  • Friday: No word from the company
    • Comments: “I have not received any notification that I exist. I have the background we need. We have a need to fill this spot and we almost lost a team member because of it. 8 Weeks. 8 WEEKS!!!!”

Week 3 (week 9 of opening)

  • Monday: Julia submits her resume online (again). This time it takes 38 minutes because the system was not always saving her information between sections. She again has a window on her screen saying the resume was submitted. She also sends her resume via email to
  • Friday: No word from the company
    • Comments:“This is crazy. We are losing productivity, we are inefficient. Moral is as low as I have ever seen it. We have been contacted by a local staffing shop and management thinks we should engage with them to add temporary staff including this position. This is crazy.”

Week 4 (week 10 of opening)

  • Monday: Julia calls the company main line, requests to speak with someone in HR. She is told that she cannot be forwarded to a representative but can be sent to the general HR voice mail. She is forwarded and leaves a message.
  • Wednesday: Julia receives a form email saying her resume has been received and candidates meeting the requirements will be contacted. There is no way to know if this comes from the Applicant Tracking System or email or if auto generated or sent by a staff member.
    • Comments: “I am qualified, I have everything we need and the need is enormous!!! How the Hell does this happen??? How often does it happen??? What do people think about us???”
  • Thursday: Julia trusts a member of the staff with what we are doing. The staff member agrees to forward a LinkedIn message and submit the resume as an employee referral.
  • Friday: No word from the company.
    • Comments: “I have spent some time today calculating the cost of this open position to the company and it is significant. If I do this company wide I will be sick.”

Week 5 (week 11 of opening)

  • Monday: Julia calls the HR/Recruiter who was forwarded the LinkedIn message and leaves a voice message.
  • Tuesday: No word from the company
  • Wednesday: Julia starts calling the HR/Recruiter (blocking the number) every 20-30 minutes. At 3 PM the HR/Recruiter answers and confirms that Julia is in the system and that the resume was being reviewed.
  • Wednesday: The trusted employee calls the HR/Recruiter to inquire about her friend and if she is being considered. The answer is yes.
  • Friday: No word from the company
    • Comments: “When I call Julia is exasperated and has no idea what to do about this.”

Week 6 (week 12 of the opening)

  • Monday: Julia receives an email to see if she would be interested in the position. An email exchange takes place that schedules a phone screen with the HR/Recruiter that Thursday and if all goes well and an in person interview with the manager Wednesday of the next week.
    • Comments: “10 days until I might get an interview? What are these people doing that is so damn important that I am waiting 10 more days? They know the stress the group is under, they should drop everything and get this done the next two days.”
  • Tuesday: Julia tells informs the executive management team what she has been up to, what has (has not) taken place and calls for a meeting Friday. The management team is upset and wants to talk their reports before then. Julia insists they not as she has a presentation and documentation of her experience and wants to immediate reaction from those involved.

Click this link for Part 3: Why The Undercover Boss Should Be An Undercover Job Seeker Part 3 Of 3



Holy crap. I'm addicted to this thing. Great post on an all-too-common problem.

Ask a Manager / Alison Green

Wow. This is one of the greatest things I've ever read on this topic.

Mary Kloehn

I would say this is a common occurance when a company relies on on-line postings and only an on-line process for hiring, especially if the hiring process is not connected directly to the hiring manager - but instead is held by 'recruiting' staff. My advice to job seekers is to avoid on-line postings and utilize face to face networking and employee referral programs.


I'm excited for part three! It's funny how HR departments seem to have forgotten that there WILL come a time when they need to compete for talent, and the way they treat people is going to be crucial.


I wish Julia would have waited to see whether the interview would have actually taken place. It doesn't seem too uncommon to be scheduled for an interview just to receive a call 3 days later canceling the interview informing you the position has already been filled. Of course, you receive the obligatory email thanking you for coming in to interview + how much they enjoyed meeting you in person. Fast forward 4mths, the job is posted again. (And no, I will not apply.)


After an experience today, much like the one you described: three error messages resulting in one total loss of work, one partial loss of work, and one submission without allowing me to complete the information,I'm beginning to agree that employers REALLY need to test their career application software. It was an awful experience! I called the customer service line and gave them my name. Someone is supposed to call me back. Let's see what happens.

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