4 Signs of Bad Employers: The Waiter Rules for Companies

In a recent blog post, Isabella Mori asks about tips on recognizing organizations you'd want to work for. Taking the opposite tack, here are tips on knowing which companies to avoid.

Have you ever heard of The Waiter Rule?

WaiterThis is what Raytheon CEO Bill Swanson wrote for #32 of his Swanson's Unwritten Rules of Management:

“A person who is nice to you but rude to the waiter, or to others, is not a nice person. (This rule never fails).”

Many CEOs agree, including Donald Trump. Hardly surprising, because the Waiter Rule is:

  • Simple to understand
  • Easy to apply
  • And it just works.

The only drawback with the Waiter Rule is that it can only help you after you've already begun a meeting or interview, and not earlier such as before you send a cover letter.

How can the Waiter Rule be applied to companies?

Useful, honest information about an organization is harder to find than you'd think.

  • Company websites are marketing tools and will usually limit themselves to highlights of a company's story.
  • Publicly-traded companies are required to divulge lots of information but it may only be comprehensible to financial professionals or economists.
  • Large private companies will sometimes be mentioned in the media when they put out press releases.

However, over 90% of the time you're most likely to face a small or medium-sized company or non-profit organization where even the above information may not be available. You'll need to get in closer contact to make insightful judgments.

4 guidelines to discern bad employers

A company that charges you – or anyone else, without your consent – to read your job application is not a nice company

Application processing fees, requests for you to meet far from home, etc. This is as dumb as a casino that charges you to gamble.

A company that requests free work during the hiring process will continue to do so after the hiring process

Before the first interview, an Israeli hitech company once asked me to review their unfinished product. Regrettably, I wasted a few hours giving them free consulting advice when I should have immediately turned away.

Which I did after the first interview a few days later.

A company whose hiring process is unnecessarily complicated is an employer for whom working will be unnecessarily complicated

Endless rounds of interviewing are a good indicator of a boss who's afraid to take responsibility for their own decisions.

A company that asks illegal interview questions is probably acting illegally elsewhere too, out of ignorance or otherwise

In the USA, being asked your political affiliation is an attention-getter. In Israel, ethnic background has been an issue in the past.

Conclusion

Sometimes, only a deeper look will tell you what you need to know. If you follow the above guidelines, you can save yourself from job search headaches or worse – job headaches.

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About the Author Jacob Share

Job Search Expert, Professional Blogger, Creative Thinker, Community Builder with a sense of humor. I like to help people.

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22 comments
Jacob Share
Alan Wilensky says

I would also caution that there is an increasing trend, at least out here in SF bay area, for some ‘recruiters’ to dangle a sexed up position in front of you, get you to talking, and go to their offices.

Then you discover that they want a fee from YOU!. It is a scam. It is the first harbinger of a weakening economy.

My recommendation: Start all recruiter conversations by determining that the hiring company pays the fee. If you have made the mistake of actually going to the recruiter’s office, and then they reveal that they charge for the referal, you know that there is no job. Tell them no thanks.

Go down to their parking lot, find a local hardware store and buy a small length of steel pipe. Get a sandwich and wait for that sales rep to exit for lunch or at the end of the day. Finally, kneecap the sucker – they had ti coming.

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Jacob Share
Ines Lebel says

Great wisdom there… and very good insight and practical advices… clear and to the point… the person/s who wrote this article know/s what is talking about and knows who to get the message through…

I do appreciate these ideas and advices very much..I do take them seriously and I will also make great use of them

Tanks

Ines

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Jacob Share
Bilingual Blogger says

Jacob,
There’s a site in the U.K. in beta mode called The Career Mole which, as I understand it, is trying to give prospective job applicants a venue to get inside, front-line intelligence from current employees about what a company is really like BEFORE applying. The concept sounds promising.

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Jacob Share
jacob says

Ines- glad you like the article.

Bilingual Blogger- Thanks for the tip, I found the Career Mole. Not the most appealing name but it does sound like a solid idea.

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Jacob Share
isabella mori says

thanks for continuing the conversation!

i have to confess that i’m one of those people who is overjoyed when she finds a good waiter and gets a bit snooty when she finds an unco-operative waiter.

my daughter still drags up the time when i asked for tea to be made with boiling water (as opposed to just hot water). the waiter said, “i can’t boil water.” i said to her, “you can’t boil water???” and then proceded to expound to my daughter on the lack of intelligence of some customer service people for at least another 5 minutes.

so every time my daughter – one of my best teachers, as you can see – finds that arrogance gets the better of me, she says, “oh, you mean they can’t boil water?”

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Jacob Share
Recruitnik says

Great Post! Fantastic perspective. I

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Jacob Share
jacob says

Isabella- that’s a great story, and the inside joke is the best part. But I think the main point of the rule is when you cross your conditions i.e. you’re snooty even with a good waiter.

Recruitnik- thanks

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Jacob Share
isabella mori says

yeah, but thanks to my daughter, i’m working on being gracious with un-gracious waiters, too … 🙂

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Jacob Share
Moshe says

Unfortunately, this is so true !
there are also other “signs” of employers you will not want to work for:
1. an employer who asks what your payroll demands are (like they’re really going to pay what ever you ask for) this is a dirty ploy which will only get your name crossed off the applicants list. if you answer you are doomed. the best answer is that whatever is acceptable for this position for someone with your experience and credentials
by the way – any recruiter who starts a conversation with this question – forget it, there is no real job.
2. an employer who asks you what your salary was at your last place of employment – this is another dirty trick to try and get free info about what others are paying while if you answer you will never get more than what you say, even if the employer was initially willing to pay more and although it is a legitimate reason, never say that the pay was low as a reason for leaving.
3. employers that offer just above minimum wage salary and want it to be a global salary or make an issue about paying things they’re required to by law – havra’a or travel expenses…

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Jacob Share
elie bassil says

perfect ,im from lebanon

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Jacob Share
Barbara says

Great advice. I especially like the waiter rule. I recently blogged about hiring professionals meeting with the receptionist to ask their opinion of a potential candidate after a job interview. It works both ways.

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Jacob Share
Jacob Share says

Barbara- Good insight and you’re absolutely right that there are waiter rules for candidates too.

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Jacob Share
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Kate says

I think the waiter rule is always a good way to judge character too. It really does never fail.

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Paul says

I worked for a company in Bexleyheath da7 and it’s like working in a concentration camp . No rights for staff , bullying , low pay , sometimes no pay , making illegal deductions from pay without any notification , removing asbestos from the ceiling while staff are underneath , intimidation from directors , no contracts offered or anything just refused and told not to bother the directors or you will be sacked I could go on . Hse seem to live there and may as well open an office there as there are so many violations . Buy your own ppe , vans falling to pieces and not serviced , sometimes to dangerous to even drive them but are sent out anyway regardless .

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israpay says

In Israel, you can scan the public knowledge area of the labor court cases for the name of a company to see what issues former employees had with them.
Many public sector related employers require submitting documents along with your cv, filing out an application form that most of the data on it is in rhe cv, submitting a hand-written page for a graphologist, undergoing a day long psycho analysis test at a recognized testing agency (pilat, adam miloh, etc)

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