The Bait, the Switch & the Loop

The Bait

You find yourself on a call with three people on a Wednesday afternoon.

One is the hiring manager, one HR representative and another person they introduced as “Page, a member of one of our teams”. They all look tired, but you notice they are trying to smile. It’s evident that this is a routine call for them. It could have been the third or fourth similar call for the day, and it looked like this one was outside their usual working hours. Or not.

Sheila, the hiring manager, describes how the teams work and that there is always an opportunity to grow and experiment. She then starts talking a lot about herself, but you choose to ignore that for now because the offer in the initial stage was impressive. A 35% raise to what you are getting in your current gig. This will be an excellent boost to being closer to your wish list.

After the diversion, she talks about the teams again and their achievements. A relief. Your mind strategically blocked the previous discussion.

The HR representative lists some of the perks, the growth plan they have in place that is carefully tailored to each individual, and how every day is a chance to learn something new. He seems proud of the work and process they have in place. He gave some well-thought answers to your questions.

Page only speaks when you mention day-to-day work. She seems happy with the result overall, which is a good sign. She asks about previous experience and some easy technical questions. This isn’t supposed to be a technical interview, but you are happy to answer.

That last session comes to an end after one and a half hours. Something feels slightly off, but you’ve done your due diligence. Glassdoor reviews seem high and legit, and overall the company has a good reputation. You managed to talk to someone that was working three years ago in the company, and he didn’t have anything bad to say.

Based on this, it’s “go” time. The money is good, and you need a change. You have been looking for some time now, so you do it. You are excited and ready to join.

The Switch

Two months into the gig, you haven’t done a 1:1 yet and haven’t seen the people from the interview again. You heard that Page, the “member of one of our teams”, resigned. These things happen. The hiring manager is usually lost somewhere in a meeting, being busy.

Your peers are amazing at their job, but they are disoriented most of the time, like no one knows why they do the things they do, and the team’s last project didn’t make it to production because of “reasons”. Six months of design and implementation are out of the window. You have no idea about the next steps. Someone will tell you, but not knowing what is coming is not your strong suit.

That week, Thursday would be a “come to the office” day - remote wasn’t really remote - and mid-day, an angry person you haven’t seen before walked into the open office space and screamed, “Who pushed the ‘a4e9c’ commit? WHO DID THAT?!?”.

You had no idea who that person was, but who behaves like that in a professional environment, and how doesn’t he know he can check the contributor for the commit in the following line? Later you learn that this was the VP of Engineering…

Perks magically disappear, and bureaucracy and hidden agendas are a thing. Six months passed - during which similar not-so-good things happened - and you are on an interview call again. The team seems great, and there is no weird gut feeling this time. As a precautionary measure this time, you found two people on LinkedIn still working there to ask about the company. The money is not that good, but the whole thing seems more human-oriented.

Of course, you take the job.

The Loop

Bait and Switch it’s a known sales technique to get customers to buy in with low prices and then raise prices as you go towards the signing time or after you are bound with a contract. It’s used as a bad practice in UX, and It’s also used in interviews when an interviewee is not the person applying for work (who does that?!?).

This is different. This is the case of a company overselling to the candidate. Not small things about setting priorities or gym perks. I’m talking about significant differences in culture. The things that might differentiate a healthy from a toxic environment.

I used to wonder what is the purpose of hiding the truth in an interview?

Every new hire is an investment. If you hire someone and they leave after a few months, you have spent time and energy onboarding them, making them part of a team and training them. Don’t they get that if a candidate sees BS in the first months in the company, they will just bail out?

Then it hit me. They do know it.

Take 1

Once you are in, you are probably staying. Money and perks are the incentives. They depend on this being enough to retain people even if they are not completely happy. Even if a percentage of people leave, other people will stay.

Take 2

In big organizations in a growth state, hiring becomes a number in someone’s OKRs, “Hire 70 people”. This person might be so up the chain that it is probably too difficult to understand the actual situation in the organization. They do believe they have an amazing culture.

Take 3

Big organizations, big stakes. Current goals in someone’s OKRs are more important than anything else. Again, “Hire 70 people”. Every month they don’t hit this number, it translates to lost opportunities and lost revenue (crazy, right?), so they do anything to cover this number no matter what. If people leave, this can be a problem for another quarter, another person.

And this is the Loop. An endless Loop of new goals to cover the numbers of the previous goal. Every month, every quarter.


This might come up as criticizing, but it’s really not. I get it. I don’t like it, but I get it. And, of course, this doesn’t apply to all organizations. There are teams out there, even with hundreds of people, that maintain a fantastic culture in which people can thrive.

What is needed is extra caution. An interview is a two-way street. Ask questions so you can better understand what is going on. Reach out to people currently working there and make sure what you heard in the interview was legit. If you join, keep the organization accountable for their promises.

Be vigilant and keep an eye out for the Bait and Switch!