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SkipTheDishes controversy highlights changing employment norms

Showing interest in what you'll be paid too early in a job application process shouldn't doom you, but it may not endear you to a potential employer. (Getty)
Showing interest in what you’ll be paid too early in a job application process shouldn’t doom you, but it may not endear you to a potential employer. (Getty)

“If I do end up filling this position, how much do you think I’ll be getting paid an hour?” Taylor Byrnes wrote to a rep at SkipTheDishes, a Canadian food-delivery company, ahead of her second interview.

Judging by her decision to share the emails on Twitter, the reply from Skip The Dishes was not what Byrnes expected: “Your questions indicate that your priorities are not in sync with those of SkipTheDishes. At this time we will not be following through with our meeting this Thursday.”

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SkipTheDishes did reach out to Byrnes and re-make their offer of a second interview, co-founder Josh Simair said in a media statement.

“The email sent to Taylor was wrong and does not represent our team’s approach or values. We are very disappointed in how it was handled,” Simair said. “We are very committed to our community, employees and continuing to grow and create employment opportunities in the Prairies.”

But Byrnes’ tweet, which was retweeted nearly 5,000 times, highlights how the expectations of a younger generation of job seekers can bump up against the norms that companies have followed for some time. But it also shows that younger job seekers can be bolder about going after what they want when looking for work, says career expert Sarah Vermunt.

“As a generation, I find they’re certainly more wiling to go after what they want,” Vermunt, author of the book “Careergasm: Find Your Way To Feel-Good Work,” tells Yahoo Canada Finance about the youngest cohort of job seekers. Salary and benefits can be an important part of that equation for many workers, she says.

“I think … people are getting sick of being expected to jump through hoop after hoop after hoop,” Vermunt says. “Millennials are pegged as an entitled generation but this has nothing to do with entitlement. People work to earn a living.”

It’s not just the attitudes and practices of younger job-seekers that have changed; the working world around them is also undergoing significant shifts. For decades, 52 to 58 per cent of jobs have been full time, according to StatsCan figures, but the number of young workers in full-time positions has been steadily declining.

More than 12 per cent of Canadians aged 15 to 24 are unemployed and more than 25 per cent are underemployed. And people are increasingly likely to be working in jobs that are part-time, contract, freelance, or otherwise precarious, and to lack the protections of benefits or a union.

The rules for applying for freelance, contract, or part-time jobs may be outside the norms expected for full-time, salaried positions. For example, many freelance writing jobs list a per-article rate up front. And applicants may also find the process itself frustrating. A survey released by Monster Canada in May 2016 found that 72 per cent found application systems confusing, 75 per cent considering job descriptions to be too vague, and 67 per cent had trouble finding job postings that appealed to them.

“There may be some growing pains in terms of how the hiring process is changing,” Vermunt says. “What I’m noticing, with my clients at least, is that they’re more unwilling to settle for things that are unfair, and I think that’s a wonderful thing actually.”

In the incident with SkipTheDishes, Vermunt says she can understand the reasoning of both parties. “Salary and benefits is not something that’s typically talked about until after the interview process, when you’re given a job offer,” she says. When a job posting doesn’t provide that information, there’s an unspoken expectation that it will be brought up when an offer is made.

At the same time, based on her posted email Byrnes seemed to bring up her questions about compensation in a way that was “respectful and enthusiastic,” Vermunt says, even if it broke from some norms about job applications.

Reactions to Byrnes’ post on social media were split. Some criticized the company’s response, even saying they would now boycott SkipTheDishes, while others said that it was too forward to ask about compensation before the second interview. (Byrnes did not respond to a request for an interview.)

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Regardless of who was right or wrong, the interaction can tell both parties something important about whether or not they are a good fit for each other, Vermunt says. There are a lot of competent and responsible employees, and a lot of fair and interesting employers, who would not necessarily fit well together. Particularly in a competitive job-seeking climate, the process of looking for a job is not just about whether or not a company thinks you’re right for them, she says.

“An interview process is a two-way street,” Vermunt says. “It’s a good opportunity for them to get information about you, and it’s a good opportunity for you to get information about them.”

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