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Job Promotion is a Trap (sizovs.net)
51 points by eduardsi 37 days ago | hide | past | web | favorite | 81 comments

Wait, what? Who is this even written for?

Jobs in other countries? Interview every 3 months? You'll have to move locations constantly if you keep doing the latter, because you're going to get known as the person who wastes everyone's time on interviews you likely aren't taking seriously. Also, word will get out and it's going to be obvious that you're not at your current job half the time because you're in interviews, doing tech challenges, etc.

Also, who even has time for this nonsense? I may have in my 20s, but the market was different then. Now I'm 40 and married with a small child. Pretty sure this isn't going to go over well, and doesn't fit for a whole slew of other folks who are even less privileged than I am with my legit career.

Some places are great for job security, but yes salary compression and lack of employer loyalty is a thing. Job jumping here and there is fine if it works for you and you're not burning bridges, and promotions work well for some and not others. Note that you can also change specialities (sideways move), and improve in your technical track OR go into management. You can also just sit at a Staff/Senior Staff/Senior Consultant type role for YEARS as a technical expert that continues to grow but doesn't manage people or projects and get FAT bonuses as long as you keep your basics relevant.

If I didn't better, I'd think this article was trolling, and not just the lunacy of someone who had a bad experience and lives in a bubble. Even then, I'm not sure anymore because it's too hard to tell in 2019.

This is a real story (in Russian), that help you understand the problem better:

Definitely trolling.

Maybe you(writer of the blogpost) had a bad experience and decided to write about it, but in reality, that's not how entirely things work.

You are ignoring all the people that had a career and now are CEO of a Forbes 100. Everybody start somewhere and go somewhere. I had a bad experience getting promoted at a startup and have to report directly to a crazy CEO in a business running out of money, but that just made me even better. I've learned so much, after that "traumatic" experience, I went developer mode again and now I'm in a much better position than I've ever been -- but I saw how many of my peers would give up and make conclusions at the first time they have a bad emotional experience at work, even though that when they see around, they see people building great careers, but they all just think it is "ah, it is just ball licking, this person has no talent" and just keep taking orders as a soft. dev their whole lives.

I'm not saying that a developer should go to management or become an architect, but please don't limit yourself to some emotional response, but instead, achieve greatness. Don't become to attached to what happened to you, but instead, look around. Is that really true? With your reasoning, you would think that whoever is a CTO and is working for a company 10 years is a terrible and unemployable person, when I actually see the opposite. The more I move up, the more people send me more "rescue my team/company, I give you money" and also the more rare I become. I think this is similar for everybody.

BUT if you end up doing some custom code in PHP in a strange framework and become architect until your company closes and you are in a bad position, that is sort of on you, to accepting it, not questioning, proposing chances and not being able to position yourself in the job market well. Your company has their own interests and you should have yours.

> You are ignoring all the people that had a career and now are CEO of a Forbes 100.

I think it's perfectly safe to ignore 100 people when giving general advice.

If you read financial advice you rarely see any attention paid to 100 lottery winners and if ever, it's in a form of firm statement: "You are not one of them."

You don't need to be the CEO, there is a lot of room for you there. You also don't need to go to a Forbes 100. It is just an example.

Just get a grip of your life and career and stop thinking that you can't be a forbes 100 CEO, as soon as you do it, you are really trimming down your chances, because there are definitely people that think they can, but they don't get it, but they will be definitely ahead of you.

It's clearly just an example of people who build their careers. The type of people they are talking about are plenty. If you're going to criticize someones arguments you should criticize the meat of the argument instead of just going after low hanging fruit. It is one of the most annoying and unproductive things people do in any type of debate.

> You are ignoring all the people that had a career and now are CEO of a Forbes 100.

Oh no. They are ignoring 100 people. This is terrible and the whole premise is invalidated.

> Everybody start somewhere and go somewhere.

This is generally known as "ashes to ashes, dust to dust."

You don't need to be the CEO of one of them to be successful. It is just an example. What I've wanted to mean is that: There are a lot of people being successful around the world. Stop making excuses.

and now are CEO of a Forbes 100

At most you are talking about 100 people. The simple pyramid structure at most companies means most people are front line grunts. That’s the reality for the vast majority of the human race. Promotions are limited by the availability of high level ‘slots’ to be filled. Gaining skills and a new title while doing essentially the same thing is not an actual promotion.

Yes, so be there to be the one to get promoted instead of being a front line grunt. Take the responsibility to change that situation for you. Just making up excuses and believe there is little room will just make you instantly lose.

Playing that game to win means understanding the odds.

Trying to moving up at the cost of your finite life is hardly a great investment.

This is a relatively cynical point of view and seems to assume that nobody cares about your CV. I think the main point if I can find it is that promotions can be simply a bargaining tool on the company's part and that it's your responsibility to make sure you're actually progressing in your own career, but treating all promotions as a trap seems a bit silly.

Doing interviews for practice is good advice if you're planning on looking for work in the near future but as someone who's happy with their job the idea of doing job interviews just for kicks is about the last thing I'd want to do with my free time.

I agree with what you say here. I would just like to address the point you make about interviews, after reading about this approach myself some years back.

Both my current and former gigs came from doing exactly this—going for interviews to keep fresh.

Just like the Office Space references in the article, for me "it's not because I'm lazy, it's because I just don't care". It wasn't like I needed the job, I was just seeing what other places were like, what other problems people had, what sort of questions I would get asked from place to place and what different people were looking for in someone of my position to solve those problems.

When inevitably asked "why do you want to work at X" If I liked what I saw I'd be straight up with a response along the lines of "well, I'm actually very happy where I am and not looking to move. But I am interested in seeing what kind of challenges you face and if my skillset and experience is mutually beneficial". Before hand, I would update my CV in a style to attract a conversation. Not a greatest hits of all my work and projects. That's how I _try_ to make it look different to others that I would see when on the hiring side of the table.

It's interesting that since doing interviews this way, (I start this process roughly after a couple of years in each place, probably every four to six months) each job has made me progressively happier and offered me more of what I'm looking for. Interesting work, renumeration, culture, autonomy and a better work/life balance.

Finally I should add that I live in the UK. And that my previous way of going about getting a new job were working until I felt burnt out, dejected or unfairly compensated. At which point, I would really want out.

I personally find doing regular job interviews with no intention of taking the job as rude. You're wasting other people's time, as well as your own - don't do that.

Want to make sure that you grow as a developer? Do varied things; continuously build things that people want. Don't be content to stay in a box where it's comfortable - occasionally get out of your comfort box to try something new. You can do all of that at the same company, for many companies. And it's a much better use of your spare time to learn something new or build something "just for fun" or to contribute to an interesting OSS project than to attend interviews.

>>I personally find doing regular job interviews with no intention of taking the job as rude. You're wasting other people's time, as well as your own - don't do that.

I'm guessing. Someday, companies will filter out resumes which show too many job hops. And it makes sense too. People are hired to do do work. And no half decent project can be done in a mere few months(<1 - 2 yrs), given how much time it takes people to onboard to new projects, and other company processes/tools.

If you all you are doing is hop jobs every few months, then you are likely to leave in a few months if you are offered a position. Why should any one hire a person who is pretty much making it clear, they have no intention to work, wants to just spend all day preparing for the next interviews and leave in months.

You are better off hiring people who have more respect for work.

Yeah obviously the author has no problem with lying to people during interviews, so he probably gets the kind of jobs where liars are hired.

You've got a great career. You've successfully moved between several companies. You easily got a job when your last employer went bust. What can go wrong?

The revolution comes. You're stood up against a wall and shot. You've been living in a bubble.

What can you do? Ensure you're up to date with the latest revolutionary thinking and ideology.

You're high in the party hierarchy. You've successfully survived multiple purges and moved from department to department easily. What can go wrong?

The aliens arrive...

Job promotion can be a trap, but the OP makes a poor case for it. I've seen this work out three ways.

First, I've seen people who were very happy and productive in pure hands-on roles promoted into positions with more and more of a focus on "leadership" where they seemed inept and unhappy.

Second, there can be an earnings trap. If the salary bands are close (some even overlap) and bonuses are large, a string of good reviews at the lower level can bring in more money than a string of ho-hum reviews at the higher one.

Third, being at a higher level will usually affect how you're interviewed and evaluated at your next job, and if you're "over level" that effect can be negative.

The result can be that someone who has been over-promoted will fare poorly when they interview for their next job. The employer sees someone who is not particularly strong in their role, with reviews reflecting that, and who might lack enthusiasm. Then they look at the unpromoted person who has excellent reviews and plenty of enthusiasm. Seems like a good person to take a chance on, right? Oh, and BTW, they've been making more so let's make a higher offer.

The moral is: don't pursue promotions and titles for their own sake. Think about if you want the job, including all of the parts that might actually be worse than what you already have, and not just the title. Remember, titles are free for the employer to give. Some will take advantage of their psychological/cultural importance to give titles instead of anything meaningful, and that's when it's likely to be a trap.

I had the impression a CIO was just a CTO of a non-IT company.

A SaaS company makes its money with IT, so the CTO knows IT.

A car company makes its money with cars, so the CTO is a car engineer, but they also need someone to manage the IT, so they have a CIO.

To me, the CIO is the person in charge of the IT infrastructure. That is, making sure computers are working, that the network and the servers are up, etc. It's a distraction for the CTO, so even in a SaaS business I'd expect to see someone owning infrastructure sooner or later.

A CIO is usually in charge of budget, strategy, planning, and execution of internal IT initiatives at a company. Priorities and projects, vendors, licensing, capex/opex, support and maintenance, etc.

A CTO is usually focused on delivering company value through technology. So in oil and gas this may be drilling tech and seismic imaging software, in retail it's the mobile app and the in store kiosks, etc.

Nowhere I worked has this been a C-level position (granted I never worked for giant companies like MS, Google, Amazon).

I think there’s an element of truth in this - you should fight to stay relevant and constantly measure yourself against where you want to go. However, I don’t think tenure is something to avoid, and I certainly don’t think interviewing three times a year for jobs you have no intention to take is a good spend of your time or the interviewer’s.

If you’re that concerned about saying relevant, you’d be far better served to keep up with industry trends and certifications/skill sets/training g/open source projects.

My argument in reply is that arranging and participating in interviews is about as fun as remedial dentistry. It's as bad as online dating due to similar dynamics.

In analogy with the advice in the article, married people should regularly go on dates with other people, just to make sure that their value in the "relationship market" doesn't sink too low (and to avoid unpleasant rebound after a divorce, which is always a looming possibility).

It doesn't feel quite right, but I cannot entirely put my finger on why. I guess you could argue that employee-employer relation is like a relationship with a psychopath, so the above is in some way a "practical" advice. But then perhaps there is a lot more social issues going with that conclusion (companies are psychopaths) than just job promotion.

I think a better fitting analogy for relationships would be: Married people should ensure they have independent friendship circles, hobbies etc. to ensure they don't end up becoming too dependent on each other and unable to function separately.

I'm not sure how well this maps to the article but have heard this advice before. Of course, never having been married I can't speak of its efficacy.

What you mention seems more like (also common) advice to keep your skills sharp (for example, have a hobby project on Github in a different programming language) outside your professional job. It is a related but different advice than to go shopping around on job interviews.

Maybe I'm weird but I found neither job interviewing nor online dating (which I haven't done in close to a decade, as I'm in a long term relationship) unpleasant.

Certainly some interviews/dates were, but most were not.

The more you do it the easier it gets

If you are thinking about changing job, I would highly recommend going on a few "practice" interviews. Choose a few companies that you don't think you'd want to work for that have open jobs that are the same or similar to what you want to move to.

This will give you the chance to brush up on your interview skills without pressure. Plus there's always a chance that such a company will surprise you and become your next gig.

Along those lines, though, I’ve always found online dating to be rather fun when enjoying each date for what it is rather than putting any pressure on myself with long term expectations. Interviewing is a whole lot less stressful when you do it often enough at low enough stakes that you are used to the experience. It’s fun to learn how other companies interview, chat with some engineers, and maybe get a salary benchmark.

3x/year is a bit high, but I definitely think running through one full process/year is worthwhile/necessary.

> Seniority is the number of job opportunities you have, not your current job title.

I'm still on the fence on how to feel about this quote, how does the rest feel about this?

Seniority, in some companies, is how long you've been at your current title compared to other people with that same title. It has nothing to do with either of the things he mentioned. Then there are the "senior" titles. But there are a number of "senior" titles that are junior to other non-senior titles. All I can say for sure is that there are a lot of interpretations of the word, and saying that it is one thing and isn't another is really just saying, "When I think of the word, to me it means one thing and not another." But that's just the vote of a single random blogger.

Maybe what he meant is just that, "Having a higher title does not necessarily mean that you are qualified to work at every company at that title."

It hits home for me but I'm probably the minority. I have a senior title but I'm a PeopleSoft developer which is kind of becoming an obsolete niche. I don't really have the skill set to interview for other senior software development positions.

Apply anyway, if you want to. Sure, you may get more rejections that way, but is that bad, other than being a little embarrassing? Also, assuming you're current job is fine, now is the time to actually be looking for the next thing when there's no pressure. You can bomb interviews and there's no financial stake in it for you. I would make a list of places I think make interesting products and give it shot. You may find that one place that says, "I like this person, and I think they're smart. I'll give them a shot.'

This really inspires me to get out of my comfort zone. You're absolutely right, I don't have anything to lose. Thanks for the advice, it made my day.

I would argue that it is better stated as:

Job security is the number of job opportunities you have, not your current job title.

Seniority and number of job opportunities have little to do with each other. There's a high demand for developers with 5-10 years experience, and also for 1-5 years. There is less demand for those with 30 years experience. Are they more senior still? Yes.

They’re closely related. Many (most?) companies hire for a role with a title that’s on par with your current one. This is true across all industries with the more established ones having near standardized names for each position.

> Seniority is the number of job opportunities you have, not your current job title.

I like the thinking here but in a market with more open roles than qualified people, I'm not sure how valuable a measure it is.

I would also add that titles themselves are a trap. If your current title is Software Engineer, hiring companies may offer you a "Senior" title to tip the scales and get you into a job that is substantially the same as your current role.


"Job interviews help us grow professionally."

I disagree. In most places job interviews mainly test for your ability to pass job interviews. So if the job title you're going for is interviewee then maybe. But if you see yourself as a developer then interviewing is not going to improve your professional abilities.

I would argue that 'interviewee' is part of all our jobs. Not a big part, but it's a very important part.

My observation is that my interview-avoidant friends either spend a lot of time unemployed after an employer goes away, or they end up in positions that pay them less (and often treat them less well in other ways) than they otherwise would.

I know a few people who have a pretty consistent 50% success rate at interviews... but they are also working way below, pay and treatment wise, what they could get if they interviewed for the next level up or the next company up and maybe accepted something closer to a 15% or 20% success rate at the interview.

Sure, but passing job interviews helps you grow professionally.

Passing job interview is a red herring because it teaches you that you said what people want to hear. It can be very different from being good at your work and a focus on it can create disfuncional professionals who know how to give the appearance of being good while being shit at what they do.

Not to sound excessively cynical, but that can help your career progression too.

For someone who likes to work at bullshit companies, absolutely.

However, getting rejected for jobs, especially if it happened at the interview stage will help you find the direction you have to go to grow professionally. If you listen to why they rejected you and can infer what they're hiding beneath a veil of politeness, of course.

> Job interviews have nothing to do with job seeking. Job interviews help us grow professionally.

I infer that this write isn't a native English speaker and I think I get what they're trying to say. But come on. Obviously they have something to do with each other.

There are 2 kinds of knowledge, e.g. “knowing python” and “knowing how we do things at company X”. As you get more senior the second kind takes over - but it is worthless outside company X. Always keep the first kind of knowledge sharp.

This is a great way of putting things, and much more useful than the article. It's easy to become institutionalized, you become more useful to the company, however you're less useful generally. This is not a good tradeoff for the employee, even though it seems like you're moving up.

I certainly find I also learn a lot more about people, management, conflict resolution, prioritisation, and many more "timeless" skills (more timeless than python, anyway) the further I get in my career (currently 17 years in).

No so true. The senior would ask know the answer to "python can be use in this way to solve x but here are the limitations of that solution, maybe we close those limitations with Ruby".

A true senior isn’t even really thinking in terms of specific languages any more and if they were their knowledge is a decade old. They have been doing company-specific things for too long.

Haggling over language minutiae is the hallmark of a junior no matter how many years experience they have. Especially considering how very, very similar Python and Ruby are...

There are other transferable skills like working with finance and budgeting, security and architectural reviews, GDPR/privacy impact assessments, scaling, planning, estimating effort ...

I’m not sure a job interview is necessarily a good indicator of a person’s status/progress any more than a title. It can be just as human and subjective.

I would hope there are other ways to assess your gaps.

Sounds like full on imposter syndrome. I feel like a little bit is healthy, but this is quite a lot.

“Stop living in a bubble. Don’t be afraid to attend job interviews. Job interviews have nothing to do with job seeking.”

Huh? He is advocating to blatantly waste the time of employers? And presumably lie to them to get the interview?

I honestly don’t know if this is the greatest troll, or worst article, that I’ve ever seen on HN.

Having a job under Capitalism is a Trap.

And when Big Daddy Government keeps you on the dole, but eventually falls? Life is a Trap - we all die.

That's because capitalist will keep draining everything, whether it's deregulation, cutting budgets or "quantitative easing".

We are at an age where there's so much food and shelter surplus that we shoudn't waste timing writing code for a program that tries to sell crap to people.

Life can be so much better. We just have to follow what the French are doing right now. Upgrade the common sense of what should be basic human rights.

I'm not sure if I'm morally OK with advising people to interview 3 times a year. It might be good advice for the interviewee, but it wastes a lot of the interviewer's time (and potentially money).

If I was interviewing a candidate, it would take probably two man-days total across all the interviewers, HR, etc. So maybe $1500 total plus disrupting everybody's schedules. Plus maybe another $1000 in travel expenses.

Asking 3 random companies to spend that every year just so I could feel good about my employability would make me a low-key sociopath.

Companies are already wasting 10x more money and emotional capital with their ridiculous interviewing processes.

I definitely appreciate the sentiment that everyone should negotiate in good faith, but until you are in front of your future manager and they explain very clearly what the job entails (whether virtual or in person), nothing is to be believed.

Wasting a company's time and money is something they already accept. If they didn't, they would optimize their process for minimal time spent.

If you could, how would you change the interviewing process?

It's not ridiculous in my opinion to want to talk to (and ask questions of) a potential candidate.

If you don't like interviews, I would look into contracting, as companies generally take on contractors very easily.

Totally agree with what you have said. I've been through W2 job interviews that lasted a total of 2 hours. One phone conversation and one in person, offered job on the same day with no waiting games played. This is 100% the exception to the rule.

I would remove multi round interviews with 7 different people and multiple calls backs. The in-person interview should be one and done, just like a music audition.

Why? Because a company can fire me on day one if they want. The idea that we should put $10,000 worth of man hours into screening someone before they begin working, when employees are still legally interchangeable seems kind of like a charade to me.

Employees don't like to see their colleagues fired quickly, but if it's for a deserving reason (candidate couldn't do the things they said they could do in interview) then the team really will move on quickly.

When you're paying out $120,000 a year for people to flip bits, the team accepts that turnover might occur a little bit more frequently that corporate middle management.

Ah, my context is different, I live/work in Sweden where "same-day" firings are completely illegal.

Job safety is insanely strong here, if you pass probation it's extremely unlikely you can be fired. Even if your job is not required anymore there is a "first-in-last-out" policy which would mean anyone hired after you would have to go first.

So there is huge financial incentive to ensure you only hire the right people.

Wow!! Such civilized culture :) In the US, unless otherwise negotiated, all employees are under the legal term "at will", which means firing/quitting can happen anytime and for any reason. Fortunately I have walked off the job on day one when I thought it was not as described :) But have also been fired plenty of times for assinine bullshit.

Maybe programmers in Cali are able to negotiate different contracts. But like 95% of non-state workers can be fired instantly I imagine in the US.


Are you saying the probation period in Sweden occurs before you ever start working? The OP likely meant: fire them during the probation period because that is why it is there.

You don't. Well, you do, but not without losing stuff. Basically, you shoot from the hip, with less information. Some orgs already do this. They glace at resumes, talk to a few people briefly, and make a gut decision. Or you hire more known quantities (friends, and former colleagues). There are huge drawbacks to either approach, but those are the other options. You get less information if you shorten the process, however there's always a great deal of uncertainty when hiring someone new, no matter what you do.

I have mixed feelings on this.

Having good candidates not join is a massive pain. We call them heartbreakers. They come in, show you a great time, maybe a hint of things getting serious, then nothing.

However, your HR department should be able to sniff out a good percentage of non serious people at the door step. Mindless interviews, with little to no prep is fairly easy to spot.

As for the cost argument, again, HR filter, coding test & video conference filter should get rid of most. Thats about 2-4 hours of our people's time. any more than that and you either have too many people wasting time, or your interview are too long and gruelling. (excluding candidate sourcing.)

having said all that, you shouldn't sit and rot at the same company, if you are not enjoying yourself.

As a person who interviews people.

^ 100% this, actually the cost is probably understated.

I spend 2-3hrs reviewing a candidate's CV/resume before giving the go-ahead to Recruitment to schedule an interview, then there's the interviews which are about an hour each.

Then there's the on-site, which is a stage you'd want to get to, even if you're interviewing to practice.

So, for 3 members of my team it's roughly 3hrs + recruiters time (scheduling consumes so much time) and they have to negotiate with central HQ what salary range we can offer a person for their experience/subjective "goodness".

All-in-all I can easily see it taking more than a week of person-power for a single candidate.

As a person who also interviews people, it should not take 2-3 hours to read a resume. If you're spending more than 30 minutes on it, I have no idea what you're reading.

Spending 3 man-weeks finding the right candidate is an easy win over spending 3 hours finding the wrong one and 12 weeks training, remedying bad behaviors, and building a case for termination.

Maybe I should clarify a few things because people seem to be confused why I would do this.

1) I'm not just reading your resume, I'm checking any links you've put out (so, checking GitHub contributions if that's listed). If you're credited in something then I'm going to check the team size you were in- basically I'm going to try my best to figure out what questions I would ask you in an interview. (IE; how do you prefer priorities to be raised, do you prefer to work alone or with heavy collaboration).

Generally I find it helpful to have targeted questions in meetings, because meetings are hugely expensive in terms of attention and time. And an interview is really just a meeting with an external person where the topic is the background and prowess of the external person.

2) 12 weeks in training is actually more like 6months in my current position. It's complicated.

3) I live/work in Sweden, probation is 6months, but termination after that is _basically_ impossible. We had someone who's job was basically not being done in any way- it took more than a year before we could terminate their employment. Which is quite expensive if you hire the wrong candidate. (In that case, we were lax in hiring because that particular position wasn't exactly senior, and due to that they were able to pass probation because they looked like they were learning)

Anyway, a cursory glance can be enough to say "yes I want to talk" but an in-depth review of a CV is something I consider to be mandatory before I actually hold the interview.

Two hours reviewing one resumé is way too much. A few minutes should be plenty of time to decide whether or not to start the interview process with a candidate.

2-3 hours reviewing a candidates resume before giving the go-head to schedule an interview? That seems like a lot of time to review a resume.

I spend between 30 seconds to 2 minutes reading a resume before deciding to pass or to schedule a 30 minute phone screen.

How do you spend 2-3 hours reviewing one CV?

> "but it wastes a lot of the interviewer's time (and potentially money)."

I think there's something to this ('corporations are people too my friend!' one might say :) ). But I feel differently when speaking to recruiters, if I'm looking. Ultimately they're paid to get interviews. I assume their metrics are like any sales team's: get interviews, convert at least some of them to paid positions. I can't see how I'm wasting a recruiter's time if there's any chance at all that I'd take the job.

Well almost every company acts in a sociopathic way to maximize profit so I don’t see any issue with it. I also don’t think the reason to do it is to feel better about yourself, it’s to gain information about your situation in the job market.

Realistically no one who is employed already has time to jump through all the hoops in the present day interview process, the quizzes and homework and blah blah blah, just for fun.

It is not a total waste of time of the interviewer's. They may learn something. Plus you may decide to take an offer.

I'm not sure if I'm morally OK with advising companies to interview multiple candidates for a job. It might be good advice for the interviewer, but it wastes a lot of the interviewee's time (and potentially money).

If I was interviewing for a job, it would probably take 6-8 hours across finding the job listing, parsing the requirements and responsibilities, and researching the company. So maybe $600-$800 total plus disrupting my schedule. Plus maybe another $1000 in travel expenses.

Asking random interviewers to spend that time just so I could feel good about my company would make me a low-key sociopath.

Snark aside, companies have a huge upper hand over potential employees right now (especially when an employee is out of work and needs the job). Anything that tips the scale back toward the employee is a net positive. Regardless, I don't think many employees have the time to spare to interview for 3 jobs a year.

It's not the same thing, unless the company is holding interviews for a nonexistent job. Or if they're interviewing somebody that they know they won't hire anyways.

I don't think anybody would defend that practice, so what makes it OK if I'm doing it myself by leading on some company that I don't want to work at?

I don't believe the advice is "interview at 3 companies but don't take the job no matter what."

It's "interview at 3 companies to find out if the job opportunity is better than the job you currently have, and if so, jump ship."

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