We skipped short answer Saturday this week, so let’s have wee answer Wednesday. And also, here’s a photo of day three of my kitchen renovation; please take a moment to appreciate your sink and stove.
Correcting someone who got your gender wrong
What is the most clear and polite way to correct someone who has assumed you are the opposite gender from an email or letter? I recently volunteered design services to a local organization, which was done via email. The recipient forwarded my information to another person in the organization with a note that “he has volunteered for the requested task.” Well, as someone with a unisex name, I’m used to this happening and it doesn’t bother me, but I’m still stuck on a simple way to let them know in my next email that I’m a woman. Any ideas?
Well, you could just say it — “By the way, despite my ambiguous name, I am actually a ‘she.’” Or, if you want to go all subtle and indirect, when you write back, you could just sign your name this way:
(Ms.) Alex Smith
I used to work with someone with a unisex name who signed all her emails that way, I assume in an attempt to head-off the problem.
Job searching after working for a family member
After I graduated from college I wasn’t sure what kind of job I was looking for so I started working for my father’s business in an “unofficial” capacity. If my duties for him were to have titles, I guess you could say that over the three years I worked for him I advanced from Administrative Assistant to Office Manager. (It was a very small office.) I worked hard in the business and I learned a lot of skills.
Now that he’s retiring and I am looking for a new job, I don’t know how to deal with this one on a resume. Technically, my job was off the books, so it’s not going to show up anywhere in a background check. Also, I’m not sure if a reference or letter of recommendation from my father is a good idea, even if he is giving it as my boss. Other than this job, I do not have a lot of work experience, and I have no one else to use as a professional reference. A friend suggested that I make a skills-based resume that focuses more on my abilities than on specific jobs that I have held, but I’m still not sure how to go about listing a job that I can’t prove I had.
No, ignore your friend; skills-based resumes are still looked upon with suspicion, including by me. Treat this like you would any other job, on your resume and in interviews. I am torn between telling you that you should indicate in the description of your work that it was a family business versus telling you that you don’t need to advertise it; I could argue it either way, I guess.
However, if they’re about to check references, make sure they do know in advance so that they don’t feel deceived when they realize the reference they’re talking to you is your dad. (Frankly, I don’t think I’d even bother with a reference who was the candidate’s father, so it would be great if you’re able to offer up other references as well — clients or vendors that you worked with? Someone you’ve done volunteer work for?) And definitely don’t use a letter of recommendation from him; he’s your dad so it’s assumed he’s biased. (Also, letters of recommendation are rarely useful; most employers prefer phone conversations.)
Last, I wouldn’t worry about the job not showing up in a background check; the vast majority of jobs don’t do the type of check that would reveal whether a job was on the books or not.
Including company descriptions on a resume, and subjective self-assessments
I’m helping my husband update his resume. I have two specific questions on sections that particularly bother me (along with the “objective”):
1. I noticed that under each company name, there is a short description of each. In my opinion, it’s useless and if the employer is interested, he/she can research (thank you Google). What is your take on company descriptions/summary?
2. On your blog, you recommend removing the self-proclaimed strengths (team skills, eager to learn, etc.) and I wondered if it’s worth keeping any of them. Similar to that are “related skills” listing few specific skills gained in previous jobs (more industry related). Would it be a good idea to have a “skills” section and what would you recommend listing under it?
1. Yes, unless there’s a specific reason for having a description of the company, take it out. It definitely shouldn’t be there by default. I’m not thinking of hiring the company; I’m thinking of hiring him, and I want to know about his role.
2. Get rid of all the subjective stuff like “eager to learn.” Hiring managers put zero stock in that type of claim on a resume; they’re interested in what you’ve achieved, not what you think of yourself. Also, everyone says they have a good work ethic, work well with a team, etc. even if it’s not true, so saying it carries no weight. It also comes across as sort of unsophisticated; you won’t find that type of thing on senior-level resumes. A summary or skills section is good though (it should replace the objective), listing the highlights of his candidacy.
“You obviously aren’t serious about finding a job.”
My friends and I have been snarking about a job ad we found. It’s the last paragraph that has us raising our eyebrows: “If you are uncomfortable applying for a position with an undisclosed company then you obviously aren’t serious enough about finding a job, therefore not a good fit for us. Eager applicants welcome.”
Ha ha. Asses.
Negative performance review
How do you determine whether or not you received a subjective performance appraisal or objective? The executive director wrote some very negative items on me that have never been addressed in terms of performance. She stated things like “Not a leader or manager, sees self as employee rather than thinks like a manager. Has extremely poor communication and interaction skills with management. Offers suggestions and does not take them.” I know that during a performance assessment you shouldn’t be surprised, but I am surprised to see these comments because nobody ever sat down and spoke to me about specific areas to improve. All that was told to me was, “You have brought nothing to the plate.” No forming coaching or improvement plans were given. I was hit blindside. How do I approach the subject with the Executive director, who isn’t my boss and is kind of rude and condescending.
It’s absolutely true that nothing raised in a performance review should be a surprise, because good managers give ongoing feedback throughout the year, not just at performance review time. But it’s also true that there are tons of bad managers out there, and it’s not at all uncommon to hear negative feedback for the first time in a formal evaluation. It shouldn’t be that way, but it happens. That said, while she handled this poorly, that doesn’t mean that the feedback doesn’t have merit, and it’s worth paying attention to. Whether she’s ultimately right or wrong, the fact is that she sees you this way, and that’s hugely important to know and try to resolve.
Your next step should be to talk with your boss about the concerns that were raised and ask for feedback about how to start addressing them. You should also say that you’d very much appreciate getting ongoing feedback so that you’re not blindsided and so that you can work on fixing problems immediately, rather than waiting until a formal review. Good luck!
“We don’t want you to interview with other companies while you’re out here on our dime.”
This weekend I will travel from DC to the Silicon Valley to interview with a large .com company. The hiring manager for the position was a fellow student in my Master’s program. If I get the job, I am expected to start the position within a month of acceptance. With this in mind, I asked the company to fly me out a day early so I can start my look for housing. Unfortunately, my request was denied. My recruiter told me, “We don’t want you to interview with other companies while you’re out here on our dime.” For some reason, this rubs me the wrong way. Are there any warning signs with this or should I consider it an inconvenient compliment?
Yeah, that would rub me the wrong way too — it kind of insults your integrity. That said, I wouldn’t worry too much about it or consider it a major red flag, unless you start seeing other things that concern you.