It’s short answer Saturday — six short answers to six short questions. Here we go…
1. Do I have to attend this work training?
My boss recently announced that they “strongly recommend” that everyone in our group get a certain certification. She has told us multiple times that she really wants everyone in our group to get this certification this year. The certification consists of seven two-day courses — always on Fridays and Saturdays.
Using seven of my Saturdays for this course wouldn’t be my ideal use of time, but I was fine with it. However, my boss has now come back and said that since we are getting a certification out of this course we have to a) pay for everything oursleves upfront, and only get reimbursed when we pass the course b) use vacation days for the course. So now this course is taking 14 days of my personal time (over a week of vacation time alone!), AND I have to do the several-thousand dollar cost on my own for most of the year. The thing is, I wouldn’t take this course if it weren’t for my job. And I’m pretty sure I don’t want to stay in this area long-term. I am looking for other oppurtunities within the same company, but it may be a while until I can move. Until them, my boss is expecting me to complete all 7 of these courses this year. How do I discuss with her the fact that I am not willing to use 1/2 of my vacation (I get 15 days) plus 7 Saturdays to complete this course? I don’t want to come across as a trouble-maker- I am just coming back from 2 months of modified work duties due to an illness, and I don’t want to become the employee who is always creating trouble.
If the training is truly mandatory, your employer is required by federal law to pay for the time that you attend the training. They can, however, require you to deduct the time from your accrued vacation, believe it or not. (That’s because no law requires them to give you vacation time at all, so they can put whatever rules they want on it.) If you’re exempt, this doesn’t really help you at all. If you’re non-exempt, however, they’d need to pay you for that Friday in class — as well as extra pay for the Saturday (if that’s an extra work day for you), plus overtime pay if that puts you over 40 hours that week.
I’d ask your boss to clarify whether it’s mandatory or not and what would happen if you don’t attend. You should also explain your concerns about the money and the significant amount of vacation time you’d lose. Sometimes just pointing these things out can chance the decision. But if it doesn’t, I’d figure out the likely consequences of simply saying that you can’t afford the time or price and skipping it.
2. Hiring large groups of people
I wanted to write you with a question about a hiring process. I’ve been in my current role as a manager with a large research group at a university for about a year now. We run several large-scale research projects for which we hire large numbers of graduate research assistants every summer. We typically interview over 100 people for about 60 spots in the span of 2-3 months. Because of sheer quantity of people, we do 20 minute interviews and check references. Since these people are students seeking to fund their graduate studies, the university requires us to interview all applicants in person (I know…). These are all young people in graduate school, so many of them don’t have much formal work experience.
I’ve read your posts about hiring entry-level people, and thought that was very helpful, but I wondered if you had any specific advice about hiring large quantities of people at the same time? I don’t think that our system is working very well—my peers joke that we’d be better off pulling names out of a hat! To illustrate, on my project this academic year, we’ve had two people quit (one without notice) and fired two people for poor performance. We have a group of people performing at a high level, some who are fine, and a frustratingly large group on whom I have to keep really close tabs because of their poor performance. What can we be doing better in our hiring process to avoid some of these issues?
20-minute interviews aren’t nearly enough to tell you to hire, but if you’re required to interview all 100, I can see why you can’t give them more time. However, it sounds like you’re not giving the any exercises or simulations to see how they actually perform, and adding in that component could give you much better information. Have your candidates do some kind of exercise related to the work they’d be doing on the job — I guarantee you that you’ll get much better insight into who to hire.
That said, whenever you’re hiring 60 people, some of them aren’t going to work out. So I’d go into it expecting that too.
3. Is there a contracting blacklist?
I was fired from my last job at a government contractor in the area. I was wondering if there is black list that government contractors have to prevent you from working with another company. Do you know?
Very unlikely. People talk informally, of course, but you’re probably safe from a black list.
4. Mentioning current employer’s financial instability in an interview
When answering a question about why I want to leave my current job, is it wrong to cite concerns about the company’s financial stability? My employer has been throwing up a lot of red flags (massive layoffs, a way scaled back Christmas party, late payroll) and I’m worried they’ll lay me off or go out of business altogether. Will mentioning concerns about their viability make me appear disloyal or overly negative?
Nope, that’s a completely understandable reason to be looking for another job. Don’t go into detail or reveal things you shouldn’t, of course, but it’s fine to say that you’re company is having layoffs or having trouble meeting payroll and so you’re looking for something more stable.
5. My company has a ridiculously arduous decision-making process
I work for a company that in the past has made a lot of mistakes when it came to decision making. They’ve purchased the wrong software and wasted enormous amounts of money, they’ve hired too many people, they’d fired the wrong people, etc. Due to the past mistakes, they’ve acquired a more micromanaged “chain of command.” Meaning, we have process analysts, team leads, supervisors, managers, directors, vice presidents. Now the problem I’m having is that because there is so many people in charge, they are all in charge at the same time, if that makes sense. If the supervisor has to be in a meeting, so does the manager (just in case), and the director (just in case). It seems that all decisions must be taken as a “team” of leaders, rather than escalating.
In my past jobs in college, I’ve had to report to a single person, I presented my work to them, and they were allowed to make decisions according to their level. But here, I have to present to ALL leadership. It makes the process more arduous. Because there is so many people in charge, decisions are a painful process. The leadership does not seem to trust one another in the making decisions. I feel overwhelmed with the amount of work a decision takes.
It stresses me out to work in this environment. I like the work I do, but I don’t like the pain of working with a team of leaders, one higher than the other, but essentially doing the same job. Is this normal? This is my first job out of college and I feel like I should quit, but I want to consider some advice and know if this is a norm at other companies as well.
No, it’s not normal and it’s terribly inefficient. Your company sounds badly managed.
6. Background check when you have an arrest for an unpaid traffic ticket
I have a question regarding background checks and how important is it to have a clean record. I just got a job offer, and they mentioned conducting a background check. I’m concerned about getting too excited or saying anything to my current employer because I know that I have an arrest on my record. In 2008, I got a ticket for not wearing a seat belt. I paid the ticket with a money order through the mail as per instructions. Two years later, in 2010, I was pulled over and arrested for driving on a suspended license. The license was suspended because, according the court, the ticket had not been paid and that is “failure to appear” and an automatic suspension of license. At the time of my arrest, I had received no notice that my payment had not been received nor that my license had been suspended. Furthermore, in that same two year time-frame, I had renewed my license.
The end result is, on my record it says that I was arrested for driving on a suspended license. I want to email the HR manager so he knows to expect it. However, I’m really worried about whether this is cause to rescind the offer. I’m also concerned with what to say to HR. I want to keep it as factual and concise as possible, but at the same time explain that the arrest for driving on a suspended license is not due to anything more nefarious than not wearing my seat belt.
It was a horrifying, humiliating experience, and a dash to my squeaky clean record. (I had previously held jobs requiring federal security clearance). And, I’m terrified this is going to ruin my chances for a job I’m really excited about.
This will almost certainly be fine. Email or call the HR manager and just explain what you said here. Lots and lots of people have weird little blips like this on their records. The important thing is just to proactively explain it to him. You should be fine!