It’s terse answer Thursday — seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…
1. Is it better to be the first or last interviewed?
My husband was recently invited to interview for a position he applied for. He was told that they were conducting two sessions of five back-to-back 30-minute initial interviews. Since he was the first one they contacted, he was able to pick his time slot. In a situation like this, is there an any difference or advantage in picking the first slot, or the last? He chose the first slot on the first day, because it worked best with his current work schedule, but I was just curious for future reference.
Nope. You’ll hear all sorts of theories, like it’s better to go first so that you’re the bar against which they judge everyone else, or that it’s better to go last because they’ll remember you more, but honestly — it’s all pretty much BS. If you’re a great candidate, they’re not going to forget you, and if you’re not a great candidate, it won’t matter anyway. Schedule interviews when it’s most convenient, and don’t worry about trying to game the order.
2. Using vacation time when you’re resigning
I’m intending to leave my job in June, to go to grad school. We have a very generous vacation policy, with loads of days each year (and they don’t even count weekends!). The only problem is that it’s use-em-or-lose-em: the company will not pay out for unused days. I currently have 19 days left, and even though I do have a couple of long weekend trips in mind before I quit, there’s no way I can use them all up. One idea I had was to book the remaining time off after I wanted to leave– so my official last day in the office would be June 1, but my last day of employment would be, say, June 15. Is that reasonable? How would I go about it? I have quite a bit of responsibility in my job, and I know when past employees in similar positions left there were often a number of questions they left behind: wouldn’t having a couple of weeks of holiday, where I still am technically an employee but my replacement has taken over my responsibilities, fix that? Although I’d have left I’d be happy to be available for phone or email queries during the transition.
Does that sound reasonable? What’s the best way to pitch this to my boss? Do I book the holiday now without saying anything, and then quit, or wait till I quit to bring it up? Or does quitting mean I’m forfeiting my holiday time? By the way, if it helps, I’ll be giving 4-6 weeks notice.
You can certainly ask your manager about this, but be prepared to be told no. A lot of employers have policies that you can’t take any paid vacation days once you’ve given your notice. Also, the whole point of a notice period is to give them time when you’re still there to wrap up your projects and help with a transition. If you’re on vacation, it defeats much of the point.
One option is that you could offer to give a longer-than-usual notice period with the understanding that you’ll be on vacation at the start of it — and then return for a few weeks and wrap up your projects. If they say no, then you can just have an earlier ending date.
3. Mentioning temporary blindness when applying for a job with an organization that works on vision issues
Last year, I had an eye inflammation which made me temporarily blind for a couple of months. I have completely recovered and my vision has come back to normal. However, this experience had a strong impact on me and I became very interested in the prevention of avoidable blindness. As I have extensive experience as a researcher and policy officer in the not-for-profit sector, I thought I could use my skills for this cause. I am about to apply for a foundation whose main goal is to provide all people with the right to high quality and affordable eye care. I was wondering whether it is appropriate to mention in my cover letter my temporary blindness and my desire to help people in the same situation. Of course, I would usually never mention in a cover letter something so personal and related to my own health problems, and I know that it can definitely be a big turn-off. However, I thought that perhaps this case might be slightly different. Any advice on this would be much appreciated.
Yep, mention it. It’s nearly always worth mentioning any personal connection you have to an nonprofit’s work; it’s part of explaining why you want to work there.
4. Interviewer asked about my interview processes with other employers
I just finished up a phone interview that I thought went well. Toward the end of the conversation, the interviewer asked me if I was interviewing with other companies and if so, where I was in the process. I told her I had another phone interview scheduled with Company A in a couple of days. I am also waiting for for a second interview to be scheduled with Company B within the next week or two (the people I am meeting with next are on PTO so the interview can’t be scheduled until they return to the office). She then pressed, “Where would you say you are in the interview process with them? Are you in the beginning or final stages?” I told her I was in the middle, since I know there’s a third interview to follow.
Ordinarily I wouldn’t read too much into this, but the fact that she pressed me about my interview schedule with Company B got me thinking: is there a reason she was so concerned about my other interviews? I’ve been in plenty of interviews throughout my career, but have never been asked this question. Have you asked a candidate this question and if so, why? I’ve been unemployed since December, so I’m trying not to let the “I really want this job!” mentality cloud my judgement.
Generally employers ask these types of questions when they think you’re a strong candidate and want to assess how likely they are to lose you to another offer, and how quickly you might need things to move on their end. You don’t really need to answer with as much detail as you provided; it’s fine to say that you’re talking with several other companies, are in the final stages with one, and expect them to make a decision in the next two weeks (or whatever the case is). No need to get into the specifics of phone interview scheduling or anything like that.
5. Fired after a coworker punched me
I was fired from a job I loved in September. I am a professional makeup artist, and while working on a client, in a busy upscale retail store, I was punched by a coworker in front of my client and other customers. We had a heated argument and ended the confrontation quickly. A week later, I was fired; I was told that I knew this person had a bad temper and should have been more careful around her. Crazy, huh?
Although I’m still dealing with this shocker, I have no idea what to put on job applications. When they ask “were you ever fired or discharged,” what do I do? Mark no and hope they don’t find out? Mark yes?
I’ve had interviews with a couple companies I felt were a perfect fit for me, only to never hear back from them. What’s happening? I can’t afford to stay home and I can’t get another job no matter how I fill out my applications or tailor my resume. Is my past employer causing this problem for me (even though they’re not supposed to)? What are my options?
Well, first, don’t assume that you’re not getting hired because of them. People often have interviews where they feel they’re a perfect fit but still don’t get the job — someone else was just a better fit. That said, call your former HR department and try to work out a reference that won’t harm you. (See tips here.) Ideally, you’ll get them to agree to say that you resigned, so that you can mark “no” when job applications ask if you’ve ever been fired.
6. Applying in person
I ride my bike all through town and pass places I would like to go in and ask if they are hiring — coffee shops, bike shops, some retail stores, flower shops, restaurants, and offices (medical, insurance, law firms; I have been trying everywhere). But then I look down and see I am in my cycling attire. I live in a town where cycling is somewhat accepted. I want to know if it would be rude to go the hiring office and ask if they are hiring if I am in my cycling attire. Of course, if I get an interview I would dress appropriately and take the bus.
And how do I handle job applications? Many times when I go to a place, they say to apply online or that they are not hiring and sometimes I want to say out loud, “Can you at least put me in for an interview?” Is it ok to do that?
No, you should not job-search in biking clothes. Moreover, while it’s okay to go into the retail stores, coffee shops, and restaurants and apply in person, you absolutely should not do that with offices (in any attire, let alone biking gear). That’s not how people get office jobs; you need to email them a resume and cover letter.
And no, you definitely cannot ask for an interview when they tell you that they’re not hiring or when they instruct you to apply online! If they tell you to apply online, that’s what you need to do.
There’s a ton of info in the archives here that will tell you a lot more about how to handle these situations; read them!
7. Manager won’t give me my performance evaluation
Our company re-organized in June, and I have a new boss (Vice President) and am part of a newly created subsidiary. At the beginning of December, the president of my subsidiary requested our self evaluations in preparation for doing annual performance evaluations. I sent him my current self evaluation — as well as last year’s evaluation since he wasn’t the person who conducted the eval. Then I waited, and I waited. I sent him an email at the end of December asking if he did receive the evaluations. I sent him an email reminder about once a week, I called and left a voicemail for him. Two weeks ago, he finally sent an email with a brief apology and said that someone would be scheduling the evaluation soon — probably the VP — which is fine. But still no meeting invite or email. I honestly think they are pleased with my performance, (they are good about communicating when there is a problem) but I find this very frustrating. I have been with this company for 12 years — and have moved up nicely — but I’m beginning to think it may be time for us to part ways.
This is extraordinarily common. I’m in no way defending it — it’s ridiculous — but it’s really common, and you’re probably better off not continuing to pursue it. Ask for feedback about how you’re doing in your next meeting with your manager, but stop waiting for him to do your formal evaluation. He may not, and meanwhile you’ll just get more and more frustrated. I’d just ask for feedback informally and then drop it. (However, if raises are tied to evaluations, then ignore all that. In that case, you need to meet with him and politely make your case for a raise, totally aside from the eval.)