It’s tiny answer Tuesday — seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…
1. Can you ask HR to clarify an ambiguous question on a job application?
I have a question about addressing ambiguous questions on job applications. In essence, the application I recently filled out has a question that could be interpreted in a number of different ways, so I emailed HR (once) to ask what they specifically meant. I did this because the ad states that applicants should direct job-related questions to HR (and provided HR’s email address). I should note that I was very concise and polite.
It’s been a few days and they haven’t responded, and I’m worried that if I’m left to my own devices, I may fill out the job application incorrectly. What do you think I should do?
Interpret it as best you can, finish the application, and submit it. Don’t wait for an answer from them.
Other candidates are presumably making do, and you don’t want to come across as someone who needs special hand-holding that others didn’t require. That’s not to say that plenty of applications don’t have poorly worded, ambiguous questions; they do. But you’ll rarely get clarification from busy HR departments, who tend to think their application questions work just fine as stated or that you should be able to find a way to make do. And following up a second time when you already tried once is likely to cement an impression that you’re potentially high maintenance, which you don’t want.
2. How to complain to another department about their temp’s terrible writing
We have an HR temp at our organization who has terrible writing skills. Her emails use incorrect tenses or include made-up words. Here are two of many examples:
“I have learn that the library was temporarily move into the conference room so I have schedule another room for this interview at rm 501. Also attach you will find (Name, no apostrophe) resume.”
“Can I have the password for (website) in order to login and post this job position and I apologized for the in-convinced this may have cause.”
She has used “in-convinced” in several emails, including emails to candidates. Our department is very worried these poorly written emails are going to drive away the best candidates, who will take one look at who we are hiring for our HR personnel and decide to go elsewhere. It is very embarrassing for us, especially since we are a college.
How can we correctly approach our HR manager about this? She has obviously seen some of these emails but doesn’t seem to be doing anything about it herself. Maybe a little push from another department will make her a little more proactive about fixing this issue?
Yes, someone should talk to her manager, ideally someone who’s roughly at the same level as her manager. That person should say: “I’ve noticed Jane has repeatedly sent out emails, including to candidates, with misspellings, made-up words, and generally poor writing. I’m concerned about how this is portraying us to candidates and others. What can we do to ensure that her emails are corrected before they’re sent out externally?”
If the problem continues after that, then you push back harder: “The problem is continuing, and we can’t have her unedited emails being sent out representing us.”
3. Should you pay to find a job?
What do you think of “pay for” job search websites such as The Ladders, Linkedin, or even a paid head hunter? Do they help? Sometimes I find it difficult to pay for these services. To me, Linkedin is an extortion site.
The Ladders is a scam, and in general, you shouldn’t pay someone to find you a job; reputable headhunters are paid by employers, not by job searchers. I’m not sure why you find LinkedIn to be “extortion” though; there are plenty of free ways to use that site to assist in job searching.
4. What to put on your resume if you don’t have any accomplishments
I read your article about why you might not be getting interviews. One of the points recommended listing specific accomplishments rather than job duties. What if I don’t have any accomplishments? I’m not saying I wasn’t a good employee, but I didn’t increase sales or save the company any money that I know of. This really has me stumped.
What made you a good employee? What about you should make an employer want to hire you over other candidates with similar job experience? That’s what your resume needs to convey. Figure out the answers to those questions (using objective facts, not subjective ones), and turn them into resume bullets.
People often think this needs to be quantitative (made $X in sales or saved $X in costs), but it doesn’t; for many, many jobs, it’s going to be primarily qualitative. But you do need to explain what made you great at previous jobs. If you can’t, how do you expect a hiring manager to figure out why they should hire you over roughly similar candidates? More on this here.
5. When can I express preference for a job location during an interview process?
I applied for a position at a company based in Washington, DC. My research indicated that the salary range for this position would make it a stretch for me to live in DC, but doable. When they called me for a phone interview, the recruiter said that the position I applied for usually started out at this other, more junior position and then typically transitions to the more senior position. I am totally fine with starting at a more junior level, but the salary is quite a bit lower, making it nearly impossible for me to make “ends meet” in DC (and I’m relocating from the Midwest). However, as I researched this more junior position, I noticed that they have an office in Charlottesville, VA, and that the job description on the website says “located in: Washington, DC or Charlottesville, VA”. Not only is that much more preferable in terms of living on the salary, but if I’m honest with myself, I’m not a big-city kind of person and I’d really prefer to live in Charlottesville. They’ve moved me on to the second round, which includes a research “homework assignment” that I have 7 days to complete. The email with the HW assignment said “…after we receive your homework assignment we will contact you within ten days about scheduling the interview in either our DC or Charlottesville office.”
At what point (if any) do I speak up about my serious preference for Charlottesville? Should I say something quickly when I submit my assignment or when I (hopefully) get an offer? I don’t want to be presumptuous, but I also don’t want to get far down the interview process and perhaps interview with coworkers in DC if I can swing the Charlottesville location. Is this something I should bring up sooner than later, or am I jumping the gun? Is it something I even get to voice a preference for?
Absolutely. It’s fine to email the recruiter and say something like, “By the way, I realized that we hadn’t discussed location of the position and it’s advertised as being in either D.C. or Charlottesville. I have a strong preference for Charlottesville, if it’s possible for that to be taken into account.”
It’s useful for them to know that at this stage, particularly if “strong preference” really means “the only one I’d accept.”
6. How should I have corrected this HR rep who misheard my salary numbers?
An HR rep asked for my earnings history, which I broke down into salary and sales commissions (I listed the commissions one by one so I gave her a total of four numbers). She misheard one of the numbers and when she gave me the total, I said that it was wrong because it was much too high. She shrugged it off and said she rounded a bit and quoted me a lower number, which was still wrong — but I was too embarrassed to correct her again (since I didn’t know why it was so off) and just said “yeah…” and moved on to my most recent job where I gave her numbers that I’m 100% sure are correct.
When I went home and did the math, I realized what had happened (she’d taken a “teen” for a “-ty”) and immediately emailed her to correct the error, but now I’m concerned that she’ll think I was lying about my commissions the first time and withdraw the offer. For future reference, what would have been the correct way to handle this situation? Should I not have pointed out the mistake?
I wouldn’t worry that she’ll think you’re lying. Just be straightforward: “I think you you heard Xty rather than Xteen.”
If something like this happens in the future, just point it out at the time. And don’t be thwarted if she gets it wrong the second time — just say, “No, it’s X,” just like you would with a friend or colleague. (In fact, how you’d handle it with a colleague is a good guide for lots of hiring-related situations where you’re not sure whether to speak up or how to word something.)
7. Are auto-replies to job applications rude?
I’m curious what your opinon is on auto-replies for applications/resume submissions. On more than one occasion, I have received something similar to this: “Thank you for submitting your information. If you are chosen to advance in the hiring process, you will be contacted…”
Isn’t that just as frustrating as not hearing back at all? It’s good that I know they received my application, but that still leaves me with no notice of rejection, so is it really any more considerate?
Well, it at leasts confirms that your application was received, so you’re not sitting around wondering if it’s lost somewhere. Honestly, you should be mentally moving on after you submit an application anyway — statistically speaking, your chances of being selected for an interview are low enough that it doesn’t make sense to do anything else. And really, what would you do differently if you got a real rejection notice? It’s just mental closure, and you can give that to yourself by moving on right after applying.
What I find far more rude is when a company interviews a candidate and then doesn’t get back to them. At that point, the person has invested time and energy in speaking with them, there’s been personal contact, and it’s incredibly rude to never bother to respond.