It’s seven short answers to seven short questions, most of them about weird behavior of one form or another. Here we go…
1. Manager offered the job to someone else while we were still negotiating salary
I was offered a position after conducting two interviews and was told by the hiring manager I was the best fit for the job. I was told my salary and I informed the manager I would need a day to decide on her offer. The following day, I called back to confirm I would accept the position but also wanted to negotiate the pay. The manager agreed to look into my salary request over the next couple of days and have an answer for me by the following Monday.
By Monday, the manager had not responded, so I sent an email reminding her of our discussion. The following day, the manager called and said, “Unfortunately we cannot provide you with your desired salary.” I thanked her for considering it and said I would accept the position regardless. She then said she had since offered the position to someone else because she thought I had declined her initial offer and thought I said I would not want the job if I couldn’t get my desired salary. I am so enraged because I clearly communicated that I had accepted. Is this normal?
No. The manager mishandled this.
That said, it’s also not normal to accept a position but say you still want to negotiate the salary (largely because at that point, you’ve forfeited your negotiating power; they already know that you’ll accept it at the first number they offered — and if that’s not true, then you haven’t really accepted it; you’re still negotiating). So that was weird — but not as bad as what the manager did.
2. Interviewer asked me to guess at the weaknesses of the other employees I’d met
I recently went on an all-day interview, and the last woman I interviewed with, the woman to whom this position would report, asked me (1) for my opinion on the employees I had met with before her and (2) what each of their weaknesses were. I replied that I didn’t have enough information to know, but she encouraged me to take a guess. She said she wanted to see how I well I could read people. Would this strike you as a red flag?
It would strike me as pretty damn weird, yes. It doesn’t mean that you should run in the opposite direction, necessarily, but it does mean that this woman might have some boundary issues and that she definitely has a misunderstanding of what’s appropriate to ask job candidates, and that you’d want to probe a lot more into what she’s like and how else this weirdness might manifest before accepting a job working for her.
3. Should you update an interviewer on achievements you learn about after your interview?
For the last year, I have been volunteering as a grant writer for my friend’s nonprofit arts organization because I wanted to begin a career in the nonprofit world and I figured that this would be a good way to develop fundraising skills and obtain quantifiable achievements for my resume. The plan seems to be working: last week I landed an interview for a development associate position based largely on the strength of my volunteer work. The interview went well — they seemed impressed that I took the initiative to teach myself a new skill and get results with it — and I haven’t heard from them since the interview (which I recognize is normal and no reason to draw conclusions either way).
Today I just found out that two proposals I had written for my friend’s organization have been approved. This greatly improves my fundraising total — doubles it, in fact, and establishes a proposal writing success rate of 100%. I am of course thrilled but I really wish I had this information when I was interviewing. Would it be appropriate to drop my interviewer an email and mention this new achievement, or is this something I just need to sit on for the next position that I apply for?
Yes, I think you can do that! To be clear, I wouldn’t do this every time you have an achievement — I don’t want anyone to extrapolate from this to think that they should email a prospective employer to announce they just won a new account or fixed a major network server issue. But in this case, you’re entering a new field and you’re still untested — so it’s useful and reasonable to say, “Hey, I just wanted to let you know that I’m starting to get results in from this work — both of my first two proposals have been funded, and I’d love to talk more about what I might do for XYZ organization along those lines.”
4. My coworker showed me the warning our boss sent him
I’m trying to figure out what to do with an odd situation at work. I am thinking of ignoring it, but I’m wondering if I should make my boss aware. We have a new team member who is not coming up to speed as fast as would be desired (this is an understatement, and it is obvious to me and I presume all experienced members of the team). Our boss put him on notice for specific items he needs to improve on. I know this because the coworker who was put on notice showed me the email he was sent documenting the notice and details. I read the subject line and first paragraph and then said I didn’t think I should be reading it (as I realized what it was!). He said he didn’t mind.
It was being shown as a reason (excuse?) for something else important that got dropped because he had received the warning and was upset just then, but … should he really have shown me this? Is this just weird, or is it something our boss needs to know? For the moment I’m filing it under “just weird” but it’s so weird, I’m not sure my instincts of how to handle it are right.
I’d file it under “just weird” too. I don’t think your boss needs to hear about it because it’s not a major violation of anything … just something unusual for your to share, particularly since he did it in the context of “You should excuse me for messing up X because I’d just been told that I’m messing up lots of things.”
5. My coworker won’t stop badmouthing my soon-to-be new boss
Recently, after several years at the same job (where I was somewhat successful), I’ve decided to take an offer from a new company. It was heartbreaking as I cared very deeply for my old job and the people, but it’s a great career step.
However, I’m a little confused about the behavior of one of my current coworkers (in fact, she reports to me), or whether in fact her behavior is the issue at all. Here’s what’s happened: after I announced my resignation and discussed my new opportunity, my soon-to-be-ex team member has been loudly telling me about how her partner previously worked for this new company, in fact the same boss, and hated it. My team member has, several times a day, been sharing horror stories about my soon-to-be boss which are really unsettling me. I have asked her to stop, and she’s continued to quietly share these stories with colleagues, sometimes in my earshot.
Now, I’m not naive. Oftentimes, stories of horror coworkers and bosses are worth listening to, and I suppose I’m scared that my team member’s stories are correct. In fact, I’m sure that her partner isn’t lying about his experiences. So I suppose I have two questions: should I run from this new job (my current employer would gladly accept me back, and I have several weeks before the start date), and is my team member’s behavior well-meaning (as she claims) or some sort of acting out against me leaving?
I don’t know what’s motivating your employee, but I do know that this isn’t normal. If she had legitimate concerns about your impending new manager, this is not the appropriate way to handle them; talking to you discreetly would be. She’s displaying such bad judgment here that, to me at least, it calls into question how reliable her assessment of your new boss is.
Did you do due diligence on your new manager and new workplace before accepting the job? If so, I would not change your mind just because of questionable behavior from someone with questionable judgment. I would, however, talk to her privately and ask her what on earth is up.
6. Can I name-drop my friend in my cover letter to her organization?
Just had your site recommended to me by a friend, and I have now spent two hours agonizing over all my cover letter failings! The good news is that I can now happily retire phrases like “motivated self-starter” from my vocabulary (not sure why I needed someone to point out how cliche and overused that is).
Question, though. I am applying to a communications director job at a nonprofit. My friend, who currently works there, alerted me that the position would be opening and encouraged me to apply. Is it inappropriate to mention her name in my cover letter, as in “Jane Doe told me about this position” or does that come off as name dropping? My qualifications don’t exactly line up with what they’ve advertised (though I still think I’m a good match), so my cover letter really needs to grab their attention. I figure it can’t hurt that, on a small staff, one person can vouch that I am not a crazy person, though I suppose she will probably put in a good word whether I drop her name or not.
You should absolutely mention that she encouraged you to apply, and it’s not name-dropping — well, I mean, it technically is, but not in the inappropriate sense. It’s very normal, no one will bat an eye, and it might get you a second look.
7. Informational interviews after you’ve already applied for a job
I am currently working as an AmeriCorps member, which means I have a fixed, one-year term. Because of that, I have been applying to jobs or sending letters of interest to employers in my field. (My term of service ends August 2).
Today, a well-connected board member at the nonprofit where I’m placed approached me to get a copy of my resume. I have sent it to him previously, but he needed another copy because he had recently run into a friend who happens to work in my field. She was open to providing informational interviews. After I sent him my resume, he passed it along to the woman and CC’d me on the email so I could get in touch with her. As it turns out, she works for one of the organizations to which I’ve applied for a position.
What exactly should I do? It has been a few weeks since I applied (I sent it out at the very beginning of the month), and I haven’t been contacted by the organization other than an automated “application received” email. I don’t want to come across as trying to get around the job application process, but I also don’t want to turn down making a connection, especially since this person is at a well-respected organization in my field and I’d love to work for them. I know you have expressed a disinterest for informational interviews in the past, but do you have any advice before I reach out to this woman?
Just be straightforward: “Hi Jane, I would love the opportunity to talk with you. I want to disclose, though, that I recently applied for the X position with ABC organization, and I don’t want you to think I’m trying to circumvent your application process. But if you’re wiling to talk with me about (fill in what you want to talk about — your field, career advice, whatever), I’d really love to pick your brain.”