It’s seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…
1. What does this email about my job application mean?
Recently, I applied for an executive assistant position that I know I qualify for. The other night a little after 8:30 I received the following email: “We are currently viewing your resume and application and have placed you in a ‘hold’ status pending review of current candidates.”
I’ve already decided to move on. I wanted to know what this means. I’ve never been placed on “hold”; it’s always been a yes or no for me.
It’s a little awkwardly worded, but it sounds like they’re saying that they have a batch of candidates who they’re interviewing, but if they don’t hire from that group, they’ll consider your application further. It’s a bit more information than they needed to provide; they could have simply said they were considering candidates and would be in touch.
2. Can my employer call my home phone without my authorization?
My employer has assumed that they have the authority to call my home phone number when I am on call and do not answer my cell. They have also distributed my personal phone number to my department colleagues. I say that if they do not pay for or contribute to my home phone, they have no right to assume its use.
This is common, and it’s perfectly allowed, both by the law and by convention. (And you know, other people also reach you on your home phone without contributing to your phone bill.)
3. How can I tell a prospective employer I’d like to retain two freelance clients?
I have been self-employed for 8 years, 2 of those as a freelancer, then 5 as a co-director of a company I built up with my now ex-business partner. Learning how to be a manager was very much a trial-by-fire for me, and your blog has been a massive source of support and advice, particularly when I decided to leave my business partnership earlier this year and go solo again.
Which leads me to my question. A former boss of mine recently got in touch and asked if I’d like to apply for a job at the company he is now managing director of, a respected international firm. In fact, the firm is actually a client of mine and I’m in the middle of a project for them. While I’m not actively looking to go back to being an employee again, I am seriously considering it for this job, should it be offered to me. However, I have two clients that I would like to carry on working with; it is not unheard of in my industry for someone in my position to carry on working with a client or two alongside a full-time job, as long as the client is not a competitor. In my case, my links to the two clients I’d like to carry on working with would actually be extremely beneficial to my as-yet-theoretical new employer.
Assuming that I wind up being asked to interview, how do I broach this subject, and at what point would it be appropriate?
Just be straightforward, explain what you’d like to do, and ask if it would be possible. I’d raise it toward the later stages of the interview process — not the first interview, but if you continue to talk about the job after that. If for some reason there’s only one interview and you don’t get the chance to wait for later stages, then it’s fine to bring it up once you have an offer.
4. How can I leave the door open to return to this job after a law clerkship?
I will be starting as an associate at a law firm very soon. However, I was contacted for an interview with a federal judge (for a clerkship in his chambers). Federal judges hire their clerks a year in advance, so the position that I would be interviewing would not start until September 2014. If I was offered the position, I would absolutely accept.
If I did get the clerkship, I am certain that the firm that I will be working for would understand. However, I am unsure (because I haven’t started working there yet) whether I would want to return to the firm after the clerkship is over, but I want that to be an option. How do you suggest that I talk to the managing partner about this (assuming I have to talk to her, which would only be necessary if the judge hired me)? I do not want to promise that I will be returning after the clerkship, but I also don’t want to foreclose that possibility.
Yes, I know, I am jumping the gun a little, but I want to be prepared. I think that the judge will make his hiring decision quickly, and there is a good chance that my managing partner will hear about it from someone other than me, which is obviously something that I want to avoid.
I don’t think you can get a promise from them to hold a spot for you, particularly when you’re not willing to commit to returning. Rather, you should simply try to leave on good terms and to leave the door open for the possibility of working together in the future — for example, “I was so looking forward to working with you, and I’d love to stay in touch and perhaps talk about possibilities as my clerkship is coming to a close.”
5. What’s the role of HR vs. managers?
After 15 years of managing projects, not people, I was asked to supervise a single direct report. I received no management training or guidance on expectations regarding how to supervise. The person in question worked remotely in another state and it soon became clear that this person was not keeping regular hours, was not responsive to requests and assignments, and was not appropriately completing the work that did get done. I spoke to my manager about my concerns and was told to contact HR for guidance. HR provided very loose guidance around conversations to have, documentation to keep, and development of a Performance Improvement Plan but provided no hands-on support or coaching. In the end, this person was terminated for fraud that I documented, but it was a very stressful process during which I was the only person involved in direct communication with the employee. I even had to terminate the employee myself over the telephone, without support from HR.
Subsequently I had to interview and hire a new person for the role. HR provided resumes and candidates, but the rest of the process — including extending the offer and sending the offer letter — was delegated to me. Given that I have no practice in this area, I am sure I did not handle the offer process as well as I should have. HR indicates that its responsibilities extend only to creating policies and guidelines for the company and to completing the legal aspects of hiring and firing (W-2 forms, benefits administration, etc.). Managers are responsible for performance management from hiring to termination.
Recently, I have accepted a new position with a company where the hiring process has been routed entirely through HR, including the extension of the offer and routing of the offer letter. My interaction with the hiring manager was limited to the interview alone. Which is the more common model?
It varies, but at good organizations, hiring managers will lead the process, select their own candidates, and make their own offers. When I have someone I want to hire, I want to make that offer myself and sell the job to the person — not leave it to HR, who is likely to approach it from a much more process-y, bureaucratic angle.
In regard to the management and firing of your problem employee, HR’s involvement sounds about right — managers should generally lead that type of thing, using HR as a resource when needed. That said, good organizations don’t leave new managers to fend for themselves — they should have seen that you had no training or experience in managing and given you more support.
6. Employer wants me to use annual leave for a business trip
I have worked for a well known travel agent as a manager for several years now. The time has come again for them to send me abroad on a business trip for a required conference, but they are asking me to deduct the time from my allocation of annual leave. I have enough problems with child care as it is, and any time off I have is precious to me. Are they allowed to do this?
This is a trip that you’re required to go on for work and they’re asking you to use annual leave for it? You’d need to check the laws of the state that you live in to see if you have any legal recourse, but first try pushing back and pointing out that this makes no sense. Say, “My annual leave is part of my benefits package and is for time that I’m taking off of work. This is a required business trip where I will be working; it’s not vacation time.”
7. How to show appreciation for a coworker’s help
I work in a large library that will soon undergo big transitions, including major updates to the library building and services. A library administrator assigned a few employees from different departments to help oversee preparations for these changes. I was assigned to one piece of this process. I work closely with a coworker from another department who was assigned to supervise a similar process. This coworker has been most helpful to me. She has previous business and project management experience that I don’t have, and she’s provided guidance and support beyond her obligations to this project.
I would like to do something special to thank her. I considered giving her a small gift along with a card — nothing very expensive or fancy, but something more than just a verbal “thanks.” Does this sound appropriate? If so, how might I decide what kind of gift to buy? And if not, is there a better way to show my appreciation?
A card and gift is great, especially if the card goes into detail about what she did that you’re grateful for and why. In fact, that type of card alone would be sufficient, but there’s no reason not to throw in a small gift as well if you’d like. (Food is always good if she’s not on a restrictive diet.)
But no matter what you do, one element that you should absolutely include is sending an email to her manager, explaining how awesome she was, and giving specifics about how. Too few people bother to do that, and it can make a huge difference in how someone is perceived by their manager (which can pay off in performance evaluations, raises, and general appreciation).