It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…
1. When can you use someone’s first name?
I’ve been wondering for years – what is the appropriate way to address someone once you’ve had an initial exchange? The first email typically says Ms. Blank, but once they respond, do you keep addressing them as Ms. Blank in every single email until you have an offer? Seems strange, especially if there are a few emails back and forth in the span of a day and they address you each time by your first name and also sign with their first name.
In a professional setting, when someone is addressing you by your first name, you can address them by theirs. You don’t need to put yourself on unequal footing. (In fact, I’d argue that in most professional settings in the U.S., you can start out with the person’s first name. There are some exceptions to this — the military, some parts of the government, some particularly formal workplaces — but in general, most adults these days call each other by their first names.)
Plus, when someone signs an email to you with their first name, that’s the equivalent of “Please, call me Alison.” They’re calling themselves by their first name in their interactions with you and expecting you to do the same.
2. I wasn’t included in a meeting I’d asked to be a part of
I asked a colleague to include me at a meeting to discuss an idea of mine to compliment our overall strategy for a particular project I am partially responsible for. She did not and I received a detailed list of directions from one of her colleagues as a follow up to the discussion I was excluded from. I am disappointed and feel undermined. What would you do in my situation?
I’d say this: “Jane, I heard from Apollo with a list of instructions that came out of the meeting on X. I was surprised I wasn’t part of that meeting, since we’d talked earlier abut making sure I was there.” Then see what she says. Depending on her response and the context around your project, the next step could be any of the following:
“Could you be sure I’m part of any future meetings on this?”
“When are you likely to meet about this next? I’d like to be there.”
“Before work moves forward, I’d like to sit down with both of you and work out Y and Z.”
“Apollo’s note raised some concerns about Y for me. I think we need to go back and revisit that before moving forward.”
In other words, direct, calm, and to the point.
3. Is there ever an okay time to disclose your current salary in the hiring process?
Is there ever an okay time to disclose your current salary in the interview process? I am paid about 30% under market value for my current job. I am looking to make a huge pay jump into my next one and obviously trying to avoid giving current salary information as much as possible. I’ve heard some employers will ask for pay stubs, not for your salary information but to verify your employment. If I’ve already negotiated my package and salary, is it okay to handover a W2 or pay stub? Is it possible that the company could come back and try to renegotiate my salary to a lower number?
If you didn’t disclose your salary earlier, it would be shocking and unlikely for an employer to try to lower your offer just because they later learned your salary.
But I’d also be surprised if you were asked for W2s and pay stubs as employment verification; typically verification is done by contacting the company directly, and those items would only come into play if for some reason they couldn’t (like if the company had closed down).
4. Avoiding toxic workplaces
I want to avoid joining another toxic workplace. I think a key indicator of a toxic workplace is when people leave frequently. I’m finishing a fixed term contract at the moment and will look for something new soon. In future job interviews I want to somehow ask “Why did the last person leave?” Or even better, “Why are people leaving the company?” It’s a tough question, but I’d like transparency and honesty. Leadership is becoming very important to me. A high turnover rate indicates bad leadership and toxicity.
I’d also like to request a lunch with the other members of the team, or the manager, to get a feel of the culture and the team. Does that seem reasonable? If they say no, I will probably turn down their offers.
Sure, you can ask, “Why did the person previously in this position leave?” It’s a normal question. So is, “What kind of turnover does the team have? Why do people normally move on?” But be aware that incredibly toxic companies can have perfectly reasonable-sounding answers to these questions, so it’s one data point but it’s far from everything, so here’s more advice on how to assess company culture.
Once you receive an offer, you can also ask to meet with others you’d be working with (but generally not before that), although how reasonable that request is will depend on the specific job (it’s probably not reasonable in a call center, for instance).
5. Interviewing when the job posting has disappeared
I’m actually asking this for a friend of mine. She got an interview with a company she really wants to work for, but the job description has disappeared from their website! She did not receive an automated confirmation when she applied and the HR rep called her to schedule the interview so she doesn’t have any email contact info. Should she call? What should she say? She feels like she had a good idea of what it was when she applied, but that was weeks ago! She wants to be prepared. What should she do?
Yes, she should call and ask if they can email her a job description ahead of time, noting that it’s no longer on her website and stating mildly apologetically that she doesn’t seem to be able to find her copy from when she applied. (Ideally she’d email this, but if she can’t find email contact info, then it’s fine to call.)
In general, it’s good to keep a copy of any job postings you apply to on your own computer, since they can indeed be taken down like this.