my boss was arrested, being offered a job as the second choice, and more

It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…

1. I resigned after my boss was arrested

I recently resigned my position without another job lined up, because…wait for it…the majority owner of my company was arrested on a charge related to our business. He was also my boss, as we were a small company.

I know you are not suppose to leave your job without another position lined up, but I was in management at the time this happened, and I just could not take the mildly threatening phone calls from customers, the constant employee questions, the government/criminal investigation, and stress any longer. I also did not want to be associated with any alleged wrongdoing by staying. My question is – how do I address my resignation in interviews? One recruiter I talked to said not to throw my boss under the bus and just say my company was going in a direction I did not agree with and let the interviewer find out details by searching my company. Another told me I should just say my boss had legal problems that didn’t allow me to fully execute my position. I think both answers might not really satisfy a person’s inquiry about why I left and there will be follow-up questions.

How can I explain the situation without necessarily being negative in my interview? If you search for my company the investigation is likely to come up, but I also do not want to seem like I am badmouthing any one or that I was in on any alleged crime.

It’s not throwing your company under the bus to calmly and concisely state a clear, objective fact like this.

Besides, “the company was going in a direction I didn’t agree with” isn’t going to be the end of the conversation; any halfway decent interviewer will ask what you mean by that, and then you’ll be left explaining what happened anyway, but with a weird, evasive-sounding answer having preceded it. (Why do people keep recommending these vague answers as if the interviewer isn’t going to ask follow-up questions? Interviewers aren’t robots who just record your answer and don’t seek to understand what you mean.)

If I were interviewing you, I’d much rather just hear the truth: “My boss, the owner of the company, was arrested for X. As you can imagine, it caused a lot of turmoil in the company, and I thought it best to move on.”

2. Being offered a job after the first choice didn’t work out

My boyfriend had been interviewing for a job, and it all went really well, but he was told that he didn’t get the job. The person they’d picked had event planning experience, and they have a conference coming up, so it made sense. However, about one week later, he got a call from the hiring manager asking him if he was still available; the first hire didn’t work out, so they wanted to make an offer to him.

He’s planning to accept the offer (he’s likely to get the actual written one on Tuesday, this was just the verbal), but he was wondering if the first person “not working out” so quickly is a red flag. I told him *probably* not, since with that quick of a turnover it’s like 50% possible that the person didn’t even start, and either declined the offer or accepted and reneged, or for some other reason never even started. And that even if they had done a couple days, people self-select out of all kinds of jobs for reasons that often have nothing to do with the job itself, and is more of a fit issue.

I did tell him that if it really worried him he shouldn’t feel weird about just asking what happened, but that if he’s not super worried, he could ask after he’s been on the job a few days and built up a bit of rapport. (If it matters, he gets the impression that he was the first choice of the actual hiring manager, the Chief of Staff, but that the ED liked the other person slightly better and overruled).

I don’t think it’s red-flaggy at all. People flake out after accepting a job or accept a better offer, or realize they need to push their start date back three months which won’t work on the employer’s side, and so forth. For it to be a red flag, it would have to be something like the employer just randomly changed their mind and rescinded the other person’s offer, but that’s less likely to be the explanation than all of the other possibilities.

The only other red flag could be if you think that they don’t really think you’re a great fit for the job, but are just hiring you out of desperation (which can bode badly for your success in the road). But it doesn’t sound at all like that’s the case here.

Also, it’s totally fine to ask after they make the offer to you: “Can I ask what happened with the other person?” You can say it in a tone of mild concern so it doesn’t sound like idle curiosity. Or, if the answer won’t change your mind anyway, also reasonable to wait and ask after you’ve been on the job for a week or so.

3. I started a temp job, but it sounds like they’re going to move a coworker into it

I recently started as a temp in a supervisory role with a firm (two weeks ago). One of my colleagues has voiced an interest in the position I was recruited for, and the company have opened the role up for interviews. The application process ends at the end of this week, but they are actively speaking about the role as “Tracey (my colleague) is going to be busy in her new job” and “we need to find a replacement for Tracey when she takes on her new role.”

I have not even submitted my resume (again) for it but it is apparent that I will not get the role I am currently performing. They are also stating, “Don’t worry, we can find you something to keep you going.” My knowledge of employment law is not very good, but surely they cannot do this.

Unless you have a contract with them that promises you the role for a specific period of time (very unlikely if you’re in the U.S.), they can indeed do this. If you haven’t applied for the role, you can’t really blame them for overlooking you — but even if you had, it’s not unusual that they might prefer a known quantity who they’ve worked with longer, especially for a management role. If you’re interested in being considered for the job, you should definitely speak up — but it sounds like they’re pretty sold on going with Tracey, so you might instead focus on what other options they’re alluding to for you.

4. Mentioning blogging in a resume or cover letter

I’m just starting out my career in communications, and have been working for less than two years in an office environment. I have plenty of writing and communications plan experience, but am trying to break into digital communications. There hasn’t been many opportunities for me to develop my skills in my formal job, but outside of work I am a regular contributor for a lifestyle blog. This isn’t a paid position, I was just contacted by the co-founders and asked to write for them. This position lets me use a lot of relevant skills for the digital jobs I’m applying for, but because it’s just a side hobby of mine and it isn’t paid, would this be appropriate for a resume or cover letter?

Good god, yes.

It’s directly related to the field you want to work in, and moreover, it sounds like it might be the best evidence of your work in that field that you can show them. Don’t forego talking about that!

5. Asking a prospective new employer about leaving early to volunteer one day a week

I’m currently in a contract position in a school that will be ending this summer, so I’ll be starting my job search soon. This past year, on top of my full-time contract position, I’ve been teaching Hebrew school at my synagogue on Wednesday afternoons (as a volunteer). This hasn’t conflicted with my school schedule at all because the school days don’t overlap, and I’ve absolutely loved doing it — it’s taught me a bunch of new skills, really helped me connect with my community, and been incredibly fun! I’d really like to teach again next year, but I’m not sure how to ask prospective employers about potentially leaving early on Wednesday afternoons to do this. When I get to the offer stage, should I just ask about flexible time in general, without going into specifics? Or should I tell them specifically that I’d like to keep doing this second job, and give them details about when I’d need to leave on Wednesdays to do that? (Or maybe something in between!)

I’d wait until you’re at the offer stage and then be specific about what you want. I wouldn’t just ask about flexible time in general, because that might mean “it’s cool if you flex your hours on occasion” but not “you can leave early every single Wednesday.” I’d be specific about what you’ve been doing and say that you’re wondering if it’s possible to continue it if you adjust your schedule in some other way. Do be prepared to hear that in a lot of jobs, it just won’t be possible — but there are also plenty that would be okay with this, and it’s not unreasonable to ask in many contexts.

{ 127 comments… read them below or add one }

    1. OP #1

      I am not – is there someone else out there in my situation??

      Also, to address some comments below, I was leaning towards just factually stating the situation but not being emotional about it. I was just thrown for a loop when I talked with some recruiters who basically said not to mention it! I thought it was really weird and could be seen as hiding something.

      Reply
      1. esra

        I think you’re right that it would come off weirdly to just vague-answer. As long as you are neutral about it, something more truthful should be fine.

        Reply
      2. INTP

        I agree with being very factual in this case. Usually, it doesn’t work well for candidates to mention issues they have with their bosses or current companies, or at least it works out best to give a very restrained answer. But in this case, a recruiter knows something is up when you resign without something lined up, and if you make a vague mention of legal or ethical problems and don’t describe the entire situation, you risk making it look like you resigned because you were involved with them! So an open but factual and unemotional answer is best. (I would say, for example, that I didn’t feel I could be effective in my position due to threats from customers and the ongoing investigation, rather than that I was stressed out by those things. It’s totally reasonable to be stressed by those things – as a recruiter, I didn’t fault anyone when I could read between the lines and see that someone was seeking to leave or had left a toxic environment, but I was always on the lookout for signs that someone was burnt out and not ready to start up in our intense work environment, and one of those signs is when someone is so worn down that they open up about their job stress in an interview.)

        Reply
        1. Helen

          What makes you believe that it was a toxic environment and not that the employee had some sort of personality issue (or difficulty with authority, etc.)?

          Reply
          1. INTP

            There’s never any guarantee that the candidate doesn’t have some sort of personality issue. However, if they can use tact and restraint when talking about it, I see that as a good sign. When someone says “I’m seeking a better cultural fit. I’d like to work with an organization that is organized with clear priorities,” for example, I can read in that they are probably stressed out by their chaotic work environment. However, they also have the self awareness to know that if they give a vague description of their work environment, I’m not going to automatically assume they are in the right and others are in the wrong. If someone says “I’m seeking to leave because my managers are so disorganized and don’t know what their goals are” it shows that they assume others will agree and sympathize based on vague information, which is a red flag for me. It shows a lack of self awareness, an assumption that all reasonable people will just assume they are right (or it can just show emotional burnout, that they don’t have the self-control anymore to avoid venting about their work environment).

            Reply
            1. Artemesia

              This last point is so powerful i.e. the lack of self control shown by venting. I was laid off in an enormous merger and a friend of mine told me that he had interviewed one of my colleagues hoping to give the guy a hand up from a rough situation. The guy came in and whined on and on about the merger and how unfair it had been and whined himself right out of consideration for a new job. In this case he knew my friend and so had his guard down, but if you can’t be professional in an interview, when can you be professional?

              Reply
              1. Revanche

                “if you can’t be professional in an interview, when can you be professional?”
                Agreed. In most cases, this is likely going to be your most formal interaction if not also a first impression scenario. So if you don’t try to stay professional then, will you ever?

                Reply
          1. INTP

            I question someone’s abilities to behave appropriately in a professional environment if they can’t keep their emotions out of a job interview. Some people come across as just very open with positives and negatives and every mention of stress will be countered by 3 mentions of passion and joy, that’s fine. But if someone can’t avoid venting about their job stresses for 30 minutes in a high stakes professional situation like an interview, you have to question whether they can keep a lid on it when they’re actually at work, in low stakes situations, 40+ hours a week, and not be a drain on their coworkers or overreact to things.

            Reply
            1. Mike C.

              But that’s not about being an unemotional robot, you’re talking about being able to act in a professional manner. There are plenty of times where being personable, empathetic and able to respond appropriately to the emotions of others is an incredibly important skill to have in the professional world. How else can you work with other people?

              Reply
              1. MK

                Being personable, empathetic and able to respond appropriately to the emotions of others may or may not be important for the particular job. However: a) showing your own emotions in no way quarantees that you are all these things; in fact, some of the more self-absorbed people are the ones who express their own emotions (and expect others to deal with them) and b) even if it is a valueable skill, it is equally important to know when to apply it. There may be plenty of times that it’s useful, but a job interview is not one of them.

                Reply
                1. Mike C.

                  I can’t think of a single job where being able to communicate with other people in an appropriate manner is not a primary skill. Part of being able to communicate is being able to express one’s own and understand the emotions of others. There’s a ton of unspoken communication that goes on, which is why job interviews are almost always held in person at some point. I never said emotions where some shibboleth that proved you would be the best candidate out there, only that it’s a minimum requirement.

                  The whole point of a job interview is to understand if the particular job is a good match, and if so to show that you should be hired. Walking into the room going all, “BEEP BOOP I AM A ROBOT WITH NO EMOTIONS” is going to be a severe hindrance.

                  Look, I really don’t understand your response. I’ve already stated that acting in a professional manner is the whole point that should be focused on, and bringing up counter-examples of the self-absorbed who expect others to deal with bad behavior or kn0wing when to apply emotions all fit under the umbrella of “being able to act in a professional manner”.

              2. INTP

                Where did I say anyone needs to be an unemotional robot? I actually specified that it’s fine if there are a few negative-emotion words peppered into the conversation if you’re just a very expressive person and you’re also using positive emotion words, and that I don’t hold it against anyone if I can read between the lines that someone seems stressed without them saying so. I just suggested that the OP keep their responses about why they left that position to be as unemotional as possible, and same for people in general who are leaving positions due to negative emotional reasons (burnout, toxic environment, etc). It’s not about the depth of your feeling, it’s about knowing what is appropriate to discuss in a given professional context. A job interview is pretty personal by nature but it’s still a business meeting and the topics of discussion should stick as closely as possible to things that are relevant to your fit for the position and vice versa. Wouldn’t you find it unprofessional if the interviewer started venting about his or her personal stress?

                Reply
          2. Ask a Manager Post author

            It’s not about showing no emotion or being a robot. It’s about understanding that a job interview is rarely, rarely the place for negative emotion. Just like it would be alarming if you were on a first date and the person was really negative toward their ex or their parents. Might be reasonable feelings, but an emotionally intelligent person will recognize that you don’t yet know them enough to judge that and that this isn’t the time or the place for it. So it’s actually about displaying more emotional intelligence.

            Reply
            1. INTP

              Or for that matter, negative emotion from the other side of the table in a job interview. If you ask your potential manager why the position is open and they respond, “Because my workload has grown to the point that I’m just too stressed out to deal with it all,” would you find that a red flag or a sign of an excellent communicator?

              Reply
      3. Mike C.

        You’re a human being, you can show a little emotion. No reasonable person would blame you for feeling like that was an uncomfortable or stressful situation.

        Reply
        1. MK

          I don’t think the OP means that they intent to deliver the lines as if they were a cyborg in a sf film, just keep the emotional reaction out of her answer. Imagine AAM’s script loaded with emotion:

          “My boss, the owner of the company, turned out, to my schok, to be a criminal. He was arrested for X, which I think is a heinous act. As you can imagine, it caused a lot of turmoil in the company, which in turn made me feel terribly uncomfortable and stressed, and I thought it best to cut all ties with the company as soon as possible.”

          This could very well be an understandable reaction, but it’s too much information for a job interview and it comes across as somewhat unprofessional.

          Reply
          1. Zillah

            I agree, and IMO, I think the other issue with that approach is that it signals that you consider those things to be highly significant. The more time and emphasis you put on negative emotions or experiences with your old company, the less you’re putting on your qualifications and skills.

            Reply
      4. salad fingers

        Yes! My old roommate was in your situation. Coworker called her to tell her to flip on the news before they were on their way in one day. News is reporting her boss being arrested on the border of another state fleeing arrest for charges directly related to the restaurant he owned/she worked for. The last two of her checks had bounced and there had generally been an uneasy air about the place recently, so while a bit surprised and amused, no one was shocked. She and coworker had a moment of …are we still supposed to go to work? They did and made a ton of money for a couple of weeks following because publicity.

        Anyway, not totally the same and probably much less stressful than your situation, but it has certainly happened :-) Good luck and sorry you’re going through this!

        Reply
  1. Re: #1

    My rule of thumb is that any information that’s on the public record is fair game to mention without feeling like you’re betraying or trash talking about. I would state the facts as they were presented in the media and court records.

    Reply
  2. Jennifer

    Hey, I was the second choice for a job and I’ve lasted a long time. The first person probably just had another job offer they liked better or something else came up. No big whoop. If they didn’t like you (or anybody) they’d probably just reopen the job search.

    Reply
    1. Monodon monoceros

      I’ve also hired 2nd, 3rd and even 4th choices and they’ve worked out great. One guy was our 4th choice, but after he’d been there for 6 months all of us were saying (to each other on the hiring committee) “thank goodness things worked out that we ended up hiring Joe! Imagine if the first 3 people didn’t flake out? we wouldn’t have gotten Joe!”

      If your boyfriend wants the job, I’d say take it and tell him to own it and not take into account that he wasn’t the first choice.

      Reply
      1. Artemesia

        My daughter was second choice for a job and they liked her so much they hired her a few months later on a contract and then hired her full time when they had the business. Now two years later, the guy they hired instead of her is long gone and she is moving on up.

        Reply
    2. Kerry

      I was second choice for my current job and it’s worked out really well – I’ve been here for two years and I love it. When they rejected me they said it was really close, and after their first choice took another job offer, the company came back to me immediately to see if I was still interested. I don’t think it’s a red flag on its own at all.

      Reply
    3. TOC

      I was hired after the person before me lasted only a week. She just realized that the job wasn’t right for her; I think she decided to stay home with her children or something like that.

      I hadn’t actually applied the first time the job was posted, but had seen the posting so was a little wary when it was reposted so quickly. It’s natural to wonder if the first hire’s “failure” is a reflection of something wrong at the organization, but it often isn’t. I applied for the job the second time it opened, they interviewed and hired me immediately, and I stayed for over three years during which both I and my employer were very happy.

      Reply
    4. INTP

      I don’t know that I’ve ever been the second choice – it’s totally possible that I have. However, I agree that it’s no big deal at all. Who wants to work at a place where you are the most qualified employee they could possibly hope to get? There might be more room to grow at a job where you weren’t the first and most obvious choice.

      Reply
      1. Artemesia

        An interesting point of view slightly akin to Groucho Marx’s famous dictum ‘I wouldn’t want to belong to a club that would have me as a member.’

        Reply
      2. OhNo

        That’s a really good way to look at it, and I’m definitely going to keep it in mind if I ever end up in a similar situation!

        Reply
    5. mdv

      I just celebrated my 17th anniversary at my job, and I was the 2nd choice as well — the 1st choice was hired in a permanent position, but flaked out as a no call no show (for a week!). I was hired in a temp position at the same time, and when the permanent position came open, it was offered to me. A lot of other people have come and gone since then, and I am still here. In the office, I have the 3rd most seniority, 6th most when you count our field staff.

      Reply
    6. JMegan

      That has happened to me a couple of times. On the most recent occasion, it was because someone else on the team left shortly after their first choice was hired, and they called me back rather than reopening the recruitment. So it’s not necessarily a bad thing, honest!

      Reply
  3. Marzipan

    #1, it’s not negative to state that your boss was arrested, it’s just factual. (Well, presumably it’s negative for him, but that’s not your problem.) Not being negative about former employers doesn’t mean that you can’t ever mention any less-than-ideal circumstance; it means don’t bitch about them, don’t be bitter, don’t glory in their misfortunes. It’s advice about you, not about the situation; it’s about not coming across as unpleasant, lacking self-awareness, blame-y, or in some other way a liability.

    And apart from anything else, I’d be surprised if the information weren’t the first news to come up if you Googled the company, anyway. The absolute worst-case scenario, if you just give vague answers about different directions, would be recruiters knowing (or finding out) about the situation and drawing negative conclusions about you because of that – not mentioning your boss’s arrest would seem pretty weird. Faced with that information + a person giving unsatisfying wooly answers, I’m not sure what I would think. Not necessarily ‘aha, they’re really a criminal mastermind!’, but it actually might make me wary about how they would handle challenging situations in the workplace – would they also avoid telling me about those?

    Reply
    1. Zillah

      I agree. Honestly, giving a vague answer could even imply, as the OP is afraid of, that they were involved in the crime – that would certainly occur to me if I found out that someone was noncommittal about something that relevant.

      Reply
    2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

      Even when not as extreme as “turns out my boss is a criminal”, factual recantations of negative things aren’t the same as being negative.

      Maybe it’s my sales background, but I’m always probing for pain points in interviews to see if we have a good culture match. If someone mentions the negative of “there was a lot of yelling and tension”, I don’t think the person is being negative. That’s a useful springboard to talk about values, culture, what’s important, and see if that lines up.

      Somebody says “things were disorganized and priorities changed constantly”, useful, but in a different way. We might be the wrong next place to work for this person. We’re not disorganized but the nature of what we do is constant re-prioritization throughout the day.

      Am I off base? I rarely have a hard time getting people to tell me negative facts, and also rarely have someone do it in a negative rant way that turns me off.

      Reply
      1. Graciosa

        I don’t think you’re off base. Cultural fit is sometimes treated as an afterthought in the selection process, but it really shouldn’t be. There are otherwise competent people who don’t work well in certain environments, and finding someone who will be successful in yours is the main point of the selection process.

        Hiring the wrong person is more costly than people realize to everyone involved.

        Reply
      2. TOC

        I think there’s a difference (though sometimes subtle to define) between speaking factually about problems at a previous employer and coming across as negative or bitter. The trick is setting the tone in a way that makes you look insightful and articulate, rather than bitter, complaining, or part of the problem. Stating a fact like, “Our owner was arrested on charges related to misconduct at our company, and I didn’t want to be part of that working environment” is not complaining.

        Like Wakeen said, it can actually be helpful to your interviewers if you’re able to share something about your last employer that make your work difficult. When I was interviewing recently, I was being laid off. When interviewers asked why I was looking for a new job after only a year, I said, “When I took my current job a year ago, the organization did not inform me that the position was funded by a one-year grant. That funding has ended and there are not other funds for my position.” Imagine how cagey I would have looked had I tried to come up with some other vague explanation.

        I was also able to say, “I have enjoyed the tasks at my current job very much, but the department was structured in a way that left me feeling isolated and bored. I’m looking for a better fit this time around; I do my best in a highly-collaborate environment where there is always work to be done and a lot of variety and new opportunities.” Yes, I was revealing a shortcoming of my employer, but it wasn’t negative or slanderous. It was just helpful information for my interviewers so we could talk together about what kind of fit we desired.

        Reply
        1. PlainJane

          Well said. Another good reason to give a brief, factual answer is to keep the focus on why you’re an amazing candidate. If you spend 10 minutes explaining why you left your last job, even if you aren’t venting, you’re wasting valuable time better spent marketing yourself.

          Reply
      3. Jen RO

        We have also rejected people who wanted more structure and “hand holding”. This is just not that kind of job, and I already have some issues with an employee who is having trouble switching tasks and with another one who won’t follow up unless I tell him to.

        Reply
        1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

          In our case, I’d want to know more, because that could be anywhere from a great to terrible fit for us. We need people who can think/problem solve independently within a pretty robust structure…and, we have a lot of support for new people. We can work with people who need a moderate amount of hand holding until they launch. (Preferable to the occasionally Cowboy type who slips through and doesn’t have common sense to ask before they do crazy things! Shoot now, blow things up, never register that you should have asked first.)

          This mismatch for us would be the person who needs constant reassurance, so that’s what I’d probe for.

          Reply
          1. Jen RO

            I wasn’t involved in hiring any of the people I manage… but at least I know what to screen for in the future. (Not exactly easy considering 90% of new hires in my department are also new to the working world and probably don’t even realize what kind of environment they need…)

            Reply
      4. Beezus

        I think there’s a right way and a wrong way to be negative in an interview. Everyone with a meaningful work history has bad things that have happened to them, and I don’t think it’s bad to talk about those things, as long as you use them to illustrate something critical that you learned or overcame, or to illustrate what your dealbreakers are.

        It’s best to get to the point quickly. You don’t want Negative Thing to be the point of the interview. This is the reason why vague things like “the company was moving in a direction I didn’t agree with” don’t serve you well. The interviewer is going to ask questions until she gets to the bottom of it anyway. If you’re coy about it, she may start wondering if you’re hiding something about yourself, and it might be hard to put that out of her mind once it’s there. “I was asked to falsify financial statements” gets to the point and allows the interviewer to understand where you’re coming from in one sentence.

        You need to be factual and objective. Don’t use emotive language and avoid expressing opinions unnecessarily. “My boss banned greasy takeout food from the office, and requires us to attend after-work events unpaid and penalizes people who don’t consume alcohol at those events” is better than “my boss is a crazypants control freak and I think he’s trying to put us all on his diet.”

        You want to focus on the very very worst thing, not all the bad things. “I went six weeks without receiving a paycheck for my work, so I quit” is better than “Someone stole my favorite stapler, it was a red Swingline, and he took it, and he ignored me when I asked him to give it back. I was told I could listen to the radio at a reasonable volume from nine to eleven, but then Sandra told me to turn it off at 10:30, even though I was supposed to be able to listen to it until eleven, and I haven’t been paid in six weeks, and they asked me to move my desk to a storage room, even though it’s full of garbage in there and I had to clean it out myself and I’ve moved desks four times already this year, and I miss watching the squirrels play outside the window at my old desk.”

        The interviewer is going to be putting herself into your employer’s shoes and thinking about whether the Negative Thing could happen at the her company, and whether she’s comfortable with how you reacted to it. Think about what the Negative Thing really means for you in terms of dealbreakers and the kind of culture you fit into, and make sure those things are clear. “The workload was impossible” can mean different things for different people. “I work 60-70 hours a week to cover my routine workload, and my bosses ask me to commit to dates I know I can’t meet and cut corners I shouldn’t cut. I’m comfortable with working overtime to meet a deadline or cover busy season work, but not 365 days a year, and being timely and accurate is important to me. My bosses were understanding about missed deadlines and errors occurring, but I found I was developing the reputation of being tardy and sloppy outside my group, and that wasn’t acceptable to me.” This answer allows the interviewer to see how the work culture compares to her company, and illustrates a couple of the interviewee’s dealbreakers.

        Reply
        1. Nichole

          Really liked your point about describing the worst bad thing rather than all of the bad things, plus the tie-in to answering the interviewer’s hidden question: “what about your last job was a dealbreaker that could potentially be an issue here?” Focusing on only the straws that broke the camel’s back most makes it easier to prevent devolving into badmouthing and gives both of you a heads up if you’re getting yourself into the same situation.

          Reply
  4. Lori C

    LW3 – I am having trouble wrapping my head around a company going to a temp agency to hire a supervisor in the first place. Are they testing the waters to see if they really need a supervisor for the permanent employees? Why didn’t Tracey apply for the job when it opened up the first time? If I was the LW I would be applying for the job I was already doing and asking some questions during that interview.

    Reply
    1. ReanaZ

      We recently did it at my workplace. But there were specifics that made it make sense. Our department is in a huge overload of work at the moment, and they’re pulling a lot of more experienced support desk staff to take on heavier tech operational roles, and then back filling the support desk with temps. This make sense both money-wise (hiring temp low-skill support staff is pretty inexpensive; hiring temp network administrators is expensive contract or consultant work), project-wise (the experienced staff know the org and systems pretty well, they just need some generic technical training to level up certain skills, plus they’re known quantities), and people-wise (chance to offer professional development and opportunities to level up for valued staff). But then they wanted the (very talented) manager of the support staff to backfill the ops team. While trying to decide if there was someone internal who had the capacity, interest, and skill, someone had to do the job, so they hired someone through the technical temp agency to fill in.

      Now, this is someone who has intermittently temped for us for at least the past year (I think while studying?) as support desk staff, so he knows our org and systems and people pretty well for a temp, and was well-placed to pop in in a team leader role. This could have easily ended with someone internal replacing him in a few weeks, but… no one wanted, so we ended up hiring him on contract (it’s unclear to me if this is permanent or only until the backfill crisis that pulled away the original manager is over), but it’s working well for everyone.

      So kind of a specific scenario, but it happens.

      Reply
  5. Observer

    #1 I’ve always wondered about this obsession with “not being negative.” I get that no one wants to work with a Negative Nancy, and when you say negative unverifiable things about your employer it can make you look like that, or like someone who can’t deal with work situations well.But reasonable people want to work with people whose judgement and basic sincerity they can trust. In this case saying something like “the comany was gong in a different direction” or even “was having some legal issues” is going to make you look like you are either an idiot or utterly untrustworthy. It would kind of like responding to a question about the wether outside with “Not the kind of day I’m fond of” of “Sort of drizling out there” when it’s pouring cats and dogs and what the questioner needs to know is that they really need an umbrella.

    On top of that, it could easily lead an interviewer to wonder “Why would OP say that? Was she involved in any way? Is she so stupid that she thought we wouldn’t find out about it?”

    Keep it calm and factual. It’s so far from “throwing them under the bus” that I’m trying to figure out what that even came from.

    Reply
    1. Zillah

      Well, it sounds like it’s come from multiple recruiters. I agree that it’s ridiculous advice, but that’s why the OP wrote in, I’m assuming – it probably didn’t sit quite right with them either! :)

      Reply
      1. Observer

        I understand that it came to her from at least one recruiter. But, where did they get that idea from? These guys sound like they are recruiting in an alternate universe. Either that or they are giving un-thought out formulaic advice that doesn’t relate to actual hiring practices.

        Reply
        1. Artemesia

          So many people in advisory type roles including counselor and certainly career counselor are utterly unqualified and clueless. Having watched people go from participating in some sort of therapy group to a quicky course in some therapeutic fad to hanging out their shingle and having watched people with no idea about how to get a job become career counselors, I would always be wary of a ‘recruiter’ who gives advice that doesn’t ring true. I am sure there are savy people in that business, but there are no required qualifications for it and just as a life coach may be someone who had lots of problems dealing with life and now wants to manage others, so too can a recruiter be someone who couldn’t get a decent job to save their life.

          Reply
        2. OhNo

          My first thought was that the recruiter might be under the impression that the OP was involved in some way – in which case staying vague would probably be the best idea, even though it would be highly unlikely to work.

          Since the OP is NOT involved, though, being that vague just looks weird.

          Reply
    2. MK

      Reasonable people do want to work with people whose judgement and basic sincerity they can trust, but there is really no way to know at the interview stage if the candidate is sensible and sincere. That’s why it’s best to stick to facts; if you say “my boss had unreasonable demands and exhibited abusive behavior”, I have no way of knowing whether the boss demanding miracles and screamed at you or you were lazy and took offence with mild critisism. To judge that, I would have to let you go into details and hashing out your previous job is not what the interview is about. In most cases, it only serves to derail the conversation anyway. But I don’t think mentioning your boss was arrested counts as badmouthing them, it’s stating a fact, though it would be better for the OP not to go into details of the “I was appalled by his actions” variety.

      Reply
      1. Not So NewReader

        Right on. No editorial comments- such as “it was sooo hard and everyone was sooo upset….”
        Being arrested stands alone as dramatic and does not need added emphasis.

        Usually these arrests become headlines. I would think it would look weird for OP not to say anything at all or offer something vague. Much better to have a go-to sentence or two to describe the situation and stick with those few sentences.

        OP, if the interviewer asks how you fit into the story here- have a couple of sentences prepared that factually state what you did and how you handled yourself. “When I found out about X, I did a, b and c.” Keep it straight forward, keep it honest. They already know there is tons more that you are not expanding on.

        Reply
      2. Observer

        Exactly. That’s why “avoid negativity and bad mouthing the last boss” is a useful rule of thumb. But when it gets to something factual, that can be easily verified after the interview, and which is stated without undue emotion or editorializing, it gets to be counterproductive to adhere to that “rule”.

        Reply
    3. soitgoes

      Lately I’ve noticed a widespread cultural shift toward playing devil’s advocate whenever someone says anything remotely negative. I could say, “Goodness, I’m so glad that my noisy upstairs neighbors were finally evicted” and get a bunch of commentary on how I should have been more accommodating because they had kids, even though they were the ones violating their lease. I could say “Drunk driving is a terrible thing to do” and get lambasted for not being sympathetic toward the disease nature of addiction. If you’re not fully accommodating and super-nice toward others (even if those people are effing you over), you’re seen as a complainer. Basically, a lot of us have had way too many arguments with moral relativists that we’re not jumping to stir that pot during a job interview.

      Reply
      1. Mabel

        Although if that did happen during an interview, it would give you some information about the company’s culture, and it might be a factor in helping you decide whether you wanted to work for that company.

        Reply
      2. Observer

        There is a difference between “My boss got arrested, and boy did he have it coming!” which I would agree should absolutely be avoided, and “My boss got arrested for criminal conduct related to the company and it made for a difficult working environment.” The first is judgmental, and could spark an argument or negative reaction. The latter is factual and if it creates a problem you’ve just discovered something very, very valuable about the company.

        Reply
        1. soitgoes

          The problem is that I (and possibly the OP, and definitely countless other people) don’t trust a lot of employers to understand the nuance there, and when you desperately need a job (even just to tide you over while you keep looking), it doesn’t do much good to say, “Ah, at least now I know I don’t want to work there!”

          Reply
          1. Observer

            This is not really a matter of nuance. And looking like you are hiding something, which is almost certainly what would happen in a case like this, will have a far greater likelihood of hurting your chances.

            Reply
            1. Cheesecake

              Yes, that is not a nuance that can be misinterpreted. What can be misinterpreted is vague answer, it will make interviewer think OP was actually involved in that whole mess.

              And why go to interview not trusting employer in first place?

              Reply
              1. soitgoes

                It’s not about not trusting the employer. It’s about knowing that, if you’re entry-level, you’re going to be dealing with a lot of small business owners who aren’t necessarily even-keeled when it comes to things like keeping soap in the restroom. The assumption that every person interviewing you will always understand what you’re trying to say…belies pretty much every AAM column.

                Reply
                1. fposte

                  Right, but if you obfuscate for fear that they’ll hold it against you, you’ll never get hired by the non-crazy places. This is a situation where defense can cost you.

                2. soitgoes

                  That’s not what I’m saying at all.

                  I was explaining the fear that some of us have, not suggesting any course of action.

                3. Cheesecake

                  @ spitgoes and we are trying to explain that this fear, though present and understandable, is not helpful at all. Being vague to avoid questions is a wrong approach; the more honest and to the point you are, the less amount of “digging” questions you will get and the more respect you will gain. There are sensible employers out there, those who will appreciate honest answers.

                4. Observer

                  @soitgoes, @cheesecake is correct. And, if your explanation of this behavior is correct, then it means that I am right that this is an unreasonable obsession. Using this kind of strategy will select out most of the non-crazy employers, and do little to weed out the true crazies.

          2. fposte

            Sure. But job-hunting isn’t like driving, where operating defensively has an overall benefit; if you defend yourself against possible crazy employers at every stage of the interview, you’re going to put off sane employers.

            That’s related to the recurring question about retraining yourself when you’ve been in a toxic workplace–the tools that allowed you to survive amid the craziness will damage you in most workplaces, so it’s really important to move past that defensive position.

            Reply
          3. Mephyle

            There is a difference between facts that are public record (the boss was arrested) and facts that aren’t (e.g., the boss behaved in ways that made it almost certain they were suffering from an undiagnosed mental illness). The prospective employer can readily verify the former. If they don’t, and just think “Candidate is trashing on their ex-boss” without checking the news reports, that’s not a place you’d want to work.

            Reply
            1. soitgoes

              I dunno, given how many commenters (here and in other posts) so willfully misunderstand each other (and we’re a smart bunch), I don’t think it’s all that irrational to worry about whether people in the real world won’t understand that a neutral statement isn’t actually an insult.

              I mean, I’m here simply explaining a thought process, and several people took that to be an endorsement of an action. That’s not very far off from believing that any explanation is in agreement with what is being explained, so no, I don’t believe I’m off-base in agreeing with the OP that it’s something to account for, no matter what approach he or she ends up taking.

              And again, “you wouldn’t want to work there” isn’t something that most people have the luxury of thinking when they desperately need a job.

              Reply
              1. Zillah

                I think that it’s a real disservice to say that “many” commenters here willfully misunderstand each other. People can misunderstand or disagree on minutiae without being willful about it, and I think it’s generally better to assume the best rather than bad intentions. I’d also point out that our disagreements are often about far more complex and emotionally charged questions than those likely to come up in an interview.

                Reply
              2. Observer

                People are not necessarily taking your explanation as an endorsement. But, you seem to be making the argument that it’s actually a potentially sensible course of action. And, it really, really is not, even taking into account the reality of crazy bosses and desperation for a job.

                Your explanation (based on the examples y0u used and your reactions) seems to assume that there either there is minimal difference between a heavily emotional or clearly judgmental description of a situation on the one hand and a simple factual description. And, you also seem to say that even if the difference is really significant and clear to reasonable people, so many employers are too stupid or too crazy to get the difference, that not planning for that comes from a place of privilege rather than good sense.

                What people are trying to say is that this tactic is more likely to hurt them with good jobs than help them with bad. (And, that even if they get the job with the crazy boos, this tactic is not going to be much help in keeping the job.) So, if that is the reason for someone to have this obsession, it’s hurting more than it’s helping. And therefore, it is advice that should NOT be coming from someone who is supposed to be helping people find jobs.

                Reply
            2. fposte

              I don’t think people here do willfully misunderstand, though. I think we operate in good faith even if we don’t get one another’s meaning. Since this is a blog about what you should do, I read statements as endorsements of action, in keeping with the blog’s theme, unless they’re clearly marked as something else.

              I definitely agree that the “You don’t want to work there anyway” gets tossed off glibly sometimes, especially when we’re talking about interview experiences rather than actual workplace policies. But I guess I’m still not understanding what you’re trying to get across generally–are you saying that you think the recruiter had a point about being more vague?

              Reply
              1. soitgoes

                I was answering the first commenter’s (in this thread) musing about why so many people “are obsessed with ‘not being negative.'” That’s really it. She/he was wondering why we worry about that in the first place, which is the only part of the OP’s letter I was addressing.

                Reply
                1. Observer

                  I used the word “obsession” for a reason. And, I think my responses (as well as those of the others) make that clear. We’re not talking about trying to avoid normal and expectable issues and worrying about how to avoid looking bad, but about getting so obsessed with something that people try to twist themselves into a pretzel over it, even when it is clearly ridiculous.

                  I’ll repeat what I said – if this type of factual and non-judgemental statement causes problems, then that is very, very valuable information. It may not be enough to make you turn down the job if you are really desperate, but it’s still valuable to understand that your (potential) boss is probably nuts or at least HIGHLY unreasonable.

      3. Cheesecake

        I quite openly say what i don’t like…ok, sometimes i complain too much, guilty as charged, and i understand it can irritate those around me. Having said that, those “more accommodating” people, who can’t just openly admit something are the biggest “behind the back” talkers and i tend to stay away from those who justify stuff like drunk driving.

        That also how i roll at interviews.Whenever a vague blah blah is given, i tend to dig further, because all i want is a straight answer. And what happens because people underestimate the interview pressure is they give even more details than necessary. They end up saying the actual reason and badmouth anything and everything they can to make themselves look better. When you were fired, just say: i was fired because of x, it sucked, i learnt and moved on. That’s it. Sometimes advice recruiters give makes me think they never actually had a real interview.

        Reply
    4. INTP

      In general, it’s best to stick to positive things about the new role rather than negative things about your current one. I’ve interviewed people who talked about their toxic work environment and mean coworkers and all of that – it’s a red flag. You risk coming across as:
      1) Someone who is totally burnt out at their current job and might not have the emotional fortitude to make a strong start at the next one. (If I can read between the lines and see that you’re stressed by your current work environment, I won’t hold that against you. If you start opening up to me about it, I will consider that you might be emotionally exhausted to the point that you lack the self control not to vent about your job stress to recruiters.)
      2) Someone who finds something wrong with every work environment and won’t be happy anywhere.
      3) Someone who is miserable (maybe for valid reasons) and itching to leave their current job at any costs – however valid the reasons, you don’t want to hire someone who is more interested in leaving their current job than starting yours. When they get back on their feet they might start looking again.

      However, when you leave a longer-term position with nothing lined up, the recruiter knows what’s up. And when your boss is arrested and you’re getting threatened by former customers, that’s an extreme situation! It’s best to be honest here – but still factual and unemotional. “With the ongoing investigation and threats from former customers, I resigned as I felt that I could not execute my job properly and it would be mutually beneficial if a new person could make a fresh start in my position” is better than “I resigned because it got too stressful dealing with the threats and the investigation.” You just want to show that you have the ability to use tact and restraint.

      Reply
      1. hayling

        “however valid the reasons, you don’t want to hire someone who is more interested in leaving their current job than starting yours”

        yes, this

        Reply
      2. OhNo

        INTP, your comments are really on point today. Everything you are saying makes a lot of sense, especially about the difference (however subtle) between wanting to leave the previous job and wanting to start the new job.

        And honestly, using tact and restraint in job interviews is just like anything else in interviews – there are going to be interviewers who respond positively to that, and ones who would prefer candidates to be emotional and (overly) honest. You can self-select a bit what kind of places you want to work based on how you behave in interviews. If the OP wants to work in a place that responds well to tact, then they can use this method. Otherwise, they can choose a different kind of response based on what kind of place they wish to work.

        Reply
    5. TOC

      Maybe the simplest way to say this is that there’s a difference between between negative as a noun and negative as an adjective. It’s fine to be candid about the negatives (noun) about your job to an extent. It’s more problematic to state those things in a negative (adjective) manner.

      Reply
    6. Steve G

      I concur. I mean, I know what to say in job interviews, but most of the time I am thinking “do you think I left xyz job after 6 months because they treated me so great?!?!” Fortunately I was underpaid at many jobs (in the late 2000s because of recession/location) so I can just blame the fact of them being low paying for why I left……….

      Reply
  6. Henrietta Gondorf

    #1, I’ve seen this play out twice. My husband’s former employer was arrested for soliciting what he believed to be a 12 year old for sex (actually an undercover cop). My brother’s former employer was arrested for fraud and is the subject of a massive FBI investigation.

    In my husband’s case the arrest happened not long after he’d left and he had to say they could not contact his former employer. He was very factual and there had been local press coverage so it was easy for other employers to verify. Still, really ugly.

    My bother’s industry is small enough that everyone knew, but again, very straightforward and factual.

    If there’s media coverage, you can certainly stick with what’s been reported or, if not, what’s in the court filings and charging documents.

    Good luck!

    Reply
    1. Graciosa

      One small caveat, as there are a lot of comments about sticking to “the facts” that are reported in the media. I have some experience with this, and what appears in the press can be much less accurate that we all assume.

      Fortunately, the errors are usually about something relatively minor – along the lines of reporting that the new park benches will be painted green when they won’t be painted at all – and easily corrected if someone in the media had bothered to ask (you’d be surprised how often they don’t). A reporter may not necessarily take the time to understand distinctions that matter a lot in an industry but not much to anyone else – especially with a deadline approaching. Deadlines are hugely important to the reporter and his or her boss, generally more so than bothering to understand the difference in classes of felonies or the nature of the intent requisite for a particular crime.

      I think stating that the media are “reporting that” Boss was arrested for X, or is a suspect in Y is going to be fair even if the reporter got it wrong. It’s a slight difference from saying that “Boss was arrested for X” but is more likely to remain true.

      Reply
      1. Kelly L.

        Though I think OP knows about the arrest through other channels than the media, unless I misread. I don’t think she necessarily needs to hedge with “the media says.” I think people’s point is more that she can say “Boss was arrested for xyz” and then if the interviewer is unsure, they can just check the media and see that boss really did get arrested.

        Reply
        1. fposte

          And she doesn’t even need to get specific with the name of the charge. “Boss was arrested for a business-related charge,” as she says in the original post, should be fine.

          Reply
      2. Elsajeni

        I don’t get the impression that the OP is getting her information about the boss’s arrest from the media, so I doubt accuracy is really the concern. I think the comments about sticking to what the media reports are more intended to say “If you work closely with this guy, you probably know more details than what’s in the news; don’t disclose that stuff, just stick to what’s already public,” because sharing anything beyond what’s already public information really would come across as gossipy, inappropriate, or throwing the boss under the bus.

        Reply
    2. OP #1

      The “can we contact your former employer” is the other part about it! When I see that on online apps I just check off “yes” because I don’t want to be kicked out by any selection software, but I also slightly worry what my old company might say. However, I do have good references from some of my former supervisors that were also at my old employer so I can easily explain that if I get to the interview stage.

      Reply
      1. Observer

        If the software allows any comments, use that to explain that they CAN contact your former employer, but it might not be very useful, given the current circumstances.

        Reply
      2. I'm a Little Teapot

        I don’t know any way to handle it with those online apps (which I loathe) but I’ve been in a somewhat similar situation – having a former boss whom I’d last seen when I’d been subpoenaed to be a witness at his trial – and interviewers were quite understanding when I said “Unfortunately, the last time he saw me was when I was subpoenaed as a witness at his trial for assaulting my coworker, so I don’t think he could be an objective reference.” (I’ve also had to explain leaving a job because I wasn’t being paid.)

        Reply
        1. Observer

          I’d have to say that if an interviewer was NOT understanding, you would know something very useful – stay away from this one if you can, and if you are really desperate, protect yourself and start looking.

          Reply
  7. BRR

    #2 Unless there were other red flags I wouldn’t worry about it.

    #3 You need to apply for the job first. Do they even know you’re interested? And as Alison said internal hires are very common, try to take the company at their word they will try and find something for you (assuming you like the company and are looking for permanent work).

    Reply
  8. Sans

    I was second choice for the best job I ever had. The first choice had more experience than I, but after two months, they called me up, said she was too used to being freelance and couldn’t stand working in the office. I loved that job and was there for 8 years.

    Reply
  9. NewishAnon

    “Interviewers aren’t robots who just record your answer and don’t seek to understand what you mean.”

    I was recently on an interview where the interviewer did just this. She asked pre-scripted questions and typed all my responses into a computer. She barely looked me in the eye once and didn’t ask any qualifying/follow up questions. She even told me they were looking for a specific formula, a way of saying things. If I didn’t answer in that format my question would be graded poorly, regardless of the content of my answers. I was not offered the job, but I’m not sure I would have wanted it anyway after that.

    Reply
    1. Cheesecake

      And that’s why interviews are great: just imagine the actual work there when you went through this robot interview. Dodged a bullet. Whenever i had a bad-ish interview with red flags and ignored it, work environment turned out pretty crappy.

      Reply
      1. NewishAnon

        I agree. I think it would have been a nightmare working there. I’m not even sure why they bothered with the interview.

        There were other red flags too. They said the interview would be one-on-one, but when I got there it was like an open casting call. There were at least 20 other people. I was one of two people that dressed in a suit for the interview. I waited an hour after my appointment time (not to mention that I drove an hour to the interview too) and then interviewed in a room full of other people also interviewing at the same time, for the same job. Everyone was sitting at folding tables and chairs. I could hear all the same questions over and over again and all the interviewers were just typing away into a computer. It was kind of creepy.

        They also sent me materials and asked me to prep for an activity that I would do during the interview, which I did, and then they had me do an entirely different activity with totally different materials. There was no similarity between the two activities and I was completely unprepared for it.

        Reply
        1. Cheesecake

          O_o waited an hour? interviewed with other candidates? hell! i would love an article from AAM hot to gracefully leave in the middle of an interview, when it is a clear nogo for both parties. Sometimes it is a complete waste of time. I once had a long interview, it was clear from the start that both job and environment is not for me. But they kept making me do case studies i clearly could not handle (and i said it clearly, i asked upfront about these assignments and what they made me do was different), then explained how i should have done them differently , then one of interviewers kept talking about job role and responsibilities. And i just didn’t know hot to end this mess. That was 3 hours of my life.

          Reply
          1. NewishAnon

            Sounds like they were either not listening or equally confused about how to end an interview with grace. At some point they could have just stopped giving you case studies and thanked you for your time. You would never have known they were initially planning more.

            I think it’s actually perfectly ok to stop mid-interview and say something along the lines of “As we are talking, I realize this role doesn’t seem like it would be a good fit for me. I don’t think it would benefit either of us to go any further. So in the interest of not wasting your time, I’d like to bow out.” And then apologize for any inconvenience on your way out the door.

            I think it’s just awkward for a lot of people to actually do that.

            Reply
  10. Macedon

    #1 – afraid this is one of those times when our time-honoured ostrich instincts raise (sink?) their heads, and we have to fight the good fight against them. Having been in your tight shoes, what worked for me was keeping it short, honest and factual. Don’t volunteer details, don’t rush to defend that you had nothing to do with whatever earned legal scorn, don’t pretend ignorance of either the charges or their implications. A good interviewer will recognise this as a sensitive issue and react accordingly.

    What might happen with a green recruiter – and don’t be paranoid enough to take it as more than curiosity before a juicy morsel of industry-wide gossip – is a bit of prodding about your opinion on whether the employer is guilty, or whether s/he will be convicted. Personally, I tackled that with something along the lines of, “I understand that they are in the early stages of the investigation” and found that they took the hints of my discomfort at further discussing the situation.

    Reply
  11. Helen

    #2. I would definitely ask about it. Most likely the first choice backed out or got another offer after starting. But I’ve worked somewhere where a significant percentage of new hires quit within a week because the environment was so bad. Again, that’s the less likely scenario, but if she left after starting without giving a reason, I would want to know (and then investigate further).

    Reply
    1. Felicia

      Despite my happy story below, I also worked at a place where i quit after the first week, it was just that horrible. Apparently a lot of people lasted less than a month. A lot of it was because the job they were advertising was misleading and not what i was actually asked to do

      Reply
  12. Felicia

    #2 I too was the second choice for my job, and it happened pretty much the same way, got rejected for lack of experience, one week later asked if i was still interested because the first person didn’t work out. I’ve been here 6 months and it’s so far the best job I’ve ever had, i got a glowing performance review and raise at 3 months and I consistently get told what a great job i’m doing and have done a lot for the company in a short time. So it was really the best thing that could have happened.

    Reply
  13. Ads with sound?

    Alison – there are several ads on the right sidebar this morning that autoplay videos including very loud audio. I’ve never had this on AAM before, and hope it isn’t a new norm…

    Reply
    1. Ann O'Nemity

      Yep, me too. Must be a recent change. I’ve started muting while I’m on the site because the ad noise is just too annoying.

      Reply
      1. Ads with sound?

        Glad I am not the only one. My speakers are always set to be just one click above mute so only I can hear what comes through, but these ads were scare-my-coworkers loud even with that.

        Reply
  14. Nobody

    #2 – I agree that this shouldn’t necessarily be a red flag. It’s possible that they couldn’t come to an agreement on salary, or the first choice candidate accepted another offer.

    I guess this is another situation that is uneven for employer vs. candidate. There was a letter back in December from someone who got two job offers, accepted one and turned down the other, only to have the one she accepted get rescinded. She wanted to go back to the one she turned down but they wouldn’t call her back. Alison said she’d be wary of hiring someone in that situation because it would seem like the candidate wasn’t fully sold on the job… And yet when the employer wants to go back to a candidate who was initially rejected, the candidate shouldn’t worry about not being the first choice (or about the employer not being fully sold on the second-choice candidate).

    Reply
    1. INTP

      If that’s the the post that I’m thinking of about a similar situation, the wording the candidate described raised red flags other than just the job being second choice, and that’s what Alison and the commenters were referring to. (I think the OP had said she made a wrong decision because they rushed her too much by giving her only a week to make the choice of whether to accept the offer rather than admitting that her first choice fell through. The candidate had, with good intentions but poor execution, made themselves look like someone who gets flustered and makes bad decisions under not-remotely-unreasonable time pressure and then blames others for it.)

      Reply
    2. Kyrielle

      Probably because it’s not always the case. Sometimes it is, but most places, if they’re not fully sold on the second-rank candidate, aren’t going to hire them if the first-rank candidate turns it down…they’re going to go back out to get more resumes. We had at least one hiring round where we wanted to hire three people and were fairly disappointed that we didn’t have three open positions.

      And yes, “candidate #1 has X experience that isn’t required but is handy” can be the differentiating line.

      Reply
    3. fposte

      I agree with INTP that those situations aren’t equivalent. As long as a candidate is genuinely interested in our position and excited about doing it, I don’t care if she was slightly more excited about a position that would have paid her more but didn’t hire her.

      Reply
    4. Ed

      I did something similar to this once (started a job and was part of a massive layoff on the second day!) and the job I originally turned down wouldn’t call me back either. It was disappointing but I don’t blame them. They had moved on with the interview process. I think I was a solid candidate but I’m guessing I wouldn’t have gotten a call back if I was a “perfect fit”. In the stress of the moment, I also don’t recall handling the contact with the hiring manager as well as I could have under normal circumstances. I was semi-desperate and I’m sure that came across in the email. Whether in dating or work, desperation turns off everyone. It implies you’re desperate for *any* job and they are simply first on the list. Bottom line is nobody ever wants to feel like they’re your second choice.

      Reply
  15. LW4

    Letter writer #4 here.. I think the problem I’m having is figuring out how I would include that experience since it isn’t paid.. Would I have a separate section on my resume for it? Or should I keep it in the same area asy regular employment but include that it isn’t a paid position?

    Reply
    1. Cheesecake

      You could either make a summary of your profile on very top after personal details and mention it there (so instead of writing “my goal is to work with digital media for teapot industry” that everyone has and noone pays attention to anyway,write bullet points: “studied x, have skill y and have a blogging experience z” – all relevant to the specific job of course). Or yes, mention it after actual work experience. It is very relevant so i’d make it visible

      Reply
  16. Cheesecake

    OP 2, sometimes employers don’t really communicate “no, thanks” until their preferred candidate accepts 100%. And if she does not, they go to no 2. So more often than not candidates don’t know if they were 1st choice or 3rd or maybe 5th. It just happened your boyfriend was informed. It is not a red flag and he should accept the job if he likes it.

    Reply
  17. Brett

    #2 We got our first choice candidate about 10% of the time. There can be all kinds of reasons that a first choice simply does not work out (especially being unable to reach agreement on salary). I think it was a little odd your bf was rejected already though; we wait quite a bit to reject candidates, normally until after we have the HR paperwork done on someone.

    Reply
    1. Revanche

      I agree, I don’t like to muddy the waters with a 2nd, 3rd, etc choice by informing them that they weren’t selected until I’ve got someone actually hired. I do try to make that part of the process as fast as possible while still being thorough so that people aren’t in a holding pattern for too long.

      Reply
  18. Revanche

    Also a second choice here. A few years on, it was revealed that the first choice was a bit of a political hire but that person turned out to be a terrible fit. I was the best person for that job and heard for years after how glad they were they didn’t burn bridges with me. People make mistakes, they can also rectify them ;)

    Reply
    1. Mabel

      Me, too, although my story is a little different because I had applied for a job within my company. It was a position managing the team I was on. After first and second interviews (the second interview required a presentation about the candidate’s plans for the department, which I thought was interesting and a good idea for a second interview), I was told that they hired someone else who had more experience. Made sense to me because I didn’t have experience as a manager, but I think they actually had only offered the job to her because the next thing I heard was that she didn’t want the job, so I was going to be the new manager. Yay! It was a stretch for me, so I did a lot of overtime for a few months while I caught up with the job. It was a lot of work, but I did grow into the job, and I loved it.

      Reply
  19. Anon Aussie

    Oh, #3, you are seriously the cutest. They could do that to a *permanent* employee. As a temp, you get even LESS consideration than usual. I worked for 8 months as the highest-producing data entry person at a bank (over and above their permanent employees in the quality and speed of my work, just about every day). They had budget cuts – I was called at 8 am one day (my start time was 8:30) and told not to come in, that they’d gotten rid of all their temps. Zero warning. Being a temp sucks – losing my job like that was actually what prompted me to go back to school so I didn’t have to temp anymore.

    Reply
  20. HR Manager

    #2 – Agreed, someone not working out is never a red-flag by itself. Happens in the best of situations. When you talk about event planning, it makes even more sense to me. I used to be the HR person for an event planning function (conferences for clients) amongst other parts of the business. There were a lot of people who thought they wanted to be event planners, but I would say half of them probably didn’t really get the grind, work, and stress required to put on a successful events. I wouldn’t be surprised to hear that half the people fell out of love with the job once they had to do it. It’s a chew ’em and spit ’em out type of job.

    Reply
  21. KH

    #5 –
    It can’t hurt to ask but be prepared for lifestyle changes when you work. A lot of companies are willing to be flexible by up to an hour or two but if it would mean leaving at 2pm if your normal finishing time is 5pm, that might be cause for concern, especially if you will be doing work that nobody else can do have specialized knowledge that is generally needed during normal working hours.

    You also may find that you don’t have enough energy to do both. Another possibility is volunteer during a different time, such as on the weekend?

    Reply
  22. Peter

    I have always been active in my community. This means being on non-profit boards and other community organizations. When I interview with companies I always ask if they support employees volunteering during the work day. Frankly if an employer said “no” (which I’ve never come across) I would move on to the next one.

    This attitude might be different with jobs on a manufacturing line but for most office jobs employers want you out in the community doing good works.

    Reply

Leave a Comment

You can find the site's commenting guidelines here. You can report an ad, tech, or typo issue here.

Subscribe to all comments on this post by RSS