It’s five answers to five questions…
1. New employee asked me our policy on dating supervisors
I’m the manager at a branch location of a family owned retail garden center. I wanted to ask if you had any advice a situation that I came across recently involving a candidate who I had decided to hire. He was very friendly during the interview, answered all my questions, seemed qualified and even sent a thank you note. Then, on his first day, right after he turned in his paperwork he asked what the company policy was for employees to date their supervisors.
I was totally creeped out and told him that it was not allowed. That’s not necessarily a company-wide policy but he was absolutely giving the impression at this point that he wanted to ask me out. I guess the saving grace of this is that he only lasted for another four hours and then quit because the job turned out to be “more physically demanding than he expected.” But what would be your advice for handling a situation with an employee who shows a red flag right after the hiring process is completed?
Make it clearer in the moment that the question is wildly inappropriate. You answered it as if it were any other question about company policies, rather than the gross, out-of-line statement that it was. I don’t blame you for that; it’s hard to have a perfect answer in the moment when you’re so taken off-guard. But you could have said, “I’m sorry, what?” or “Why are you asking that?” followed by, “I’m having trouble understanding this question as anything other than wildly inappropriate.” Followed by keeping a really close eye on him, because someone who does this is usually someone who’s going to have loads of other problems too (as you saw later that day).
Frankly, it’s so wildly inappropriate and indicative of other likely problems that it also wouldn’t have been unwarranted to revisit the question of whether you’d made the right hire (had he not taken care of that for you a few hours later).
2. I don’t want to be a reference for my lazy acquaintance
I’m finding myself in between a rock and hard place. I met a girl in a seminar just after graduating college. We had both recently moved to the city and were both in the trenches searching for internships. After I found one, I learned that there was another internship position open, so I referred her based on our personal relationship during which she had proven to be intelligent, punctual, and eager to learn. I immediately regretted this decision.
During the course of her internships, we worked closely together and she was often lazy and unprofessional. She would use company time and resources to apply for other jobs daily, was not on top of her work tasks or email, and never took the initiative to join in when our supervisor taught us something new or gave us more challenging work. In short, she did not take advantage of the learning opportunity and was, in general, an ineffective employee.
Now that I have a new full-time job, I find myself lying to her when she asks if I have any prospects or know of any job openings. I know for a fact that she name drops when she applies to a company where she knows someone even without asking that person, but I cannot serve as a reference for her again. Eventually she will find out about my new job as we have mutual friends, but how should I handle letting her know that I cannot vouch for her? What should I tell the hiring manager when she, inevitably, drops my name?
You’d be doing her a favor if you stopped lying to her and told her what’s going on. It could be as simple as: “I feel awkward about this, Jane, but I wouldn’t be comfortable being a reference for you. I’m sorry I can’t help!” If she asks why, you could say, “Well, at Teapots Inc., you didn’t seem to be all that engaged in the work. To be a reference, I’d need to talk about your work ethic, initiative, and general quality of work, and I don’t feel like I can do that in a way that would help you.” You really would be helping her out if you let her know that — whether or not she appreciates it at the time.
And whether or not she does this, if she drops your name to a hiring manager, you should be honest: “Jane and I did work together, but she’s not someone I’d recommend hiring” (and then explain why).
3. Negotiating a gym membership as part of a job offer
I’m in the interview process with a company for a job I’m really interested in, and things seem to be going well. I’m optimistic about my chances, and expect a job offer in the next week or so if things continue to go well.
In my first interview, they told me flat out what the salary for the job was. It was in my acceptable range, but lower than I was hoping for. They didn’t give a range, just a number. Now, I’m absolutely willing to take the job at this salary, as it’s a job I’m interested and the salary is still in my acceptable range. However, this is my first job out of college, and I’d like to get my feet wet with negotiations. I’ve been looking around for advice on things to negotiate other than salary, and most of them seem pretty normal (vacation time, job title) and some of them made sense although I didn’t know how to approach them (office). The one that really threw me off was gym membership.
Do people actually ask for gym memberships? Is this normal? How would you begin to explain to a hiring staff why it was relevant to the job? (Unless you were a personal trainer or something else relevant.)
No, that’s totally weird. Some employers offer subsidized or discounted gym membership as part of their benefits package, but they either offer it or they don’t; it’s not the sort of thing people generally negotiate individually for themselves. And that’s doubly true as someone new to the workforce; it’s going to come across as a bit prima donna-ish at any career stage, but especially as someone junior.
4. Is this a good weakness to share in an interview?
If I told an interviewer that my biggest weakness during an interview is that I am very hard on myself and I continue to feel like I can do a better job and continue to strive for better performance of myself in my career, how would that come across during an interview? Would that not be a good weakness to reveal during an interview?
Nope, it’s going to sound disingenuous, whether or not it actually is. It’s too much in the model of “I’m a perfectionist” or “I work too hard” or other attempts to answer with something the applicant hopes the interviewer will actually see as a strength. (Perfectionism can actually be a crippling weakness, so it’s always weird when people don’t realize that.)
5. Notifying my network that I’m changing jobs
I’ve been struggling with something for a few days now and I’m hoping you can help. In the past, I’ve received several emails from people notifying their network of a job change. They’re pretty basic “I’ll be leaving company X for company Y. If you need to get in touch with me in the future, here’s how” kind of stuff.
I’ve written that up, and made a list of who I’d like to send it to. But the question is, how? Do I send it from my company email address while it’s still active, or my personal gmail? Do I push it out before my two weeks at my current company are up, or wait until the two week gap in between jobs?
Any of those are fine. People do it in all of those ways, and none of them are weird.