It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…
1. Can I decline to take a personality test during a hiring process?
I’m about to head into a third interview, and I was just asked to take a personality test and cognitive aptitude test. I am incredibly uncomfortable with a personality test and said as much – but am willing to take the cognitive aptitude test. I don’t feel personality tests are useful or conclusive in any way. Am I blowing the interview? Is it wrong that I’m not willing to play the game?
I’m no fan of personality tests either, but organizations who use them are likely to require it if you want to continue in their process. The exceptions to this are if you’ve come into their process through a personal connection, one who has enough standing there to say “she can skip it” or if the hiring manager likes you enough at this point to exempt you. Absent either of those factors, they’re likely to take “won’t play the game” as “self-selecting out.”
2. My coworkers are trying to reassign my work to the receptionist
I work in a small department with four people, two of whom are new to the organization. One employee (coworker #1) was hired to do a certain job, and we also hired a receptionist to round out our department two months ago.
Coworker #1 doesn’t like some aspects of her job responsibilities, and she has gotten close to the CEO, who has advocated for a title change for her and coworker is trying to pass off the “undesirable” responsibilities to the receptionist. Two coworkers from other departments who we work closely with on various projects “feel bad” that the receptionist “doesn’t have enough to do” and are prepared to assign her a bunch of different responsibilities, including trying to reduce some of mine to give to her! Our manager is on vacation all week, so they plan on surprising him with the job responsibility changes upon his return.
I’m frustrated that my coworkers assume that they can make these changes on a whim without discussing it with the affected department members first (especially the manager), and I told them that I was uncomfortable with putting their ideas in motion before my manager returns. I think that they think that because they either report to or work closely with the CEO, they can wave a wand and make changes to fit their tastes. I don’t mind if the receptionist has additional responsibilities, but I do not want my work to be encroached on and I think it’s inappropriate for coworkers to be creating and changing responsibilities for each other. I feel like my manager definitely needs to know about this–what should I do?
Just be direct! It’s totally reasonable to say, “I want to wait to talk to (manager) when he returns next week, so please don’t move forward on this until I do.” If you’re comfortable with it, you could be even clearer: “I’d actually like to hang on to Task X because (I like it/it’s a significant part of my job/it intersects with other things I do/I’m better positioned to handle it because of Y/whatever). If you feel strongly about it, we can certainly talk with (manager) when he returns next week, but it would need to wait until then.”
3. How to assess a candidate who might have very different values from our organization
I’m a recruiter for a health-related nonprofit. One application we got recently raised some eyebrows because the applicant’s current position is with a notoriously conservative organization, and our organizational culture is definitely on the liberal side of things. Plus, we provide services (family planning, post-abortion care, heavily promoting condom usage for HIV prevention, etc) that his current organization actively campaigns against. They’re also in the “homosexuality is a sin” camp and the hiring manager is gay. Obviously, not every employee has to privately espouse the values of their organization (the current one, or ours) but we also want to make our atmosphere clear, and determine his nebulous “fit” with the rest of the team. How can we do that without implying “we’re worried you’re a bigot”?
When you do advocacy or many other types of nonprofit work, it’s entirely reasonable to require that candidates have a commitment to the objectives of your organization. You can be pretty direct about this: “Your current organization pretty actively campaigns against much of the work we do. Tell me more about your interest in moving from them over to us.”
To get at basic comfort with / skill at working with people who might be different from himself, you can ask things like “Tell me about a time that you had to work with a group of people from different backgrounds and move them to action. How did you approach it, and to what extent did that shape your approach?” Or even more directly, “Tell me about a time you had to navigate issues of identity and diversity — how did you approach it?” or “One of our core values is around diversity and inclusion, which for us means ___. Tell me about how that value has played out in your work.” (I stole all three of these from The Management Center.)
For what it’s worth, you might end up being surprised! When I was working to end marijuana prohibition, among our job candidates were two former DEA agents, a Republican judge (we hired him and he was great), and a bunch of others whose exposure to the other side of the issue had been what made them support our work. Or he might just be someone who doesn’t realize what type of work you do, or who hasn’t thought particularly deeply on your issues. But you should get a pretty good idea with the sorts of questions above.
4. Should I apply for a job I don’t want in order to get my foot in the door?
I am very interested in applying to work for a specific, small nonprofit organization. I truly believe in their mission and the work they do. However, they have no open positions for the job I would be suitable for. Can I apply to a different position I am not interested in just to get my foot in the door? Should I email them my resume and cover letter for the job for which they are not currently hiring? How can I get myself on this organization’s radar?
Don’t apply for a position you’re not interested in. You’ll be wasting their time, and small organizations really don’t have the luxury of that. Plus, if you get the job, you’d be potentially sidetracking your own career for a different job that might never happen. Instead, your best bet is to find ways to make connections with people there (volunteering is one way, but it doesn’t have to be that), let them know you’d love to work for them some day and what you do, and make sure you stay in touch. If feasible, go to their events and get involved in other ways. In other words, get on their radar and keep yourself there so that you’re around if they ever do have an opening that’s right for you.
Plus, once you get to know their context better, you might see a way to pitch the type of work you’d like to do — but that will be a lot more effective once you know more about them.
5. A friend referred me for a job but then I was automatically rejected
A friend of mine referred me to a job and forwarded my resume to the actual hiring manager. He told me to apply for the position online as well. Unfortunately, I received an automated email from their HR department stating they were deciding to pursue other candidates. My question is: Was I really not considered by the actual HR manager or was this a result of their hiring software? Have there been situations where an HR manager may have reviewed a resume personally and decided to move forward with an applicant while a “hiring software” may have done the opposite (i.e. rejected an applicant)?
It could be either. If the hiring manager reviewed your materials and decided to reject you, it’s likely she’d have the normal rejection sent and you wouldn’t be able to tell that was the case. On the other hand, it’s also possible that you were rejected by HR or filtered out by screening software if you didn’t meet specific qualifications. Competent employers don’t set up their software in a way that would result in candidates they’d want to interview being automatically screened out, but it happens.
All you can really do here is mention to the friend who referred you that you received what looks like an automatic rejection, and let the friend decide if it’s worth him following up with the hiring manager. (Whether he will or should depends on how well positioned he is to assess your candidacy.)