It’s five answers to five questions. Here we go…
1. Should I apply for a job if the posted salary is too low?
I’m currently a grad student studying public policy, and am graduating in two months. I’m hoping to work in local government in a major metropolitan area that has proven to be very difficult to break into.
The county recently posted several one-year fellowships aimed at students who will graduate with their master’s degree this summer. The position/responsibilities/potential for learning all look perfect. The only catch is that the fellowship only pays $40,000, and I don’t know that I can afford it with the amount I took out in student loans.
My career advisor thinks I should apply, and that perhaps they’ll realize through the interview/offer process that they’re low-balling the salary. You’ve posted before that individuals shouldn’t apply to positions if they know they can’t accept the salary since it’s wasting everyone’s time. I definitely don’t want to burn bridges before I even move to the area. What should I do?
Get another career advisor. This employer has done what job candidates always want employers to do — they’ve posted the salary up-front so that you can self-select out if it’s not for you. Going through the interview process only to say at the end “oh, that salary that you were clear about from the start isn’t enough for me” is not operating in good faith.
Plus, this is a government job, which means that the salary is very unlikely to change.
2. Did this interview panel think I was an overstepping upstart?
This week, I interviewed for a position in a large company that is significantly senior to the one that I currently hold at a close competitor company. I met the minimum qualifications advertised and some of the management hiring preferences. Honestly, I was a bit surprised to be called for an interview because it was such an upgrade from my current position, but also excited because I am very interested in advancing my career.
The interview turned out to be with a panel of the very highest level executives — not at all what I expected when the direct supervisor of the position, who was not on the panel at all, invited me to interview.
The panel commented that I answered several of their questions well, one exec tried cracking some jokes, and generally they seemed kind. Then, at the end of the interview, one of the highest ranking guys asked if I believed I was truly qualified because of my young age and because my experience is specialized in one particular area — the position I interviewed for requires work in that area, but also many others. And of course, at this point, everyone leaned forward. I had to admit they were right, but tried to salvage by explaining how aspects of my current position could apply to learning other areas. I didn’t get feedback on that question. I left feeling nauseated and wondering if this was a total mistake on my part.
First, I worry that I didn’t acknowledge that I knew how very senior the panelists positions were during my interview and in hindsight I’m afraid I came off as either disrespectful or just plain dumb. Second, the “do you think you’re qualified” question has freaked me out. I’m torn between hoping I’m an actual contender for the position and fear that I came off as an overreaching upstart. Maybe this job was pegged for someone else and they had to interview X number of candidates? I don’t want to hurt my chances of being hired by this particular company in the future. Should I ask them to withdraw my name from consideration? Help!
No, don’t ask them to withdraw your name! If they don’t hire you, then so be it — but there’s no reason to take yourself out of the running unless you’re no longer interested in the job.
If they didn’t think you were reasonably qualified, they wouldn’t have invited you to interview. So you met some baseline of “potentially the right person”; you were not doing anything presumptuous or overreaching by being there. They asked you to be there.
As for that guy’s question, it’s possible that he meant it in a rude way, but it’s also a perfectly reasonable line of inquiry — they want to hear you talk about why you think you’d excel at the job despite some potential obstacles. That’s not a “gotcha” or a trap.
You don’t need to acknowledge how senior your interviewers were. In fact, that would be kind of weird. You just treat them like normal people.
Overall, it sounds like you got intimidated and are letting that color your perception of the whole experience. But nothing egregious happened, let alone anything out of the ordinary, and you have nothing to feel nauseated about.
3. My boss is applying to jobs from work, and his resume is full of lies
My boss has been applying for jobs on the office computer, and I came across his CV on a file. It states that since moving to this workplace “I have been in charge of running the kitchen and have had to develop the staff, who were all untrained in the catering trade,” which is a lie as I studied at college for two years and I have been in the catering trade for nearly five years now.
I find this humiliating. I don’t know whether I should take this to HR because he’s been applying for jobs on the company computer behind their backs, I’m really stuck for what I can do because it’s degrading to me. And he’s lying on his CV about other things also, claiming that he has had to run whole business due to the fact our manager was let go and has to fulfil certain roles, which is also a lie.
I’d let it go. Your boss is apparently a resume liar, but it’s not insulting to you — he’s not saying this stuff to people who know you or will be evaluating your work.
HR certainly might care that he’s been applying to jobs from work, but it’s not really yours to deal with. I’d roll your eyes and move on.
4. Should I apply for a job that’s asking for a one-year commitment if I plan to leave before that?
I want to apply for a part-time retail job as a buyer at a local consignment shop. Since I want to go into fashion buying and I have no experience, I know this would be a perfect transition for me. I currently work full-time in an academic setting, so I have summers off. I plan to start working the part-time retail job on the weekends, then transition to more hours over the summer.
By the end of summer, I want to be applying to full-time buying jobs. Unfortunately the job requirements for the retail job include that applicants commit (they have it in bold!) to working with them for at least one year. Would it be unethical for me to apply on the grounds that I might be working with them for a year if my plans don’t pan out? Additionally, would they be able to make me stay for a year if I agree? And lastly, would I get a bad reference if I left early?
It’s not at all unreasonable for an employer to want new hires to commit to staying for a year; they’re investing time in training you, and they don’t want to do that with someone who will leave after six months.
That doesn’t mean that these sorts of commitments are legally binding; they’re typically just informal “here’s what we expect — does that work for you?” conversations. (If it were legally binding, you’d be signing a contract, and they’d probably be making a similar commitment on their end.) So, no, they can’t make you stay — but yes, you’d definitely be burning the bridge and ruining the reference if you came on with a clear understanding that they wanted you to sign on for a year, and then left at the end of the summer.
Sometimes people make this kind of commitment but then something comes up that prevents them from keeping it, like a health issue or a move. Reasonable employers understand that. They will not understand you operating in bad faith from the very start, which is what this would be. (I see your point that you might be working with them for a year if your plans don’t pan out, but I don’t think that’s a loophole; you’d be accepting the job hoping and intending to do the opposite of what you’d be committing to.)
5. I missed an application deadline by 20 minutes
I’m a college junior and I have this PR internship I really want for over the summer. The writing test, a cover letter, and a resume was due through email by Friday, March 11. This week is currently my spring break and I went to New Orleans, which is an hour behind where I’m originally from. I didn’t really think about this until it was too late and I submitted my email 20 minutes past midnight on Friday, March 11. Do you think that I’ll automatically get skipped over and not given a chance because my email was submitted past midnight on Friday, which is technically Saturday?
I doubt it. It’s possible — some people are really rigid sticklers about this kind of thing — but most aren’t.
That said, it’s smart to apply earlier when you can (recognizing that you might not always be able to), because sometimes application deadlines are misleading. (More on that here.)