terse answer Tuesday: 5 short answers to 5 short questions

It’s Terse Answer Tuesday again! Here are five short answers to five short-ish questions.

Should I contact my replacement at a company I was fired from two years ago?

I left a company on bad terms. Truly, I did nothing wrong – there were some board members who could easily have been investigated for unfair labour practices and they heard rumours through the grapevine about what I had done or hadn’t done and fired me. Anyway, this is not a “it’s not me, it’s them” sob story, it is just for context. Now a brand new board, two full years later, has hired someone new for my old job.  Should I email her and say, “Hi, good luck!” or something like that?  Had I left on good terms I would have contacted her and (sincerely) said if there is anything I can help with to let me know.  But I want nothing to do with the company.  But I do believe in karma.  I am thinking I may need to mitigate any lies and innuendos she may hear about me, which would, at least, hurt my feelings and at worst hurt my reputation professionally.  Anyone in this field I have spoken to since my “departure” has expressed nothing but shock and outrage at what happened to me (hence the ousting of the previous board, every single member) and even close people have said they have not heard anything in the professional grapevine that is negative about me (and it’s a pretty small circle, specialized field).

I can’t figure out what you’d get out of contacting this person, who’s starting in a job two full years after you left on less-than-perfect terms. That would be unusual to do even if you’d left on the best of terms, frankly.

You say you want nothing to do with this company, so I can’t figure out what your goal would be here. You mentioned karma; karma does not require you to reach out to someone new at a company that fired you two years earlier. You also mentioned wanting to mitigate anything negative she might hear about you, but you say that there doesn’t seem to be anything negative going around about you. (And even if there were, reaching out to offer help to someone two years after the fact isn’t likely to mitigate that — instead, it would be likely to make you look like you have an agenda of some sort.)

I’d leave it alone. It’s been two years; you and they should have moved on.

Non-supervisor references

I’m applying for a job and they have asked me to bring to my interview: a job history (with addresses, names of supervisors & salaries) and a list of three “Business/work references” who are NOT past supervisors. What? Why did they do this? What sort of person are they looking for?

Peers, clients, people you supervised — basically anyone you have a professional relationship with who wasn’t your manager. They want to hear more about what you’re like to work with from someone who didn’t have a power dynamic in play with you.

Contractor-to-permanent jobs on a resume

I’m about to convert from a contract position to a permanent position for a job I really love. I was wondering, with respect to LinkedIn and my resume, do I need to create a separate entry to cover my time as a contractor vs. permanent employee or can I just lump it all in under my new status and drop the mention of the staffing agency?

Assuming your title was the same, I’d lump it all in together unless there were significant differences in the work during the time you were a contractor.

Negotiating salary for a nonprofit job

How do you negotiate salary for a nonprofit job? Is it okay to negotiate at a nonprofit organization? I don’t want to come across as if I only care about salary and not what the organization stands for. I am very passionate about giving back to the community, so don’t get me wrong, but I also do care about salary. So how do I go about this?

Yep, you can negotiate salary for nonprofit jobs just like you could for any other job. The same principles apply. You should go into it aware that nonprofits often have limited resources and more constraints around salaries, of course — but that doesn’t mean that you shouldn’t try to negotiate. It’s not a faux paus to do so (as long as you’re not asking for something exorbitant); they’re aware that you’re working to earn a living like everyone else and they don’t expect you to take a vow of poverty. The worst they’ll say is no.

Where to put education and certifications on a resume

I currently place my education and IT certifications at the end of my resume. I do it partly out of personal tradition and partly because I view my certs as validation of my experience and nothing more. If I’m applying to a job that requires (or at least requests) a particular cert, should I move that section to the top of my resume to get their attention? A friend of mine in HR once told me to include a summary section at the top with a few bullets that directly reflect what they’re seeking for that position so I guess that’s a possibility. I personally think my resume “flows” better the way it is but my opinion is secondary to that of the person reading it.

Arrange the sections of your resume by what you most want to emphasize. If your education and certifications are more directly relevant to the job than your work experience, or more impressive, put those first. If the work experience is a stronger qualification, lead with that. There aren’t really rules around this stuff; it’s just about what you want to highlight the most. (And if anyone out there is still leading with their education just because they were taught that was how it was done, feel free to reconsider whether that makes sense for you.)

{ 25 comments… read them below }

    1. Jamie*

      It can happen – every so often I think about the person who had my job a couple of people ago…when I’m maintaining his magnificently crappy legacy app (rarely used so not worth replacing – but spectacular in it’s counter-intuitiveness.)

      I quietly hope that he’s somewhere maintaining a system written by another programmer who was also allergic to commenting code.

      But typically you are right…unless someone was spectacularly awesome or awful to work with – I can’t remember people I worked with two years ago. And even those I do recall, I don’t think of them unless something brings them to mind.

    2. Natalie*

      One of my managers still complains about the 2 previous people in my position (that would be 3 years ago and 4 years ago). Initially I just assumed they were that bad, but as I’ve gotten to know this manager it’s become apparent that the complaining is really more about her than it is about any previous employees.

  1. Anonymous*

    IME, the only issue with lumping together contractor-to-permanent jobs on a resume is that if a potential empoyer confirms dates of employment, you may come off looking shady when the dates don’t add up. Most employers won’t include the time you worked as a contractor in your dates of employment.

    1. Anonymous J*

      I wonder if you could include it all as one job entry, but put in the section below (where you’d list your accomplishments at that job) a note about the dates you were a contractor before becoming permanent?

      That might be how I would do it.

  2. Anonymous*

    Regarding negotiating at a non-profit: would this be the same answer even if a firm wage had been posted on the job ad (as I believe the position is being funded through a government grant)?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      When a firm salary is posted, it indicates at a minimum that there isn’t going to be MUCH wiggle room. (For example, if it’s posted at $40K, you’ll look ridiculous if you ask for $65K.) But there still might be a little room — you can ask, but you generally should approach it a little more softly, since they could rightly feel like “hey, you knew what the salary was when you applied.” So you can still definitely try, but I’d be less aggressive than if there was no salary posted at all. (You should also be prepared to hear that no, there isn’t wiggle room.)

  3. Dawn*

    To the first OP: Do not call the company. You will give the impression of having an agenda and being REALLY insecure. Who cares what they are or are not saying about you? As long as you know you did the best job you could do and can sleep at night, who cares ? Besides, employees almost always have something to say about a former employee, no matter what they did or did not do. It’s just the nature of it. People love to throw others under the bus when they aren’t there to defend themselves.

  4. Jamie*

    I’m actually really curious as to why the first OP would even think to contact the new hire in her old position. To me this seems like such an odd thing to even contemplate – there has to be more to this.

  5. Jamie*

    Regarding the final poster with a question about their resume: If the job for which you’re applying specifically lists the certifications being desired (or required) put them front and center. In my experience this is almost always because the hiring manager has no technical expertise and is putting a lot of stock in credentials.

    If they aren’t specifically asking for it, the hiring manager is most likely technical and you’ll sink or swim based on your experience and practical qualifications. Certainly list your certs and education – but they won’t be the deal-breaker so I’d put more emphasis upfront on actual accomplishments.

    Obviously this isn’t true in every case, ymmv, but it’s true often enough to keep in mind for those of us in IT.

  6. Anonymous*

    Re: first OP – I was slightly unnerved by this one as it could easily be a former co-worker, with just a few details changed to protect identity. Regardless, don’t call the company. They’ve moved on!

    However, I would like to point out that not all talk about former employees is negative. We still reference people who have moved on, in terms of how great they were, or how they solved a particular issue. There is no reference or compliment like a spontaneous one.

    However, the problem employees are the ones rarely spoken of – which is why I suggest the OP’s former company has moved on. Yes, we do reminisce on occasion, but never outside the group, and usually in the “Do you remember that time” scenario.

  7. Anonymous*

    To AAM–I have a question regarding nonprofit salary request:

    The company asks to state salary requirements in the cover letter, and I know you would say to leave it off, however I feel as if may get me disregarded. So, I was thinking of listing a salary range.. but then including that salary is negotiable because I am more interested in the position than the salary itself.

    Do you think that is smart to do? How would you word it?

    Also, what if they offer you the lowest salary from your salary range, can you still negotiate to get a higher salary within your salary range? I hope that makes sense.

  8. Beth*

    Having been leading the hr charge in a nonprofit organization which grew from 100 to 200 employees and then as Executive Director of another, my philosophy has always been the salary range is the range, the offer is the offer. If I offer you low in the range, and you want higher, then sell me on why you are worth more. But if you ask for more than the range, I’m not budging.

    If I ask for a salary range, and you haven’t presented one, you are automatically in the “no” pile: 1) you can’t follow directions and 2) you could want $10’s of thousands of dollars over budget and it would be a waste of your time and of my time.

    Those nonprofits that are lucky to be hiring at this time have to run lean and if the position is grant-driven there really isn’t any room to negotiate the salary. That having been said, working conditions, hours, days of week, extra time off, lunch on Fridays, be creative.

    1. Anonymous*

      Thanks Beth! I wrote the post above. If you don’t mind, I have a few more questions:

      – If i list a salary range that is way more than what you are willing to pay, but had a good cover letter would you still consider me? Also, is giving a range difference of 5k or 10k better? Ex. 35,000-40,000 or 35,000-45,000?

      -Do you have to wear a suit to an interview. Let’s say it’s for a finance/accounting position.

      Thank you!

      1. Beth*

        If you write a salary range that is way more than the posted position and acknowledge that you have chosen to apply anyway, then I will consider you. “I realize the position of Finance Director is posted for $50 – 65,000 depending upon experience. While I was hoping to make a move in the $75,000 range, I would still very much like to sit down and discuss the position with you.”
        As for a suit … ALWAYS wear a suit to the first interview. I had a really great candidate come in, all the skills and experience needed, but she was wearing a sleeveless, flowered blouse and khaki pants. Just seemed like she’d stopped in after the mall and decided to talk about a job. Unimpressive. Second interview, try to mirror the outfits you saw when you went to the first interview. Bottom line is you could never look bad by looking good.

        Lastly, my big pet peeve. Research the company before you go to the interview. Second question I always ask “What do you know about our agency?” If you can’t pick a program or two off of our web site, then our conversation is going to be VERY brief.

    2. Worth it*


      As the person replying to the want ad, when I see a company ask for a salary range before even talking to me, I see a company that is looking for the lowest price a.k.a. slave drivers.

      So the salary range thing could very well be a double edged sword. You may be running off people who would be in YOUR range and be a perfect fit for you because they presume your request to be looking for a new slave. If you have a range in mind, why not post that and let us decide if it is within our range?

      1. esra*

        I completely agree, Worth it. It was really frustrating when I was looking for a job (my industry varies greatly in pay) to see salary no salary posted for 75% of the jobs listed.

        It’s just a waste of everyone’s time when you get to the interview and they were looking for the quality of employee that would make 15k more/less than you.

      2. Beth*

        I’m not disagreeing with you “worth”. I post all my positions with a range and also ask that applicants state their salary requirements. I think it works both ways.

        At a nonprofit your budgets are set 18 months in advance and are driven by funders and funding cycles. I truly KNOW how much money I have to spend for each position. Part of working for a nonprofit is that you buy into the mission and are willing to accept a lower salary than you would get in the private sector. We aren’t looking to be slave drivers, we’re looking to execute our mission with limited means. Some people have that mindset; some don’t. I’d rather be honest up front with what I’ll spend.

        1. Anonymous*

          How much (range wise) are nonprofit usually willing to pay for…

          Admin Positions?
          IT positions?
          Accounting positions?
          Hr positions?

  9. Anonymous*

    The first OP wants nothing to do with the company other than to contact their replacement 2 years later and set them straight about their firing and mitigate any damages to their reputation. Uh huh.
    2 years is a long time to stew.

    This is just my protective nature talking, but if an ex-employee contacted one of my team under those circumstances I’d give security a heads up.

    Look, if they haven’t asked for your help in 2 years they don’t need your input regardless of past rave reviews. Your replacement doesn’t need to know why you were let go, it’s none of their business. Forcing your hand isn’t karma. Dragging this drama on is unhealthy. Move past the termination and get on with your life.

    1. Anonymous*

      This actually happened at my workplace. We fired an unstable and incompetent financial manager who then turned around and attempted to get allies in the company in order to help her weak (and ultimately unsuccessful) legal case against us. She attempted contact for two years straight until a new employee tersely informed her that nobody wanted to speak with her -she was a legendary bully in addition to being bad at her job- and that her behavior was disturbing to all involved. The OP’s question is odd enough to make me wonder if this is a similar situation.

  10. dashdot*

    Is it really true that you have to know someone in order to be employed somewhere? Everyone has to work. I just think that it’s a feeble excuse.

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