short answer Saturday: 6 short answers to 6 short questions

It’s once again time for short answer Saturday — six short answers to six short questions. Here we go…

Interviewer insisted I was uninterested in the job

A friend got me an interview with his company. It was going well until I met the senior manager; towards the end of the interview, he dismissed one of my questions about the work by saying “I don’t think you’re actually interested in this, I think you just want a job.” I didn’t respond very well, as I sat there in stunned silence while he gave me “job-hunting tips.” Should I have argued back with him? I’m in a field where getting in someone’s face is an acceptable negotiating tactic, but it felt out of place at an interview.

There are three possibilities here: (1) You really were coming across as if you weren’t that interested, and this guy was candid in response; (2) he’s just a jerk, or (3) he wanted to test you to see how you’d react (which is jerky if there was no reason for it but potentially not so jerky if the field really does require the ability to stay cool under hostile questioning, and if you don’t yet have a professional track record proving you can do that). You might be able to get a sense from your friend of which category this guy might fall into.

I don’t think you should have “argued back,” but I do think you should have calmly asked, “What makes you say that?” and then responded calmly to whatever he said.

Interviewing at a company where an employee recently died

An executive of the company I am going to interview at recently passed away.  I will be interviewing with a managing director and an officer and I was wondering if you thought it was a good or bad idea to offer my condolences.  Should I just not mention anything about the passing to ensure I don’t overstep my bounds?  I never met the executive, nor have I met the interviewers (everything has been through a hiring manager thus far).

Absolutely. Don’t go on a long or emotional soliloquy, of course, but do say, “I was so sorry to hear about the loss of ___.”

Can my manager ask if I’m looking for a new job?

Is it ever ok for a manager to ask you if you are looking for a new job during a review? Let alone follow it up with a variation of “so we know if we need to replace you”? This happened at my first review with a company I have work for for three years. This company does try to replace people if they think they are looking for a new job and I am looking. The way it was approached I couldn’t think of saying anything but the truth.

Sure, they’re allowed to ask that. And in fact, if I thought someone was looking, I’d probably ask — no one likes to blindsided by a resignation they didn’t see coming, and I’d want the opportunity to try to keep the person if they were good. But you’re also not obligated to share the truth — and if your company has a pattern of pushing people out once they find out they’re searching, it would be silly to tell them the truth. (And they’re ensuring people will lie to them by operating that way.)

Interviewing my potential new boss

My manager of two years resigned and moved on to a different company a few weeks back. Interviews are being held for internal candidates to find a new manager for our team. I am going to be on one of the interview panels whose focus is to judge the candidate’s chemistry with the team (people who will be reporting to him directly). What are some of the ways I can gauge our chemistry with the new potential manager in a half-hour interview? What specific skills or competencies can I probe that would indicate how well the candidate would gel with our team? Our previous manager was a great manager and consistently received excellent ratings in employee surveys. How can I make sure we pick the right candidate who has the potential to fill the previous manager’s large shoes?

I’d ask: How would you describe yourself as a manager? What kind of feedback have you had from previous people you managed, in terms of what they liked about your style and things that they weren’t huge fans of? (A manager who can’t come up with an answer to this question is someone who’s not at all thoughtful about management; beware.) How would you describe the bar for your team? What kind of work culture are you happiest in? How do you set goals for your team? How do you ensure those goals are met? What’s something you’d like to see us doing differently?

Plus, pay attention to general vibe and energy. Is this someone you can imagine yourself working with?  And remember that you’re looking for someone who can get things done, who can lead others to get things done, who will work to make your lives easier, who will reward great performance and remove low performers, and who is smart, insightful, and not a jerk. But you’re not necessarily looking for someone who you’d want to have a beer with. People often confuse the two.

Am I applying too early?

I am finishing my first year of university and applying for jobs this summer. I was last home in late February, when I applied to jobs at many locations. Most of the people seemed surprised that I was applying so early, but I didn’t know if I would be back and able to hand out resumes again before the summer started. I know that you generally do not recommend following up on job applications, but since I am not looking for a professional job and I initially handed out my resume so early, before people were really thinking about hiring for the summer, I was wondering if you think that I should do some sort of follow-up. I have heard a lot of people who think that it is best to try to speak directly to the manager, but I’m not sure if this would be considered more of a nuisance than a benefit.

It sounds like you’re trying to apply on your timetable rather than theirs, and that’s not going to work. I’d call up these places and ask when you should apply for summer work, and then follow that timeline. It sounds like you’re applying at places that like in-person applications (like retail or food service), but you can always email your resume when you’re back at school, with a note saying that you were there in person in February but realized that was too early for them to be thinking about summer hires … and then, yes, call to follow up (something I’d never recommend with professional jobs but which seems to help with non-professional ones).

Can I list my fellowship value as part of my compensation history?

Can I list the value of my graduate fellowship on my compensation history? I am a National Urban Fellow, which is a nationally competitive and accelerated MPA graduate program. As part of the program, I am placed at an organization to work and learn as I also complete coursework towards my degree. For all intents and purposes, I am an employee for the 9-month mentorship.

I am fast approaching “liberation” from my 14-month program and am on the job hunt. A position that I’m applying for requires a compensation history, which makes me die a little, deep down inside for all those reasons that you’ve blogged about. In addition to further developing my professional and leadership skills, I also expected to upgrade the jobs and salary range that I’d qualify for after the program. I don’t mean to be ungrateful for an opportunity to do good work and get paid (once I land a position), but I also don’t want my pay to be based solely on my past compensation. This is completely selfish, I know, but I’m wondering, can I count the value of my fellowship as “income” on my compensation history? The fellowship pays for my education and provides me a stipend. All together the value of the fellowship is $65,000. My last position paid me $45,000.

It sounds like it might be sketchy or it might be legit, depending on details that aren’t included here. Basically, you don’t want to lie. One option is to just be straightforward about the arrangement, noting the value without claiming it as direct compensation. Anyone have any experience with this?  (Oh, and the place demanding a salary history because they can’t figure out on their own what you’d be worth to them is being stupid.)

{ 9 comments… read them below }

  1. NationalUrbanFellow*

    Thank your for responding to my question. I look forward to what others have to say. Right now I’m thinking I’ll list the value of my Fellowship for my compensation history with a brief description. I’m also going to check in with my program to see what advice they have for this.

  2. Rachel - Former HR Blogger*

    NationalUrbanFellow – I would not list the “total compensation.” If you think of it in terms of a normal job, that would be like listing your total comp and benefits. That would be quite misleading but I think you’ve already go with the more honest response.

  3. What the?*

    Absolutely loved the advice re: uninterested jobseeker. Simple rebound response when you feel like you’re backed into a corner.

  4. Mike C.*

    I just don’t understand the attitude of employers in the first question. It’s as if “showing up and doing a great job in exchange for a regular paycheck” isn’t enough – you have to be totally and completely devoted to the company vision or whatever.

    Great advice, I would be speechless if I started receiving “job hunting tips” at an interview.

  5. Talyssa*

    My SO interviewed with a company where he went through a pretty long series of interviews with the technical teams and hiring manager, then he had his CEO interview (small company) and the CEO more or less felt that he wasn’t ambitious or confident enough (something like that, I think he used the word ‘aggressive’?) and didn’t want to hire him.

    We kind a felt like that was a bullet dodged. Technical jobs where a hiring manager wants someone and a CEO just blows them off because of some perceived personality trait (based on a 15 minute coffee interview) are usually a bad idea. Plus if the job really did require someone with a very aggressive personality, then it was a bad fit.

  6. Anonymous*

    Thank you for answering my question.

    Just a small update but he did ask to be kept informed so I have been doing that. I have interviewed with another company that has a long interviewing proses and there is no guarantee that I will be offered the position. Now my manager is worried about that but said he wants to wait until the possible third interview and then go from there.

    He is a good manager. He does care about employees but the company does some weird things and keeps his hands tied at times.

  7. Applying Too Early*

    Thank you so much for your advice! I had been thinking that I was just getting a head start, but obviously the businesses have their own timetables which I need to adhere to, and what I was doing was beneficial to neither them nor me. Thanks again for answering my question, and for all the information you have on this site – though most of it isn’t really applicable to me as of yet, I will know where to go when I need it!

  8. Rana*

    I really appreciate the questions to ask a potential manager — not only are they good in this context, but they’re helpful in terms of thinking through how one might behave as a manager, what one’s management philosophy and approach are, and so on. I’m bookmarking them!

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