short answer Sunday: 10 short answers to 10 short questions

Yes, 10. But the answers are extra short. Here we go…

Embarrassed by my high school

A few times I’ve been asked by an interviewer what high school I went to. It’s been 11 years since I graduated high school, and I think they are just making conversation, because I have lived in the same metropolitan area most of my life. However, the question is embarrassing because the high school I graduated from was always on the lower end of the totem pole academically, and in fact, about 6 years after I graduated, that school district was shut down by the state education agency for having so many failing schools. I don’t want to lie, but I don’t see how I could refuse to answer the question either without raising some red flags in an interviewer’s mind. I’m concerned that it gives interviewers a negative image of me, even though I did get a BA from a very academically rigorous university, also located in the same metro area. What is the best way to handle this question in the future? I don’t list my high school on my resume, just my university.

I really wouldn’t worry about it; most people know that plenty of people graduate from less-than-stellar school districts and do just fine in life. It’s unlikely that anyone is going to ignore everything you’ve done in the last 11 years and only focus on where you went to high school.

Is this legal?

I recently applied for a sales team leader within the company I work for and passed the online process and got through an interview only to be told that I couldn’t get the post because the manager who was recruiting was told by their manager that she was not allowed to recruit internally. Is this legal?

Yes. It might be dumb, or they might have good reasons for wanting someone with a fresh perspective or different skill set than any current employees, but either way, it’s legal.

Bedbugs and coworkers

Yesterday, I discovered I had bedbugs! I’ve had bites for about four weeks but just found the actual physical signs of what had been biting me. I have thrown out my mattress and am in the process of “debugging” but I worry I may have spread them to the office. I work in a fairly small not-for-profit organization and have looked all around my desk. I see no signs but I still worry. I don’t want to be the cause of an epidemic, but I also don’t want to be “bedbug girl.” Is this something I should address with my manager?

I don’t know enough about bedbugs to know if they’re commonly transported on people (as opposed to in linens, etc.). If they are, there are presumably precautions you’re supposed to be taking. I’d find that out first and then follow whatever the expert advice is in this regard, not just wing it.

No request for references?

I was recently invited to an on-campus visit after a successful phone interview. The on-campus interview included a presentation, mock counseling session and panel interview. At the end of the interview, the director told me I did an excellent job and enjoyed several aspects of my interview. At the end he shook my hand, thanked me, and said goodbye( all in a nice, friendly, and positive manner). I did not ask what was the next step in the process or when I would hear from the committee because I thought he would have offered that information. It’s been a day ( I know…I am crazy for overanalyzing things), but I just realized something. I never provided the director with a list of references. On my resume I listed “reference available upon request.”  I emailed the committee members ( including the director) a nice “Thank You” email shortly after my interview.

What do you think about the “no request for references”? Should I just move on and assume they are interested in another candidate? I think things went well, but that’s from my perspective. I have not searched/ been on a job interview for well over six years ( I have been in graduate school).

If they want your references, they’ll ask for them. They may not even check references, or they may be weeks away from that stage in the process, or they may not be interested. But there’s no way to know. It’s been a day — you’re reading way too much into things. Breathe.

Listing my previous salary

A lot of jobs I have been applying for have asked for my previous salary. As you know, I was terminated from my last position so it’s not on my resume…so does that mean that when I am asked what my last salary was, I go with the salary from the last job listed on my resume? There is a pretty big difference between the two, as I was making more at the last job (the one not listed on the resume) than the one I had before that, which IS listed on my resume.

If you’re not listing your last job, you can’t list the salary associated with it. Because if they verify the salary info you gave them (and some companies do), you’re going to look like a liar when they call the most recent company you listed.

Including street address on a resume

Here’s a dilemma I’ve struggled with since being in the job market: How much personal information should one divulge when responding to blind ads? Specifically, is it necessary to include one’s street address on the resume? I list my real name, telephone (not my main telephone number, but another number dedicated to the job search), and the city/state where I live, but that is all. I do this to protect my information from identity thieves. It’s well known that plenty of the job listings on websites such as Craigslist are put there by scam-sters. Of course if I’ve been able to verify the job listing is legitimate and/or connected to a reputable firm, I have no problem providing any prospective employer with my address.

Since I am not getting a great response to my job applications, it occurred to me that it might be because I “withhold” information that other candidates freely share (thereby making them seem more interested in the job than me). In this instance, is the lack of specificity on my resume working against me?

I doubt it. It’s more likely the job market.

Jobs ads that don’t ask for a cover letter

I’ve seen several job postings that say to apply, email your resume to human resources. That is literally all they say to do. No cover letter or anything else that might be relevant should be included. Do you include contact information in the email, or type a short cover letter in the email and attach your resume?

Include a cover letter. You have nothing to lose by doing so, and potentially a lot to gain.

Didn’t save job description

I was contacted on Wednesday for an interview on this coming Tuesday. I was happy to get the interview, however panic set in when I realized that I didn’t save the job description. Not sure why I didn’t when I normally do (like your recent interview guide says). I am tempted to contact the recruiter for a copy but not sure if I should. Should I ask her for a copy or should I just wing the interview based on what I remember?

Ask for a copy. You’re way better off being prepared than not being prepared.

Why aren’t employers responding to me?

I’ve only been applying for jobs for about 5 weeks, and I’ve been trying to take all of your advice. But I never get responses to anything! I feel like I’m sending my applications to outer space. I get an automatic email from a no-reply address that confirms that my application was received and that they’re not accepting phone calls. After that, zero response. I send emails to check on the hiring timeline, I send emails to see if the position has been filled, I send emails to ask how to make myself a better candidate in the future. And I never. get. anything. What gives? Should I go to the offices in-person?

Good god, no, don’t go to there in-person! We’re in a bad job market, with plenty of people being out of work for months, or even in some cases years. It sucks. But you can’t force your way in, bombarding people with emails even when they’re not responding or showing up uninvited at their offices.  Have a strong resume, write a great cover letter customized to each position, network, and eventually you’ll get interviews.

Can I withdraw my resume from an employer’s system?

How do employers respond to a candidate withdrawing a resume from their database? I interviewed with a company that seemed very promising. After my second interview, my references were being checked and then it got quiet. They were able to get in contact with a former manager, but never got ahold of the other references listed. After a week, I emailed the recruiter to see if a candidate was chosen and was told that the company enjoyed interviewing with me, but decided to choose someone who had stronger skills. I was disappointed, but after re-reviewing the interviews in my brain, there were a few red flags that I ignored, particularly with my second round of interviews. Red-flag number 1 was that the VP seemed somewhat unprepared and surprised to see me as the interviewee. Red flag 2 was after the interview, I waited damn near an hour to interview with an EVP. It was somewhat embarrassing, especially when employees walked into the lobby and asked, “Have you been helped?”

After much thought, I decided to withdraw my resume and would like to have my name removed from their system. The recruiter wants to keep my info in case of future opportunities, but at this point, I think I dodged a bullet & would decline any offers from this company. Any tips that you have will greatly help the next time I run into situations like this.

I wouldn’t bother making a big point of withdrawing your resume from their system, because it’ll look like sour grapes. If they contact you about a position in the future, just politely turn them down.

{ 35 comments… read them below }

  1. bob*

    “I’ve only been applying for jobs for about 5 weeks…”

    Several friends and I have been out of work for 2+ years and that lack of response is the norm unfortunately so get used to it and don’t take it personally especially if you’re in IT or another technical field. It’s infuriating and unprofessional but with the number of people looking for work right now it’s just the reality of companies being plowed under with applicants.

    1. Slaten*

      Blindly saying “it’s the job market” is wrong. It really depends on where you live. 5 weeks in the midwest isn’t very long but if you’re still without a job after 2+ years in the same location (midwest) then you either aren’t trying or you haven’t lowered your expectations

      1. bob*

        No, I’m not in the midwest and the job market is a wasteland not just for me but everyone I know in my field who has been laid off in the last year or 2. Yes I am trying very hard but there aren’t many jobs and yes I have lowered my expectations from $30/hr in one field to $9-10 in another field.

      2. Anonymous*

        It’s both – it’s the job market and where you live. I live in a state that is suffering financially (no, it’s not CA). But also, it is the job market, and I’m not saying this blindly. Just listen to the financial analysts, and they are saying the job sector of the economy isn’t growing, let alone growing fast enough. I’ve been watching my field now for 2 years as well – a different field from the OP and other posters – and it has gone nowhere.

        With that in mind, I wouldn’t be so quick to say that people aren’t trying or haven’t lowered their expectations.

  2. Cassie*

    To LW # 1: Don’t be embarrassed about the high school you went to – use it to your benefit. Though your high school may not have a school-wide culture of academic excellence, you were able to get into (and graduate) from an academically rigorous university. That’s a positive.

    I wouldn’t list the high school on the resume, but as long as interviewers are asking, there’s no reason to be embarrassed.

    1. Elizabeth*

      I agree! It’s a point in your favor that even though you weren’t in the best academic environment as a teenager (for reasons entirely outside of your control), you went on to a strong university and then have done all the other things you’ve done since. It’s more impressive, frankly, than if you had always been put into the most supportive environment possible.

      If you were still at that high school, and applying for some summer job, it might be a detriment – but in no way is it one eleven years later.

      1. LW1*

        Thanks AAM for answering my question, and Cassie and Elizabeth, thank you for your advice! I will definitely take your approach next time this question comes up.

  3. Anonymous*

    Re: Bedbugs.

    You ABSOLUTELY need to tell your manager about this. Bedbugs are incredibly easy to transport and you can easily cause an infestation in your office. Just think of all of the people who bring them home from movie theaters; it’s not that much different. You wouldn’t really see signs around your desk; they come out late, late at night and aren’t going to make themselves obvious in an area where people are moving around and awake.

    A girl in my office was asked to work from home for a month after discovering bedbugs. They’re far too easy to spread to take that risk…

    1. Anonymous*

      Also, I’m really sorry you’re going through this. I’ve been lucky enough to have never had to deal with them, but from what I’ve seen, (I live in NYC, a bedbug hotbed) they are such a horror. Hoping that getting rid of them is a relatively painless process for you!

      1. Liza*

        This happened to me, but was quickly forgotten! I too work for a small company, called my boss, took a few days off and got things taken care of. Don’t worry about it too much!

    2. Anonymous*

      Very true. Bedbugs travel on clothing. They were finding them everywhere in NYC last year – even the Empire State Building had them! You can bring them from hotels, movie theaters, etc. I hope the OP is doing everything necessary to get rid of them in the home.

  4. Kelly*

    To LW2: There probably is a good reason for your employer’s decision. The retail store where I work tends to promote almost exclusively from within for full time and management positions which can be both good and bad. The good side is that they know the processes and procedures. Also, more than likely they have experience in multiple departments. The bad side is that sometimes there is a lack of objectivity when considering internal candidates. The person that is chosen for the role could not be the best possible choice. It’s hard to guess what the person’s reaction could be if they are not the person chosen for the FT or management job. Most people would take it maturely like adults and try to improve, but there are those who will take it personally.

    Promoting from within also changes the interpersonal dynamics of a workplace. I know because at my workplace they promoted one of the women who previously worked in home and cosmetics to assistant manager in women’s clothing. I guess she was friendly and easy to get along with before her promotion but since then she’s changed. She still works in cosmetics some of the time because they are so understaffed. She doesn’t seem interested in doing that job anymore, even though she is scheduled there half of the time. That attitude isn’t appreciated in a workplace where teamwork is of vital importance. I’m based in home but will work in any area I’m scheduled. She also hasn’t endeared herself as a manager to a number of us. She now acts like she is better than us associates just because she is a manager now. I personally don’t like her and find her to be a cold person. I could think of several other associates who could have done the job just as well if not better. Also, the position was only posted online and not in the store at all. Most of the management team who work on the floor at least half of the time do help out with projects and help us associates when it gets busy. They also are approachable when we need them and for the most part don’t condescend to us. That is one of the risks of promoting from within.

    1. Slaten*

      To above — Wow… 8/

      To OP — All I can say about a company that responded with “no internal applicants” is… RUN! Find a new job in a different company as soon as you can.

    2. Anonymous*

      Did you work at my last retail job? While I was lucky and got along ok with the manager in question, this could have been written by about a half dozen of my coworkers. It’s definitely not an unusual situation. She did a good job and the big managers liked her, but being an area manager went straight to her head and she got a reputation for being impossible to work with to the point that some associates refused to work in her department-one of the busiest in the store. An area swap solved that and put her in my department. We didn’t have any issues-I respected that she likes things to be done well and we had “compatible-enough” personalities-and I quit soon after to accept another job. I feel bad for the people stuck dealing with her that aren’t as well equipped for her…um…unique style as I was.

      1. Kelly*

        That sounds like my workplace too. From a hypothetical manager’s perspective, there are two POV. First, the newly promoted manager is the problem and they need some guidance from more senior management on how to successfully play nice with others while still retaining the aura of authority. The second more likely POV is that the associates who have issues with them are the troublemakers. They like the newly promoted manager and tend to dismiss complaints both petty and valid as of little or no consequence. It could be she’s different and more deferential when they are around but when they are away, she turns into a monster.

        I’m in a similar situation as LW2. At my second office job, a FT position opened up, which entails doing exactly what I am doing two nights a week but with day hours and benefits. I need more training on the system but otherwise I know how to do the job. I also interviewed for a FT position at the retail job but they are really dragging their feet about filling it due to departmental turmoil and slow sales. The money may be better at the retail job because I would get commission, but the hours would be more stable at the office job (guaranteed 40 hours with occasional OT). I’ve give the retail HR manager 3 weeks to make a decision and am starting to get frustrated with her. My hours at the store have been cut to under 25 a week and I either use more hours or a set deadline for when she plans on filling the position.

  5. Sarah G*

    I second what the other person just said about bedbugs. You definitely need to inform your workplace. Bedbugs will travel on clothes, backpacks, you name it, and it doesn’t take much to start an infestation. I doubt anyone will judge you for coming forth — everyone knows that bedbugs are a national epidemic now. If people judge you, that’s ridiculous and they’ll be the ones to look like fools. I’d appreciate if one of my co-workers was forthright about it.

    Plus, if someone does have bedbugs, if they know then they won’t have to suffer with bites for 4 weeks before knowing the cause, like your experience. At the very least, people can be aware of the possibility and be vigilant about checking their homes, checking their clothes and bags when they get home, etc. It’s easy to find reliable bedbug info online and through other resources.

  6. Anonymous*

    Re: job ad: try googling the name of the company and as much text as you can remember from the ad – it may come up easily that way.

    Re:salary history. On what document are you being asked for the salary history – is this on a job application? If so, you may want to check the language – many applications ask for a complete employment history (or at least for the past 10 years). Applications are different from resumes. In many cases, untruthful information on the application will result in immediate termination at any time it is discovered after hire.

    As an aside, this is why I am not a fan of leaving jobs off the resume. Most jobs will ask you to fill in an application (sometimes on the first day of the job) and if info on the application doesn’t match the resume, you may have some explaining to do.

    1. Anonymous*

      Re: leaving off jobs

      Does that include jobs that were held for 3 months as well? I’m conflicted on whether I should leave it in or not. I worked at a major company for 3 months and I run into ex-coworkers all of the time in the industry. I left because I just didn’t fit in and did not feel comfortable with the employees in my department. I am currently looking for work and I want to leave it off since it was such a short stint. I am afraid if I end up at another company within the industry someone may point out I worked with them at the company.

      1. Jamie*

        Some industries – like manufacturing, for example – are like small towns – no matter how urban the region.

        I can’t speak to whether or not it should be on your resume, Alison is far better equipped to address that than most, but if you’re in an industry where you are likely to work with those former co-workers (either as co-workers, customers, or vendors) I strongly recommend crafting an elevator speech.

        Just a couple of rote sentences which explain that you worked there and that you left – in as neutral a way as possible.

        In some industries it isn’t six degrees of separation – it’s more like two – and pretending it never happened won’t work and will just raise questions.

    2. Anonymous*

      I’ve always been told to tailor my resume to the specific job, so if I’m applying to be a teacher or a lawyer, I don’t really need to include my serving job or retail experience. When I fill out applications I just transfer whatever I have on my resume…

      And there are some jobs I just don’t put down on either the resume or application. There’s no point in listing a job that I held for a month or less, and I had SEVERAL of those in college. I cannot even remember the dates….

  7. Anonymous*

    Regarding the 5 weeks job hunting: depending on the job, it may take us 5 weeks to feel we have enough resumes to even start looking at them!

  8. Blanche*

    RE: embarrassing high school, I’m thinking it’s definitely just making conversation, especially if you’ve also mentioned or it’s obvious from your resume that you’ve lived and worked in the same area for the majority of your life.

    Someone who would count your high school against you after 11 years have passed is probably someone you don’t want to work with or for anyway.

  9. Dan Ruiz*

    Re: embarrassing high school

    As others have said, after 11 years, your high school doesn’t really matter.

    However, in your case it’s an interesting conversati0n topic (the district was notoriously bad, you were able to get admission to a good school despite a bad high school experience, and you’ve achieved some success despite rough beginnings).

    At the very least you can laugh about it now that you’re so far removed from it.


    1. Jamie*

      I agree that there is nothing to be embarrassed about regarding your high school. As has been pointed out they are probably just asking to make small talk – I can’t imagine anyone taking that into consideration.

      When I moved back to the general area in which I had grown up I got the question at interviews, too – and it was awkward for me because I didn’t go to school locally and apparently boarding school is enough of a novelty that people want to talk about it. But I just have a couple of rote responses which I would pull out when needed (reference to Hogwarts for the relaxed interviewers with a sense of humor, and some mundane crap about academic offerings for everyone else.)

      I swear some days my avoidance of small talk is what keeps me from ever wanting to look for another job.

  10. Anonymous*

    Hi Alison –

    The withdraw question was mine. I was looking around on LinkedIn and the job I had 2 interviews for is posted again on LinkedIn. Either a candidate passed on the offer or they never offered the position to anyone.

  11. Cam*

    re: Street Address on Resume – Thanks for your feedback. I guess I will continue to leave it off (the street address) as it seems to be the safest thing to do, especiall vis-a-vis blind ads. As long as a Hiring Manager is NOT going to hold it against me … fine by me!

    1. Nathan A.*

      They shouldn’t – I never understood the meaning of having a street address on a resume anyway. If they are going to send you an offer letter, they will pull it from the paperwork you fill out during the interview process, not a resume.

  12. Anonymous*

    Re: Embarrassed by High School
    I actually am in a similar situation as you! But I see it as an advantage! When my interviewer asked about my college, I brought in the fact that I attended one of the top 10 underperforming high schools in the area, but worked hard and graduated from a top university. He sounded very impressed, and I believed that actually helped me be put in a better spot than the others. What I learned is, never be ashamed of where you grew up or what school you went to. Despite that, you are still responsible for who you become, and you have came a long way =)

    1. LW 1*

      Thanks for your kind words and I’m glad your approach has worked for you. I’m definitely going to phrase it similarly the next time this comes up…before, I had tended to fear their judgment so much that I would forget to mention being able to get into & finish at a tough college, and just came across as awkward, I’m sure.

  13. lapreghiera*

    I asked a hiring manager for a copy of a job description once when I could not find it on the major job site I applied thru fairly recently, or a google search, so it must’ve been expiring or closed once they got enough candidates. After a fairly courteous email exchange to set up the phone interview, when I asked for a detailed description (emphasized detailed because some ads list job title and the bare minimum requirements: degree, x yrs experience, ms office… so I hoped to get a page of detailed responsibilities if their ad had been as such), I got a succinct answer essentially saying: didn’t you read it when you applied, that is the description. I wish I had checked my last source, Craigslist, first before asking. There it was, still active, just enough to refresh my memory … but now I had to decide how much I wanted to deal with this awkwardness in an interview.
    The job got re-posted not long after that episode.

    1. Nikki*

      Wow, that’s a rather snotty response. I would have just attached it and been done not sure I would want to work for someone like that anyway.

  14. Lizzie*

    To the OP of including street address on a resume… street address shouldn’t hurt you but not including a phone number and email address will!

  15. Lizzie*

    Can I withdraw my resume from an employer’s system?

    I guess my main question is were you interviewing at the recruiting company or at the potential work site? If you were interviewing at the recruiting company, this shows a lack of respect for you and internal organization (it could be a fluke or not) that they forgot you were coming and that you were made to wait so long.

    However, if you were at an interview with another company, arranged by the recruiting firm, then that is a different story. That recruiter has about as much control over the policies of an outside company as you do! They might have scheduled the interview, followed up with the interviewer, and done everything by the book. In that case, perhaps you want to consider not going in further interviews with that company rather than blacklisting the recruiting firm (which may work with many other great companies).

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