short answer Sunday: 6 short answers to 6 short questions

It’s once again short answer Sunday, with another six short answers to six short questions.

Thank-you gifts when an internship ends

My summer internship is ending in a month, and I am having trouble thinking of appropriate thank you gifts. The team I work with has six individuals who have all taught me a lot, but it would be too costly to buy each of them a gift: a $25 item quickly becomes $150 when multiplied by six. On the other hand, a simple card seems too cheap. I have thought of buying them lunch or organizing an event, but they have sporadic schedules and it is hard to find a time when all of them are free. Do you have any advice for a good gift that won’t break the bank?

Actually, a card with a heartfelt note from you — or no card but just a heartfelt letter — would be the best gift you could give, way better than anything you might buy. Tell them what you learned from them, what their help meant to you, and so forth. That’s the kind of thing that people really remember, and it means much, much more than a trinket. I used to keep a stack of cards and notes like that, and it made me feel great to look back through them.

Removed from my management duties

I have been told this week, after managing my team for 5 years, that since we are having a re-structure, I am no longer required as the manager. I still have all my same duties but now they have made someone else responsible for the team and they want me to answer to her. Even though I have been told I do a great job, they have just decided to change things. Where do I stand?

Two possibilities: Either they didn’t think you were managing effectively, or they have totally unrelated reasons for the restructure. It’s completely reasonable for you to ask if your performance as a manager played a role in this decision or what else might be behind it.

Is it illegal to leave jobs off an application?

I remember the post you did about things employees think are illegal that really aren’t. It got me wondering–I’ve always heard it’s illegal to omit information from a job application deliberately. My resume is selective because space is limited and there’s usually an application later anyway, but I’ve been applying for any job I can, like grocery stores and restaurants, and those are online apps. It’s been a long time since I bothered to read the “I certify…” thing at the end because I’ve never tried to hide anything, but I’m certain I’ve seen ones that say it’s actually illegal to leave anything off.

I’ve probably done 3-5 of these a week for almost two years and only got maybe three phone calls total. When I tell people, they say I should leave my college degree off the application. (Heck, one guy, who manages a McD’s, suggested I pretend I never graduated HS). If I did that in order to get past the “overqualified” excuse, how much trouble could I get into if they later found out?

It’s not illegal in the sense that there’s no law that mandates full and complete info on job applications. However, there’s usually a statement at the bottom of those things that says that you’re certifying that the information is full and complete, and that you understand that you can later be terminated if it’s found that it’s not. Signing something that you know is false is illegal, but the chances of you facing legal consequences for it in this context are zero. What’s more likely is that you’d face disciplinary action, including firing, from the company itself … although I think it’s extremely unlikely that they’d find out that you have a degree that you didn’t claim, or that they’d care if they did find out.

Interviewing for the same job a year later

A little over a year ago, I had a job interview that I thought went pretty well. But even though I followed up several times, I never heard from the company again. I was pretty disappointed, but I moved on. Now, a year later, I saw that they are hiring for that position again. Perhaps the person they hired instead of me has left, but I got the impression they had several people with that title. In the city where I live, there aren’t a lot of jobs available in my field. I can count on one hand the number of interviews I’ve had in the past two years I’ve been looking. I figured I might as well apply for this job again. I mentioned that I had been in for an interview last year in my cover letter.

The good news is that they want to bring me in for another interview. Do you have any advice on how I should approach this? Should I try to find out why they passed on me last year so I can speak to their concerns? Should I even consider them after they treated me poorly last year?

I wouldn’t focus on trying to find out what their concerns were last year — since they’re bringing you in again, it’s more likely that they thought you were perfectly qualified but someone else was just a better fit. As for whether you should even be willing to work for them after they never got back to you — well, only you can decide that. I think it’s a really rude practice, as I’ve ranted about in the past, but it’s also really common, which should probably be factored in. And frankly, much as I despise that, if I’d been looking for two years, I doubt I’d let their non-response last year stand in my way.

Driving across country for a job interview

I recently have gotten an opportunity that would take me across the country. The person I spoke with is aware I will be making the long journey for the meeting. I am wondering if this means they are more serious about me as a prospective employee. I came across the position through a friend of a friend so I am hoping that means they won’t have me make the long drive and then really not have a strong interest. I am just wondering what the other side is thinking in this position.

You’re driving across country for an interview? Wow. In any case, in an ideal world, an employer would only invite candidates for interviews if they had a serious interest, especially if the candidate will be paying their own travel. In reality, not everyone is that considerate. The best way to handle this is to say, “I’d be glad to get myself out there to meet with you, but since I’ll be paying my own expenses, I wonder if you can give me a sense of how strong you consider my candidacy.”

Did I not get the job because I didn’t negotiate for a higher salary?

After following your cover letter, resume and interview tips, the place I wanted to work at–a small law firm, where I would be a legal assistant–was very interested in me. Yesterday, they called to tell me that it was down to me and another candidate. They wanted to see if I was still interested, if I was comfortable with the salary and benefits (which I totally was–would that be a bad thing to agree to a first offer?) and my future career goals. Everything seemed good for them. Today, I got another call saying that they offered the position to the other candidate and he accepted it, therefore rejecting me.

Disappointed doesn’t begin to cover how I feel. I plan on following up with them for feedback (again, your advice) but my over-analytical mind can’t help but obsess about whether it was something I did or didn’t do. Should I have negotiated for a higher salary, played hardball or was there anything I could do that would have improved my chances in getting the job? I didn’t want to come across as desperate or overly aggressive, and I was genuinely comfortable with the pay. Please help me to stop over-thinking it.

I don’t think their decision was based on the fact that you didn’t negotiate. If this was a position that required tough negotiation skills, then maybe — but for a legal assistant, no. And lots of people don’t negotiate (although they should). Stop beating yourself up — it sounds like you were a strong candidate who they would have been happy to hire, but someone else was just a better fit.

{ 19 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous*

    Re: Driving Across Country
    I don’t see how asking how storng your candidacy is before making the long trip is worth anything. Of course they consider someone a strong candidate, especially if they are asking you to make such a long trip. If they didn’t, they wouldn’t bothered to have ask you. I once made a 5 hour trip for a second interview only to be shot down.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Not necessarily true at all. Sometimes they have a candidate in mind who they’re likely to hire but are going through the motions with a few others in order to be sure (or worse, just so that they can say they did). A nice person, hearing the OP ask about this in the context of her travel expenses, would find a way to signal this. Not everyone is nice, of course, but it’s worth asking the question.

      1. bob*

        Thanks for confirming what most of us figured happens regularly. Even knowing that some employers have “filler” interviews, I can’t believe an employer doing that would make a candidate travel across the country if they weren’t a legitimate candidate.

        1. anon-2*

          Devil’s advocate point of view.

          Having been there, done that (as a job seeker), I could understand why a company might invite someone in that fashion – THE COMPANY HAS NOTHING TO LOSE.

          Most large companies will pay your expenses to travel to an interview if you’re a serious candidate, even in these times.

          Proceed with caution. I don’t think you’re out of line asking that question. I also would, however, question why you’d DRIVE across the country (assuming you’re in the U.S. or Canada) and not fly there. Even with my 45 mpg car, it would still take four days and still is cheaper to fly and rent a car.

          Many companies don’t like hiring people who won’t fly – with just cause.

  2. Anonymous*

    Re: Thank-you gifts when an internship ends
    Based on my own experiences, I certainly agree with AAM’s advice. I worked with one specific person, so I included a very small gift. They know you are a student.

    I also want to add in that if it’s a female you are thanking, a nice card would be better and if it’s a male, than definitely a letter!

  3. Ally*

    Hi! OP here from the “leaving things off an application” question. Thanks so much for answering! I’ve really been getting desperate; I have a management degree but no experience, and even shift leader positions require it now, so I thought I’d get in and try to work my way up. Yet if what people have been saying is true, managers see a degree and toss my app for the non-supervisory positions. :(

    If the worst they can do is fire me, I’m going to give it a shot. Someday things will get better, but in the meantime I just need a job, any job. Thanks again!

    1. Long Time Admin*

      I don’t see anything wrong in leaving any education or experience off your resume – it’s putting false items on your resume that’s really the problem. That’s the kind of thing that gets you in over your head on the job, which could lead to termination.

      I applaud everyone who doing whatever they can just to bring home a paycheck. Yay, You!

    2. Anonymous*

      I had a freelance job that I worked at several years ago that I never put on my resume or any job application. I only worked there one night a week and only for a few months. I realized very quickly that the department was very unorganized and the manager didn’t want to manage. There was no path to move upwards and doing what I was doing, I wasn’t going to learn anything new.

    3. Anonymous*

      A few weeks ago, a question was posted as to whether to report the salary for the most recent job. In that case, the OP had omitted the most recent job from his/her resume, and so when asked for the salary at the most recent job, was wondering whether to put the salary from the most recent job listed on the resume or the most recent job (omitted from resume). There was a substantial discrepancy between the salaries. In my opinion, omitting the most recent job and salary would constitute lying on an application if discovered.

  4. Bob G.*

    RE: Driving across the country.

    Every job I’ve ever interviewed for that would have required relocation covered the expenses to travel to the interview. Is this an opportunity that clearly stated before hand that there is “no relocation help”? Are you planning to move to that area anyone and applying to jobs in the area before you move? If that is the case then I could understand that they wouldn’t be expected to pay your expenses.

    Perhaps in asking about the strength of your candidacy you could also inquire if any (or all) of your expenses would be covered by them? If they answer no that may give you more information about how strongly they are considering you. Of course that is all dependent on the answers to my earlier questions.

    1. Ariel*

      I’m just finishing up my master’s in information science, and I can say that this for sure differs by industry. Entry-level library jobs rarely offer relocation money, and they often expect you to get yourself to the interview on your own. This is often the case whether you’re a really strong candidate or simply a precursory interview.

      1. fposte*

        Yup. And since we’re mostly email communicators, we don’t know when somebody’s moved back with their parents four states away. I don’t mind being asked if it’s a situation where distance is an issue, and it’s a lot better than assuming I’ve factored it in to my decision to investigate further.

  5. jane*

    A gift at the end of an internship is a rather weird idea. A card – maybe, a nice email – sure, a LinkedIn recommendation – definitely. The intern should express her gratitude and leave the door open for the future, not hit the max limit for the employee gifts per company policy.

    But in no circumstances an intern should be buying adults lunch or fancy pen-and-paperweight sets. In fact, it would be more appropriate if the group took the intern out to lunch on her last day.

  6. Christine*

    I think the thank you notes/letters suggestion is great, but it might be nice as well to bring in donuts, cupcakes, fruit or some treat like that for the office. Maybe if you are a baker you could make something.

    1. hi*

      I am used to this sort of thing happening the other way around. Anytime an intern leaves, we throw them a small party or take them out to lunch. Keep it to a card/letter. A gift of anything more than a card may seem a little weird IMO. I’d feel embarrassed as an employee bc I’d feel I should have done something for the intern, not the opposite. To me, its kind of like having a 8 yr old child throwing his parents an elaborate party or getting them an expensive gift – its nice but weird.

  7. Kristin*

    I agree with “hi.”

    Interns don’t make a lot of (and any many cases- any) money. They really don’t expect gifts from you. I think nice cards/letters would definitely be most appropriate.

    At both of my serious internships, they gave ME a gift and took me out to lunch on my last day. Your co-workers may or may not do that, but they’re definitely not expecting gifts.

  8. Gayle Laakmann McDowell*

    I agree with everyone saying “no gifts.” A card might be nice, but when it comes to gifts (or lunches), it’s the company which should be buying them for you. While I’d appreciate the sentiment if an intern got me a gift, I’d think it was weird (and showed a lack of understanding of the professional world, since they thought that was appropriate).

    Stick with a card.

  9. Nathan Whitson*

    Hi Alison,

    Great advice for interns to take when their internship period has ended. Any managing personal would greatly appreciate feedback on how much they have taught an intern, I mean who wouldn’t want to hear that? Its also important for interns to get an exit interviews. These are crucial in leaving the organization with an exclamation point and learning more about your personal skill set in the process.

    Awesome blog, keep up the great conversation.


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