terse answer Tuesday: 7 terse answers to 7 short questions

Welcome to terse answer Tuesday, where we have seven interesting questions and seven terse answers.

Is it fair to apply for a job I’m unqualified for?

I really would like the opportunity to work in Human Resources but I have no experience working in that arena, but I do possess the skills, knowledge and character to learn really quick and do an excellent job. Is it fair to apply for HR jobs when they specifically require the individual to have years of experience?

Fair? Sure, there’s nothing unfair about it. But it’s highly unlikely that you’re going to get interviews without having the years of experience they’re asking for. Working in HR generally requires very specific knowledge about fairly convoluted laws, benefits regulations, compensation matrices, etc. Hell, I’m not qualified to practice HR, and people mistake me for an HR person all the time. (By the way, stop that, please.) Companies are asking for the experience because they want the experience, and it’s not likely that they’re going to be so short on qualified candidates that they’d consider someone without those qualifications.

Can my boss ask if I’m looking for another job?

Is it approprite, or even legal, for a boss to ask an employee if he is looking for a new job?  I couldn’t find anything in the union contract that addreses this.  How should an employee respond if he is? Possibly, the boss was contacted by a prospective employer or even another manager in another department and he’s testing the employee to see if he answers truthfully.  How should an employee handle this if asked?

Yes, it’s legal. If you’re not looking, say you’re not looking. If you are looking and don’t feel like sharing that with you boss, you’re not required to share it; just say something like, “I’m pretty happy where I am, but if I’m ever thinking seriously about leaving, I’ll let you know.”  (If you don’t trust your boss to handle the truth, then “thinking seriously about leaving” can mean “when I have an offer.”)  Ta-da!  A reasonable answer to an awkward question.

Being unavailable in the middle of a job search

I am currently on the job hunt since my fiance accepted a position across the country from where we live now.  We are getting married next Saturday, and are going out of the country on our honeymoon a week later for 11 days.  We are moving a week after we return.  I have a few jobs that I have applied for that I am very hopeful about.  One of the positions closes just a few days before our wedding.  Would it be weird to contact them to let them know I will be out of the country and not available for an interview during that time?  I don’t want to come off presumptive, but I also don’t want them to call me and think I am blowing them off.

It’s not weird to contact them to let them know. But it also won’t be weird if they don’t remember that and contact you while you’re away anyway, so make sure that your voicemail and your email auto-reply are both clear that you’re inaccessible until whatever specific date.

Is this legal?

I was recently on my third interview with a company and they had me interviewed by someone who used to work for the company I work at now and is quitting their company and coming back to my current company. They were aware of this and even asked us both questions about it in the group interview. Is this legal? I afraid he’s going to come back to my company in July and tell everyone that I was interviewing somewhere else. Then I will be screwed for any promotions and be put on “the list” at my company and be written off or fired because I was interviewing somewhere else. It was on my vacation time, but I don’t think they would care for me interviewing other places anyways. Can you answer this legality question for me?

Yes, it’s legal. Not exactly discreet, but legal.

Is this legal, #2?

I have a volunteer job and am possibly going to get a formal warning for doing something that previously I could do but the rules changed and I was not advised of the change. Are they able to give me a warning if I didn’t know a change in procedures had occurred?

Yes. They can warn you or fire you for pretty much anything they want, as long as it’s not being done because of your race, gender, religion, national origin, or membership in another protected class.

Today it seems everyone needs to read this article and this article, to learn that 80% of what you think is illegal in the work world is actually legal.

Company paid for my education and now I want to leave

The company I’ve worked for since March 2009 paid for my education (100%) and I just graduated this past May. No contract but he put a note in my performance review that i should stay until 2012 (but he said it’s on a goodwill basis, no further obligation if I decide to move). The education is part of the offer when i signed up to attract me to the company.  I am in the middle of second interview with a bigger company and it seems to be going to the positive way. I am just wondering if it will be ethical for me to leave so soon and if there is any further complication to my career if i do move.

It doesn’t sound like you’re legally bound, but it does sound like you’re ethically bound, since you accepted the benefit on the understanding that they expected you to stay until next year. So yeah, there’s an ethical issue here. (You already knew that, didn’t you?)

Do your odds of getting a job improve as you do more interviews?

Do you believe that my odds of getting a job improve as I do more interviews? I’ve had fewer than 7 interviews in the past 7 months. In the past 2 weeks, I’ve done 3 interviews (1 was a rejection), I have one more scheduled this week, and one more to be scheduled, and I’m afraid this increase in interviews means NOTHING. I’m getting pretty close (sometimes I’m one of the final 2 candidates) in these interviews.

Mathematically speaking, more interviews should mean a better chance of a job offer (unless you interview terribly, but you don’t because you read this blog).

And isn’t this exactly like how when you start dating someone after a long dry spell, suddenly a bunch of other people are interested in you too? What gives, universe?

{ 33 comments… read them below }

  1. Nonie*

    I officially love Terse Answer Tuesday.

    What about Miffed Answer Monday? Frank Answer Friday?

  2. Anonymous*

    Re: Can my boss ask if I’m looking for another job?

    One problem with this is my boss is the type who will badger me into answering either yes or no. And if it’s relevant, he’s no kind of leader, only a petty tyrant.

    1. Josh S*

      Stick to your guns. If your boss badgers you into a yes or no, you can always (jokingly) pull out the “Well geez, if you’re trying to get rid of me, I better start looking!”

      Or, you can use my favorite answer, “I’m completely happy here and I’m not actively looking. But if something incredible fell into my lap, I’d be foolish not to look into it.”

      And the petty tyrants are usually the ones you have to watch out for anyway. I figured that was a given.

  3. I'm now employed!*

    With regard to the last question, yes, you’re “your odds of getting a job improve as you do more interviews”. I had a series of interviews last month and found that I was mighty rusty for the first few interviews. However, by the third and fourth I was on fire and actually secured both of those jobs. I then had to consult this blog again to figure out how to reasonably put each offer into perspective. Thanks!

  4. I'm now employed!*

    Correction: I meant to say, “With regard to the last question, yes, “your odds of getting a job improve as you do more interviews.”

    1. Anonymous*

      It was exciting to hear that someone else who was feeling the same way got a job. Thanks for the boost of today’s mood.

  5. Kelly O*

    What is up with all the “is this legal?” I’ve seen that in these questions and heard people talking about “it ain’t legal for them to (insert perfectly legal behavior here)” – and the ethics question?

    Someone just asked me today if something was ethical. I said if you have to ask, you probably know the answer. She did not like that answer.

    1. Long Time Admin*

      I used to have a book on professional ethics, which I lent to various people who asked for it (the book is titled “You Want Me To Do What?”). Someone kept it.

      Your answer about already knowing if something is ethical or not is right on! And no, people don’t like to hear that answer. They just want someone to tell them to go ahead and do what they are tempted to do.

      1. Kristin*

        I had an interview yesterday, during which, I found out that the company has some unethical email marketing practices (that would be a large part of the job I’d be doing). I think they’re going to make an offer soon, but I don’t want it after the interview. SO frustrating!

          1. Emily*

            I’m curious, too! I’m already employed, but as our marketing efforts shift more and more to the web, I’m asked more and more often to “just send out a quick email blast.” Not only is there really no such thing, but I’m reluctant to conduct these campaigns in an unethical manner and unwilling to conduct them in an illegal manner. It’s hard to push back without getting a reputation as “a stick-in-the-mud,” “lazy,” “a luddite” (!?!?), or even “Debbie Downer.”

  6. Another Anon*

    On the job you’re unqualified for… I say go for it! There was a job posted in the field in which I have 15 years experience. The posting called for *6* certifications. I had no certifications (past employer didn’t care and I never thought about being laid off). I applied later for a job with the same firm in an area I wasn’t quite as experienced in, and was accepted. Later, when I met the manager with the job I had really wanted and told him I had not the 6 certs, he said, “What?? That’s what the job ad said? We didn’t want any certs. The guy we hired has none. I don’t even have one!” My point being, you may be qualified for the job itself even if you’re absolutely unqualified for the fluffed up posting.

    1. Jamie*

      Can I take a wild guess that you’re in IT?

      Certs and crazy years of experience are common in listings posted by HRs who don’t know how else to vet tech applicants.

      I’m all for experience – but when you see an ad for an IT position that wants 10-20 years experience and the tech skills required haven’t even been around that long? That wasn’t written by the hiring manager 9 x out of 10 (and if it was – it isn’t a place I would want to work.)

      Personally I would disregard mandatory years of experience and certifications if I knew I fit the criteria without them, because it can’t hurt and you could get passed along to someone who can vet your resume properly. If not, you’ve lost nothing and gotten a little more practice on your cover letters.

    2. Jennifer*

      I agree with this.

      I have over 15 years’ experience as an admin. This whole PASSION we are seeing for degrees and certifications and such for admin positions is new to me. I’ve been with my company for 10 years, but I have been looking for about 4 or so, off and on.

      I say if you KNOW you have the skills (don’t ever, every fudge) and the ability to do the job, then it can’t hurt to apply.

      I was once recruited (I did not accept the job, because I did not feel I had enough education) to become an HR person for a local courthouse. I’d been doing some of the work involved as a temp, but I was not comfortable with it. My working relationship with that boss was good enough that I could just level with him.

      (Gosh, how I miss good bosses!)

  7. Wilton Businessman*

    Your employer invested significant capital in you and your education. Skipping when you have an “understanding” will get you a bad name. And yes, that’s something I’d sue you to recover some of that investment because we had an understanding and you didn’t hold up your end of the bargain. Everything doesn’t have to be in writing to be a contract (although it sure as heck makes it easier if it is).

    As a related note; if I send someone off for extensive training (~4+ weeks) to get certified in technology XYZ, you bet they are signing a 1 year promissory note where I take back some of that investment.

    1. X2*

      In the case of the OP, leaving would probably damage his reputation, but any legal action seems really unlikely. The OP said his staying on is “on a goodwill basis, no further obligation if I decide to move” so his employer would be wasting time, energy, and more money to sue.

  8. Anonymous*

    My current employer offers tuition reimbursement, but only after employees have been there six months and it has to be related to our field (i.e. Something that will benefit the company.) This seems to be a good way to avoid having an “understanding” that the employee then doesn’t want to uphold.

    1. Jamie*

      I think tuition reimbursement is a great perk – but I don’t understand why any company would do that without a reasonable commitment for employment – so they will actually reap some benefit of the education they paid for.

      I’ve seen a lot of policies on this and it’s pretty typical to require a tuition expenses to be reimbursed to the company if the employee resigns less than one year from completion date of those classes.

      A hypothetical example is an employee getting a degree paid for (either in whole or part) by their employer and they quit…they would need to reimburse the company for all classes within the last 12 months – not everything.

      I consider that fair and pretty typical. Perhaps for grad school there should be a stronger commitment – but fortunately I’m not the one who writes those policies.

    2. Natalie*

      We have a reimbursement plan, too, and they make you sign a promissory note. If you don’t work here for 2 years following the education, you have to pay back the tuition assistance.

  9. Anonymous*

    RE: unavailable for an interview – I wouldn’t contact companies to indicate unavailable dates. At best, it could be forgotten, at worst it could come across as presumptuous. Even with voicemail and email auto-replies indicating unavailability, some places will move on to the next person on the list. If the job is important, I’d find a way to check email and vociemail while abroad. If contacted for an interview, you could schedule it for when you return. Good luck!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’ve had a handful of candidates do this, and it’s never come across as presumptuous to me. I suppose if you worded it poorly, it could, but assuming that you’re just quick and straightforward, you should be fine. I do agree, though, that if there’s any way to check email and voicemail while you’re away, that would be ideal.

  10. Joey*

    It’s amazing how many people ask the legal question about anything and everything. Its kind of lazy if you ask me. It reminds me of the employee who says they’re being “harassed” by their manager. When I ask about details they say their manager keeps telling them what to do. Duh!

  11. SME*

    To the person asking about the education issue:

    We’re already halfway through 2011. Is your working environment so terrible that a six month wait to start your job hunt is too much? Given how close you are to the “give me until 2012” understanding, I don’t really see why you’re in such a rush. Just do what you said you’d do.

  12. Smithy*

    Re: the education question.
    A government organisation I worked for (in the UK) had a very good scheme whereby they sponsored engineers through University.

    Unfortunately, they found that most of them left for better paid jobs at the first opportunity. So they stopped doing it.

  13. Riz*

    Disagree, the education benefit is just that a BENEFIT. This is a benefit that you can either use or not use. Since you chose to use it THEN in your performance review your employer puts a statement regarding retention… well…. that’s after the fact. You snooze you lose.

  14. Ellen*

    I’m curious about the writer who asked about being written up at a volunteer job. Certainly given the current economy, many unemployed people are using volunteer positions to demonstrate on a resume that they’ve been active during their unemployment.
    But why would any company or non-profit want to create a paper trail to document a volunteer’s misstep? It seems to me that if a volunteer is not working out for the organization, the best thing would be to let them go.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes, this is strange. Some orgs have very large, structured volunteer programs, and I bet the OP is at one of those. (Alternately, it’s a small org that doesn’t really know what they’re doing!)

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