short answer Saturday: 9 short answers to 9 short questions

It’s once again short answer Saturday: nine short answers to nine short questions. This week, we’ve got a recent grad who wants to wear her resume on a t-shirt to get attention, a coworker who walks away mid-conversation, and more.

Should I wear my resume on a t-shirt?

I’m a recent college graduate and have been actively job hunting for about 6 months. As the number of resumes I’ve sent out approaches 300, I’m trying to figure out what I’m doing wrong and how I can stand out among the hundreds of other applicants I’m competing with. After Googling “creative ways to get hired,” I came across the idea of wearing a t-shirt with my resume on it. My dream job is to do PR in the racing industry. I’m attending two races in the coming months and I am contemplating doing this in order to get the attention of some race teams and potential hiring managers. Would you recommend wearing a resume t-shirt or does it come across as too desperate?

Really, really desperate.

That said, I’m not going to tell you that no one has gotten a job through gimmicks like that. Occasionally someone does. Just not the vast majority of the time.

But really, if you want to stand out, write a really great cover letter and have an awesome resume. And read this and this and this.

Can’t remember old manager’s name

I am applying for a new position via internet and it is asking for my previous supervisor. However, for the life of me, I cannot remember his last name and from what I understand he does not even work there anymore. I am wondering if it is ok just to put his first name or if I should call my former employer and ask them? Also can I leave it blank?

Don’t leave it blank; while it’s unlikely that you’d be rejected over that, you don’t want to give them any reason to discard your application. Take two minutes to call your old employer and ask for the guy’s last name.

My former boss was on my interviewing panel

Yesterday, I interviewed for a position very similar to my last job but on a manager level. Imagine my surprise when I walked into the lobby and saw my previous boss — he was sitting on the interview panel as an outside expert! Not only that, I used him as a reference for the job! He said that the other interviewers both knew and that they were ok with it. He and I have a good relationship and the interview went well. In several of their questions, I mentioned my previous position and my old boss would chime in to expound or corroborate what I had said. I am curious if this is a positive or negative thing for me as a candidate. How can the panel be really be objective when he knows me? Will the other interviewers feel like I got preferential treatment?

It’s a positive, believe me. Having someone who not only knows your work but used to manage you having a voice in the hiring process is a huge bonus (assuming he liked your work, which it sounds like he did).

Sending ideas after being rejected

I am waiting to hear if I got a job offer. I was inspired by this position more so than any other and even post-interview, I’ve been researching and listing ideas that would help expand their brand awareness. (I discussed some ideas during the interview as well but the more I think about the position, the more ideas come to me). I am optimistic about an offer but if they choose another candidate, would it be strange if I gracefully wished them well and send them my ideas anyway while letting them know that I’m disappointed I didn’t get the job but I was so inspired I continued to prepare in hopes of getting the offer? I want them to know this position would have been more than just a job for me and that I am serious about my work (the perk would also be that they question their final candidate choice).

There’s nothing gained by having them question their final choice, once an offer has been made and accepted. But there is potentially something to be gained by sending them those ideas now, before they’ve made their decision, when it can still have some influence (assuming the ideas and your presentation of them are strong).

Rude coworker walks away mid-conversation

I seem to be having an issue with a coworker. I’m not sure if it’s just an issue with my own perception, or if this is really a problem. Whenever we are having a conversation (regardless of whom generates it or what the topic is), this person seems to think that it’s okay to walk away in the middle of a conversation. Not in a “well, this conversation is over” or any manner thereof, but just in the middle of my piece of conversation, this person will simply walk away, with no notion of saying “excuse me” or “just a second.” I have been raised with the concept that that behavior is just plain rude. This person doesn’t seem to have ill feelings with anyone (myself included), but seems to feel that it’s okay to walk away from anyone they’re talking to. I’m not sure if this is something that should be addressed or not. I’m not the kind of person who likes or brings on drama in the workplace. There are a lot of things that I just “let go,” but if I’m in the middle of completing a task with this person and they decide walk away in the middle of it, I personally don’t think that’s acceptable. The person doesn’t come back either, they decide to lollygag elsewhere, so I’m not exactly sure if or how I should bring this up with this person.

How you respond to this really comes down to personal style, but honestly, if the conversation was work-related, I’d just call after the person, “Hey, can we finish up here?” And if it wasn’t work-related, I’d most likely say something like, “Ooooohhkay, I guess we’re done.” But then I think I’d stop having non-work-related conversations with this person anyway.

One question: Does she do it to others too, or just to you? If just to you, is there any chance that you’re a capital-T Talker — longwinded to the point that this person doesn’t know how else to escape the conversation? (Not that that excuses it but it’s worth considering.)

Why did they hire me this time but not the other times I applied?

I just recently switched jobs to one of the Big 4 accounting firms from a regional firm. I applied to this same accounting firm, I believe 3-4 times in the last year, and now finally am in. I don’t believe I’ve changed my approach or packet too much, aside from tweaking little aspects of it. I guess my question would be:
1) Does an internal recommendation help? (3 of my applications went through internal referral, 1 Director, 1 Staff, and my succeess was through a staff) and does level matter?
2) How come it took me multiple tries to get into the company that finally hired me? (I don’t know if you can answer this one, honestly I don’t think I changed much of my resume/cv packet.)

Yes, an internal recommendation helps, and the level of the person making it matters (although a strong recommendation from a lower-level person can be more valuable than a tepid recommendation from a higher-level person, depending on various factors). And it probably took multiple tries because in the other rounds, there happened to be candidates who were stronger than you. Remember, not getting a job doesn’t mean that you weren’t qualified — it just means that you weren’t the only person who was qualified.

Is it too soon to apply for an internal transfer?

I’ve been with my company for five months. A position has opened up within the company that I feel I am much better suited for, doing something that I would enjoy more, and where the supervisor is much nicer. As much as I’d love to apply, I am afraid my current supervisor will be mad to hear that I would leave after such a short time. Am I out of line to apply so soon?


And there’s a good chance you’d be unsuccessful anyway, because (a) the other manager won’t have much confidence in your longevity if you’re leaving your current position so quickly, and (b) at many companies, managers in your current role need to approve an internal transfer before it can go through. The absolute most you could do is to tell the second manager that you’d love to work in that role “down the road, when I’ve been in my current position longer, since obviously I wouldn’t leave so soon after starting.” There’s a small chance that that could lead to a series of events that would land you in the role now, without you having reneged on your current commitment. (For instance, if this manager knows that your current manager wouldn’t be upset about losing you — not the greatest recommendation in and of itself, of course — and if she’s dying to have you for herself — also a big if — it’s possible she might orchestrate something behind the scenes.) But otherwise? No.

Should I thank the company owner for giving me a job?

I just received the best job I could have ever dreamed of (yes, I am serious). My question is, would it be wrong to thank the owner of the company for giving me this job? In the letter I feel I would want to convey that I am thanking him for this job, not because of any impact it may have in the future (I have nor will I ever be a brown-noser who is looking to suck his way to the top), but for what has already happened. I am new in the corporate world and I don’t want to seem cheesy or wrong but I am very appreciative of my new job. I did thank my immediate supervisor and he just blew it off and said whatever……we are happy to have you here. Any thoughts on this? I have just worked for other outfits and have never, ever been treated as well as I am here.

Don’t thank them for hiring you. Once you’ve been there for more than a few weeks, thank them for whatever it is that’s making you so thrilled to be there (aside from employment itself) — whether it’s the culture, or the generous retirement plan, or the general way they treat employees, or the work itself. Be specific. Most managers would love to hear something like that. But you don’t want to write them a thank-you note for hiring you, because you don’t want them to feel they did you a favor; this is a business arrangement, and they should hopefully feel that they’re benefitting from having you there as much as you’re benefitting from being there.

Political affiliation on a resume

Am I harming myself if my resume shows my political affiliation? Last year, I volunteered on a political campaign (part-time) for an entire year. I’d like to include my accomplishments in that position on my resume, but I’m not sure if I should actually name the campaign (which was the standard “CANDIDATE NAME 2010”) or just list it vaguely as “Congressional Campaign.” I don’t work in politics, so my first instinct is that it doesn’t matter. However, with the political climate being so heated recently, I’m wondering if I’m risking having my resume tossed because the hiring manager happens to vote differently than me. Thoughts?

Unless the campaign was for a particularly controversial/inflammatory politician, list it. Sure, some hiring managers might reject you for it, the same way they might reject you because they hate your school or your tie or the fact that you listed your hobbies as knitting and canoeing. But the majority won’t, and you can’t control for the ones who will, any more than you can control for any other random factor. (Plus, for every hiring manager who objects, an equal number will like it.) But if the politician is known for inspiring particularly heated dislike, go with the more generic listing.

{ 35 comments… read them below }

  1. De Minimis*

    Hiring needs at the big accounting firms can change quickly, and that is probably why the OP was able to get on board after multiple tries. Also, there tends to be an exodus of staff over the summer each year as people leave their firms for jobs in industry, so this time of year would probably be the most likely time for someone to get in.

    1. anon-2*

      It also is a good sign — if they finally get around to hiring you after three or four attempts, it means that they thought highly enough of you to reconsider you.

      I once worked at a place where the management had a “one strike and you’re out forever” policy for applicants. This was a rather pig-headed policy, IMHO, because a candidate might not be a good fit for position “A” but is for position “B”.

      Or, he may have been a good, outstanding second choice but the prime candidate didn’t show for work or just didn’t work out.

  2. Kelly O*

    Regarding the issues of walking away while someone’s talking, I have a co-worker who is long-winded and will talk to anyone about anything at any time. I politely listen for a while, but it seems like no matter how I try to disengage, there is no polite break. There is no stopping to catch her breath so I can say “oh, excuse me I need to (get back to work/get to the printer/refill my coffee/whatever.)”

    It is not just me. She’s hemmed people in their offices talking about her toe removal surgery. I learned more about her grandson’s potty training issues than I ever cared to know about anyone’s potty training, aside from perhaps my own daughter, and really there are some things you just don’t need to share.

    It is unfortunate that I have to just walk away or pray for the phone to ring or something. It’s hard disengaging because she’s a nice lady, she just talks all the time about things that are wholly not work-related. (I mean, the work-related conversations are long too, but at least they’re about work.) Seems that walking away doesn’t hurt her feelings or give her a clue, and it’s what I’ve had to do. I do say “excuse me” and just head off to do whatever I needed to do when I walked by, which makes me feel better.

    But seriously, consider if you’re a long talker, or if perhaps it’s being perceived as being a long talker. And worst case scenario, why don’t you just ask? “Hey, I notice you just walk away in the middle of our conversations and it bothers me. Can we talk about it?” Honestly I feel like half the problems we have would be resolved if we just said “Hey, you’re doing X and it bothers me/hurts my feelings/makes me all stabby. Can we talk about that?”

    1. OP*

      It could be a two sentence conversation, such as “Could you please help this customer? She needs (person walks away) help in row X.” and they would still walk away, and not to help the customer. I ended up addressing it by just asking questions, and seeing what’s up in their life, and it wasn’t just me that they would walk away from either. Although after addressing it, they seem to have learned to sit still for two seconds.

  3. Suzanne Lucas*

    I got the same question as you for number one, and I wrote a really long answer which will be posted on Monday.

    I’m partly annoyed because this guy gets two answers, and most people don’t even get one. (Well, from me anyway, you write more than I do.)

    Anyway, to make him all confused, I said that he should wear the t-shirt. Heh.

      1. Suzanne Lucas*

        It will be up Monday morning at

        Alison and I almost always agree (or rather, when do disagree, she’s usually right).

        I don’t actually think this tactic will be effective, but since it’s for a PR job, I think it might get someone’s attention, and I doubt it will hurt chances unless the person gets drunk or otherwise behaves inappropriately.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Have we ever disagreed? I’m not sure I can think of a single time!

          It sounds like we basically agree on this too. You’re just nicer than I am; when I hear “gimmick,” I immediately think about how every person who I’ve ever seen ask “how can I stand out?” hasn’t already covered the obvious bases, like an awesome cover letter, resume, networking, etc. I am anti-gimmick in the strongest of terms, and I believe they often are hiding a certain laziness.

          1. Suzanne Lucas*

            I can’t think of a time where we’ve disagreed. wow. crazy. I am also not a fan of gimmicks and agree that there is a certain laziness involved in seeking out gimmicks.

            I don’t do resume reviews, but every once in a while someone will give me a very compelling reason why they need help with their resume. I say, “I will help you, but first read these 3 articles I wrote about resumes and tailor your resume to those specifications, then I will look at it.”

            I have never had anyone reply to that requirement. either they followed my suggestions and ended up with a fabulous resume, or (more likely) realized that that was work and what they really wanted was somebody else to write their resume.


    1. Josh S*

      You can’t go wrong by offering conflicting advice, right? :)

      Seriously, I love that there’s differing opinion on that. I think it could be a gimmicky way to get a little attention in a creative field. But I also think it smacks of desperation and is unlikely to generate any results (it’s not like the person is going to be able to hand a potential employer the shirt off his back, right?).

      Even if the race team saw the resume, how likely are they to remember the name attached to it? They certainly won’t remember the details of the resume. At best, it should be a shirt that says
      “HIRE ME!
      Joe Schmoe
      -Accomplishment 2
      -Accomplishment 3

      If you’re looking to hire, ask me for my business card.”

      Anything more than that, and the shirt is illegible anyway.

      1. Suzanne Lucas*

        Excellent point. I think a whole resume would be overkill. Then again, this person is straight out of college, so it probably doesn’t have much anyway.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Fascinating to read our different approaches to it! We should do a joint column where we each answer the same questions. (Although that might mean whoever wrote in just had two people piling on.)

        1. Suzanne Lucas*

          That would be awesome. You get more fascinating questions–I never get ones about not being able to move a monitor 3 feet or a coworker that wets his pants.

          But, I think many of the columns would go like this:

          Alison: Blah, blah, blah, blah, blah.
          Suzanne: Yeah, what Alison said.

          1. dianamh2008*

            I’d love to see this! To work well though, you should both answer the question without seeing the other’s opinion (synchronized blogging?), no “what she said” answers.

  4. Anonymous*

    RE: Can’t remember old manager’s name

    Take the time to call and find out the manager’s name and correct position. Also, the address/phone – you’re going to need all of that information at some point anyway. Might as well get it all now (and for all previous positions too) so you only have to gather it once.

    1. A. Nonymous*

      Yes! When you do so, type them on your computer, and save it. Also, print a copy or two out and put it in safe place. Heaven forbid your computer crashes and you lose everything. At least you’ll have a fresh printed copy in your files so you don’t have to worry about that.

    2. Kimberlee*

      I’m sure it matters more for non-service industry positions, but I’ve had applications where I just put the manager’s first name, either because I couldn’t remember the last name or, honestly, I never even knew it (especially for shift supervisors, if you only worked there a couple months, you might never even know their last name). I think there was even a time where I couldn’t remember the first name. But, that’s also all pr0bably OK because nobody checks references (in my experience) in the service industry anyway.

    3. arm2008*

      Sounds so simple. I must be working for the wrong companies, because calling any of them to get this type of info would be a multi-hour nightmare. Acquisitions, system changes, massive layoffs, even trying to figure out where to call could take an hour or more – I guess as an IT contractor and direct employee I just live in a different world.

      I have learned to keep copies of team contact lists. When asked I supply the information I have, but it doesn’t seem reasonable to expect that I know where a former manager now resides or how to contact them. Some of them I don’t think the IRS could find…

  5. Lisa*

    Thanks, person who asked about political affiliations! I was thinking of sending the exact same question in. I’m chair of a partisan local initiative, which has afforded me a great deal of event planning experience and my first opportunity to manage a team (I’ve managed one person at a time in two paid jobs, and been a volunteer manager in another volunteer gig, but this is my first executive committee) so I have it on my resume–my thinking is that anyone who is put off by my partisanship outside of work, rather than seeing the value of that experience, does not need to hire me anyway, because I would NEVER do well in an environment where my political junkie-ism is seen as a negative. Then again, I’m VERY casually looking and employed, so it’s easy for me to say that. Wouldn’t be so cavalier without a check coming in regularly!

  6. fposte*

    On the former boss interviewing thing: I think people sometimes muddy the legal system and the application process. When I’m hiring, I want applicants to have a reasonable and appropriate shot at the job, sure, but the goal isn’t to check abilities against an objective standard but to put somebody in that position that I am reasonably confident will succeed. If I have more knowledge about one candidate’s ability to succeed than another’s, I’m absolutely going on that. That’s what I’d term a fair inequality–it’s fair to the process and the goal, even if it means that some people have a better chance than others. That doesn’t mean I’ll always hire the known candidate, because I don’t. But there’s no requirement for applicants to all have the exact same chance of getting the job, especially not at the expense of the goal of filling the position well.

  7. Josh S*

    RE: Can’t remember boss’s name–
    AAM has a good point: it’s about 3 minutes worth of work to call the business and get the guy’s name and proper title.

    But better yet–try to find your former manager on LinkedIn. It’s one thing to have a name and title for the “Former Boss” section on an application. But it’s WAAAY better to reconnect with a former boss (especially if s/he was a good boss, or you had significant work experience under him/her). You can turn a once-upon-a-time work relationship into an ongoing networking relationship, a referral, or mentoring.

    If you reconnect (especially in a genuine way–not just “help me find a job!”), that former boss can be so much more!

    1. GeekChic*

      While that is reasonable advice, it only goes so far. I was a senior manager for around 10 years and none of my direct reports will find me on LinkedIn (or Facebook or Twitter or any other social network). And I work in IT….

        1. KellyK*

          Only if she *wants* them to contact her. If she doesn’t, then she’s doing it exactly right.

  8. Michelle*

    Re: Resume on the t-shirt

    About 8 years ago, I had an economics prof who advocated the use of gimmicks. He often said that the standard resume/cover letter for a new grad wasn’t going to cut it, we all had to do our best to get an employer’s attention.

    So I took part of his advice and I made a resume that looked like a product from the industry that I wanted to work in (I’m an engineer). I sent 80 resumes, received 4 interviews and 1 job offer. This might not sound like a great ratio, but at the time I had been submitting traditional resumes for months without any feedback at all.

    So the gimmick worked for me. Would I do it today? Not a chance. Today I have real experience and my resume can stand alone.

    Since this job is in PR and the person is a new grad, I say give it a try. Take the advice of another poster and don’t put too much info on the t-shirt though or it’ll be difficult to read. I’d also have a few traditional resumes on hand in case anyone asks you for one.

  9. Anonymous*

    I think when it comes to “gimmicks” on a resume or cover letter, the industry that the applicant is sending it is important as to whether they do it or not. If it is in a creative field, or in some kind of artistic design field, then by all means I think it’s a good idea. I think even someone who is an engineer, like Michelle is, should make a more creative resume for that industry in the contemporary era.

    If it’s for a conservative, business-like environment, then I would not try to use the resume gimmick. As a new graduate, I feel that struggle of trying to stand out the best I can out of huge masses of graduates, so I definitely feel for the OP.

  10. Katie*

    On the internal transfer, I don’t see what the issue would be with talking with both your current manager and the manager of the other position and saying, “I think I’d be a great fit for this. Even if now is not the best time for a move, I still would like to express my interest, and let you know this is a direction I’d be interested in going.” I’m always curious to know what my employee’s long-term goals are, and if I can help them achieve them, that makes me happy. If you have a very territorial manager, this might be an issue, but I think most [good] managers are happy to help employees develop their skills and move along in a path that is most satisfying to them.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think that’s reasonable, but I’d tweak it just slightly so that it doesn’t sound like she’s at all suggesting making the move now. Because I’d be really irked if I thought my new employee was proposing moving after just a few months!

  11. Anon*

    I’m the OP of the internal transfer question. First off, thank you Ms. Green for your answer.

    My manager is not the type to take well to such a statement. In fact, if he senses that I have one foot out the door, he’ll do everything in his power to make my life miserable. Of course, that means I should leave altogether, but I have to stick it out at least a year to have any credibility, so what else can I say other than the countdown is on….

Comments are closed.