mini answer Monday: 7 short answers to 7 short questions

It’s mini-answer Monday — seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…

Should I point out that my new company may be using temps illegally?

I’m on my third day of employment and during the interaction with the person I am replacing, it was stated they have been using temp employees at some of the business locations (only one or two at each location). However, some of them have been temp employees for several years and are putting in 40-hour work weeks, sometimes more. This doesn’t appear to be a practice that should be continued and wondered if there are legal restrictions. I figured I would try to get some background inquiry completed before I start poking around the HR cubicles and stirring up some dust. Hence, my question to you is what is your opinion and are there any websites where more information could be sought?

Is this issue directly in the sphere for which you’re responsible? In other words, is your job to supervise or hire these temps, or do you work in HR? If not, I’d stay out of this, particularly as a new employee. You’ll do yourself no favors by rocking the boat your first weeks on the job about something that isn’t in your sphere of responsibility. (As for the issue itself, without knowing specifics, I can’t tell you whether what your company is doing is legal or not, but either way, it’s very, very common. Not that that makes violating the law okay, if indeed they are, but you should at least be aware of that — as it’s another reason not to make a stink about it before you’ve proven yourself.)

Should I mention how rigorous my college was, 15 years after graduation?

I am about 15 years past my college graduation, so while I include my educational information in my resume, I don’t particularly focus on it. Recently, though, a study was conducted by a major publication that determined my alma mater to be the most rigorous institution of higher learning in the United States. Granted, conflicting studies about things like that are released all the time, but it still made me wonder if that might be worth a mention in my cover letters, since my college isn’t one that your average hiring manager is familiar with. I’m hoping that doing so might give my education the weight it deserves in considering me as a candidate – kind of the way it’s generally impressive to see an Ivy League school listed on a resume.

I could see doing that if you were a recent grad, but 15 years after graduation, it’s going to look a little weird. Employers are more interested in what you’ve achieved in those 15 years than in where you went to school.

Should I address my long commute in my cover letter?

I live in an area where jobs for my field are scarce. Because of that, I have been applying for jobs that will mean a long commute. It is common practice in my area for the majority of people to have long commutes. But I do not get responses for my applications. Should the commute be something that I address in my cover letter, and if so, what is a good example of how to address it?

If long commutes are common in your area, then I suspect it’s not the reason you’re not getting responses. Instead, I’d assume it’s for the same reason that most people aren’t getting a ton of responses — the bad job market. I’d focus instead of strengthening your resume and cover letter, and on networking.

Did I blow my chances at this job?

I’m applying for a factory job through a staffing agency and after completing relevant testing for the hiring process, the company decided that they would like to interview me. The problem is there was a miscommunication between the staffing agency and myself about the time of the interview and I missed it. The interview has been rescheduled for a week later because the hiring manager is “busy.” My question is, do I really have any chance at this job now? I did call the interviewer directly and attempt to explain the miscommunication and that I really am more reliable than that, but I’m still feeling as if I’ve completely lost my chance.

They wouldn’t have rescheduled you for another interview if you’d completely lost your chance. You might have a higher bar to meet now, but employers don’t generally schedule interviews with candidates for the hell of it; most wouldn’t have had a problem saying, “Sorry, we’ve moved on to other candidates” if that was indeed the case.

My boss wanted to pay my assistant more than me

I have a situation with my current manager. We both agreed that I need an assistant (I am a manager myself). I performed all interviews with HR. Once I selected the best candidate, my boss tells me that we should pay her more than what I am earning. My boss did not say “you should pay her more than what you are earning.” But he mentioned a starting salary that exceed what I am earning today and exceed a standard range salary of a non-executive assistant without university degree nor certifications of any kind. His recommendation did not come through because I extended a salary offer to the candidate one day before I received that email from my boss. However, now I feel that I am underpaid. What should I do? Should I say something to my boss? Should I play it nice while I am looking for other opportunities?

Why would you start looking for another job over this? You don’t mention any salary research of your own; for all we know, you’re appropriately compensated and your boss is off-base (and you apparently weren’t unhappy with your salary until this happened). But you could certainly take this as impetus to figure out if you’re being paid appropriately, and if you determine that you’re not, ask for a raise. And it’s fine to mention, as part of that discussion, that your boss even suggested a salary of $X for your assistant while you’re only making $Y, but don’t base your request only on that. Base it on all the usual things you should base a raise request on — accomplishments, contribution to the company, etc.

Should I email the hiring manager directly?

Is it appropriate to email a hiring manager you’ve never met or spoken with directly about an open job, when that is not the process outlined on the job posting? I’ve submitted my application via the online system used by the company, then I did some digging to find out who the hiring manager is (unfortunately I have no close connections to this particular company to refer me directly, so I asked a friend of a friend who works there, but in a very different division, if they could help me find that information, and they did). I’d like to email him directly, but is this acceptable, and do you have any suggestions for what one should include (or avoid) in such an email? 

Sure, that’s fine. He may just forward your materials on to HR, but you have nothing to lose by trying it. Same cover letter suggestions apply as always.

Listing volunteer work on a resume

I’m unsure of the best way to list my volunteer work on my resume. I volunteered with two different organizations for a somewhat extensive period of time, as well as one for a much shorter time. I worked with a well-known national organization that does work with children for about nine or ten months. I wrote articles and answered questions on a website geared for preteen to teenage girls for about 16 months. Additionally, I organized meetings and activities as a regional organizer for a month-long program. I don’t know how much of that “counts,” or that potential employers would care about, and I also don’t know where to put it. So my second question is: At what level does community service start being worth putting on a resume? My third question is: Where on a resume does it go: under employment, or a separate volunteer heading, or something that I’m completely not thinking of?

Hell yes, it counts. Absolutely you should include it. And you can either put it under Employment or a separate Volunteer Work heading. (Although anything that was just a month or two should probably go under Volunteer Work so as not to be misleading.)

{ 24 comments… read them below }

  1. Satia*

    I’ve been doing volunteer work since 2007 and I absolutely list it under employment because I do a lot of work for this organization. I edit the newsletter, interview authors, research for content, and more. I want any HR managers to know that I work almost daily on maintaining my skills and the work I do has come up in interviews.

    Anything that makes YOU a person they should want to hire should be either on your resume or in your cover letter. In this job market, every little bit counts.

  2. SME*

    OP #2 here, and…darnit! I figured you’d say that, but I was so hoping otherwise! Thank you, Alison. :)

    1. fposte*

      Heh. I correctly guessed the school (or at least the school that topped out on a recent list), but then I’m in academics. (And as somebody who attended two schools that are almost always mistaken for other schools, I feel your pain.) But I do agree with Alison–the unintentional effect is to imply that it’s been a downhill slide since then. High achievements within the last couple of years sound like testimonials to who you are; from before that, they’re testimonials to who you were then when people really need to know about you now.

    2. Mike C.*

      I always liked to talk about my college experience in a sentence or two as the foundation that my other experience is built on. That way you can brag about the rigorousness of the school, but let the more recent stuff shine through. I only used it as an opener though, I focused on the things I was working on currently.

      Also, if you’re talking about a small engineering college in southern california, then it’s nice to meet a fellow alum. :)

      1. fposte*

        If you’re meaning RPF’s old place, that one I think people know pretty well :-). I was guessing the OP was talking about the New Mexico/Maryland institution. (No, I don’t know why I’m being coy about actual names.)

          1. fposte*

            Aw, you’re wrecking the closest I’ve come to being a spy!

            I’m guessing that the OP was talking about St. John’s; it’s pretty well known in academia and comparatively unknown outside of it, so I can totally see wanting people not familiar with the school to understand its rep. I’m figuring Mike was talking about Caltech.

            But maybe they’re both talking about Wossamotta U.

              1. fposte*

                They’re fun, though :-). I know several Claremont people (speaking of schools that don’t tend to be well known outside of academia), but I think you’re my first Harvey Mudd grad.

  3. Anonymous*

    I am currently searching for a job (my company is closing) and all recruiters and employers ask about my college degree. I graduated 30 years ago! and have a strong resume of management, leadership and accomplishments….but they still ask about college. In my area of the country, many of the ads stress that they are looking for a college grad with high GPA. I don’t even remember my GPA, although I know it was quite high.
    My point: to some employers, the college you attended and graduated from is a big deal, no matter how long ago.

    1. EngineerGirl*

      That is scary. I would hope that they only ask about college to determine if you actually went to one. But asking for a GPA after 30 years? Stupid. And considering the amount of grade inflation that has gone on in the last decade – well, unfair! How can they compare apples to oranges?

      BTW, if you are competing with college grads, then you are looking at the wrong jobs.

      1. Anonymous*

        BTW, if you are competing with college grads, then you are looking at the wrong jobs.

        Eh, not necessarily. A lot of people who graduated high school before the mandate was ATTEND COLLEGE OR ELSE and started working right away later went back to school when it became so all-fired important to have a degree. So there are a lot of older recent grads right now.

        1. EngineerGirl*

          While the person may have just graduated from college, they still have (should have) 30 years of REAL experience. That puts them in a way different category from recent graduates. Someone that has been in the business for 30 years shouldn’t be competing with people with zero experience. Ever. The only exception is if the person decided to totally change careers. But even then, they shouldn’t be in the same category as a recent graduate.

  4. Anonymous*

    For question 2, things like how rigorous a program is, or how selective the admissions are can change immensely between someone’s freshman and senior year, much less over a decade after they graduated. Hiring managers have no reason not to assume that while your program may be rigorous NOW, that it was at that level 15 years ago.

    As for the assistant compensation question, any chance it could have just been a typo?

  5. Anonymous*

    Apart for the appropriateness of mentioning how rigorous a college is, a question leaps to mind: was the study done when the person was in school 15 years ago, or more recently. If it’s a recent study, you’d have to be very careful about what sort of claim to make about what it means for a degree 15 years ago. I’m sure the school was hard back then, but it’d be inaccurate to suggest it was the “most rigorous” unless the study covers the same period someone was in school.

  6. ThomasT*

    For all work, volunteer or not, I use an “Experience” heading rather than “Employment,” so there’s no question of honesty or poor communication. Depending on the job, I also sometimes break it out into “Relevant Experience” and “Other Experience,” to highlight specific skills for a job while avoiding time gaps. You can include the fact that the work was volunteer in the description, as a parenthetical after the title, or as part of the title, eg, “Volunteer Web Site Editor.” In addition to length of tenure, I think that amount of time committed can be helpful to hiring managers to determine relevance. Half- to full-time volunteering (say, during a period of extended unemployment) is much more meaningful than a few hours a month. If you get to an interview and have overlapping time periods, if it turns out Bottle Washer was the full time job, and Web Editor was 1-2 hours a month, but they’re given equal treatment, that’s less than ideal, so be aggressive but honest about describing your volunteer accomplishments.

  7. FrauTech*

    On the salary one: I would have replied as soon as possible to the email something like “Your suggested offer for Jane was more than my salary. Perhaps we need to have a discussion. Are you free this Thursday afternoon?” that is assuming you have done your research and are underpaid. Be sure to come in with all of your accomplishments and be ready to push for a specific number. If they say no, ask what you need to do to achieve that. Then do it and come back in 6 months.

    But really my gut tells me this is not a good thing and you should indeed be looking for another job. It won’t hurt you to look, and it’s my opinion that’s the only leverage employees really have.

    1. Anonymous*

      As soon as I read this question, I wondered whether the proposed candidate had a personal connection to the boss, because it seemed a bit odd to pay a higher salary to a lesser qualified employee.

      The other thought was if the question writer’s salary is lower, but this is offset by benefits which the assistant would not receive.

  8. Another Anon*

    On the long commute item: I read the other day that people with long commutes have poorer work/life balance and tend to be more dissatisfied with their jobs, therefore, if you are hiring, you should consider screening them out. As someone who bounced back from a layoff to a job involving a long commute , I’m glad my employer didn’t do it. But it sounds like a bad thing to call attention to in an application.

  9. Anonymous*

    Long commute…
    You don’t want any part of it. A big reason as to why I am looking around (besides my boss) is the fact that I am stuck in traffic for a good 4 hours a day… I have been doing it for 3 years now and my blood pressure goes up every time I get in my car now. It’s terrible and my boss refuses to consider some kind of work from home structure (esp in the summer)
    My boss also screens…
    Most of our jobs are in that area, so I do understand where you are coming from, although I don’t know if I would put it on my cover letter. Most of the time they will call you and talk to you about the commute and how you would handle that.

    I would seriously look into moving though… I honestly can’t stand it any longer!!!!

    If you want to test the waters maybe put something like “relocating to town x in 3 months” or whatever and see if that changes the response rate.

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