short answer Sunday: 7 short answers to 7 short questions

It’s short answer Sunday — seven short answers to seven short questions. Today we’ve got a writer whose interviewer told him that he was supposed to hire a woman, someone who got in trouble for talking to HR, and more…

An appeal on cold calls

Regarding cold calls, you say that you hate them because they disrupt your work. However, I cannot count how many times I’ve heard the phrase “75% of jobs are not listed,” inferring that one has to go beyond scanning the online boards, company websites, and newspaper ads. What are your thoughts?

You don’t find those jobs through cold calls; you find them through your network. The idea behind that stat is that often people hire people who are known quantities to them in some way; a stranger calling out of the blue doesn’t meet that bar. Instead of spending your time cold calling, spend it building and using your network.

Applying for jobs at at odd hours

You once posted about sending materials to candidates/employees “after hours.” What about the other way around? When is it too late to send application materials? Will it look like I’m resume bombing? May it go to their spam?

It doesn’t matter what time it is when you submit your application; any hiring manager who would read something into that would be crazy and irrational. And I don’t see why you’d be any more likely to look like you’re resume bombing or to end up in a spam folder than you would be at 2:00 in the afternoon.

Got in trouble for talking to HR

As a state employee, I contacted HR to ask if it was legal for my supervisor to require me to be on call after hours and not receive any compensatory time or pay. I was advised that this was not legal and that an employee must either be compensated in time or minutes. At a recent staff meeting, we were given a copy of the August and Septemeber on call schedule that showed us still working after hours and not receiving any compensation for this. I stated in the meeting that I had spoken with someone in HR and they stated that this was not allowed. After the meeting my supervisor stated that I was going to be written up for not following chain of command. My question is: can an employee be written up for contacting HR without consulting with supervisor first, if they are the ones you have the concern about?

Sure, legally speaking, you can be written up for anything your employer wants, as long as it’s not based on your membership in a legally protected class (i.e., race, religion, sex, national origin, pregnancy, etc.) You can be written up for wearing an ugly shirt or having an annoying laugh, if your manager happens to be an ass.

That said, as a state employee, you’re likely governed by all sorts of policies and regulations, and your manager is probably full of it in saying that you can’t go around her to HR. Look into the rules in your workplace. (Besides meanwhile, you probably need to go back to HR about the entire situation — your manager violating the compensation rules, and your being told not to discuss it with HR.)

No employer will sponsor me for a visa

I’m currently on H1B working visa with my current employer. I’m looking to relocate to a new city since my boyfriend got transferred to his new office. I recently was scheduled for a second interview there and found out from a company that they did not offer potential employees the H1B visa. I registered for several temp agencies, but most of them did not deal with the H1B. There is no way I can go work anywhere without doing the transfer. I understand that most companies are not willing to do that since it costs them money. The thing is that I already got my first H1B approved, and the H1B transfer process and its cost will not be as high and complicated as the first time of filing the petition. My question is: Is there a way to negotiate with a company even if they say no, or we just need to accept as it is?

I’m not a visa specialist, but my understanding is that H1B visas are supposed to be issued when a company is unable to find citizens or permanent legal residents to fill the job opening. Assuming that I’m correct in that understanding, I’m guessing that the reason companies are telling you no is because it is not the case in this economy that they can’t find a citizen or permanent legal resident to do the work (and therefore they couldn’t fill out the required forms saying that). I’m sorry I don’t have a more encouraging response; that’s a tough situation for you to be in.

Can I ask my former manager how I could have done a better job?

When I had a job, I will admit I was not perfect and I actually am looking more for ways to improve on the things I was not good at because I am still pursuing a similar field and I want to be great, not just okay. There were a couple reasons I left the job–one, I am in school and I couldn’t fit it into my schedule anymore and two, I was being belittled and harassed by people over me (I did not realize it at the time and I didn’t do anything about it). Also, I marked that future employers could contact my former boss and it seems like she is not giving me good references. I am not wanting to go back to that company or anything, I just want to be better at my job in the future (if I can ever find employment again), but I need to know all the things I did wrong…so are former employees allowed to ask their ex-boss about things that they did wrong? Do you know if former bosses are receptive to meeting with former employees?

Give it a try. She may decline to talk with you about it, but some managers would be willing and you have nothing to lose in trying.

Interviewer told me he was told to hire a woman

I interviewed last week for a job that I really wanted and was fully qualified for. Towards the end of the interview, the manager told me that he was told to hire a female but that he really liked me. During my tour of the facility I noticed that there were far more women than men employees. I haven’t heard anything back, but I am somewhat tempted to call and speak to someone about what he said and the fact that if they had a preconceived notion like that, why would they waste my time. What do you think I should do? Should I call and ask if they have hired someone yet?

It’s illegal for an employer to favor one sex over the other in hiring. You might have standing to sue, but such lawsuits are long, expensive, and hard to win. Either way, I’d take this as a sign that this isn’t a place you’d want to work.

When should I ask about a raise?

I was hired 6 months ago and the company’s year end is coming up soon, so I’m scheduled for a performance review. Is it common to wait until next year’s year end to bring up the topic of a raise (so 1.5 years after my start date), or do most people ask about it at the 1 year mark from when they were hired? Either way, should I be saying anything about it at this performance review (since budgets for this coming year are being finalized now), or is it too soon?

Six months is early to ask for a raise; you’d generally want to have worked there a year first. Why not ask your boss how salary reviews are typically handled?

{ 19 comments… read them below }

  1. JT*

    AAM – What about “cold emailing”? I mean sending an email to a person you’d like to work for at an organization for which there are no current openings, explaining your interest and skills and asking for them to keep you in mind as future positions open or their organization grows? I’ve never done that, but have thought of it. The cover email would have to be very strong. Is there any value in that?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Absolutely! They have time to review your materials at their convenience, they actually have your materials to look over (as opposed to just getting a phone call where they have nothing to reference), and it’s more polite for all the reasons that I list at that link above.

  2. Mephistopheles*

    I have a question about the cold calling. What if it comes from a possible job suggestion from someone in another department of the same company?
    I had a phone interview with a company that I really wanted to work for, but they rejected me. I replied back to the rejection and asked (in a manner like you suggested on one of your articles :) ) for feedback. The person wrote me back, saying they went with someone with more experience, but he suggested a different department that he felt would be a better fit for me. I checked the job openings, but there are none for the position he suggested. Can I call a hiring manager from that department and mention that my interviewer suggested a position within that department?

  3. Anonymous*

    Call me naive, but how can anyone really write up, suspend, fire, etc., someone just because they don’t like something about that person? How do you justify legally “I don’t like your laugh therefore you’re out of here!” We come across people at times who we just don’t like – even if it’s over something trivial like their laugh or choice of clothing.

    I’ll admit it. I’m sounding naive. But I don’t understand. It doesn’t make sense.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Basically, that area employment law prohibits some very specific things, such taking action against someone based on their race, religion, sex, etc. But it doesn’t go beyond that to prohibiting behavior that’s simply unfair or mean or irrational. In other words, there’s a fairly tightly defined list of reasons that you can’t use to discipline/fire someone, and if the reason doesn’t fall on that list, then there’s nothing legal preventing it.

      The idea, of course, is that the government isn’t telling you how to run your business, beyond prohibiting some forms of discrimination.

    2. Mike C.*

      The other way to think of it is that people can be fired for “no reason”.

      Look, in more civilized nations employers have to have actual business reasons to fire people. Not here, and that’s the difference.

  4. Under Stand*

    It would seem to me, and I am no expert, but the gov’t employee getting written up for the supervisor violating law would be covered by whistleblower law. He reported violations of law to the HR which makes it a protected action, correct? I know that federal law protects fed employees in such a situation, do not most states have the a version of this law that protects state workers?

    1. fposte*

      I was wondering about that as well. My understanding is that whistleblower protections don’t always apply to reporting to people within the company (as opposed reporting to the governing authorities, in this case the DOL, I think), but I don’t really have a sense of when that’s true and when that isn’t. Even if this were a private company, it might be worth checking with the DOL to find out whether such retaliation isn’t legal.

    2. Mike C.*

      In Washington State they certainly are! I should know, I turned in a supervisor for cheating on her timecard.

    3. Tami*

      I was wondering the same thing. At what point does whistleblower protection kick in? Does it kick in when you go to HR, or only when you report them to the DOL

      Regardless I would certainly think that management would rather you take the issue up with HR than the DOL, so the DOL doesn’t come in and audit them. If the DOL does find violations, I have read cases in which they make the employer (yes, even the government) pay triple-time back pay to whom the employer has violated in the past “X” amount of years.

      This is a great way to make a disgruntled employee go to the DOL and cause an investigation into your operation. Oh, and then when they do that, they will most certainly be covered by whistleblower protection laws, so any retaliation will be actionable. Nice move.

    4. Tami*

      Re: hiring a woman. While a lawsuit may be expensive and time-consuming, couldn’t the OP file a complaint with his state civil right’s commission or the EEOC?

    5. Adam V*

      It’s possible that something more than “being written up” has to happen. If the writeup prevents them from being promoted, or puts them first in line to be downsized (or even if they just randomly get fired) they can probably submit their story to the NLRB and get it investigated. But at the moment, if nothing worse happens, they may not get very far.

  5. Lina Souid*

    That’s good to hear because I almost always submit applications after 6 pm. I like to take a break and read my materials with a fresh eye before submitting. You are more likely to catch mistakes that way.

  6. Anonymous*

    Regarding the H1B question, it’s good to see that AAM would use this correctly, but I think most companies don’t. The ideal of H1B Visas is what she stated – to allow the company to bring in people when no one in the country can fit the job.

    However, the reality, and the reason companies have been convincing the government to allow them more H1B Visas, is so that they can hire in Indian and other foreign workers at Indian-level wages rather than pay a qualified American to do the work. I can’t tell you how many coders I knew when I worked at GE who were Indians brought in one H1B visas and paid absolute peanuts compared to the salary of a qualified American citizen.

    We’re talking paying them 20K a year, if that, to do the same job an American with proper experience would have be paid 60-100K for.

    1. kimmiejo*

      The prevailing wage requirements on the H1B prevent this scenario. The government sets the minimum rate a company can pay based on the type of work being done. We sponsor a number of employees on H1B and they are very highly paid. Perhaps you are confusing the H1B’s with L or B visas.

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