a weekend of short answers: short answer Sunday

I think this is a first — a short answer Saturday and a short answer Sunday in the same weekend. Today, we’ve got a job offer that looks better in retrospect, a confusing rejection notice, and more. Here we go…

1. Boss is asking me constantly if I have plans to leave

I graduated from school in May (the degree doesn’t pertain to my job) and my boss has been asking me monthly if I plan on leaving soon. I’ve told her that I had no immediate plans to leave but am keeping my options open as I would like to start my new career soon. At first it was just checking in with my plans but now she’s asking me weekly and I feel like she’s trying to push me out. What can I do to make my office situation more comfortable? When does it become harassing and not “checking in with each other”?

Why not just ask her what’s going on? Say something like this: “You’ve been asking me this a lot, practically weekly. So that you don’t need to keep asking me, can we talk about what’s behind this question? I can’t tell if you’re hinting that I should be thinking about moving on, or if you’re worried that I might be. What’s going on?”

2. I turned down an offer, but now I want it

A few months ago, I interviewed for a position that I really wanted, but I refused for two reasons: 1. The salary was not what I expected and I knew they were not open to negotiations. 2. I was negotiating with another company (from a completely different field) that offered me a higher salary.

Unfortunately I have not been accepted to the other company. I know that the first company is still looking for someone, and I realize that I finally want to join their team. When I refused their position, I let them understand that I had found another position. I want to get back to them to apply for the position, but the salary issue will be the same. How should I contact them? What should I tell them? Do you think I can negotiate salary? I do not want them to think I am unstable, changing every month my mind.

If you contact them now, you should probably do it only if you’d accept the job without trying to negotiate on salary. You’re already in a weak position, because you told them that you’d taken another offer. Since it’ll be obvious now that that was a lie or that something went wrong there, you have a weak hand. You’re basically going back to them with your tail between your legs now — which you can do, but if you then turn around and try to push for more money, it’s going to look pretty silly.

3. I regret giving permission for a prospective employer to contact my current boss

I work at a university and have been in the same job for 6 years. I recently interviewed for two jobs at the same university but in different departments. When I applied for the job, the application asked if it’s ok to contact my current employer. I answered yes because I thought it would look good. Do I need to tell my boss I interviewed in case she gets a phone call from my prospective employer? I don’t want her to be blindsided, but I have not received a job offer and don’t want to tell my boss too much too soon.

Ack! Never say that it’s okay to contact your current employer, unless your boss knows you’re job-seeking and is okay with that.  Normally, I’d say to contact the other jobs and tell them that you’ve realized that you’re not ready to tell your current manager that you’re looking, and ask them not to contact her. (You can say that you’d permit it at the offer stage, but not before.)  However, in this case, you’re applying for jobs with your same employer, so it might be moot — usually reference-checking in that context is informal: just a call to their colleague who’s your current boss, and they’re not going to wait for your permission. So it’s a judgment call.

4. Will this error sink my chances?

I have a very sheepish question to ask. I’m in the middle of job hunting and have been applying to a couple of marketing positions. As a way of showing my diversification, I have mentioned in the closing paragraph of a couple cover letters that I have my own personal blog. I was submitting a post today and noticed a grammtical error in my last entry. I know I need to be extra careful since I want to be seen as credible, but it was something I had just simply missed. Do you think this will sink my chances with the companies I had directed toward my blog? As a side note, my cover letter and resume for the positions were error free.

No. This is miniscule. Just correct the error on your blog and be done with it.

5. Job history when past employers are out of business

How far back do you go on resumes? What do you do if all the jobs you had are no longer in business? What do you put on the online applications when there’s no address or phone number anymore? Two companies I worked for are out of business and one was bought out and moved to a different state several years ago. What would you suggest I put on online applications which want addresses, phone numbers, and emails?

I mean, you can’t make information up, so you just need to write the truth — “out of business,” “bought out,” etc. This stuff happens.

6. Jobs that require references with the application

I’m a recent grad applying for entry-level jobs. I find that a lot of the job openings in my field require that along with submitting a cover letter and resume, I also need to submit the contact info for two or more references. I haven’t been applying to jobs with the requirement to submit references at the outset because I don’t want to bother my references every single time I apply for one of these jobs. If I apply for all of the positions that I see with that requirement, it would mean letting my references know that I’ve applied for at least 7 of these positions per week. I prefer to wait until the potential employer asks for my references’ contact info because they are interested in my application, and then I only have to contact my references when I have a higher likelihood of getting hired. Should I be applying to jobs that ask for my references information at the outset, even if it means contacting my references several times a week? I don’t want to be a bother to my references. What do you think?

First of all, it’s BS that companies are requiring this at the outset, for exactly the reasons you mention. But since they are and you probably can’t even submit an application without it, submit the info and include a note that says, “Please notify me before references are contacted so that I can alert them.”  (And no, don’t alert your references every time you apply for a job, since that will obviously annoy the crap out of them. Instead, wait until you’re at the reference-checking stage, which is typically post-interview.)

7. Was this rejection notice legit?

I received a phone call from an employer personnel person who said I would be contacted by her boss to set up an interview. Ten minutes before the phone call, I received a rejection email from this boss. The email referenced this boss’s email address. I am perplexed. Did the boss actually send the email or was it a computer generated email where the computer software automatically rejects within a period of time from filing the online application for not fitting the filter criteria. Should I contact the person who called me or just move on? Help me make sense of this confusion.

It could be legit (in that the first employee assumed the boss would want to interview you, but the boss decided he/she didn’t), or it could be a mistake — it’s worth contacting them and asking.

{ 32 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous*

    Re. #6 – Ugh, I HATE this request! It gives me the creeps and makes me think that what the company really wants to collect contact info for their new business prospecting purposes.

    I just applied for a position that required this as a part of the application process. However, resumes could be sent to the hiring manager directly via email. So, I left my references out but added a note that I would be more than happy to supply them if they requested an interview. I’m sure my email is destined for the trash, but it makes me so uncomfortable to pass along my references’ info at this point. We’ll see…

    1. Stacy*

      During my job search, I’ve seen references being asked for at the same stage as resumes and cover letters quite a bit. Annoying? Yes. But, honestly, if I didn’t apply for these jobs, I fear that I would possibly lose out on something good.

      I’ve handled it by having a few refernces on hand that I’ve stayed fairly close to and although they are former managers/supervisors, I still see socially sometimes and that I feel comfortable shooting off the occational, “Hey, how’s it goings? How’s the baby/new house/annual pumpkin festival planning? I’m xyz. Still in the search for a new position.” -type email to. In my occational email I give them an update on where I’m at, (I’ve actually changed thing about the type of position I’m looking for since the begining of my search), and re-confirm that they are still happy to provide a reference for me.

      I can’t promise that this will stope them from getting blindsided by some hiring manager who doesn’t tell me that they are checking my references, but at least it won’t come completely our of nowhere.

    2. Anonymous*

      I hate #6 too. I applied to a job like that a week ago (not really actively jobsearching right now, but this job looked kind of awesome.) They asked for applications to be sent via email, though, so I wasn’t *forced* to provide references, and I finally decided not to; I just included the “references available on request” line at the end of my resume. I don’t want to give them references unless we actually get to the interviewing stage, and I don’t see why they should need them at this point anyway. Maybe I torpedoed my chances by not following all the instructions in the job ad, but…meh. I’m happy enough with my current job; if this is a dealbreaker, so be it.

      They did email back thanking me for my application, which I appreciated, not that it tells me what their stance is on my not following their instructions to submit references. :) But it’s always nice to get some sort of verification that they received your application and it didn’t disappear into a black hole (or an institutional spam filter, which happened to me on a notable occasion in my last job search…)

      1. Anonymous*

        Oh, they just contacted me to set up an interview, though, and didn’t say a word about the references I didn’t submit. :)

    3. Natalie*

      You never know. The only interview I’ve gotten so far was for a posting where they requested references and I declined to provide them until the interview stage. I know for certain that I was a finalist (they called me to let me know they were checking references), although I ended up withdrawing for unrelated reasons.

    4. Anonymous J*

      I agree. I generally ignore that requiremen and apply anyway.

      I think it’s really unfair that companies are doing this. I mean, if they end up not even interviewing you, then what’s the point?

  2. John J. Sofilkanich*

    followup to email before phone call:

    I called the individual who originally called me and was only able to leave a message on her voice mail requesting clarification. I have not received a response hitherto. Based on the time lag I do not expect any response so I am moving on.

  3. Nyxalinth*

    I totally understand #5. 3 of the 5 employers I’ve had since 1999 have gone under. The first was a call center, which lost their contract with a major client and went under a year and a half after I started with them. The second was just a seasonal position, but they went belly up four years after I worked for them. The third was an office position that I had really enjoyed as there for six years. The main office closed our office, then flopped.

    This hasn’t been something that has hurt me in interviews so far, but I did learn the importance of staying in touch with contacts from jobs.

  4. Editor*

    Fix the blog typo and forget it, as advised. It is a minuscule problem.

    To remember it is minuscule, think minus-cule, not mini-scule. (Hint, hint.)

    For the person who is being asked for references up front: Are you applying to teaching jobs or something similar in which the tradition in your field is to request references at application? If so, then your references should be familiar with the issue, and telling them you are actively applying for numerous jobs, so they may be contacted, is probably enough.

    If some or all of your references are outside your field, but the request for references in advance is standard in your field, explain that to your references so they’re know they might be contacted before any interview or offer takes place.

    1. I Asked #6*

      I am looking for a job in the public policy/government relations/ advocacy field. From my job search, I have found that asking for references in advance is not the norm. About 1/4 of the jobs that I see ask for them upon application. I’m sure that my references would understand if I talked to them about it, but they are both very busy. One reference is a legislator and the other runs a public policy office for a national organization… I don’t want to take up too much of their time when they’re already doing me a favor.

      1. anth*

        In the future if you start to see that again, contact your references and say “I’m applying for positions in (this) field, and they often request reference information in advance. Would you still be comfortable serving as a reference for me, and is it ok if I use your contact information when I apply for these positions. My understanding is that they will not contact you until I am a finalist for any position.”
        That way you one and done it – and if you become a finalist for a position, you can call them to follow up and give them info on what that job is and what you think they should focus on about you.

  5. I Asked #6*

    Also, I actually took a position as a paid intern so the point is moot anyways for the time being. Thanks for answering my question Alison!

  6. Lynn*

    Re #3, Thank you so much for answering my question. I ended up telling my boss and they seemed okay with it, but would regret loosing me as an employee. Next time I know to say no on the application regarding contact of my current supervisor. This really is good advice.

    1. fposte*

      Eh, talented writers misspell too, and I’m with your source in regarding that spelling as an error, though an understandable one. But I thought that was a pretty funny place to put it and wondered if it were either deliberate or Freudian :-).

  7. Anonymous*

    With some of my references, I told them I was planning on applying, and I asked them for permission ahead of time to put their names down whenever references were asked. I would then update them with what I applied to and when I got interviews – all via email, just so they have it.

  8. Elizabeth*

    Alison, what do you suggest that #5 should type in the address field if the employer is out of business/moved and the online form won’t submit without *something* there? Should they enter the address the business used to have, or type n/a for every field, or something else?

    1. Anonymous*

      Some software requires you to enter a number for the phone number. In that case, you could put (000) 000-0000 or the old phone number (since that is the most recent phone no. for the organization). I would put NA for other fields (i.e. address) but you may have to specify the state (drop-down menu).

      1. KayDay*

        A while back I was at a Q&A with a bunch of HR people who advised to use the old address–the reason they want the address is to verify that the company exists/ed. (The biggest concern with an out of business company is that the hiring company will think you made it up). The records regarding the company will still have the old address, so if they are doing a background check they should be able to find something about it. I would then mention somewhere in parenthesis that it is no longer in business. You might also want to see if the “Way back machine” has an archive of the business website.

  9. Catherine*

    In question #1, it sounds to me that both the boss and the employee think that the employee is likely to be leaving soon. The employee says she has “no immediate plans to leave but am keeping my options open as I would like to start my new career soon”–what a mixed message! Likely, the boss is looking for a timeline so that she doesn’t get stuck looking for a new employee on short notice (or perhaps investing too much in an employee who is going to be moving on shortly). Why not just make some plans and fill in your boss? (E.g., “I’m actively looking for a new job, but prospects are thin and I think it may take a long time, so I want to keep this job as long as I can,” or “I’m going to start actively looking in three months–I’m hoping I don’t have to move too long before my apartment lease is up.”)

    From my observations, new graduates like to keep their options open for very long windows, and it tends to keep their bosses on edge because they have to keep so many of *their* options open to accomodate it.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think you’re very likely right … but the manager is being silly by asking about this weekly, rather than sitting down and having a real conversation that gets at the heart of what she’s worried about.

  10. Anonymous*

    I posted #4 and I thank you for the reassurance. I’m between jobs right now so I’m a little paranoid that every little thing will sink me (and I realize they can.). I appreciate the support!

  11. anth*

    Also – on #7

    I was offered a job, then received a form rejection letter a week before the job was supposed to start. I emailed immediately (would have called, but I was out of the country) and it turns out that it was a slipup with a mailmerge… So definitely be in touch as soon as you can.

  12. Anonymous*

    Re: #1 – Boss is asking me constantly if I have plans to leave

    I was in a similar situation. I recently graduated college and was back at my part-time position that I held throughout college. My manager knew I had graduated too because I had to let her know since I was available to work more hours. She was fine with it at first and she even expressed to me that she was happy to have me around longer. After a few months, she started asking me the same question like “what are your plans?” “are you looking for a FT position elsewhere?” It was hard for me because of course I was looking, but then I needed to have this job too while I was searching elsewhere. I eventually felt pushed out of that position after some time though because she knew that I wanted to leave soon. Hope things work out for you though!

  13. Andy Lester*

    Re: #3: The larger rule is “Never OK a contact with someone unless the target knows about it ahead of time.” This applies to everyone you use as a reference. And, after you’ve given their names to the prospective employer, tell your reference that you did that.

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