short answer Saturday – 8 short answers to 8 short questions

It’s short answer Saturday — eight short answers to eight short questions. We’ve got a reader who can’t get promoted, someone who wants a higher salary if she has to move back to her hometown, fake letterhead, and more. Here we go…

1. What does this email from my interviewer mean?

I went on an interview over two weeks ago and it’s a job I definitely want. I received an email from the person who interviewed me and it stated: “Call me one day next week. I am about to leave my office for today, so next week would be better. I want to share some things with you.” Please explain to me what this means. I have not been offered the job yet, so of course I’m nervous. 

It means exactly what it says — she wants to share some things with you. I know sometimes it seems like hiring managers all speak in code, and that we all know what the code means but no one else does, but really — take what’s said at face value. She wants to share some things with you. It could be additional details about the job, it could be a change to their timeline, it could be some feedback on your interview, it could be that their budget has changed and the salary range for the position is changing, it could be that the manager for the position was just fired and she wants to explain the situation to you, it could be that you didn’t get the job and she wants to tell you over the phone — or something else. Call her Monday and find out!

2. Why can’t I get promoted?

I’ve been working at a company or a year now. I came in with many years of experience. I work hard, great work ethic, driven, and have a good attitude. However, upper management (one in particular) doesn’t seem to be partial to me. I am constantly left wondering wondering why. I am constantly told by my co-workers that I should be promoted but I was overlooked when they were looking for a manager. Why does this happen? Should I leave this company?

There’s not enough here for me to know. Maybe this one manager has a vendetta against you for no reason and will block any progress you could otherwise make there, so you should leave and go somewhere else. Or maybe that’s not it at all; maybe there’s a completely legitimate reason they didn’t promote you. Working hard and having a great attitude are very good things, but on their own they’re not sufficient qualifications for most jobs, particularly management jobs. (And your coworkers might have a very different idea of what makes a good manager than your bosses do.) Why not ask your manager to tell you what you’d need to do in order to be considered for a management position in the future?

3. Is this employer a legitimate company?

I was contacted by a small business owner about a full time, permanent job. We had a chat over the phone and she wants me to meet in person for an interview. I’m a little hesitant about the idea of this kind of working situation, mostly because I’m afraid of how legit the company is. I don’t want to leave my current job only to find out 2 weeks later that I was scammed and won’t get paid. She has a website that looks reliable but I can’t judge just on that. Any advice?

This question confuses me. Are you saying you’re suspicious of any small business that you haven’t heard of before? Of course you should take the stance that you need to learn more before you’d accept an offer (that’s exactly the stance you should take in any interview situation), but you’re considering not even going to the interview because … why exactly? Go to the interview and learn more. How long have they been in business? What kind of work do they do? Who are their customers? Do you get a sketchy feeling? Has the Better Business Bureau heard of them? Etc.

4. How firm are salary ranges?

When a company actually does post the range for an advertised position (and I am grateful when they do), is that usually a hard-and-fast limit that they are not likely to exceed, or do they expect that candidates will try to negotiate higher? For example, if a company posted a range of $35-45,000, would asking for $50,000 be out of the question?

No, it’s not out of the question, but there’s a decent chance they’re going to say, “We were up front with you from the start about the salary, and that’s what it is.”

5. Should I share complimentary emails with my boss?

I have just completed organizing a huge conference for a department where I work (I work in an in-house event office as a planner) and have received a few thank-you emails filled with compliments and gratitude from attendees and the host department. As these people don’t know my boss, she has not been copied on any of the emails. Would it be out of line or “braggy” to forward one or two of the more in-depth ones to her? I never know how to handle messages like this as a way to highlight my accomplishments that are outside the scope of what’s seen in the office.

You absolutely should forward them. Not dozens, but a couple of the most detailed (or anything particularly genuine from anyone particularly important). This is precisely the sort of feedback that bosses like to know about — and keep in mind that it reflects on her and the department as well as you, so it’s not even just braggy. (Although braggy on its own is fine too. She’s the person in charge of assessing your performance; feedback from others is helpful.)

6. Can I make fake letterhead for my letter of recommendation?

I have been doing volunteer work to fill the jobless gap on my resume for several years now, and the director of the organization has offered to give me a letter of recommendation. I have followed up several times by requesting one because, in this job market, every little thing helps. After five requests, all immediately followed with a reassuring “Yes, I’ll do that for you,” he finally sent me one. However, I am not sure it will stand up to close scrutiny. For one, it is not written on letterhead. He typed it up on a word document and sent it as an email attachment. For another, he told me I should sign it myself; I am understandably uncomfortable doing this.

I considered at least recreating the document using his organization’s logo, creating a stationary template and then copying the content of his letter into the makeshift letterhead stationary but it would still be unsigned. Is it unethical for me to sign his name onto this letter? Or is this letter of recommendation fairly worthless in the scheme of things? How much weight does a letter of recommendation carry when it is neither signed nor on letterhead?

Do not make fake letterhead, and do not sign someone else’s name. You can, however, ask if you can print it out on their letterhead and stick it in front of him to sign. However … this is all a lot of effort for little or no payoff. Letters of recommendation really don’t carry much — or any — weight in hiring situations. Employers want to actually talk to your references, not read a letter that was written for your eyes. Use this guy as a reference when the time comes, and don’t worry about the letter.

7. Should I use LinkedIn’s application function?

What’s your take on which option to choose when employers post a job with a link to apply via LinkedIn (with the button provided by LinkedIn that says “get hired faster”) where it will just send them your LinkedIn profile without a cover letter, but they also give you the option to send a resume and letter of interest to an e-mail address? Which would you do? I can’t tell what their preferred method is here. For what it’s worth, I’m specifically talking about a job for a web marketing position at an agency. So I’m torn since I want to show I’m web and social media savvy, but I don’t want to miss out on the benefits of a well-written cover letter (plus I recently updated my regular resume to include specific links to portfolio projects that relate to whatever job I’m applying for and I added a QR code for a website).

Don’t use LinkedIn’s application button. You want to send a cover letter and resume that are tailored for that position. (And even if you don’t tailor your resume, your LinkedIn info should be written differently than your resume is.) If you want to show your social media savvy, showing that in your cover letter and resume is going to have a lot more impact.

An excellent summary of some of the other problems with LinkedIn’s new application feature is right here.

8. Can I ask for more money to move back home?

I’m currently interviewing for a job in my home town. The job is a good one, but I’m not at all excited about moving home. I come from a very small town that is hours away from most of my friends and the only people who I’d know would be my parents. In the event that I’m offered the job, I feel like I would need a little higher than my desired starting salary to make moving home worthwhile. Is there a diplomatic way to ask for this?

“I find the idea of taking this job so unappealing that I need you to pay more than my market worth.”

See, it doesn’t really work. First of all, by definition, they’re not going to pay you more than your market worth just because you don’t like their town — unless you’re the only person in the world who can do this work at the level they need? In which case, they’re going to pay you more for that reason, not because you don’t like their town. Second, honestly, I wouldn’t hire you if I knew you had such big reservations about the location. Someone who isn’t enthused about making the move required for the job is a huge risk — I’d have to wonder if you’re going to leave far sooner than you otherwise would have, just to escape the town. So no — you’d have to take the salary that you’re able to negotiate based on your own merits, not on your geographical likes and dislikes.

{ 31 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous*

    I have a question that is similar to #8. I have been interviewing for a job that is an hour drive from home versus my current job that’s 10 minutes away. If I get an offer is it okay to negotiate higher because of the commute?
    I know I should negotiate based on my skills and what I can bring to the company, but the extra time and costs associated with the commute are real issues that I’ll have to deal with.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      No. This is like negotiating based on your child care expenses or the fact that you have an expensive hobby on the weekends. You negotiate salary based on your value to the company, period.

      1. Henning Makholm*

        On the other hand, if you’re certain that that taking the job wouldn’t feel worth it for you unless it came with a $YYY raise, there’s nothing really to be lost by holding out for that figure. Either they’ll agree to pay it — in which case that’s your market worth — or they won’t, and in the latter case you’re no worse off than if you’d just rejected their first, lower, offer outright based on your subjective dislike for the location.

        1. K.A.*

          I totally agree with this. If you otherwise wouldn’t take the job there’s nothing to lose by asking for more. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to mention what factors might keep you from taking the job: put it the context of being really excited about the job itself and only being wary of external factors. This allows the company to come up with a creative solution which might not cost them very much but make your life easier. In the case of a longer commute they might give you use of a fleet vehicle to compensate for the additional wear and tear on your car.

          Another way to handle external factors is with a signing bonus. I recently got an offer on the other side of the country in a less desirable (to me) location than where I currently live. Their initial offer was too low for me to consider moving so I countered with what it would take. They said my request was above the salary range for the position was but they agreed to give me the top end of the range and a bonus–contingent on one year of service–to make up the difference.

      2. Anonymous*

        Thanks for replying, I thought that you might say that, and it makes total sense with your explanation. I was confused because I’ve heard advice to negotiate based on commute before and of course it’s a big factor to add almost 2 hours to my day everyday!

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I think you might be thinking of the advice to factor in commute when you’re evaluating an offer, just like you’d factor in benefits, culture, etc. It’s something you want to think about when deciding how attractive an offer/job is to you overall, but it’s not something you can cite when arguing for more money (because your commute isn’t your employer’s concern, just like your mortgage payment or shoe habit isn’t their concern).

  2. Henning Makholm*

    AAM, could you consider numbering the short questions within a post explicitly? It would be easier for commenters to have a short quick-scannable way to point to the question we’re talking about.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Done! That said, I suspect it’s clearer to refer to the question by subject rather than number (since with numbers, you have to scroll back up to figure out what the number refers to). Yes, I over-think.

      1. Kimberlee*

        I completely agree. I love reading the comments, but when people only reference by number, I’m constantly scrolling up to see the question. But, it definitely helps to have the questions numbered in any case!

  3. Clobbered*

    About #5 (forwarding complimentary emails):

    I suspect the OP is fussing about how to present those emails. How about:

    Forward the most detailed one with something like “Wow! Isn’t it great people had such a great experience with (Event)! I have gotten half a dozen of emails like this! Thank you for the opportunity to organize (Event)”.

    (or whatever your normal style is – the point is to approach this from a “I am sharing good news” angle, if the bragging makes you uncomfortable)

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes! Sorry, I should have included that. Other options: “We’re getting a lot of great feedback on the event (here’s one such email)” or “Thought you’d appreciate seeing this (one of several!)” or whatever.

      1. OP #5*

        Thanks for answering my question!

        Yes, it is just as much a question of “how do I introduce this email to her?” as “does she need to know about this feedback?”

        At our staff meeting this week, I took the chance to thank everyone in my department that had helped play a role in the success of the event, mentioning that I had gotten some good feedback from participants. My supervisor then explicitly asked that I share some of that feedback with her, so that was an easy lead into what I wanted to forward her.

  4. Christine*

    On #5, oh my God, yes. Please send feedback to your manager, and keep track of it for yourself so it’s easy to find when your next performance review comes. This helps avoid that dreaded problem many people have with saying “hey, I did a great job, and here’s evidence.”

    As a manager, I always forward positive, significant feedback regarding my team along to my manager, and I admit to near-browbeating of my employees reminding them to be sure to save that feedback so they can reference it when writing their self-evaluations. Who is my favorite person I have ever managed? The guy who (besides rocking everything about his job and being a dream to manage) followed those instructions to the letter and also took the care to compile them, in writing, for me–including my own feedback to him–when we had our mid-year and end-of-year performance evaluations. Why yes please, my friend.

    Managers are busy too, and anyone worth an iota will be grateful for the efforts their employees make to keep them informed of how others respond to their work.

  5. Sandrine*

    1. What does this email from my interviewer mean?

    What happened to reading what’s written at face value ? Don’t stress over this, OP, and just follow what the person has told you :) . Who knows, it might be good news.

    2. Why can’t I get promoted?

    If the company has been around for a long time, they might even think one year is not enough, simple as that.

    3. Is this employer a legitimate company?

    You need to investigate more, just as AAM suggests.

    4. How firm are salary ranges?

    Agree with AAM.

    5. Should I share complimentary emails with my boss?

    Yes please :P .

    6. Can I make fake letterhead for my letter of recommendation?

    Are you out of your mind ? Did I miss something here ? DO NOT FAKE ANYTHING WHEN YOU APPLY FOR A JOB! Simple as that.

    7. Should I use LinkedIn’s application function?

    Unlike AAM, I would actually be tempted to use that button, merely because if it’s available to be used and companies use it, they probably accept that people do. However, I would still have all of my documents available (resume or CV + letter) to send because it feels like this would be just like sending a heads up that you would like to apply, and then through Linkedin the company could ask you for more.

    (This reminds me of a recent question where someone wanted to write to companies before applying to “taste the waters” or something)

    8. Can I ask for more money to move back home?

    I think my focus on this is this excellent point from AAM: “Second, honestly, I wouldn’t hire you if I knew you had such big reservations about the location.”

    I really hope for you that you are not letting these feelings show in any way, shape or form. If I had the slightest hint, you would be out of the running in a heartbeat. Why are you even interviewing if you don’t like the location ? If this was such a problem, you should not have accepted the interview, period.

    1. Heather*

      Re your answer to #7-I agree (and I feel the same way about Monster/Career Builder), if they don’t want people to use it, why do they use it?

      1. Anonymous*

        I’m the person who asked the LinkedIn question, and that was my reason for being confused – why put it there if they don’t prefer it? But I would much rather customize my information and cover letter than just hit the button and send my LinkedIn profile, so AAM confirmed what I was already thinking.

  6. Anonymous*

    In response to #8, since I’m the one who asked, the manager had suggested that I should design letterhead but I already do so much as a volunteer that I haven’t made it a priority. That is the only reason I thought it might be acceptable. I never did think signing his name, however, was a good idea and I was put off that he would suggest I do it. Thank you, Alison, for your unsurprising response. It is much appreciated.

  7. Nethwen*

    I’m not trying to be contentious, but I think part of the reason job hunters second guess what prospective employees write is that interviewers often ask coded questions, so job hunters have to learn to second guess if they want to answer the question accurately. Skilled interviewers can help alleviate this by asking what they want to know. (“Tell me about a time you handled a challenging customer” instead of “what’s your favorite cartoon character and how do you think he would fit in here.”)

    Plus, job hunters often can’t answer with the real truth and so are practiced in coming up with acceptable interview answers. That is, the real reason you want to work someplace may be that your parents are ailing, you want to move to the same town as them, and this is the only company in your industry there, so you want to work with them. But we’re told not to say that in interviews so we have to be creative and design an answer that is true, but mostly irrelevant. “I want to work here because you’re the leader in X in this state and I’m looking for more challenging work,” or something like that.

    Combine all that with the lack of communication or misleading communication from employers (“we’ll get back to you next week” and then you never hear from them), and job hunting often feels like a game of coyness and double meanings, so it’s hard not to second guess everything related to it.

  8. Jamie*

    2. Why can’t I get promoted?

    This sentence jumped out at me, “I am constantly told by my co-workers that I should be promoted but I was overlooked when they were looking for a manager.”

    I could be off base, as there’s not a lot to go on, but in my experience co-workers don’t tend to offer up these kind of comments in a vacuum. And ‘constantly’ would indicate that the subject is coming up more often than would be politically safe in most offices.

    If you are talking about this a lot, or with a lot of co-workers, it could be part of the problem.

    Someone there for only a year being openly unhappy about the lack of a promotion could be one reason to be reticent to move you into management.

  9. Jamie*

    4. How firm are salary ranges?

    My personal rule of thumb is to apply if my bottom range was within 10K of their top range…as that’s within the realm of negotiation in my experience. Anything outside of 10K and you might not be in the same level of position.

    As Alison mentioned, don’t be surprised if they are firm on their upper range – many companies are – but it’s possible that some have a little leeway especially if you bring something additional to the table that they need (outside the job description).

    However – I would want to clarify that there was room for growth in the position, and that even if they went outside their range to get you there wouldn’t be a fixed salary cap (stated or not).

  10. Anonymous*

    Good Morning AAM,

    Could I get a little clarification on #7 when you say ” (And even if you don’t tailor your resume, your LinkedIn info should be written differently than your resume is.)?” Are we talking about formatting or content?

    Thank You

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Well, the rules are different for each: A resume is a crisper, more professional document. A LinkedIn profile, when done well, isn’t just a resume pasted in there — it’s more conversational, can be written in full sentences, can use the word “I” as much as you want, etc. (This is not to say that resumes should be overly stiff; they shouldn’t — but they’re two different mediums, with differences in what’s most effective in each.)

  11. Chris Walker*

    Re #1 (The other side of the conversation)

    You will drive yourself crazy trying to figure out what’s happening on the other side of the conversation. Don’t speculate; you’ll probably be wrong anyway. After my second interview for my current position, I did not get a call within the time frame the agency had given, so of course I assumed I hadn’t gotten the job. However, when they did call, they said they couldn’t get hold of one of my references and could I give them another. (My mistake was not calling all my refeences after the 2nd interview. I would have learned that one was heading off to a rafting vacation in West Virgina where cell phone reception is almost non-existent.)

    Pay attention to what you control not what you don’t. They said call next week, so call nexy week.

  12. Anonymous*


    First of all, thanks so much for posting/answering the question as well to all those that commented.

    I thought I would just give a quick update. I contacted the hiring manager and after her telling me that I did so well and how impressed she was and how I was their top candidate, unfortunately they hired an internal candidate. Actually they hired an individual that was already working within the department. Trust me when I say I’m very disappointed because to me, that was my ideal job, but I guess I’m back to square one and hopefully I’ll find something soon. Thanks!!!!

  13. Anonymous*

    In regards to question #4….I’m being considered for a managerial position with a non-profit. They didn’t give me a range but rather a set number. I understand that non-profits typically pay less but the salary they are offering, given the scope of work is well under market value. I made the same amount of money as a specialist (non-manager) in Las Vegas where the cost of living is considerably less than here in L.A. I’m concerned that attempting to negotiate will damage my chances. Any advice?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Do keep in mind, though, that nonprofits vary wildly in what they pay. Some, especially smaller ones, do pay well below market. Others are competitive. You can usually get a sense of their finances by looking at their 990s on Guidestar.

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