wee answer Wednesday: 7 more short answers to 7 short questions

It’s wee answer Wednesday! Here we go…

1. How can I relay our manager’s request to a peer?

I work in a retail setting and with the company I work for there are several positions of “manager.” You have the store manager, first assistant and second assistant. I am a second assistant and at my store we have 2 of us, my question is how do I communicate something to a fellow manager that was left for her to do by our superiors, without sounding like I am above her? I want to move up in the company and there could be a position opening in the next few days, however this is my road block to that new position.

Just think about how you’d want her to communicate something similar to you — you wouldn’t want it to be a big deal or something that she felt she had to finesse, right? So just be matter-of-fact about it: “Hey, Jane, Joe asked if you’d do X.” Matter-of-fact, straightforward, not weird. Because the fact is, it’s not weird. So if she takes it that way, that’s on her, not you.

2. How do I get employers to call me?

Two years ago, I left my job because serious family issues were top priority. That was great… for about a year and a half, however, these last 6 months now that I’m looking for work are crazy… no one will even reply to my job postings. How do I let these employers know I’m top of the game when word on the street is no job…not employable? I have a zillion job references but if employers won’t even contact me, how do I let them know?

By focusing on achievements in your resume. And remember that this job market is tough. It’s not enough just to apply for jobs — you need to have an awesome cover letter and a really strong resume. (There’s tons of free advice on this site about how to do that, but if you want more, my ebook might help.)

3. Applying multiple times to one company

I was wondering how many resumes should be submitted for job positions with one company. I have seen jobs that I have applied being open multiple times. Would it be a good thing to apply each time I see the position available? Would you suggest re-doing the resume each time so that it is not a duplicate.

You don’t want to apply for the same job over and over within a period of months. If you apply and then see it again, say, six months later, there’s no reason not to give it another shot … but multiple applications for the same job in a shorter period of time is going to look odd.

You don’t need to redo your resume each time, but you should change up your cover letter so that you’re not sending something identical each time (particularly since it’s clear that the earlier version didn’t do the trick).

4. Why do employers ask about work gaps and whether candidates have been fired before?

I have recently been job searching and have noticed on many of the applications that the employer is asking questions such as “Please explain any gaps in your work history” and/or “Have you ever been fired from a job?” Why are employers asking these questions and how relevant are the answers?

They’re asking about gaps because they want to understand your career progression and what you were doing with any time not covered on your resume. They’re asking about whether you’ve ever been fired because if you have been, they’re going to want to know about the circumstances to help them evaluate your candidacy. As for how relevant your answers are: Very! “I took six months off to care for a sick family member” is very different from “I quit my previous job because I hated my coworkers and then spent six months playing video games.”

5. Can an employer lower your hours to get you to quit?

Is it illegal to take an employees weekly hours away to force them to quit?

It’s legal. Dumb, but legal. Unless they’re doing it for a discriminatory reason — i.e., if they want you to quit because your race, religion, sex, etc. But generally, an employer who’s trying to get you to quit isn’t an employer worth fighting for.

6. Can I ask my company to increase its tuition reimbursement?

My company has a tuition reimbursement program that is heavily underused (per management). Would it be in good taste to ask for more funds toward grad school? They give the same amount whether you are attending a community college or in a doctorate program. I’m not asking for a full ride, just more than the max of $2000.

They’re probably not going to make an exception, because if they make an exception for you they have to make it for everyone else too (or they risk opening themselves up to all kinds of bad things, like discrimination lawsuits, if you happen to be a different race/religion/sex from the people they denied, for instance). So you’d need to be able to make a really powerful argument for why this degree is strongly in their best interest, not just yours.

7. I have experience in two totally different fields; should I mention it?

I’ve sent my resume out to a lot of companies and got a few interviews which never worked. I have education and experience in two completely different professions: accounting and design. A lot of people have told me to create two targeted resumes for the two professions, which I have done. Should I, during an interview or at any point, tell the employer that I have this other set of skills that have absolutely no relevance to the current job opening? So far, I’ve been keeping my mouth shut about my other skills unless asked but I’m wondering if this would actually help me land a job.

What you want to avoid is having the employer think that you’re not really interested in or fully committed to the job you’re applying for, because your heart really lies with the other field. But if you can make it clear that that’s not the case, then your additional skills can become a bonus. For instance, when I hear accounting, I think “logical.” When I hear designer, I … don’t think that, necessarily. So to have a designer who had the logic and reason skills of an accountant would be pretty awesome.

{ 27 comments… read them below }

  1. Tami*

    #5: In one of my jobs when I was much younger, the boss decided to cut the accountant’s hours. She quit and applied for unemployment, which he fought. His argument was that she quit, right? The state came back to him and said no, you eliminated the job you’d hired her for.

  2. Mike C.*

    @5: If you can keep records of these changes in hours and speak with an employment attorney, you may be able to quit and still receive unemployment. But that’s a hard bar to reach unless you know what you’re doing.

    @7: The key to two different fields is to understand how the intersection is synergistic. When I think of accounting and design, I think of the infographics I see here: http://flowingdata.com/ .

    See how the analytical side meshes with the creative side to create something that is much greater than raw numbers or pretty pictures alone? That the kind of approach you need to take in your letters and interviews. If it’s an analytical job, talk about how your design work has given you insight on communication and interpretation of data to help others better understand an otherwise confusing mess. If it’s a creative job, talk up your analytical abilities in a similar way. By linking to two together you eliminate the issue of “not being passionate” and put your skills in a whole new light.

    The fact of the matter is that where ever you end up, you’re going to have a unique collection of skills for your group. Play that up in your cover letters and use that to your advantage!

    1. Josh S*

      “The key to two different fields is to understand how the intersection is synergistic. ”

      Please do the world a favor and never use the word ‘synergistic’ again (outside of a managers’ meeting, where they like to hear meaningless buzzwords).

        1. Mike Koontz*

          Yah. Quite nice use of synergistic, actually. Perhaps I just see it often as a relevant word in my field.

    2. Kim Stiens*

      UNregardless of the use of the word “synergistic,” I love this idea. Honestly, if this person were applying to an accounting job and used a infograph instead of a resume, that would be pretty awesome. Assuming that it was well put together and looked good. Having a tertiary set of skills is never a bad thing. But yeah, as AAM says, you definitely have to frame it in terms of the job you’re actually applying for.

      1. Anonymous*

        Pet peeve of mine, but “UNregardless” (or more commonly, but still egregiously wrong “irregardless”) would mean “with regard to”

        1. land of oaks*

          unfortunately, irregardless is not wrong, it is in the dictionary as an acceptable synonym for regardless. (Which drives me *ker-azy*, btw) It is extremely redundant and annoying, but not technically wrong.

            1. Piper*

              It is technically wrong. Not sure what dictionary your referring to, but a quick search on dictionary.com and on Merriam-Webster.com verifies that it is non-standard often confused with “regardless.” Merriam-Webster advises to use “regardless” instead.

          1. fposte*

            Dictionaries often include the descriptive as well as the prescriptive–in other words, if people say it, it goes into the dictionary. That’s why pedants often have dictionary preferences to fit their taste–okay, *our* taste–for balance between the two.

            So it’s being in the dictionary doesn’t necessarily mean it’s not wrong, it just means that it’s used.

  3. John*

    #2, Two and half years ago I was an International student (F-1) so I could only work for a year after I graduated with an Accounting degree. I left to adjust my status to be a permanent resident, of which I am now. Trying to find work has been difficult, it’s hard to explain my situation if the employers see the gap and don’t give me the opportunity to explain. What does one have to do?

    1. KellyK*

      I’d explain the gap right in your cover letter, so that they definitely see it. And mention anything you did that built relevant job skills during that gap.

  4. KayDay*

    re #5: Depending on the state, if your hours are cut back far enough (through no fault of your own) and you worked enough in the previous period, you may be eligible for partial unemployment benefits. Check with your state’s unemployment office to find out if it’s allowed in your state and what the requirements are.

    1. SAN*

      For #5, depends on the how extreme the hour cuts are and was the person full or part-time to begin with. Constructive dismissal concepts do exist – especially outside of the US.

      1. fposte*

        Sure, but it doesn’t hurt to apply for unemployment. If you’re not eligible, you just won’t get anything.

  5. Richard H*

    Thanks for answering my question. Your blog has some great information that’s very helpful for job seekers, especially ones that just graduated with no real experience yet.

  6. Aimee*

    Just wanted to add on to #3.

    I am an in-house corporate recruiter for a large company. I’m seeing a ton of applicants applying not only to the same job over and over, but also to a ton of different jobs that are completely unrelated. If you’re an accountant, apply for accounting jobs or include a cover letter explaining why you’re looking to change fields. Don’t just check off every job we have listed for the heck of it. When you’re an accountant who’s also applying for graphic design, store management, and IT roles, I question whether you have any kind of commitment level, or if you are a “jack of all trades and master of none”. Be thoughtful about what you apply to.

  7. Mike Koontz*

    For #3 about applying to the same job over and over…

    Why is this odd? I know that applicant pools change. If I think I’m a good fit for the position as described, and the only “negative” feedback I receive from the company is a non-response, then it would seem reasonable to me to stay optimistic and apply again. I would definitely rework my cover letter (should you ever really stop reworking your cover letter?), but I don’t understand what is odd about applying again.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Ah, that situation is different because she’d had an interview. So she’d be contacting a specific person and asking if they were interested in reconsidering her. That’s different than having no contact/expressions of interest and just applying and applying over and over within a relatively short time period.

        I’m glad you like this search engine better! I haven’t been totally sure if it’s improvement or not.

        1. Mike Koontz*

          Fair enough. I can understand that difference.

          Knowing that applicant pools change, and that there are sometimes many very well qualified people that cannot be contacted due to purely logistical reasons, why would someone not put themselves out there again? Especially with no indication given by the employer that the applicant is not a good fit? At some point, I’ll realize that my time can be better spent applying to companies that reply, but I think I’m still not understanding why applying a few times would seem odd from the employer’s perspective.

          The search result page seems to persist as a history item, rather than a transient java popup window. It seemed a lot easier to me to return to the search results page without having to restart the search…

Comments are closed.