fast answer Friday: 7 short answers to 7 short questions

It’s fast answer Friday — seven short answers to seven short questions. We’ve got a reader whose boss told her to be more confident, a boss who yelled at employees for eating breakfast, and more. Here we go…

1. Applying for the same job as a friend

An internal job posting was recently posted within my company. I hadn’t decided whether or not I was going to apply for it, but I was leaning more towards applying. Then a friend / co-worker of mine called me and told me that she was applying for the same position. I didn’t really think much about it then. The next day, four other co-workers came to my desk and asked if I was applying for it and that they thought I would be a great fit for this position. Since I was already considering applying, this gave me the extra push to submit my cover letter / resume and tell my current boss that I applied. My friend / co-worker called me later on that day (after I applied) to ask if I’d put in a good word for her for this position. I didn’t tell her that I had applied too. Now I’m torn whether or not to tell her that I applied. Any help would be greatly appreciated.

You should tell her, because what are you planning to do if you get the job? Pretend to her that they offered it to you out of nowhere? The longer you wait, it weirder it will be, so tell her, and tell her that you’ll be happy for her if she ends up getting it.

2. Being told to be more confident in my work

I’ve been at my post for about 4 months. I’ve always received good feedback as I am very hardworking. The only “negative” feedback I’ve had has been that I need to come across as more confident. My manager trusts in my ability, but she said I just need to be more confident with it and believe in myself. I understand this but I don’t know how to do that. If it was something more tangible like “need to be quicker at writing up reports” or whatever, I think I would find it easier to put into practice. Can you offer any advice about this? It would really help.

Think about why your manager is telling you this. What behaviors is she reacting to? Those are the ones to work on changing, and that will give you something tangible to focus on. For instance, maybe she’s telling you this because you always ask her to review your work before you finalize it, or because you don’t start on projects without first running down your plan of action with her, or because you don’t make any decisions without getting her okay. I don’t know what the specifics are that motivated her feedback, but whatever they are, that’s what you want to change. And if you don’t know what motivated it either, go back to her and ask her to point to specific behaviors that gave her that impression.

3. Should I call this employer again?

I graduated college two years ago and am finding it very difficult to get a job. I found my dream job (for right now) posted on the job site of a local college. I applied for it immediately and the application deadline closed a week later. I waited four days for a call, then figured I would follow up and call them to see if they received my application, as well as ask for an opportunity for an interview. The person did not answer so i left a message. It’s two days later and I still have not heard back. Should I call again? I really, really, really want this job and do not want to do anything to screw it up. What should my next steps be?

You’ve applied. They know that you’re interested. At this point, the ball is in their court to decide if they’re interested. Do not harass them with phone calls.

4. Abusive boss who yells at employees

Five minutes before the start of a particular event at the office, a boss in my company found a few of his employees in the cafeteria having their breakfast. He walked in and loudly yelled at them rebuking them for eating at that time. He claimed that since breakfast is provided every day all throughout the year, it wouldn’t hurt to not eat one day. The shell-shocked employees looked clueless. Not restraining himself, he went on to ask if they would get up or whether he had to throw their plates in the dispenser. Hurt and disgusted, all the people in the cafeteria stopped eating and went to the event hall. The boss is a senior person at the organization and has repeated such behavior many times in the past with his employees.
How to handle such a boss?

I have some old advice about handling a boss who yells here.

5. Are my job prospects hurt by only having one direct report?

I’ve been head of my department for several years. Unfortunately, due to the economy / belief system that me and one other guy can get most of our work done, our department size has not improved. I don’t mean to brag, but my resume is an impressive read. I’ve had the opportunity to work and improve several institutions.

In the last few interviews I’ve had, everything went perfect – right up until they asked me about how many “direct reports” I have. I only have the one person who directly reports to me. Granted, I hire several part time contractors throughout the year, but only one full-time. As soon as I mention this, there is a noticeable turn in the conversation. Do you have any recommendations for handling this?

Do you have any other management experience besides your current job? It’s true that when hiring for management positions, employers often want people with more experience than managing just one direct report, because managing one person is very different from managing a large team (and managing lots of people also exposes you to many more types of management challenges, which is key because management expertise is so often about having learned through experience). It’s also true that lots of employers read “department of two” as not especially senior level. So it might be that you’re applying for jobs that aren’t exactly in line with your background, and that there’s going to be a step in between what you’re doing now and where you’re trying to go.

6. Should I tell employers I’m moving to be with my boyfriend?

My boyfriend and I have decided to move in together, so I’m relocating about 70 miles to his city because he has the better job (mine is a post-grad internship with no opportunity to advance). When interviewers ask “What brings you to the area?”, should I tell them the real reason? While I’m more than happy to move, I’m concerned that my reasons for moving might come across as flighty, naive, or unprofessional. I’ve considered saying “to be closer to family,” which is true in a sense, but I don’t want to answer any follow-up questions about neighborhoods, schools, etc. What should I do?

I’d say that you’re moving to be closer to your family, which is true, if you consider your boyfriend your family (which you should if you’re going to make this move). Interviewers are unlikely to ask tons of follow-up questions, because they want to steer clear of asking about areas they have no business asking about (like kids, marital status, etc.).

7. What does this job description mean?

I’m a recent grad, about to apply to an environmental nonprofit entry-level job. One of the “Desired Skills” in their job description is “Knowledge of Microsoft office suite and internet research tools.” I really am good at googling everything under the sun, always have been, but I can’t figure out if that’s what they mean, google. What else could they possibly mean?

Yep, it probably means that. Or, depending on the nature of the job, it could mean some job-specific research tool, but based on what you’ve written here, it probably doesn’t.

{ 72 comments… read them below }

  1. Katie*

    #2: My guess is that this is the manager’s diplomatic way of saying, “You’ve been here 4 months, and I’m tired of holding your hand.” I actually wouldn’t go to her and ask her for a detailed description of what you can do to illustrate more confidence, because it’s probably questions just like this regarding most of your daily tasks that prompted her to give you this feedback in the first place. She knows you’re competent and trusts your ability. She just wants you to start doing things without having to be asked or told, and she wants you not to need detailed instructions for your tasks.

    You seem like you’re very conscientious about your performance, which is great. But I know (and speak from experience) that this can be a hindrance when you’re so worried about making a mistake that you check in with your manager every step of the way for every task and drive them bonkers in the process. Next time you feel the impulse to check in with your manager to see if you’re doing something right or whether you’re correct about what the next step is, really think about whether this is a question that you need your manager to answer. Do you feel reasonably certain you’re going down the right path? Is it not going to be a big deal if you do mess something up? Then don’t check in.

    1. Josh S.*

      Yeah, I read that as the manager telling you, “Look. Ask forgiveness rather than permission. You’ve broken past the stage where you need me to approve every little thing, and you’re good enough to use your own common sense on this problem.”

      They (probably) didn’t hire you to be a cog to fill out forms. They (probably) hired you because you have an ability to be responsible and take responsibility for your projects. That’s a good thing because it’s a vote of confidence in you.

      You want something concrete? The next time you consider going to someone else for clarification or permission, do the following:
      -consider what YOU think should happen
      -think about the worst consequences (to the project) if you make the wrong decision
      -if the worst consequence you can think of is something that you can also fix–even if you’d need some help to fix it–go ahead and do it.
      More than likely, your instinct will be correct at this point.

      Confidence isn’t really an attitude–it’s a set of actions. The most confident person in the world isn’t confident because she feels she’s right–she’s confident because she ACTS as though she’s right.

      Take action. Be responsible. Deal with the consequences later if need be (an unlikely outcome).

    2. The Other Dawn*

      Another good question to ask yourself: will this cost the company money if I make a mistake? I’m in banking and there are times when a simple error could cause us to lose money.

      1. KayDay*

        That’s exactly what I do…I do a lot of things for my organization, so my normal rule for getting clarification vs. doing it myself is: if I screw up, will it: a) cause us to lose money/cause a financial problem? or (b) will this hurt our reputation? If yes, then I ask for clarification/extra review/permission but if no I do it myself and will fix the mistake myself if necessary.

    3. Tonya*

      Great answer, Katie. If this is the case, the employee needs to realize that the boss has a job to do, too, and if she has to give detailed instructions or review each stage of a project, she’ll probably start to ask, “Do I really need this person if I have to spend this much time on her?” When I experience an employee with a lack of confidence, my favorite question becomes, “What do you think?” It lets me know their thought process at best, and at worst, that they can’t think their way into some kind of a solution, even if it’s not the ‘right’ one.

  2. Anonymous*

    I had an intern who reminded me of OP #2 but the confidence issue was about how she spoke and presented herself. She was smart and did quality work, but always sounded very unsure of herself and her work. She really wasn’t – it was more about how she spoke. Inside our organization we knew that, but she was doing a job search and I was pretty sure it was hurting her in interviews. She was aware of the problem and agreed to try to improve her speaking. So I tried to be very supportive of her, almost like a sports coach giving a pep talk, and urged her to practice presenting herself – both to mirror and with some colleagues. I think it worked – she got a job shortly afterwards.

    1. Josh S.*

      The seminars are filthy expensive, but Dale Carnegie Training is absolutely FANTASTIC for building confidence and poise in speaking. Not just in terms of speaking from a podium to a group of people (but also that), but it helps people be assertive and show the confidence that they have. Sounds like that might have helped this person (but perhaps she figured it out on her own too?)…

      Disclosure: I used to work sales for a Dale Carnegie franchise. I don’t like sales, especially inside sales, and I ended up quitting nearly 5 years ago. But I can say without a doubt that those seminars work wonders.

    2. Anonymous*

      I was given similar feedback at a previous job – great performance review, but I was told to work on “speaking more confidently.” I’m an introvert and a naturally soft-spoken person with a very quiet voice (which, to me seems a normal volume but it’s all about perception), so I’ve never come across as particularly authoritative when I’m speaking.

      It’s more recently that I’ve noticed this is an area that I really do need to work on improving, as I’ve recently moved away from admin/support type roles to a more client-facing role. One of the things I’ve picked up on is watching out for signals that I’m talking too quietly, whether it’s someone leaning in closer or they get that small scrunch in their face, concentrating to hear what I’m saying. At first, I felt ridiculous speaking louder – I almost felt like I was yelling – but after a while, I got to learn the optimum volume for speaking with others. However, I still don’t know what to do about my “red face”, as in, I get red-faced very easily and it’s all the more evident because I have incredibly pasty skin. Too bad I can’t turn off this biological response.

      I would encourage the OP to probe further to see what exactly the feedback is referring to. It may be what a couple of commenters have already mentioned (ie. constantly asking for permission) or it may be something else entirely.

      1. anth*

        I have the same volume issues. I think I am making a lot of noise, when in fact, maybe I’m not? I have no idea how to speak more confidently (which for 75% of the case is with more volume not more assertion) without feeling like I am shouting. Especially when I am at my desk on the phone and everyone else is also on the phone.

  3. ChristineH*

    Yup, I too can speak from experience with #2, almost to the letter. This is probably part of what led to my having to leave my last permanent job. I agree with AAM’s advice about getting more information, but try to first think about what your boss might be referring to before speaking with her

    There’s a book I know of that might help those of us with workplace confidence, but wondered if others have read it before I buy it: “Anxious 9 to 5: How to Beat Worry, Stop Second-Guessing Yourself, and Work with Confidence” (AAM – If I’m supposed to post the link from Amazon, let me know and I’ll add it).

    #7 – I too have wondered what is meant by “internet research tools”. My guess is that Google or similar search engines are probably what the description is referring to. Google has all kinds of features, including one I like called “Google Scholar”, which allows you to search for articles on research topics. Although unlikely, if the nonprofit has any association with an academic institution, there is also a possibility of using specialized databases that you might’ve used while in school (since you’re a recent grad).

    Yes there is also wikipedia, but I’m a little leery of that site.

    1. Long Time Admin*

      I’m amazed at how many people treat wikipedia as the absolute authority on everything. It’s the last place I look for information.

  4. Anonymous*

    #2. I’ve secured incredible jobs again and again but I was also told that I needed to show more confidence on a few occasions. Don’t care actually as I must be doing something right if that’s the only unflattering feedback that I’ve ever received.

  5. Anonymous*

    #6 – I recently moved across the country for work in large part because of my boyfriend. When asked about why I was moving I simply said the job prospects were better in that particular city then my current one (which is very true) and that I was looking for a new experience.

    1. Piper*

      I wish it was that easy for me! I’ve been trying to move across the country for the better part of a decade. No one takes me seriously when I say it’s because I love it there, the industries I want to work in are there, and I want to experience something new.

      Finally, my husband managed to snag a job in another city without even trying. So now, I’ve tried my old tactic of wanting to move for more opportunities (I’m not even working in my field right now because the area I live in is so lacking in jobs), but no one responds. Until I added into my cover letter that my spouse already lived in said city (which he does now). So, I’ve been forced to disclose my marital status as my relocation reason just so hiring managers will take me seriously, and these people are indirectly making decisions based on that. I’m not okay with this, but I also want desperately to get out of my awful current situation. So, I’m doing it.

      1. SA*

        Piper – I’d be willing to bet that you’re having trouble not because of your reasons for wanting to move somewhere, but because employers are reluctant to interview candidates who aren’t already local, especially in this economy where there’s likely a ton of local qualified candidates already. They don’t want to have to deal with discussing relocation expenses, or waiting for you to move, or not being able to interview without a ton of notice, etc. The reason they might take you more seriously when you say your husband has already moved is because they know you’re going to move there anyway, regardless of whether they offer you a job. Since your husband has already moved to the city you’re interested in, use the address he’s staying at on your resume, and you won’t have to disclose that you’re married or that you haven’t moved yet in order to be taken seriously as a candidate.

        When my sister wanted to move from North Carolina to Philadelphia, she used a friend’s address in Philadelphia on her resume and started getting calls about interviews right away, when she didn’t get any calls before that while using her address in NC. She was planning to move up shortly anyway (like you are), but just didn’t have a permanent address in Philadelphia yet. Good luck!

        1. HB*

          Agreeing with SA- after a layoff last year, I was looking for jobs all over the country without much luck. I applied for a job in the town where I grew up. They had one of those loong applications where you have to list your high school, and they (incorrectly) assumed I must have family in the area (my family has since moved away). This didn’t come up until the second interview, and I clarified that while I did grow up in the area, my parents now live in XYZ, and it went over fine. I believe part of the reason I scored an interview is because I appeared less of a “flight risk” since they thought I had family anchoring me in the area. I’ve now been happy in the new position for 6 months (yay!), and found out that the last two people in my position had moved away to be closer to friends/family, so they were wary of that in the hiring stage. It absolutely can help to have a local address or mention in your cover letter that you have some sort of special connection to the area. Good luck, OP!

        2. Kelly O*

          Sometimes you can even run into problems in a large city – I’ve had a couple of opportunities come up, but I wasn’t able to pursue them because they were too far away in my own town.

          One instance was actually something I considered a reasonable commute, but the employer would not interview anyone who lived outside an x-mile radius.

          So don’t get too discouraged if it takes a little longer than you anticipate – some of us in large metros are dealing with issues of location without even moving.

  6. The Other Dawn*

    I’m glad question 5 was asked. I also manage a “department of two,” although I have one other direct report who is our administrative assistant. My family always jokes with me that I manage myself. I hadn’t thought about the perception by hiring managers. I’m considered a senior officer in my small bank (14 employees); however, I guess I would be considered a middle manager in a larger company. Hmm, that scares me a little.

  7. I.S.*

    Last year I was interviewing for a job in the city I knew I’d be moving to after getting married. On the phone screen advance form I had to fill out, when asked about my reason for relocation, I just said that I was relocating for personal reasons. Later, during the phone screen itself, the HR guy chided me for this response, and gave me the feedback that my vagueness raised “a red flag.” I was happy to provide the specifics, but he made it a point to emphasize that I shouldn’t do this in the future as it looks bad.

    AAM, what do you think? What red flag would that raise? I still don’t understand it.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Hmmm, occasionally this can come across as a defensive “that’s personal.” Which isn’t how you meant it, but that could explain the reaction. (Or it could be that the HR guy was just silly.)

    2. Long Time Admin*

      The first time that an employer hired post-layoff counseling and help, this type of question came up (being vague and evasive).

      The counselor told us when you don’t answer a direct question, it comes across as though you have something to hide. This makes people suspicious – they wonder what you’re hiding and if you’re going to be truthful with them. They don’t want to deal with that.

      “To be closer to family” can cover almost any reason for relocating without giving too much personal information. If you feel it’s necessary to explain further, there’s also the relatively vague, “well, my parents (or grandparents) are getting up there in age – you know how it is”.

      1. ThatHRGirl*

        Very true. I have a very good friend who recently moved across the country to live with her parents after an intense breakup with live-in boyfriend, ensuing financial trainwreck, work drama and overall quarter-life crisis… I’m sure she wanted to say “it’s personal” but “moving to be closer to family, since my dad is having health problems” was much more effective.

        I’d just assume that when the poster above said “personal reasons” the HR rep could be thinking any of these things.

  8. akaCat*


    Granted, I hire several part time contractors throughout the year, but only one full-time.

    Do you also manage these part time contractors? If so, I’d tell interviewers that the workload is seasonal/cyclic and that you manage as many as “X” contractors at a time, as well as your full-time employee.

  9. Letter Writer #6*

    Thanks so much for answering my question! I’ve been giving the honest answer, but given the somewhat condescending tone my last interviewer spoke to me in, I figured I should probably say something else. They always ask “What brings you here?” in the place I’m moving to because of they don’t want to lose employees to the great graduate, business, and law school located there.

  10. Anonymous*

    Seventy miles is less than my old commute! I miss my zen car time…and I miss L.A.! Nothing else like it.

  11. Dawn*

    Lol@ “The Other Dawn”

    In regards to #7:
    I’m a Research Analyst, and if I had to guess they’re wanting to know if you have the ability to not take things on the internet at face value but actually nose around and figure out who’s telling the truth and can back it up and who is full of hot air. Anyone can type in “Robert Scoble VS Dan Lyons” and come up with the current slapfight, but it takes a particular kind of intellect to track everything back to its source and figure out the origins of what you’re researching and the validity of the information you find.

    In regards to Wikipedia, the glorious thing about Wikipedia is that every article has references at the bottom so if you’re not entirely trustful of what Wikipedia says you can go and read what they’re referencing. I wouldn’t use Wiki to write a thesis paper but it’s an amazing site for a whole heap of other reasons.

      1. Henning Makholm*

        And even when Wikipedia doesn’t provide sources (or the sources it provides are obscure), it can be a very valuable source of keywords and technical terms to fuel further googling.

        Its facts are also very often true, and frequently it’s easier to verify a purported answer you know what is than to find an answer from scratch.

        (Not to mention that it quite often happens that even an unsourced, anonymous Wikipedia factoid passes the “what’s the worst that could happen if this was wrong?” versus “how hard would it be to find a more trustworthy answer?” test).

    1. Josh S.*

      Yup, Wiki is awful as a reference in itself, but it sure can point you to some TERRIFIC sources to begin to really delve in.

      I’m a bit curious–what kind of Research Analyst are you? I’m a freelancer in that industry and always love to meet others with similar backgrounds!

      I do industry level research, helping to build historic datasets of sales info (mainly CPG) and regression analyses to forecast future sales, etc. Also, write about consumer trends, competitive analyses, case studies for industry strategies, etc etc etc (it’s freelance. I’ll do whatever pays. :)

      1. JT*

        “Wiki[pedia] is awful as a reference in itself,”

        Not always. It depends on the article and topic you’re looking at, and the needs of the research. Many are high quality, and there have been comparisons with more traditional sources finding it is similar in overall quality

        On some topics – such as in popular culture, it far surpasses the quality of material compiled by experts.

        1. Josh S.*

          “Not always. It depends…”

          If it’s not reliably and consistently an accurate and correct reference, then it’s NOT a good reference. Full stop. If it’s right 90% of the time, I can’t trust it, because I have to be able to defend my research 100% of the time.

          If you’re looking to verify a pop culture reference for the purposes of winning a bet with friends, sure, it’s fine. But that’s not reference material for research purposes; that’s just fun and games.

          1. Sarah G*

            “f it’s right 90% of the time, I can’t trust it, because I have to be able to defend my research 100% of the time. ” Actually, no online resources are accurate 100% of the time. And sources like Encyclopedia Brittanica have 95% accuracy. While Wikipedia isn’t appropriate for term papers and the like, its checks and balances give it a high degree of accuracy, which is also actively being improved upon through efforts of Wikimedia studies, etc. Wikipedia has its place in research and is amazing in its own right.

            1. Josh S.*

              And that’s why I tend to not trust online resources without independent corroboration or the ability to point to them as a primary source (such as a research survey published online by a trade journal).

              Universal sources, like Encyclopedia, cannot be accurate 100% of the time because they do not specialize, and are, at best, secondary sources. There are primary sources that offer much closer to 100% accuracy. And when they are incorrect or imprecise, I, as a researcher, can point back to my source and say, “Well, if I’m wrong, it’s because this primary source that did all this original research was off base. Let’s figure out why.”

              That’s much more defensible than “Oh, I looked up a known-to-be-weakly-reliable source and didn’t bother to verify it.”

              Heck, I’ve changed enough things on Wikipedia, introduced made-up facts, and many of them are still out there–and quoted elsewhere often enough that the Wiki quote now appears to be legitimate. I just can’t trust the site to be more than a pointer to original research. Nor would I trust an encyclopedia more than Wiki.

    2. ChristineH*

      Good point Dawn re: Wikipedia. It certainly is well-organized…I’ll give them that.

      I too am interested in what you do – I’ve been contemplating getting into some type of research role myself (preferably in the realm of social science or education).

      1. Nichole*

        A recent editorial for the Chronicle of Higher Education discusses a situation where the author has written several books on the Haymarket Riot and dedicated many years to researching it, but his edits on a Wikipedia article about it were repeatedly removed as a “minority” view. Even though I consider myself someone who doesn’t believe everything I read anyway, it definitely made me rethink Wikipedia as a source-not for what it includes, but for what it excludes. Good read-

  12. ES*

    #3 – definitely wait. I just got a job at a large University, and I applied a week before Thanksgiving (their deadline was right around there). I didn’t get a call for a first interview until early January. They probably get a ton of resumes and it takes them a long time to go through them all.

    1. Anonymous*

      And from what I’ve heard about universities, they tend to operate on very different timelines for the recruitment cycle. Which is why it’s so important to note that there is no such thing as a standardized recruitment “schedule” that all companies follow.

  13. Michelle*

    Being told to be more confident in my work – Ask your manager to give you specific behaviors that she feels show a lack of confidence. Also ask for your manager to point them out when she sees them. I would also recommend following up with your manager after meetings, presentations, etc. and ask how you did at demonstrating confidence.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I would NOT do this frequently, or you will be demonstrating the opposite of confidence :) But you could check in a few months down the road and ask if she’s seen a difference.

      1. Kelly O*

        Totally agree with AAM on this one – asking for feedback after every event is exactly the opposite of confidence. It’s one of those sort of intangible things that does not change overnight.

        But I’d bet you a nickel that if the OP starts working on projecting a more confident image in meetings and presentations, and makes it a point of continuous improvement, the manager may eventually take her aside and say “hey, I noticed you’ve really stepped it up in your presentations.” She might even get a “good job” out of it.

        Sometimes by simply DOING what you’re asked to do, you make a better impression than simply putting a laser-like focus on it with your words. The whole “actions speak louder than words” philosophy is really appropriate to these situations.

    2. Steve G*

      Unless you are really at a loss when your boss mentions this issue, I wouldn’t ask. By the time your boss makes such a comments, its been going on long enough that you can’t afford to lose anymore credibility. I am seeing this with one of my beloved coworkers trying to switch to a division run by a hardball know, and he keeps talking, sending emails, with subjective questions and information such as what you advice, and he is just digging himself into a hole. I am not saying you are wrong, but it won’t work at alot of firms.

  14. Joey*

    Since when is a boyfriend family? That’s stretching the truth a little too far. He may be like family but saying he is family is a lie. At least it better be a lie.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Following up on what I just wrote: I do see your point — when you say you’re moving to be closer to family, the reality is that the other person in the conversation is going to hear that as “parents/siblings/cousins/etc.” So I guess it IS misleading in that regard … but I also don’t think it’s anyone’s business who you define as your family.

      1. Joey*

        The reason I point it out is bc although most interviewers know better there’s also a reasonable chance that someone will ask a follow up question that will be even harder to answer. I think significant other would be better.

        1. Dana*

          I moved across 600 miles to move in with my SO, and I avoided this by saying more generally that I had friends here, have always really liked the area and had been planning a move for awhile, and was really interested in the job. I I don’t really see anything wrong with using family/friends as a reason above the job for moving- I think you want to express that you actually want to move to this place and convey that you would move regardless. In my case, I was easily able to give a timeline etc to show I was serious, and it worked out fine.

            1. moe*

              I think this is also misleading as it leaves out the major reason for the move, same as ‘family’ does. If OP were to get engaged soon after getting a job, it would be obvious it wasn’t just “liking the area” behind her decision.

              I like using the word “partner” in this context — it implies commitment, and it also tends to shut the door to further questions about the status of the relationship.

              1. Dana*

                True, i did struggle with that… I try to avoid my sexual orientation in this context. I know straight people use partner too, now, but often the assumption is that I’m gay (which is true) and I don’t love outing myself at an interview.

              2. Anonymous*

                If they hire you for the job, why does it matter if your reason for moving is not exactly what you told them? Getting engaged to your SO who also lives in the area is not going to effect the location you are working in, so your employer shouldn’t care.

  15. JT*

    I just finished school as a librarian, and sort of chuckle when I see “internet research” overused as a skill on a resume. It’s like saying you can use MS Word: everyone in an office environment should be able to use tools like Google and Wikipedia to get general info. Really being good at searching the internet — particularly information sources that don’t show up at the top of a quick Google search — is another level of skill that a lot of people don’t even know about, let alone have.

    1. Anonymous*

      We have a kid in the office who’s a wizz at this. He introduced drop-box to the office, and always finds interesting, small softwares that do little useful tricks on your computer. He finds the best excel online help answers. Cheapest flights. God bless we have him!

  16. nyxalinth*

    Wow. #4 is a real a-hole. Thankfully I’ve never worked with anyone like that. I don’t see how his own managers can keep him there; his behavior has to be impacting everyone in a negative manner.

  17. Anonymous*

    #2 Be sure that you are not making every sentence a question. Ask someone if you are not sure. By that I mean, ending every sentence with a lilt up. I recently watched an iTunesU course at Stanford, and every single girl who spoke did. It’s rather common these days, so I am just mentioning it.

  18. Anonymouse*

    Skipping over the reasons why I would say this to one of my team, I think that a book is one great idea.

    You might also consider drawing yourself a flowchart for your major tasks. Your boss/other colleagues would still be an option on there, but your last if/then option.

  19. Anonymous*

    @ Questioner number 7:

    Not sure what they mean, either. I would never have put it so vaguely if I were writing that line for my own field, which is health care and evidence based medicine, and has a great number of specialized internet-accessible resources. All my searches start with the bibliographic databases of the published medical literature (PubMed at the US National Library of Medicine being the best-known open access one) for finding formally published reviews, articles, and conference abstracts. I may then move on to specific curated databases and sites for “gray literature” in the form of unpublished studies and reports. Depending upon how each host institution has set its access, this gray literature may actually not be indexed by Google. Plain (as opposed to Scholar) Google tends to be my last resort for professional searches, usually for material I know exists but cannot find by other means.

    If you have done bibliographic searches through your library for uni/college projects, particularly for courses relevant to your application, you might consider adding that to that list of skills, since most bibliographic databases now have a web interface. If you have time, it might also be worthwhile approaching a university or college librarian and asking them to show you some of the internet resources that are important for research in your field. If you don’t have access/time, then visit a few university/college websites and look up the research guides by subject, which will list resources. You wouldn’t be able to claim expertise on a CV, but knowing such resources exist and having begun to find your way around them might be worth a few points at interview time.

  20. Charles*

    #7 – just an FYI, assuming that you get to the interview stage I would not say that I can “google everything under the sun” if they question you about your internet research skills. They no doubt mean much more than that.

    As others have said here, it can mean being able to decide what sources are trustworthy, what search engines, other than Google, do you use (are you aware that Google sometimes filters the search results?), what are some of the methods that you use when doing a search (e.g., boolean search operators), other than an open-source site like Wikipedia, what sites do you use for references? How good are you at getting, not a large search result, but a *quality* search result? Can you tell the interviewer how you would do that? etc.

    Just some things to think about in case they do mean more than just google.

  21. Nick*

    In regards to being more confident. I have a person on my team who is not confident. They constantly seek reassurances, and does this by constantly giving FYIs.

    So what I’ve done to try and curtail this and boost confidence was as follows:

    Him: Hey, I just want to let you know that X is not working

    Me: Instead of coming to me and saying X is not working, you already know what steps need to happen to get X working again. So change the dialog from “X is not working” to “X is not working, so I’ve done Y and Z” that way you’ve already presented to me that you know how to solve the problem and demonstrated it, and shown that you’re TELLING ME what’s going on instead of me telling you.

    It’s gradually working.

  22. Mike C.*

    I’m really confused about OP #1. If you two are friends at work, you both should have a mutual understanding of each others’ skills and qualifications. How is this friend so blind to not even consider that the friend they’re asking for a personal recommendation from may also be applying for the same position?

    1. STEVE G*

      I was thinking the same thing. You only give a good word if you really believe in the person AND you are in no way in the running. You don’t give a good word just to give a good word.

  23. RachelTech*

    Fully agree with your evaluation of #2. I think the examples given are exactly what the manager is talking about. My own manager once told me, “I trust you, you don’t have to run everything by me anymore.” One of the best things that ever happened to my career was becoming more confident in my own work, and a similar remark was what set me on that path.

  24. STEVE G*

    “Being told to be more confident in my work”

    My advice, respectfully submitted:
    1) If your boss asks you a question, give a straightforward answer. Don’t be uncomfortable saying “I don’t know” or “I’ll check the #s.” Don’t doubt your answer when giving it. If he doesn’t like the answer, he will ask follow up questions.
    2) Remember, when doing your work, that your boss sees you as an expert in your area, ever how trivial your area of influence may seem at times. Maybe you are only in charge of dispatching drivers. May seem like such a little job in a big manufacturing plant. But when a decision needs to be made about how, who, and if to dispatch someone, he wants you to make an unwavering decision on it and be confident in that decision.
    3) Think about what questions and issues you bring to your boss. Present a problem almost as one would present to a judge in court. But add a few solutions to the end. Then give your preferred solution, why you prefer it, and add “I wanted your feedback on this,” or an intelligent observation like, “I know accounting usually questions charges done this way, so I wanted to run it by you…..” Don’t make it seem like you just want him to think for you.

  25. Sydney*

    Many of the comments above seem to take the manager’s feedback to be pretty negative. I didn’t get that sense at all, probably because I’m basing this on my personal experience and like Allison pointed out, the letter didn’t provide a lot of details.

    I used to get this feedback when I first started at my first job after school. I was doing my job well but wasn’t very assertive in meetings. As an analytical introvert, I was always questioning and analyzing my thoughts rather than speaking out on them. My managers told me to be more confident, as they believed I had good ideas to share.

    A few things that I did in order to carry myself with more confidence:
    – cut out all the filler words (e.g., “umm”, “I guess”, “I suppose”, “perhaps”, “I don’t know”, “I’m not sure”) when you speak. You can speak slowly if you want time to think. You can tell people you’re open to feedback/ideas, but don’t sound like you’re second guessing yourself all the time.
    – Pay attention to how leaders in your company communicate and interact with people – even when they’re talking about something that they’re not familiar with ;)
    – Think twice before you CC your manager on an email – if it’s something you can handle yourself, don’t spam her inbox
    – Rather than asking for direction, state your ideas and tell people to let you know if they have questions/see issues

    Hope some of this can be of help.

    1. Steve G*

      I agree to cut out the filler words, but don’t agree in that I do think the manager means this in a negative way, based on my experience. I am that person everyone goes to to gossip and get stuff off their chests. I often hear toned down versions of “I am going to shoot myself if xxx does yyy one more time!,” but the feedback is given to that person in a very diplomatic way…

  26. JT*

    Phrases such as “I don’t know” and “I’m not sure,” if used properly, are not filler words. It’s really bad to say them out of habit, but if I don’t know something, I’ll say it clearly and follow up with why I don’t know, or a suggestion of how I might get more info (and timeframe to get back to the person) or something.

    1. Anonymous*

      Obviously if yuu mean what you say, then they’re not filler words. But there are people who do use them as filler words and start every sentence with “oh I don’t know…maybe…” before they would actually state their opinions. This won’t give an impression of confidence and should but cut out.

  27. Susan*

    I recently used AAMs advice and emailed the hiring manager using her short & sweet outline and received a reply from them. It was along the lines of thanks for your note, and Ill keep it in mind when we begin the proces. A small thing, but it was great to get an acknowledgement.

    Question however, in that type of follow up note/email, should I have included my resume also? Not sure if that’s overkill, or looking like you’re trying to usurp the application process, or would just be smart so if they chose to they could review your skills. Not sure if this moves into the desperate and pushy arena?

  28. Sandrine*

    Regarding number 2, it can be awfully hard to have such confidence in your work that you never have to ask a question about anything. I do a very “simple” job yet I find myself asking questions over and over again, even though sometimes it feels like I know what the actual answer is.

    Which makes me think of the posts around here about criticism and how to take it.

    Thank you, AAM, for posting this question, the bits about criticism and inspiring me to write a bit about this today on my own blog :) . It seems like I get everything here : information about how to improve, entertainment AND inspiration XD . Haha, thank you thank you thank you.

  29. Carly W.*

    For LW2 – I just gave one of my employees, who has been with the company for about three months (this is her first real job out of college) the same feedback and told her she needs to be more confident. She constantly puts down her own work before anyone has a chance to even look at it, let alone critique it. For example, when something is ready for me to review, she’ll come to me and say, “This report is ready, but I’m warning you, it’s really bad.” Her work is actually quite good, particularly considering how little experience she has at this point, so I read this as a self-defense mechanism. I understand where it is coming from, but it isn’t doing her any favors with regard to how people in the office are viewing her. You need to believe in your own work while at the same time be willing to accept constructive criticism and learn.

    1. Long Time Admin*

      “This report is ready, but I’m warning you, it’s really bad.”

      I’ve younger people saying the meanest things to each other, and they say “this is just the way we talk”. (To me, it sounds really brutal.) So it wouldn’t surprise me a bit for this young woman to have adopted this habit in defense.

      She’s new to the grown-up world of business and just needs to learn the ways.

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