short answer Saturday: 7 short answers to 7 short questions

It’s short answer Saturday once again! We’ve had a lot of these short-answer posts lately — they’re a great way for me to churn through a lot of mail — and I hope they’re not becoming overwhelming.  In any case, here we go…

1. How to tell an employee she can’t have certain shifts off

I run a small business and currently have an employee who decided she wanted to pick up 2 extra shifts every other weekend per month. The other day she came to me and told me that she wants to continue to work for me, but she also has accepted another job and it is requiring her to work the 2 shifts she had picked up for me. I cannot accommodate her wish, as we have a very small staff and there is no one else to cover the shifts she picked up. I am thinking of telling her that working for us is her main priority and that she has to decide what she wants to do, but if she choose to not work the extra shifts she currently has, then I will have to terminate her and give all her hours to a new employee. I don’t think I will be able to find a new employee who only wants to work 2 shifts in a month. How do I convey this message to her without sounding too harsh?

Just be straightforward. You can be nice while still asserting what you need. I’d say something like this: “Unfortunately, I need you to work the hours that we agreed to, because now that we’ve arranged it, I don’t have anyone else who can cover those shifts. I realize you’ve taken a second job, but I really need someone in your role who will make this work their first priority because as a small business, we just don’t have a lot of flexibility on shifts. I’ll understand if you decide that this isn’t the right fit for your needs right now, although I hope that won’t be the case.” Then let her decide if she wants to stay on those terms or not, and be nice about whichever choice she makes.

2. Mentioning a personal connection to the work in a cover letter

I’m a massage therapist applying for a job in a physical therapy clinic. While I’ve provided medical massage in other settings before, my only firsthand experience with physical therapy was as a patient when I was a teenager. It was a great thing for me (I can walk up stairs! Yay!), and I’d like to mention it in my cover letter, but a friend thought it might come across as unprofessional. Thoughts?

Absolutely you should mention it! It’s a way of demonstrating why the work is meaningful to you. (Also, I must mention here that I am loving my physical therapist, who is helping me get to the point where I can walk again. Yay, physical therapy!)

3. Combatting reference fatigue

In the midst of what feels like the eternal job search, I have been asked for my references at a number of interviews. I understand that’s standard procedure; however, the problem I have is when my references are called and I’m still not offered the position. I wish employers could see it from our perspective. Not only is it embarrassing and humiliating, it puts a strain on my professional relationship with my references. I don’t want them to feel like answering my reference calls is a part-time job. Perhaps you could provide some insight on ways to combat this.

Well, here’s the thing: Checking references isn’t just a perfunctory step that you do before offering someone a job (or at least it shouldn’t be). It’s often part of the decision process itself. For instance, if I have two or three great candidates who I’m trying to decide among, calling their references might be part of what helps me make that decision … because references aren’t just a pass/fail kind of thing, but rather something that provides more insight about your strengths and weaknesses, how you work best, what kind of management you do best with, and so forth. It’s part of further fleshing out who you are professionally. I think you might be thinking of it as more pass/fail, figuring that you fall in the “pass” category, and then wondering why they’re bothering if they’re not going to hire you.

So you do have to assume that there will probably be times when your references are contacted but it doesn’t result in a job offer. That said, if you have the sense that employers are contacting references before you’re a top finalist for the job, it’s reasonable to ask them to wait until you are. You can say something like, “Out of respect for my references’ time, I prefer they not be contacted before we’re close to the offer stage.”

4. Offer was pulled after I gave notice

I recently accepted an offer for a new job. I gave my two week notice to my current employer. Two days later, the company that made me the offer did a background check/credit check. I did not pass the credit check and they said they would not be able to hire me. How can I let my current employer know I would like to stay on with them? Can this be done? I don’t know what to do now.

Ugh, how awful. This is why I’m a proponent of not giving notice until your job offer is truly final — i.e., after any background checks are complete and the job is absolutely yours. In any case, talk to your current employer and see if you can stay. If you’re a good employee and they haven’t already hired someone else, they might be glad to hear it … but be prepared for them to be concerned about why you were job-searching in the first place and whether that’s going to continue. It’s a tough situation to navigate, but it’s absolutely worth trying. Talk to your boss first thing on Monday!

5. Selecting the start date for a new job

I am currently in my final semester of engineering and have accepted a job offer in a city about an 8-hour drive away. I haven’t selected a start date and was trying to decide when I should start. I am planning on getting married in the summer and we were thinking July 28. If we chose that date, I would probably start May 23. Is it too early to already be asking off work from a job I haven’t started yet, even though it is for my wedding? Another option would be to move it to late June and start work right after the wedding? I would prefer not to wait a month and a half to start work because I will have an apartment lease starting in may and will need the job to pay for it. What should I do? It would only be 3-5 days after 2 months of working there.

Ask the person who will be your new manager! Explain the options and ask what they would prefer. They may have a strong preference for one option over the other, or they may tell you to do whichever you prefer.

6. Cover letters when not applying for a specific opening

How do you write a cover letter that doesn’t correspond to a specific job listing? There are a few companies I am interested in and while they don’t have any specific job opportunities published, their websites say “We are always looking for the right person, so please send us your cover letter and CV.” As a bit of background, in my industry (technology R&D), most people get their jobs this way or through networking. I am trying to network my way into contact with these companies, but if I can’t I will have to send my CV into the void, and want to write the right thing.

Write the same type of cover letter you’d write if you were responding to a particular opening: Talk about the work you want to do and why you’ll be awesome at it.

7. Applying for a manager job without management experience

Our company recently posted an open position for a product manager that I am interested in applying for. I was curious about the experience requirements and how stringent they may be. The job description states: “This position requires a Business or Marketing Degree or equivalent from an accredited four year college or university with 3 years prior customer support and/or product management experience plus at least 2 years supervisory experience. Prior experience in the automotive industry is a plus.”

I have a BS in Informatics, which I feel covers the education requirement. I have also been with the company for 5 years and have steadily worked my way up from an entry level position in customer support to being a business analyst on our new product development team, working with nearly everyone in our division in various roles and capacities. However, I do not have any explicit management experience. Should I proceed and throw my hat into the ring even though I don’t have the requisite supervisory experience? Would recommendations from other managers at this level be a possible substitute? I think it may be a stretch for me to get the job, but I want to company to know that I’m interested in growing and increasing my contributions.

If they want management experience, they’re probably going to be loathe to settle for someone who doesn’t have any, but you don’t have anything to lose, so you might as well apply and see what happens. Or even better, since this is a position in your current company, why not talk to the person who’s hiring for the position and ask them if they think you’d be a viable candidate?

{ 83 comments… read them below }

  1. $.02

    3. Combating reference fatigue;

    I have been looking for a job since May 2011. I have provided my references everytime an employer ask for them. I am in the Accounting field and this is the “Tax/Audit Season,” everyone is super busy. I feel horrible everytime I have to provide my references but I have to. The problem is recently I have been getting more interviews including 2nd interviews. I feel for you.

    sn: I managed to maintain my A+ credit without a job, if I go 3 more months without an offer I am going to lose my A+ and then my career will be in shambles considering my profession.

    1. $.02

      Commenters: Can you please, if you can copy/paste the question before responding (if not inline-reply), I am tired of scrolling up and down!?

      1. fposte

        Please, no. That’s going to make threads super-long and confusing. And you can’t be that committed to the notion, given that you didn’t do it yourself :-).

  2. Mike C.

    Regarding OP #4, maybe I’m being picky here, but did you accept a job pending a background check, or did they surprise you with one? In either case I find the whole thing nuts in these economic times, because I would consider an employee with a bad credit score (maybe due to all sort of reasons within and outside of their own control) an employee that would do anything to collect a regular paycheck. But maybe I’m just dumb.

    Also, you should have the right to see what it was in the credit check that raised the red flag, have you pursued this? Do you know that the information that lead to your rejected offer was correct? There are often things in a credit report that are simply false.

    1. Josh S.

      Yeah, it’s always seemed silly to me in any job that doesn’t involve law enforcement (if you’re a bad credit risk, perhaps you’re open to bribes?) or spies (open to becoming a double-agent).

      After all, bad credit usually means you’re pretty desperate to have/keep a job to pay your bills, so you’ll do whatever it takes to keep your job, right?

      1. Anonymous

        I believe that several states are moving towards banning this, and that it has been put forward (not up for vote) in Congress. I think a credit report is not a good method as a background check – and I have fought for a few employees who had questionable checks and thankfully won.* There is nothing worse to find out later that identify theft caused an issue. Also, I do not see a direct correlation between credit and job performance.

        *Having discussed this internally, I proposed that no candidate be auto-rejected for their credit background. So far, so good!

        1. Sean

          I personally think it makes sense NOT to ask for credit checks. I mean I’m 24, I don’t even know my credit score at the moment. There are many youth who don’t know either so unless we’re talking jobs that perhaps are more in the professional sector that do the credit checks, for those who are young and don’t know their own credit score, and they go and check and get rejected due to the credit check that’s always an even nicer surprise for them.

          1. moe

            Then why don’t you just run your credit report? It takes 5 minutes and is free.

            Ignorance about financial matters is not bliss, it’s just stupid!

          2. Josh S.

            Whether or not you know your credit score, there’s no excuse to not know what’s on your credit *reports*.

            Annualcreditreport.com is the government website where you can get annual access to your credit reports. It’s free (the various reporting agencies will probably try to get you to upgrade to paid add-ons, but you can decline and get your credit reports for FREE). Once a year, you can check all three credit bureaus.

            They don’t give you your score, but they definitely tell you what parts of your credit report are helping you (length of credit history, low debt-to-limit ratios, etc) and which parts are hurting you (late payments, bankruptcies, etc).

            I’m a fan of rotating through the 3 bureaus. I check Equifax in January, Experian in May, and TransUnion in September. That way I’ve got a decent idea if anything is changing every few months. (Hooray for Google Calendar Reminders!)

            While it may not seem like it now at age 24, when you go to buy a house or get a car loan, you’ll want to have several years of quality credit history backing you, or you’ll pay extra interest needlessly.

          3. Ask a Manager Post author

            Being 24 is no reason not to know what kind of credit you have! You’re a full-fledged adult, and what’s in your credit reports will impact you for years to come, when you try to buy a house or car, when you want additional credit extended to you, etc. When you’re 30, stuff you did at 24 will still be impacting your credit.

            Don’t fall into the trap of thinking that you’re in some kind of post-adolescent, not-full-adulthood — 24 is an adult and you should be aware of this stuff.

          4. Amber

            Please don’t use your age as an excuse not to be aware of basic necessities of how the world works – it makes the rest of us look bad. I am 23 and have been checking my free annual credit reports for inconsistencies for the past 3 years (yes google reminders are awesome!!) While I don’t know my actual score because I don’t want to pay to find out (not looking to buy a house or car in the near future) I do want to make sure that if there are any problems on the reports I catch & resolve them right away. In fact you should probably go check them right away and then stop using your age as an excuse.

            1. Anonymous

              This!

              I’m 22 and have complete control over my finances. In my oppinion, this is one area where making mistakes early in life can cause you a lot of pain later on.

              It’s also really good to keep an eye on your credit reports to catch inconsistencies. My sister ran a credit report for the first time at age 26 and found that a card had been opened in her name using an address from another Province as a part of a nation-wide identity theft ring.

        2. moe

          I favor a balanced approach to credit checks. First, in jobs where it’s directly applicable, like financial advisers: if you can’t manage your own finances, sorry, but you have no business managing mine.

          Second, credit checks themselves shouldn’t be a problem if they’re being being used intelligently. Not for a hard, minimum score–bankruptcy and hard times can happy to anyone. But a perpetual disregard for fulfilling obligations does, IMO, say something about an employee’s level of responsibility.

          I would certainly favor some legislation that clarifies what an employer can do with respect to credit checks. Perhaps similar to what’s on the books for criminal records (in most places in the US): you can consider it, but it must be business-relevant.

          1. Mike C.

            From the last year I could find, 2007, 62% of bankruptcies are due to extreme medical expenses and of those 75% already had medical insurance, so it’s not like they weren’t making a good faith effort to prepare for bad situations. You can’t tell me someone is disqualified from working with money simply because their kid got cancer and their employer-based healthcare plan didn’t cover much.

            1. moe

              Right, which is why I said bankruptcy and hard times can happen to anyone! No, I wouldn’t tell you anyone should be disqualified for something like that.

              What I’m talking about are people with extensive histories of delinquency. At some point, it does become a matter of simple irresponsibility, and I wouldn’t presume to tell an employer that information like that is meaningless.

              1. JT

                Moe, I fell into the same trap reading your post as Mike. C.

                Your first paragraph from February 26, 2012 at 12:12 am is in contradiction to the second paragraph.

          2. JT

            “First, in jobs where it’s directly applicable, like financial advisers: if you can’t manage your own finances, sorry, but you have no business managing mine.”

            Sure…… Your wife gets a horrendous illness, it exhausts her employer-supplied health insurance, and then exhausts all your savings, and you go into debt to keep her alive. Then you lose your job (she hasn’t been working due to the illness. Then you’re bankrupt. Stupid stupid – you should have spent 10 or 20% of your income on top of your employer-supplied insurance to be better prepared. How can you be expected to advise anyone on finance if you didn’t foresee that?

            1. moe

              Ah, I see my comment was a little confusing. Read the second paragraph please, I realize bankruptcy happens to people.

              I’m not an ogre, I simply don’t see the need to throw the baby out as well. Credit checks have a purpose.

              1. Heather

                I often see the defense of credit checks for employment as being that people with bad credit have a tendency to steal more, or somesuch.

                Well, I’m pretty sure Bernie Madoff had great credit.

              2. Mike C.

                Even with your clarification, you need to show some sort of link between lower credit scores and undesirable work behaviors.

                The problem I have is that a credit report is a report on someone’s personal financial life, not their professional life. The vast majority of people do things differently at work than they do outside of it. I drive my own vehicle much differently than I’d drive a company owned car for instance, or use my personal laptop much differently than my company laptop. I dress differently and use different vocabulary and different social cues and so on.

                I just find it so disturbing that employers are so concerned about the private financial contracts we enter into. I’m at work to perform a job and collect a paycheck. So long as I can do that job in an ethical, legal and effective manner, then to heck with anything else in my life. It no one’s business than my own.

      2. LB

        I work in the credit industry. Would not be wise to have people who can’t manage credit managing credit. We do background checks. The issue becomes that some of the checks we do after we have made the offer (in order to have you fill out detailed paperwork). However, during the initial interview process, we do tell you that we are going to do credit checks. Hence another reason to know what your credit agencies are saying about you!

        1. JT

          It seems to me that borrowing money that you might not be able to repay to stay alive or keep a spouse or child alive is quite a reasonable course of action, even if that means the person “can’t manage credit.”

          I also have to point out that many large businesses, including in the financial services sector, are structured in such a way that they consist of legally separate entities so that if one collapses it won’t take the whole with it. Wouldn’t it be sweet of individuals could do that? Oh, JT-Skin went bankrupt as a result of not being able to repay fees for chemo for skin cancer, but JT-Office Worker is in good financial health?

          1. Natalie

            In fact, we usually consider people who hide personal debts behind LLCs and the like to be scummy and probably not the sort of person anyone here would like to hire.

  3. Josh S.

    For #7: Some companies differentiate between supervisor and manager. A supervisor may not have hiring/firing/assessment responsibilities, but be more in charge of coordinating projects and getting a team to work together, while a manager is more likely to be in charge of hiring/firing/people. Not that this is always the case, but sometimes it is a distinction companies make.

    So when they ask for 3 years customer support and 2 years supervisory experience, they may not actually be looking for someone who has managed people for 2 years. They might be looking for someone who has managed projects, etc.

    Nonetheless, be sure to highlight all the efforts you have made to ensure that teams of people are working together well. You may not have been the ‘boss’ they reported to, but it was certainly your responsibility to make sure they got their sh** done, right? If you were in charge of that, you can say, “Supervised a team of 3 people to complete a $100k project on time and under budget” or some such. It’s not management, but it *is* supervision.

    And definitely follow AAM’s advice and ask the hiring manager (or even your own manager if you’re on good terms…perhaps s/he can put in a good word for you?!)

    Good luck!

    1. Piper

      Yeah, it sounds to me like product manager is not supervisor (at least not in most cases). It’s sort of like a brand manager (manages brands), whereas a product manager manages product lines and the marketing and product development programs that go around with those. I think the manager title here has nothing to do with people management experience. Most companies (at least the ones I’ve worked for) have multiple product managers for different product lines and most of them do not manage people.

  4. Anonymous

    #3 – That is the sort of thing I like to see in a candidate. I want the best candidate – and that means it is a mutual match. When it comes down to choosing between candidates, this stuff matters!

  5. N

    I saw #4 happen just a couple weeks ago at my current job. We had a candidate sign a contingent offer, and she had come in several times to get the background check, paperwork, etc. rolling. About two weeks before her start date, we were all called into a meeting to let us know that she wouldn’t be joining our team. I felt horrible for her. Management really needs to change the process because we just offered the job to a second candidate with a start date of two weeks away, so she needs to put in notice at her current job, but her background check is nowhere near complete yet. It forces them to either put in notice with only a contingent offer or try to negotiate a later start date with our office.

    1. Anonymous

      For my current position, I had to provide seven years of employment history, and the check was almost delayed because of it…. cue a few emails to a different country asking them to reply to the information requests they had been sent. Fortunately, my previous employer would have been more than willing to keep me on – and six months later, still haven’t been able to replace me (I get periodic emails, asking if I know anyone who might be interested).

  6. Sloop

    #1 – Although I don’t have all the information from the letter (i.e. – is the employee in question working a FT position, which to me would signify “main priority” etc. – I think it is a bit presumptuous to tell an employee that your business is her main priority and anything else is secondary. Without jumping to conclusions, I would have given different advice. How were you covering those two shifts before she claimed them? Can you go back to that solution? It is difficult to find good employees and it sounds like your employee is a pretty good find, and terminating someone that is trying to be honest and upfront while making schedule changes is actually pretty rare. I would try to work out an alternative solution,TBH. Maybe you can let her have those days off and you can pick up the shifts? Or hire someone to just work weekend shifts?

    1. Jo

      I agree. Without all the information its hard to say but it does sound a little harsh to terminate her for wanting to go back to just her previous shifts.
      Just a thought too – if she’s asking for extra shifts and looking for a second job, its sounds like money is tight for her – maybe you could give her a raise to keep her on the extra shifts instead of a second job? It might be worth it to save the hassle of finding a replacemement. Maybe if you talk to her you can work something out?

    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      I’m not advising firing her. I’m advising saying “here’s what I need from you and I hope you can do it, but I understand if you decide that this isn’t the right fit for you right now.”

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          (And the person could quit if she decided that her needs didn’t match up with the employer’s needs. There’s no reason this conversation should result in anyone being fired.)

          1. Jo

            No AAM you didn’t advise firing the employee, and you answered the question eloquently, but the OP asked:
            How do I convey this message to her without sounding too harsh?
            I think the answer is that the OP can’t. It is harsh. Yes its the employer’s right to say these are the hours I want you to work, I want to be your top priority etc etc. However to not attempt to explore other options in this situation is harsh and the OP should be prepared for her employee to see her as the “bad guy” when she delivers this message.

      1. Josh S.

        Yeah, that’s kind of a harsh ultimatum.

        Employee says, “I’ve been working ABC shifts, and picking up DE shifts. I need more money so I’m working a second job, and I’m hoping to drop DE shifts. Sorry for the inconvenience.”

        Boss says, “You’re the only person I can easily find to cover DE shifts. So I need you to take DE shifts [subtext: or else I have to search for someone else, which will be difficult and inconvenient for me]. I hope you can do it, even though you’re telling me you can’t. If you decide you can no longer cover DE shifts, you’ll lose ABC shifts too. Your call.”

        So yeah, technically that’s not “firing” someone. But it’s a strong implication that the ‘above and beyond’ work that they were doing (picking up DE shifts) has become ‘standard expectation’ for their performance. That’s not particularly fair to the employee. And honestly, if that was presented to me and I had the option, it would be a great reason for me to walk away. If I didn’t have the option, you’d better believe I’d be preparing my resume and saying to myself, “Jerk boss wants to put down an ultimatum? I’ll quit and he’ll be stuck with staffing the difficult DE shifts anyway!”

        It’s an ultimatum, and not one that is particularly fair to the employee.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          The OP is saying that she doesn’t think she can hire someone to work only those shifts and no one else can do it. People tell employes all the time that if they take a second job, the first one needs to remain their priority; this is pretty normal.

          1. Anonymous

            But my question is: What were they doing beforehand that they can’t go back to? Did the employer allow someone else to cut back for whatever reason and now he might have to back on his word with that other person? I know, AAM, you probably can’t answer that, but if you can email the OP or if the OP reads this, she can answer, that might clarify some things.

        2. fposte

          I’d disagree with your characterization as “above and beyond.” The employee and the employee did, in fact, change their expectations of what the employee’s commitment consists of. It’s not “above and beyond” any more than the employee’s not working those shifts every weekend is “below and short.” It’s just what that job became.

          I don’t think the priority issue really needs to enter into it at all–the OP’s current need is for an employee to work all of this person’s current shifts. This person cannot fulfill that need, and it doesn’t really matter why. It’s not a villainy thing on either side. I could see, if relations were good, waiting until the applicant pool was clear and their possible schedules were available, as there might be another compromise available (somebody might be willing to work those weekend shifts and a few more that the employee currently works, so the employee would still have some shifts rather than being replaced entirely, or, for that matter, the OP might find that replacing her is actually a lot tougher than it seems).

        3. Charles

          Josh S – I agree with you on this – AAM’s advice will sound like an ultimatum. In my opnion, often (but not always) when a boss issues an ultimatum it is usually a sign of bad management.

          I think the question asked above by Sloop – “how were those shifts covered before given to this employee?” – is the right question to ask.

          I’ll add two more items here:

          First, in this job market the OP really cannot find an employee willing to work those two shifts? In THIS job market? really? Not looking very hard are you OP?!

          Second; sorry AAM and every other employer; but my FIRST priority is not to YOU, it is to me and my family. Give me an incentive to put you first before other job offers and I will reconsider that belief. (i.e., put your money where you mouth is)

          1. Just Me

            #1
            If I understand this right, the employee asked to pick up more shifts and then came back and said they can no longer work them as she got another job for those hours?

            There seems to be something missing. Who was working those shifts to start with is my question. If it can go back that way then what is the problem. Just let her drop the shifts. But apparently that is not the case. And to me that is really not the issue.
            The issue is she changed the agreement, not the employer. The employer has every right to flat out, nicely but firmly say…. let’s talk about the hours I was counting on you to work as YOU asked for them, but now you want to change them again. These are the hours I need you to work (whatever they are). Can you do it?
            If the employee can’t that work those hours, the employee will make whatever decision she needs to. I am not quite sure why the employer needs to be overly obliging or act as if they are the problem and caused this issue and bend backwards for the employee. She was counting on the shifts being covered by the employee. The employee was wrong to rescind the agreement and expect the employer to be OK with it.
            Employees work to make money support their families etc. That is their priority. But companies need to function as well and have to be able to rely on employees to work the hours discussed. That is THEIR priority, not to accommodate an employee’s other job. If they can fine if not then the decision of which job to keep goes to the employee. I mean who is running the show?

        4. Just Me

          I have never worked at a company ( I am 49 ) that I get to pick and choose what hours I wanted to work and told the company the way it should be.

          I have worked waitressing and retail. We discussed at hire times what hours I prefer. Maybe I might have said, Wednesday nites I have a class. The employer then says to me OK I can do that or not. I then look for differerent job to accomodate my needs. If I had another job full time which was most of the time, I worked an agreement with the 2nd employer with my hours.

          If something changed in my life, it is up to ME to accomodate that 2nd job. It is up to me to speak with the manager and tell them of my issue, hopefully come to a agreement and if the company can’t accomodate, it is my problem not theirs.
          Like AAM said this is really very basic employer/employee relationships. I guess my question in general to anyone is how else is it suppose to work? The company has no employees at ” shift X ” because it would be mean and harsh to expect employees to work those hours the company needs them?
          I supervised in retail for many years. It takes a long time to schedule 15-20 employees for all the hours retail is open, accomadate them as best as possible for everyones needs and then have an employee tell ME I can’t schedule them for already agreed upon hours because they have another job?

          I just don’t get that…..

          1. Anonymous

            I work with someone who has two jobs. The job we share is his first job, but ever since he started working the two together, he has allowed the second job to dictate the first. Actually, I don’t think he was upfront with the second employer about the first job, and when they found out, they more or less said “we are your top priority.” But our mutual boss didn’t bat an eyelash at that and allowed his second job to manipulate his hours here, which in turn, affected the rest of us.

            Now that he has worked his way up a bit in that other job to full time hours, he really dictates the hours he wants/doesn’t want here. And heaven forbid we need him to come in for other hours. Oh boy…then it’s like he’s doing us a big favor. Meanwhile I work two jobs, and while I try to keep them seperate, this person’s aforementioned habits make it difficult to keep up with my second job because I’m constantly covering.

  7. Tim C.

    4. Offer was pulled after I gave notice

    If the offer was in writing and it did not state any provisions, you could make a legal case of this for breach of contract. You were promised a job they did not follow through. It would be difficult to impossible to litigate if it were all done verbally though. Employees should not give notice until you have an offer in writing. Employers should not give offers until final.

  8. simple simon

    #3 If you keep being turned down after your references have been check have you considered that you may have the wrong people down as your references? What are they saying that keeps getting you turned down for the job after they are contacted?

    1. Tater B. (OP #3)

      I have considered that, but I have a list of about 10 people I use for references. Even if someone was giving me a bad reference, I doubt all 10 (at any given time) are saying bad things. Plus, when I call them to tell them to expect a call, they are really good about asking which skills/accomplishments they should highlight.

      And really, I don’t blame them. I guess I’m just coming to the realization that this is a super-tight, competitive job market right now. *sigh*

      1. KayDay

        Are the jobs you are applying for requiring that many references? Most jobs I know of only ask for 2 or 3 references–if that is the case for you, you might be able to rotate through references so that each reference isn’t getting called so often….of course, you would have to carefully select which reference for which job….

          1. Tater B. (OP #3)

            No….LOL! Let me clarify.

            I have a list of 10 references who have agreed to help me at any given time. Trust me, I’ve never been asked for more than three; I just try to figure out who is going to be the best reference in any given situation. But lately, it seems like I’ve called on all of them more than a few times, hence the fatigue.

      2. simple simon

        It’s not easy. Chin up my friend!

        And if you can, send your references a cookie bouquet/fruit basket/similarly-funny-yet useful-gift as thanks at some point – just to acknowledge that you realize that you are asking a lot from them and appreciate it!

  9. Verde

    #4 – From the employer’s perspective, I find this terrible. We never make an offer of any sort until a background check is completed. Never, ever, ever. Just to avoid putting anyone in this position – that’s such bad form.

    1. Evan the College Student

      Is this typical? A couple weeks ago, I got an internship offer contingent upon the results of a future background check (which, for all I know, still hasn’t been completed). I pretty much had to accept it within a couple days and remove myself from the running for other internships even before hearing the results of the background check. Which behavior is typical, or how does it vary?

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Varies, unfortunately. I’d be interested in knowing the experiences of people who have pushed back and said they won’t give notice at their current job until any checks are complete.

        1. Mike C.

          See, with my current job, I was given the offer and told it was contingent on the background check. So while they had me accept the position, I was told several times not to give notice until the background check cleared.

          1. blu

            Same here. We make the offer, but advise the candidate to wait until the background check to give notice. Considering we cannot pick a start date until the background check is complete, it doesn’t even make sense to give notice until then.

        1. Evan the College Student

          Because some of the others looked like they were about to give me an offer with a deadline as well, and I couldn’t very well accept both (at least not without being so dishonest as to burn the bridge to ashes.) And even for the ones that didn’t, I thought it’d be better not to string them along. Especially since I’ve no idea how many months it’d take before they do the background check.

          1. JT

            I don’t think it’s possible to accept something that hasn’t actually been offered. If they’re holding out till the background check comes back, then they haven’t made the offer. You could try to point that out to them.

  10. Steve G

    Product Manager Opening – APPLY!

    The only positions I’ve seen report to a product manager are product specialist/associate and Analyst. You’ve done the Analyst part, and a product specialists would be a version of you who doesn’t have profit and loss responsibility for your line and doesn’t do the difficult meetings or decisions. A caveat to this job I’ve seen is not what you mentioned – it’s the profitability responsibility. PMs all seem to be good at the marketing side, many at the analytical part, but you may also need to be promoting your product line internally, to sales managers, qaulity to increase sales. It can be very hard to stay focused on increasing sales when you are not a sales rep, but I’ve seen PMs fired for not doing more to increase sales of their products.

  11. marty

    Re: Credit and employment:
    At some point, it does become a matter of simple irresponsibility, “

    And just suppose that since work is performed for an employer during a set time of day(for the most part) and pertains to specific duties (usually) and once away from work, I am on my own time and what I do, who I see, where I go, and yes- how and when I pay my bills – is not related to my work or my employer, unless I’m in a public role with the company, it is certainly possible to perform my work competently and even to do so over a long period of time. People can (and do) have varying levels of accomplishment, diligence, responsibility, etc. in different areas….the automatic assumption that an employee’s poor credit reflects on his ability to perform a specified job is not warranted, especially if not in a position of dealing with money on the job, and also in the absence of any work-related problems or discipline of any kind over a long work history.

    Are we at the point in this country where poor credit is a bar to working at all? Maybe more of us should have chosen banking or corporate management- theft, fraud and deceit seem well-accepted there, and in many cases rewarded with lifetime pensions and golden parachute retirements. Apparently we haven’t reached the point of “simple irresponsibility” for the masters of the universe.

    1. LB

      But if you are at times not responsibile for and to yourself and don’t always make wise choices regarding your own finances and , then wouldn’t it be risky to make you responsible for other people’s financial situations?
      And I truly believe that most companies (as the two I have worked for who do background/credit checks) have specific and certain criteria they are looking for.

      1. fposte

        The problem is that there’s not a great correlation between that and a simple lowered credit rating. I’m not involved enough with credit reports and finance to know if you can create a credit exploration that eliminates external event, that doesn’t discriminate. and that has a nice predictive correlation with actual job problems, but I think that’s what you’d need to have in order to really justify a check.

      2. Mike C.

        Show me that a low credit score doesn’t instead show someone who is more motivated to be effective and productive in the workplace to get out of their hole.

      3. Natalie

        Your thesis rests on the false assumption that all negative items in a credit report come from a person not making wise choices. In fact, people may be affected by items beyond their control, which can include wanting to make the wise choice and simply not having the resources to do so.

    2. Long Time Admin

      If your credit reports show that you are *consistently* late in your utility payments, loan payments or credit card payments, that does suggest that you are irresponsible.

      Every employer has the right to not hire someone who is irresponsible, even if the job candidates are irresponsible on their own time. Behavior patterns do spill out into other areas of people’s lives.

      That being said, I don’t think credit reports should be such a strong factor in the hiring decision.

  12. Esra

    Since the whole credit checks on potential employees thing has become, well, a thing, there have been several studies showing that people with poor credit aren’t more likely to steal or more unethical than those with good credit. Given that, it seems like this is just an easy way to discriminate against people without means or who have been through tough times given the US’ lack of social support for its citizens.

    1. Mike C.

      I can’t wait for some enterprising lawyer to find a statistically significant correlation between credit score and difference in gender/race/other legally protected group and file an EEO lawsuit over the issue.

    2. simple simon

      I believe what your saying is true, but just to be able to prove it to others who don’t, I’m wondering if you have any links to studies that state this?

      I’m sure I can google it out, but if you have something on hand that would be great!

        1. khilde

          Though I thought this was an interesting caveat in the middle of the article:

          “Those who feel credit scores have no place in the hiring process will, however, be disheartened by some of the other findings. Bernerth says researchers found correlations between credit scores and what he terms “task performance” and “citizenship behavior.” The first addresses how well people do in their day-to-day job functions, such as whether or not they complete assignments properly and on time. The second is characterized in the research report as discretionary actions that benefit either the company or the individual.

          High performance in both task and citizenship categories have a positive impact on businesses, the report says. And Bernerth’s team found that people with higher credit scores were better both at task performance as well as citizenship behavior. “It’s really about consistency,” he says. “We’re all driven towards consistency. If we’re being relaible and dependable in terms of our financial behavior, there’s a consistency in us that drives us towards those sorts of behaviors on the job.”

          I think this might be the point that some of the other commenters were trying to make. If I had to choose between someone with a sketchy credit history and someone with a solid credit history…based on this info above, I’d go with the good credit history.

          1. Esra

            I feel like you could determine whether the candidate is good in the task and citizenship areas through good interviewing and referral checking.

            I don’t think that correlation is enough to warrant a credit check and that the negatives much outweigh the positives. When you take into account the way a credit check can bias you toward a potential employee, the economy, and the myriad ways you could miss out on great employees and deprive people of much-needed work, it really doesn’t seem worth it. Or ethical.

  13. Anonymous

    RE: Product Management position. It’s not a management position, it’s a Product Management position. In my company anyway, that person manages nothing but well – products. As this person has no direct report, I suspect the supervisory experience may be more of a wishlist or nice-to-have option.

  14. Anonymous

    Dear AAM community: I’m not sure where to put this, so bear with me. You all are fantastic. This site has kept me going when nothing else could. Thank you all!

    P.S. no pantyhose and always a land line. Always!

  15. A.X.

    Credit Checks:

    At the risk of being flamed up like a marshmallow, I’d like to provide some thoughts from somebody who both: a) has a personal bankruptcy and b) works in the financial sector.

    1) My personal misfortunes were not caused by a universally sympathetic disaster such as a serious medical condition. Indeed the root cause of my turmoil was youthful irresponsibility perhaps only a grade higher than the normal sort. At the time that I was late on all my bills and wracking up new credit cards/lines of credit it would not have been entirely unfair to look at my credit report and deduce that I was not responsible enough to say, handle confidential personal information like I do now.

    2) Without starting an enormous discussion on the merits/detriments of personal bankruptcy I can say that it is without a doubt the smartest thing I ever did in regard to turning my life around. I may have done something undesirable but it is ultimately been much less costly to society that I was able to stop and start over than that I had to “bootstrap” my way out of an impossible situation.

    3) I am now hyper vigilant and fiscally aware. I spend significantly more time and energy creating a strong fiscal house than the average person my age. I believe that this will ultimately lead to greater societal benefit than the cost of my bankruptcy, at least for my situation.

    All of this is to say, there may be a more than trivial correlation between CURRENT financial struggles and general irresponsiblity. But to make blanket statements when hiring, E.g. “no bankruptcies” or “credit score must be greater than X” will do little to identify undesirable candidates and may weed out the “perfect” candidate. Further, I am fairly certain that any amount of broadly applicable irresponsibility that reveals itself in a credit report will show up elsewhere in a candidate’s history.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I think that’s exactly right. Employers who believe there IS a correlation between bad credit and on-the-job behavior should be able to find it in the interview and reference check process. If they don’t, perhaps that should tell them that they’re wrong (or bad at hiring).

  16. marty

    “… then wouldn’t it be risky to make you responsible for other people’s financial situations?”
    A bit of a straw man argument, don’t you think?
    I KNOW I am not, and don’t think anyone else is suggesting that a poor credit score should be ignored in the case of a financially responsible position. I am not asking for anyone to “make me responsible for other people’s financial situation”, simply to not have my job performance be so heavily judged by a criteria for which there hasn’t been shown to be a strong correlation.

    And now, apparently you cannot open a checking account at the Big Banks without a sufficiently high “consumer profile”- apparently, when not even attempting to borrow money, but simply put my money on deposit, one may be deemed not sufficiently worthy.

    Let’s see….increasingly unable to work and bank based on credit, being increasingly considered lazy and requiring drug testing if unemployed- anything wrong with this picture? For how many decades did we survive with employers knowing nothing of their employees credit situation and now it’s a major crtiteria?

    What’s next- unable to buy food, get utilities?

  17. Jerseyknit

    I’m curious about how low a credit score has to be for an employer to reconsider an offer. Do they have a cutoff, or do they play it by ear depending on the candidate?

    It also seems like factoring in credit score would disproportionately impact people with ADHD, aside from all of the other creepy implications of weighing an applicant based on their financial history.

    It’s as if being capable of performing a job isn’t enough — you almost have to be considered worthy of it, too.

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