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 finding out who gave you a bad job reference, a smelly coworker, and more. Here we go…

1. Listing a blog on your resume

I have a personal blog I co-author with a friend. As of now, our names are not attached to it. We keep it pretty professional — no profanity, nothing too personal. We discuss money topics for women in their 20s and 30s. Since I am trying to move into a job in the communications field, should I list this blog on my resume? Or, hold off and only mention it in an interview should writing and/or personal interests come up? I would love to know your opinion on this because many people in the creative fields have their own blog these days.

The main thing to keep in mind is that if you list it, it’s going to become part of your application package; you’ll be saying, “here’s evidence of how I write, how I use logic, what my judgment is like, how I present myself to the world, and generally who I am.” Knowing that, will it help or harm your candidacy? That’s your answer. (Also, read this.)

2. Did anyone even read my cover letter?

In today’s job-hunting world, where everything is done online, what are the chances that my cover letter is even going to be read? I had one experience when I took a long time to craft a really good letter and included it in the online application — along with my resume, of course — sent it off at 9:30 on Sunday night and at 8:30 Monday morning had a “no thank you” note in my inbox. Now you can’t tell me a human being read my letter. It was very discouraging especially since I was quite qualified for the job. What do you think?

There’s no reason to conclude your letter wasn’t read just because of the 11 hours it took to be rejected. It takes a minute (if that) to skim a cover letter and resume and determine if you want to take a closer look, and 11 hours contain 660 minutes, or 660 chances to do that. Plenty of people work late in the evening (like me) or early in the morning; if the person reviewing resumes came in at 7:30 Monday morning (not unusual in many industries), there was plenty of time for a full review of your application. Now, I personally won’t reject someone instantly, even if I read their application and decide they’re a “no” two minutes after it comes in, because it feels rude to me — but not everyone feels that way.

That said, are there some employers who don’t read cover letters? Of course. But you have no way of knowing which you’re dealing with.

3. Joining my spouse when he travels for an out-of-state interview

My husband has an interview in a couple of weeks in a different state. The person hiring is going to pay for the hotel, and is going to take out my husband for dinner the night before the interview. My husband wants myself and our son of 11months to go with him. My question is, should we go? I feel funny that a potential manager is paying for the hotel but unknowing to him the family will be staying there. And I know when my husband is out to eat with this guy, he will tell him that we are there. I really feel that we as a family should not go, to keep things professional and not ruin the chance of my husband not getting hired because of this.

I don’t think there’s anything wrong with going as long as it doesn’t create additional expense for the employer. Lots of people bring their spouse in a situation like this, because if you’re serious about possibly relocating, it makes sense for both of you to see the area. (Don’t go to the dinner, obviously, unless invited.)

4. Should I list my education first on my resume?

I am wondering what the best resume format is for someone who is no longer a recent graduate, but is still considered entry-level. I graduated about 2 years ago, but did not find a “real first job” until a year later. So I only have a year to a year and a half worth of experience. Should I keep the Education section on top or have the Experience section on top and move education down to the bottom?

In general, education should go beneath work experience, because in general work experience is going to be more relevant to the employer, but the determining question when deciding case by case is to ask what’s going to be most compelling and relevant to an employer. If your work experience is directly related to the jobs you’re applying for now (or at least supports the argument that you would do the job well), you lead with that. If your work experience hasn’t really been in your field and your education is more relevant, lead with that.

5. Smelly coworker

I work at a fairly small office (10 people), and for the most part we all have an excellent relations. There is, however, one employee who suffers (or makes us suffer) from extreme body odor. Over the past year, the manager had been notified about our concern and the employee was given 3 warnings, and had he received a 4th warning he would have been fired. Unfortunately, that manager was replaced by another manager who seems to have taken a special liking to this employee. The new manager is friendly, fair, and very easy to approach. I was wondering if you or the other readers could help guide me through the best way this issue could be brought up to the manager and dealt with.

Well, first of all, the old manager shouldn’t have told you how many warnings the employee was getting and that he was on the verge of being fired; that was unprofessional — it should have been between the employee and the manager. There also should have been records left for the new manager, so that she’s in the loop on how the situation has been handled so far. In any case, you can certainly tell the new manager that this has been an ongoing problem and that the previous manager made you aware that she was working on it, and ask that it be resolved because it creates an unpleasant environment for others. From there, though, you’re going to have to rely on this new manager to handle it.

6. Can I find out who gave me a bad reference?

After being considered for a position, I learned from the recruiter that the company was taking a pass after someone I had previously worked with “bashed” me. I know a couple of people at the company, but none whom I expected would speak negatively. The recruiter would not or could not provide any other details. I had not yet been asked for references at the time the company was speaking with others.

Is it appropriate that I email the company directly to say I regret not moving on in the process and am surprised someone spoke negatively? I’d like to learn who the person was and/or what was said so I can be better prepared for future interviews. Or should I just move on?

You should move on because they’re not going to tell you. People ask for and give references with the assumption that they’re speaking in confidence. However, I wouldn’t necessarily assume that it was someone at the company; it could have been someone else — say, for instance, that the hiring manager sees on your resume that you used to work at Company X and knows someone there. She could have reached out to her contact there to ask about you. So there’s nothing conclusive here, unfortunately.

7. Is my accent keeping me from getting job offers?

I’m worried that my accent is my downfall. I think I get a discriminated from phone-screens/interviews easily. Each time I have had a phone-screen/interview, it never led to an office interview. But, when no phone-screen/interview is involved, I get office interviews (but I am still to get an offer). I strongly feel that my accent is my downfall and there is nothing I can do about it. I don’t think it’s that strong but I could be wrong, what do you think or suggest?

It’s possible that it’s your accent, but there’s a stronger chance that it’s the way you’re interviewing (over the phone and in person). How confident are you about your interview skills? Are you preparing ahead of time, asking good questions, coming prepared with examples from your past work that illustrate how you’d excel in the new job? I’d focus on that stuff before concluding that it’s your accent. At the same time, though, you could also ask a friend who you trust to be candid with you how strong your accent is and whether it gets in the way of your communicating clearly. Good luck!

{ 78 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous*

    From “bashed” employee:

    Thanks for your objectivity. I realize I may never know who gave me a bad reference, and it happens. The only way to proceed is to move forward and consider it their loss that the opinion of someone anonymous to me has unfairly skewed the conversation.

    1. K*

      “Bashed Employee” perhaps you can speak with someone in HR at your former employer. The best way to proceed is to move forward, but I would think there needs to be a concern with future prospects as well.

      Perhaps you can speak to former employer(s) HR department and state that you recently applied for a position and things were going well until you received a bad reference from someone within the company. You can also state that whomever the recruiter or company spoke with was not on your reference list. Tell them that you are moving forward but maybe you can work something out so that your future job prospects are not affected.

      The job market is bad enough and to have a phantom employee ruin your chances makes me grrrrr………

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        You could definitely try this, but keep in mind that it might not have been someone from that company (or it could be someone who was there but doesn’t work there anymore). Hell, it could be your old neighbor who you never worked with. There’s no way to know.

        1. K*

          I agree with your answer but just as a precaution, I was thinking maybe she/he should contact all her former employers listed on her resume and state her issue since she doesn’t know who gave her a lousy reference. The best to you “bashed employee”, hopefully you won’t have further reference issues affecting your employment.

    2. Liz*

      I don’t understand why the recruiter told you – and even used the phrasing “bashed?” Also, what kind of person would seriously scuttle someone else’s chances for a job? I could see being reserved or stating specific examples of work product or behaviors presented in a way that says something like, “This was not a good fit for our organization but could be for another type of office…” something like that.

      I just don’t understand the whole “Oh she’s the WORST” message that seems to have been the take away for the recruiter, who then told you! It sounds really unprofessional of both the bad-mouther and the recruiter.

      1. Joe*

        To be completely fair, there are circumstances where it’s appropriate to give a scathing review of someone. After all, if I just dance around the subject, then someone who I think is truly awful is going to get hired by this other company, and then they’re going to be stuck dealing with them. To give an example: We used to have a guy in my office who simply could not do his job. Several times, he broke critical systems, and once prevented us from getting a mission-critical release out because he broke something and didn’t even realize it. He was talked to repeatedly, but made no improvements. On top of that, even when he wasn’t breaking things, he got very little done. And on top of that, there were repeated incidents of highly inappropriate communications with other employees.

        Now, if someone were to ask me for a reference for this fellow (and I’m pretty certain nobody ever will, but if they did…), should I just dodge the question and let someone else suffer as we did? Or should I let them know of his shortcomings, citing specific examples to justify my opinion, and hope to spare them the pain we experienced?

        Yes, this is an extreme example, but I think that if a reference refuses to be honest, there’s not much point in checking references, so I try to be honest when I’m asked as a reference, and would hope others will be honest with me.

        1. Under Stand*

          It is possible that the interviewer was related to someone or knew someone. I know here, we ask people if they know so and so who has applied. And if we know someone at the company they used to work at, believe me when I say we call them. References from someone they did not list always are of more interest to us than the ones they give (we presume they have talked with those people and can pretty well guess what they will say).

          1. D*

            So out of curiosity… there is one specific job I DON’T want potential employers to call. I have a great ref there, who has since left (I have her contact information and she said she’d be happy to be a reference) who I really did work with the most. However, her replacement was a jerk- we got along fine and he never made any complaints about my work but we just didn’t really click. I emailed him and asked if he’d be a reference and he bluntly told me I probably shouldn’t list him because he’d been preparing a list of grievances to air with me but since I was leaving, he never had that conversation.

            I was floored and I literally have no idea what he could have been talking about. So my worst nightmare now would be having a potential employer call him and listen to rants about me that are apparently issues I had no clue even existed!

            No one else who is still at that company would be able to speak about my work, so that makes me even more nervous.

            I’ve been at my current job for two years and will have great references. So how can I get around this, if at all?

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              How long did you work with the good reference, and how long did you work with the bad one? If you only worked with the bad one for a few months, it’s easy to say, “I worked with Jane for 90% of my time there, so here’s her contact info.”

              1. D*

                Good reference- about 14 months?

                Bad reference- probably about 10 months. However I also worked for other people at that time while I worked for the good reference exclusively.

            2. ChristineH*

              I’m not sure I would’ve contacted that one person if I didn’t feel we really clicked, especially while already having a strong reference. jmho.

              At least he was honest with you about his hesitations.

              1. D*

                Yeah, I guess it’s better to know the situation than be oblivious.

                We didn’t click personally the way I had with my former manager, but he frequently complimented my work to others and never voiced any concern, so I thought he might be a safe bet. Ideally I wanted both of them as references because it was the job that was most relevant to the type of job I want, but I have others to ask as well.

  2. Cruella*

    #5…I would approach the new manager just like the old one . I’d explain that this had been a concern in the past that you think she may need to be aware of, and then let her handle it from there.

    What I can’t believe is that someone can be fired for being smelly? Even I’m not that cruel. Is this person slovenly? Are there other ways this person is not neat, or is it just the way he smells? What if there is an underlying health condition that is causing the body odor? I’d tread lightly.

      1. Joey*

        Tolerate isnt quite the best description since you can and should take steps to mitigate it.

    1. theobromine*

      People can be thrown off an airplane by flight attendants if they smell too bad. Nobody should have to sit or work next to smelly people – whether too much perfume or BO. Personal hygiene is required on every job. Especially if they interact with the public. As a professional salesperson I am judged by my appearance and must be not just neat and clean, but fashionable, young and energetic for my age and have good manners and know how to talk to everyone without offending anyone. Smelly salespeople starve. They can fire you for not enough sales. The competition is fierce. Don’t get fat, old, or out of date. Oh – and don’t smell!

      1. Anonymous*

        These questions always make me laugh. I worked as a Residence Advisor through college and every year at training we had the “smelly resident” scenerio. Having to deal with these students was the most awkward situation ever, I had hoped that these people would learn basic hygiene before entering the work force, but based on these comments it doesn’t look like they do!

    2. Rana*

      It’s also worth noting that there’s a difference between someone who occasionally stinks because they ran out of deodorant, and someone with a chronic problem. I learned this the hard way at the library one day, when I encountered a woman with such a severe body-odor problem that I almost vomited after smelling her (and I am not a barf-prone person). The whole staff was disturbed to the point that they told security to call 9-11 if she showed up again.

      I really hope that this co-worker is not that bad, but the lesson is, he could be.

  3. Anonymous*

    The questions in bold: Are they your titles for the write-ins or did the OPs make those questions? #6 isn’t grammatically correct (sorry, I know you don’t like proofreading).

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I write the titles. I fixed #6. (Thanks.) I often spot and fix typos after posting something, so if you’re reading it right when it goes up, you’re likely to see them too! I am a big typo-maker here.

      1. Anne*

        Alison, you might want to fix this sentence at the end of #6 as well: “So unfortunately there’s nothing conclusive here, unfortunately.”

        1. bella*

          Do You not have anything better to do but to correct grammar? It might be wrong but it’s her blog it’s her way.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Eh. I used to proofread professionally, so I can understand the impulse. I write and post stuff here quickly, in order to be able post more of it, so there absolutely will continue to be typos. But I like to fix them when they’re caught. (Although I took someone to task last month for pointing it out in a snide way, which I stand by…)

          2. Anonymous*

            To a few, it sticks out like a sore thumb. But in a way, it’s sort of practicing what she preaches – we have to have perfect, grammar mistake-free cover pages to be taken seriously and to be considered. If she wants to give advice and be taken seriously, then the same concept works here.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Totally disagree. This is a blog that I do for free on my own time, in order to help people, not in order to impress an employer.

              I make occasional typos here because I write and post this stuff quickly, in order to be able to post more of it. (The alternative would be far fewer posts.)

              And I write casually here, because that is the kind of blog I want to have. And guess what — I’m the one who gets to decide that. And in turn, you get to decide if you want to read it or not. There are lots of other options out there.

              1. Anonymous*

                I think grammar and spelling are important and I like that you make corrections when your readers point out errors even though it is a casual environment. Kudos.

              2. Anonymous*

                I keep thinking about how to answer this because I think you completely missed what I meant.

                Basically, grammar and spelling can lead someone to be either taken seriously or not. While you write well, typos happen, and your readers try to help you. You teach us this with cover letters – they need to be letter perfect. But while this is a casually written blog, as you state, it can be more relaxed in its writting (from typos to curse words), but if you didn’t write well, how many people would not give your blog a second look and continue to find someone else who might serve the same purpose with theirs? What interviewer would move onto the next person after seeing a poorly written cover letter/resume? And yes! I get you are not writing for an employer.

                You write very well, but don’t read into my words, saying that you should be writting in the most perfect English, sans typos, contractions, etc. I’m not. I was just trying to make a relevant answer to someone who thought a few of us commenters had nothing better else to do than to point out typos. But apparently I failed.

              3. Anon-2*

                The occasional typo does not detract from very good writing. Ungrammatical or poor writing would be a different thing but that is not what we find here.

              4. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Anonymous, yeah, it didn’t quite come across that way, particularly the last sentence of your original comment. And I agree with those who said that there’s a difference between typos and bad writing. In any case, thanks for clarifying and I think we’ve had enough discussion of typos to last us for quite a while! :)

            2. fposte*

              And honestly, I don’t think Alison has really insisted that people must be flawless in order to be considered. I think she has championed taking great care to make the most of the brief opportunity an application, etc., affords a candidate, but she has also been a big advocate of the larger picture when it comes to hiring people and dealing with one another in the workplace, of looking at the balance of weaknesses and the strengths that we each present. In fact, here’s her don’t-kill-yourself-over-a-typo post:

              1. Susan*

                I think what detracts from really good writing and an especially excellent blog are multiple posts from people asking for minutia typo fixes for a post I assume they will not re-read. jmhso.

      2. ChristineH*

        I didn’t see the typo before it was fixed, but I too was wondering if it’s you or the letter-sender writes the titles (i.e. in their email “subject” line).

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          99% of the time, I write the titles, because if I used the email’s subject line, it would be a bunch of titles like “question for you” :)

  4. KayDay*

    Re: #2 – an important piece of advice I got in college was that many employers read (*ahem, scan*) your resume first and your cover letter second. If they don’t see any potential in the resume, they aren’t going to bother with your cover letter. (Not true of everyone, of course, but I think this is common).

    1. D*

      Probably especially true since a lot of people essentially regurgitate their resume in their cover letter.

    2. Long Time Admin*

      At one of my former workplaces, high school co-op students were the first ones to read job applications and resumes. They were supposed to look for keywords and if they didn’t see any, they tossed the applications.

      I think of this often, especially when I’m submitting my resume for a job opening. And I shudder…

  5. Student*

    For #3:

    If you don’t want to go with your husband to his job interview, you should just tell him so. That’s the vibe I get from your question, anyhow. It’s perfectly reasonable that you don’t want to go for any number of reasons, or no specific reason at all.

    If I were you, I wouldn’t want to make a multi-state trip with a baby just to sit around in a hotel room and serve as a potential prop for your husband’s job interview. That’s my feelings though, and I’m sure lots of folks would have a different opinion.

    Of course, if you want to go and look around the town, and won’t be imposing extra expenses on anyone, you shouldn’t worry about it, like AAM says.

  6. Natalie*

    My last semester in college, I sat on a search committee for a new faculty member. The three people who came for in-person interviews brought their spouses, although I don’t know if any of them had children. We never saw the spouses, though – I assume they were off looking at the town and the nearby towns or maybe even on their own interviews.

  7. Anonymous*

    #7 You should look into your local Adult Education Center (usually part of your local school district but sometimes Community Colleges). They provide interview coaching for non-native English speakers, as well as accent reduction.

  8. Money Blogger*


    You’re absolutely right. I will have to be extremely conscious of what I write, knowing I’m going to present it to all the right people. With that acknowledged, is it something with a place on the resume, or something to bring up in a cover letter and/or interview?

  9. $.02*

    6. Can I find out who gave me a bad reference?

    AAM, does prospective employers have to tell you if they decline you an offer based on bad reference? Just thinking like when you are denied credit.

  10. mh_76*

    #4 – I am quite a few years out of school but still have my education at the top of my resume. Why? Even though my BA isn’t relevant to my professional interests, a number of the post-BA courses I’ve taken are – more relevant than most of the jobs that I’ve held. A recruiter recently moved the Edu. section to the bottom of the resume that was sent to a company (with my OK) but it’s still at the top of my main resume. My work experience is so varied that I have yet to be convinced that I should move the Edu. section to the bottom of my resume.

    Having said…rather, typed…all of that, which is more relevant to your professional interests – your experience or your education? That section should be at the top [in this job-seeker’s opinion].

    Note to recruiters: please please clear any resume edits with candidates. We work hard on our resumes and like to know what is being sent to employers.

    #7 – I find that in general, I’m more likely to remember someone with an accent but in the workplace, it is vital that I can understand what they’re saying. If you find that people ask you to repeat yourself a lot, then definitely seek out ESL resources…but don’t lose the accent completely.

    1. Piper*

      “Note to recruiters: please please clear any resume edits with candidates. We work hard on our resumes and like to know what is being sent to employers.”

      Yes! And it’s not just working hard on a resume, it’s about truth in advertising! If you’ve made changes and an interviewer asks me to walk them through my resume and I’m talking about things that are completely different than what’s on my resume or job titles I’ve had that are no longer listed, or you’ve changed my dates of employment to less than the time I actually worked there, I look like an idiot when I reference the real story.

      I recently experienced this when a recruiter had changed all of my previous job titles to something similar to the job title I was applying for and had removed any title that had “manager” or “director” in it and replaced it with a lower level or just didn’t replace it at all, so it just set something like “human resources” instead of “human resources director.”

      Also, I mentioned having 10 years of experience, but the resume that was sent only reflected about 4 years of experience because dates of employment had been changed. This is bad because eventually the real titles will come out. So frustrating! (PS- I found this out after the fact when a different recruiter at the same company sent me the edited version of my resume to make changes to for a different job.)

      1. Piper*

        Oh, and also, all of my real info is listed on LinkedIn, so someone could easily search there and find the discrepancies.

      2. A Bug!*

        I would almost be inclined to bring extra copies of my real resume to interviews, provide one to the interviewer, and say “I’ve had issues in the past with recruiters who have edited factual information on my resume before passing it along. Here is a copy of my current resume just in case your copy is different.”

        It bothers me that a recruiter would take such a high-handed route and not even go to the trouble of providing you with a copy for your own reference. Does the recruiter think it’s going to make the candidate look better? At best, the candidate’s going to look like an idiot who doesn’t even know what’s on his or her own resume. At worst, it makes the candidate appear to be caught in a lie.

        1. Piper*

          Agree on all counts!

          I realize that in my case, they were trying to mitigate the fact that I was over-qualified, but that could have been addressed in a different manner, and I still tailored my initial resume to the position, leaving out anything extra I may have done that made me look even more over-qualified or didn’t relate directly to that job.

          1. Jaime B*

            If you have 10 years experience and they changed your work dates to reflect only 4 – how did they explain the other 6 years? Was there a work gap that they expected you to explain or did they lengthen earlier, more entry-level jobs?

            1. Piper*

              There were gaps in my experience. For example, instead of saying I worked at company x from 2005-2008, they said 2005-2006. So, it made me look like a job-hopper with tons of gaps in my work experience. There were significant gaps between all of the jobs. I do have a legitimate 3-month gap from a lay off, but other than that, there are zero gaps in my experience.

              No one mentioned the gaps or asked me about them, but I would have been pretty taken aback in an interview had someone brought that up. And again, I was talking to the interviewers as if they had my real resume. I should also note that this was a phone interview, so bringing a hard copy of my resume was a moot point here.

              1. mh_76*


                I agree with all of the comments :) and do have copies of my “real” resume with me most of the time anyway…always for an in-person meeting.

                The previous recruiter who changed my resume without telling me was an old-school recruiter (read: good candidate relations skills…the editing is my only complaint) who did find a few jobs for me but if he hadn’t made the edits, he might have been able to help me find better positions. I was able to extract some decent bullet-points from the jobs that I had but more would have come from better jobs.
                (if this shows up twice, sorry)

    2. Ellie H.*

      I’m planning to leave my education at the top of my resume for a while longer as well. I finished school two years ago and have an OK amount of work experience, but it is extremely disparate and I haven’t had any long term full time positions. Also, I went to a “good” school and had a high GPA so my thinking is that that would be more noticeable/interesting than my disparate work history. But, I will think more about this. I do use my resume for applying to summer programs and stuff than for jobs, I work at a university, and I’m planning to apply to grad school soon so to be honest I probably think of it more as an academic resume.

  11. Argh*

    #2: Can I just say that I really dislike the phrase “quite qualified” in this context? I know it doesn’t have to do with the OP’s question, but I have to say it: there are always going to be job seekers out there who have more or less experience than you do. Ok, so you’re qualified for the job. You have a lot of experience. There will ALWAYS be someone out there who has one year, or one month, or one weeks’ worth of experience more than you. Or the experience is more relevant to the open position. Or whatever! My point is, you put in your best effort (via your cover letter/resume) and that’s that.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      This taps into something I see a lot, which is people feeling like, “I’m qualified for the job, so why aren’t they interviewing me?” When you have hundreds of applicants who are qualified for the job, it starts being about who’s the best of the best. …. Which goes back to what I’m always preaching about — that it’s to your advantage to kick ass at work and not just do the basics.

      1. Anonymous*

        #2 – I think they were just more discouraged about putting the time in and getting a likely computer-screened resume review and subsequent rejection letter. Been there. It’s taken me a long time and many visits to this site to realize that if the job description says “prefers SQL” and that’s not on my resume, the computer will bump me out no matter what else is on there.

        1. Long Time Admin*

          My employer will toss any resume that does not address every single requirement in the job ad. We had a receptionist position to fill, and one of our former employees applied. She was completely qualified, and had filled in for the previous receptionist often. But she left “multi-line phone experience” off her resume and was not considered for the job, even though the HR manager and the HR director both knew she had the experience.

          You have to literally regurgitate the job ad verbatim in your resume and cover letter these days.

          1. Barb*

            AaM, what do you think of that? Literally regurgitating the job posting in your resume and cover letter? That seems to contradict your earlier advice (which I prefer) about doing something to make your letter shine brighter than the other hundreds of letters they will be reading.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              It’s not a bad idea to make sure that your resume includes key phrases that the ad includes, particularly when applying to larger companies, but your cover letter definitely shouldn’t regurgitate the resume — it should be its own separate thing that adds new information.

  12. Andy Lester*

    Re: putting a blog on the resume

    You have to ask one question: “Will this piece of information help convince the reader to call me in for an interview?” Put yourself in the shoes of the resume reader and ask yourself what the reader will get out of it.

  13. Editor*

    “I’m worried that my accent is my downfall. I think I get a discriminated from phone-screens/interviews easily.”

    Verbal presentation can be more than accent. I am not trying to be snide here, but look at your second sentence. You may have written a quick email that you didn’t proofread, but maybe when you get nervous or involved in a topic, you don’t always use the correct verb tense or pay attention to other small details in English that a native speaker would notice.

    My command of the one foreign language I studied is shaky. I admire people who are bilingual. I hope you’ve gotten to the point where you can “think” in English when you have to speak in English, but maybe you need to work on your fluency with the language and not your pronunciation.

    Also, you don’t say what kinds of jobs you are interviewing for. If they’re phone center, help desk or customer service of some kind, fluency and accent both might be a concern.

    Maybe you could sign up with a temp agency and seek some jobs through them to get some feedback from a recruiter about the specific problem.

    1. Heather B*

      I was thinking something like this as well.

      My partner recently sat in on an interview for a candidate from another country at his work, and the decision was made not to hire this person not because of his accent but because he did not appear to be able to understand and respond to reasonably basic questions posed in English (e.g. “in the past, have you usually worked with groups or on your own”), even when they were rephrased as simply as possible. Even if the candidate was qualified in terms of his skills, if he were hired my partner’s team would not have been able to effectively communicate with him to provide instructions for tasks and check in on his progress.

      Since it’s generally easier to read/write in a foreign language than to listen/speak, if the question as written was representative of the asker’s “best” written English (which, as Editor notes, it may not be) this issue may be more about his/her ability to effectively communicate verbally in English, not his/her accent.

  14. Charles*

    #3 – I might just be grasping at straws here; but it might give your husband an advantage over other candidates whose family is not “involved.” If the hiring manager knows that your husband has brought his family along to “check things out” then the hiring manager knows that if/when a offer is made there will be no push back saying “let me check with the family to see what they think.”

    It might also be viewed as a sign from your husband that he is more serious about this job than the candidates’ whose family have not come along.

    (But then, clearly, I have been job hunting way toooo long since I am thinking of this kind of nonsense!)

  15. Anonymous*

    Re #1: I’m hypersensitive on this issue due to my own experience, but if you have not given your co-author a heads-up that you are starting to link your name to the blog in your job-hunting efforts, it would be courteous to do so. Particularly if you started with agreed-upon reasons for not putting your names on it. While it’s unlikely that her name might be linked via yours, in this networked world it’s still possible, and she might not want to be blindsided.

    1. Money Blogger*


      You make a great point. She’s alerted me that she’s using the blog on her resume as part of her job search. It was good she told me, because if I was *not* considering using it as part of my qualifications, I wouldn’t want to say anything that would jeopardize her search.

  16. Nichole*

    If AaM doesn’t mind, would OP 1 mind posting a link to her blog? I hate when people use someone else’s blog to shill for their own, but I’m genuinely interested in the topic, so I hope the readers will forgive her (and forgive me for encouraging it). On that note, I put my blog on my resume while I was regularly maintaining it. It wasn’t industry related, but I often list ability to communicate effectively in writing and other similar skills as a strength in cover letters, so my blog is a tangible example. Just because the job isn’t related to your topic doesn’t mean a “writing sample” won’t be useful. You should be tailoring your resume to the opening anyway, so if your blog doesn’t have any use for the purpose of getting the job, you can trim it off.

  17. Anonymous*

    Re: 7. Is my accent keeping me from getting job offers?

    Interesting, sometimes I feel the same way. I went to school out of state and had people tell me I have a “weird” accent. When I was interviewing for jobs, it was hard for me to get an in-person interview if i did a phone interview. But I generally tended to fair better if there was no phone interview.

    I try not to let that bother me. Try speaking a bit slower and articulate more. The more practice, the better. It’s probably not the accent, but I agree with AAM, maybe it’s just the way of how you speak on the phone. I hate speaking on the phone in general too.

    1. NicoleW*

      I’m wondering if the OP is getting second interviews when there is no phone screen. Perhaps some general interview practice is in order and it is not as much about the accent.
      The company I work for has hired people with strong accents for two positions in recent years with varying success. For a temp assistant position, the accent was a slight issue on the phone, but not much. The bigger issue was that she had only been in the US for a few years and didn’t know very basic things, such as formatting a mailing address. For a position that is only to last a few months, having to teach extreme basics was not very efficient.
      For a mid-level position where international experience was a big plus, the person hired had a strong accent, but was able to succeed in the job. Her Chinese fluency also helped the company as it expanded into China.
      So while the accent may be an obstacle in phone interviews, perhaps more prep is necessary and hopefully some jobs will jump at the chance of a bilingual employee.

  18. Cassie*

    #3: If there is no added expense to the company, I don’t think it would be a problem for the wife and child to go. It’s only the hotel room that the company would be paying for – I’m assuming the family will pay for the wife’s plane ticket and whatever meals they have on their own. That’s also assuming that the husband does not bring said wife & child with him on the interview or the dinner.

    #7: Is it possible that it’s not so much the accent but the delivery and the ability to converse that’s preventing the candidate from getting past a phone interview? Some people are great at talking, even with accents. And some people, native English speakers (such as myself), are not so good at talking – especially over the phone. That’s not to say that nobody is ever discriminated against because of an accent, but the ability to get your point across (accent or not) is the main issue.

    1. Amy*

      I had a phone interview once and it happened to be my first one. The interviewer kept asking me yes or no questions and I’d say yes to some because they seemed like…I’d better say yes. i.e.- Would your friends say you give them good advice? Yes. Then she would say “Illustrate that please.” What? Ok, I’d scramble up some answer that was sort of vague because I didn’t know when the last exact time was I’d given good advice. SHe didn’t like my vague answers and kept pushing me to say more. I even had to illustrate things I’d started saying yes to randomly for fear of looking like an unfriuendly, anti-social person. The questions made me so nervous I’d start to say no because I didn’t want to “illustrate” anything more. I apparently cannot get my point across and I’ve dreaded them since, probably always will. It’s partly because my normal phone conversations are with friends and I have a very casual, slang type of speak I guess. I knew better than to say “ya knowwhat I mean?” haha to the interviewer but it’s that over thinking….that make a good impression while getting your point across some of us struggle with. OP probably is like me. My advice to her is have practice questions, record herself whether it’s on her computer or phone, whatever and play it back for herself and then a friend. Get some more input on it. :)

  19. Angela*

    Thank you very much for your help, in the matter of going with my husband on an interview to a diffrent state. He did choose to call the manager and ask him if this was ok and we will be going soon.
    Thank you again.

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