wee answer Wednesday: 7 short answers to 7 short questions

It’s wee answer Wednesday — seven short answers to seven short questions. And this could be called the “just be straightforward” edition. Here we go…

1. I know that my boss is being let go, but she doesn’t know

My boss and I share similar interests and on several occasions have gone out of town to conferences to hear our favorite speaker. She sees me as a friend but I don’t. I have knowledge that she’s about to lose her position but it was told to me in confidence. When our VP breaks the news to her, I know she’s going to ask me if I knew beforehand. All I can think of saying without lying is, “I didn’t want to hurt your feelings.”

Don’t say that you didn’t want to hurt her feelings, because that’s not (or shouldn’t be) the reason you didn’t tell her. You didn’t tell her because you were instructed not to, and you couldn’t jeopardize your job by sharing something that you were specifically told not to share. (Also, few people in your boss’s shoes would be worried about having their feelings hurt; they’d be more interested in knowing the information.) If she has any class, she won’t put you in the position of asking if you knew ahead of time — but if she does, simply explain that you weren’t permitted to share the information, and then quickly move the focus back to expressing sympathy, asking how you can help, etc.

2. Should I spring a month-long trip on a new employer the day before I leave?

I am currently unemployed but am interviewing for jobs. However, in May, I will be going out of this country to be getting married. If I have a job before then, should I let my new employer know that I am going to be getting married after I get the job and I will need the time off, or should I not even mention it and the day prior just say that I have an emergency and will need to leave the country? I have been told not to say anything until the day before I leave, but I have also been told to let them know after I receive the job offer. I will be out of the country for about 3-4 weeks.

Um, that person who told you that you should just announce the day before you leave that you have an emergency and will be out of the country for three to four weeks? Never listen to that person about anything ever again. That is a horrible idea and a good way to lose that new job. Instead, when you get the job offer, explain what your plans are and ask if they can accommodate you. However, be aware that taking off 3-4 weeks right after starting a new job is something that many employers won’t be able to okay. You might be better off trying to negotiate a start date for after you return, or shortening the amount of time you’ll be gone.

3. How to reject an internal candidate

I was just promoted at work, into a position that comes with an assistant. The hiring process for the assistant was already underway. I really like one of the interviewees and I was ready to hire her. But at the last minute, the person who is temporarily in the assistant role applied. I like her, too, and she has done a good job. But she is out-competed by the other candidate, who has better technical skills and seems more adept with software. She is also much more personable and it is a job that involves a great deal of interaction with people; the internal candidate seems brusque until you get to know her. My preferred candidate also has relevant work experience that is not required, but is an asset to the job…we provide services to a particular group of people, and she was previously in that group, so she has a very good idea of how to deliver those services in the best way. She also generally seems more enthusiastic, but some of that is probably just personality.

I hate that one of my first acts as a new manager is to turn down someone I work with, and the guilt is increased because I myself was promoted from within. But I think it is the right thing to do. Any points on turning down internal candidates for those of us with little experience?

Do it in person, not over email, since she’s an internal candidate, and just be straightforward. Tell her that she’s done a good job, but ultimately another candidate has experience that’s a stronger fit for the position. Tell her that you’d be glad to give her more feedback if she wants it. If she does want more, tell her what her strengths are but also nicely let her know that one thing that made the other candidate stand out, on top of her experience, was her enthusiasm and friendliness, which are important for the role, and that showing more of that side is something that could help her in the future.

4. How can I talk to my coworker about the change in our hours?

I work for a small firm — ten people total. Recently, due to financial difficulty at the firm, I and one other person were made part-time. We were told about the decision in separate meetings with our boss and have yet to compare notes on our situation. I am curious if she is applying for other jobs, if she believes it’s a temporary situation (as our boss promised), etc., but I’m not sure how to broach the topic with her. Office email or in the office is obviously inappropriate, but is tracking down her personal contact information creepy? Is it even worth it to contact her? Should I be sharing my plans with her in case she tells our boss that I am applying for other jobs?

I don’t see why you can’t ask her about it in the office — it’s certainly work-related and a normal thing to discuss after such a big change is made. But if you don’t feel comfortable doing that, ask her to go grab coffee or lunch with you. Whether or not you share your own plans with her depends on what your sense is of whether you can trust her to keep them quiet.

5. Expressing interest in a job after the previous person was fired

How would you suggest I reach out to a previous internship supervisor after he just fired an associate? I had a very successful internship with the team a few years back when I was in school, and I’ve been looking for a job like this newly open position. I want to be sensitive to the firing (I also worked with the associate he let go) — I don’t want to seem like a vulture, but this is an unbelievable position.

Just reach out and be straightforward: “I heard that you might be looking for a new associate and I’d be really interested in throwing my hat in the ring if I’m a fit with what you’re looking for” or whatever. The person who was just fired is likely the one feeling sensitive about this, not your old boss. Your old boss is trying to fill the position.

6. What does this mean?

I had three interviews, two with a regional recruiter and one with the group manager and human resources. We talked salary and whether anything would hold me back if a job offer was made. After my final interview, I was told I would definitely hear back from the regional recruiter by next week. What does it mean?

Take it at face value. It means that you will probably hear back from the regional recruiter by next week. She might make you an offer, might reject you, or might ask you to take part in some additional step.

7. Why did this employer really cancel my interview?

I got an interview for a job and it was scheduled a week in advance. They were hiring for a position that had multiple openings. They called me the evening before the interview and canceled because they said that they hired someone. When I asked if all positions were filled, they replied in the positive. This happened a month ago and I still see the position open on their website as well as at job sites. So they lied to me. How do I find out what happened ? This keeps nagging at me.

You may not be able to find out what happened. And it’s possible that they didn’t lie to you at all — jobs often stay posted after they’re filled for all sorts of reasons: someone forgot to take it off their website, external job sites keep postings up for a pre-set amount of time, they’re still collecting applications for the next time they have an opening even though they don’t have one now, etc. Regardless, there’s no way to find out if what they told you is true, or if they decided to cancel your interview for some other reason. You’re better off just letting it go and moving on.

{ 62 comments… read them below }

  1. Elizabeth*

    #6 is like when relationship advice columnists get questions like, “She told me that she only likes me as a friend and she’s not interested in dating me. She said that I should stop asking her out on dates because it makes her uncomfortable. What does she mean?”

    1. Renee*

      I don’t agree. I think this person is just looking for input and possibly some reassurance, not to secure a different response to a question that’s already been answered. The hiring process can seem like a huge mystery and when you’ve already put in a lot of effort toward securing a particular position (I’d qualify three separate interviews as a lot of effort), I think it’s perfectly reasonable to seek outside perspective while you’re trying to make sense of everything.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I absolutely agree that the hiring process can feel like a huge mystery, and one thing I try to do here is demystify it is a bit. The problem is when people want me to read tea leaves for them in a very straightforward situation like this one (interviewed, was told they’d hear back in a week). There’s really nothing I can do with that, other than to tell them to take it at face value.

        1. Renee*

          Fair. You must get a ton of crystal ball type questions! But unless there is more to this question that the readers aren’t seeing, I do think that what he or she was looking for was your perspective not a psychic answer. Are three interviews a good or a bad sign in your opinion? Do you think it point to being a front contender or someone they’re not that sure about? Maybe even a reply along the lines of: “I know from my own experience, if someone has been interviewed three times by my organization or on my organization’s behalf, then at the very least we’re invested enough that he can expect a phone call either way. I have no clue whether they will hire you, but they have shown a great degree of interest. Sit tight and expect a call.”

          I say ask away! That is the point of the blog. Maybe there is need of a crystal ball disclaimer, but I just get tired of the snarky replies when people are simply looking for solid advice in a stressful situation.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I get what you’re saying. The problem is that what the OP described doesn’t actually indicate anything. At some companies, it might, and at others, it wouldn’t. There are companies that put people through three interviews because they’re really interested, and others that do it because they’re disorganized. She’s interviewed and she’s been told to wait to hear shortly, and that’s really what it is. I know it sucks — people want a prediction, but you just can’t make them in situations like this.

            Plus, I’m a big fan of precise language. So if the question is “is there anything here that indicates my chances one way or the other,” I want to encourage people to say that, not just “what does it mean?” Particularly in the short answer questions, where I’m giving, after all, short answers :)

    2. Anonymous*

      Totally agree with Elizabeth. I hate when ppl try to read way too much into something. They said they’d call – they will probably call. Chill.

  2. The Other Dawn*

    1. I know that my boss is being let go, but she doesn’t know

    Based on the OP’s sentence, “She sees me as a friend but I don’t,” my guess is that the boss *will* ask OP if she knew she was being let go and want to know why she didn’t say anything. I agree with AAM’s advice. If it happens OP should just say she was told in confidence, she takes such requests seriously, and then offer to help the boss with anything she needs to make things easier.

    I have to say, though, I find it odd that a VP would tell someone’s subordinate that her boss is being terminated. I could see telling OP the day of the termination right before it happens, but I feel anything earlier than that is inappropriate.

      1. Sarah*

        Or they need the poster to take over for the boss once she is fired…. This is pretty common when a key person is fired.

        1. Anonymous*

          So the OP should really be trying to find ways of obtaining all the information she can from her boss, without giving a hint as to why.

        2. The Other Dawn*

          Good point. I didn’t think of that. If that’s the case, hopefully someone, somewhere, knows a good portion of what the boss does so OP isn’t floundering around in the interim.

    1. Anonymous*

      My best guess is that they need the OP to take care of some things and to make sure all projects are covered during the transition.

      1. ArtsGirl*

        A similar situation happened to me; my boss told me my colleague whom I considered a friend was being fired and she needed my help to find his replacement (i.e. interview potential candidates). To make it worse, I was interviewing his replacements before he was fired. It was awful and situations like this happened multiple times at the company where I was working, where they would find the replacement and then fire the original person and so many people would know about the firing. It made for a tense situation for sure since we were all bound by confidentiality and couldn’t give the person a head’s up.

  3. The Other Dawn*

    2. Should I spring a month-long trip on a new employer the day before I leave?

    As a manager I’d be majorly pissed off if an employee, *especially* a new employee, announced the day before that she was taking a month off. The employee would no longer have a job. That shows a total lack of judgment and respect.

    OP, you should try to negotiate a later start date if possible. As AAM says, you won’t find many employers willing to work around a month-long vacation shortly after you start work. A week or two, yes, but a month is a LONG time when you’re new.

    1. Anonymous*

      Totally agree. To wait until the day before they leave for a month to announce it! HA!

      *To the back of the unemployment line, please.*

      1. Another Anon*

        I had been with my employer for a year when I asked a month in advance for time off to get married. We were allowed three days vacation per year but I was told I could only take one at a time. I could have Monday off for “honeymoon” but if I wasn’t in on Tuesday I was fired. Companies can do that. (Three day honeymoon, thirty year marriage. It all works out.)

        1. bob*

          >>Three<< days of vacation per YEAR?? What gulag do you work for so I can stay the hell away from it?

          1. Long Time Admin*

            bob, that was 30 years ago (see the second to last sentence of the post). We worked very hard and had few really good benefits back then.

            1. Piper*

              Okay, I posted my response at the same time as yours, but still….people still work hard today (not sure if you were implying that they don’t), but more employers now recognize that employees function better when they have time away.

              Glad I wasn’t in the workforce 30 years ago. But really, that was in the 80s, and I remember my mom getting at least 2 weeks of vacation back then. Still seems like a terribly rigid policy.

            2. Andrew*

              Benefits, including vacations, were as a rule better 30 years ago than they are today. In the 60s and 70s many adults, including my father, routinely got 4 weeks vacation, plus holidays and sick time.

        2. Piper*

          Seriously. This is probably the worst vacation policy I’ve ever heard of. Three days? Seriously? I’d love to know what company this is so I can stay far, far, far away.

        3. Jerseyknit*

          I would quit the job, go on my honeymoon, and come back ready to plan a brand new career to go along with my brand new married life.

          No job is worth that. If the President can take a vacation, so can all of us poor schmoes. I think people really overestimate the importance of any one person’s work. …Unless you really are that good, in which case they’ll do whatever they can to keep you, like let you take a honeymoon, not a long weekend.

    2. fposte*

      Yeah, I’m a pretty soft touch, and I’d probably tell you not to bother coming back if you pulled this day-before blowoff stunt; I’d still have fresh interviews from the competing candidates and I’d slide one right into the spot. And this is the kind of story that spreads fast within an industry, so you’re going to have an uphill battle getting a new job in June.

      OP, I’m concerned that you don’t seem to understand that 1) the office doesn’t actually have to let you take that time off and 2) you would probably be largely or entirely responsible for ensuring that your job gets done that month whether you’re there or not. And I’m concerned that you’re apparently listening to a crazy person, but that’s OT.

    3. Elizabeth*

      It sounds like maybe someone gave the OP the advice that she should not only tell her boss that she was leaving for a month at the last minute, but that she should lie about why she was leaving – an unplanned emergency (family illness?) rather than her own wedding that had been planned months in advance. This is also a terrible idea, because someone will inevitably find out where she was and why, and then people will be even more annoyed. Even if she got away with it at the outset, when she returned people would ask sympathetically about her mother’s cancer or whatever she’d made up.

      Actually, it sounds like it’d be a pretty good plot for a sitcom. I could see Elaine on Seinfeld winding up in this situation…

      1. The Other Dawn*

        I’m glad you pointed out the unplanned emergency OP’s “advisor” mentioned. I totally read right over that. Yeah, bad idea. There’s going to be at least one employee (we have one) that is going to want to know the what, why, when, how, and who of the whole thing and OP is going to trip herself up at some point. Not to mention it’s just disrespectful and unethical to lie like that.

      2. Andrew*

        Yes, they will find out as soon as she posts the wedding pictures on Facebook, which someone that oblivious to the consequences of her actions is certain to do.

      3. Jerseyknit*

        And like a sitcom, if you did decide to play hooky for your month-long honeymoon, the effect in real life would be that actual people would think you’re psychotic.

        I hope this person is either very, very young and inexperienced or joking. It’s completely crazy.

        Or…is it so crazy that it just might work?

    4. ArtsGirl*

      The OP could always ask/negotiate; the worst they’ll say is ‘no’, right? I started a new job but had 3 week honeymoon already planned. When I received the offer, I told HR about the trip and she went back to the hiring manager and he said it was fine. So I was on the job for two months and then was gone for nearly a month. But the key was everyone knew what the situation was before I accepted the offer.

  4. Esra*

    #1, I agree that most people would be looking for honesty rather than spared feelings in this case. You might still get some anger, getting let go is a pretty big blow, but I think both you and your boss will feel better with being honest vs platitudes.

    #7, do you happen to still have a MySpace account?

  5. Anonymous*

    #2. Wow, I can’t believe that someone recommended that they should wait until the day before the trip. That would lead to a very pissed off manager!

    A couple years ago, my husband was offered a summer internship in NYC. Our wedding and honeymoon were set for the middle of that summer. He explained that to them as soon as they made the offer. The firm made arrangements so he could take the time off and moved things around so the first 3 weeks of the internship were in NYC, but the rest was in their SF office.

    OP needs to have a conversation with the potential employer ASAP. Most employers are fairly reasonable when it comes to something like this. The employee needs to be upfront about it.

    1. Blue Dog*

      In fact, if you do it right, you could come off as very professional and you could stand apart from other individuals. “I don’t want to be presumptuous, but I should let you know that I am planning to get married and we have a destination wedding that is in the works. Should we decide to go further, I would like to talk to you about delaying a start date or making whatever arrangements are necessary so that I don’t have to take a month off after only working two days. I just want to be up front with you about this and I don’t want to either leave you in the lurch or waste your time if you have an emergency need that cannot wait.” I would be super impressed by this.

    2. A Bug!*

      I think that advice must have come from someone with a pretty big sense of entitlement, or someone who just doesn’t have any problem burning bridges. Such a person might have an “ends justify the means” approach (or “eff you, I got mine”), and see six weeks of paycheques as preferable to no weeks of paycheques.

      I’m picturing that advisor following up with “and sue them for wrongful dismissal if they fire you for going.”

  6. Kit M.*

    #3 – I’ve been in the position of the internal candidate who was rejected in favor of an external candidate. I applied because everyone else told me I should and it seemed like a good thing to do for my career, but honestly, I didn’t want the job that much. If this person waited until the last minute to apply, I wouldn’t be at all surprised if she’s not that interested, either.

    Of course, that’s just conjecture on my part. Mostly, I wanted to note that the thing that made me feel awkward when someone else was hired was when my boss acted overly-sympathetic and apologetic to me. The person who was hired was more experienced, more enthusiastic, and a total sweetheart and I wasn’t offended at all not to be hired. (I might have been offended if she sucked.) What did bother me was feeling like my boss might be pitying me, or that she would think I didn’t have the objectivity to see when someone was better-qualified.

    1. J.B.*

      I have applied for internal positions and not gotten an interview, didn’t really expect to. What hurt was that my bosses couldn’t come say “hey, we decided not to interview you” !

      1. mb*

        Also it’s really easy to come off as enthusiastic and personable when you are new and really wanting a job. Someone who has been in it for a time, can still be enthusiastic and personable, but tend to be a little more jaded because they know the downsides of the job and company already.

        It’s harder to fake it, I’d think.

    2. Anonymous*

      I had a very similar situation. There was an internal position I wasn’t sure I wanted, but I really liked the organization and the dept. Then my boss encouraged me to apply, so I did. But a lot of people with more qualifications applied, and I didn’t get an interview.

      My situation had a more positive ending, though. My boss told me personally that I wasn’t going to be interviewed, and she encouraged me to just keep working on building up my qualifications. I felt disappointed, but on the whole I felt confident about working for an organization that really tried to hire the best employees they could get.

  7. KayDay*

    Re: #2 the honeymooner: I would let the interviewer know when you get close to (or all the way to) the offer stage–whenever serious sounding discussions of start date happen. While I think most employers would prefer to delay the start date, a few others might want you to come in so that your predecessor could “train” you, before that person must leave. Obviously, the later start date would be logistically easier, but you might mention that you have some flexibility to come in before your wedding, just in case.

  8. Amy*

    I feel like big plans you have previous to a new job such as a wedding are understandable. I would think a manager that wants to hire you would try and accomodate you, but why are you going for a month? If I were you I’d tell them your original plans were for a month as you were unemployed, but are excited about this offer and can trim it to two weeks, hopefully pushing back the offer. There is always so much paper work and other things that seem to take weeks anyway. Offer to take a training manual or info with you to read on the plane or down time to show your interest. It might just flow and then tell them you’d like to fit in the honeymoon ASAP! Unfortunately we have to work around work schedules and I hope your potential company can push it back. They might appreciate your felxibility.

  9. Just me*

    #4
    I am not sure why you want to talk to her? I am not saying it is a bad thing but I am not quite sure of discussing the possibily looking for other jobs. I don’t let anyone know of my plans of intervewing or looking in general.

    What are you looking for her to say? I am not putting you down or saying you have bad motives, but I will say that if I was approched and it looked like you were fishing for info about what I am planning on doing I probably would not tell you much if at all.
    It doesn’t sound like you know her well, given you have to find out her contact info?
    I think it is OK to talk about the hours being cut but I’d tread lightly about anything else.

    1. Mike C.*

      At the last job I worked at we would spend time going over each others resumes and what not so we could get the heck out.

      1. Jamie*

        And if that isn’t a sign of a toxic work environment, I don’t know what is.

        I worked at a place where everyone who wasn’t looking to get out would joke about their own Stockholm Syndrome.

        There are some pretty bad places out there.

  10. bob*

    #7: I’ve seen several IT companies in my ‘hood not bother to take jobs off their websites for a month or more for whatever reason. I wouldn’t read anything into that except they haven’t bothered to have their web geek delete the text.

    1. Kat*

      I’ve been in my position for a year and a half and periodically I still see an ad up for an opening in our group. However we know for a fact that the company is not hiring for our department because we don’t get enough outside jobs from our clients to satisfy the few of us that are here now.

  11. Erica J.*

    #4- I feel like in this situation talk about your ideas/fears/plans with family and friends, fresh advice from the outside maybe. Sharing with a coworker you’re clearly not that close with if you are worried how to ask for her contact info…seems risky! You could tell her what you are planning and she may think this will pass over, then she can scoop your hours, find a way to get u out of there. Sounds weird, but could happen. If you really want to do this outside work just ask for her phone number and tell her you want to talk about this work situation, get the # to make coffee or plans then if you don’t ever meet up, at least the two of you can talk about it, privately. Also, if you’re thinking about looking elsewhere…maybe it’s really time to start looking at other options, are you really happy there? :) Good luck!

  12. kristinyc*

    To #2 – I don’t really see a way you even COULD lie about it (like, say it was a death in the family or whatever), since you’re going to be getting married. Your tax paperwork, and maybe even your last name, will change after you get married. They’re going to notice that.

    1. fposte*

      Good point. Plus the fact that it quite likely wouldn’t make any difference, since they’re not legally obliged to hold your job for a month either way. And that’d be a pretty suspicious amount of time to know about only a couple of days before–of course, it’s possible that the first lie would be needing a few days off for this and then it would be followed by a request for more time. Which: again, fired.

    2. Z*

      I thought about this, too. What are you going to say when you get back? “Oh, my relative’s feeling much better, thanks. And by the way, while I was gone I decided to get married”?

  13. KellyK*

    #2 Springing something like that on them is *horribly* unprofessional and dishonest. When they offer you the job is a good time to bring it up. It’s a moot point during the interview process because they haven’t figured out if they want you yet.

    One thing that might be worth asking in the interview, if you’re in a field where this is feasible, is how or if they allow remote work. If you’re taking a whole month’s vacation, there will probably be at least some things you will have to handle during that time.

    1. Anonymous*

      I’ve always mentioned booked holiday in the next few months at the interview – especially when it was for my wedding!

      I told one employer about an event happening about 2 weeks after the planned ‘start date’ and we negotiated to start afterwards.

      When I had a friends wedding (me being maid of honour) a month into a potential new role I told them and they were aware of it so we held back some of the training and duties until I got back to ensure a smoother transmission of duties.

      Never, never spring it on them! Totally unprofessional!

  14. anon-2*

    #7 – it could be anything. What I have seen happen most often, is that an internal candidate gets the job, so they shut down all the doors and not waste anyone’s time — including the outside candidate’s time.

    Also – efficiency — if they really liked one person, they might just “close the door” and go with that.

  15. Face Value*

    #6 – “I was told I would *definitely* hear back from the regional recruiter by next week. What does it mean?”

    AAM – “Take it at face value. It means that you will *probably* hear back from the regional recruiter by next week.”

    LMAO and so true

  16. Sean*

    Number seven is a definite truth. I’ve seen so many times that job sites have difficulties. Whether this is the direct company’s site, an external sort of “God-like” site (such as looking at several different restaurants owned by the same company), or a job hunt site like Monster, etc, it happens quite frequently. Even in this technological age, people still don’t always know how to work sites or they just forget to ever take the ad off. Sometimes its true it might be there because hey the person they hired might have done such a horrific job in the one month they were fired shortly after. But regardless I wouldn’t take it as lying, it’s not something you’ll probably be able to find out, so I’d say just deal with it. You can apply again if you’d like and see where it takes you, for example just sending in a resume for them to keep in case a new position opens. But I would not worry about if they lied, you won’t ever know, so it’s just something you need to move on from.

  17. another Brit*

    Number 7 – That may also be due to waiting final references etc. I’ve known a few employers not take roles down until all final references are in (and even on one occasion until the employee had finished their probation!)

    Or just very bad website maintenance!

  18. Phideaux*

    #7, sort of a flip-side question, if you see a posting on a company’s site that you suspect may have been there for a while (6-8 weeks +), is it appropriate/ a good idea to contact them to see if there is still an opening, or go ahead and apply and hope you’re not wasting your time?

  19. Vixen*

    Question – I told a company I had a job offer from as soon as I found out that in 3 wks I was supposed to have a surgery that would keep me out for 6 weeks. They said that didn’t fit their needs and I didn’t blame them at all. Then, 5 days before the surgery it was cancelled because it was too “risky”, the position was filled and I had to start over. What should I have done? (Just in case another surgeon wants to slice me open soon)

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