short answer Saturday: 7 short answers to 7 short questions

It’s short answer Saturday! Here we go…

1. Asking for a desk without fluorescent lights

I am a master’s student set to graduate in the summer, and I have just begun my job search. I have problem where, if I am on a computer or reading for long periods at a time, I begin to have really bad headaches. Fluorescent lights make this much worse and symptoms occur quicker. Is it possible to ask potential employers for a desk that has natural light or lamps instead of the usual fluorescent lights? Do I mention this during the interview process or while negotiating a contract? I don’t want to be asking for special treatment, but it is much easier for me to work with different light.

Don’t bring this up during the interview process; that process is about deciding whether they want to hire you and whether you want to work for them; it’s not about negotiating stuff like this. Instead, bring it up during the offer negotiation or once you’ve started work. If you have your own office, this is going to be very, very easy to deal with — they’ll either get you your own lamp or you can bring one in yourself. But it’s going to be harder if you’re in a cubicle environment, where there are fluorescent lights above a large group and you can’t turn off yours without turning them off for everyone. So if your taking the job will hinge on whether they can do this, definitely bring it up before you accept an offer.

2. Can I leave my one year of law school off my resume?

After being in the workforce for years, I applied to law school. I went for a year while still working, but I was tossed due to my grades (I didn’t flunk out – I got a “D” in Torts so I like to tell people I “Dlunked” out). Since then I’ve gone back to graduate school and am about to graduate (with honors) with an MLIS. As I begin to look for jobs, I wonder: Is it necessary to put my year of law school on my resume?

Totally unnecessary. A resume is not an exhaustive accounting of everything you’ve ever done; it’s a marketing document designed to present you in the strongest possible light. Leave it off.

3. Resumes for basketball coaching

I have a friend who is looking for a basketball coaching job and is wondering how to go about writing the resume. Is there a certain form or way that he should go about writing it (chronicalogical or functional)? Is there a sample that he could go by? He played basketball in college and is looking to coach high school or college basketball teams around the area. Would volunteering with any organizations boost his chances of getting the job he wants?

I don’t know much — er, anything — about sports or sports-related jobs, but I’d think the same rules would apply to him as apply in other fields: Write a chronological resume because functional resumes are awful, and yes, volunteering is hugely helpful.

4. Have I stayed at my job for too long?

I graduated college in 2004 and starting working for my current employer in 2005. During college, I worked a part-time job, but it has nothing to do with my current field. It was about 10 months between graduation and work, during which I worked a couple of retail jobs at minimum wage. (It was all I could find at the time.) I now work at a smallish technology company that’s always struggled with funding. I’ve been trying to put a just-in-case resume together and I’m wondering: Does only listing one job on my resume look bad? Which leads to another question: I really do love working here, but am I hurting any future job prospects by staying in one place?

Listing one job is fine if the other jobs don’t strengthen your candidacy. But keep in mind that many jobs outside your field can strengthen your candidacy by demonstrating skills that an employer might be looking for in other contexts — like dealing with difficult customers (retail).

As for whether you’re hurting your future prospects by staying in one job, it really depends. On one hand, it’s helpful to be exposed to different environments and different ways of doing things. On the other hand, if you’re happy where you are and you’re growing and increasing your responsibilities, it’s not a death knell. The main question I’d ask is whether you’re staying because it’s comfortable and familiar there, or if you’re staying because you love it. Loving it counts for a lot. My secondary question would be whether, at whatever point you are job-searching, you’re going to be able to show a progression during your time there — that’s also key.

5. Submitting a cover letter when an online application system doesn’t ask for one

I’m applying to a lot of places that use online forms and don’t have a place where they ask for a cover letter. How kosher is it to stick one to an uploaded resume, or shove one into an upload space really meant for other documents? Is it more likely to just be ignored or to actually annoy the hiring manager? I want to stand out… but not by being a pain in the butt.

A lot of people will tell you that if an employer doesn’t ask for a cover letter, don’t want one … but in my experience, sometimes they don’t ask because their system sucks (or whoever set it up sucks), but they’ll read a cover letter if you find a way to submit one. So I’d submit one. But make sure it’s awesome. If it’s just a summary of what they’re already reading on your resume, then you’ve gone through all that work for nothing.

6. Resume gap due to foreign travel and family needs

l’ve had five years of unemployment due to personal reasons, and I would now like to go back to work as a temp or part-time as a start. During that gap, I have spent time with my family and also have started a family. Also, I was doing some paid and unpaid work in another country. The purpose was to work some, then travel, and repeat. Should I explain (briefly) in my cover letters the absence of those years? Include a few sentences of the experience in another country and how it changed my perspective on life so it becomes a positive strength in the cover letter? Like this: “As you can see from my employment record, I have taken the past few years off to spend time with my family. In between the period, I had been on a working-holiday program in xxx. During the time in xxx, I have learned to be more helpful and sensitive to others’ needs.”

It’s a good idea to address it, and foreign travel and foreign work are great things to mention (in fact, the work part might belong on your resume), but don’t word it that way you’ve got it here — the reference to learning to be more helpful and sensitive to others’ needs makes it sound like you were a jerk before that, which I’m sure isn’t what you intended.

7. Recruiters who call without scheduling it in advance

Why do recruiters insist on calling candidates unscheduled instead of emailing to schedule a phone interview? Most of the time I am not in a comfortable place to take the call and as a result we end up playing phone tag. It’d be so much easier if they would email us ahead of time so we can arrange our schedule accordingly. After all, they do call during office hours and it’s really hard to take the call when everyone at work can hear you.What do you suggest we do when we receive a call from the recruiter while at work? I could run to the bathroom or to my car, but I feel that by the time I get there it would be too late to pick up. Should I just pick up and ask for them to hang on for a moment? Would this sound too rude? How should I phrase my request without making it obvious to my coworker that a recruiter is on the line? Man, I wish every company would just have the same hiring process that way we aren’t kept guessing.

I have no idea why some employers do this. Personally, I always email to set up a time to speak. Not only is it more considerate to the candidate, but it’s easier on my end — I won’t need to play phone tag and the person will be prepared for the call. The only reason I can think of for not doing this is laziness/thoughtlessness. Maybe someone who just calls candidates out the blue will weigh in and tell us why they do this.

Anyway, if you’re not able to take the call, I’d just say, “I’m about to walk into a meeting, can I call back later today?” or — if you’re going to run out to your car to take the call — “I’ll need a few minutes to go somewhere where I can talk. Can I call you back in five minutes?”

{ 70 comments… read them below }

  1. PB

    I’d like to comment on #1. I too get headaches after too much time staring at the computer. My vision plan covers what they call “computer lenses” free of charge and they help lower the glare which in turn stops the headaches. I don’t need glasses but got these as non prescription from my eye doctor and they work great. I’m fortunate to have very good insurance so I can’t comment on how much they’d cost out of pocket. But I assume if they work well at stopping headaches the cost will be worth it for you.

    1. Jamie

      This is excellent advice. Fluorescent lights are one of my most powerful migraine triggers and ever since I got the anti-glare coating on my glasses specially designed for this it’s helped tremendously. My sister who doesn’t need glasses has the coating on clear lenses and it’s worked for her as well.

      And while I fully agree not to bring it up in the interview process, I wouldn’t hesitate to mention it once you had an offer. Down thread there are some good ideas about filters and swapping out lights; it’s not a big accommodation and I have to say I’ve never worked anywhere where multiple people didn’t have this issue – it’s pretty common.

    2. M-C

      If the headache problem is solely from glare, you can both dork with the orientation of your screen so no light is directly reflected into it, and get a special anti-glare overscreen thingie. In fact you should do the former even if you don’t get headaches :-).
      I’d also add that most people who have problems from fluorescent lights have problems when it’s the only light source. If you merely add a different one, things usually improve. So you can get away with controlling your own environment, ie add a desk light to your own cubicle, rather than try to reform the entire office to suit you. Let me also mention that glare screens and desk lights are cheap, and that you should pay for these items yourself rather than try to drag your employer into a big health controversy – if anything, you’ll be able to take them with you to your next job.

      Unfortunately, if you wish to have an indoor job it’s highly unlikely you will be able to escape the ubiquitous fluorescent lights. And as a junior person you’ll be way down the list of possible window desks. So you should learn to cope with them if at all possible. I’d also mention that headaches from ‘working at the computer’ may be caused by many, many reasons other than fluorescent lights. Have you thoroughly researched computer-related ergonomics? Are you certain your chair is properly adjusted, your screen in the correct position so as not to cause headaches from neck strain? Have you discussed specifically vision at the screen distance with a good ophtalmologist? Have you done the obvious things like make your default font larger so you don’t lean or squint? Take time to learn to use your tools properly.

  2. Brianna Storch

    #7 is a HUGE one for me! I always have to let my phone go to voicemail when I get a call, because I’m usually at my current job. I would much rather pick up the phone instead of letting my voicemail do the work for me, but let the interviewer know that despite my interest it is not a good time to talk. But I didn’t know if this was a bad a thing to do or not!

  3. Natalie

    Another possibility for LW #1 – if you are in a cubicle-type environment, the company’s or landlord’s maintenance staff can probably install a filter on the flourescent lights above your area. They are pretty popular with some of our tenants.

  4. Steve G

    I don’t understand people for who #7 is an issue, and not only in this context. Before email became completely ubiqitious in the mid 2000s (maybe earlier) we had to do everything via phone. Not very long ago people didn’t send email warnings before phone calls because alot of people didn’t check email obsessively. And it came across as cowardly – how can you be so shy you can’t pick up the phone?

    My opinion is that job seekers need to develop the communication skills to deal with unexpected phone calls. They really aren’t that big of a day. You can’t freak out everytime the phone rings. If a recruiter calls and you can’t talk just tell them why and arrange a second call.

    Think about it from his/her perspective – he tried you once, twice, three times. It always goes to VM. He/She thinks you are MIA, or have some social phobia where you are afraid to talk with strangers. He/she thinks thinks of the undesirable candidates in hire these represent and doesn’t call you anymore!

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I can’t agree with that — email IS now ubiquitous and it’s simply more courteous to schedule a time to talk when it’s something like a phone interview — that’s something people want to prepare for and not be caught off guard by. A candidate could be in a grocery store, talking to her boss, dealing with a kid — there’s just no reason not to schedule it out ahead of time.

      1. KellyK

        I think there’s a huge difference between a quick informational call (Are you interested in position XYZ and do you want to schedule an in-person/phone interview?) and an actual phone interview. I think calling unannounced and expecting a phone interview on the spot is pretty presumptuous, but calling with a question about a resume or to see if someone’s interested in a position is reasonable.

    2. Anonymous

      I agree! I also feel like if you ARE really unable to answer the phone, it’s not the end of the world if the recruiter has to leave a message (but I’d call back ASAP). Don’t feel like you did something wrong by living your life and not being able to take the call right that second.

      If you choose to answer but still can’t talk, be sure to politely explain that you can’t talk and just arrange a second call! I’m sure there are more quite a few jerk recruiters out there who might hold this against you, but that’s one way to spot a bad fit right away. In any case, I feel it’s simply a matter of having the communication skills to return calls promptly, nicely state that you can’t talk, etc.

      Another thing – if you take the call at work, I think it’s important not to sound like you’re obviously trying to hide to have this conversation. For example, if you have to whisper into the phone and the office phone is ringing in the background etc., it might be better to just let them leave a voice mail and call back as soon as you can. You don’t want them to see you as sneaking around your current office taking calls from recruiters (even thought that’s what they want you to do! ha!) I’ve never had a problem with being unable to talk to a recruiter right then and there.

      If these types of situations make you (OP 7)nervous, I think it may be safer to let them leave a voice mail if you’re at work so you don’t have to rush to find a place to talk. No reasonable person would expect you to be sitting next to your cell (or home) phone all day every day, especially if you are employed. Easy enough to call them back and tell them you just missed their call but you’re so glad they contacted you! :)

      1. Amused telephone

        Can I just say that if you are going to let your phone go to voicemail and you ARE jobhunting make sure any message or ringing tone on your phone is appropriate and won’t make them hang up. Four examples:

        – Someone having a ‘ring song’ that plays whilst you are waiting for them to pick it up – it was a rap song with multiple swearwords and a references to crime.

        – One answerphone set to play a very long piece of music with a speech after it. I hung up before it got to the end of the speech.

        – One home recorded answerphone where someone sings ‘ding dong, ding dong, I can’t take your call now, please leave a message, beep (all sang/said).

        – One self recorded voicemail message saying “leave a message, unless you are X in which case P*ss off!”

        1. Anonymous

          Ugh, I totally agree with your first point, although it should be pointed out that some phone companies don’t give you an option about the “ring song”.

          When I began job searching I had to have a long argument with my phone company about this – apparently the “ring song” was something they included as a part of my cell package (I don’t have a home phone). Apparently the phone company (which shall remain nameless – but if you’re in Canada you’ve probably heard a lot of complaints about them) was getting extra money on the side to use these songs so they were very reluctant to take it off. I didn’t have a choice about what song was playing and had to argue with several managers to eventually get them to take it off, which thankfully they did before I started getting calls from employers.

    3. OP #7

      I have to politely disagree. It’s not that I lack the communication skills or get nervous/shy about unexpected calls- it’s just that I am not always in a comfortable place to take the call. For example, the other day I was at a meeting/conference. By the time I was able to walk out the door to try to take the call, I’ve already missed it. I am talking about when you are in a situations like this… not about being scared of the unexpected… that’s not what I am referring to AT all.

      So my problem is not receiving calls from recruiters it’s missing it. Yea sure, you can call them right back, but that doesn’t guarantee that they will pick up either. From my experience, you get their voice mail when you return the call. You leave a message and then all you can do is sit and wait to hear back. Sometimes they call you back sometimes they don’t (this actually happens a lot- the recruiter automatically moves on to the next candidate because you didn’t pick up).
      ..
      Anyway, all I am saying is that it would be easier for both parties if the call was scheduled. Now a days emails are sent directly to your phone so you can reply within minutes. To me it just makes more sense to schedule it via email. I just think it’s more of a hassle to call. Cause then the recruiter is now stuck listening and deleting voice mails for the next few hours- and all the messages are probably the same: “sorry i missed your call.. blah blah blah”.. That’s a lot of wasted time.
      And Like Anonymous said no one sits by their phone 24/7. When I am at work I am actually doing work not staring at my phone waiting for the call..

      1. Just Me

        I get what you are saying. Maybe when you are first talking to a recruiter discuss the ways that you two will communicate. Simply say, because of the way my job is, my desk is, (whatever)… can you please E-mail me first so we can come up with a time to talk. Or let them know if they call it the call will go into VM but you check it regulary. Assure them you will call them back timely.
        I know this is a crazy world with hiring and so forth with so many candidates out there, but I would be concerned about a recruiter that does allow a little time for call backs and what not because one can’t take the call at the min they call. That to me is no different than any business. And no different then when you call and they can’t talk at that time.

        I too am looking for a job and employeed and I have never had an issue. I not going through a recruiter, direct with the company, and yes I have played phone tag. I go through my land line phone, check it often and duck out from work to call.

        Good companies, recruiters should know people have to be careful when looking for another job and should be conscience that people can’t jedordize their current job for POSSIBLE interview/offer.

        1. OP #7

          I am also going directly through the company. I meant to use the word hiring manager, not recruiter. Sorry, should have been more clear about that.

          1. Just Me

            I was kinda of wondering about that. LOL ! No big deal ! I still agree with you. It is ridiculous to think that you can just be waiting for a call and be ready to take it.
            Good luck !!

    4. Natalie

      Consider that something else has changed at the same time as email – the ubiquity of cell phones, and thus an expectation that the number your calling is physically traveling with the person you want to call. Granted, I wasn’t on the job market until about 1999, but I assume that prior to that recruiters didn’t call job candidates at home during the day and expect to get an answer, either.

      1. Editor

        No, but sometimes they called the home to leave a message because they actually wanted to lobby the spouse about the job.

        The last time this happened to me, I horrified the recruiter by telling him that my husband would meet resistance from me about this job because of the location (actually, my husband didn’t want the job for other reasons that we had already discussed). I was looking for jobs elsewhere.

        The recruiter found out where I wanted to go and found my husband something great in one of those spots. His new employer paid to move the whole family where I wanted to go, and I took a job that never would have paid for relocation. It worked out very well.

        That wasn’t the first time I’d taken a message from a recruiter, only to have the recruiter discuss a possible job or location with me to see if I was on board.

    5. AG

      “Not very long ago people didn’t send email warnings before phone calls because alot of people didn’t check email obsessively.”

      People also weren’t allowed to take personal calls at work, and they didn’t have to deal with out-of-touch hiring managers who only want to talk to someone who already has a job and thinks there are thousands of perfectly qualified candidates out there willing to take entry level money to put up with them.

    6. Broke Philosopher

      I might be wrong, but my impression is that people now often are able to apply for more jobs than they used to. So if I have applied for several jobs and someone calls me unexpectedly, I don’t necessarily remember off the top of my head all the pertinent information. If I’d only applied for a few jobs, like back in pre-internet days, then I might remember better. That’s just another reason–people use the technology available. Why wouldn’t recruiters?

    7. Karthik

      “Think about it from his/her perspective – he tried you once, twice, three times. It always goes to VM”

      How often is this guy calling? It seems like he wants candidates to have the resume of the overemployed and the freedom of the unemployed.

      What if whoever you call is on an airplane, in a meeting, works in a building where there’s no reception (people usually give out their home or cell numbers), driving, or on the toilet? I’ve had people insist on calling when I’ve gone on international business trips (not recruiters).

      A lot of corporate numbers come up as Private on caller IDs, and unless the recruiter leaves a message with contact info, there’s no way to call back either.

      Yes, people made do before email. They also made do before the wheel, but that doesn’t mean we shouldn’t use it. Send an email, schedule a time, do the interview then. Easy.

      1. Confused

        How about returning the first missed call and, if it goes to voicemail, suggesting a few times you would be avail. Example: ‘……..I’m avail tomorrow between 1 and 2 or in the evening after 4…’ Might help a little.

        1. Flynn

          “A lot of corporate numbers come up as Private on caller IDs, and unless the recruiter leaves a message with contact info, there’s no way to call back either.”

    8. mh_76

      There’s nothing wrong with letting a call go to VM so long as you return it either via phone -or- email if you prefer email. One catch with email, though, is if you can’t check your personal email on the work computer (or don’t feel comfortable), it can be a bit of a pain sometimes.
      [I’m in a short-term temp. job and I don’t feel comfortable logging into my home email on the Vista/IE combo because, unlike the company, I don’t have a team of IT experts to save me if my email is compromised by that insecure combo and Firefox isn’t on the computer (I’ve already searched and searched again)].

      #7, by “recruiters”, do you mean ones who have already contacted you, ones who haven’t contacted you before, or one that you’re working for already who might be calling about a next opp., or … ?

      1. OP #7

        Sorry, I probably should have been more clear.. when I say recruiter I actually mean the hiring manager for the company that I applied to.

        1. mh_76

          oh OK. Since you’re in another job currently, it is probably best for you to return calls over lunch or after the day ends…unless you’re a temp./contractor nearing the end of your contract, in which case people will understand that you’re looking for the next job.

    9. Vicki

      I’m not “too shy” to pick up the phone. I simply value my time more than that of the caller. Things _have_ changed; email has been ubiquitous now for 20 years (and even in the past, people did schedule phone calls).

      1. mh_76

        so if you’re in one job and someone calls you about another job… in a temp/contract situation, that can be OK but in a “perm” job, it’s a big no-no to conduct job search activities at work, including phone calls, unless you’re getting laid off soon. The occasional email is, at least, relatively discreet. Most recruiters understand that you’re at work and will return their calls/emails when you can.

      2. Anonymous

        I have to beg to differ… I’m in my early 30s, and we didn’t even have a computer until 1996. And even then, my family was one of the first amongst my friends to own a computer. I didn’t use email regularly until I graduated from high school, around 1998 or so. So it’s not been ubiquitous for 20 years.

    10. Kelly O

      I’d have to disagree with you too. I work full-time and I almost never am able to pick up the phone when someone calls me during the day. It’s not just potential new employers, but even my daughter’s daycare goes to voice mail more often than not, and when I am free, I check those messages.

      I have to agree with another comment that suggests many hiring managers and recruiters seem to want the resume of the currently employed, but the availability of the unemployed. Yes, I can sometimes respond to email during the day thanks to my smart phone, but it’s not a given that I can do that either, so assuming email is quicker is not even necessarily true, and can depend heavily on how may work day is going.

      There does seem to be the expectation that by inquiring about a job or going through the application process, you are automatically available at the company’s discretion, and have no other things to do than wait patiently for your phone to ring. I’ve taken a call from a third-party recruiter while in the waiting room at my daughter’s pediatrician. I asked if we could reschedule the call and was told if I didn’t have time then, I was clearly not interested, and they would move on to the next candidate. It stung a bit, but I realized quickly that individual is probably someone I wouldn’t want to work with or for anyway.

  5. Alison

    For #1, have you asked an eye doctor about this? I was getting headaches regularly after working at my computer all day and I thought it was exacerbated by the fluorescent lighting at work, but a trip to the optometrist a few weeks ago found it was a focusing problem, and with the reading glasses they gave me I haven’t had a problem since. Worth a shot?

  6. Liz

    For #1, I also have a problem with overly-bright fluorescent lights causing migraines, and I had a light panel right above my desk. I checked with my manager, and he agreed that I could just unscrew the bulbs to disconnect the light for me without affecting my colleagues. (To make sure building maintenance didn’t helpfully “fix” it on their next pass, I made sure to notify them too.) If I need more light I could use a desk lamp, but I have found the remaining lighting gives me more than enough light at my desk.

    A low-tech suggestion that also helped me was to use a reminder program on my computer and make sure I looked away from my work every 20 mins or so. Just focusing on something farther away. I try to take a quick walk round the office or outside to check the weather and back again, and that naturally gives my eyes a change.

    1. Michael

      I used to work for a company in the past where I was located in cubeville and a few employees found the fluorescent lights irritating or migraine inducing. Facilities, after checking with their neighbors, was fine with removing the fluorescent bulbs from above their cubes and providing them with lamps.

  7. Michelle

    #2 – I “dlunked” out of a competitive engineering program after my first year of undergrad. I was allowed to stay in engineering but I had to pick another discipline. I don’t bother to list it on my resume or mention it in interviews. Sometime an interviewer will ask “so what made you choose a degree in chemical engineering?” and even then, I don’t bring it up. I just respond with the reasons why I picked engineering in the first place (mind you, after 10 years out of school I find it odd that interviewers want to know, but I definitely don’t say “I chose it because my grades sucked and I was kicked out of engineering science”). So don’t worry – with your work experience and graduate degree, there’s no need to mention it at all.

  8. Anonymous

    #2 – This is actually an issue for me, as well. I worked for a few years, went to law school, then dropped out (more like ran screaming) after the first year. There is a year long gap on my resume because of this. I have my one year listed under education since it gives a reason for that gap. However, since I dropped out, would it be better to leave it off? Also, I wonder if hiring managers think I’m flaky because I did not complete the 3 years?

    1. moe

      If you have some years of work history, it’s unlikely a year gap will be noticed in the initial resume scan. (Especially because of the nature of the school year–you can make employment before/after school look continuous if you leave off the months.) I’d leave it off.

      You may be asked about it by more attentive interviewers, but it’s not such a huge deal. Just look at the percentage of people who have done “some” grad school (or professional school, to a lesser degree), or switched careers… all these people are not unemployable now! Many are very successful.

      Just develop a narrative about your it, and be able to answer the “whys,” and you’ll be fine.

  9. Cassie

    #7 – if you do get a call from a recruiter and need a couple of minutes to get to a place where you can talk, I think it would be better to just ask “can I call you back in 5 minutes?”. Just from that, your coworkers shouldn’t be able to tell if you’re talking to a recruiter, or a doctor, or whomever. But if you whisper or try to be secretive, it’ll make your coworkers suspicious.

    #3 – it doesn’t look like the friend has done any coaching-related activities. You could be a great basketball player but terrible at coaching/teaching. I’d suggest volunteering as an assistant coach or getting a job at a sports summer camp for kids or something. Unless you’re a really great/famous college or pro ball player, it’s not likely that someone will hire you to coach a high school team (much less a college team). Of course, if he’s in the same city he grew up in, presumably playing basketball in high school, they (the HS) might be willing to hire him.

    1. OP #7

      As always, great advice AAM. I was thinking about using the meeting excuse too. The one problem with asking if you can call them back is– they’re usually on a tight schedule so when you do call them back it isn’t guarantee that they will pick up. If that’s the case then you have to leave a message and the cycle starts all over again– you wait.

      To #4- I had this problem too. I agree with AAM. Are you staying there only because you’re comfortable? I think you should just apply and see where it takes you. You never know, you might end up at place you’ll love even more.

  10. Nethwen

    #1 I know someone who will wear sunglasses inside when working on a computer because otherwise the glare is too much, no matter how the display settings are changed.

    #7 Private phone conversations in the bathroom? Are you planning on throwing everyone out and locking the door so one one can come in (for a multi-stall room) and then running the water and hand dryer while you talk (for single or multi-seat rooms)? If not, people outside the bathroom might be able to hear your conversation – sound travels in unexpected ways.

    1. mh_76

      Re: the bathroom – I’ve never understood why people talk on their phones when in the bathroom. Do people think that the person on the other end of the phone can’t hear nature’s call being answered? Or the nature calls of other people?

      1. Jamie

        A lot of places have private bathrooms – and because they tend to be more soundproof than other rooms it’s not a bad option – as long as you remember not to turn on the water.

        100% agreed if it’s a public bathroom, though. No one wants to hear that on the other end, and people don’t want to use the facilities while someone is on the phone. Ick.

        1. khilde

          I secretly find joy in flushing the toilet when someone is on the phone in a stall next to me. The first few times that happened to me (I was doing my business when someone was on a call in the other stall), I froze like a deer in the headlights: Should I wait to flush until they finish their conversation? But then the little devil on my shoulder decided to flush. I normally do not like to embarass people or make them feel bad in any way. But flushing when they’re talking makes me chuckle each time.

          I have no idea why I just admitted this. Is any credibility I might have gained in my previous comments suddenly wiped out? (Bwahaha!!! “wiped out” – that pun was totally NOT intended, but it’s funny). I hesitate to hit submit now…but I will do it anyway and hope I’m not alone in this line of thinking.

  11. Anonymous

    #7 – weighing in as a Recruiter… when I first started in my role, I called people to schedule an interview, but found that 9 times out of 10, it would either go to voicemail or the candidate wasn’t in a good place to talk details (eg. in the middle of a class, running errands, etc). So in the end, even though it seemed more efficient to talk to the person, it ended up taking more time with leaving voicemails, playing phone tag, having the person call back later, etc. I started emailing instead and this has worked out much better. Someone mentioned in an earlier comment that people can access email instantly via their phones, so I find that I’m not waiting that long to get a reply either.

    I’m thinking some recruiters just prefer to call people instead of emailing ahead of time to schedule (they might see this as an extra step that they don’t have time for, although in hindsight playing phone tag and rescheduling calls takes up a lot of time too…I guess it comes down to perspective, but I digress). I’d say it just depends on the recruiter – some will call, some will email – it’s the roll of the dice.

    In my job search experiences, I’d mostly get phone calls during the day (at work, no less) for an impromptu phone interview. I didn’t always like it, as I prefer to be prepared for an interview situation, but at the same time I was grateful to be considered for an interview. In these situations, I would just politely remind them that I couldn’t take the call as I was at work, and could I reschedule (for either during my lunch break or when I had a quiet moment, where I could escape to an empty meeting room). In fact, I was so used to being called for interviews that when I got into a recruiting role, I was surprised to learn that most of my colleagues prefer emailing.

    1. mh_76

      some of us still have “dumb phones” and are too poor to upgrade from voice/text only to a data-plan. I do have an iPod but there isn’t wi-fi in my area or in the main lunchroom. Sounds strange but ’tis true. I’ve been there 3 days and (so far) haven’t gone out for lunch but I may have to make a habit of that, esp. as the (temp/contract) position draws to an end sometime next month. I’ll answer a call from the recruiter who placed me there but will have to get back to other recruiters.

    2. OP #7

      It’s nice to see it from a different perspective. But yes, to me, emailing is just so much easier. Even when we are able to pick up to say that we will call back in 5-30 minutes, it doesn’t mean they (recruiter/hiring manager) will be available. Again, we are working at their convenience, not ours (the job hunter’s). So by scheduling through email, I know exactly when they will call.. and cannot have an excuse to not be prepared.

      1. Jamie

        ITA – I can see why a recruiter would call without an appointment to schedule a call, but for anything beyond that it just defies logic that a candidate would be sitting there by the phone fully prepared 24-7.

        Personally I will never understand why people will pick up the phone for something that can be accomplished more efficiently through email. So I do let people know that’s always the best way to reach me – but I understand that not everyone has email on their phone so it seems like it should be part of everyone’s initial contact to go over the best ways to reach each other.

    3. Anonymous

      Related to #7, why do recruiters call office numbers? I find it incredibly awkward to excuse myself when a recruiter calls my work phone. It also seems unprofessional to call someone at their place of work (there are no direct dial numbers here, you have to go through the main #) and ask them to talk about their job search.

  12. danr

    #4 You haven’t been there very long at all. As AAM said, if you like what you do and you’re doing more, why change? I say this from the perspective of 30 years with a company, and my time there ended because the company was bought and shutdown. I liked what I did and made my own path through the years doing different and interesting things.

  13. pokerface

    #1 – best to try to have the light changed and go to the eye doctor, but a low cost solution is a green visor. I use this myself (company won’t change the lights). I got mine at a party / costume store, but it does help a lot. Like the kind a poker dealer has in the movies. I wouldn’t use sunglasses, I would think people would think I was stoned/bloodshot and trying to hide it. Good luck!

  14. Dan

    Thanks! I was hoping that that would be your answer. I’ve reworked my cover letter a couple times. I don’t know that it’s “awesome” but it’s definitely not a recitation of my resume.

    I’ve already started including it when I can on the last few, I’ll continue to do so!

  15. Ashley

    Thanks everyone for the comments on how to handle the light situation. Hopefully the company I begin working with will either give me an office, or I will be able to have the lights removed. Maybe I will try a different eye doctor to see if they can help. Thank you for the suggestions!

  16. Anonymous

    Am I the only one who sometimes likes to speak with someone by telephone? Honestly, the only time I like to speak with students by email is when I want their request or response in writing, or I’m expecting that they’ll be difficult and I’d prefer not to give them an opportunity to be difficult over the phone.

    Shortly after I got my fist job out of college – so, late 2007-2008 – I read something about how email is the opposite of productivity. And honestly, I feel like that’s one of the truest statements I’ve heard in a long time. It’s so much easier for me to pick up the phone, call someone and get instant resolution to a problem instead of emailing them, waiting for them to respond and/or having to continue back and forth because they need further instructions or information or explanation. A phone call that can resolve it in 60 seconds is a hell of a lot easier than an email that can be spread over days because of further detail needed.

    Are these recruiters calling to have a discussion right that minute, or are they calling to set up a time for a later discussion at length? If it’s the former, then yes they should realize you can’t always drop everything. But if it’s the latter, why is it such a big deal?

    I also take issue the fact that people get email on their mobile phones. Some do. In fact, I currently own an iPhone. However, not everyone DOES get email on their phone, nor do they need to; and I expect that within the next couple of years that I will be switching to the cheapest phone and plan I can find when I’m living alone (if I even own a mobile phone, that is). I think that we as Americans feel that these things are so common for everyone, but in other countries they certainly aren’t and there are even populations within this country that may not. As a for instance, I work with undocumented and first-generation students at my university, and a lot of these students and their families don’t have mobile phones nor do they have a computer available to them outside of school or the library. But perpetuating this idea that “everyone” has a mobile phone or a smartphone or constant access to email is doing us a disservice and, I think, narrowing our view and allowing for misinterpretation (eg laziness or being unmotivated) when we don’t receive an instant response.

    Sorry for the rant. I just a bit passionate about the idea that just because this is the US, everyone has access to things that are still luxuries, even if a large portion of the population considers them necessities.

    1. Sandrine

      Well, you could say the same about many things, depending on where you are. In a part of the country, it will be the mobile phone, in another the computer, in another the car…

      There are many countries/situations in which what’s common isn’t so common for a minority of the population, which puts this minority in a semi-bad situation because they don’t have access to what some others have access to.

      But if the “common” stuff has evolved to the point where it’s mostly expected (have access to e-mail regularly, etc…) , then it’s not recruiters’ fault if, say, 1 person out of 10 does not have a mobile phone or a computer at home. An intelligent recruiter will find a way to communicate with a person without access to those things, but as we know from AAM and the comments here it’s not always the case.

      That and, depending on the industry one might be working in, access to those things might be essential anyway. So I guess it’s all about what you do.

      1. jennie

        Also, if communication is an issue for you due to technological or financial limitations, take a cue from the method of application. If you’re applying online, chances are good that follow up and interview scheduling will come through email. Even if you have to go to the library daily because that’s the only place you can access a computer, you should be checking email as often as possible for follow up.

        If you apply for a job with a paper resume, things are more low-tech and it’s more likely you’ll get a phone call response.

  17. Natalie

    Whether or not email is more productive that a phone call probably depends on the circumstances. I work with someone I desperately wish would use email more often, because he turns literally every interaction into a 5 minute conversation about nothing. Half of the things he brings to me are FYIs, not questions, and if email is perfect for anything it’s the FYI.

    The type of question really matters, too. If I need a question answered immediately, and it is easy to explain, I’ll call. But a lot of the questions I’m asking at work have several moving parts and will take the answerer a few days to put together. An email means they can refer back to everything I’ve asked.

    1. Natalie

      D’oh, this was supposed to be a reply to Anonymous right above. Not sure why it didn’t nest.

    2. Tamara

      These are both great examples for use of email in the workplace. If you have a job that provides you with an email address as part of its culture, then there is probably an expectation that you’ll check it at least during work hours.

      As far as recruiting goes, is there a problem with using both? If the recruiter calls and gets a voicemail message, why not also send an email follow-up such as “Sorry I missed you, can we set up an appointment to talk at a convenient time for you?” This, in addition to a similar voicemail message, would then let the person being recruited decide the best method for setting up that appointment.

  18. Elizabeth

    #7
    Maybe it just depends on your industry and how many people they are trying to contact, or how quickly they need to move that a recruiter just wouldn’t answer or call back. If it is that fast-paced, are you up for working in that kind of environment yourself? I usually have time to schedule in my field and really want to get people with specific skills who have applied, so I realize that I’m courting them just as much as they are trying to make a good impression with me. I typically call people first, because I find that often people don’t see an email from an unfamiliar person (it gets overlooked or goes in spam). If I don’t get that person, I will leave a voicemail letting them know why I am calling and often that I will email with possible interview times. This way, they know to look out for my email. If I get them on the phone, after I say who I am and where I’m calling from, I say “Is this an ok time to talk?” This gives the person the opportunity to ask to call back in 5 minutes, later that day, etc. Or I can offer to email instead.

  19. Anonymous

    When I’ve hired in the past I typically call, rather than email, candidates for a brief phone interview for a couple of reasons. The first is that our phone interviews are very brief, with just a couple of quick screening questions, and I’ve never had a situation where I’ve not subsequently invited the candidate in for an interview. The main reason though, is that typically I’m trying to make sure the process moves as quickly as possible and I figure that there’s a greater chance of a person checking their cell phone rather than their personal email during work hours, especially if they don’t have a smartphone. I know for myself, I check my cell phone on my lunch break and at the end of my shift before I get in my car, but won’t check my email until I get settled in at home in the evening so I’m much more likely to be able to return a phone message than an email promptly. I’m completely sympathetic to catching someone at a bad time and have no problem trying to arrange a subsequent follow up, but I’d rather do it in one phone call rather than a series of 10 or 20 emails as we try and figure out a time that works.

  20. Kate

    To the letter writer with the issue of fluorescent lights: I had this same problem in college. I worked in a library under fluorescent lights and the “flicker” was just barely detectable by my eyes, straining them constantly and giving me incredible headaches. I saw my eye doctor, who told me that tinting my eyeglasses could help. The coloring helps to block your eyes from detecting the movement of the light. It cost an extra $10 to tint my lenses light blue (I later did a rosy brown), and it solved the problem almost instantly.

  21. Anonymous to #7

    When I started recruiting in 2004, email wasn’t nearly as accessible and regularly used as phones but as the times have changed, I have not.

    Even now, I email perhaps a hundred times a day with my team but I call a candidate to set up an initial phone interview 100% of the time. Why? I’d say in 1 out of 20 instances, I choose not to set something up. A quick back and forth of “Hi, I’m Soandso from CompanyA! I received your resume re: the position. Do you have a quick second?” and I’m met with someone who is rude, abrupt or flat out clueless. I’d rather waste 15 seconds asking if they’re still looking and available than committing to a half hour phone interview that I’m going to dread (1 phone interview a week that I can skip X 30 minutes X 48 weeks = saving myself a full 24 hours of time each year) . When someone starts talking to me like I’m their assistant (bonus points if they’re condescending about it), asking me to send them a gcal invite and please email them the full job description because they have no idea what our company is and I’m going to pass. I can’t figure out jerkiness quite as quickly via email. If you can’t speak, don’t pick up your phone – no harm, no foul.

    Once we’ve gotten over that hump, I’m happy to email but that first impression – it’s worth a thousand words. Similarly hearing someone elated to hear from our company is 10000 times more meaningful than an exclamation in an email. Think about that – goes both ways.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I think calling to set up an appointment for a phone interview is reasonable — it’s when someone calls without an appointment and expects to conduct an interview on the spot that I have a problem with it.

    2. Anonymous

      So if that first call is at an inopportune moment for your probable candidate and the call goes to VM, what do you do? Call again or drop him/her cos you could get your ‘first impression’ first time around?
      It def goes both ways..so think about it!!!!

  22. Anonymous to #7

    No, I understand people have lives and can’t speak 24/7. I leave a vm and wait for a call back. If I don’t get one, a couple days later, I try again. If I still don’t hear back, I reject them via email, explaining that I’ve called twice and haven’t heard back so I assume they’re no longer interested.

    The point isn’t about whether or not they pick up the phone. That’s strange mind gaming and that doesn’t hire great candidates. The point is to get someone on the phone for 10 seconds feel them out.

    1. Anonymous

      I think this discussion would change drastically if we define what is considered a phone interview.

      I, like many of the recruiters who have posted comments, do conduct quick umprompted pre-screen interviews. The conversation itself lasts 10 minutes at most and I am more just trying to see why you want to work here and how professional you sound on the phone. When I call, I do ask if the person has a few minutes to speak with me or would like they like me to call back at a better time. I also have no problem leaving a message for someone to call me back to discuss. However, if I leave a message, I do expect some form of communciation (either phone or email) in return from you within 48 hours of my message. Any person is truly serious about finding new employment should give some sort of response within that time. My prescreen is so quick that I feel it would be a waste of time to schedule this conversation in advance.

      Now if you are planning to conduct a more formal interview over the phone and plan to have the conversation last more han 15 minutes, it should definitely be scheduled. I have no preference whether we play phone tag or exchange emails to set up the time. Those conversations need to be scheduled and any caring hiring manager should be understanding of current work schedules and be willing to exchange a few emails or phone calls in order to set a scheduled time.

      Once you define what the phone interview consists of, that will define what is the appropriate way to communicate with a potential candidate and if the need for scheduling exists.

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