short answer Saturday: 7 short answers to 7 short questions

It’s short answer Saturday — seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…

1. Four-hour interviews

I have a friend who got called for an interview with a local college for a temporary program manager position to cover an absence by the existing program manager while she is on sabbatical. My friend was told her interview was going to be 4 hours long and that she would be emailed a brief agenda. Have you ever heard of a 4-hour first interview? I asked my friend to send me the agenda when she receives it because I am very curious as to what could go on in a 4-hour interview. Campus tour? School history presentation? Even if there are several people involved in the selection and interviewing process, I can’t imagine an actual conversation interview lasting more than 2 hours tops if there are a lot of questions to go through, and even at that length, isn’t there something to be said about everyone burning out mid-process?

What’s most likely is that they’re having her meet with a series of people, separately — so it’s actually going to be three or four (or more) conversations. Not that unusual, although I wouldn’t do it on a first interview — there’s too high of a chance of wasting time on both sides if it’s not a fit.

2. My husband’s employer won’t discuss his paycheck with me

The payroll clerk at my husband’s company claims she cannot discuss my husband’s payroll issues with me. My husband and I sat together at the company Christmas party and personally made a point to offer verbal consent to her, but her answer was that because of HIPAA rules she could not discuss anything with me, “the spouse.” My response was “then we need a power of attorney giving me the right to discuss issues with the employer.” Her response was, “No, that won’t do either.” I’m at wit’s end. The employer constantly shorts my husbands check or doesn’t pay overtime. My husband is very passive and also is out in the field without all the necessary info to discuss issues. He wants me to have access to the info, he calls me his CFO.

No responsible company is going to discuss payroll — or anything else — with anyone but the employee, consent or not. (It’s not because of HIPAA though; HIPAA only governs the release of medical information by health care workers.) Your husband is going to need to handle this stuff himself, and you’ll both make him look unprofessional if you try to do it instead of him. However, if there are regular payroll issues, he should be talking to someone above the payroll clerk (and if that doesn’t work, your state wage agency).

3. Talking about coursework in a cover letter

I’m a current grad student applying for jobs. I don’t have a ton of professional experience to talk about, so I had planned to devote one paragraph of my cover letter to coursework. I’m trying to figure out how to do that while heeding your advice to avoid repeating my resume and to emphasize accomplishments. One idea I had is to point out some relevant classes in which my exam was selected as a model answer. Have you seen cover letters from students or recent grads that talk about education in particularly effective (or ineffective) ways?

Personally, I don’t love it. I know most schools don’t prepare students for this, but in most fields, your coursework isn’t all that relevant, unless you can point to a project similar enough to real-life work that it translates well. If you can do that, though, then it could be effective. Exams — probably not. Practical project work — possibly. (But it’s completely possible that there’s an exception to this that I’m not thinking about, so feel free to get more specific in the comments.)

4. Getting time off for counseling during business hours

I have a weekly standing appointment with a mental health counselor during business hours. This is not an issue with my current job, since I work part-time. However, I am currently searching for full-time employment and I’m not sure when/how to bring this up. The clinic I go to is only open from 8am-6pm weekdays and I am really making progress with my therapist so I can’t just switch counselors. I would really like to be able to work around it, perhaps coming in earlier or leaving later once a week. How should I approach this with potential employers?

Wait until you have a job offer and then frame it as a medical appointment (which it is). Say, “I have a standing medical appointment each week during business hours. I can come in late or leave early that day to make up for it. Would that be alright?”

5. Filling jobs without posting them

Is it illegal to fill jobs without posting them anywhere, even internally? My institution regularly fills positions left vacant by appointing people already within the organization, without any type of posting. I am assuming they interview the people, but this might not even be true. They even do this if the job is entirely new and has never been filled before. Is it legal to just give people jobs without allowing anyone else a chance to apply? When I tell people about this instances, they tell me that this can’t possibly be legal.

Yes, it’s legal. Some employers have internal policies that require them to post jobs, but those are internal policies, not laws. Employers can put anyone they want in a job and aren’t required to give anyone else a fair chance at it, as long as they’re not discriminating based on race, religion, sex, ethnicity, or other protected class.

6. How long should it take to process a new hire?

About 2 weeks ago, I went into a GameStop and was “hired” by the manager. He told me I had the job, but that it would take me a while to get in the system. I haven’t started training or anything. Meanwhile, I have since been offered another job, one that I can start immediately. How long does it take to process a future employee? Should I just politely thank the GameStop manager and move on to the other job?

Why not ask the GameStop manager to tell you how long it will take and when your first day will be? If he can’t give you a firm answer, or it’s too far out in the future, then politely explain that you need employment immediately and so you’re going to take a different position. (And yes, that’s silly that it’s taking so long.)

7. Explaining an unemployment gap caused by depression

I have a 2.5 year unemployment gap on my resume and I’m not sure how to deal with questions about this on an interview. The truth is that mild depression, social anxiety, and low self-esteem are the main reasons for my unemployment during this time. I worked a few odd jobs, and also sold things on ebay. I also studied for and got my A+ certification (IT Technician) towards the end. However I still have very bad anxiety about going on interviews due to this gap.

One option is to say that you were dealing with a health issue that is now resolved. Depression is a health issue, so it’s a legitimate answer and it will (or should) ward off further questions, since employers aren’t supposed to ask candidates about health matters. You can also add that while you couldn’t work during that time, you were able to get the certification during that period. Good luck!

{ 74 comments… read them below }

  1. Jennifer

    Wait until you have a job offer and then frame it as a medical appointment (which it is). Say, “I have a standing medical appointment each week during business hours. I can come in late or leave early that day to make up for it. Would that be alright?”

    I have this issue and to some degree, it might depend on what time you have the appointment at. Mine is at 11 a.m., so I move my “lunch hour” up by an hour that day and then go back to work at 12, so they don’t really care/have a problem with it. Then again, I am also very unimportant at my job, so it’s not like anyone’s missed me while I was gone either.

    If your appointment time is at the beginning, end, or lunch time, it might be easier to get away with than if you have a standing appointment at 2 p.m., though. Especially given commute time to the appointment, which is going to make it even more time out of the office. I do sessions over the phone frequently and go in person 1-2x a month. Let’s just say I think I am lucky that nobody has really noticed/insisted on nitpicking that I’m out of the office for 30-40 minutes over my “lunch hour” on the days I have to go in person. And the fact that I’m getting back late when other people are probably not in the office helps that.

    1. OP #4

      Funny that my appt actually is at 2. Thank you so much, Alison, for answering my question and the one about depression since I’ve had that issue as well and was never sure how to explain the gap. I had my interview and I didn’t even have to bring it up myself. They asked me if I would need any accommodations if hired. I haven’t heard back yet, but I’m feeling pretty confident since I’ve been following your blog for awhile now and this is the first time I’ve put your job search advice into practice.

  2. Doug

    To the person who is questioning the four hour interview at a college. It is very common for interviews to be long in higher education. You will probably find that the decision making process is also very long. It’s the nature of the beast. I was recently interviewed at a university for an entire day, meeting with individuals for hours, and then with teams for hours. Decisions are made by committees and they tend to deliberate very carefully.

    1. Anonymous

      Yes its the norm at colleges and universities and they have to be consistent with all of the candidates. First they usually have a phone interview then this is next. I work for ine and had to go through this process to get promoted.

    2. Victoria

      Is this true for staff candidates as well as faculty candidates? The OP was applying for a program manager position, not a faculty position.

      1. Doug

        Yes, even for staff positions. I’m an academic administrator with twenty years of experience in higher education.

      2. Charles

        Yes, it is true for staff positions as well. I’ve been to 4, 6, and even 8 hours “interviews” with school. One 8-hour interview even asked me to stay an extra hour because one of the members that I was to meet with earlier had a change in his plans and couldn’t make our 3:00 pm appointment – could I meet him after everyone else, from 5:00-6:00 pm? Like I could/would say no?!

        So, yep, this is not unusual for academia.

        However, I will add, and sounding like a broken record, too bad some of these folks still feel no need to follow up to let you know that you didn’t get the job!

      3. Clobbered

        Yeah, I also had a whole-day interview for a staff position (got the job too – w00t!). The reason it takes that long is because academic institutions like you to talk to not only your direct manager, but anybody who might interact with you, and even people who wild be reporting to you. This makes sense because often careers in academic establishments are very long lived (even outside tenured positions) and it can be hard to fire people, so it makes sense to take the time to ensure the candidate is a good fit.

    3. Elizabeth

      It happens in “lower” education, too. I’m an elementary school teacher, and when I interviewed for my current job I spent a whole afternoon on campus. I got a tour, did a demo lesson, then had interviews with a) the faculty committee that observed the demo, b) the subject department I’d be joining, c) the lower school division director, d) the multicultural director, and e) the head of school. It was a bit exhausting but I felt good about how thoughtful they were with the decision to include so many people.

    4. mh_76

      #1 – AAM and Doug et al are right, it’s likely not 4 hours with the same person/people but a series of meetings and is not at all unheard of, especially for a manager-level or higher position. I am surprised, though, that there is a 4 hour interview process for a temporary position, even at a University.

      I used to work at a University and have set up numerous interview days, yes days, for faculty and non-faculty director-level candidates (including lunch). The days would consist of multiple meetings with my then boss (a Dean) and others involved in the decision-making Process (note the capital P) as well as, for the faculty candidates, a presentation / teaching demo before the search committee.

      1. Doug

        I have had interviews for mid-level, temporary project/program management jobs at universities that were all day where I traveled across the country to get there! Again, it’s the nature of the beast.

  3. Victoria

    There may be some cases where coursework is relevant, but the relevant coursework would generally be technical in nature. For example, my graduate coursework included econometrics and a great deal of advanced statistics, including training on various statistical software packages. As it happens, I took my career in a direction that didn’t involve rigorous statistical analysis, but a lot of my fellow students were applying for jobs that listed various technical skill requirements.

      1. Evan the College Student

        Probably. I’m in computer engineering, and my class projects have frequently come up in cover letters and interviews. (“I did X project last fall, which taught me about Y and revealed my great interest in Z, which makes me very excited about interning at your company…”)

        1. Nicole

          I’ve heard from my tech friends to be careful about listing specific computer programs because the industry changes so fast, and sometimes schools only teach old versions. It will look bad on a resume to say “I know Adobe Flash CS3,” when CS5 is already out (which happened to me at my university). My professor suggested just listing “Adobe Acrobat Professional” without the version # as a way to sidestep the problem, and also because sometimes the versions don’t change very much. If you know 3, you can learn 5 pretty easily.

      2. Henning Makholm

        IT is many things, but: I was recently involved with the hiring of a software developer, and read through what work samples candidates could provide before we called them for an interview. In general, it was a somewhat underwhelming experience when all the candidate had was coursework. Whether it looked good or bad, it was difficult to tell how much of that impression is a product of the artificially simplified boundary conditions one has to set for coursework in order to make it doable in a reasonable time, so it’s hard to form a qualified impression reading about it later. On the other hand, when we had samples from the candidate’s own “hobby” projects, that was often very helpful for estimating skills. (At least it left me with stronger feelings that those candidates should or shouldn’t move forward).

        For any IT students out there: please have something you do that isn’t just coursework.

  4. Another Emily

    To #2: I really think you should back off on the payroll issue. I get the impression from your letter that you handle the family’s finances and want to have access to his payroll information if any issues came up in the future, not that there’s an issue now. (Correct me if I’m wrong.) The company is not going to change its policy on this one, I’d let it go.

    1. Another Emily

      Oops, I missed the part where you list specific payroll issues. Still, he is going to have to handle this one himself. Shorting his cheques is ridiculous, but not discussing payroll information with anyone but the employee is normal.

      Nothing stops him from telling you what he wants you to know though, so if it’s bugging you that you can’t help, you could help him track his hours, pay owed and pay received. In his shoes I’d definitely set up an Excel spreadsheet to keep track of this until the payroll issues are sorted out.

      1. Riki

        I agree. OP, stop asking the payroll clerk for your husband’s salary info. You won’t get it. You will come off like the harassing spouse, which won’t do your husband any good.

        If you want to help, help him track his hours, pay rate, withholding, etc. Is he even eligible for overtime? Does he submit his expenses on time? Did he sign up for some employee benefit he doesn’t need? Is there a mistake on his benefit paperwork? If he has to fill out time sheets, is he doing it properly and submitting on time (this is a big one – at my company, if an hourly employee misses the cut off time for hours during one pay period, they won’t see that money until the next…and people always forget).

        These are also things he should know and that are very easy for him to find out. All he has to do is ask or check an online account (if available). They are probably listed in his company’s handbook or his employment letter, too.

    2. mh_76

      Your husband should be handling his paycheck issues himself because having you do so makes him look like a baby. It’s OK for him to tell you what’s going on and seek your advice but he should be the one communicating with his employer etc.

      1. KellyK

        Yes, absolutely. This doesn’t mean that he can’t share info with you and show you his pay stub. It doesn’t even mean that you can’t still be your family’s “CFO” by keeping tabs on hours and pay info, as Another Emily and Riki suggested, and pointing it out to him if there’s a discrepancy. But he has to be the one to actually talk to his employer about it.

        1. JohnQPublic

          At a certain point he may have to have another individual step in, but that person is not his spouse. It is his lawyer. You can certainly be his CFO, his comrade-in-arms, his double-checker, and his confidant. But you may not fight his battles with his employer.

          Explore options with him, help him/coach him on how his interactions with his employer should go, do some of the foot-work as far as researching the state payday laws and dispute process, sure. But it’s not your job. It’s his. And since this is his job that he’s not getting paid correctly for, he has to be the one doing the actual speaking with his employer.

  5. Kathy

    AAM, thank you for answering the question about depression! I, too, have mental health issues (depression + anxiety) and I have lengthy gaps in my resume as well. Luckily, I have not had employers question me regarding those gaps (no idea why), but I now have a way to answer the question if they do!

    1. ChristineH

      Same here. My mental health issues are generally on the mild end, but it has affected my employment history and I do have regular counseling. I have been able to take on volunteering and a couple of brief, part-time temp gigs. Not sure if I can truly frame my story as a health issue, but it does give me something to think about for networking and interviewing, and to know that I’m not alone on this.

  6. JT

    Many classes in the graduate library science program I just finished had projects that our professors urged us to choose and approach in a way that we could talk about them in job interviews – that is having them be similar to tasks we would like to do in an ideal job. A few of our professors got outside clients for which we’d provide pro bono services to. I think this is true of good design programs as well.

    I’d imagine this sort of coursework would be good to talk about in a cover letter, esp for someone with minimal relevant work experience.

    1. Charles

      Good, I was thinking about classwork that was real-world work such as you mention. I, too, did some pro bono work for one class – that was the entire class’s project. Also, I did another real-world project that was also in library sciences that would have worked nicely into an interview.

      However, I’ve never mentioned these in a cover letter (and certainly not on a a resume!) It would have to be, as AAM suggests, something that is really, REALLY, relevant to the job. I would be afraid that if the schoolwork didn’t match too well to the job it might come across as being naive; and that would do more harm than good.

      1. Anon1973

        I also have a MLIS. When I was interviewing, my cataloging, metadata and indexing coursework was relevant for tech. services positions.

  7. KayDay

    #3 Coursework: I disagree with AAM here, I’ve found some employers like to hear about coursework (in addition to jobs/internships) for entry level jobs, particular research you have done related to what the organization does. They don’t care about exams, but if you wrote a strong paper (and are using that as a writing sample) you could talk about it. Or if you did anything particularly job relevant. I would, however, strongly advise you to get some field-specific advice about whether this is common in your field and, if so, how to frame it. If you do it wrong you could come off as immature.

    #4 Dr. Appt: I have never figured out what services that are utilized by working people still continue to keep normal office/banker’s hours?! My mother says it was a even bigger problem before telecommuting was possible. Doctors, dentists, banks, home repair, etc. all need to start having hours that extend beyond traditional office hours. The only service that I use that does this is our (expensive!) vet.

    #5 jobs without a posting: If it makes you upset that jobs can be filled without being posted, please refer to the earlier discussion about jobs that are posted, with the hiring manager already knowing who they plan to hire. It wastes everyone’s time when jobs are posted even though an internal candidate has already been picked for a promotion/transfer/change in job title.

    1. fposte

      I think the coursework question is “What job-relevant talents does this work indicate?” Not all coursework relates to all jobs, but I think even when you’re not talking a correlation as obvious as a library school project to a library job, there might be some connection to a germane skill. Writing skills are useful in a lot of places, as is analytical ability.

      However, that’s talking *specifically* about an aspect of coursework–it’s not speaking generally about coursework, which is what it sounds like the OP is talking about. And it sounds like s/he’s thinking about the model answer as a sign of their doing well in college generally, not as a link to something that they’ll be drawing on in the job (unless the job involves creating exams).

    2. Andrew

      It’s relatively easy for banks to extend their hours, as they have full staffs and can organize shifts to cover the time. However, asking a sole practitioner, like a dentist or a repairman, to be on call during “non-business” hours is problematic. They would either have to work 12-16 hour days straight though, or take a long Spanish-style break in the middle of the day. Both of these wreak havoc with personal lives, to which they are as entitled as anyone else. Not everything in the world can be organized for maximum convenience.

      1. doreen

        Every doctor and dentist I’ve ever used has had evening and Saturday office hours. It doesn’t necessarily require 12-16 hour days or a long break in the middle of the day – some of them had days when the office was open from 1pm to 8pm while others had office hours from 9am- 8pm but only worked two weekdays and Saturday morning.

        1. Jamie

          I love when the medical professionals offer non-traditional hours.

          My dentist has appointments starting at 6:00 am – I was able to do multiple appointments for a root canal and still be on time for work. Not having to burn PTO for something as horrible as the dentist is awesome – and I’m kind of phobic about it so getting it over with early stops me from talking myself out of going.

      2. Liz T

        Why don’t they just open later? Noon to 8 is a dream for me, but then I like to eat late :)

  8. Andy Lester

    #2: Do not act as your husband’s CFO. It makes your husband look weak in the eyes of the company. I wouldn’t be surprised if there are already titters along the lines of “Psst, you know Bob’s wife has to come in and take care of his HR business for him? I wonder if she has to tie his shoes, too.”

    I understand that he’s “very passive,” but you’re doing no one any favors by not making him become less passive and stand up for himself.

    The problem you’re describing is not unlike parents who are wanting to help their children at the office. It’s just as unprofessional here.

    1. Anonymous

      If you want to help him help him do a spreadsheet of the shortages – in detail – and a letter asking for these to be paid to him.

      However it has to come from him. Don’t force him to be overly confrontational if he doesn’t want to. These things can be written nicely.

      1. Anonymous

        I got the feeling from how the OP worded it that her husband would rather just forego the money owed him than have to deal with the hassle of complaining. As someone who also tends to just let money disappear if the alternative involves a lot of extra effort, I can understand why he’d rather just let his wife go be the pit bull for him. It might not even be an issue about not wanting to complain–if I’m working at the office, I have no trouble walking down the hall and saying “Hey, there’s something funky with this week’s check!” But if I have to make a special trip to head over to a different building and track down the person, I’m notorious for not wanting to add that extra headache to my life–especially if it’s over $10 here or $20 there. And yes, you can argue with me till the cows come home about how I’m shortchanging myself by doing this. I’m not going to disagree with you about that fact. I just tend to set different priorities than money a lot of the time.

        The OP mentioned that her husband is out in the field, which to me sounds like it can be a big headache for him to try to take care of this during working hours. All the OP needs to do is take care of the tracking, etc for her husband at home, and then draft the emails for him to send at night when he gets home. (Even if he trusts her, she should still have him read them through before he sends them out). If his effort is cut down to just giving blessings on emails, that should be acceptable to him for going after the money. And if the emails are coming directly from him, the payroll person should not have any issue with responding to them and answering questions, etc.

      2. lauren

        I agree with this, but she can create the spreadsheet herself if he is too busy, then he has to email it to the payroll clerk.

    2. Anon

      “Psst, you know Bob’s wife has to come in and take care of his HR business for him? I wonder if she has to tie his shoes, too.”

      Actually, it sounds like Bob’s wife takes care of the home issues since he’s in the field so much. So she’s paying all the bills, taking any kids they may have to the doctor, scheduling home maintenance and probably even schedules his doctor appointments. This is just practical since it’s easier to do if you’re the one who is in town and not necessarily because he needs mothering. So, if she’s the one handling most of these, then it makes sense if she’s the one making benefits decisions – who better to best evaluate their health benefit needs vs. costs of different plans than the person who has the most knowledge of their money situation AND health needs? Obviously, I hope they make these decisions together but it’s entirely possible she does it for practical reasons. (just like when my friend logs in as her husband to his company website to make all of their health insurance selections)

      But definitely, they need to make sure he’s the face on it. It’s easy enough for his wife to draft a letter for him to email to HR and/or payroll to deal with the issue.

      1. Anonymous

        I agree. When my husband worked in the field, he and his coworkers were glad there was someone at home handling business matters. No one thought anyone was being babied.

  9. Sean

    With number 6, while I’m jealous cause I’ve always wanted to work at Gamestop being a huge gamer, same time I agree with Alison because it is rather silly it’s taking SO long to hear from them about starting. Hopefully it works out fine for you :)

    1. Mike

      I worked at GameStop for several years, and I can tell you that it may not really be the store manager’s fault that it’s taking so long to get you on board. GameStop is extremely tight with payroll hours, and there’s often not a lot left after allocating hour to the two assistant managers.

      Most stores have one full time manager, one part time manager, and then 3-4 part time regulars, and there tends to be 6 or 7 shifts that are 4-5 hours long for the part timers. Sometimes, the stores don’t even get that. The sad thing is, the store manager and even the district manager have absolutely no control over their hours. At one point, a particular location I worked at was in the top 0.5% of all stores in the company, and we still had very minimal coverage.

      Don’t get me wrong, working at GameStop is a blast, but low hours are a constant battle when it’s not the holiday season.

  10. Broke Philosopher

    Re: #3, I’m wondering about undergraduate theses. Mine was much longer than theses at other schools (100 pages of philosophy) and was a very serious year-long research project. I tend to mention it in cover letters when the job I’m applying for has writing, editing, or research. I’m not planning on applying for new jobs anytime soon, so this question might become irrelevant in the near future, but I’m wondering if this would be considered “relevant” enough to put on a cover letter or not.

    1. TheAssistant

      Rather than talk about mine in a resume or cover letter, I brought it to a job interview. I, too, had a year-long thesis required to graduate with my Bachelors, and was applying to jobs outside of my chosen field of academia. It was a handy way to demonstrate how I had amassed the (entry-level) skills required for the job.

      1. Nicole

        Be careful with that! A close friend of mine hired interns at the publishing company she worked for. It made craft books with a friendly voice, but interns would bring their dense academic papers as samples. Totally irrelevant!

        If at all possible, have writing samples in the area you want to work in. Do pro bono/charity work for samples and experience, and if it really comes down to it, write your own sample for a made up situation relevant to the position, which I’ve resorted to before. I wrote sample pages for a website I’m planning to make, even though I don’t know that I’ll ever actually get the site running. That tactic worked and I got the internship I was applying for.

  11. Satia

    #1 I interviewed with a company for an administrative assistant position and the first interview took four hours and none of us met with anyone. We sat in a room and wrote. A lot. There was a second interview and only six candidates made it through. The second interview was also scheduled to last four hours and I met with four different people. So yes. It happens. In a tough job market like this when employers can pick and choose, they are in a position to take as much time as they like to sift through every candidate to ensure they get the best person for the job.

  12. Willie W

    RE: My husband’s employer won’t discuss his paycheck with me

    AAM is right; your husband needs to take care of this himself. Although he may already be known as “the one with the wife who demands info from payroll, and does it at company parties”. Boundaries!

    RE: Explaining an unemployment gap caused by depression

    I don’t know that I would say that the “health issue” is resolved; what if it is not? Depression for many people is ongoing, perhaps managed with medication or therapy or some other treatment, but still there. It’s a tough call – if you say the problem is completely resolved and over, that may be dishonest, but if you say that a health issue that kept you out of work for 2 1/2 years is still ongoing, you might not get hired because of it (illegal, yes, but things like that happen all the time). If you get hired and then have to take time off for the depression, the employer will assume you had lied about it in order to get hired.

    1. EngineerGirl

      But you could say that it is being successfully managed and under control. Many people have medical conditions such as allergies, diabetes, etc. that need to be managed.

      1. mh_76

        Both good points re: medical appointments. Your employer doesn’t need to know whether you have depression or cancer or another medical condition that needs to be managed, just that you have a regular appointment to manage a medical condition because it is none of anyone’s business why you have the appointment.

        If you don’t want to burn through your sick time, maybe offer to make up the time during the rest of the week. For example, if the appointment takes an hour from the time you leave your desk until the time you return, offer to extend your work day by 15 minutes on each of the other 4 days.

  13. Anonymous

    #1: I know for professors in universities that the interview is a day long event. They get to meet people in the morning, a student can take them on a campus tour, give a sample lecture in a class, have lunch with colleagues, either teach another lecture or give a lecture about their current research to the department, and then go out for dinner. If they do this for other positions, I am not sure, but as soon as the OP said it was for higher education, then I knew it wouldn’t sound unusual.

  14. Ariancita

    #3: Coursework in your cover letter or resume.

    I do add graduate work I did on my resume or cover letter, but only because it’s appropriate and it’s not coursework. For instance, I coordinated a very large international development project for a couple of years as part of my graduate studies. This is relevant to project management, project coordination, and international development experience. I also co-created a campus organization that facilitated fund raising, awareness raising, and professional networking. This has direct relevance to the working world. It just happened to be on campus. But I would never mention coursework, exams, papers that haven’t been presented or published, no matter how good they were.

  15. Ariancita

    #1 Long first interview.

    I don’t find this unusual at all. I guess it probably depends on industry though. These days, however, the trend seems to be moving toward longer and more intensive interviews.

  16. Anonymous

    #1 – My husband recently had a 10 hour interview at an academic institution. He had short interviews with 5 people, gave a presentation, gave a lecture to students, had a Q&A session with the hiring committee, and then had to go to a networking dinner. Being an introvert, he was completely burnt out by the time dinner rolled around. It’s been at least a month and they still haven’t made a decision (really not unheard of, but they aren’t sharing their timeline either). So maybe 4 hours for a staff position isn’t unheard of. Also, it coud be that they’ve blocked off 4 hours for themselves to allow for flexibility, even though they know the whole process won’t take that long.

    1. mh_76

      (I’m an extrovert and that would burn me out!!) I forgot to mention in my previous comment that dinner was often part of the candidates’ schedule.

  17. Anonymous

    #3 – See if you can tie relevant elements of your thesis and papers to the job and explain that in the cover letter. Also, if you’re a grad student, maybe you’re TA’ing or RA’ing? Maybe you’re correcting undergrad papers or hosting tutorial sessions or office hours? Maybe you’re collaborating with grads other departments/schools? Elements from these experiences could make for a strong cover letter too.

  18. Sabrina

    #3 I’ve been wondering about this as well. I went back to school to finish my bachelor’s degree and my degree and my previous experience have nothing to do with each other so I’m not really sure how to market myself to get a job in the field I’m majoring in. I had a “career counselor” from school who said I could make previous positions “sound” like they are related to my degree but that sounds dishonest and then she disspaeared on me before I could get further clarification.

    #6 I had the exact same experience at a GameStop and am still waiting to hear back. Except that was in 1996.

    1. just another hiring manager...

      I think it’s totally legit to pull out the relevant aspects of your previous experience and explicitly relate them to the positions you are applying for now. That doesn’t seem dishonest.

      For example, say you used to work as a legal secretary but now your looking to break into event planning. Focus in on things like attention to detail, getting things done on tight timelines, having satisfied clients/lawyers, or organizing things rather than the nitty-gritty of being a legal secretary like you would for an actual legal secretary position.

  19. Stacy

    In regards to #3, including information about coursework in a cover letter, I studied sociology and human development, so in cover letters I’ve mentioned education that indicates my knowledge of working with specific groups in the community. For example, when I applied for a position as a coordinator for a meal delivery program for seniors, I wrote that I believed it to be best for older adults to have the option to stay in their own homes as long as possible – and then credited coursework in aging and death and dying for helping me understand the importance of this. The person who interviewed me said that she was particularly impressed with my cover letter.

    I realize this is a very social services specific example, but I’d imagine there are other examples out there that relate to other fields. If nothing else, classes you took, books you read, lectures you heard, etc. could help explain your interest in a type of career or in working for a certain company. I do see a very significant opportunity to line up sociology course work with human and social services though.

    1. AD

      Reading entry-level resumes/cover letters, when someone mentions coursework as a reason they are INTERESTED in a position, it makes more of an impression than mentioning coursework as a reason they are QUALIFIED for a position. What you are describing sounds like the former, so I think it makes sense.

      1. Mike C.

        Wait, what? There is plenty of coursework out there which gives direct experience that applies to the real world. I learned a great deal of my lab technique during my coursework in college, and that certainly helped support the idea I was qualified to work in a professional laboratory.

        1. AD

          Sorry, I wasn’t including lab/project work under “coursework”. I’m talking about telling me that you read stuff and/or did well on your exams (see the OP).

        2. Anonymous

          I agree lab work would be handled differently because you are using techniques and equipment you will actually use on the job. When I was a recent grad, I had a section on my resume that listed every instrument I knew how to use.

  20. Angela

    Regarding #1, the long interview. I don’t know how I feel about that in this case since it’s for a “temp” position, but long interviews seem to be common in the tech industry these days. The job title cited is “Program Manager” which could easily be a technical role or someone who interfaces with technical people (it also could not be, so please forgive me if I’m wrong). My last interview process was easily 5+ hours of individual interviews, and the one before that was 6+ hours of the same.

  21. Steve G

    #2 – I feel for you. Sometimes you simply can’t teach people to care about or follow up on something, in this case your husband about his own pay. And it must be annoying because it affects your joint income. And even if you give some guys notes on what to do, they don’t do it because they want everything to be their idea.

    #6 – Learn not to be shy. Just call/visit and ask. If you don’t get a real answer, you weren’t really hired. Don’t wait for people like that.

  22. YALM

    #4, I agree with just stating that you have a standing medical appointment and asking about an accommodation for keeping it because your healthcare provider is only available during traditional business hours. If and when you get comfortable with a new boss, you can, if you choose, offer more details. But it’s up to you.

    I have an employee who has such a standing appointment once a week. We work around it. It’s not always possible, but it often is.

  23. Shane

    GameStop’s system requires that a person’s start date be a Sunday. You can put the person in the system before Sunday, but their start date has to be Sunday and they cannot work before that Sunday. Assuming you get hired on a Monday, you do have to wait until the following Sunday to work.

    Any manager who takes longer than that is an idiot. I would stay far away from him or her.

  24. Anonymous

    It took me two weeks between hiring and actually starting the job I had in retail. I was supposed to start week one but then they realized that I needed to take a urine drug test which I had to do even before training. Then when the results came back, they scheduled the training hours and then put my hours into the weekly schedule. Sometimes employers just don’t think of all the procedures and what they need to do.

  25. Elizabeth West

    I had a four-hour interview recently, with a company my recruiter submitted me to. It was just me and the employer, talking. We talked about the job, my past jobs, business ethics, etc. I can’t believe we talked that long. I really liked him, but the job was heavy in areas where I am weak. And sure enough, I had to go to my recruiter to take an assessment test, I blew the math. I suck at math. I didn’t get the job. :(

  26. Emily

    #1: I had a 3 hour interview for my current internship which I thought was a bit excessive. The interview was really 3 interviews with different members of the Department for which I now work. Now I realize how crucial this interview was as my department is small (3 people) and everyone works very closely with each other. Everyone in the department needed to be able to get along with and trust the hire (me) before offering a position.

  27. Sophie

    #1 – I don’t think this is unusual for a university, and it may be more common in other institutions as well. I had an “interview” at one school that lasted about 5 hours. I came in around 9am and left around 2pm. It started with a private talk with the university president, then he had me meet several departmental directors to see if I would be a good fit for their departments, I visited a few departments, and it finally finished with another private chat with the president. Long day. I did get the job, thankfully, however it was really awkward when he kept having me meet with people who were under the impression that had a master’s degree in literacy – I did not and never took any coursework in that direction, ever. I kept correcting him and he was like, ooohh I thought you were that person….uh no…

  28. Natalie

    #4, I have a therapy appointment weekly and just refer to it as a medical appointment. Unless you are the main receptionist of a busy switchboard or similar, you will probably not have a problem.

    Consider talking to your counselor about switching to the first or last appointment of the day, which may be a bit easier to schedule around. And then you only have to make up 1 leg of the commute.

  29. CollegeCareerServicesThatDoNotSuck

    #1–This is really common in Higher Ed–as a matter of fact I am surprised it’s only 4 hours. I’ve had an interview last 2 days before. Many schools like you to meet with almost everyone. I wouldn’t be shocked if a 2nd interview lasts at least that long.

    It’s inefficient as h*ll and stems from micro-managers that are rampant on campuses. But I didn’t leave the HR world to fix hiring practices in higher ed–I’m focusing on another department! :)

  30. HB

    Agreeing with all those who say long interviews in higher ed is the norm. My experience has been that the school flies me in the night before the interview, I am picked up for breakfast at 7 or 7:30 (which means you have to get up and get ready quite early), have several group interviews, several one-on-one interviews (like with your potential direct supervisor, or the head of your department), a lunch “break” with students (during all these meal “breaks” you are making small talk, answering interview-like questions, and basically still “on”), a campus tour, and a talk or presentation. Then they drop me back at the airport 4-5pm. It’s an incredibly exhausting day! Also this relates back to the post a few days ago asking about appropriate interview footwear – this is why it’s important to have comfortable (yet professional-looking) interview shoes!

  31. Jen M.

    #1-I once had an eight-hour interview. Yes: A full work day. It was one of the best days of my working life, EVER!

    They had me come in in the morning and meet some key people and then had me work for a few hours. (It was for a proofreader/editor job, and before having me come in, they Fed Exed me a test, which I completed and then Fed Exed back.) Then, I had a group interview with several key staffers. Then, the interviewing manager took me out to lunch with a few people who would be my coworkers. In the afternoon, I did a bit more work and then had another group interview, and then I met with the HR guy.

    Ultimately, I did not get the job, but they DID offer me a three-month contingent position (temp with possibility of hire.) The reason was that I did not have the experience, and while my skills were good, the manager was not sure they were quite up to what was needed, but she really liked me and my work.

    At the time, I was employed full-time, so I had to say “no.” Now, five years later, I am kicking myself! LOL!

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