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. Group interviews

I’m wondering your opinion of group interviews. I had applied for a position on Craigslist and had gotten an interview for an office manager/HR Assistant position. I went for the interview and it turned out to be a group interview (aka cattle call). This was quite the surprise and I didn’t even interview because I was extremely turned off. I had absolutely no idea this was the case and would have turned the opportunity down if I had known. I can see how group interviews can be valuable if a company is hiring en masse—i.e. retail workers, sales people, etc. Otherwise it seems like a massive disregard for the candidate’s time and experience. I would think at least mentioning this to the candidate would either help them prepare (knowing what their competition may be) or if they want to pursue the opportunity. What are your thoughts?

I completely agree. For the vast majority of positions, group interviews seem like an assault on candidates’ dignity, and I’m skeptical that they’re as useful as traditional interviews. But if a company is going to use them, they absolutely should tell candidates up-front, so that people can choose whether they want to participate or not.

2. Stopping employees from all taking smoke breaks at once

I am a mid-level manager at a mid-size start-up, and we are experiencing a problem which I would like to solve. Currently, our operations staff, perhaps 30 per shift, have fallen into the routine of everyone taking a smoking break at the same time. Workers who do not smoke will join, as they are all friendly. This is not critical at the moment, but as we will be launching our business within 30 days, I would like to break the habit. Post-launch, not everyone will have the ability to take breaks at the same time as business, hopefully, will keep them occupied.

This is actually pretty easy. Figure out what your policy needs to be (“don’t take smoke breaks in groups,” presumably — or if needed, the more specific “no more than X people on break at one time”), announce that it’ll go into effect when the business launches, and then enforce it.

3. I fill out handwritten applications for my husband because his writing is awful

My husband has poor handwriting (although if you ask him that’s not the case), so I generally fill out any handwritten applications for him. I’m concerned that his handwriting might reflect badly on him, or that anyone reviewing the application may have trouble contacting his references because of trouble understanding what he has written down. Is this acceptable, or will employers feel duped when they discover his true handwriting?

Is he applying for jobs where handwriting matters? If so, this is a problem. But if not, I don’t think it’s a big deal. That said, “my wife filled this out for me” isn’t exactly a phrase that fills an employer with confidence, so if there’s any chance he’ll ever need to acknowledge that, he should probably start working on his handwriting.

4. After being rejected, I told a company to destroy my application

I received a rejection letter today informing me that I am not being selected. I have interviewed with this firm twice now, the first time 5 years ago. After being being emailed back for a second interview, wherein I spent $5 on quarters to park, I was kept there for two hours, plus two hours for the first interview along with $5 worth of quarters again. I sent an email to the office manager who sent the letter, advising him to please destroy my resume along with the references he had asked for (which were awesome references, I might add). I also advised him that I would not be seeking employment again in the future, that to “keep my resume on file” was pointless. (It is obvious to me that this is just an overused line.) Is this unprofessional, or simply a right to my privacy? I do not want anyone reading my resume that may be sitting in a cold file drawer 1 year or 50 years down the road. Further, why do these firms/organizations/corporations waste our time? I feel that they just “play games” sometimes.

Um. You know that when you interview for a job, there’s no guarantee that you’re going to get it, right? In fact, your chances are higher of not getting it than getting it, assuming they’re interviewing three or more candidates. Spending $10 and a few hours on the process isn’t unusual; plenty of people spend more than that and still don’t get the job, because that’s how hiring works — there are no guarantees. If you’re going to be angry that you invested time and money in interviewing if you get rejected, then you shouldn’t interview at all. And no, this isn’t an example of an employer wasting your time or playing games; they asked you to interview so they could decide if they wanted to hire you over other candidates, they decided that they didn’t, and they let you know. There are no games there.

As for telling them to destroy their materials: It really just makes you look bitter. Moreover, they’re probably not going to do it, because most employers keep applications on file for a specified period for legal reasons (even if they never consult them again).

5. Suggesting that an employer contact your references

Is it appropriate in a follow-up email to a potential employer to suggest that they contact your references? I had a Skype interview for a position overseas. The video feed gave out early on, so it was essentially me on the phone with 3 people. In the end, they asked for my references and when I asked what the next steps were, they indicated there are no additional interviews and they will make a decision based on the information at hand. I don’t believe they are checking references for every candidate. However, I have very strong recommendations, particularly one who can speak directly to my ability to interact with people of different cultures, and with people where this company is located — this is pretty key to the job.

When I check in, I wanted to write something to the effect of, “I hope that you have the opportunity to speak with Ms. XX, who can give you a complete picture of my abilities with regard to this position” — or something like that. I have had Skype interviews before and they can be tricky, and I am just surprised that the one conference call was it in terms of screening. I really think my references would “wow” them, but I don’t want to sound like I’m telling them how to run their hiring process.

Yep, that’s fine to suggest. You’re right of course that you don’t want to sound like you’re trying to dictate their hiring process, but just word it in the way that you did here and it’ll be perfectly appropriate.

6. Interviews in restaurants when you’re hard of hearing

In reading your blog and seeing some of the things out there, it seems like something that arises on occasion is an interview over a meal. I like going out for meals, but conversations are difficult in restaurants with my hearing. With family events, I can lean over to my wife to get her to tell me what was said by someone across the table. I’d rather avoid any “Huh? What? I’m sorry? Please repeat yourself…” type of conversation. I had a boss who frequently, despite my repeated attempts to curb such meetings, would schedule meetings for noisy restaurants. We could have just as easily met in an office or conference room. Any suggestions on how, if this were to ever come up, I could steer this toward a quiet restaurant or avoid this altogether? Awkward!

I would say directly, “I sometimes have trouble hearing clearly in restaurants. Would it be possible to choose somewhere on the quieter side?” Anyone who has a problem with this is someone you don’t want to work for anyway. Speaking of which, if you were straightforward with your former boss about the problem, he sounds like a jerk.

7. Using alumni connections when applying for a job

I’ve identified some jobs on LinkedIn that I’d like to apply to, and I notice some alumni from my university (from which I just graduated) work at most of the companies. Is there anything I could do at this point to use those connections to improve the chances of being considered for the positions? I haven’t reached out to any of them before/built a relationship. I feel like it’s bold/rude to mention that I already see a job at their company that interests me… (too obviously “using” them). An informational interview with them would be great, but if I have to be clear about what I’m after, what I really need is a referral. (I asked my school’s marketing/social-media expert and his impression is that “they like to be used” – my school prides itself on its loyal alumni and their willingness to help out).

Don’t ask for an informational interview when that’s not really want you want. That’s disingenuous. But your school is right that most alumni welcome these contacts, as long as they’re done properly. What you don’t want to do is act entitled to their time or as if you expect them to recommend you for a job when they don’t know you. But it’s perfectly okay to reach out and say, “I’m really interested in this job and I noticed you went to X College too, and I’d so love any advice you’d be willing to share with me, alum to alum.” Enclose your resume when you do this.

{ 78 comments… read them below }

  1. Josh S*

    1. Group interviews:

    Group interviews are a great way to get a bunch of parroted answers. Basically, if someone answers better than your prepared/honest answer, you steal/appropriate their answer. It’s a good way for the employer to have NO WAY of differentiating between qualified candidates, though it can lead to some funny situations when people try to fake it.

    I recall applying for a retail sales job at a clothing store, and sitting in a group interview along with 5 other people. I sat at the end of the row, so I was usually either the first or the last person to answer a question.

    If I was the first, I was frustrated hearing other people try to (poorly) rephrase my answers–often misunderstanding what I’d said and saying the opposite in the process. But my favorite was a question that I got to answer last:
    “The store has been busy for a while and clothes are disordered. Which takes priority for you: making the store look ‘presentable’ or helping a customer find what they’re looking for?”

    The first person answered “making the store look presentable,” and each subsequent person added their reason(s) for agreeing. I was laughing the whole way through; customer service ALWAYS comes first in retail.

    I was the only person in that group who got offered a position. (Probably didn’t hurt that I was wearing a suit while everyone else was in jeans/khakis at an upscale-trendy clothing store…)

    1. fposte*

      That’s pretty funny, and you’ve also answered my question of how these even work. I’ve always had a picture of a roomful of people answering in chorus to “What is your greatest strength?”

    2. mh_76*

      OP #1 – do you mean group interview as in interviewing a bunch of candidates at once or one candidate in front of a bunch of interviewers? The only time that I went on the first type was for a retail job and I didn’t want to work in that store anyway. The second type is relatively common.

      1. Marie*

        I have been to a few “group interview”, people seem to have different definition to that term from what I understand.

        I was interviewed along with about 7-8 other people by two interviewers, we had to raise out hand to answer questions and sometimes the interviwers would ask a specific question to a specific person ( I got the job – call center- as well as 2 other that were in the group).

        At my old job we used to interview people in comitee (3-4 interviwers for 1 candidate).

        Right now I work in a plant, so for the production staff, I call about 20 people and tell them to come 9-9:30-10h, but telling them there is no really specific time. For others positions, ex. QA technician, sales and such we do classic interviewes, with one or two interviewers (HR and a manager most of the time)

        1. mh_76*

          There are a few different types and one type is like you mention (I’ve been on one of those, for a retail job). Another type is a panel interview where the group is doing the interviewing instead of being interviewed. It sounded like OP was referring to the first type but it wasn’t entirely clear.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Since they referred to it as a “cattle call,” I’m assuming it is the first type. A panel interview, though, is very common and not weird.

            1. mh_76*

              Has this OP replied (I haven’t see a reply in the google reader feed yet)?

              Yep, indeed they are.

  2. JessA*

    Re: #4:

    I’ve actually had a company request an interview over a year after I met with them at my university’s job fair. By the time they contacted me, I had actually forgotten that I applied to work with them. (I realize that my situation was the exception rather than the norm, but you never know where things might end up. I’m living proof.) And why would you want to do something to potentially burn a bridge especially in this current economy?

  3. Nameless*

    4. After being rejected, I told a company to destroy my application

    I feel the same way about destroying files but keep in mind that some companies will go to the old applications when trying to fill a position than to post again. At my old job, if there was an immediate need HR simply contacted candidates from an old pool. But I hated that the applications used to sit idle on one of the network folders and anyone could easily snoop around.

    At my current job of 30 employees, I applied in 2011 and was called for an interview 10 months later and was offered the position.

    1. Tmm*

      I always keep the resumes of those who applied for positions for several months at least, for both legal reasons as well as potentially wanting to pursue them in the future.

      Re:privacy, these resumes we’re kept in either a locked filing cabinet in my locked office or in a password protected dbase where only I and the hiring manager had access.

      1. Marie*

        I only keep the contact information of candidates that match specific criteria that are relevant to our business.

  4. Anonymous*

    Re: 6
    If having meetings in restaurants was really common in your job, I would suggest discussing it as a disability issue as I think legally employers have to make reasonable adjustments to a job for people with disabilities. But Alison is right that you should bring it up more informally first and most people would understand and not be jerks about it.

    1. Kristi*

      I’m never a fan of noisy restaurants, but a work meeting or interview would be the worst. I don’t consider myself hard of hearing and if anything extremely good hearing. All the background noise drives me crazy and I will gladly skip happy hours because of it. Plus some restaurants have the absolute worst acoustics which makes the situation worse. I can be sitting right next to someone and still not hear what they’re saying.

      Maybe the OP can narrow it down to five places he likes and keep them in rotation with boss. And patio dining. Good luck!

      1. mh_76*

        LIKE! I had drafted a reply but you said most of what I was going to say…well, here’s my reply anyway:

        #6 – I recently had a meeting with a recruiter in a coffee shop and it was loud loud loud. I have the opposite hearing problem, though. My hearing is still (somehow) quite good and I hear everything, from the muzak (ugh!) to the loud coffee grinders & blenders & other noises to the other people yelling at each other over it all. At the meeting, I was able to mostly hear the recruiter but it was not the most ideal of locations to have met her and I do sometimes have to say “What” or lean in to the person talking, which could possibly be awkward with a boss or interviewer or…

        In addition to AAM’s advice, you could also ask the waitstaff to turn down the muzak because you’re hard of hearing. I have said that “I have hearing issues” to waitstaff and, even though it sometimes took a few requests, the muzak was mostly turned down.

  5. Anonymous*

    I laughed out loud at #3 – thought I was the only one who was the designated “filler outer” for a husband with chicken scratch handwriting. Never job applications, though; he would type those before everything was done on line. However, I don’t think there’s a doctor’s office he’s ever visited that would recognize his writing. (I consider it my good deed for the office staff.) Nice to know I’m not alone!

    1. mh_76*

      OP #3 – are there online / fillable .pdf / MS Word versions of those forms? Or could you use a typewriter? I tend to opt for the computer route but, as I’m inept with a typewriter, do fill out my fair share of forms in my bad but somehow still legible handwriting…nobody’s complained…yet.

  6. Anonymous*

    I love how I can turn on my computer at 7am ET on a Saturday and read a new AAM post.

    In any case, I had a group interview once when I was 18. It was for a summer job selling Avon-like products. They didn’t ask questions to specific people, it was more of throwing a question out to the group and whoever answered first was the “winner”.

    The group interview question also reminded me a documentary called “The Job” that I saw a couple of months ago:

    1. Josh S*

      Alison can ‘schedule’ posts to appear whenever she wants–she probably wrote it earlier and set it to post last night.

      What’s truly terrifying is if you look at the time stamp on my first comment. I’m in Central Time zone, so it was really *only* 2:15, but my insomnia wasn’t letting me sleep… :/

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Ha, I didnt actually schedule this one. Wrote it and published it around 2 a.m. EST. I probably write more late at night than any other time, actually. Sometimes I write them at 2 a.m. and then set them to publish at 9 or whatever!

        1. Josh S*

          Glad to know I’m not the only one who uses the quiet late-night hours to get stuff done!

        2. Anonymous*

          Well, scheduled or not, I like it. During the week, I usually turn on my work computer around 7:20am, read some email, read the latest AAM post, and then get on with my day.

          I wish I worked better late at night but my brain and body both shut down around 10pm (mind you, I have to get up at 5:30am to make it to work on time).

          1. khilde*

            I am with you. My whole family is an early-to-bed family. My toddler’s in bed by 7pm and my husband and I are done by 9 or 9:30pm. I always feel like I’m doing something wrong when I hear other people (mothers) staying up till midnight getting things done. Screw it – when I’m tired, everything stops and it either doesn’t get done or I’ll do it in the morning. But I was starting to feel like a freak for going to bed early (even though that wouldn’t’ have stopped me :)

  7. Anonymous*

    “I sent an email to the office manager who sent the letter, advising him to please destroy my resume along with the references he had asked for (which were awesome references, I might add). I also advised him that I would not be seeking employment again in the future, that to “keep my resume on file” was pointless. (It is obvious to me that this is just an overused line.)”

    Ummm.. I hope that that manager and the ‘do not hire’ list from that group never end up spreading to other places. Because you are now on it.

    You never know if Joe Bloggs from Horrible Small Company is ever going to be working for Big Wonderful Company in the future and will remember you when you apply there.. You never know if Horrible Small Company is going to be part of Massive Important Group in the future and going to share resources and information.

    Acting like a diva in these situations is not good. And as said already companies DO go back to those files and think “oh yes, she could be perfect for this role…. I wonder what she’s up to now?”

    1. A.K.*

      #4 – It depends on the situation. I’ve actually requested a company to remove my application because I later found out it was against the law (CA state law) for employers to do credit checks. I had filled out the application and initialed my name next to a question regarding background & credit checks.

      Otherwise, just let it go and move on to the next hopeful gig.

  8. Charles*

    Group interviews. Done well, (and that includes telling folks up front what to expect) can be useful and timesaving. Done poorly, (far more common, in my opinion) chase good people away. Sadly, in the OP’s case I don’t think that employer would have understood even if she said something. They more likely would have dismissed her as cranky or something and not seen their own behaviour as the reason.

    Filling in an application because of a spouse’s poor handwriting. Unless he will be required to handwrite, I agree, I do not see this as an issue. I wouldn’t even bring it up. Many things today are typed, not handwritten.

    It never ceases to amaze me that employers expect job seekers to handwrite an application in their office when they do not provide a solid writing surface, give us tiny (and I mean TINY!) boxes to fit long words into, and have poor lighting as if their reception area is the same as a nightclub. OP, did you at least get to fill in the application in your home?

    Also, does the OP’s husband have a handicap that prevents him from writing well? Maybe he cannot improve his writing.

    Telling them to destroy your application papers. I don’t mean to be rude, but that does come across as bitter, OP. Really, you spend $5 in quarters and 2 hours. Some folks spend a lot more (try $45 in commuter train tickets, parking, etc.; several trips, and most lasting several hours or all day) and then never hear anything, nothing, nada, zipo, zilch, back.

    You, OP, on the other hand DID hear back from them. You should see that as a plus. This is unusual, as most regular AAM readers know, for most employers do not respond at all; so, I’ll repeat, you should see this as a plus.

    Responding in anyway other than “Thank you” is bitter and will be seen that way. Further, OP, if you are misperceiving this situation do you also have the same misperception about your “awesome” references? I’m not trying to be rude; it is just something to think about.

    And AAM is quite right, in some states, BY LAW, they have to keep your application on file for X number of years. (oh, and what exactly do you mean by “a right to my privacy”? I assume you meant a “violation” of your privacy? If so, you sent them this information, did you not?)

    Lastly, I know exactly how you feel, OP. As someone who has spent the last 10 years doing contract work and going through interview after interview after interview and, lord, the crap, I could tell you – it is very hard to not become bitter. But, you have to do your best to avoid that pitfall. You may not even realize it; but, your bitterness might come across in an interview. For example, I asked one recruiter last year if I was ever going to hear from her again after the interview was over. All, I could do after those words fell out of my mouth was to laugh! (and, no, I did not get the job; but, she did follow up with other job leads)

    Noisy restaurants. Sometimes the interviewer chooses this type of setting because she has an expense account to spend on “entertaining” and sees this as one of the perks of her job. So, maybe just suggesting a quieter restaurant that you know of or a place that offers private, or semi-private, rooms might help.

    This comment is a bit off topic, I do think that sometimes the restaurant setting is NOT a good place for team meetings; especially when it is a large group. There are just too many side conversations going on!

    AAM, some really good and interesting “short answers and short questions” today! (my new job keeps from my my daily dose of AAM during the week – sigh)

    1. AD*

      I think group interviews can be effective when hiring more than one person, like seasonal help in retail. What the OP describes, though, sounds like a group interview for a single position. Have you ever seen an example where that worked? I’m honestly curious.

      1. Just Me*

        Handwritting issue- I am the one with the bad handwritting between my husband and I !
        I have always had an issue and I believe that if I had started writting lefy instead of righty it would have been better.

        I have found ways around writting so much at work by creating spreadsheets or forms with the computer for the work I do.

        I rarely if anytime mentioned the writting as an issue, just create a more efficient and neater ways of getting work done.
        Managment had no problem with it, liked it and for job interviews I use it as a way to show efficiency and creativeness.

      2. Charles*

        AD, most group interviews that I have seen or heard about do NOT work well; However, a couple that I have been apart of seemed to work – the key is in knowing how to do them (true about most things, but I think even more so with group interviews)

        The first group interview that I have ever joined as a job seeker wasn’t really a group interview in the sense most of us are thinking.

        First, we were told about it up front. Second, we were told that the company was just bought by another company which brought in a lot of capital which allowed them to expand so they were hiring for several poistions. Third, the “group” part was really nothing more than a presentation on what the company did, how they were expanding, and what positions were available, etc. Most of us had responded to an ad for a specific position; but, they wanted us to know about other postions as well.

        The real interview part was after the presentation, but, it was one-on-one. They started with “which position are you interested in? Then follow me to this conference room.” The one thing that I remember is that it did seem a bit awkward to be sitting there as they called others in for a private interview and you just had to sit there waiting your turn. Me, being the “talkative” type that I am tried to engage in conversation with others and was met with silence. When it came down to just two of us being left in the main room I said to the other guy: “boy, I hope that this is a sign that they are saving the best for last!” Not a peep from him; not a peep. Man, talk about cold, humorless people!

        I did get the job and so did about 1/3 of the other folks. So, even though this wasn’t a group interview in the way this OP is talking about, it was a very efficient way to hire a large group of folks.

        The other group interview that worked that I was a part of was on the hiring side. I was more of an observer than a participant as I was part of the hiring committee run by my boss.

        For starters, it was for a management position; I think that is key. The job seekers had all been interviewed several days before individually, so these were the final contestants.

        This group interview was more to see how they interacted with each other as well as with those of us who were the hiring committee. One key thing here is that my boss had a great talent at keeping conversations on track – that helped a lot. The other thing that helped is that this was a small group; there were 5 of us on the hiring side and only 4 on the candidate side.

        They were paired into teams to help with introductions – they were given five minutes to interview each other and then introduce their partner to the group. Later they were switched a couple of times to be teams who were to present their answer, as a group, to given problems. Often times the conversation was more free-flowing rather than calling on individuals or teams.

        Part of what my boss was looking for was not just how they answered but how they responded/reacted to each other. One guy really seemed to come up with good answers but came across as rather “pushy” towards the other candidates. That, I think, is something that would not have been obvious if this had been a one-on-one interview; we would have only heard his good answers and not realized that he was dismissive of the other candidates. While it may not be an accurate judgement it did make us wonder if he would be a pushy manager, we voted him down (after the interview was over of course).

        The woman that was eventually hired for the position did seem rather quiet in the group; but, she seemed to know what she was talking about, was respectful of the others by disagreeing in a non-confrontational way (i.e., she would say things like “or another way to look at it is . . .” vs. the pushy guy who would say things like “that won’t work!”)

        Whether or not this group interview was the best way to judge folks for the management position I really don’t know; but, it was interesting and seemed to give us an insight into the final candidates that one-on-one interviews might not have. I can say for sure that I know if I had to run one of these myself I would not have run it as well as my boss did as it is very challenging to keep things on track and is a lot of work – especially the observation part which is the whole reason for doing it.

  9. JLH*

    #1: I wonder how this OP knew for sure this would be a group interview before they actually went into the interview. Maybe they were hiring multiple positions that day and that’s why there was a lot of people.

    #4: Rude and unreasonable. Job searching can make us all bitter once in awhile, but don’t share that with employers, even though you might not want to work with them–you don’t know if you’ll change your mind later or if they’ll share that with someone you do want to work for.

  10. Anonymous*

    @JLH…This is the OP for #1. JLH, I didn’t when I walked up to the door. I just saw the group and walked out. Even if it was a “job fair” type group interview, still let the candidates know so they can prepare accordingly. I did end up running into a woman walking to the elevator as the doors closed. I re-opened them for her and asked if she had worked for the company and she said no, she had attended the interview and confirmed it had been a group interview for the office manager position.

    What I didn’t mention is that this particular position seemed sketchy from the beginning. The website was pretty sparse (especially for a software/tech co, which this was), had no contact info/established address aside from an email address on the site, no real presence either in social media or on Google. When attempting to research the position, I came back with very little.

    1. Garrett*

      I just had a friend who went in for an office manager position and it was a group thing. It was also a Sales job with one of those pyramid-type companies. The job description was very vague and I’m sure just a lure. But, the title was a misrepresentation and a waste of her time, as she wasn’t interested in that type of work.

  11. nyxalinth*

    #4 Interviews are a chance you take. Unless an employer is really dysfunctional (in which case you don’t want to be working there anyway!) they don’t normally play games and jerk your chain for fun.

    Temp agencies can be a gray area with this. They don’t necessarily play games to play them, but also they’re not always honest about their processes, either (there’s quite a few who post ads for non-existent jobs just to farm resume, or in turn farm the resumes for other employers they can sell their services to, or farm your contacts for the same). But that isn’t the case here, so you need to stop being bitter and have a better attitude.

  12. #7!*

    Thanks so much for answering my question! I knew I should be honest about what I want but wasn’t sure how much help I could expect (or how to ask for it politely) if the alum and I hadn’t been in contact beforehand. The message you suggest is perfect — forthright yet leaves it open to them to decide how to respond.

    This blog is an incredible resource. You’re helping so many people by posting truly useful content!

    1. mh_76*

      #7 – I envy you. I wish that X University had an alumni network that was open to Lib. Arts grads. Use it, use it well, and heed the good advice offered by AAM & others here.

  13. Josh S*

    #4 Destroy my Application

    I don’t wanna be the sort that rips the OP, but this behavior and attitude is pretty lousy.

    First, your question smacks of entitlement and naivete.
    “(which were awesome references, I might add)”
    “It is obvious to me that…[my subjective perception of the matter is supremely correct”
    “why do these firms/organizations/corporations waste our time?”

    Whether you realize it or not, these phrases make you come across like you feel superior to everyone else. While it can be important to give yourself some rah-rah talks for motivation, you probably aren’t God’s gift to the world, so please, have a measure of humility when you interact.

    Realize, you were a qualified candidate–your resume stood out enough to get an interview, your interview went well and they offered you a second one. This means that you made it pretty darn far in the hiring process–you clearly impressed them. Who knows, they might have even called you up to offer you a different position in a couple months.

    But then, your attitude in demanding that your application be removed probably got you labeled as petty and childish. Your actions were indeed unprofessional, and really your ‘right to privacy’ doesn’t come into play.

    I get the sense that you might be a new graduate–your mention of the all-important quarter is my clue (Ah, how fondly I recall the dorm laundromats…). Though I could certainly be wrong here.

    I don’t like to ascribe any single character trait to an entire generation of people, and I particularly dislike when folks label the Millennial Generation as “entitled”. But OP #4, you are certainly living up to the definition of entitled.

    1. Alisha*

      My old boss warned me about this type of behavior from candidates right before I began recruiting for 2 team members in my department. However, he didn’t use the phrase “young people” – and I soon learned why.

      I interviewed ten candidates and ultimately selected two. The woman who was a solid runner-up, a 30-something Gen-Xer, upon receiving her rejection letter (which I’d typed up on nice stationary, by the way) e-mailed me with an arrogant note to the effect of “why did you waste my time if you weren’t going to hire me” and made a catty reference to my team and projects failing. I swiftly crossed her off my list. Ironically, one of my two hires didn’t work out, and I fired that person a month into the new position, but since my second-choice candidate had given me the e-mail equivalent of the middle finger, I opted not to replace the position I fired.

      It’s really no joke that you can ruin future chances with a company. This woman did – and not just with that company, but going forward for infinity, any time I hire at future jobs.

      1. mh_76*

        Please don’t let that horrible woman cloud your opinion of all 30-somethings/Gen X-ers. Just like I try to not to let the stories that I hear/witness about 20-somethings/Millenials cloud my opinion of all of them. That was a horrible and unprofessional thing for her to have done and I hope that she doesn’t find a job at all because there a whole lot of job seekers who would never send that sort of email. I would probably have filed the letter and moved on…or if I really wanted to work for you / company / job, might have sent an email saying something to the effect of “thank you for letting me know”, reiterated my interest in future opportunities, said something about how rare and great it is to hear any news at all even if that news isn’t what I was hoping to hear, and ended with those all-important words: “thank you”. Ugh, what a b–ch she was…but maybe she did you a favor because what if you’d hired her and that attitude surfaced later? *shudder*

  14. Clobbered*

    #2 You know I am totally okay with that answer in some contexts but a start-up was mentioned. I have two things to say to that; (a) if you think your employees will be hanging out outside while your newly launched business needs them at their desks you have bigger problems than smoke breaks and (b) this is exactly the kind of controlling middle-manager people join startups to avoid. Tread carefully and make sure this is REALLY a problem, and not a theoretical problem before you start coming across as a micromanager. There are real risks in working for a start-up and there are certain conventions on how you treat employees who assume those risks. One of those conventions is not treating them like they work at Walmart.

    #3 if you can afford the technology, scan the application on your computer and fill it in with a PDF editor. I have appalling handwriting (completely irrelevant in IT) and that is what I do with all forms. If I am going to put an emergency contact number for the kids’ school, I would like them to be able to actually be able to read it correctly.

    1. danr*

      #3 I did the scan and edit on a recent form that needed to be turned in. The response was… “You typed this???” And yes, my handwriting is bad and has always been bad. My typing is bad too, but there is spell check and automatic correction for my usual mis-spellings in the better email and wp programs.

    2. Nichole*

      Eh…there’s a fine line between micromanaging and forseeing a problem. The nature of what is needed to run efficiently could be fundamentally different now than it will be when they open for business, and giving the employees a heads up that expectations are about to change isn’t really “treating them like they work at Wal-Mart.” It’s being clear about what will be expected instead of suddenly scolding them for something that used to be ok.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        I totally agree with this. There’s nothing wrong with making a policy, explaining it and then enforcing it. This is especially important in a start-up. You want to start off on the right foot.

        1. Clobbered*

          I stand by my comment. In my experience, managers/HR people who would send round memos introducing rules “just in case” something becomes a problem were predominantly control freaks.

          Granted there isn’t a huge amount of information in the OP, but the bottom line is this: does everybody being out the door for 15 minutes impact the business negatively? If so, this business is operating under a 24/7 regime and the problem is not the smoking breaks or that non smokers go out. What about lunch? What about if there is a snowstorm and everybody is late in? If you really can’t operate without a core number of stations manned you need to plan for that – never mind whether people are smoking and whether people who don’t smoke go out to to talk to them. If smoking offends you imagine this – it is somebody’s birthday, they bring in a cake in the break room and everybody comes in to sing Happy Birthday and eat cake. Ok or not ok? The smoke breaks are a red herring. If you need N people to be on cover at any given time (*really* need, not imagine you need) you had better be spending time organizing a proper system for that, rather than what I worry would happen from the tone of the OP, sending a memo out saying “you can’t all go on a smoke break at once” or “if you don’t smoke you can’t go on a smoke break” or anything like that which is only guaranteed to wind up people who, I would assume, are working their asses off to launch your startup. And if they are not working their asses off, like I said, you have bigger fish to fry.

      2. Anon2*

        This, exactly. Plus, are there really 30 people hanging around outside multiple times a day on smoke break? LOL, if I worked nearby I would have to wonder if the building’s fire alarm is going on the fritz several times a day. That’s a crowd of people. I’m laughing just imagining this huge group of people all trying to find a shady spot to smoke or gab.

        1. Alisha*

          This is a great point. I’ve worked for companies that required nose-to-the-grindstone and frequent overtime, and we still managed to all be able to break for a half-hour to celebrate somebody’s birthday, or order pizzas to commemorate a particularly successful project or business deal.

  15. Sabrina*

    Re #4… I once spent several hundred dollars in airfare, a hotel, and car rental to interview in another city. I never even got a rejection letter. Now, I’ll never apply at that company ever again, but there’s no need to be rude. Complain to your friends, that’s what they are there for. I get that $10 can be a lot of money to people if they are out of work, but you can’t be that hard up if you’re burning bridges like that.

  16. Katherine*

    I was part of a group interview once, and did end up getting the job. It was a small office (2-4 employees) and they were hiring for a part-time receptionist. There were probably 12 of us in the group and 2 got called back for interviews. At the time I didn’t see it as insulting, just practical as I’m sure they got a lot of applicants and didn’t have much hiring experience, so they wanted a chance to see who stood out in person without spending a lot of time. I can see why it would be a turnoff, though.

    1. Anonymous*

      It’s OP #1. Were you told that it was a group interview beforehand? You didn’t mention that.

      Alison, btw, thank you for answering my question. I read your blog every day and your advice has been invaluable. Granted that interview I wrote to you about was a dud, but I heard back from for a second interview for another position I had interviewed for earlier in the week. Yay! I also have a phone call with another employer on Monday as well. Things are looking up!

      Just to pass along a modified tip from Alison’s interview advice: try writing down the job description. I don’t have a printer currently, but for interviews I would go to the library at my local university to use the printer and to type up whatever research I had done. One day I was feeling a little too lazy to go to the library so I decided to just write down the job description from the one I saved on my laptop. It really helped! I think Alison said something about writing things down helps solidify them in your mind. It’s true. I could look at it more objectively and make little notes. From those notes, I pulled questions to asked and I interviewed the interviewers right back. Thanks for the advice, Alison!

      1. Anonymous*

        Interviewing the interviewer back has been one of the most valuable things I’ve learned thanks to AAM. This blog helped me see that a job interview is as much an opportunity for you to find out about the company as it is for the employer to find out about you. Thank you, AAM! =]

        1. SCW*

          Be careful with the interviewing the interviewer, make sure your questions are crucial for understanding the position or the organization. We had one candidate who pulled out a list of interview questions that she asked each of us–how did you come to be in this field, what jobs have you held in this org, what is your favorite experience helping a patron. But she didn’t ask about a huge new project we were undertaking that this position was created to help with. It was strange and took a LONG time.

      2. Charles*

        ” . . . writing things down helps solidify them in your mind.”

        Yes, this is absolutely true. By writing it down you are turning the job description into an “experience.”

        I often use the example of a grocery list that you have forgotten to bring to the store; but you still manage to buy everything on the list. We tend to remember experiences better than something that we only read or heard about.

        And by writing it down you are forcing yourself to read and interprete what you are writing. In others words, to think more closely or carefully about what you are reading.

        Interesting how the human mind works, isn’t it?

  17. Anonymous*

    Eh, while #4’s reaction was pretty dramatic/overblown, I can’t say I’m a stranger to how he feels. When it boils down to it, in a job search, haven’t we all at one point or another had a little hissy fit when things haven’t been going right? He may have had a few places where he got second interviews and it didn’t work out. When it happens for the x time in a row, it can be fairly frustrating and he just acted out. Is it a really crappy way to act and make yourself look difficult? Surely. Is it entirely uncommon to feel that way? No.

    Job hunting is definitely like dating in many respects. When you keep going on interviews and nothing seems to be working out, it can really take a toll on one’s self-confidence/esteem. You start wondering what you’re doing wrong or chalk it up to being one of dozens, if not hundreds of candidates who applied and didn’t make the cut. As a fellow commenter pointed out, chances are more likely that you’re not going to get the job.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yeah, but then you stew to yourself or friends; you don’t send unwarranted nasty messages to the employer (and if you do make that mistake in a moment of misjudgment, you don’t then continue to feel self-righteous about it after that).

      1. fposte*

        Yes, I think there’s a big and problematic jump here between “Damn, I hate spending all that time and money and not getting a job” and “It’s unfair of them to ask me to spend time and money and not give me a job.” If you logically extend that second thought, that would mean companies should compensate candidates for applying, or that interviews would have to result in a job–which would also mean that job openings would dry up like tears in the desert.

  18. Anonymous*

    #4- I noticed that you mentioned your first interview was five YEARS ago so I understand why it’s frustrating to wonder what the big gap was. Was it the same position? Or where you rejected before and they kept your resume on file for another position that they called you in for? I understand your frustration on this aspect but as many have pointed out, to burn this bridge with a company is pointless and only hurts you.

    Job hunting is difficult and frustrating. I hope you don’t let the bitterness and frustration show in the interviews/hiring process because it only does you a disservice. Even if you do feel this, it does nothing to help you in your search and overall outlook.

  19. fposte*

    #4, I think that you’re talking about privacy concerns and money mainly as a cover for the fact that you’re angry, hurt, and frustrated that you didn’t get a job that you really wanted. You yourself intimated, after all, that you don’t really believe “resume on file” means anything, so why would it impair your privacy? And I think your note to them was really not about about conveying to them your concerns about their filing but that you’re angry, hurt, and frustrated.

    And that’s understandable–being rejected just plain sucks, whether it’s because you’ve been broken up with or because you didn’t get a job, and no amount of parking validation would have made it not suck. It’s hard that there’s an important situation that you have so little control over. It’s not unreasonable to find that stressful.

    But that also doesn’t mean that they did it wrong, or that they were unfair. And I think if you can find a way just to acknowledge that you’re mad because the process is rough, rather than because the company was particularly unfair or deceptive, that’ll help you move past the blaming approach that’s ultimately going to hamper your success.

    1. A Bug!*

      As usual, fposte is right on the money.

      It might make you feel better to have sent that e-mail, #4, but it’s not going to help you in your job hunt. Don’t sabotage yourself by getting emotionally invested in the process.

      Be the best you you can be, and if you don’t get a job, understand that it’s not personal. Step back, look at what you’re doing, and consider the possibility that there is something you could be changing about your approach that will present a stronger candidate in the future.

      And good luck in your search!

  20. Bob G*

    Am I the only one that found #2 (workers taking smoking breaks together) odd?

    I can’t imagine working anywhere that all 30 smokers and non-smokers all get up and leave at the same time. I picture that at some manufacturing locations where there is a scheduled shut down for lunch and everyone stops but I’ve never worked anywhere that this has occurred.

    Maybe they really don’t have enough to keep them busy since the business hasn’t launched yet so they are all bored. I definitely think you need to start setting some ground rules now so the expectations are clear once the business launches.

    1. mh_76*

      Nope, I found it odd too. And yes, it is best to set the ground rules in the beginning. As a militant non-user, I don’t even want to talk to people who are using cigarettes…yuck!

      OP #2 – LIKE!!!! There was some discussion about smoke breaks in general in a previous AAM post. I -think- that the OP, a non-user, was (rightfully) miffed about “smokers” taking paid breaks to use cigarettes etc. In your case, though, I would indeed craft a policy like AAM suggested…even for a start-up (like you are). It’s not micro-managing to want employees to not take breaks at the same time…in fact, it is rare to have a work environment where everyone goes on break at the same time. Also, what would you/your bosses say if those breaks were for a Drink or to use an illegal drug?

      As the business launches, the increased workload itself may decrease the number of group breaks that are taken. Also, if your company covers health insurance, it might be worthwhile to investigate the cost of covering a nicotine user vs. covering a non-user and start encouraging your colleagues to quit altogether.

      1. mh_76*

        (just to clarify…I don’t want to talk to cigarette users while they’re using…they can finish then come talk to me…downwind please)

    2. X*

      I work in an office environment, and we actually have 90% or so (possibly higher) of the workforce all getting up and leaving together at certain days and times.

      Our company is big on wellness, and one of the things they’ve done is work with a local gym to not only provide memberships (the company pays, not sure if the gym discounts them or not), but also to provide classes at certain days/times, for just our company to attend. So 90% of people get up in the 30 minutes leading up to the appointed time, in order to stagger their changing into workout clothes in the few restroom stalls in the building, then they all leave and come back en masse, then they stagger showering (for some, but unfortunately not all) and changing in the even FEWER shower stalls. All in all, it’s a little over an hour with zero productivity for 90% of the office but very enhanced productivity for the rest of the office (when we’re not jumping about to make the lights come back on because it’s so still and quiet), and an additional hour+ of mayhem with people arriving and leaving to change before and after.

        1. X*

          That part of it actually isn’t as bad as it sounds. There are a few people of less-than-ideal size/shape, so it’s not like it’s a bunch of workout buffs (though there are those, too), but also the co-workers AND the trainers are all really supportive and encouraging. I’d go more, except they schedule these classes in the middle of the day, and not only do I have work that needs to get done and I don’t want to take two hours of the day once all is said and done, but I just can’t switch gears from working to working OUT and back to working, especially after the workout when I’d be all hot and sweaty OR have to take even more time to shower completely.

          But to the topic at hand, we do have the building nearly clear out a few times a week, for over an hour, and things still manage to happen. Of course, we’re not a call center or hospital, so the work DOES wait. :-)

  21. Elizabeth West*

    #1 Group interviews:
    I had one for a receptionist position with a manufacturer near Exjob. They played all kinds of stupid games, gave us some tests and then dismissed us. It was presented in email as a “meeting.” In no way, shape or form was it anything like a real interview. I did get called back for one of those, but didn’t get the job. By then, I really wasn’t sure I wanted it. I feel like the cattle call was a huge waste of time, and I won’t do that again.

    #3 Wife filling out apps:
    At Exjob, we got applications for shop positions where someone would come in and take it home, then turn it back in later. A lot of them looked like someone else had possibly filled it out. It occurred to me this might be the case, but I didn’t care as long as we could read it. Although we never let them take the little math test out with them; they had to do that right there.

  22. Tax Nerd*

    #4 I understand your frustration, but really, like others said, you need to get over it. As a fresh college grad, I had two interviews with a well-known 24-hour news organization for a staff accountant job. I had to pay $12 each time to park near their center, which was a lot for someone with no income at all. Both times it turned out they already had an internal candidate with in-house experience. Versus someone they only got to know for 45 minutes (me) with some internships. I didn’t stand much of a chance, but I had to be pleasant about it, both with them, and with the agency who set it up. (I did learn to politely ask “Do you know if they have an internal candidate?”)

    But I have had experiences where they did keep my application on file, and it turned into something.

    Years later, while in grad school, I wanted some temp work to keep money coming in that would let me attend class at night. I landed an interview with a giant soft-drink company, but they wanted someone with experience in Access. I told them that I’d used it a bit, but only as a user, not as the administrator of the database, so my experience was limited, especially since I’d copy what I needed over to Excel. A couple weeks later, they had another position that needed Excel skills, and they liked me, so they brought me in for another interview, and I got the job.

    Fast forward several years, and I interviewed for a senior tax staff job with an accounting firm in the city where I’d gone to grad school. I thought I’d aced it, but never heard from them. When I called the recruiter to follow up, turns out an internal candidate had surfaced after they met with me. I said I understood, and that was that. A few months later, the same recruiter called and said she had an equivalent position open in the same city I was living in, and she thought of me, since they had liked me. I ended up getting that job. The point is, I was graceful about not getting the first job I’d interviewed for, and combined with the actual interview that didn’t work out the first time, I was still someone they would consider. So “We’ll keep your resume on file” isn’t always a meaningless courtesy. Sometimes, they mean it, and it’ll turn into something.

    The same firm won a large new client in November, some time after internship offers had gone out. We had to ask HR to go back and get the first three candidates from the “Maybe” pile that were still available. (They all had the aptitude for the job, but the work with our group wasn’t their first choice.) But they were all gracious about it.

  23. Tmm*

    Re:#3. When I worked for a small construction company in a very depressed area of the country, we would often get applicants wanting to complete a paper application who were usually older and unfamiliar with computers so they didn’t have a resume.
    For those who obviously didn’t complete the application form themselves was that they couldn’t read and write English. In construction, it is imperative that they be able to so for safety reasons (if nothing else).

  24. Anonymous*

    Re #4

    I once spent $150 on car rental and drove 3 hrs round trip and then spent another $150 and drove 4.5 hrs round trip only to get a rejection exactly 1 week after my interview. It makes me think the whole relocation thing over again….

    1. Anonymous*

      This. I’ve done overnight trips where I foot the entire bill and travel expenses. I’m probably overreacting but it pisses me off that someone would complain about TEN DOLLARS in a job interview situation. It’s as difficult to spend $10 when you don’t have an income as it is to spend $250+ at the drop of a hat when that company comes a-callin’ and wants to interview you when you’re currently employed.

      I understand their being hurt and annoyed that they didn’t get the job, but don’t be angry about it to the company. There is absolutely no good to come of that whatsoever

  25. Cassie*

    I think at some companies/offices, breaks (and lunch) are staggered so that the offices aren’t completely empty at any given moment. At our office, breaks are not set – there are a couple of staffers who do stick to the same schedule daily (9am break) but others go on break at random times or forgo breaks altogether.

    I think it is good to set up some general guidelines – like no breaks during the first 2 hours of your day (if you arrive at 8:30am, your break shouldn’t be at 9am). Or people in the same division should stagger their breaks/lunches. We have two people who handle facilities + A/V. They go together on smoke breaks or to get food , several times a day. I’m not their boss so I don’t care how they take their breaks, but it affects my work because I sit in the same area and people end up asking me for help all the time. I help them when I can but I don’t know everything. (It doesn’t help that my coworkers don’t put signs/notes on their doors indicating when they will be back – people have to just keep stopping by and hope that they catch them).

  26. Sean*

    I’m actually rather shocked that the employees of #2’s business actually think joint smoke breaks is at all acceptable, even more so from those who don’t smoke. I mean I think creating a policy is proper, I know it’s difficult to quit smoking, not personally I should not but still I do understand it can be very very difficult, but taking joint smoke breaks I think is a tad much…

    I’m also rather shocked #4 did what they did. I think it really does show oneself being bitter, plus it almost seemed to be such a huge thing about spending $5 on parking…I mean no big deal my opinion. It just seemed like a relatively pointless thing to bring up..

  27. Alfred*

    2. Stopping employees from all taking smoke breaks at once

    Actually, this may not be something you want to fight. It is a sort of bonding between colleagues and may strengthen the team.

    They may be under a lot of pressure because of the launch to come. I would not do anything about it.

    I wouldn’t address the breaks in themselves but the lack of productivity, if any.

  28. KellyK*

    For #2, I like AAM’s simple, straightforward answer. I also like Clobbered’s point that you need to make sure this is a real problem and not a theoretical problem before you create policies. Look first at what needs to happen to get things done, then write policies accordingly. “No more than X people out on break at once” makes tons of sense in some environments, while in others it would be totally micromanaging.

    I also think that giving a clear, concise reason for the policy is important. “Because we’ll need at least X people covering A, B, and C during business hours, breaks will be limited to Y people at a time, once we open on Z date.” The difference between managing and micromanaging often comes down to having a clear reason for things, rather than a bunch of arbitrary rules.

    You could also take the ROWE approach–which I like a lot–of telling people what they need to accomplish and leaving it to them to make that happen, rather than setting a fixed number of people who can or can’t take breaks together. If it’s my job to make sure area A of the store is covered, then obviously I can’t take a break without getting someone to cover for me, and since there are only so many things one person can cover, that makes it apparent that not everyone can take a break at once.

    If you do decide you need a policy, I think it’s important to let people know ahead of time what will change and how. The more major the change, the more notice is needed. This one’s minor, so it doesn’t necessitate a long involved email, but a quick heads-up is good.

  29. Rachel*

    Working on your handwriting–any tips? I haven’t had “formal” handwriting instruction since the third grade, as I’m sure is the case for most others. But my handwriting is truly appalling. Help ;_;

    1. Jamie*

      No tips on handwriting – mine is absolutely atrocious. Just print, except for signatures. That’s what I have to do.

  30. Darlene*

    I was called for an interview at a pre-teen children’s store as I told the manager I was there for an interview I was told it was a group interview. The assistant store mgr lined us up five in a row on a bench in front of the store and interviewed us. The woman sitting next to me had gone to Ryerson for fashion design and was wearing cut off jean shorts and flip flops for the interview. I was told I would be called by the end of the week if I was hired. I was not called back. The assistant mgr. went down the row asking us all the same questions. It was hard to hear some of the answers because of the noise of the mall plus customers walking by made me feel self conscious, everyone knew what was being done. I feel this was rather impersonal I do not want Joe public to know personal things about previous jobs I had held or the answers to the questions she was asking us. Could we have not gone to a room in the HR dept of the mall or the food court with a table near the windows at Promenade mall would have been more appropriate. I hope the woman in the cut off shorts and flip flops did not get the job, I would have told her to leave on the spot inappropriate wear for an interview for someone in fashion design you would think they would know better.

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