terse answer Tuesday: 7 short answers to 7 short questions

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

1. Can I ask for another transfer two months after my last one?

I work for a large retail corporation and have been upwardly mobile for the last 4 years, starting off on the front lines and now I am store management. Two months ago, my husband’s job took us to a different area (but still for my company in the same region, meaning same upper-management) and I was able to relocate to a troubled store in hopes of helping to revitalize it. Now, out of nowhere, my husband’s job wants to relocate him across country. I’d love to stay with my same company but I feel like asking for a transfer so soon after having just been transferred could end in burned bridges. I have a really good relationship with my current direct supervisor, as well as with the regional management, and I have no idea how to approach them with this. Do you have any advice on how to start the conversation?

Well, you’re going to move regardless of whether or not they give you a transfer, right? Assuming so, I would explain that your husband’s company made this decision without warning, that you had no idea that it was coming, and that you’re mortified that you’re having to leave after only two months. Say that you’d obviously love to stay with the company if at all possible, but that you completely understand that that just might not be possible on their end. Then see what they say.

2. Making thank-you calls after an interview

I’m about to go on my third and final interview, and I was wondering if calling each interviewer personally to thank them would be more effective than writing each a thank-you letter. If so, how long should I wait until I do call and what time would be best to contact them? I’m assuming that by allowing me to make it to the final interview that I’m one of the top candidates and I really want to put myself on the radar.

Don’t call them. They are busy, they have other things on their minds besides hiring, and you risk getting them at an inconvenient time and thus causing them to feel interrupted and harried, which is not the outcome you want. Send your notes through email and wait for the next interview to impress them beyond that.

3. Leaving high school off your resume

I recently read a post of yours about 10 things that make a resume outdated. Since I am submitting resumes and looking to return to the workforce after 10 years at home to raise my babies, I was interested in this. I noted that you mentioned leaving off info on high school on your resume. If that’s true, why has every application I’ve filled out asked me to account for all my *time* — not just jobs — since high school? I even verified with one company that they really wanted this — I graduated in 1985! They wanted it ALL, and I gave it to them. I am confused between the logic of leaving off info that far in the past, and the illogic of a company wanting that info when I also have college and 20 odd years of work experience. If they stated it was part of a background security check, I’d understand.

Applications aren’t the same thing as resumes. Resume conventions are different. For instance, an application might ask for the names and titles of your past supervisors, but that absolutely doesn’t belong on a resume. They’re different things.

Your resume is a marketing document, not a comprehensive accounting of everything you’ve done since your high school babysitting jobs.

4. Explaining why I’m not returning to a previous position

Two years ago, I left my job as a sales rep, which in my industry is often a fast track to senior management positions. I was very successful, but left after 1.5 years to pursue a lifelong dream of earning a graduate degree. Now I’m trying to reenter the industry via a sales position (with an interview tomorrow morning!) and a number of people seem concerned that a) I left and B) I’m not returning to my original company. As a recruiter phrased it, “You seem like such a super star, why doesn’t your former company want to snatch you back up?”

I have developed a thorough answer to concern A (which addresses how the degree directly helps me in this position), but concern B is throwing me. The truth is that my manager was very difficult to work for and, although we got along just fine, I’d rather not work for her again. Obviously, I do not want to say this in an interview, so how should I answer the question “Why aren’t you applying to work at your former company?” and soothe the concerns that I left on bad terms?

“I loved my time at Company X, but now that I’m back in the job market, I’m excited about experiencing somewhere new.”

5. Showing promotions on a resume

I’ve worked for the same company for over ten years now and have been promoted four times. Every promotion involved title and responsibility changes, as well as a raise and moving to a different location within the same metro area. My question is this: Does it look bad on my resume to list these jobs separately? I’m wondering if it could be construed as “job hopping” if someone reviewing my resume is just skimming (as is common these days). Is there an appropriate way to format this on my resume so that it’s clear that I’ve moved up within the same company, not just bounced around from job to job?

Yes, like this:

Company X                          2002-2012
VP, Marketing   2011-present
Marketing Director  2008-2010
Marketing Manager   2005-2008
Marketing Coordinator   2003-2005
Marketing Assistant   2002-2003

* Accomplishment

* Accomplishment

* Accomplishment

* And so forth

6. Asking out a past manager

I recently left my job for a better one. When i was there, my manager and i shared the same feelings towards each other. Now i want to ask him out but I don’t know if I have to wait a certain amount of time or if I can now. I just don’t want to get him in to any trouble because i know he has worked really hard to get where he is today and I wouldn’t want him losing his job because of a question about this.

You don’t work for the company anymore, so there’s no conflict of interest. Feel free to make your move.

7. Leaving an MBA off a resume when applying for admin positions

I graduated with an MBA this past May. I have a strong background in admin support, but I am also targeting positions in the Supply Chain field, Materials Analyst, or anything related to an MIS related field. If I want to find an admin support position in the interim, what are your thoughts on not declaring my MBA? Do employers freak out when they see that I have an MBA and applying for an admin support position?

Yes, many of them will immediately discard you — because they’ll assume you’ll be bored, that you’ll leave as soon as you find something in your field (which sounds like it’s the case), and/or that you won’t be engaged with the work. You’re probably going to get better results by leaving it off, unfortunately.

{ 58 comments… read them below }

  1. Josh S*

    Regarding #5: Do you think it’s bad/hard to follow if you do the multiple positions in the same company as:
    Company X 2002-2012
    VP, Marketing 2011-present
    Marketing Director 2008-2010

    …and so forth. Is this a problem? I like that it shows that you’ve had accomplishments throughout your tenure at all levels. If they’re all listed together, there’s no way to tell if they were all from the lower levels and you’ve stalled out as you progressed, or if you’ve shone as you’ve grown.

    1. Jamie*

      I am curious about this as well – and have a related question about positions without official titles.

      In SMBs (at least in my industry) it’s common to have official responsibilities outside of your wheelhouse. For example I’m IT – but have also been charged with overseeing cost accounting from the beginning. Listing those accomplishments under an IT title is odd – but a lot of people have jobs which are amalgams of different positions and typically you have the title for your main gig.

      Since you can’t just assign yourself a title never officially granted – should that be noted parenthetically (so the accomplishments don’t seem so out of place under the title) or is it best to only reference that in the cover letter?

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Josh, I think that’s fine to do too, but the OP was worried about someone skimming the resume and not realizing the jobs were all the same company and thinking she was a job-hopper. Which, I admit, I’ve sometimes thought in that situation, until I took a closer look and realized the jobs were all at one company. I think the promotions themselves will show that you were accomplished at all levels of your tenure, but of course it varies by specifics.

      Jamie, I think yours is another that will vary by specifics. One option is to have just a single bullet point that explains “also responsible for…” and then includes accomplishments, but depending on the specific situation, it could be better to do it a different way.

      1. Blinx*

        I sometimes think someone’s job-hopped when I see their profile on Linked-In, since it tends to break down your tenure with one company into how many years you were at each position, instead of how many years you were with the company overall. If someone were to read it fast, they might miss that the person has actually been with the company a long time!

  2. Julie*

    #5: If someone started at a company via a temp agency, was hired, and then was promoted, is it okay to list this all under the same entry?:

    Chocolate Teapots Inc. 2010-2012
    Executive chocolate maker, Sept 2011-present
    Assistant chocolate maker, Nov 2010-Sept 2011
    Assistant chocolate maker (via Temp Agency Inc.), Jan-Oct 2010

    1. Jamie*

      I like this format – because if even if you had the same duties as a temp chocolate maker, the dates of employment will be when you went on their books.

      I had temped for a company for several months before being hired as a regular employee and had the temping listed under the temp agency entry on my resume. This is much better.

    2. Blinx*

      I have this situation also, and just lump the earlier temp months in with my permanent position on the resume, since the work/reporting structure was identical. On the application, however, I do spell out exactly when/who I was contracting for, and when the perm position started.

      I had another job where I worked for 4 years, but went through 3 different types of employee status (freelancer, contractor with an agency, and non-exempt employee). On the resume I list the overall company’s name with “contractor” in parens, but on an application, I get into the nitty gritty details. A pain, but I know HR managers are sticklers for details!

  3. JT*

    For #5, is it a problem to not include the dates of the various positions? For example, on my resume I have
    “5/91-6/99 Program Officer (and earlier position Program Assistant)”
    without a date for the latter to save space.

  4. Betty*

    For #6:
    Just to be extra careful, you might want to ask him out by email. That way if anyone did realize you were dating and question when it started, he’d have written, dated proof that it was after you left.

  5. K.*

    #7: I have an MBA too, and when I was applying for admin/temp jobs, I left it off. In fact, I have a separate admin resume that omits the MBA and focuses more on admin work – lists the same positions but focuses more on admin-related accomplishments and tasks. I was stubbornly digging in my heels for a bit – “I worked my butt off for that degree! I want to show it!” – but for stuff that doesn’t require it, it really doesn’t help. It was one of my MBA professors (I have a strong relationship with her and use her as a reference) who convinced me – she has four different resumes, tailored toward different things.

    1. sparky629*

      @ #7 and K.
      I’m curious as to why you would take the time, effort, and money to get an MBA but then search for lower level admin positions? I thought the purpose of the advanced degree was to move up the ladder not to get the same exact job that you had without the degree (no snark intended-just to understand the logic behind your decision).

      1. K.*

        I can’t speak for the OP, but for me, I was looking for temp work to have income while I look for work in line with my education and experience after a layoff in February. (The position from which I was laid off was at the MBA level.) Positions at my level can take a while to fill, and I … need money, basically. Not to mention it’s better for my sanity to be working somewhere; I like working.

        I was doing the “spray and pray” thing for a while, applying to all jobs with any of my skills in the title at anything above the assistant level – and I wasn’t having much luck because I was overqualified for many of the positions I was applying for. So I decided to get a temporary job that would keep me in groceries and student loan payments (which I have, and that’s what I used the admin resume for. All parties involved know it’s temporary. I also do some freelance and volunteer work in my actual field), and apply only to jobs at my level, and I’ve been having much better luck. (The “applying only for jobs at my level” is one of the many helpful things I’ve gotten from this blog!)

        I hope that helps. The ultimate goal, of course, is a full-time job in my field and at my level, but if I have to do something “below” that in the interim, so be it. The market is hard out there for everyone. I had classmates get offers yanked at the last minute and were left scrambling. In a few cases, people had relocated for jobs that no longer existed, so they had leases on apartments in cities where they knew no one. You better believe they started working anywhere that would hire them! And don’t get me started on my lawyer friends – the legal market is BRUTAL right now.

          1. Michigan girl*

            I live in Michigan and work is hard to find. I also took the two years off to complete my MBA so I could really take advantage of the learning experience. So, now that I am done with school; I am looking for work (illegal use of semicolon?). My work experience is in admin/IT. I used to work as an admin assistant for a GM in an HRIS company, so I learned a lot about information management. I can segue the IS experience into materials management/supply chain field, but I don’t have any professional experience in that – which means that I would have to start as an entry level person. So, Alison is correct when she says that I am only looking for admin work while I wait to break into my intended field. Thanks, K – the more I am able to learn from others, the better!

            1. K.*

              Any time! And I agree, which is one of the many things I like about this blog – Alison and the other commenters are genuinely helpful.

        1. Jamie*

          “(The “applying only for jobs at my level” is one of the many helpful things I’ve gotten from this blog!) ”

          This. When I was on the market I had zero responses to the positions I applied to which were beneath the level of my previous position. Zero out of 100+ resumes sent.

          Then again, I hadn’t discovered AAM yet, so maybe a better cover letter may have made a difference.

    2. Liz*

      I understand the reasons for leaving it off. I just don’t know how to fill the four-year hole when I was in grad school, interning on the Hill after graduation, and studying for the bar exam. (Passed it, fortunately, but now that bar membership is just a $350 annual expense).

      An MBA is only two years, which makes more sense. But a four-year hole? I could list the unpaid positions I held during school, but it’s still hard to explain “environmental law clinic intern” or “prosecuting attorney’s office intern” without admitting to the degree, and I would want to try to never pretend they were paid positions.

      1. Anonymous*

        I have the same dilemma as Liz. I followed a personal passion that led to a graduate degree and steady academic work post graduation. I still do some related part-time work, but I am looking for a full-time, non-academic job not related to my graduate degree. If I leave this degree off my resume, will hiring managers wonder how I am/was qualified for those jobs? I’m also concerned that I may seem dishonest if I go further in the hiring process and this information becomes known.

        I’ve considered addressing the issue in cover letters, but when I try, it reads as apologetic (and TMI). I’d rather focus on addressing the job and my relevant experience.

        1. Jung*

          “I’m also concerned that I may seem dishonest if I go further in the hiring process and this information becomes known.”

          I don’t know if I’m just over-thinking this, but I agree with you, Anonymous. I really want to get a part-time job to help pay the bills and student loans while I look for something full-time, and a lot of the part-time jobs I come across are receptionist or office help positions. They ask for a HS diploma or a Bachelor’s (I have a Master’s in an unrelated field). If I got hired and never mentioned my Master’s, I feel I’d always be paranoid that somehow, someone will find out that I went to grad school and that I’ll just end up looking dishonest and like a complete jerk…

  6. NonProfiter*

    //OFF TOPIC//

    First, has AAM ever done an Open Thread? I seem to think so but can’t find it. I love the Commenteriat on this site, such a great group, and this is one blog where a regular open thread would be a boon!

    Which is why I want to ask the Commenteriat: what does it mean when a job search is being done by a search firm and they say at the bottom, “Individuals wishing to speak confidentially about this opportunity may contact Jane Doe”? Does that mean you can actually call up and ask some questions?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I did one about a month ago! In general, though, I try to keep off-topic stuff out of the comments, in part because otherwise anyone who subscribes to the comments by email ends up getting emailed comments on topics they didn’t sign up for

    2. Camellia*

      Jamie runs an “Ask a Manager” group on LinkedIn that can be used for open thread discussions.

      1. Jamie*

        For those who are interested: Go to Linkedin > search for Ask a Manager group > request to join and shoot me a message so I know you’re not a spammer.

        In fact the messages that are some variation of “I am an AAM reader, not spam” always make me laugh. Because even though I know what spam is, the part of my brain that is still 10 years old laughs when people email me declaring that they are indeed not a canned meat product.

    3. mh_76*

      NonProfiter, to give you a quick answer: The contact name at the bottom is either the person at the search firm who is working with the client (company) and/or the person who works with candidates in that specified field. Some search firms/agencies combine those roles while some have client-side recruiters (like Account Managers) and candidate-side recruiters (the people you speak to). Hope that helps a bit. I admit that I have yet to read the LI group in-depth but it’s definitely worthwhile!

      1. mh_76*

        (just read your last sentence…oops) “Does that mean you can actually call up and ask some questions?” – depends on the search firm, worth a shot. Or look that person up and see if you can find an email address…whichever’s easier for you.

  7. Anonymous*

    #7- Yes – leave off the MBA. I wouldn’t hire you for an admin position. Now if you came through a temp agency as an admin and I found out your experience and how fabulous you are, I sure would find a way to keep you and use your talents. I’ve had successful outcomes on both sides of this scenario – both as the temp person and as the hiring/manager. Congratulations by the way!

    1. Michigan girl*

      Thank you to Alison, K and Anonymous. I will take your advice and make the appropriate changes. I am relieved to finally get a professional perspective on this. Have a great day folks!

  8. Liz T*

    #1’s husband’s company sounds obnoxious! Is this typical of them, that they’d send him (and his spouse) across the country more than once a year? Ugh, what if it happens again–how is the OP supposed to hold down a job?

    1. blu*

      Without more info we don’t know relocating isn’t an inherent part of the husband’s job. Twice in a year sounds like a lot without context, but if his job is say opening new offices/stores then moving may be a part of the deal and they just didn’t expect it to be twice in one year or far enough away to require a job change.

      1. Anna*

        This may be wide of the mark (since I have no notion of how such a job would work, if you don’t mind the pun) but if this were the case, could the husband ask his company to, say, base him out of *one* location and/or keep him to a particular region? I imagine asking him to move every six months would cause some serious problems if he and the OP have school-age children.

        Then again, I don’t have any context either, so the circumstances might mean this doesn’t apply.

  9. Mike C.*

    With regards to #4, make sure you have a few backup answers as well. I’ve been in more than one interview where I was grilled multiple times as to why I wanted to leave a position I had been at for three years. It was incredibly frustrating when the convention is not to tell the truth about one’s current working conditions.

    1. KellyK*

      Good point. It’s definitely good to have a couple of soft-pedal answers that explain why you want to change without throwing your previous (or current) company under the bus (even if they really deserve to be thrown under the bus).

      I think the OP has an advantage here because it’s not “Why are you leaving?” but “Why didn’t you go back?” So you can talk about the things your degree qualifies you for that you didn’t do much of in your old position and are looking to do more of.

      1. Jamie*

        I actually just think a generic answer about wanting more opportunities should be all you need – as long as the delivery is matter of fact. Just pleasantly repeat it as often as needed to whomever asks.

        However, if it’s said in a tone of “I am supposed to say something neutral, but holy crap if we weren’t in an interview I could unleash some fabulous and horrific stories about the demon howler monkeys who ran my last company” then people will get curious and keep asking to see if you’ll spill.

        I’ve seen that. If you keep the tone very pleasant and neutral you can convey that you would much rather discuss this fabulous new opportunity than dwell on the current employer they shouldn’t linger on that topic.

        1. Mike C.*

          Sure, it should be all you need unless it isn’t. When I say grilled, I really mean grilled. It was asked four times in the first interview and several more in the second.

          Look, telling someone to under-prepare on a common and touchy question doesn’t make much sense to me. It doesn’t matter how pleasantly one can talk about “how great work is” or “being excited about new opportunities” when it’s clear from travel time or wages being offered that there are other reasons for wanting to move on. And if you’re too nice, they ask why you aren’t staying in the first place.

          Sure, this is an uncommon occurrence, but when you’re repeatedly asked a question you cannot answer truthfully multiple times, it becomes difficult for even the best liars to come up with good reasons. Employers should be asking, “why do you want this job”, because the reasons someone might want to leave their current job are often quite private.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I’d say that if an interviewer asks you a question four times, it’s appropriate to say, “I’m getting the sense that something about my previous answer wasn’t clear. Which part can I clarify?”

  10. Anonymous*

    Regarding No. 5: My company has recently given title-only promotions in lieu of raises. So how would you list something akin to five titles in five years at the same company? I’d prefer to just list my current (and top) title + only one other title, but that seems misleading.

      1. Jamie*

        I would never do it because it’s crazy, but this question reminds me of my weird resume fantasy where they all have drill downs – kind of like a crystal report.

        So everyone would have a one page easily scannable resume – but if someone were particularly interested in the details of something you just double click and there are the details. With layered subreports a resume could hold everything you ever wanted to share, but they wouldn’t have to look at it unless they opted to.

        I know it’s not workable – but it would be awesome if it were. And not just because it mitigate my inability to be brief.

      2. T.A.*

        AAM, you kind of read my mind. Regarding #5, I was promoted three times while I was in college working for Residence Life and Housing department and each position brings additional responsibilities. But because I am a new professional, I do not want to run the risk of stretching my resume to two pages. So what I did was this:

        Program Coordinator 2003-2010
        * Promoted to Program Coordinator after serving as Program Assistant and Graduate Assistant
        * List accomplishment
        * List accomplishment

        I realized at first glance, it may look I was a program coordinator for seven years, but I was not. I was a program coordinator for almost two years. If I list each position I held with month and year, it will bump my resume to two pages and I am trying really hard to keep it one page because I am an entry-level professional.

        I like the suggestion you had for #5, but I know if I do it that way, it will be two pages. And I was promoted twice in one department and three times in another department on campus while attending school.

        Do you have any suggestions?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I think the way you have it is fine. But I would make sure that all your promotions (in both departments) are clear, so that you don’t shortchange yourself there.

  11. Anonymous*

    With regards to #3: Yes, Alison is right about the difference between what you add on applications versus resumes. I also was home raising children and am now trying to re-enter the workforce. I have revised my resume many times. At first, I tried to just leave dates off. Someone told me that if I did this, that it would be a red flag saying what in the world was I doing all this time. You can’t have it all. I don’t care who says women can have it all. They can’t drop out of the workforce and magically reappear a decade or decades later. Sorry, I am just frustrated right now. I wish you the best.

    1. Jamie*

      No, women can’t have it all, but neither can men. To get something you almost always have to sacrifice something else.

      It’s just a question of knowing what you need and making the right trade offs so that the important stuff is taken care of.

      Actually, I like to think that I have had it all…I just couldn’t have it all at the same time. I do feel your frustration – I was a SAHM for almost 16 years. I got married and had kids right out of college…then in my late 30’s I got my first real job. Talk about a culture shock.

      There is no magic answer, but the key that worked for me was not to worry about where my career could be if I had made different life choices. I just evaluate where I am based on what I do and what I bring to the table at this point in time. I’m sure my employer wishes I would do this less (I’m kind of a PITA :)) – but it works for me. The world doesn’t owe me the salary that I would draw if I’d been working for 20+ years, so I just worry about the salary I’m owed for what I bring to the table right now.

      I absolutely made the right choices for my family and myself, both in staying home and in going back to work…the time-line that worked for me may have been a nightmare for someone else. It’s all about how you manage your responsibilities. If your kids are cared for and basics are being paid for, then how you get there is all individual.

      It is scary going back (I would imagine – I didn’t have anything to “go-back” to) but it would have been SO much easier if I had AAM at the time. It’s like being able to eavesdrop (without being creepy) on people talking about the world you want to rejoin…and it can make it easier.

      Oh, and FWIW – I do try not to make sweepings statements as a personal rule – but in this case I’ll make an exception: Staying home with the kids is harder than anything you will ever face at work. I don’t care what your job is, or how freaking complicated it is…the stakes are lower. I love my job and work ridiculously hard – if I were to fail it would crush my ego. If I failed as a mother that would have killed me. The stakes at a job can never be as high – because the end result will never be as important to you.

      Good luck – and remember that no matter what you do it will be easier that what you’ve already done.

      1. Anonymous*

        Thank you Jamie. Yes, I too know I made the choice to stay-at-home and would not change that for a minute. I am thankful I could. I love being a mother and taking care of other people. That was the most important thing to me. I wanted that. If I had failed at that, like you said it would have been the worst thing in my life.

        Just like you said I am really glad to have found this website. I am just at a lost right now. I seem to do so many things the wrong way. I embarrass myself a lot. My heart is in the right place but I just feel a little discouraged. I am not looking for a high-profile career or to be anything special. I just want to find a job, hopefully something I studied for. I am not giving up though. Sometimes you feel like will I ever work again? You know what I am saying.

      2. Tamara*

        “I love my job and work ridiculously hard – if I were to fail it would crush my ego. If I failed as a mother that would have killed me. The stakes at a job can never be as high – because the end result will never be as important to you.”

        I am not a mother yet, so I can’t relate, but I absolutely love this statement/explanation.

  12. Jeff A*

    With regards to #5: Is this format appropriate if you’ve only held two or three positions at the same company? Or better left to 4, 5, or more titles? I was with the same company for 8 years, but had two positions (though the roles generally overlapped…a lot).

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s appropriate as long as the positions were similar enough to each other. If they’re very different, you should do separate listings for each.

  13. Liz*

    Someone today advised me to take my grad school degree off my resume, remove the date for my undergrad degree, and then fill the hole in time where I was going to school with the phrase “Acquiring education 2004-2007,” move a list of skills that should include “critical thinking,” and “can work well independently and with a group” to the top of my resume, AND add an objective at the very top of the resume, although that was “personal preference.”

    I could basically just hear Alison gasping in horror the whole time.

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