short answer Sunday: 6 short answers to 6 short questions

It’s short answer Sunday — six short answers to six short questions. Here we go…

1. When your references have moved on to other jobs

I am currently filling out an application for a major hospital, and part of this process is to provide references. They are asking for a supervisor reference. My previous supervisor moved to another company and I replaced her. Is it ethical to still use her as a reference? Can I use a coworker within the company, even though she is not a supervisor?

It’s very normal to use references who are no longer at the original company where you worked with them; people move on to other jobs all the time, after all. Use the previous manager, and provide her current contact information.

2. Finding time to interview when you’re already employed

I’m wondering what the best way is to interview for a job when you are already working 9-5. Especially if the job you are applying for isn’t somewhere near that you could fit into a 1-hour lunch break. I don’t want to keep asking for time off from my current job, and I don’t want to ask the job I’m interviewing with if I can come in before 9 or after 5. Any suggestions?

Actually, it’s completely fine to ask if they have interview times available early in the morning or late in the day; many people get in to work earlier than 9 or leave later than 5. So at least ask.

3. Searching for work when your employer is part of a close-knit community

I work for a very small nonprofit, but we have a large, active board, we are membership-based, and we partner a lot with other local nonprofits. I love the content of my work but I’m unhappy with the office dynamics and my title, so I’m starting to look at jobs with similar organizations. The problem is that many of my desired employers have an existing relationship with my current employer, either through membership, partnerships, board relationships, etc. I’m not sure how to go about networking and applying for jobs with these organizations and still keep my job search under wraps at my current employer. Do you have any advice? I also wonder about networking in this situation — is it kosher to contact a trustworthy board member or other constituent of my current organization for help in my job search and ask them not to tell my current boss/fellow staff?

A board member’s first loyalty really should be to the organization whose board they sit on. It’s possible that you might find one who agrees to keep your search discreet, but I wouldn’t count on it. You’re more likely to be able to get confidentiality from someone at a partnered organization, and you can generally use your judgment about who’s likely to be discreet.

4. How much do employers value semesters abroad?

I will be studying in China or Singapore for a semester. The decision to go on this exchange is really independent of my career, but I was wondering how useful it will be. I feel like I have encountered a lot of people at work that have studied/worked abroad, so is it not as big of a deal in the work world? How much do employers value studying abroad? Will this be a big selling point for me? I can see it being a factor with international companies, but what about local or national ones?

Spending a semester abroad is not a big deal to most employers, although if you have interesting accomplishments while you’re there, it could become more impressive. That’s not to say that employers don’t value overseas experience; they certainly do, but a semester abroad isn’t generally a major selling point that will put you ahead of other qualified candidates. So don’t do it because you think it’ll be a big plus with employers; do it if you want the experience of living in a foreign country, which can be tremendously valuable in its own right.

5. Training certificate mishap

I am interested in a job that was posted on June 8. It is a nonprofit independent contractor job that pays very well. I sent out a resume on June 14 and received an email on June 18 from the hiring manager asking if I could send her a certificate I needed as a requirement for employment. I could not find my certificate at home so started looking for other trainings so that I could get a new certificate. I sent her two emails replying about this issue and told her that I would be going to a training for a new certificate. She did not reply to my two emails. I went to the training anyway, and ended up paying $500 plus travel. By June 27, I had my new certificate and emailed her a copy with an updated resume that day. She has not returned my email. Do you think it’s too late in the running and I missed my chance? The website says “no calls please” so I feel weird calling but then again I have not had any replies to my emails. What do you think I should do?

I’m confused about why you signed up for an entirely new training (at a cost of $500!), rather than just calling whoever had issued you the original certificate to get a replacement copy of your certificate. Unfortunately, the hiring manager is probably similarly taken aback by that and wondering about your judgment — she might even be thinking that you lied about having the certificate originally, since it’s odd that someone would go back and repeat the training rather than just asking for a new copy.

In any case, you’ve emailed her three times with no reply; there’s not really anything else you can do at this point without being overly aggressive. You probably need to write this job off and move on. Don’t take more trainings that you’ve already taken, especially for jobs that are far from a sure thing!

6. Company went silent after nearly making me a job offer

I had an interview a few weeks ago with a solicitors firm, and received a letter a couple of weeks later to say that I had a good interview and they would keep me on file but I had not gotten the job. They then called me a couple of weeks after, asking if I was still interested in the post as the person they hired was not up to the job and there had been some complaints. We discussed how much notice I’d need to give and when I could start, and she then said whe would ring me back the following day to go through the details as she was ringing from her mobile and was out of the office, plus she needed to discuss it with her colleague. This was two weeks ago and I still have not heard a thing and I have left and email and voicemail asking for an update, but still nothing. I would just like to know either way.

Take the silence as your answer — for whatever reason, they’re not moving forward with you. It’s incredibly rude of them to have reached out to you in this way and then just disappeared, but assume the silence is telling you everything you need to know. Including the fact that you don’t want to work with people who behave that way.

{ 40 comments… read them below }

  1. Nameless*

    2. Finding time to interview when you’re already employed

    This bugs me all the time, I started a job 6 months ago and I realized I am not the perfect fit here. They are overworking me, 3 people have left since I started and they haven’t hired anyone yet. I have also absorbed the work for one of the person who left at the same wage. I want to leave but I can’t find good interviewing time. They frown on me if I say I am sick.

    Is it okay to ask for Sat interviews?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Not in industries where working Saturday isn’t normally expected. You’d be asking the interviewer to give up part of their weekend to interview you.

      1. Alisha*

        I’ve interviewed candidates in 5 PM and 6 PM slots, but I’m the type who chooses a later workday by nature in a flextime environment. If you ask for a slot over lunch or as close to the end of the day as possible, you may be pleasantly surprised at what some companies grant, depending on the industry.

        One thing I’ve done when in your situation was requested the last interview slot for the day, and then told my employer I needed to leave early for an important dental procedure. No further explanation should be required, but if I were asked, I would say that I have a chipped tooth causing me discomfort, and I must get it filled immediately before it turns into a bigger problem.

        1. Kristinyc*

          Be careful about lying about dental work for a job interview…

          One time, I said I had a dental appointment (that was really a job interview), and then a week later, I started having wisdom tooth issues and had to have a few actual dental appointments. Then had to get my wisdom teeth out.

          At least it sort of corroborated my story :)

        2. Samantha Jane Bolin*

          I’m always happy to interview candidates outside of the 8 (or 9) to 5 time frame. If I’m interested in them, I will gladly accommodate their work schedule and completely understand the need for them to come before or after work.

        3. B*

          Why lie about a dental procedure? When I go on interviews, I just tell my boss I have an “appointment,” which is true, but I’m not specific about what kind of appointment it is. Fortunately, my boss respects my privacy and does not push for details. I find it’s much better not to fabricate things if you don’t have too.

          1. mh_76*

            some bosses do ask what kind of appointment because at some companies, medical/dental appointments are covered by sick time and (for example) cable installer or financial advisor are covered by vacation time. Some companies lump together sick time & vacation time into one category and others track them separately. Sometimes we do have “too” tell a minor fib.

            1. ARM2008*

              Why do you have to fib? If you’ve got vacation time to use or you are taking unpaid time then “I have an appointment” is enough. If you’re lying to be able to use sick time, well, you’re lying.

              1. Alisha*

                Forthrightness is a trait that I value highly, but some companies cultivate environments where honesty is punished. I know several people who were forced to choose between providing an excuse to interview at a company that refused to grant interviews outside normal working hours, or turning down the invitations and continue working unhappily where they were. My suggestion was not intended as a gospel truth, but instead, a Hail Mary for a worst-case scenario.

                A good boss respects your privacy, and is able to stop at “I have an appointment,” but not everyone has a good boss, and occasionally, people end up in situations where displeasing the bully who manages them can turn off their source of income as fast as you can say “boo.”

          2. Alisha*

            I agree that generally, “I have an appointment” is sufficient, assuming everyone is reasonable and respects each other’s boundaries. In the event that someone is forced to interview during regular business hours, and is dealing with an individual who’s consistently unreasonable about taking time off, it helps to have a back-up plan. How you execute that back-up plan is up to you – I was simply sharing what I would say.

  2. Anonymous*

    5. Training certificate mishap

    Hi Alison, I actually forgot to add in my email that I DID ask the people where I got my certificate and they could not find me on their database. So I could not replace my original certificate. Also, at the training I found out that my previous training was not as in depht and may not have qualified me for the position. Anyway, good thing I took this training because it is offered 1-2 times per year. Good news: the day after I sent you my email the hiring manager contacted me and now I have a job interview scheduled for next week!

    1. Josh S*

      Good news!

      (But that was still a bit of a risk to re-take the training for that certificate without knowing whether it would get you the job, wasn’t it? Or is that certificate pretty much required for your preferred career path?)

    2. Steve G*

      cool….your original post sounded a bit odd because you left this part out, but good luck. I would not be very happy if I school I went to said “sorry we have no record you went here” though!

  3. Neeta*

    Regarding number 2: I’m always asked when I would be available, and interviewers are generally very understanding about early or later interviews. Most of the time, I tell them upfront why I want those hours and they’re completely fine with it.

    Personally, I tend to avoid going for interviews during lunch hours, since a lot of times they exceed the one hour mark. I prefer going to interviews knowing I will not feel the pressing need to check my watch every other minute.

    1. Alisha*

      That’s a good point about lunch. The candidates I’ve seen over lunch were in other office parks close by, attending university at a school next to my place of business, two buildings over when working downtown, etc. – and I also told them how long the interview was expected to take as a courtesy. Lunch interviews also work better if you’re working somewhere that allows the occasional long lunch and prioritizes results above face time.

  4. Chocolate Teapot*

    Another person who tries to schedule for 5.00pm-6.00pm when possible. What I don’t get is when you receive a call from somebody who doesn’t seem to understand that no, you can’t just drop everything to attend during working hours. I thought that many employers ideally preferred to recruit a person already in a job anyway, so you think they would understand about working hours?

    1. Charles*

      “I thought that many employers ideally preferred to recruit a person already in a job anyway, so you think they would understand about working hours?”

      Yea, isn’t that funny! It seems to me that so many folks want it both ways.

      Yep, we want to hire only those who currently have a job; but, drop everything to answer our call, or ditch work to come interview at OUR convenience.

      Yep, we want to hire those who are interested in advancing their education; but, don’t give them flex time to attend class.

      Yep, we like to hire folks who have a good work-life balance; but, put in overtime and weekends without pay all the time or your not a team player!

      Lastly, we want to have a healthy workforce; but, stiff them on benefits!

  5. Anonymous*

    It must vary by location or something, because I have yet to find a potential employer willing to budge on their normal-business-hours schedule of interviews. They say it’s easier to find a job if you already have one, but I’ve found it to be a huge roadblock to getting any interview at all. I can’t just pretend I’m sick because my company requires a doctor’s note every single time, and even if I didn’t live/work far from most places I apply, we only get half an hour for lunch.

    After a couple times where I took a huge risk calling out (citing family emergency) and ended up at interviews which led nowhere, I had to start turning them down. Now I’m just stuck. I’d be better off unemployed.

    It’s just another example of how unreasonable employers are being when they know they’re holding all the cards. They want you to have a job or else you’re seen as tainted, but expect you to risk that job for even a chance to get into their company.

    1. Elise*

      Can you schedule days off? A lot of work places are better about scheduled days off so they don’t have to scramble to find someone to cover a shift at the last minute.

      1. Anonymous*

        Technically I could do this, but requests have to be in three weeks before the Saturday preceding the day off. And it’s not like I get a lot of calls for interviews anyway, so doing it on a regular basis just to keep a day open won’t be practical.

        I do have Wednesday afternoons off since I work Saturdays, and I still couldn’t get several companies to give me an appointment during that slot. It’s like they pack their schedule so tightly that you either take the date/time they give you or nothing. I’m surprised they even have humans call anymore. They may as well send out those e-invitations with the day and time they want and you either click “Yes” or “No.”

        I’ve also found that if you’re not there sitting by your phone the second they call–I deal with customers so our phones aren’t allowed to be on during our shifts–you rarely catch them if you try to call back, so another point against the currently employed. Forget being better off unemployed; sometimes I think I’d just be better off dead.

        1. mh_76*

          Can you schedule the time off and cancel it if no interview is scheduled for the potential day off? I’ve done that in the past but know that it won’t work in every workplace. I’ve also “fudged” about medical/dental appointments occasionally but that isn’t something I really like to do…but will do again if need be. I did once have an interview at 7am but that felt like a one-time almost-fluke.

          Is there any way that you could take the time off and make it up by working during the same pay-period -or- that you could adjust your interview-day work schedule ahead or back by an hour or two? That’s another thing that’s possible in some workplaces and not in others.

    2. Blinx*

      I’m one of the “tainted” ones, since I was laid off 6 months ago. I’m available any day, any hour to interview, but of course I don’t say that when they ask! I have to make it seem like I have a tight schedule: “I can come in either Wednesday afternoon or Friday morning” so that I don’t sound too desparate!

    3. B*

      I’m sorry for your situation, anonymous. I wish employers understood how difficult it can be to come in for interviews. It can be a real sacrifice and a real hassle. Often, an interview won’t lead to a job offer anyway, and it can be draining to go through the mental pressure of preparation and scheduling before you even know if you’ll gel well with the company.

  6. Charles*

    #1 – replaced your supervisor. But, when you took over her job, didn’t you get her boss as your new boss? Why not list her? Isn’t she also someone that the recruiter would want to talk to anyway?

    #2 – Finding time to interview when working. Yes! a thousand times yes! I have always had a problem with lying, even “little white lies.” So, claiming that I chipped a tooth or need to go to the doctor doesn’t work for me – I have absolutely no poker face, none whatsoever. I simply tell my boss that I need the day off. The last several years I have been doing contract work, so as an assignment is winding down I’ve had no problem with taking a day off to interview for the next one, as long as my boss understands that I am staying until the assignment is finished.

    #3 semester abroad. Yep, I agree with Alison. Do it for its own sake. China or Singapore? Boy, I’m jealous – I’d love to go back to that part of the world. The only suggestion I would give is do more than one semester. I know most folks do just one semster; But, I spent my junior year abroad and felt (as did my other classmates) that those who only spent one semster missed so much by not doing the full year (the full year included the summer before as well, so it was in fact a full year)

    #6 – Interviewed, rejected, then called again. Boy, I think you’ve dodged a bullet on this one OP. Really, you have. Let’s see: they hired someone who didn’t work out, called you to inquire about you coming on board, and have now left you hanging.

    I would want to know more about why the first person didn’t work out before I would say yes. Did they not explain the job properly? Do they have lousy assessment skills in determining who will fit the job? or, is the job so bad that the other person quit? or, is there some sort of power play going on and you are stuck in the middle of it? The only thing good that I see is that they, unlike so many other employers, did send out a rejection letter from the first interview.

  7. Dana*

    Once I got an interview request for the following week. I had a vacation planned and would be out of town, so I explained this and asked if earlier the next week would be okay. They declined, saying that they were only doing interviews that Wednesday and Thursday before.

    Heck, I probably dodged a bullet there, if they were THAT inflexible.

  8. ThomasT*

    On #3, working for a membership nonprofit – I work for a similar organization, and our staff often find next jobs at member organizations, and we often hire people away from members. As for networking, I agree that you can’t ask board members if your primary connection to them is as a staff member at your current job. But where I am, our board members are the exec directors of member organizations, so as much as we’d like them to have their primary allegiance be to us, they also have a clear duty to make sure their own organizations are well-staffed. The way I’d dissect this is that you wouldn’t want to ask one of the board members to help you in your search, but if you applied for an opening at their organization and they became aware of your candidacy from their colleagues, they wouldn’t tell your boss, and if they’ve been impressed with your work at your current job, that would of course help. That’s not an absolute – it depends on the person, organization, and various levels of politics.

  9. Lisa*

    #6 This sort of happened to me

    I was up for a manager job, I thought I blew the interview cause they rushed it with 3 of the 4 i was meeting with, and then i never met with #4 even tho i was told I would. Considering #4 told my recruiter that I was their front runner, I knew it was a bad sign. Next day not even 10 hours later, I was told they were not moving forward with me with a 7:30 am email. Fast forward 3 weeks, and one of the team members quit. And #4 interview guy called my recruiter to ask if i would consider making the lateral move to this open position. I said yes, and the guy was pretty much ready to offer me the job, but needed to justify paying a manager’s salary for this level. I even told them that I would take less money to be able to work for this company, and told him my bottom number. Radio silence, turns out #4 wanted me for the manager job but got overuled, then wanted me on the team and got overuled again. I was mad, because I though I was being offered a job and just negotiating salary at this point. If people dont have the authority to hire their team, then they shouldnt imply anything especially if they always need approval for every hire.

    1. Stells*

      ^ This is why our company keeps all candidate contact with the recruiter. We never allow our hiring managers to speak directly with candidates to cut down on these kinds of things. Plus, we know what approvals are needed, etc, before we can make that offer.

      I know it sucks when we don’t pass along contact information to the candidate (we request they send thank you emails to the recruiter and the recruiter forwards them to the appropriate people), but it is the only way we can keep this sort of thing from happening all the time.

      If anyone calls talking about an offer after you’ve been rejected – please ask if the headcount has been approved and then contact your original recruiter who sent you the rejection letter to make sure they are aware.

      I’m afraid the radio silence is because the person responsible for communicating with you (tghe recruiter or HR delegate) has no idea that the managers are discussing an offer with you.

      1. Lisa*

        To be honest, all my contact was with the recruiter the second time around. The hiring manager had the recruiter contact me to see if I would take this other position, and she is the one that conveyed that it was about salary only at that point. Maybe she was lying, as far as I know, the hiring manager wanted me but his boss didn’t.

  10. Anonymous*

    Re: #6

    I’m currently in a situation that began similarly to #6. I interviewed, was told I was one of 4 candidates for 2-3 positions, and would hear back within a week. I followed up 2 weeks later and was told they were still interviewing people. Three weeks after that I was asked if I was still available and I reiterated my interest. I was told by my contact that I would hear back “soon” to schedule a meeting time.

    Two weeks later, and a meeting has yet to be scheduled, though my contact has responded to my follow-up inquiry and sent one, un-prompted apology for the delay. But I’m still concerned. Should I be patient and let them sort it out? It is a small company and the meeting is with two of the partners, but 2+ weeks seems a long time to schedule a meeting.

  11. -X-*

    “Should I be patient and let them sort it out? ”

    What else can you do? Withdraw? I don’t think that’d help you.

  12. De Minimis*

    As far as interviewing while working, I am lucky because I currently work part-time and my employer is pretty understanding when I need to adjust my schedule. Seems like in general, though that these employers do not seem to want to accomodate working candidates, yet they of course often do not care to hire those who are currently not working. Yet another of the many Catch-22s in today’s job market.

    Thankfully, I appear to have been able to find something permanent [it’s a tentative offer with a government agency] so I’m hoping to be done with all this pretty soon.

  13. mh_76*

    #4 – Whether/not a term abroad will be professionally valuable for you depends on what field you want to go into, who your target companies’ stakeholders (including the public) will be, and what language/culture they speak/are part of.

    Also, how other-language-intensive (I’m guessing Chinese) will the semester be? Even if knowledge of another language isn’t part of the pre-application requirements for the jobs that interest you, people tend to value that knowledge and it could potentially set you apart from some of the other candidates, especially if you’re of a different culture/ethnicity than the language.

    You should go anyway, even if just for the life experience…especially if you won’t be speaking a lot of English when you’re there…but even if you will be.

  14. ARM2008*

    4. How much do employers value semesters abroad?

    I have found that the job I worked at in Europe acts as a topic for discussion that interviewers are interested in. They don’t seem to care so much about the work experience, they want to hear about working overseas – I think because it’s something many of them will never do. Be prepared with some useful stories – work in some that show your ability to think on your feet and work with different people, something you can tie to employability. And something funny or awe inspiring – it creates bonding moments with your interviewer…

  15. Snufkin*

    #2 – If the interviewers’ schedule isn’t amenable to either during 7.30-8.30a or after 5p, then I’ve done a half day of personal time off. Just completely avoids any questions about medical appointments.

    #4 – Speaking as an alumni of Peace Corps, the mantra they tell us is that “nobody really cares.” If you’re doing an internship related to your degree/eventual professional field or gaining valuable language skills, then it’s relevant. Otherwise I’ve found people find that sort of detail about you to be interesting, but not anything that’ll give you a leg up on the competition.

    #6 – I went through that experience with a firm (actually they were British coincidental with the asker sounding Commonwealth) who had me go through multiple interviews, extended a verbal offer, had me do preliminary paperwork, then went silent, and now I’ve been contacted twice on LinkedIn by recruiters trying to fill this position. The whole experience is a good explanation of why you don’t want to work with people who behave that way.

  16. Jess*

    The comments on this post make me really glad that I work in such a flexible place! My first reaction to “how do I interview when I already have a job” is “duh, just suck it up and take the vacation time to take the day off”—but I forget that doing that, especially with little notice, isn’t possible in some workplaces. I’d imagine that (unfortunately) some employers don’t really understand that either, especially if in their workplace their employees could easily take a day off when necessary.

  17. Ex-Expat Engineer*

    4. How much do employers value semesters abroad?

    All else being equal, if you’re going into a business involving manufacturing or buying, a semester in China or anywhere in Asia would carry some not insignificant weight, especially in more conservative parts of the country or fields where some candidates may not be as open to interacting with other cultures as others. We would pay a premium for a candidate with Asia experience.

    I also think there’s something to be said for building an interesting resume and having an interesting story. When I’m job hunting there are bullet points on my resume that most interviewers or recruiters want to talk about even though they may have nothing to do with the job I’m applying for (multiple ex-pat assignments, a second language, some time working in the space program, some involvement with an acquisition, some time as an editor of a literary magazine, some time working with deep sea robotics). I’m fairly convinced that some of the calls I get are just based on curiosity.

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