tiny answer Thursday: 7 short answers to 7 short questions

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

1. Job-searching soon after starting a new job

After a two-year job search during which I cobbled together part-time jobs to pay the bills and gain experience, I finally got a full-time job in my field a little more than a month ago. While the job is a step up from where I was, it’s still not where I want to be. I was planning to wait a few months and then go back to applying for jobs more inline with what I want to do and at the pay rate that I want. Unfortunately, my new job isn’t as good of a fit as I had initially thought and I’d like to start applying for other jobs now. My question is this: how long should I wait before I can put my current job on my resume when it is relevant to a new position? I’ve kept one of my part-time jobs so I’m not worried about having a gap. I am, however, worried about looking like a flake by applying to new jobs when I’m only two months into my current job. What are your thoughts?

Don’t put it on your resume at all. You haven’t been there long enough to have had accomplishments worth mentioning, and it’ll raise a red flag about why you’re already seeking to move on so soon, particularly after a two-year search. You’re better off leaving it off.

2. How do companies verify salary history?

How do companies verify a candidate’s salary history? Besides asking for payslips/W2s and calling past employers, is there another way that companies verify this information?

Nope. Companies that want to verify your salary history will either do it by calling your previous employers or by asking you for documentation like your most recent payslip or W2. (Sometimes they don’t even do the latter until after an offer has been made and accepted, which is why it’s really dangerous to lie about this.) Of course, companies shouldn’t be asking for your salary history at all, because it’s none of their business and they should pay you according to your value to them, but that’s a different issue.

3. What to wear for an internal interview

I have a question about what to wear for an interview. I have an interview coming up for a new position within my current group. It’s a group interview that will take place in my office. The interviewers will be colleagues with whom I interact on a daily basis. The dress code in my office is typical business casual; however the interview will take place on “casual Friday” (people usually wear jeans). I know conventional wisdom for interviews is Wear A Suit. Is there any reason to deviate from conventional wisdom in my case?

You can generally get away with your normal business dress when you’re interviewing for an internal position, particularly within your current group. That said, wearing a suit anyway rarely hurts (with the exception of fields where it sometimes does, like I.T.)

4. Following up when you’re wondering if a company has openings

My question is centered around open job applications. I am working in the media and advertising sector, where most jobs are acquired by sending in open applications and expressing your interest. This is at least how I acquired my previous one. I was wondering, I SENT A WEEK AGO an open letter application asking if they have any entry-level jobs in one of the departments I am interested in. I couldn’t find through the website an email of the HR manager or any HR whatsoever, so i sent it to a person in the department i want to work for. But i got no response. Should I follow up and ask again?

If the person you sent it to has no involvement in hiring (and they probably don’t unless they’re the manager), they probably just wondered why you were emailing them and deleted the email. If you’re lucky, they passed it on to someone who does do hiring, but you’re not helping yourself by following up with them.

If they DO have involvement in hiring, you can try following up with one more email, but after that, assume they’re not interested and move on.

Also, if your all-caps “I SENT IT A WEEK AGO” indicates that you think this is a long time, you need to chill out and read this.

5. Using a functional resume when your duties overlapped among jobs

I know you hate functional resumes, but since college I have had jobs at two companies and at both companies, I have held 3 titles in which the duties significantly overlapped. Is it a terrible idea to list my company, the 3 titles, then group my bulletpoints under a few key categories? I feel confident that the job I am applying for relates to a few skillsets/categories at my current job (in which I have done almost everything this little 2-person company needed) and I think I can more clearly state what I have been responsible for over the past 7 years if I group my skills/accomplishments/duties under specific skill categories.

My job has been at a website in which I’ve been responsible for all content and more recently, have been responsible for strategizing with partners to develop promotions. The job I am applying for relies heavily on relationships and I am considering listing my skills under 2 categories: Relationship Building & Partnership Management as well as Content Development and Direction. Am I way off base? I haven’t worked on my resume since 2007.

Don’t use a functional resume, for all the same reasons no one should use a functional resume: Hiring managers want to see what you’ve done where and when, and a functional resume makes that impossible. It also raises red flags about whether your’e trying to hide something.

Plus, the fact that your duties overlapped among the various jobs doesn’t matter, because your resume should mainly list accomplishments, not just responsibilities. Presumably you had different accomplishments at each job.

6. Bringing a different resume to an interview

I am wondering about the etiquette of bringing a new resume into an interview. About a month ago, I applied for a position (through an online portal so I couldn’t edit it) that didn’t close until last week. Now I have an interview (which is great!) but in the meantime I completely rewrote my resume (based in part on your excellent tips). While the bones are similar, in order to make space for accomplishments I removed a part-time job and a former position.

Should I bring copies of the updated resume into the interview or stick with the original (which I did save)? I don’t want to cause confusion for the hiring manager but I am much happier and therefore more confident with the new updates.

I could argue this either way — bring the new one because you want them looking at that one, or don’t bring the new one because it might cause confusion and you don’t want a confused interviewer. I don’t know — six of one, half a dozen of the other. Plus, they might not even look at your new copy. When I interview people, I use the original resume they sent me because I have notes all over it.

7. Yes, it’s legal

Is it legal for a manager to tell an employee that they are going to write up a coworker? If not, what actions should be taken for this type of action? I would think it’s not legal. To me, what goes on with one employee should stay between the manager and that particular employee.

It’s perfectly legal. Unprofessional in most cases, but legal.

{ 119 comments… read them below }

  1. ChristineH

    #6 – I would bring the updated resume anyway. Sometimes, at least in my experience, interviewers might ask for an updated resume, particularly if the interview is taking place a lengthy time after you put in your application. I wouldn’t offer the resume voluntarily; I would suggest bringing it in a clean folder and have it at hand in case the interviewer requests it.

    1. mh_76

      #6 – I partially agree – bring both versions and do offer the new one up front, letting them know that you rewrote your resume. If they’re prepared, they’ll have a copy of the old version and will use whichever version they decide. Don’t worry about putting it in a clean folder, though, the folder will just get separated from the resume and either trashed or re-used*.

      I’ve gone on interviews through an agency where the agency sent them an edited verion of my resume (and forgot to send it to me – grrr – good agency otherwise) and handed them my version of my resume. I’ve also done that when I knew that the agency had sent over their version. Some people will look quickly at the new one and some will not but at least they’ll have it.

      *I’ve been a point-of-intake for resumes back in my Dean’s Assistant (and a whole bunch of other things included in that job) days and folders etc. just got in the way (as did paper clips and binder clips, both were usually replaced with staples).

      1. MaryTerry

        I think the clean folder was for the OP to carry the resume copies in, not to hand to the interviewer(s). At least that’s what I always did. It kept my documents clean and unwrinkled.

      2. Long Time Admin

        The clean folder is part of presenting a professional image to the potential employer. Really, it’s not that hard to open a folder and take out a piece of paper. Almost everyone should be able to do it.

  2. sam.i.am

    I had applied for an internal promotion a few years ago. A little while after that, we were at a staff retreat and I was dressed SUPER casually — jeans, sneakers, hoodie. My boss’s boss (not part of the retreat) came up to me and said, “Sam, do you have a few minutes to talk?” and ended up interviewing me for the promotion. Was it awkward sitting across from her while I was so casual and she was biz casual? Of course. But I got the promotion anyway.

    1. The IT Manager

      ACKWARD! In additional to super casual attire, you probably hadn’t prepared for the interview like you’d normally would have. But you were dresssed approriately for the occassion and your boss’s boss knew that you were being put on the spot.

      OTOH, I’d say the point of the suit in an interview is to look professional and to show you understand and will follow the conventions you’ll encounter in the professional world. If you’re interviewing internally with people who know you, they already know that about you. If its not peole who know you or work with you already then I recommend going for the suit. In OP#3’s case, I recommend he/she should wear what s/he’d normally wear to work Monday – Thursday and not casual Friday attire. You probably won’t look too out of place if you dress as you normally do every other day of the week, but you’re still looking more professional than someone in jeans.

      That’s my take on it; although others may disagree.

  3. The Other Dawn

    5. Using a functional resume when your duties overlapped among jobs

    Please don’t use a functional resume. Our latest hire had one and it drove me nuts. It was confusing. I had a really hard time figuring out what he did at each place.

  4. Hugo

    It’s good to know that it’s legal to let other employees know that someone has been disciplined. I think it is sometimes tricky since being a manager, you still have an obligation to protect the disciplined employee’s privacy, but on the other hand (depending on the infraction), the other employees want to “make sure” that the person in question was written up / counseled, etc.

    Anytime someone questioned me about wheter or not someone else was disciplined (or was going to be), I would tell them, “That is an issue between me and so-and-so. If you were in a similar situation, I’m sure you would not want me to discuss a private issue like that with anyone else.” I have found that to be the best way to put such inquiries to rest.

  5. nyxalinth

    If you have a functional resume because of a spotty job history (which I do, because of depression, which is finally under control) then what is the best way to handle things? A chrono resume will just highlight that. Do you do some sucky/unrelated jobs until you have a good work history to show again, or what? Or do you find a way to convey that you had some health issues that are no longer a problem and you’re looking for full-time, steady work in the carreer you want?

    1. Wilton Businessman

      You can never go wrong with the truth. You had some health issues that have now been resolved and you are ready to take on your next challenge.

    2. fposte

      As WB notes, you address it directly; I also think working just to get some experience and income in the meantime isn’t a bad idea either. I suspect it’s tougher to surmount having been out of the workforce entirely than having been out of the industry.

      The problem with the functional resume for this purpose is that people aren’t going to want to hire somebody with an unclear history, and if they pay enough attention to clarify the chronology, they’re going to be displeased that this resume was designed to be evasive about a spotty work history.

    1. Tax Nerd

      They asked your reference if your reference knew your salary?! Eeep. (Then again, I don’t know if anyone I’d use as a reference even knew mine. They were my immediate managers; the grandboss handled salary stuff.)

      [While I totally agree that a company has no business knowing how much you made before, I’m dubious on the value of a W-2 as proof of salary.

      Your federal wages on your W-2 are after any 401(k) contributions and pre-tax deductions like health insurance are taken out. 401(k) is in Box 12, so they could add it back if they’re good, but currently there’s no way to know if you’re paying $1,500/month for health insurance or if you work for an awesome employer that pays it all. And if you got a bonus, they can’t separate that from salary, since it’s lumped in there. Similarly, if you got a raise during the year, it’s going to be impossible to use a W-2 to sort out your previous salary from your new one.

      I personally hope to never work for a company that asked for any kind of proof of previous salary. But if anyone’s ever fudged a weensy bit and then unexpectedly been asked for proof, I’d suggest that they offer up the W-2 before anything else.]

      1. Liz in a Library

        Also, if you get non-cash taxable benefits, they can appear on your W-2 in weird ways. My taxable earnings looked almost $15k higher than they should have the year my husband and I were both enrolled in employer-sponsored accelerated graduate degrees.

      2. Ask a Manager Post author

        Yep. If a company is going to do this (and I maintain that it’s a huge violation of privacy), the most reliable way would be to request to see a recent paystub.

        1. Joey

          You know there are some other legitimate reasons for asking for salary history beyond trying to lowball a candidate. It’s frequently used as market data to see if salary ranges need to be adjusted. And because it’s so hard to get details like the qualifications AND salary of another company’s employee it’s hugely valuable.

          1. KellyK

            If you’re not trying to lowball, why not ask for it *after* you’ve come to an agreement on salary and make it clear that you’re asking for the reasons you mentioned–as market data to make sure your overall salary ranges are reasonable.

            1. Joey

              Because if you don’t come to an agreement on salary and the candidate declines you’ll miss out on the most compelling data to support a salary range increase.

      1. Tax Nerd

        When you were their reference, were they still at the same company? (My references are all from former jobs, so they wouldn’t know my current salary anyway.)

        I’ve had potential new employers ask what I was currently making, but I’ve never had one ask for proof. Which is probably a good thing. In my early days, people were often advised to add ~10% when asked their current salary, so someone making $38K might say $42K to try and jump to $47K. I don’t recall if I ever did this, but I remember hearing such advice.)

        1. Jamie

          I just realized I misread the question – ignore my comment.

          I have had people ask if I knew the referencee’s salary – not if they knew mine. That IS weird.

    2. Nick Corcodilos

      How a company gets your salary information is more complicated, because financial information can be disclosed indirectly. Once you sign permission to check your credit history, it can turn into a cascade. Where did you apply for your mortgage? Is your salary recorded? Did you grant permission for disclosure at that level? The safest policy is to decline to disclose your salary and to withhold credit information until you’ve decided to accept an offer. Any company that “explains” it “needs” your financial information in advance is full of baloney. The common ruse is, “We need it because it helps us assess your… XYZ.” Your XYZ is none of their business. They will use any financial information they obtain to put a cap on your offer. Never tell. Never grant permission to see financial records. They don’t need it.

  6. Wilton Businessman

    #1. I hope you understand why this job wasn’t a good fit and know how to circumvent the situation in the future. Just something to think about as you start searching.
    #3. I won’t hurt anything if you are business casual and they are friday casual. A suit on casual friday would look pretentious, IMHO.
    #5. Don’t use a functional resume. I think you’re trying to hide something (which you probably are).
    #6. I’ve already got your original resume marked up. If there is anything substantially different on my copy, we’ve got a real big problem. If you missed a period or a capital letter, I can live with that.
    #7. There are a lot of things that are legal that are not ethical.

      1. Jamie

        This sounds like the start of an ominous threat, like if you have an IT department in charge of writing ransom notes:

        “IT won’t hurt anything if you back slowly away from the keyboard and stop exiting out of error messages before capturing them in screen shot. If you want to see your computer in one piece again leave the cash in unmarked bills along with some donuts just outside the server room door.

        No cops.”

        1. Julie

          “And make sure the coffee is hot, and in a covered mug. We wouldn’t want anything unfortunate spilling on sensitive computer equipment, now would we?”

          1. Charles

            (print screen)

            [$$$$$]

            OOO
            OOO <– half dozen okay?

            ooo
            ooo <– munchkins too!

            c(_) <– from Sheldon, please don't sit in his spot.

            1. Jamie

              Crap – now I want coffee and donuts. Sheldon has nothing to worry about – I don’t need his spot I have my own. One at home, one at work.

              You guys are making a life of crime sound awfully appealing.

              1. Julie

                If it should ever happen, and I’m not saying it will and I’m not saying it won’t, remember the little people who helped you get your start.

        2. Anonymous

          If you want to see your computer in one piece again leave the cash in unmarked bills along with some donuts just outside the server room door.

          Go ahead, it’s a company machine. You’re the one who’s going to have to fix it afterwards ;-)

    1. ChristineH

      “#6. I’ve already got your original resume marked up. If there is anything substantially different on my copy, we’ve got a real big problem. If you missed a period or a capital letter, I can live with that.”

      But what if, since applying for the job, you’ve since taken on a volunteer project or completed relevant certification? (I realize that in all likelihood, most interviews take place shortly after submitting an application; however, I know in some cases, that time frame can be a lot longer, so my question relates to those instances).

      1. AD

        Mention it in the interview. Your resume is used to get you an interview. If you already have an interview, you get to tell them in person!

        1. SCW

          This happened to me! In between interview one and interview two I was transfered to a different position in my then current job, so I had an updated resume. I also did address it in my interview, which was a good opportunity to show how I adapted to change and how I could cope in difficult situations.

  7. Max

    3) I’ve never heard anything about a suit hurting anyone’s chances in IT these days, outside of maybe a few companies like Google who are still carrying on the stereotypical dot-com culture. Granted, I’ve had a little trouble really breaking into the field, but from what I’ve seen at my various part-time and startup positions so far, business wear is now the standard (typically business casual for employees, but I doubt a suit would get anyone laughed out of the interview room).

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Every time I say here that you have to wear a suit to an industry, if I don’t make an I.T. exception, I get corrected by people in I.T. who tell me stories of laughing at candidates who show up in suits. So it does still seem to happen, at least at some companies (probably not all).

      1. Student

        My boyfriend is in IT, wore a suit to his interview, and got laughed at by the hiring manager. However, he still got the job. I’m not sure it’s always actually a mark against someone as it is an unusual thing to see in IT. People will remark on it, just like they remark about other weird things out of shock and bad social skills – extremes of height, unexpected race or gender, odd interview outfit. Just because they mention it doesn’t mean it necessarily has a huge influence on the hiring process. Only some of those people who make an odd remark or tease are actually going to hold it against you, and I’d guess that most don’t.

        1. ARM2008

          I have worked in corporate IT for years in the northeast and have always worn a suit or blazer to interviews. All of the workplaces have been business casual and what I wore was basically 1 level higher in formality than my interviewers, though in a few cases at the same level as managers I interviewed with.

          I have had many interviews (contractor) and never ever had anyone laugh or poke fun at me for that, not during the interview, not after we worked together. It may be because I look like an enforcer in my suit, but I think part of it is regional.

          At last week’s interview I was very glad I went with the suit because the business casual my interviewers wore was more business than casual. I did leave my coat on the back of a chair for the interviews since the afternoon sun was hitting the conference room.

      2. Neeta

        We don’t necessarily “laugh” at people wearing a suit. More like go all “oh look, it’s a new grad, poor guy looks really stressed”. Never mind that we had been in his/her shoes only a few years prior.

        As far as I’m aware, it doesn’t hurt if you wear a suit, but most people prefer to wear a semi-casual outfit. Say, jeans and a nice blouse/shirt. I remember my aunt (also works in IT, and dresses very casually too) telling me once about an interviewee who showed up in a T-shirt, shorts and flip-flops. Amazingly enough he was not rejected on the spot.

      3. AdAgencyChick

        Advertising, too — at least, on the creative side. Account management folks do wear suits, but not always. I’ve shown up to interviews in jeans (though never a T-shirt, which is what I usually pair the jeans with at work), explained to the hiring manager that I was dressed casually so as not to arouse suspicion at my current job, and gotten the offer. I’ve also hired people who came in jeans.

        If someone came to an interview I was conducting and wore a suit, I would definitely think it was odd unless I knew the person was fresh out of school or making a career change and therefore wouldn’t know the general industry culture.

        I work in a niche type of advertising, so YMMV. It kind of drives my husband (who works in IT, but in a more formal industry) crazy because he has to wear suit pants and a dress shirt to work (and a suit to interviews), and I get to go to work dressed like I’m going to paint our apartment. :)

      4. Alisha

        This is the best advice to give. Most IT companies are less formal, but it certainly depends on the region, too. I live in the Midwest and am from the South – both regions have more formal business cultures than the coasts, as far as tech is concerned. So for a techie in my city, stylish business casual is perfect. For the Bay Area, it may be too formal. One tip that’s served me well is to seek information about the workplace culture through Glassdoor and my LinkedIn network, which helps me gauge how to dress. I’ve always been dressed just right for my interviews as a result – so while the “homework” takes a bit of time, it pays off.

        One exception, where IT/tech are concerned would be if you’re interviewing on a technical team that is part of a larger, more formal organization (like the tech team I was a member of at the one large business I’ve worked for in my life). Examples of this are financial institutions and certain “old-school” Fortune 500 companies. The upside is, Glassdoor and Indeed generally have information about the workplace culture at large businesses, so you can assess pretty quickly how formal is “too formal.”

        1. Alisha

          Should add: “This is the best advice to give” was specifically for Alison, but on review, for Student’s comment too, because everyone in our field can relate. (Jamie also had some great tips, but I addressed her separately, below.)

          Can anyone advise if it’s possible to reply directly under the poster you’re addressing? Am I doing something wrong? Or is this just how the comments are threaded, and you slide down to the next spot in the comment queue? Thanks in advance for your help.

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            You can reply directly under the comment you’re replying to by clicking “reply” right under the comment — but if someone already did that before you, then your comment will be below theirs (because replies to comments are in chronological order).

      5. Elizabeth

        I have lots of friends working at tech companies, and I’ve had arguments with them about whether it could ever be *bad* to wear a suit to an interview. Friends at Google have told me, “It wouldn’t keep them from getting the job… but it would make them look a little more clueless.”

        I have one friend who got a job at Google after wearing PAJAMAS to his interview. He’d been told by the recruiter, “Oh, by the way, that day is pajama day, so don’t be surprised.” He decided to take a bit of a risk and show up in pj’s himself. Talk about dressing for the job you want… The interviewers loved it. Can’t say I’d recommend that approach for any other field, though!

        1. Anon1973

          This is exactly why I would never work in IT. There’s way too much focus on what people wear as opposed to what they do and accomplish. Just because it’s casual wear doesn’t make it any less superficial.

          1. Jamie

            Interviews aside, I’ve found there is much less focus on what IT wears than in most other positions.

      6. Long Time Admin

        If I worked with the IT department, I would wear a suit to work every day, just to bug those creeps.

        1. Jamie

          Murphy’s Law has caught me more than once on this. I can go ages shuffling back and forth between my office and the conference room. The one day I wear silk pants or anything dry clean only I will have an issue with cabling under the filthiest desk in the plant.

          Just like if I wear heels it’s guaranteed that I will make multiple trips upstairs or to the far reaches of the building.

      7. Anonymous

        I’ve been in IT since the early 70’s in a business casual/sloppy environment, and I’ve interviewed any number of candidates who showed up in suits. None of them were laughed at either in the interview or afterwards for dressing up. At the most, I’ve apologized to a few for not telling them ahead of time that there was no need to wear a jacket/tie in the summer heat.

      8. Max

        I think it depends on both workplace culture and, more importantly, who’s doing the interviews. In my experience working at small IT companies, management always participated in the interviewing and they typically wore a suit, so I doubt anyone was laughing about my suit after the interviews. Also, in any position in which you are likely to be seen by a client or customer, looking professional is a must and only a bad hiring manager would penalize you for dressing up for the interview.

        Back in the late 90s/early 00s when the dot-com boom was happening and all kinds of IT companies were emphasizing lax and fun workplace cultures to attract skilled programmers, I can absolutely believe that wearing a suit to an interview could have been a dumb move in Silicon Valley. Over the past few years, though, business reality has clamped down on the party atmosphere, and professionalism is now just as much of a concern as programming ability.

        Nowadays, I think there’s only two kinds of companies that would flat-out laugh at you for wearing a suit: the ones that go out of their way to emphasize their fun and casual atmosphere as a selling point (startups and dot-com success stories, mostly), and the ones that are so dominated by the technology workers that the workplace culture managed to utterly reject the trend to professionalize the IT department (such as the notoriously engineer-focused Google).

    2. Tel

      I work in media/film and it’s very casual in some positions (sound, video editing, etc). You might look like a fish out of the water in a business suit and tie!

      I don’t know about all IT, but in the video game industry (where my best friend works), it’s jeans and t-shirts for the whole team (marketing, programmers, etc). She’s a manager and when we meet for lunch she always looks so casual (t-shirt, jeans, a hoodie) it makes *me* feel bad! (‘Cause I wear a skirt and business shirt).

    3. Disagree

      This is absolutely 100% wrong IMHO. As someone who had no issue breaking into the industry and has been in the startup industry for almost a decade, I can say with 100% certainty that outside of sales and biz dev, I have rarely, if ever encountered someone wearing a suit in the office (or even at networking events). A suit is corporate. We don’t want corporate. We want people who are familiar with the industry and aren’t, well…suits. Heh.

      The MBAs and Sales Execs who are trying to break into the industry frequently overdress and then come in trying to sell us on how “in the know” they are. Right-o.

      1. Jamie

        There are a lot of different types of IT jobs, though, and the non-suit convention which may apply to start ups doesn’t apply to IT in other industries.

        I am IT in an non-IT company. If someone came into an interview wearing a suit I would assume it they were just following traditional business convention. It would be obvious to anyone that suits aren’t worn to work here – but I wouldn’t hold it against someone for wearing one to an interview.

        Then again, being IT, I wouldn’t hold jeans against someone either. As long as the clothing was clean and not ripped (and covered everything I like covered) I’m good. I can’t say there is no one who would look askance at jeans, and it could make you a harder sell for me if I wanted you – but it wouldn’t be a deal breaker.

        We get cut a lot more slack because non-IT people tend to assume we’re all eccentric.

        1. Alisha

          Exactly, Jamie. In my city (which, again, has a more formal business culture than either coast), many of the IT jobs outside of start-ups and small businesses are within large, formal Fortune 500 companies. Three former colleagues of mine have gone on to join the tech team at a multinational bank, and suits were absolutely required for their interviews.

          By contrast, if someone showed up in a suit to interview at my last couple jobs, all of which were at companies of under 100, we would’ve gotten a “oooh, salesguy/gal!” feeling. Again, because it’s a more formal city generally, trendy business casual is just about right – jeans are definitely a no-no here – but if you’d have shown up dressed to the nines in a navy Brooks Brothers pinstripe suit, people would have cracked jokes like, “Where’s the funeral?” (Groan!)

      2. Vicki

        This.
        The real question isn’t “IT or not IT” (I have a friend who was a COBOL programmer in a bank. For 30 years he wore a full three-piece suit to work every day). The real question is cultural fit.
        I’m not IT exactly; I’m a programmer in an engineering / development group in a software company in Silicon Valley. Suit == sales guy. Suit == marketing. Suit at an interview == someone very young or hopelessly naive.
        “Business casual” where I work is t-shirt and jeans. Nicely dressed is colored shirt and khakis. I recently interviewed at a company where I (in my polo shirt and black slacks) was dressed more formally than half of the people I met with. The CTO was in a t-shirt.
        You want to look well-groomed. You want to look like you care. You don’t want to look out of place.
        And yes, engineers will judge you by your clothing. In that first half second when you shake the interviewers hand, he’s making a snap judgement based on your look.

    4. Vicki

      Yep. We laugh.
      We may or may not comment when you’re sitting in front of us, but trust me when I say that after you’re gone, we talk about you and your silly dressup games.

    5. Rana

      What about the situations where a suit seems, well, excessive? I’m thinking about things like entry-level retail jobs, fast food, etc. I mean, you don’t want to show up wearing torn or dirty or revealing clothing. It just seems like dressing like a banker for a job where you’re unpacking boxes is likely to get you off on the wrong foot.

      Am I wrong about this? And if not, does anyone have any suggestions as to what an appropriate non-suit alternative might be? Or sites with examples?

  8. K.

    #4: a week is nothing. I got a call this week from a company I’d applied to a month ago. I’d forgotten them. (And initially they were like “Hi, you sent us a resume?” without mentioning the company name or the open position … I send out a lot of resumes, I need some specificity!) And that was for an actual, advertised position that they’re recruiting for.

    I think if you’re going to send a resume cold, you really should try to use the best channels to do it – send to HR (LinkedIn is great for this) or the “Contact Us” address on the home page or something, because it’s more likely to be received that way.

    1. Anonymous

      I just got rejected from a job I applied to 10 months before… Not really sure how I feel about it, honestly.

    2. Alisha

      Companies are moving super-slow nowadays, I’ve noticed. A technical communication director opening I’d applied to back in August 2011, when I was still @ my old job, e-mailed me in late Feb. – over 6 months later – saying they were going to bring me in for an interview contingent on me completing a pre-employment survey, which was due the first Sunday of March 2012. I completed it, turned it in before deadline, and never heard from them again.

      They also have a “No Phone Calls” policy, and I don’t know anyone at the company, so I can’t check my status. However, the local tech board sends us techies a newsletter once a month, and an issue from later this spring mentioned a hiring freeze at the company. As per my LinkedIn research, no one has held the title “technical communications director” since Sept. 2011 – so I’m guessing the position was eliminated. This has been one huge factor working against me in my job search sadly. I interview, get to the final round, get the “we’re about to make you an offer” vibes, and the position is either eliminated or its duties are split among existing staff. Sigh!

      1. Jen

        FWIW, the people who are hiring probably hate it too. I’m involved in hiring a replacement in my team and, literally the day after we found a perfect candidate, hiring was frozen across the company. It’s been 6 months, we still want to hire her, HR is in touch with her… but the freeze still isn’t lifted :(

  9. Julie

    #1 – “I was planning to wait a few months and then go back to applying for jobs more inline with what I want to do and at the pay rate that I want. ”

    This was your plan? I’m not a hiring manager or anything, but I have to say that starting a job hunt just a few months after starting at a full-time job sounds like one of two things: 1) You weren’t planning on staying with this job for a long time anyway, and were just using it as a tide-me-over like your part-time jobs, or 2) You’re newly out of school and don’t really understand how long most people will stay at a full-time job before moving on.

    If you’d said you were planning on sticking with this job (or at least the company) for a year or two, and then move on to something with more seniority or more relevance to your ultimate goal, that’s perfectly legit. But only a few months before you start job-hunting again? That barely seems like enough time to get familiar with your current job. And you can bet that any manager you leave after three or four months is hardly going to give you a glowing recommendation to the next guy down the line.

    If this job’s a bad fit and you want to start looking right away, that’s fine. People make mistakes, both on the hiring and applying side. Sometimes it’s hard to figure out fit before you start a job. But for your next job, you might want to set your sights a little longer-term.

    1. Jamie

      This planning on looking after a couple of months is the reason so many people complain of not being considered for jobs at levels below where they were working…even when they really want these jobs.

      Turnover costs money. Some of it is unavoidable, but when people accept jobs with no intention of staying long enough to add value we can’t blame employers for being cynical.

      I wouldn’t think a couple of months is enough to really see what you can make of the job. Not all jobs are static – I would see if I could make the job my own before I threw in the towel.

    2. jj

      I agree with Julie.

      However, I would also suggest that a month, or even several months, may not be long enough to know a given job or workplace well enough to be sure it’s a bad fit. Of course, sometimes a truly bad fit is obvious right away, but more often you will become more comfortable in a job as you learn it better and assume more duties and responsibilities. Why not try to embrace it for another month or two, and see how you feel about your job then? Or at least talk with your manager about how you are fitting in and whether some adjustments are possible?

    3. Student

      Are you taking into account that, in some fields and in the lousy economy, it might take 6 months or more before a job search bears any fruit? That might not be the case here, but it’s entirely plausible that the OP in question will have spent a year at the new job before actually getting a better job. A year is short, but not so unusual any more.

  10. Ellen M.

    If someone calls to verify your past salary, your former employer(s) can just give out that information to anyone who calls?

    I was told by someone who works in HR that they could *verify* salary info, but they had to fax a special form identifying the employer making the request, and the applicant had to give the figure which they would put on the form and ask for verification – they couldn’t just call and say, “Hey, how much did he/she make?”

    *starts calling the workplaces of everyone I know to find out how much $$ everybody makes*

    1. Jamie

      We have a form which is required before any verification is done. It must be completed and signed by the former employee and checked to give permission to verify dates of employment, title, and salary.

      It also needs to state to whom we can release the info, so new form for each prospective employer.

      Just keeps the i’s dotted and t’s crossed to require consent.

      1. Ellen M.

        Yes, this^ is how I heard it works. Permission is also needed from the former employee.

        But then what is all this about prospective employers calling to get salary info?

        1. Jamie

          I don’t know if there is a law on this, it’s just what we do before releasing info.

    2. fposte

      It’s up to the workplace–the law doesn’t care. I’m technically a state employee for purposes of disclosure, so my salary’s been web searchable for years.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Exactly. It’s possible that there’s some state that has a different law that I don’t know about, but in general there’s no law preventing an employer from disclosing salary information.

        Some reference-checkers have applicants sign a form giving their permission for that info to be released, but that’s simply their practice, not a legal requirement. Of course, an employer could also have a policy of not disclosing salary info, but that’s up to them (and doesn’t seem to happen much, if at all).

        1. Anon2

          I find this funny considering the big emphasis employers make on not disclosing your salary to your coworkers. I understand the differences and I can see the logic on paper, but I do find the spirit of the thing to be inconsistent.

      2. Ellen M.

        Well that’s a bit different, if your salary is part of the public record. They wouldn’t even have to call!

      1. Ellen M.

        So anyone can call and ask for salary info and many places will just give it? To any voice on the phone? Yikes!

    3. Student

      I had someone call my current boss to verify my salary and employment dates just today. He immediately freaked out about it and told me about the call. Apparently he said something along the lines of not knowing off the top of his head how long I’d worked for him (I face-palmed. Gee, thanks boss!).

      He’s never gotten a call like that before and was very put out that someone would expect him to know how much I’m paid (another face-palm). I hope his reaction hasn’t blown my chances of working for this company. I think that the salary-verification thing in general is a bad thing, but in my case it wasn’t used to make a hiring or salary offer. It was actually a part of a background check to make sure I’m not a lying-liar to ensure I can probably pass a government clearance check later. The clearance check costs the company a load of money, which is why they want some assurance that you can pass it after they’ve decided they like you but before they start paying you.

      1. Jamie

        That’s a bizarre reaction, since salary verifications can happen even for current employees. Buy a house or finance a car and people tend to become curious as to how accurate your salary info is.

        I would hate to think your bosses reaction would have any bearing on your new position – it’s hard enough to control our own stuff without having to try to control the reactions of other people.

        And a lot of bosses can’t rattle off hire dates and salary info for their employees extemporaneously. I wouldn’t worry about it.

        1. AD

          Yeah, but salary verification is usually done by HR, not by random managers. It’s not that surprising that a manager would be caught off guard.

        2. JT

          I couldn’t even tell you my *own* salary off the top of my head on the phone. And it takes a little thought to know when I started my current job (I know mainly be remembering when I finished school and I know school ends in late May – if it wasn’t for that I doubt I’d remember).

          Most of the time I’d have to look up my salary to answer within $5K, though in the month or two after a raise I might remember more precisely.

          1. Anonymous

            Me, too! I only have a vague notion of what my current salary is. (BRB – checking to see if the number I have in my head is right). OK, I guessed within about $1500 of my actual salary. Pretty close!

  11. Neeta

    Re updated resume: Personally I’d go with one like this, and most interviewers were glad about this. Id just say something like, I brought an updated CV, and they were perfectly fine with it.
    Of course, this generally happened when I was contacted through an online job offer site, where my information is not always 100% up to date.

    Re salary history: I hear so much about such practices in AAM’s post. Is this really such a common occurrence?
    As far as I’m aware, most employers here are very adamant that we keep our salary private. Do US companies encourage their employees to advertise their pay or something?

    1. Neeta

      Sorry about the typos, I meant to write: “Personally I’d go with the updated resume, and most interviewers were glad I did that.”

    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      In the U.S., it’s very common for a new employer (when you’re interviewing) to insist (or try to insist) on knowing at least your current salary, and sometimes a fuller salary history.

      At the same time, though, companies also don’t like their current employees sharing salary information with others (although actually, in most cases, they’re not legally allowed to prohibit info-sharing among employees — but they try it anyway).

      So it’s kind of a ridiculous contradiction.

      1. Neeta

        I see, thanks for explaining that.

        I wonder, how many interviewees feel confident answering something along the lines of “I’m sorry but that’s confidential information”? Do most of them just suck it up, and provide their salary history?

        It seems so unfair. To be fair, I’m not too sure about interviewing practices other than IT (my field). Maybe people ask for salary history here (Romania) too.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Most people provide it. If you read through the “salary” section of my archives, you’ll find some posts where I talk about why/how/whether to refuse.

        2. Jen

          I’m in Romania too. I wasn’t asked for a history, but my current employer did ask how much I made at my previous job. I told him, because I was basically asking for the same amount (previous job was freelancing, so money didn’t come at set dates; I was looking for a new job for the security).

      2. Long Time Admin

        I had to do that for several temp agencies that I signed up with. I had make up the numbers except the last one, because there was no way I could remember all of them. I did make it look like I had increases all the way, though, and my last one was accurate.

  12. Eric

    Can we have a “Is it legal Wednesday?” every week? Each question in the post could be answered by “Yes, unless you live in California”.

      1. Long Time Admin

        Apparently, Arkansas does not. The first group that got laid off did get vacation pay, the second group got less vacation pay, and the latest group didn’t get any vacation pay.

        I plan to use up ALL of my PTO before the end of September (which is the 3rd fiscal quarter). One of these times, I’m going to in the lay-off group. If I can’t have the money, I’ll take the time off now.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Actually, in NJ, employers have to pay accrued vacation time only if they don’t have a policy that says otherwise. In other words, if the employer doesn’t address it, they do have to pay. But they can implement a different policy. (At least as of my last check, which was a while ago.)

        1. danr

          I was really adding on to Eric’s comment that California was the exception to most general statements about “is it legal?”.

  13. Anonymous

    #1) I am not sure that this was completely answered- the question was when to start putting it on the resume- I get leaving 2-3 months off but certainly it cannot be never. is it 6 months, not until a year? At some point I imagine the gap gets to be too long. I am just curious as I have been at my company for 6 months and it just isn’t working out and would like to start looking soon. I was at my previous employer 9 years (lay-off) and had no intention of job hopping- it just is what it is.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      At six months, it should probably be on your resume — but you need to be prepared for questions about why you’re thinking of leaving so soon.

      1. Andie

        Is it ever ok to tell the truth and say it isn’t a good fit? Sometimes you don’t know that you don’t mesh well with co-workers or even your boss until several months have passed. Everyone once in a while a person lands in the wrong place. Why isn’t ok to say that?

          1. Anonymous

            Alison, I saw where my resume was looked at again at the place I would like so much to be part of. This is the second time in the past two weeks for another position. I don’t want to get my hopes up too much, but do companies usually do this for online application systems if they are not interested? It shows it has actually been seen by a real person.

  14. Al

    For question two: dress up a little more than usual (ie: dress above your current position). You’re looking for something else, so look like you deserve it.

    1. Another Emily

      That’s what I was thinking too. I work in a very casual industry and wear jeans a t-shirts. I’d at least wear a dress shirt if I was interviewing internally, just to show that I’m taking it seriously. i.e. It’s not just another work day.

  15. Alisha

    #1: I have a job I worked for just a few weeks, so I never put it on my resume – it looks way better leaving it off. You have a part-time job to fill the gap, and that won’t be a problem in an interview – you’re employed, keeping busy, and looking for a change. Employers like candidates who keep busy. I’m out of work myself, but I keep my days filled with side jobs, classes, and volunteering, and it works great in an interview b/c it gives me something to talk about.

    #4: My career has involved lots of work with ad and media agencies as vendors; I know those fields well. Give it one month before you follow up. Agencies are really busy and doing more work with fewer staff, and any sooner than 30 days out will look desperate. In the meantime, are you looking at any other agencies? If so, make sure to send your resume, inquiry letter, and portfolio to the head of whichever department you want to work for, not HR. HR acts as a gatekeeper in this situation and will discard or file your materials if there are no positions. By contrast, the department head will see your materials and, depending on how strong of a case you make for being able to add value to the department, may create a position for you.

    Some people who work in traditional/print media snail-mail their applications. How well this works depends on the agency and the person you’re targeting. Some media/creative/marketing directors are old-fashioned and prefer snail-mail packages with your portfolio, resume, and letter. Others prefer a web application. It would be a good idea for you to find an inside contact at each agency and find out how they do things there. This also gives you a chance to discover what major challenges the agency is seeking, so you can tailor your inquiry accordingly. Best of luck!

    #5: I agree, please use the chronological resume. If you want some suggestions, feel free to e-mail your resume to me: (REDACTED). I know your role very well, and my resumes for others have a very strong track record of getting them hired. If you feel comfortable contacting me, I’d be more than happy to volunteer a bit of my time. Best of luck!

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Alisha, thanks so much for offering your help to the OP — that’s really kind of you. However, I redacted your email address because I’ve had problems with resume-writing services trying to sell their wares here before, and while I know that’s not at all what you’re doing, I don’t want to open the door to that. However, if you each happen to be in the AAM LinkedIn group, that might be a way to connect. Sorry about that (I realize you were simply being generous)!

      1. Alisha

        No problem and thank you, that makes total sense. I almost included a disclaimer for you along the lines of “Alison, if this violates your TOS, please feel free to delete my post,” but this is even better. I’ll check out the LinkedIn group too, so thanks for the reminder as well – it had completely slipped my mind!

      2. Anonymous

        Out of curiosity, I have been out of work for 6 months, but I’ve been doing freelance photography jobs that have nothing to do with the industry I want to work in (I don’t know if this is the same case for OP #1). Is this, along with a bit of volunteer work within my industry, a satisfactory thing to tell hiring managers that ask me what I’ve been doing since I’ve graduated? Thank you.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          I’d focus on the volunteer because it’s in your industry, but you could mention the photography work as a side thing. Just don’t emphasize it so much that they worry it’s your primary interest (as opposed to your field).

  16. Steve G

    Salary Verification – I would love to give my W-2 as an example:-). I got 2 bonuses this year totalling $5K – so I could pretend those were in my base salary!

  17. Nameless

    1. Job-searching soon after starting a new job

    I have been at my job for 3 months, previously I’ve been searching for the past 12 months. While the experience I am gaining is awesome, the amount of hours I am putting in are just too much for the salary. I work from 8am to 9pm everyday and the company is even asking me to come in on weekends. I am now a master of excel I was 6/10 before but now I am 9/10. I need a position where I can take national holidays and weekends off. If the salary is good I don’t mind putting in the hours. Will it look bad to put my 3 months on the resume? Also can I tell prospective employers about crazy hours and working on holidays?

    1. Wilton Businessman

      Will it look bad to put my 3 months on the resume?
      Maybe yes, maybe no. Depends on your other experience. If you put it on, inevitably you will be questioned about why you left, so be prepared.

      Also can I tell prospective employers about crazy hours and working on holidays?
      It depends. If they are looking for someone who is going to give 110% effort when needed, it might turn them off. It would turn me off.

      Ultimately, though, you have to make the decision. Is a couple years of an incredible learning opportunity (by your admission) worth the pain and effort you are going to put into it.

  18. Anon1973

    #4 “I am working in the media and advertising sector, where most jobs are acquired by sending in open applications and expressing your interest. This is at least how I acquired my previous one.”

    I have extensive experience in media and advertising and no, that is not how most jobs are acquired. Media and advertising job searches are similar to most other job searches: look through job postings.

  19. Elizabeth West

    #5— Accomplishments? Not for a stupid desk monkey job. “My accomplishments were: I did the job without going crazy.” Arrgh! >:(

    Sorry, it’s been tough lately. I lost out on three jobs because of my !@#* learning disability!

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