fast answer Friday — 7 short answers to 7 short questions

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

1. Negotiating for more money as a temp

I graduated 2 years ago with a BFA and haven’t been able to find work since. I signed up with a temp agency back in February to keep busy. They give me a 6 to 8 weeks long assignment back in March that keeps extending. I am very grateful to have a job while im looking for full-time employment, but I was hoping as I changed assignments I could ask for something that pays more. But I have been at the same office since March, and every few months they keep asking me to stay a few more weeks. I like the office and the people there and I don’t mind staying until I find permanent employment, but I was wondering if it’s it too early to ask for a better hourly wage? And who should I ask, the agency or my supervisor at the office? I am taking on more tasks as I stay longer, and they have said to me that they appreciate my work very much.

Absolutely ask for a higher rate of pay. You’re worth more to the company now because you know the work, they’re giving you more tasks, and they like you — those three things count for a lot with temps. And you’re probably worth more to the temp agency too, because they want to keep the client happy. Ask the agency, though, not the employer — since you’re working for the agency, this should be negotiated through them.

2. How to tell my manager about a lateral transfer

I have a situation that I’m not sure how to handle with my manager. I have been offered a position on another team in my department with a different manager, we’ll call him Joe. Joe is a great person who I have frequently helped out and I enjoy working with him. His employees all speak highly of him. I would love to work for Joe. Right now I work for Sally, who, while a nice person, is not a good manager — she wants to be liked, she avoids conflict, she won’t resolve problems, and she frequently drops the ball on her work, leaving me and my coworkers to pick up the pieces. Naturally I was thrilled at the offer from Joe, which would not only be a better job but would include a raise.

So how do I break this to Sally? I would still see her on a daily basis, as both teams are on the same floor, and probably work with her team on various projects. I haven’t been forthcoming with Sally in the past about her management style, and whenever she has asked me if I’m happy in my position, I would only point out things like workload. I am certain she will ask me if the reason I’m leaving for Joe’s team is because of her. I would appreciate your suggestions on how to handle this!

Well, if you really don’t want to get into it, you could blame it all on the raise … although then you risk her matching the money, so that might not be a great idea. You could say you’re eager for the change and new challenges (as long as you’re worked for Sally long enough to make that not laughable — at least a year). But you could also consider telling her a diplomatic version of the truth — you like X and Y about working for her, but you’ve sometimes been frustrated by the conflict avoidance in the department. I’m a fan of that option, because bad managers won’t know they need to change if no one tells them — but it’s also not your responsibility to fix her, so you’re entirely entitled to go with “new challenges” if you prefer.

3. Conveying bilingualism on a resume

I’m starting a job search (recent grad), and I’m wondering if a line I have looks unprofessional. I list “language skills,” and besides my minor in Spanish, I say that I speak Spanish in personal life. I’m trying to convey that I didn’t learn Spanish in school, since I’m a native speaker. My last name is totally English, and I want to convey that I’m biracial, without saying like HEY, I’m ethnic! I think this is important, since I’ve met many people who learn Spanish in class yet feel awkward in normal conversations, but presumably will say they’re “fluent” since they can read and write at an advanced level.

Does the “Spanish in personal life” sound unprofessional? If yes, is there a better way to convey it? Should I say “native speaker” or something like that?

I wouldn’t say it sounds unprofessional, but it’s an unconventional way to word it. I would write “native speaker” instead.

4. Have I been red-flagged in this application system?

I applied for a job with the local hospital. I was given an interview and even a job offer. I respectfully declined, due to the pay being low and the position not being full-time. I did not know at the time that the hospital kept a log of your job applications. Since then, I have applied for several other jobs that I have been very qualified for and very similar to the one I was offered. I feel like I have been red-flagged because the hospital uses a login type of system. When I login to apply for a new job, I can see my past submissions with a status update. Most say “Not Selected” and the one I declined states “Declined contingent offer.” It seems like other HR Reps see this and don’t bother to call me in for an interview. I am not sure if I should just quit applying at this hospital or keep trying. Looking back, I wish I would have taken the job and then transferred to an open full-time position. But we can’t change the past.

It’s possible, but it also might just be this job market. You might try addressing it your cover letter though — “I was thrilled to be offered a position with you in March, but couldn’t accept it since it was part-time. But I’d love to work with you,” etc.

5. How long should an offer take?

My husband had an interview with a company last Thursday (we know someone who works there and they asked him to send a resume) The next day the manager of the dept called my husband and offered the job to him, they discussed the wages and duties. Monday the manager asked his expected start date, they agreed on a date, and the manager said they will send the letter of offer. Now it’s almost Friday and we haven’t received anything yet. Does it usually take this long ? Our friend who works at the company says they have a small HR dept and it could be any day.

Weirdly, this is very common. Your husband should follow up on Monday to ask their expected timeline for the formal offer … and meanwhile should keep up any other job search stuff he’s doing until this is finalized, just to be safe. (That’s not meant to scare you, because chances are high that this will work out — but just make sure that you abide by the law of There’s No Offer Until There’s an Offer.)

6. Recommending someone you’ve never worked with

I just received an email from an acquaintance asking to be recommended to a position at my previous workplace. I know the person asking to be recommended through another friend, and although I have not worked professionally with him, I would be happy to facilitate an introduction, since I do personally think highly of him from our interactions. What should I say when I write the email to my former colleagues?

Just be clear about how well you do (or don’t) know him and then explain why you think highly of him. For instance, you might say something like, “I’d love to recommend you take a look at Jim Smith. Although I’ve never worked with Jim, I know him socially and he’s smart, really passionate about his work, and easy to get along with.” Or whatever is that makes you think highly of him. If you want to, you can even include things that are unrelated to work but still pleasant traits in a colleague — like that he’s funny or has an uncanny knack for winning trivia contests or whatever. It’s nice to flesh someone out so they go from being a stranger on paper to seeming a bit more like a real person.

7. Pointing out an employer’s broken website links in a cover letter

I’ve just decided to apply for an entry-level office position at a financial planning firm, and they were nice enough to not only post their company name but also the contact person who I need to address my cover letter to! (So glad I found that person on LinkedIn and realized it was a woman and not a man, whew!) Anyway, I noticed two of the links on their website are not working. One of which is the “contact us!” Is that something I should mention in my cover letter or might they find that rude?

Don’t mention it in the cover letter — that’s not the place for it. But after you apply, send a separate email saying, “By the way, I wanted to let you know about this.” If I got that email, after I was done being mortified by my humiliating broken links, I would go and look up your application to see what conscientious candidate had taken the time to tell me this.

{ 63 comments… read them below }

  1. Chocolate Teapot*

    For question 3, what I use, and have seen for colleagues, is to use Mother Tongue, bi-lingual, fluent, conversational and basic to describe language ability.

  2. Bowman*

    For #3, I’ve seen ‘native speaker’ used a lot mostly with people who aren’t fully bilingual. Mother tongue implies that one language is the person’s preferred language (for reading, writing, and speaking), whereas bilingual implies full comfort and education in two. Fluent would be for cases where a language was learned later in life, and so while proficiency is very high, the accent/speaking may not be “native”. (I often think of professors at university who were not native English speakers)

    I see ‘native speaker’ the most in cases where people grew up speaking 2 languages, but went to school primarily in one language. Reading/writing in the second language may have happened later – but in terms of job tasks one skill (speaking) would be at a professional level whereas another (writing) would be at a less professional level (fine for emails but slower for a report).

    I can’t speak to the US job market, but where I am abroad – these variations do mean a lot to employers. But that is mostly because as English is not the native language here – often it will be important for employers to explain if they want someone with a mother tongue in English (interpret: speaking + lots of writing) and a certain degree of the local languages (whether able to just speak, speak natively, speak and write, etc).

    1. OP3*

      Ah this is so hard for me. Technically, Spanish is my first language, but I moved after only a couple years, so I’ve always gone to American schools in English. I feel weird saying “mother tongue” because it sounds singular.
      How about this– Bilingual native speaker.
      I just thought of this; I think I like it.

      1. Nichole*

        I like it, but I think I’d just use the standard “bilingual,” for the reason you list about it sounding singular to hone in on Spanish being your “first” language. When someone specifies a “native language” other than English, I wonder (not assume, but wonder) if they have limited English skills- like “is this a heads up that they have broken English?” To me, bilingual means able to read, write, and speak fluently in two languages. Igrew up in the US Southwest, where being able to speak English and Spanish fluently is a common non-negotiable job requirement rather than just a bonus, though, so I may have a higher standard for calling someone “bilingual” than some hiring managers.

      2. Bowman*

        I think that sounds good. If you feel great functioning in both English and Spanish professionally – then definitely do that.

        I work abroad in a trilingual office where for some jobs mother tongue vs fluent doesn’t matter – and for other’s it’s incredibly important. So if there is a job that stresses “mother tongue” in either English or Spanish, mentioning that you’re bilingual is great.

        I just work with some people who have a “dominant mother tongue” and then another language they grew up speaking with their parents but never received formal education in (or only a few semesters in university). I think that conveying the “from childhood” part is important though because it does imply that you will have a ‘perfect’ accent.

      3. Kimberlee, Esq.*

        If you put “Bilingual Spanish/English” on an application that I read, I think I would actually assume your situation, that you are a native Spanish speaker and also speak fluent English. When people just note “Fluent in Spanish” I assume English is their native language and they learned Spanish later on. In case it’s helpful!

    2. Cassie*

      It’s funny because I would think the opposite – native speaker is someone who is completely familiar with that language (reading, writing, conversing) whereas someone who is bilingual may not be. My parents are native speakers of Mandarin Chinese. I am a native speaker of English only, but would consider myself bilingual in Mandarin Chinese.

      For some reason, “mother tongue” sounds slightly odd in a professional setting, but it’s probably just because I haven’t heard it before.

      I wonder, though – does it really matter if you are a native speaker or if you learned later? As long as you can use the 2nd language sufficiently for the job you are applying for, I’m not sure companies would care? (Also, native speaker in Spanish majoring or minoring in Spanish? Don’t be surprised if there are people who will scoff at that. People did when I took Mandarin in high school…).

  3. Satia*

    #7 Be careful how you phrase this. Saying a link is not working is assuming that servers are not down, etc. For all you know, the web developer for the company may have taken some links down to update them so, rather than saying, “Oy, these weren’t working,” you should frame your observation in a tone that is meant to point out what may be a simple oversight. “While visiting your website, I was unable to follow some of the links. It’s possible that there was work happening behind the scenes of which I was unaware but I would be remiss if I did not bring them to your attention.” Or something to that effect, anyway.

    1. danr*

      I would just state the facts. And let them know which links were dead. Leave out the possibility that server work is going on behind the scenes. However, before reporting the problem, leave the website and clear your cache/temporary internet files before going to the site and rechecking. This prevents your browser from ‘helpfully’ using the cached copy of the problem display.

      And I’ll say Thanks for the answer, SBG, since I’ve seen this problem on websites of places that I’ve applied to and wondered about reporting it.

  4. Sandrine*

    Well… you’re a native speaker or you’re not, sooo… why wouldn’t native speaker be appropriate ?

    On my resumé/CV whathaveyou I would put it all like this:

    French – Mother tongue
    English – Fluent (read, spoken, written)
    Spanish – Basic (read, spoken, written)

    1. Chocolate Teapot*

      Yes, that’s what I tend to do. Bi-lingual for me means somebody with a parent who is a native speaker and so they grew up speaking both languages.

      Very often, job adverts will request fluency in a particular language with preference for a native speaker. It is often phrased “Mother Tongue”, but I think the two terms are interchangeable.

  5. AdAgencyChick*

    #2: If you think Sally is going to flip at any constructive criticism, why not make it all about Joe? “I’ve heard great things about Joe’s group, and I’m really excited about the work they do, and of course the money doesn’t hurt either, blah blah blah.”

    #5: I’ve been in this position too. You may want to follow up with them and let them know that you’d have to push back the start date if you don’t receive the offer letter in time, because you want to give your current employer the courtesy of an appropriate notice period.

    1. OP #2*

      Thanks for the suggestion, and thanks to Alison for her advice! I think I will probably take that route. The reason I was approached by Joe is because his team is shifting their focus of their work into a new area that I want to be a part of, so I can play that up.

      My anxiety is stemming from the fact that I haven’t been open with Sally in the past about her management style and if pressured to talk about it, she would see me/treat me as a liar. I have worked for her for almost 3 years and I have seen that she does not handle feedback well from subordinates – she can take it from her supervisor but not from the underlings.

        1. some1*

          Agree! Sally sounds like she would really take this personally if you told the truth, and you don’t want her to punish you for it.

          1. OP #2*

            She has demonstrated that she’s not above pettiness if she wants to get back at someone. You can see why I’m so excited about the offer, yes?

            1. some1*

              This happened to my ex-boyfriend, he was working at a great company, and he got “asked to the Prom” by the supervisor of another dept. He was fine with the first dept, but moving to the new one meant a raise & a chance to work a schedule he liked better (starting/finishing an hour later than he had been), plus the ego stroke of being recognized & recruited. Before he started the new position, his manager became really cold and fired him for something that would have gotten almost anyone else in the same situation a talking-to.

    2. Yuu*

      #5 You might want to add this to a, “I just wanted to get an update on your timeline,” email to get 2 birds with 1 stone.

  6. Jenn*

    #4: Yes, they have an applicant tracking system – and yes, they have internal notes on you. It might not have been the fact that you turned down the job offer. Did you apply to the job knowing it was part-time? Because if I went to the trouble to interview you, work up a salary, etc., and you ended up turning it down because it was part-time…….I’d be super annoyed.

    1. Kennie*

      The job I applied for was resource/registry w/ no guaranteed hours which I wanted. I did not want to commit to full time knowing I had a planned vacation coming up. The hiring manager did tell me I had to commit to a certain number of days per month which I could not commit to at the time. However, I turned it down due to the pay mostly. I had just moved from CA to IL. I knew there would be a pay difference, however after my research of salaries in the area I was shocked that I would be making $6/hr less here. When I say that it wasn’t full time I meant that I could have overlooked the low pay had it been with a guarantee of more hours. Vacation or not I wanted a job. During the interview w/the manager she spoke of my would be coworkers in a sort of negative way. I really only turned it down after I spoke with my previous supervisor and asked her opinion. She told me that she often gets the same resumes sent to her from HR over and over. Most of which she continuously turns down. She didn’t think it would be a problem if I decided to turn this job down. ( I didn’t know about their tracking system at the time)

  7. Lisa*

    #7 – I was applied to a proofreader job. I was asked to answer questions in my cover letter, but the questions had numerous common mistakes like “your” in place of “you’re” etc. I was so naive, I thought that it was a test to see if I noticed these things. So I answered the questions, but when I copied the questions , I corrected those. Big mistake, no one likes to be told they are wrong BEFORE they like you. Keep your mouth shut until you get some face time.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Did they actually tell you they objected to that, or are you assuming it because you didn’t get an interview? If the latter, it might not actually be about that.

      1. Lisa*

        I got a one line email response to my answers, saying that it was not necessary to correct the questions. “Not” was in italics and underlined.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Wow. Okay, those people sucked — but I would not extrapolate from that to mean you should never do it, particularly when applying for a proofreading job. I’ve had candidates alert me to small errors on a website or whatever (not in a cover letter, but in a separate email), and as long as it’s not done in a snotty way, I’ve always appreciated it. (Because I am a normal person and whoever you were dealing with was not.)

        2. fposte*

          Oh, wow. That’s horrible for you, but it’s funny from a distance. (I think probably they were pretty embarrassed, and I wouldn’t be surprised if they used your corrections.) I really kind of wish you’d corrected the email response and sent it back.

        3. Jamie*

          Wow. If I sent that test out and the errors weren’t intentional I totally would have played it like it was a test and appreciated your attention to detail.

          For a proofreading job – I would have totally assumed it was a test as well.

    2. Natalie*

      Because it was a proofreader job, I would have done the exact same as you and assumed it was some kind of test. I don’t think you were in the wrong here.

    3. Student*

      I’d say, never assume something is a secret test. If you suspect a secret test, be subtle about it. If it really is a secret test, they’ll notice that you subtly gave the correct answer. If it’s not a secret test, they won’t notice. The odds are that it’s not a secret test.

      I would’ve copied the original question and replaced the incorrect spelling, but not highlighted this point. No different font, no notes about it, no underlining, coloring, or bolding, etc. Make it indistinguishable from running a spell check on the document before you submit it.

      I had something similar happen to me once and I too suspected a secret test. I was asked to edit an important document. The fellow who asked me to review the document was not a native English speaker. He came into my office unexpectedly one morning. He said only, “Do you speak English good?” I thought about it for a moment, wondering whether he was testing me or just making a common mistake. I replied, with no emphasis on the corrected word, “I speak English pretty well, yes.” Then he asked me to edit the document. If there was a secret test, I passed. If there wasn’t, then I didn’t offend or annoy a company VIP.

      1. lucy*

        Unless I need to fix my reading comprehension skills, I didn’t read anything in the original commenter’s post that sounded like she brought a lot of attention to the errors… just that she corrected them. I would have done the same thing.

        **also, your comment about speaking English well made me laugh because there’s a scene in War Horse that has the exact same conversation. The English soldier tells the German one “You speak English good.” and the German replies “I speak English well.” hehe

  8. Anonymous*

    Re #4: Even without official tracking systems, most companies know the candidates who regularly send applications, and if you turned down a job, it would be even more likely that they would remember you. That said, I applied at least 10 times in the past year to my current company and had begun to feel as though I was blacklisted myself. (I not only had obscure skills but I also had direct industry experience–a combination that maybe only 20 other people in the whole country possess.). I just made sure to focus my applications and eventually connected with the right managers & got an offer. No blacklisting had gone on at all.

    1. Kennie*

      Thanks! Maybe I will finally get a job offer after the 30th application! I will keep trying…

        1. Elizabeth West*

          What about if you know you’ll never get in, ha ha?
          I’ve kind of been doing this with our hospitals–all clerical jobs, so it’s kind of the same job–but there really is nothing else to apply to right now. I have to do so many a week, so it’s not like I have a choice. If they called me for the right position, I would definitely take it but they probably won’t. It’s one of those Catch-22 things where they want medical experience, but unless they hire you, you won’t get it. It’s unlikely they’ll call me anyway.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            You might be hurting your chances though — it really might make sense to stop applying for a while, knowing that applying for lots there will hurt you.

            1. fposte*

              So what does somebody whose UI requires them to make x applications a week do? (Elizabeth, I don’t know if that’s your situation or not, but it reminded me of that.)

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                Apply for other jobs, even if they’re not their target jobs. What you don’t want to do is take actions that will harm your job search just to make a UI quota.

                1. Jamie*

                  I don’t know what the answer is – but it seems like this part of the system needs work.

                  In my industry not a week goes by without at least a couple of people coming in to ask to fill out an application who have no idea what we do and when asked what kind of work they are looking for the answer is “anything” or “I don’t know.” Invariably they then ask for a signature so they can prove they filled out an application.

                  Sometimes they come in groups. It makes a mockery of the spirit of the regulation – which is to compel people to try to find work.

                  Again, I don’t have the answer because I do think people should look for work if on UI, but just sending out applications for the sake of it and wasting the time of people trying to work doesn’t seem to be helpful on any front.

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Yeah, part of the problem is that the system isn’t set up for the realities of job hunting, particularly not for a lot of white-collar jobs, where there really only might be a couple of suitable openings in your field per month.

                  I think if they wanted to explicitly tell people, “Hey, in exchange for getting a UI check, we expect you to take work outside your field if needed,” that would be one thing. But they don’t say that, and it doesn’t seem to be their intention, so they need to overhaul the system.

                3. some1*

                  When I was unemployed early this year, my state UI did not require me to apply for X number of jobs, I was just supposed to “look for work”. But turning down any job could have resulted in UI getting terminated.

                4. Rana*

                  That would be a great post!

                  I remember when I was once lucky (?) enough to get on UI (dirty secret about academic adjunct work – since you’re on term contracts, you never get laid off, and so never qualify for UI) and I almost lost it because they didn’t believe me when I said there was no work in state in my field.

                  There wasn’t.

                  It was good that there was that clause about needing to be “actively searching” for work in my field, because otherwise there would have been an awful lot of med labs and manufacturers wondering why the hell this history PhD with no industry experience at all was sending them resumés! (But it still took a lot of patient explaining at the unemployment office to get this across.)

              2. Student*

                Many people just send in applications to jobs they know they’re woefully unqualified for, but the unemployment people won’t be familiar enough with to call you on. I’m not saying you should do this, but it happens quite frequently.

    2. Jenn*

      I can tell you that sometimes, one person will apply to multiple jobs and not get selected for a reason such as “does not meet min quals”. Personally, rather than letting them continuously apply and wonder if they were being blacklisted, I would call/email them and let them know why their apps weren’t going anywhere. I know a lot of places don’t do that, though…..

      1. Kennie*

        I have thought about that. I still have the name and phone number of the HR Rep that called me with the offer. I have read on other posts that this is not something I should do though. For now I think I might just take a break from applying with them. I have also thought about making a whole new profile or login just to get past this but I feel this will just bring a whole new set of problems. I would hate to come off as deceitful and if they can already recognize my name I doubt it will help.

        1. Jamie*

          “I have also thought about making a whole new profile or login just to get past this”

          Yikes – do not do this! That will get you blacklisted more often than not, because it does look like you’re being clever and trying to circumvent the system.

          1. Kennie*

            I won’t. It’s just frustrating to think that you are very qualified and have plenty of experience for the job you are applying for and not get a call to interview. Just an interview! Give me a chance to show you what a great addition I would be.

              1. Blinx*

                I think I need to print out AAM’s above statement and paste it on my laptop when applying to jobs. I’m beginning to get paranoid, thinking I’VE been blacklisted, for some odd reason, from the dozens of different companies I’ve applied to. After a while of not being contacted for even a phone interview, I’m beginning to get very discouraged and depressed. It’s really draining.

                For what it’s worth, the unemployment compensation requirements to diligently apply for X number of jobs per week has finally broken me of waiting for that “perfect posting” to appear, and I’ve applied to more jobs in the past month than I have in the previous 6 months combined.

  9. Grey*

    I have to ask. If I wrote a letter to AAM and included the line, “So glad I realized it was a man and not a woman, whew!”, would you let it slide?

    What could the asker have meant by that? It can’t be a case of misusing Mr. or Ms. on the cover letter since the person found an actual name.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I thought the letter-writer meant that she had assumed the person was a man (possibly because it was something unisex), was going to address her letter to Mr. Whoever, but then saw from the LinkedIn profile (maybe from the photo) that it was in fact a woman, and ended up not making that mistake.

      If I’m wrong about that, and the letter-writer meant that she prefers dealing with women in the workplace, then I would object to that just as you do!

      1. Grey*

        I like to give people the benefit of the doubt, so I’ll go with the unisex name theory. That makes the most sense.

    2. The IT Manager*

      I assumed the OP assumed “Kerry” (for example) was a woman’s name and not man’s and then saw the profile photo with a goatee. Or something similar.

    3. SB*

      Sounds to me like they WERE going to use Mr. or Ms. They probably had the first and last name such as Chris Smith, and maybe the title, even, but upon seeing a photo on LinkedIn, realized their salutation should be Dear Ms. Smith, and not Dear Mr. Smith as they had originally assumed. I wouldn’t presume to write Dear Chris in a cover letter.

      (To a stranger, anyway–in my most recent cover letter, I, personally, did do this, because it was an internal position, and our company is on a first-name basis no matter how far above or below you they are in the org chart, and I have spoken with the hiring manager previously, and it would have been weird to revert to a more formal form of address.)

  10. Kennie*

    Thank you Ask a Manager! I took your advice about addressing that issue in my cover letter and all the other tips I was given! I finally got a call and interview! I can feel an offer in the works! I have to admit that it was my declining of the previous offer that affected my other applications. I got the call from the same HR Recruiter that I declined with. She pretty much said it just not in so many words. Well you live and you learn!

  11. Frenchie*

    #6: My network includes many people who I have come in contact thru years of volunteer work. I will send an email asking them for a recommendation and suggest wording they might use. For a recent position, one of my contacts sent both an email and phoned the person at the company. I usually look on LinkIn for mutual connection and if I have contacted someone out of the blue it helps to have a mutual connection reinforce my claims.

    #7: I frequently contact (usually small – med businesses) about problems with website links or formatting issues. If there are problems with our website I want to know as it easy for a user to go elsewhere to do business. Through odd circumstances I actually found a major flaw in one of my vendors sites and they were VERY appreciative.

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