terse answer Thursday: 6 short answers to 6 short questions

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

1. Resigning when I’m on company travel

I currently work as a project manager for a construction company that does business around the southeastern U.S. Currently I’m working about 2.5 hours away from home and our home office and the company provides me with vehicle.

I plan on resigning at the end of the year which will allow me to close out a project that I’m currently working on and will give my employer up to 4 months notice. I believe that this will be the most professional and gracious way to resign. I have a good relationship with my employers but I’m just playing devil’s advocate in asking this question. If I resign and state that I would like to stay and complete this project but my employers feel that it’s best if I leave immediately effectively firing me, can they leave me stranded 2.5 hours away from home or are they obligated to allow me to take the company vehicle back to our home office and my home?

Interesting. Legally, I can’t think of any laws that would cover this … but practically speaking, this is very unlikely to happen — both because it would an incredibly nasty thing to do to you and because it would look absolutely terrible to other employees who learned about it.

2. What does this email mean?

I recently emailed a company to inquire about a job opportunity. They emailed me back and said, “We may or may not have an opportunity that meets your skill sets and background. But if you want an interview, give us a call.” What does that mean? I feel like they are being passive aggressive and not sure if they are just pulling my leg.

It’s not passive aggressive; it’s just bizarrely lazy. Give them a call, and be alert for further signs of lameness.

3. Reapplying at a job I worked for briefly, then quit

A few months back, I got a contract job with a large software company. However, I left the job in a week as I did not get along with my manager. I found him to be extremely rude towards me and received no guidance from him, which led me to believe that he was more interested in my failing at the job than in my success at it. After I gave two weeks notice, my manager called me at home and I was very forthright with him. Strangely, he apologized and gave some excuses (stress at home, etc.). However, I did not have a good feeling around it and did not go back (we agreed that I didn’t have to work for the entire 2 weeks if I didn’t want to). I did write to his director explaining the situation and that was it.

I am now interested in new positions within this company that would be in a different department but am wondering whether this past experience would color their opinion about me. Should I apply to this company again? What do you think?

It might color their opinion, or it might not. Really depends on the circumstances and the personalities. But you have nothing to lose, so you might as well try and see what happens.

4. How do I assert my scheduling needs in an interview?

I recently quit my coffeehouse job for another coffeehouse job that was (supposed to be) better. My old job was too far away from my house, and I found a new job that was right around the corner. Well, it turned out to be dreadful. Even though I told them that I was quitting because my old job was too far away, they made me work at another location that was -farther- from my house than the old job. They scheduled me for shifts that are illegal in my area (having two shifts in one day, and scheduling me with -no- days off. Ever. Or at least not for a few weeks). We had also briefly discussed during hiring that I’d not be able to work weekends or nights because I volunteer, but that went out the window with them after I was hired, and I was told I would have to work during those times.

I managed to get my old job back and plan on staying there for probably six months or so (out of respect for the fact that they hired me back). But after that, I’m not really sure how to proceed with finding a new job. I feel like the catastrophe that was this last job was definitely due to them being terrible owners, but also partly due to my not asserting my needs upfront. These issues were somewhat glazed over during my interview, and I don’t know how to bring them up better in the future without being seen as spoiled or entitled. How do I confirm what plans they have for me as far as scheduling goes, without coming off bad in an interview?

Wait to really drill into this once they make you an offer, and before you’ve accepted it. That’s the time to spell out details like location, hours, and shifts you definitely can’t work, and confirm that they agree. I’d then put all that in an email and send it them with a note like, “Just to summarize what we talked about today…” It won’t guarantee they won’t change things on you, but it makes it significantly less likely that there will be confusion over what’s been agreed to.

5. Can my company disclose my pay?

I am a pediatric home health nurse, and my employer disclosed how much I make to my patient’s mother. Since then, she has made comments about how much I make and made it a very uncomfortable work environment. Can my company do this legally? Keep in mind that I’m paid through Medicaid/insurance.

Yes. No law prohibits disclosing employees’ pay. However, you can certainly tell your patient’s mother that you prefer not to discuss your pay.

6. Does this mean I didn’t get the job?

I asked the HR person at a job that I was told I was in the top 3 out of 97 applications for if she could tell me her timeline, like you always say to do. She said: “We have actually finished the interview process, and selected a potential candidate. The forms are in the SOM HR office pending review. You’re correct – it is a long process unfortunately.”

I said: “In that case, should I consider myself still in the running for the position? When do you think candidates might be notified?”

Then she said: “Until everything is finalized and the position offered, everyone is still in the running. I’m hoping the candidate will be notified this week – first of next. But I don’t know what the SOM HR’s workload is like.”

I’m frustrated by this. The candidate is not me, right? I wish she’d just said that.

She’s actually being very straightforward with you. They’ve picked a candidate to make an offer to (probably not you, based on her wording, although I suppose it’s not impossible), but until that offer has been made and accepted, the position is open. If that candidate turns down the job or they can’t come to terms on salary, then they’ll presumably move to their second-choice candidate. They’re not going to reject people until they’ve got an accepted offer for that reason. But mentally I’d move on regardless — there’s no point in agonizing; let it be a pleasant surprise if they do contact you.

{ 79 comments… read them below }

  1. Disappointed.*

    I asked #6 question. Thanks for your response. I know that this is the case, I guess I’m just very disappointed and was trying to imagine myself into the job. It’s rough being in the top 3 and not being selected after a lot of hard work.

    1. Ashley*

      Don’t count yourself out entirely. I was actually a runner-up for a position, and after their first choice accepted, she changed her mind, and I was offered the position after all.

      My husband also served on a hiring committee for the job he was resigning from, and their first choice turned them down, and they gave the job to their second choice.

      It’s not over until it’s over, and I think that is what her e-mail suggests as well.

      1. Two-cents*

        Yes, the same thing happened to me a few years ago. The “first choice” even accepted the job; but then he and his spouse decided not to relocate and the job was offered to me. In that case it worked out. However, as Alison says, keep looking! It might not work out and you may find other good opportunities or be pleasantly surprised if an offer comes from your “first choice” company. The hiring process almost never goes as we would wish when we are the candidate and it almost always takes much longer than we expect. Good luck.

    2. Maraca*

      You could look at it as a positive. Being in the top 3 out of 97 candidates is pretty amazing. Given that during these economic times there are more great candidates out there, being in the top is a good thing. Plus, as long as you’re technically “still in the running” you can mention that in interviews with other companies. A candidate suddenly looks better to a hiring manager if they find out the candidate is being considered by another employer. At least in my experience.

      As always, AAM is right on with her advice!

    3. Less-Disappointed.*

      Thanks everyone for your words.
      I didn’t want to count myself out entirely but I also didn’t want to be fooling myself. Hearing your stories made that easier for me.

    4. Elise*

      It could easily be you who was chosen. If they are waiting for someone’s approval, they wouldn’t have been able to say you were selected yet.

  2. Tater B.*

    I have a spin-off question related to number one. If you give your two weeks’ notice and they ask you to leave immediately, how do you explain that in future interviews?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I can’t think of any reason why it would even come up in future interviews. That’s still a resignation, not a firing; the only quibble was over the timing.

      1. Tater B.*

        Whoo! Thank you so much for answering this. I’ve had this happen and several friends as well…I wasn’t sure if that qualified as firing or resignation.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          For purposes of collecting unemployment, they’ll often let you collect for those two weeks. But it’s still a resignation. Basically, with firings and resignations, whoever does it first governs what it’s called. If you quit and they say “you can’t quit, I’m firing you!” it’s still a resignation. If they fire you and you say “No, I’m quitting,” it’s still a firing (although they’ll probably happily choose to accept it as a resignation). Whatever comes first — that’s what it is.

    2. EM*

      This happened to me. I already had another job lined up, so i enjoyed the time off between jobs. The few people in my industry that I’ve told think my of old company more negatively as a result.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Thanks! I don’t think I’ll be able to keep them up after this month, but we’ll see! (I do think comments-per-post is going down, which is probably an unavoidable side effect.)

      1. Josh S*

        How could the comments-per-post NOT go down. It’s like drinking from a (refreshing, fun) firehose in here! Hard to keep up! (But I *do* like the posting frequency. Just wish there was a way to keep up with comment replies without having to subscribe to get an email for EVERY comment that is posted… :p )

          1. S*

            I mean, I think even if I were employed, I’d still be on this site. I love how everyone is more helpful and considerate than snarky and jaded (have had a bad experience on other forums!). I wish I’d found this blog during my last job, it would have helped me immensely!!!

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Please do stay once you’re employed! There’s lots here besides job searching! We’ve got crazy bosses, raises, coworker debacles, and much more.

            2. mh_76*

              My guess is that once you’re employed, you’ll just comment less frequently (but not disappear entirely) and probably be behind on reading the posts & comments… at least that’s why I’m not commenting as frequently as I have… and why I’m commenting 2 days after the initial post…

              As for other forums, I agree with you completely and rarely comment anywhere else (if at all) for those same reasons.

              Hang in there. I’m still looking too because my job is 1099 (maybe should be a W2 but that’s debatable) and doesn’t pay very much (but I’m learning and I really like the colleagues). The search is tough and I have my fingers crossed for all of us.

    2. Steve G*

      they need to slow down! I only have limited time to read on work breaks and I think a few good questions got pushed down in the blog and got few comments even though they could have gotten alot of good comments (I love the anecdotes people put in the comments on this blog which is why I read it so much).

  3. david*

    It is discouraging but true that we often find ourselves mislead when discussing jobs with employers. The ‘grass is always greener’ cliche comes to mind on the first of the 6 questions today.

    nothing here is overly surprising. It is just sad that we never have the kind of honesty we wanted and that employers (and employees) do not always honor standards of morality and honesty.

    Unfortunately, for such jobs, the employee usually does not have the cash to fight this in court and they probably would not want to anyway.

    Our world is deprived of morality and continues to get worse over time. At least, that is how it seems most of the time.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Um, the OP in #1 said he didn’t think this would happen and he has a good relationship with his employer. I’m not sure what you’re reacting to here. He’s just curious about the hypothetical question.

      1. Stells*

        I think he’s talking about the coffee shop employee – especially given that they (supposedly) were breaking labor laws.

  4. Josh S*

    For #4: Asserting your Schedule

    You have to be direct and spend time on your schedule requirements. It’s very much a part of negotiating the terms of your employment, especially for foodservice/retail jobs.

    From the employer’s perspective, it’s best if they have an employee with 24/7 availability so they can be flexible and use you to fill in wherever needed. From your perspective, it would be great to have a very consistent schedule that allows you to engage in your other interests/volunteer work/etc. Neither of you will get 100% of what you want (or it’s pretty unlikely anyway).

    But during the offer stage, be sure that you don’t just look at your hourly pay. The hours you work are part of it (though they are unlikely to *guarantee* any set number of hours), and your schedule (days/times) are part of it too. Don’t be afraid to negotiate it. Get it all agreed upon up front, and your life will be much better.

    Or consider it another way: You know all those times your manager doesn’t express things clearly and then gets upset at you for not meeting the uncommunicated standard? This is the flip-side. You’ve not expressed your scheduling needs clearly, and now you’re upset with the manager for not meeting your standard. Just something to keep in mind.

    1. KayDay*

      +1 to your last paragraph; that’s a great point.

      However, many employers would like for people to work the same shift regularly. When I worked part-time in retail (many, many years ago) I generally had more difficultly with not being able to pick up a new shift than being scheduled when I wasn’t available. It totally depends on the individual manager, but not every manager will be like the one the OP had.

  5. Scubatyg*

    I’ve been reading AAM religiously since I found it about a year ago, and was so excited this morning to see a question that I can help with.

    For the construction PM: I’ve been in Construction Management for quite a while – both remote and local, and with both small and large firms. While I’ve never been able to point to, or find any, labor (or any other ) law that requires it, I can tell you that it is generally standard practice for the company to pay for getting the employee home (wherever that may be) regardless of the details surrounding the separation. I even had one company pay to relocate my entire family (including professional movers, Realtor’s fees, home closing costs, and travel for five) back, 2,000 miles across country, to the area we considered “home” after a lay-off.

    Again, I can’t speak to the specific legal obligations that might be involved, but I’ve seen that sort of thing often enough in the last 20 years that I no longer worry about being stranded 2,000 miles away from home. While this doesn’t answer your “is it legal” question, hopefully it gives you some piece of mind.

  6. Josh S*

    #1: Resigning while away from the home office

    I’m with AAM. I cannot imagine that they would screw you and ‘abandon’ you away from home without transportation. It would be crappy, it would probably bite them in the butt with other employees/potential hires, and it’s just an insane thing to do.

    The fact that you’re giving them so much advance notice leads me to believe that you think that they won’t be unreasonable and fire you on the spot or anything. And probably that they won’t be mean-spirited about it.

    So I’d suggest you bring it up directly. Whenever you inform them of your intended quit date, ask them how/when/where they’d like you to return the company car, and what your options are for transport ‘home’. It’s possible they’d like to leave the car on site for your replacement to use, and they’ll give you a train/plane ticket home. Or it’s possible they’ll want you to drive it back to their office, etc. Just make that part of your ‘resignation’ negotiation.

    1. fposte*

      I would agree, but just for your own peace of mind, I’d say make sure you bring personal credit cards, etc., so you can finance your return trip if something *does* happen. (Generally worth doing on any business trip, I’d say, but some people don’t.)

      1. Monica*

        Fposte has good advice – be sure you can get home by your own means if necessary. The company only has an obligation to you as long as you’re making it money. They have no obligation to you as a person. Fallout – who from the company really cares… they protect their own job. I work for a great company, but at one point i flew across the country to relieve a guy who had given 2 weeks the day before. He had to cash in vaca owed to get home. I know. Vp knows. Thats it. And i have nothing to gain by saying anything. Be prepared

  7. Jenn*

    #4 “They scheduled me for shifts that are illegal in my area (having two shifts in one day, and scheduling me with -no- days off. Ever. Or at least not for a few weeks)”

    It’s illegal to work two shifts in one day in a coffeehouse? It’s illegal to be scheduled with no days off in a coffeehouse? Am I missing something here?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      There are a few places in the U.S. that do restrict the number of hours and days someone can be required to work in a row. I figure he’s in one of them. 

    2. Emily*

      Some states have strong worker protection laws. Massachusetts (and probably California, though I didn’t look it up) require all employees to have a 24-hour period with no shifts scheduled within every 7-day period. (There are a few exceptions granted for particular classes of critical professions; baristas are not among them.) I wouldn’t be surprised if a similarly protective set of laws made it illegal to schedule a person for two shifts in one day, because the same states who make those laws often require paid breaks which a tricky employer could avoid by scheduling a person for two shifts with an unpaid hour in between, rather than one long shift with a paid break in the middle.

      1. mh_76*

        I *don’t think* that MA has a law about 2 shifts in the 24-hour period because when I worked retail, it was possible to be scheduled for a close-open…close ended at 12am on a busy night, open started at 7am. We once had a mandatory AM sales meeting and some people had to return later in the day to work.

    3. KayDay*

      I don’t know what the rules are specifically, but I believe that NY State also had some state laws regarding maximum number of hours/days without a break.

    4. UpDownSide*

      Yeah, when I worked retail in Missouri some years ago, the law required an 8 hour “break” between shifts. So when management would schedule me to close on Saturday (and we’d have to stay until 1 or 2 in the morning to zone the store most weekends) and have me open on Sunday, they actually had to push my open hour out to accommodate the break. Which meant that the fitting room was unattended for two hours in the morning, which put everyone in softlines behind for the day, but I guess this was easier than, you know, spending five minutes to schedule two different people to do the close/open tango.

    5. Coffee house girl*

      yea, I live in Canada. There’s a set number of hours you are required by law to have in between two shifts (namely, 12).
      And you have to have I think 2 consecutive days off per two week period.

  8. Anonymous*

    LOL #4– You can’t work nights and weekends because you volunteer, so are you saying you volunteer every weekend and night? If I were your manager I wouldn’t believe this for a second.

    The ability to work nights and weekends at least sometimes is almost always an understood requirement for most retail/food service jobs. I’ve found, for instance, if you work at another job M,W,and F night each week, managers will agree not to put you on the schedule M, W, and F nights each week— but stating you can’t work any nights and weekends because you volunteer…. I doubt they would have hired you if you did in fact state this because these are the shifts that most employees whine the most about.

    1. Your Mileage May Vary*

      But you’d think that a barista (or, if OP is a male, do you call them a baristo?) would do better being on the same shift every day so they could learn the customers.

      I can totally think of volunteer positions that work nights and weekends — serving in a food kitchen, exercising the dogs at the animal shelter, troop leader/den mother. Not everyone is stuffing envelopes while the corporate office is open.

      Regardless, OP call this a lesson learned about communicating your preferences. I will usually write down the perks I want well before I interview. I don’t share the actual list with anyone but it helps me remember when I’m talking specifics. It’s easy to get caught up in the thrill of “I’m being offered a job!!1!!” and then you forget to clarify some of the things that might make that job be not such a great fit for you. So, I take a moment after my “squee!!” and refer to my list. Then I start clarifying those things with the hiring manager. If I find that some of the “perks” aren’t going to be offered, like the shorter commute for instance, then I can decide if that’s the deal-breaker for me.

      1. Marie*

        I think the point was that volunteering every night and every weekend might seem unbelievable, not that you can’t volunteer nights and week end.

        1. KellyK*

          Right, but if you have multiple and variable volunteer commitments, you might need to keep your nights and weekends totally or mostly free, even if you don’t end up volunteering every single evening and all weekend long. For example, if you’re a volunteer firefighter or EMT, you’re not going to be doing that every night, but you might need to keep your nights open so that you can pull a shift as needed.

          Or you might have a volunteer position that has busy periods. If you volunteer at a church or religious organization, you might have a ton of stuff right before a major holiday. Similarly, campaign volunteers might be calling up voters every single evening in the couple months before the election, but only doing occasional weekends the rest of the year.

      2. Anonymous*

        Barista is Italian, not English. It means bartender. Starbucks imported it as a term for a coffee-brewer because they wanted to sound sophisticated. It’s used for both genders.

        If you wanted to specify gender in Italian, you say la barista for a female and il barista for a male. The Italian plurals are gendered – bariste for females, baristi for males (or a mixed group). In practice, the Americanized plural is “baristas” because we don’t really embrace the concept of gendered words (which is different than a word having a gendered implication).

        1. Anonymous*

          I think the person above was probably going along the Spanish idea where nouns end in -o are male and -a are female.

          In the days of Old/Middle English, words had gender. But that has changed. We have very few nouns that have genders – boats (and sometimes cars, if someone is inclined to name their car) and countries (some countries are female, some are male).

      3. doreen*

        Plenty of volunteer positions work nights and weekends, and I’ve volunteered for some of them myself. But I’ve never seen a volunteer position that prevented someone from ever working nights and weekends , nor even known someone who made so many different commitments that they were booked every night and every weekend , having no free time whatsoever. And for all the advantages of having someone work the same schedule every week ( and there are plenty) most retail/fast food/service jobs still want some flexibility from their employees to cover requests from other employees for time off , provide extra staffing during busy periods , etc.

    2. jmkenrick*

      Um, if the employee was upfront about this, then there’s nothing wrong with not being available for nights & weekends. I worked retail all through college, and it’s not unusual for people to have requirements like this.

      Also, it’s worth noting that plenty of baristas tend to be busiest during morning weekdays. I work in the finciaial district, and our coffee shops are ghost-towns on Saturday, and at night. (Actually, I really can’t think of many coffee shops that are open at night, financial district or otherwise.)

      1. jmkenrick*

        P.S. I think it’s kind of irrelevant what the manager believes. If that’s what the employee stated his availibity was, then it’s not really the manager’s business what he is or isn’t doing in that off-time.

        1. KellyK*

          Absolutely! If the availability was a problem, the time to bring it up as a problem was when it was stated in the first place (or when the situation changed). If “work nights and weekends” was an essential part of the job, they shouldn’t have hired someone who said they weren’t available then, whether the reason was childcare responsibilities, volunteering, or playing World of Warcraft.

          1. doreen*

            You’re right, if it was an essential part of the job and employee was absolutely clear about never being available nights and weekends, she shouldn’t have been hired – and probably wouldn’t have been. But things change, and what wasn’t essential when the employee was hired may become essential when circumstances change.

            And the reason for the lack of availability doesn’t matter except – how does the manager know why the employee is not available? In my experience , this sort of information comes up because the employee brings it up hoping it will change something – like they won’t have to work a certain shift because they do volunteer work or take a class or whatever. Which is fine- but if someone told me that they could never work nights or weekends because of their volunteer work , I wouldn’t believe them. I can believe that people aren’t available due to volunteer work for a particular shift- say Tuesday night or Sat morning. I can believe that they are not available the first weekend of the month, or for any nights and weekends in October. But if someone were to tell me that they could never work nights or weekend because they had to keep that time free for volunteer work, I would believe that they simply didn’t want to work nights and weekends and were lying because they thought it would get them out of it.

            1. blu*

              But it doesn’t matter if you believe them or not. If they aren’t available then you either work around that or hire someone else. Also I’m not sure if you missed it, but someone mentioned above that volunteer firefighters/EMTs etc aren’t working every day, but do need to be available. The OP could be volunteering in that kind of capacity.

              1. jmkenrick*

                I used to volunteer for a youth home for foster kids, and nights/weekends are the most necessary shifts (when the kids are’t in school).

              2. doreen*

                Yes, if they’re not available , then I work around it or hire someone else. But why are they telling me they are not available because of volunteer work rather than giving no explanation? Presumably because they believe/hope that I will treat unavailability due to volunteer work differently than I would treat a desire not to work those hours for no particular reason. And whether I believe the reason or not only matters in terms of how likely I am to believe this person in the future assuming that I don’t hire someone else.(especially when it comes to reasons for requesting time off- no, I don’t have a right to know why someone is taking time off. Sometimes they tell me anyway , and very occasionally it changes my decision)

                I didn’t miss the earlier comment about volunteer firefighters/EMTs, but I really question whether anyone would volunteer for an organization that truly required all volunteers to be be available every night and the entire weekend and was unwilling to accommodate any deviation – never able to go out of town, attend a family event , take a class on Tuesday and Thursday evenings , etc.

                1. anon*

                  I am extremely involved in a volunteer organization where I am committed to doing work for the organization on Thursday nights and Sunday afternoons. My volunteer position – and many of those in our organization – is essential enough that I have to find a sub when I am not able to make it – it basically an unpaid second job. Previously I volunteered with a completely different organization which was similar, I was “on call” for 24 hour periods one weekend a month where I could not work. Keep in mind there are varying degrees of seriousness/commitment for volunteer positions.

            2. Your Mileage May Vary*

              I get that people can’t be so choosy in this economy and retail is an animal all to itself but if I told a boss I wasn’t available and they didn’t believe me, I’d be out that door so fast. I do not want to work for someone who thinks I’m lying to get out of work!

      2. anonymous*

        Depends. If you mean a coffee shop like Starbuck’s, you are correct. In my teens and early 20’s I was really into hanging out at indie coffeehouses, and they were busy late into the night like a bar would be.

        1. jmkenrick*

          There are a couple in my neighborhood as well, but I was more taking issue with the original commentor’s assumption that it was laughable that a barista would ask for nights off.

          And those indie coffeehouses tend to be the exception, not the norm. (Although charming, of course.)

          1. doreen*

            Depends on where the original commentor is – in my area, even the Starbuck’s stay open until at least 9:30 pm and sometimes as late as midnight.

    3. Coffee house girl*

      To clarify, obviously I don’t work every single night and weekend for volunteer. That’s not really what I said. But I work nights and weekends and my volunteer schedule shifts, like my job schedule. So one week I’ll be volunteering tues, fri, and sun. Next week I’ll be volunteering mon, fri, and sat. Its just easier to say “I can’t work nights or weekends” rather than having to juggle the two commitments during those times to make sure they line up flawlessly.

      And its not like if they said to me “Hey, can you work this night shift next week because we need you?” I wouldn’t be flexible with it, because I do that a lot in my current job, but if you have an application that has a table in it where you can outline your availability and you put that, they really ought to not schedule you for those hours without asking you first.

  9. Anonymous*

    So I asked the number 2 question..does that mean that they do have a Job opening? I’m confused to if they actually have an opening or not.

    1. KayDay*

      It means that they suck at communicating (and they are lazy, as Alison said) and either (a) have a job opening that they are NOT desperate to fill; (b) might be able to make a job opening if you are the right person for them; (c) have a job opening they are trying to fill, but want to be able to tell you that they “don’t have an opening” if they decided not to hire you; or (d) don’t really have a job opening, but have some other motivation for speaking with you.

      It might be worth calling them, but be on the look out for other read flags that they are a crappy employer.

    2. starts & ends with A*

      It means you have to pick up the phone and call them to find out what they have. Did you email them because they posted a job or did you email them to find out if they had any openings?

      1. Anonymous*

        Thanks for the responses. I emailed them to see if they had any openings and that’s how they replied. I was planning on calling them either way, but just wanted to be more clear on what it meant.

    3. Anonymous*

      It means that the person you contacted doesn’t know if there’s a position open and was too lazy to check.

  10. Anonymous*

    #1 – How would they get the company vehicle back in that case?

    If they terminate you immediately, they’ll probably still consider it cheaper and more convenient to have you drive the company vehicle back to HQ. The alternative is sending two other employees out explicitly to get it and paying those two people 5 hours of work time for the round-trip. Instead, they could just have you drive the vehicle back for free.

    It’s more work to them to try to be a jerk than to be the good guy here, so without more details I don’t think there’s a serious risk.

    1. Anonymous*

      There’s likely an entire logistics department dedicated to figuring out how to get site vehicles and equipment from point A to point B. This would not be a problem, especially considering the job is 2.5 hrs from the home office. That’s really close for national contractor, and not bad for a regional contractor.

  11. Kimberlee, Esq.*

    For question number 4: I actually completely disagree with Alison. As someone who has hired for food jobs, I can’t tell you how frustrating it is to have a great candidate, make them an offer, and only then find out that they can only work a certain schedule. I would find myself in the position of having to either work with a candidate who I felt misrepresented themselves (if until that point I’d been under the impression that they had general availability) or, worse, having to withdraw the offer.

    Now, a good employer will ask you your availability in the application or interview stage. Please be totally honest, but realize that for these kinds of jobs, as another commenter put, often not being 100% available will be a deal breaker. This is one category of job where I’d recommend you take the spamming approach… apply EVERYWHERE, in coffee shops, restaurants, retail, whatever you can tolerate. There will not be many who are willing to accommodate a “no nights and weekends” schedule, so you’re best is to make it a numbers game. Good luck!

    1. KellyK*

      Yeah, I can see that. Working nights and weekends is definitely more of an expectation in food/retail than elsewhere.

      Would it be better for the candidate to ask general questions about schedule and flexibility at the interview stage (if the interviewer doesn’t bring it up first), then hammer out exact details after the offer stage? Questions like, would it be a set schedule or completely vary week to week, what are the typical hours, do they need 100% availability or can you have days where you won’t be scheduled (at least outside of an emergency), etc.

      Also, I’m curious. Not having worked in food service in the last decade, is it typical for candidates to have 100% availability? I would expect that between family commitments, other activities, and possibly multiple jobs, most people would have conflicts somewhere even if they were minor.

      1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

        Since these *tend* to be jobs that no one really wants, I think the assumption is that if you’re applying, you are in need of work and willing to drop other committments. I mean, most jobs expect that you plan your family commitments and activities around the job, not the other way, and in my experience, that goes double for retail/food.

        I’ve seen it work where a person can get ONE regular day off per week (often Sunday for church), or have a blanked “I can’t work before x or after y.” But given that these jobs have hundreds of candidates, not having full availability will be a major factor. And I don’t think I’ve ever hired anyone who told me, blanket, that they won’t work weekends (in a food/retail context). Nobody wants to work weekends. Your reason doesn’t really matter. Though coffeehouses could be different, for the reasons others have stated.

        And in response to Alison below, I agree that you definitely have to hammer out 100% at the offer state what the deal is, but that sort of applies for all jobs. I think food/retail is unique in that for an office type job, I would think it was OK to wait to hammer out schedule details until the offer, but for food/retail everyone really should be on the same page by the end of the first interview at the latest.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’m not saying not to get into it at all in the interview, but once you have an offer, that’s when you really want to spell this stuff out as carefully as possible.

      1. Coffee house girl*

        My issue with the “wait until you get an offer” thing is that with this kind of job I’ve never really ‘gotten an offer’

        Its usually a call like “Hey, we hired you. You start monday. See you then!’ So I find that maybe Kimberlee’s suggestion might work better. Hiring for this sort of job, at least in my area, is so rediculously informal that sometimes I’ve gone in for what I thought was going to be an interview and been given a uniform and gotten to start working on the spot (with them surprised that I didn’t have banking information for automatic deposit, or my SIN number which is required in Canada to work).

  12. EM*

    #4. I told my (then future) boss in an interview point-blank that too much travel was a deal-breaker, and I mentioned how much travel I would be willing to do. I figured that there was no point in continuing any further if I was looking at a position with 75% travel and it would just be a waste of everyone’s time. To my boss’ credit, he respected that condition of my employment, which was pretty much the only good thing about that job. :/

  13. Anon*

    Wow, it is a trip to be reading this and see that SOM interview series mentioned, as I believe I was also in the top running for that position (a total of 5 hours worth of interviews plus other indicators).

    My interest is piqued — I’d love for an opportunity to discuss the interview experience with the original OP.

    1. Anon*

      Please excuse the phrase “original OP.” Good grief, that’s worse than “rice pilaf.” I apologize.

    2. SOM question #6*

      SOM in my question was an abbreviation for school of medicine and without any other indications of the organization, I can’t imagine that tipped you off. So unless this is a case of EXTREMELY small worlds, I doubt it’s the same job? Though… stranger things have happened.

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