tiny answer Tuesday: 7 short answers to 7 short questions

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

1. My boss is pressuring me for information about a coworker who’s also a relative

One of my coworkers happens to be my cousin’s spouse, whom I live with. We never work together and in the past when we did, we were extremely professional. It was never obvious that our relationship even left the building. Recently, she did not show up to work, but called in an hour late, which is considered a no-call no-show. I never tried to defend her or justify her actions. My boss came in the next day and asked me what happened, and after I told her that we keep our work and private life separate, she continued to press the matter. I really had not been home and didn’t know what happened, but she seemed to think I was lying and kept asking if I’d seen her later. I refused to divulge information and told her I’d let my cousin’s wife know that she’d like to speak to her. I was wondering if she has a right to press information out of me just because we live together. Also, I am a shift leader and my cousin’s wife is a crew member, one step below me. Not sure if that has relevance. I’d like to know what I can say in future situations.

Your boss was being unprofessional and rude by pressing you on this, but there’s no law preventing it — other than the law of Be Professional and Not an Ass.

In the future, I’d simply say, “I don’t know. Please speak with her directly.” And repeat as necessary.

2. Replying to an email of praise

I’ve been in a contract position with a company for about 4 months. Originally, it was only going to be 3 months, but then they offered me a spot on another team when it became short-staffed and I switched over last month. I knew I was doing well before, and although the work I’m doing now is new to me, I like it and I’m happy to learn it.

I recently received an email from my new manager, saying that she thinks I’m doing great and that she wouldn’t know where the team would be without me. It was a very nice email and she CC’d her boss (a bigwig) and my old manager. I replied with my thanks right away, but I didn’t hit “reply all”; I thought it might be too self-congratulatory. Was that the wrong move? Do I now sound ungrateful to the other people on the email? I’m already trying not read into it as to whether or not they will offer me a position at the end of my contract. I hope I didn’t mess anything up…

You’re over-thinking it! Your response was perfectly appropriate, and it sounds like they love you. (In the future, it would fine to cc the others who were included on the message, but it’s not a problem that you didn’t.)

3. My coworker won’t stop asking me for help

I currently work with another support officer who is the same grade as me. I like my job and have been only in this department for 6 months. My coworker has been doing this same position for at least 18 months. I am still trying to learn the work, as there is a lot to know. However, my coworker is continually asking me questions about how to do things. It has gotten to the point where she is actually interfering with my learning.

I realize we need to work in a team environment, but she leaves all the hard tasks to me. I have been coping with my own self esteem problems and her constant insecurities and self esteem problems are bringing me down. Can you offer any advice?

Be direct: “Jane, you’ve got a lot questions and I’m still learning myself. Can you check with (your manager) for help with this instead?”

And when she leaves all the hard tasks to you, speak up: “How about you take A and B? I’m going to do C and D, and they’ll be time-consuming.”

If that doesn’t work, ask your manager for advice about getting the work split up more equitably. (Asking for advice is a good way to bring a problem to your manager’s attention without actually complaining.)

4. Interviewing by Skype

I have a Skype interview scheduled later this week, and I’m wondering if you have any advice that pertains specifically to Skype/video interviews that might not be covered in your prior interview posts. While I am comfortable using Skype in work settings, I have never actually interviewed via Skype. In particular, I am concerned about attire. I will be interviewed by two directors for a position with the federal government. Thus, if it was in-person, I would unquestionably wear a suit! However, because it is a Skype interview (and will most likely take place at my kitchen table), I’m wondering if the fashion conventions are different. What are your thoughts on this?

Nope, wear a suit. And don’t be tempted to wear only the top half — if you have to stand up unexpectedly to adjust the camera or something like that, you don’t want to reveal that you’re wearing a suit on top and sweatpants on the bottom. (The clothing version of a mullet?)

Personally, I hate, hate, hate Skype and avoid conducting interviews over it, in large part because of the slight time lag — I find that it makes everyone’s reactions seem just slightly off because they come a second later than they should, and it makes the whole conversation feel weird. But maybe others who like it can chime in with tips.

5. Applying for multiple jobs at the same company

I’ve been playing a game of resume freeze-tag with a company for a few months now regarding a copywriter position. They filled the position recently, but have had other postings. There’s another job on their site for a media planner, while also has a creative slant but also involved sales a lot more. It’s a company I like and a job that I think I could do well, but I wondered if applying for every job I’m qualified for and hoping anything sticks makes me look persistent or simply wishy-washy?

It’s fine to apply for a couple of jobs that aren’t wildly different. But if you start applying for more than that, it does start looking like you’re resume-bombing and aren’t focused. Suzanne Lucas has a great article about this here.

6. Pharmacist degrees that I don’t know about

I am a pharmacist with the old 5-year undergrad professional degree (BSPharm) and I am finding a lot of positions for pharmacist holding the 6-year undergrad professional degree called a PharmD. I see the write-ups for jobs asking for a pharmacist with a doctorate. I believe these HR people think that my degree is a 4-year undergrad degree and the PharmD is a 4 years graduate degree, which is incorrect. How does one educate HR about the various healthcare degrees?

This is way outside of my expertise, but maybe someone here with more of a health care background can weigh in.

7. Using the same writing sample in a second application

My cousin is applying for an internal position that she has applied to before, but for a different department. They’ve asked for a writing sample. Can she send the same writing sample that she’s sent before, for the same job, with a different group, that will go to the same HR department?

Technically, yes … but if she didn’t get an interview last time around, it’s worth considering that the writing sample might not have helped her last time, and it could be worth trying a different one. (This is true of cover letters too — if you’re reapplying to somewhere you’ve applied before, don’t use the cover letter that didn’t get you an interview last time.)

{ 68 comments… read them below }

    1. KT*

      It’s not a Phd. You can get a Phd in pharmacy. A Pharmd is a professional doctorate which is not the same thing. However, my understanding is that the old BSPharm degrees are no longer accepted for anyone new seeking pharmacist credentials, though anyone who had a BSPharm and pharmacist credentials won’t lose their accredation.

      1. Laura L*

        It sounds like the difference between getting a PhD in clinical psychology and getting a PsyD, which is also a professional doctorate. Although, unlike in pharm, you have to get your BS/BA before getting accepted to the advanced program.

        At any rate, if a PharmD is a type of doctorate, I have a hard time seeing how it’s considered an undergrad degree.

      2. Licensing*

        I work for a government agency that oversees Pharmacists. This is correct… NABP requires a PharmD to test for the NAPLEX, and while some states will still accept applicants by endorsement with the older degrees, most do not without documentation of hours worked. Most credentialing and HR employees that work in healthcare know the difference between the degrees and know what you need to work in the state you are applying.
        That said, many companies (mostly the larger chains) use the PharmD as a screening tool just like any other degree is used. If they are too rigid in their process to allow for years of experience to count in there culture… maybe you don’t want to work there anyway!

      3. incognito*

        Oh! I didn’t mean to assume it’s the same as, but that the D in PharmD is for “Doctor”, just like the PhD is. You are right. Thanks for the clarity!

    2. LT*

      PharmD is a Doctor of Pharmacy, and it’s been the required entry-level education for pharmacists in the United States for the last 20+ years. The PharmD is NOT an undergrad program like the old BSPharm.

      The OP may want to consider getting a 2-year post-BS PharmD, which is offered at select programs for people who have the older BSPharm and experience in the field. Many of these programs offer evening/weekend/online classes.

      1. Two-cents*

        Actually, the B.S.Pharm degree was the norm until 1997 when the Accreditation Council for Pharmacy Education (ACPE) re-evaluated the needs of entry-level pharmacists and changed the accreditation requirements . Starting with the graduating class of 2003, graduates had the PharmD as the “entry-level degree” to become a licensed pharmacist. So not so long ago.

  1. KT*

    Can you just write BSPharm (5-year program) on your resume? I don’t know what type of job you are applying for but any reputable pharm or med company is going to have an HR familiar with types of pharm degrees. It’s so critical to the qualifications!

    1. Stells*

      Yep! We know the difference!

      Most companies put PharmD in the education block because that’s want NEW candidates need to have it to get their RPh certification, but as long as the OP is registered he’s qualified to apply.

      That being said, can’t hurt to take some online classes to get the PharmD, for future reference :o)

  2. Avid Askamanager Reader*

    To #6. Pharmacist degrees that I don’t know about

    If you’re applying to a job that is seeking a Pharmacist, if you’re in the “industry”… you know the difference. Simple as that. It’s like the old MS in Physical Therapy versus the more “recent” DPT.

    If it’s really stressing you that much, apply via HR, but do your homework and network to find out who the hiring manager is for that position. More likely than not, in medicine, it’s someone with similar or comparable educational detail as your own.

    1. Stells*


      I recruit for Pharmacy Operations, and there’s not much of a difference, however, if you’re a Registered Pharmacist, you should know this information. They changed the programs a few years ago where you now get a “dual degree” of BS Pharm and PharmD with just an extra year.

      All new RPh candidates have to have it to be registered, but accredited RPhs with a BS don’t lose their accrediation. It’s another level to keep the Pharmacist field from being overpopulated (like, say, the legal field has become).

  3. J*

    Oh Skype interviews . . . I work overseas, and when we did interviews recently, they were almost all in different cities or even countries, so we did most of the interviews via Skype. Some people dressed just as they would for an inperson, and one or two even made sure the camera was in a neutral location (ie no distracting backgrounds). But I had some. . . one guy was in really casual clothes, interviewing from his messy bedroom. Another interviewed from her living room, and had the TV on just off camera. Two of the interviewees, despite having agreed to a Skype interview days in advance, didn’t know how to work it– one couldn’t get the sound to work and in the end I cut her a break and asked if she’d like me to call back at another time, and the other kept disconnecting us somehow, but was unapologetic about it.

    The best though, and this actually sort of made me giggle and like the guy more, was a guy who wasn’t sure about how this Skype thing worked, so he had worn shorts and flip flops with a dress shirt, tie and jacket. That way, he was covered regardless. It broke the ice and made it all flow a little easier :)

    1. SB*

      Maybe AAM should do a post about video interviewing. You covered most of the key points, but she could go into more detail. Candidates should do a “dry run” at the same time of day a few days in advance of the actual interview, with a friend on the other end to give feedback. Neutral background, but also make sure it isn’t backlit too much from a window behind you (showing silhouette but no features). Make sure whatever you’re using for speakers and microphone work–you can hear the person on the other end, and they can hear you but no background noise. Keep any other programs on your computer closed, especially if they might make noise during the call (e-mail notifications, antivirus notifications, etc.). Even dress for your dry run exactly how you plan to dress for the real thing, so your friend can tell you if that top is too low cut, or the tiny pattern on the tie is having a moire effect or whatever. Even determining if your home internet connection is too slow and you’d be better off in a public location (but low on distractions!) or a friend’s house is important.

        1. SB*

          *blush* Aww, thanks! I had an (internal, thankfully) interview change from phone to video chat the day before, had a different one for the same job with other potential colleagues, and now have team meetings with some of the same people by video chat as well, so have seen some of the “what not to do,” though luckily nothing too egregious. And, of course, with “normal” team meetings without the pressure of being a job interview, even when things don’t go so well, it’s no big deal.

      1. Shayna*

        Also, remember to turn off the notifications on Skype. I report for a podcast that conducts interviews via Skype and people (including me sometimes, I’ll admit it!) forget the in application settings and you can here it binging every time one of their contacts signs in or messages them. You can mute yourself as well so that the other side can’t hear any background noise and you never end up talking over them, you just have to be OCD about unmuting yourself before speaking.

        Oh! And for goodness sake, make sure your Skype profile picture is inoffensive. It displays through the entire call if it’s just two-way and every time you speak if it’s a group call.

      2. Rana*

        Practicing beforehand is really, really helpful, so you’re not struggling with the software, invisible, weirdly tinny sounding, etc. I agree with everything you say here!

        I’d also add that you should remember to address the camera on your computer, not the screen, if possible; also, if you plan to take notes, drink water, etc., have them close to hand.

        Oh, and warn all family members, roommates, etc. that you’re doing it, so they don’t walk into the picture unexpectedly. Ditto for pets (charming as a cat photobomb might be).

      3. Jennifer O*

        You wrote exactly what I was going to write. I agree with everything.

        One additional point: make sure your Internet connection is secure and that you have a possible backup. Last year I had a Skype job interview. Apart from the usual interview prep, I did everything SB described. Everything was set.

        The morning of the interview, we had Internet problems at work. I learned that the ISP was having a problem in our area: not only was Internet sketchy at work, but also at my house and my friends’ places. I didn’t know anyone who used a different provider. it took everything in me to stay calm and not have a panic / anxiety attack.

        Fortunately, service was restored about 30min before the interview. Interview went well, I got the job, and I couldn’t be happier in my new position! Next time though? I’d make sure I had a backup plan.

    2. Summer Camper*

      I’d add to check the angle of your webcam – I had one that was built-in to my computer, and it seemed like it always my forehead look huge. I actually borrowed a clip-on webcam for a Skype interview because it was more adjustable.

      Perhaps I just lack self-control, but being able to see myself in the corner of the video was extremely distracting. My now husband and I did our pre-marital counseling with our minister over Skype (long story) and I swear I spent half the counseling sessions watching myself talk. For an interview, I’d remove the distraction by figuring out how to remove that window or just covering it on my screen with a sticky note.

      1. simple simon*

        I would warn you about removing that window though. I was giving a presentation via skype once and hid the picture of myself to avoid the distraction. At the end of the presentation I found out that my own camera had cut out half way through, but no one had wanted to interrupt my presentation to let me know. Just something to keep in mind!

    3. Anon2*

      If you’re using a laptop, the interview is during business hours and your house isn’t the quietest place to interview from, you should also check into your local library. My library system has wifi and rooms you can reserve for meetings. It seems to me this would be a great way to have a neutral background and a quiet, private space for a skype interview.

      1. Anonymous*

        This could backfire if you’re not careful – my local library branch has absolutely awful wi-fi speeds during certain hours due to the load. I would do a ‘dry run’ the week before, during the same time frame, and again on the day of, just to make sure that it’s fast enough for skyping.

        1. J*

          I have to agree about the little picture of myself in the corner of the screen! Depending on the version of Skype you have, you can turn that off– if you can’t, I’d position the window so you don’t have to stare at yourself the whole time (cover it up or have it just offscreen or wahtever). And yes, practice! I’ve interviewed by stacking my laptop on a pile of books so the person on the other end wasn’t treated to a shot up my nose the entire time. Getting that angle right is important!

        2. Anon2*

          Oh sure, same thing with your home connection as well. You have to test it out, assuming you have enough notice to do so. :)

    4. Vicki*

      I had a Skype interview at a company that was interviewing me; one of the managers had a family emergency and was home that day. She didn’t have a webcam so I interviewed with her photograph while she could see me. Not fun.

      I had another Skype interview in another company where some of the interviewers were across the country. The first one took an extra 10 minutes and required someone from IT to come in and fix the settings before we had picture and sound. Awesome.

      1. Jamie*

        “I had another Skype interview in another company where some of the interviewers were across the country. The first one took an extra 10 minutes and required someone from IT to come in and fix the settings before we had picture and sound. Awesome.”

        Clear as day I’m picturing some people who are refusing help setting up skype from IT because “I can do it – this is simple…honestly you think everything with computers is so complicated. Is that for job security – ha ha.”

        Flash forward to the time of your interview where the IT is unceremoniously pulled out of a meeting or hijacked on the way to the ladies room to “hurry up and fix this stupid thing right now, we have an candidate waiting to be interviewed and we look like idiots.”

        All the while resisting the urge to point out that they wouldn’t look like idiots if they accepted help and/or tested the equipment ahead of time as was advised by IT…ahem.

        Now that’s multitasking – being able to irritate a candidate and the IT with one fell swoop.

    5. Andreea*

      Another Skype tip: look at the camera when you’re talking, not down at the screen. It’s a little weird to talk to the camera, but this way you’ll be making eye contact with the person on the other end.

  4. Anonymous*


    PharmD, from what I understand, is the degree students now get when they finish pharmacy school (the school within a university). Back about 10 or more years ago, students just came out with a BS or if they went a couple more years, they got the PharmD. But I think now it’s just expected to go the 6 years, which includes internship rotations, and receive the PharmD at the end.

    I don’t know if HR would understand the cut-off from when that had all changed. Maybe you should investigate into the company. Is this a chain pharmacy (like CVS or a supermarket)? Go in and ask the pharmacist. He or she might have some insight, maybe even based on their own experience with the company.

    But let me just point out to you that pharmacy schools are graduating a ton of students each May with these PharmDs. And there are more students than there are jobs, and these new graduates can be hired at less money. You will need to make your experience shine once you can get these HR people to see that you are just as qualified. I don’t mean to rain on your parade, but I just want to let you know what you’re up against in this particular industry.

    **Not a pharmacist but works in the pharmaceutical industry alongside pharmacists**

    1. Anonymous*

      Agreed – I’m a new grad PharmD, and the job market is brutal. I worked extremely hard at the job search, and thanks in part to blogs like this, was just offered a position. That said, almost every position I looked at into required at least a few years of experience – I think in many ways you have an advantage over new grads. There are many places that would probably prefer a BS Pharm with experience over a new grad PharmD.

      1. Anonymous*

        Congratulations on the job!

        I think it depends on the company when it is experience vs. salary pay. I say this because the company I work for is strapped for cash, and I think if they were to lose a pharmacist, the company might be more inclined to hire a new grad at $10-20/hour cheaper than a seasoned pharmacist. Some new graduate pharmacists get their experience in the rotations because, as you probably went through and know, they see the hospital and retail environments and get hands on training there. Also, some pharmacists-to-be work in pharmacies as techs which helps knowing the various drugs, prescriptions, insurances, and other day-to-day operations of a pharmacy. But I do realize too school doesn’t teach you everything and a lot of the things are on-the-job training, which includes learning how to think on your feet in what can be fast-paced situations. When these companies are hiring, they have to take this all into consideration when they are considering the candidates.

        1. bradamante*

          The pharmacy forum on studentdoctor.net has a lot of regulars who are working pharmacists of all ages and degree levels. Jobs are a regular topic of conversation, including both job seekers and managers, so they could probably give you better inside advice on this topic than we can here.

  5. Kimmie Sue*

    #4 – Skype interviews or video conferencing have become very popular in the technology recruiting world. My advice to candidates is 1) practice several times before the interview with friends or family members;
    2) prepare to speak/listen succinctly to help prepare yourself and combat those short delays;
    3) dress and act as if you were face-to-face (including clothes);
    4) don’t hesitate to tell the interviewer up front that this is your first time as it will help break the ice a bit and people are usually a bit more understanding;
    5) position the camera a little higher so that its somewhat looking down on your face.
    It’s really a great tool but can be so distracting. I am not a person that typically makes self-defeating comments but I can’t stand to see my face on the screen.

  6. Recent Skyper*

    Re: 4. Interviewing by Skype
    I just did my first interview via Skype last week. It was a little awkward because their video feed wasn’t working, so I could hear them but not see them while they could hear and see me. But, it went well overall because I have an in-person interview on Friday!

    My suggestions would be to Skype with a friend a few days beforehand to get more comfortable with it if needed, log in to Skype 5-10 minutes before your interview, make sure your background is not distracting, and use the “Echo/Sound Test Service” to test your sound and check your settings beforehand. Oh, and like AAM said, just wear the suit.

    HR suggested I use a headset to avoid any sound problems, so I had one handy but didn’t need to use it. Good luck!

  7. Bionic Wombat*

    re #7: What if a job comes open six months after a cover letter netted a phone interview but not a follow-up? I assume I should tweak the cover letter slightly and prep for a phone screen, right?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’d do a new cover letter, since they’ve already read your first one and re-sending it would be a bit like sending the exact same introductory email to someone on an online dating site who already read your previous one — you want to say something new and not just repeat the same thing.

  8. Maeve*

    Hi Alison,

    To follow up the writing sample did land an imperson interview the first time it was used. Since it was successful the first go around I thought we could tweak it and send it again for a similar position within the company. Just wanted to see an expert’s take on things.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Ah! Then in that case, I think it’s fine … although it’s still not a bad idea to use something new if she has another one, just to show she doesn’t have just this one good writing piece!

      1. Maeve #7*

        That’s true. It’s hard tho in her field (Health/Medicare benefits) as she sees clients and doesn’t have the opportunity to do write ups. We (my family loves your blog!) appreciate your timeliness and your insight. Thanks again!

      2. MJ*

        ***LOL so to update on my update, the hiring manager basically told my cousin in not so many words to write a new writing sample so she will be working on that today and tomorrow since the application is due on Friday.

        Thanks all!

  9. Number Two*

    Thanks for this, Alison! I had just gotten the email that day, and started kicking myself as soon as I sent my thanks in reply. I’m glad to know I was just over-thinking :)

  10. OP #4*

    Thanks so much for all the great Skype advice everyone! I plan to do a check a couple hours before the interview to make sure my background/lighting/makeup/sound/etc. is all working. I would prefer a phone interview but now at least I am more prepared for Skype.

    1. KT*

      Great plan! Another tip: watch your physical background. You’ll look a lot more professional sitting at a desk or table without any clutter. You wouldn’t believe how many people I’ve interviewed via video chat that have things like empty wine glasses or cigarettes in front of them. Not deal breakers but it’s not putting your best foot forward!

    2. Anonymous*

      And if you happen to be using a laptop, make sure it’s plugged in! Batteries can die at the most inopportune moments

      1. J*

        Oh yes on the battery! Having to get up and scuttle around to plug it in mid-interview is a great way to destroy the careful Skype illusion of awesomeness you’ve created :P

        Oh and here’s something: sometimes it helps the reverb and general weirdness to use headphones. That way, if the speakers or mic isn’t great on either side, you’re able to hear exactly what they’re saying. HOWEVER do not bust out some sort of massive pair of noise cancelling earmuffs. I had an interviewee do that and it was incredibly distracting. What I do, whether skyping friends or for work, is a small set of earbuds. Chances are they won’t even notice them, but you won’t accidentally miss something because of crackling.

        1. Your Mileage May Vary*

          Props on using the word “scuttle”. We don’t use it enough in today’s English :)

        2. millefolia*

          J’s mention of earbuds reminded me of something I’ve found very helpful. I Skype a lot (Skype is a great tool to help keep a long-distance relationship going strong!) and I’ve learned that my laptop’s built-in microphone is too close to the cooling fan, so anytime the fan kicks in the person I’m talking with gets a lot of noise from it. Now I use a small headset *with microphone* instead of the built-in microphone and speaker, and there’s no noise problem. (My headset is a small one-ear Bluetooth one, but other kinds would work too.)

  11. fposte*

    To the Skyper: I’d also recommend keeping your phone readily available in case there’s a problem. We run into those sometimes, and if the interview changes modes you don’t want to have to scramble.

  12. Asker of #5*

    Thanks for the advice. After I sent in my resume, one of the company’s recruiters posted an article about “10 Job-Hunting Mistakes,” and said to pay particular attention to #10, which was applying to too many things at once. I’ve apparently veered dangerously close to that fine line between “persistent” and “annoying,” so I’m gonna have to cool it and look elsewhere. On the bright side, he was nice about it, so at least I haven’t annoyed them too much.

    1. Anonymous*

      This is one of those things that drives me nuts– when people treat matters of personal preference as absolutes when dealing with job applicants. So these guys think applying to multiple similar openings makes you look desperate and not serious, plenty of others (like AAM) think it makes perfect sense to go after any opening within your skill set at a company you really want to work for. Both ways are definitely possible (though I think the latter is more likely) so it’s silly for a hiring manager to make any assumptions about the applicant from it.

  13. Anonymous*

    I had a Skype interview for a job that was an ocean away. I was in the process of moving overseas and my suit was packed up and in the mail somewhere (I wasn’t expecting video interviews) so I wore a sweater over a borrowed button-down shirt aaaand…. Pajama bottoms. Call me crazy but it made me feel super confident, like “this is my turf and I’ll wear my jammies if I wanna wear my jammies, I’m the BOSS.” I wondered if I was tempting fate that something would go wrong and I’d have to stand up for some emergency and they’d see my silly print jammies, but luckily nothing went amiss.

    I basically got second place, they hired another woman over me and volunteered that they thought I was a perfect fit but she had development experience which, though unrelated to the opening, they felt would be really beneficial to them. It was a small nonprofit so I understand. They were so wonderful through the whole interview process (and fast, from application to final call was two weeks, hence why I was unprepared) that it made me really sad to miss out on working with them. I nominate them for most flawless application process ever, AAM would be so proud.

    1. J*

      HA, frankly, if I were the interviewer and caught you with the pj bottoms, it’d be hilarious if someone declared they were wearing their jammies if they wanted to wear their jammies and behold, they even have built in feet or something :P Own it. Sometimes jobs are ridiculous: Skype and phone interviewers especially. Who among us has NOT done a phone interview while wearing flannel? (maybe this is just because I work from home and shun real pants. . . )

  14. anonymous*

    I had the amazing good luck of having help from a really tech-savvy friend when I couldn’t leave the country due to visa renewal and had to request Skype instead of flying in for the interview. It was my first Skype interview but I’ve been on the interviewing end since then, and my friend really came through for me as I probably wouldn’t have been anywhere as polished without his advice. Of course, whether that really matters or not is up to debate, but more polished can’t ever be a bad thing…

    1. It probably goes without saying but make sure you’re somewhere with awesome, reliable internet service.
    2. Use a computer or laptop with really good quality video. When we ran a check (day in advance), my laptop’s video quality was awful – yellowy and grainy. I didn’t realize this until I saw it through his screen. I ended up using his laptop for the interview.
    3. Remember to LOOK INTO THE CAMERA and not into the picture when you’re speaking. That way, it reads as direct “eye contact”.
    4. Avoid wearing patterns that don’t read well on video. Instead, wear strong colours and ideally something that frames your face well (suit and shirt are great since the collar does a nice job of framing your face). Think along the lines of what newscasters tend to wear…
    5. Most people are positioned too close to the laptop (in my opinion). Instead, try sitting a little further back, so that your upper shoulders are framed in the shot, with the camera angle as face-on as possible (prop it up on books if needed). It does look much more professional and less “you-tube” like. Also, sitting further back helps with not getting distracted by the screen. Make sure to sound check in advance so you are speaking at the correct volume though.
    6. Turn off other alerts, but make sure to have a phone handy just in case any issues arise.

    And then a couple of other things we did that I don’t really think matters all that much, but:
    -my friend set me up in front of a bookcase, and even went to the trouble of removing books/dvds/video games that weren’t necessarily the most professional, as well as placed some potted plants there so it’s a more friendly and welcoming ambiance
    – it was during the day time anyway, so we made sure there was plenty of natural light which looked a lot more pleasant than artificial
    -I have frizzy hair so I slicked it down with some light product for a more polished look; along the same lines, I used powdered liberally, again, if stuff like this matters to you (and it does to me, I admit), think TV newscasters for your cue…

    1. anonymous*

      Oh, when I say the superficial stuff matters to me, I just meant that I want to present myself that way, not that I’d judge others that way…

    2. John Quincy Adding Machine*

      I was going to ask about the eye contact thing! Every time I’ve used Skype (generally just to talk to my dad when I was living overseas) I’ve found that both parties just tend to look at the image. I found myself wondering if those who conduct interviews via Skype judge applicants harshly based on perceived lack of eye contact, which I know seems to be a Big Deal in face-to-face interviews, or if there’s a bit of leeway since it seems to be such a common mistake.

      1. Ali_R*

        A little trick that’s nice to do is to move the other party’s image on your screen as close to your camera as possible. For me, my camera is built in, top center so that’s where I put their image so it seems like I am looking at them.

        The other tips on here are great. Particularly the dry run! The camera angle from a bit above and practice holding your face forward a bit so your jawline makes a sharper line.

        I prefer facetime for quality, but that’s an Apple product.

        1. Kit M.*

          A little trick that’s nice to do is to move the other party’s image on your screen as close to your camera as possible.

          So simple, yet so brilliant! I will start doing this for my personal Skype calls.

  15. anon-2*

    #5 – in my field, computers, that’s not unusual. You might be qualifed for both positions, or just one, or one might be a better fit than another.

    The only thing you have to face – some companies are pig-headed and have a “one strike and you’re out forever” policy. I worked in a place like that, and there even was an “alert” sent out – if a candidate is rejected for one position, don’t allow him in to interview for another.

    I guess it comes down to the conflict – do you put a qualified, good candidate into a position where he/she fits perfectly, even though the first slot wasn’t the best match — OR — do you protect the first, rejecting manager’s action and ego, and hurt the company in the process? Many choose the latter.

  16. anonymous*

    On OP #1, I think it’s natural for the boss to *ask* what was up with your cousin-in-law, however, I agree with Allison that s/he should have accepted your “I Don’t Know” as a response.

  17. Caroline*

    In reference to #5, what about applying to the same type of job at one company, but in multiple cities? Does that look bad?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I think there’s a lower risk of looking scattered with that, although there’s still a line where it would start to look odd. (I’d love to quantify exactly where that line is, but I can’t.)

  18. Vicki*

    #2 my co-worker won;t stop asking me for help

    >ask your manager for advice about getting the work split up more equitably. (Asking for advice is a good way to bring a problem to your manager’s attention without actually complaining.)

    Unless you have a manager like I had in a similar situation, who decided that asking advice was Exactly the same as complaining and whose response was that I should help the co-worker… and 6 months later, in my annual review, stated that I had been “unhelpful” and “refused to help” a co-worker.

    In that case, the co-worker was the new person (on contract) and had been let go 5 months before my review because she was asking _everyone_ for help.

    I tell this war story to remind the OP that sometimes, you just won’t win. Sadly.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t know how helpful that kind of thing is in this context. I mean, yes, there are awful bosses out there, but people should still proceed as if they’re dealing with a rational person until proven otherwise.

      I want to be careful that we don’t issue dire warnings of possible massive dysfunction whenever someone needs help with a situation that doesn’t show signs of that kind of dysfunction.

  19. co worker asking for help all the time*

    Thanks Vicki for your advice ive got the ball rolling. My co worker nominated me to the boss the other day to follow up on work that she could have done. When I over heard this I instantly requested a meeting with my boss. I have informed my boss that I don’t mind doing work and helping her out but she has now right to allocate work to me. I made it clear to my boss that I would help her however I was not happy to follow up on things just because she did not want to. I spoke to my boss and suggested that the work be delegated to one or the other. Not sure how this will pan out as she has been off work since this happened. I have actually been able to attend work do my work without the hassle of her on my back. It has been a great few days at work my work is getting done and Im happy. Thank you heaps for your advice.

  20. Kev*

    ref Skype interviews: I see a couple have mentioned using headsets. Is it normal to *not* use a headset? Would the interviewer look down on you if you did use a headset? I think the advantages of a headset, especially a headset/mic combo, would be the mic is always at the same distance from your mouth so you don’t get differences in audio quality from someone who might be moving around or have a crappy mic, and having the sound in both ears can allow you focus intently on what the interviewer is saying. I participate in podcast recordings and having the cans on my ears, to me, makes a great difference in my focus.

  21. Question 1*

    Thanks for the response! I haven’t encountered another situation like this and I’m hoping I don’t ever have to, (cross fingers). I will keep the statement short and sweet next time and hopefully it suffices. Thanks again!

  22. Jane*

    Thanks for your help Ive decided to give up and find another job I cannot hold my coworkers hand any longer. Im not happy about it i really like my job but unfortunately im not strong enough to help my co worker and i need to help myself.

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