wee answer Wednesday: 7 short answers to 7 short questions

It’s wee answer Wednesday — seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…

1. How to follow up on a networking introduction

I have a question about next steps after networking introductions made via email. I just moved to a new city, and an expert in my field offered to introduce me to several directors and managers via email since I’m looking for a job. Now that he’s done that, what is the most professional way for me to follow up, not knowing these individuals’ level of interest in meeting with me? Do I make the first move since the contact was made on my behalf? How do I test the waters to see if the individual would be willing to meet with me?

Yes, you definitely make the first move. The idea here is that they’d be doing you a favor, so the onus is on you to reach out. Email them, explain the connection, and briefly explain what you’re looking for and why you think they might be able to help. Keep it brief, and make it clear you’ll make it as convenient as possible for them. Good luck!

2. Would it be weird to ask a manager in my company how I could make myself a strong candidate to work for her?

I’ve been stuck doing retail and temp jobs for a few years. Right now, I’m working in the gift shop of a multinational corporation. My communication MA and teaching background are gathering dust on the resume. From following the company newsletter, I gather there will be openings in the training department (in a different state) since people in the current positions are being promoted. Would it be weird to reach out to the manager in charge of hiring for that department and ask what kinds of things I could do that would make me a good candidate if trainer positions open up? Or is it case where there’s nothing reasonable I could be doing (except be in a different job gaining relevant experience) so asking the question is inappropriate?

Not weird at all!  This is exactly the kind of question that you should be asking when you’re interested in an internal promotion, and any good manager will be glad talk to you about what things you can do to improve your chances.

3. My salary is public record

While I am happy to be employed, my job is not very fulfilling. I have decided to make a change and have recently started my job search. I have worked for the state for 8+ years so my salary history and everything associated with my rate of pay is public (including the date of my last promotion, my starting salary and how my salary compares with my coworkers). If you Google my name, it is one of the first results listed. I know we live in a Google-able world but I feel somewhat helpless. My most private information is out there for the world to see. It seems I am immediately at a disadvantage when approaching a potential employer with salary-related issues.

Can my salary information negatively impact my ability to find a new job? How can I overcome this very public hurdle with a potential employer when I am seeking to find a new and hopefully higher paying job?

Well, the reality is that many employers are asking all candidates for their salary history, so there’s a good chance they would have asked you for it anyway and that they have this info on your competitors too. (Of course, I believe people should refuse to answer this because it’s not their business, but that’s a different post.) In any case, you’ll need to make a compelling argument for why you deserve whatever salary you’re seeking. It’s harder when they know that you’ve been taking a significantly lower amount, but it’s not impossible. (See this post.)

4. Do I have to tell interviewers that I’m no longer at my old job?

My (former) company has been having a lot of difficulty staying afloat over the past few years, and a few months ago there was a major reorganization of our department. The previous heads were demoted and a new person was brought in with her own team. The old team (including me) started to get nervous and we began looking for new jobs. It’s a difficult market and most of us weren’t able to get out before being gradually fired, one by one (I was the last one before it happened to me a few weeks ago).

I was in the middle of the interview process at a few places when this happened, and they think I’m still employed. My questions are: do I need to bring this up when I talk to these companies? Would they ever know otherwise? I wouldn’t lie — just talk about my old job in the past tense and explain the situation if asked. I’m hoping you’ll say I don’t need to bring this up, because I talked to one company soon after and was too embarrassed to mention the situation . . .

I think that’s completely fine. You didn’t misrepresent the situation when you applied, and you’re not proposing misrepresenting it now. You’re simply not going to proactively offer the information. I don’t see a problem with it.

By the way, even if your old employer called this a firing, it sounds like you were all let go to make way for the new team. So I’d make that very clear it does come up, by saying something like, “A new director was brought in with her old team, and they let the rest of us go.”

5. Am I out of the running?

I went for three back-to-back interviews with a company. I was told a background check was needed. I have never done anything illegal or been arrested. It has been two weeks and one day. Am I out of the running? Should I contact them?

Some background checks take a looonnnggg time. Government-runs ones take months. So I wouldn’t worry, but it’s also reasonable to ask them what the timeframe generally is for this stage and when you should expect to hear back from them.

6. Job applications that require a copy of your driver’s license

I have a question about employers asking for a copy of your driver’s license as part of your application packet. I am in the library field, and most libraries that I’ve come across don’t have you apply online, you have to mail in an application packet. I’ve been keeping a log, and out of ten jobs I applied for this year, four have asked for a copy of my license. Why do employers want this? Wouldn’t this open them up to all sorts of discrimination claims? They are seeing my age, my weight, my visual restrictions, and they can make guesses as to my race. What’s the point of this practice? I’m pretty sure they’re not doing a background check since they aren’t asking for my social security number. I don’t mind it all that much, I just don’t understand why they want it.

I don’t either. I’m sure it has something to do with some bureaucratic process that could be revised if someone took a look at it from the candidate’s perspective.

7. What do I say to coworkers about why I’ll be away?

My husband and I live in the UK. In July we went on a three-week holiday to visit his overseas family. Four days after we returned, my grandfather in America died (not unexpectedly, but still, obviously, upsettingly).

Fortunately my job offers compassionate leave and I was able to get three days off to travel to the funeral, despite having used up my annual personal leave on the July trip. My question is, how do I tell my coworkers I’ll be away without telling them about the funeral? I don’t think it would be an issue for them or anything — I just don’t want to talk about it in the workplace.

The “problem” (which is usually something I love about my office) is people are very friendly and interested here — I had a lot of people asking about my overseas trip when I got back, and people often share holiday photos at lunch (only with interested people, I want to emphasise!), ask about each others’ weekend plans, etc. If people don’t feel like sharing, “Nothing much” is a totally acceptable answer 99% of the time; however, I’m pretty sure people will ask what I’m up to, and I don’t know what to say because “Oh, nothing much, just taking three days off at the last minute to do nothing” is clearly a falsehood.

I’d say, “A family situation we had to take care of.”

{ 65 comments… read them below }

  1. Anony Mouse

    On #2, you should definitely reach out. Lots of companies really push for internal hires, and the hiring managers in those companies HATE being stuck with only one internal candidate.

    1. jpm

      why would hiring managers only have 1 internal candidate? i am interviewing internally now, (i have made it to the 3rd round. i met with 5 people during the first 2 round). i would think that the hiring manager has more candidates than just me

        1. jpm

          this makes me wonder if i am the only candidate for the internal job i am trying to make.
          also, for internal jobs, it is unusual for a company to have a policy that all internal jobs are lateral and that the base pay is the same? that is the situation for me now. the hr person says it isn’t always, just 95% of the time. i am worried about this since i get OT now and if i get this new job, there is no OT(they told me the position isn’t OT eligible). Since the base pay is the same, i would essentially be taking a $5k pay cut. would i put the job in jeopardy if i asked them to give me a $5k increase off my base pay to make up for the lost OT?

      1. Stells

        Also, some companies will wait until they interview the internal candidates (or the candidate) before deciding whether to spend the $$ to post externally or not.

  2. Malissa

    #3–You could play up your benefits as part of the whole compensation package to justify a higher starting salary in the private sector. Also leverage the (supposed) job security factor that everyone believes that government workers have as well.
    #7–As I just lost my father-in-law I found that explaining the situation once to my coworkers and then steadfastly refusing to answer any more questions put a quick lid on the situation. If you don’t want to give details just say that you had a death in the family and do not wish to discuss it. period.

    1. Dan

      #3 – I hit “reply” so I could say exactly what Malissa said with the supposed job security.

      1. Josh S

        #3: I also think you could make the argument that you were willing to accept a lower salary (for a time) because you were a public servant. But now that you have the skills and experience, you believe the value they bring to the company makes your salary more along the lines of $HigherRate.

        It A) makes you a generous person, while B) not letting them railroad you because of it. :)

        Good luck!

    2. KayDay

      I’ve also had good luck with “my grandmother died, the funeral is in 3 days, and I would rather not discuss it at work.” But, I also have been blessed with mostly normal coworkers who respect boundaries.

  3. jmkenrick

    I think everyone understands that “family situation” is code for “something personal we don’t wish to dicuss at work.”

    Anyone who asks after that is lacking in social graces.

    1. JLH

      Though be prepared to say, “It’s something personal I don’t wish to discuss, no offense” if someone does happen have a lapse of social grace and asks further.

  4. Jamie

    Ugh – the salary thing.

    If it makes you feel better they are just finding out about yours a little faster than weaseling it out of the rest of us. In my experiece most places are pretty insistant on getting you to give it up. I agree with Alison that we should refuse, but I didn’t because I needed a job and it didn’t feel optional so I always caved. Not proud of that, but there it is.

    That said, your current salary is for your current job and there is nothing wrong with pointing out that a different job warrants more money. Also, they should know that most people need a significant percentage above your current salary to entice you to change jobs.

    It sucks for the unemployed, but some companies will low-ball them hoping they will be desperate enough to take it. They know if you’re currently working you are less likely to make a move unless it’s worth your while.

  5. GeekChic

    #3: My salary has been public record for eons (through moves to three countries). As AAM said, you have to be very clear about what you bring to the table to justify the higher salary. I’ve sometimes been able to use cost-of-living differences between countries to justify why a salary should be higher if I could also back it up by showing that equivalent staff in the country I was moving to got paid a higher amount. I actually prefer having my salary be public, I think secrecy around salary is actually a detriment for workers rather than a benefit.

    #6: I hired in the library field for a long time and my organization did not ask to see your driver’s license unless the job involve substantial driving and we were putting you on the library’s insurance. We wanted to verify that we could insure you based on your driving record. We didn’t ask for this until the very last step – it was part of the background check. I can’t think of any other reason to do it and it wasn’t part of the regular application for all positions.

  6. Anonymous

    #6 – Do the jobs require driving?

    If not, you could just ask what they want the license for. I’d pick a job application that you aren’t extremely fond of for this, since they might get grumpy about being questioned. However, there are lots of people without driver’s licenses, so there must be a plausible alternative that they’ll accept instead if you don’t have one. It might clear up what they’re looking for on it.

    1. ChristineH

      Maybe for identification purposes? I cannot drive, If I’m asked for a drivers license, I’d just furnish my state-issued ID. It’s essentially the same thing except that mine says “for Identification only”

  7. doreen

    #6- My employer takes a copy of the drivers license for certain positions where having a drivers license is one of the minimum qualifications. Some of them are positions where a lot of driving is involved while others require only occasional driving. In my case, the copy was taken at the first interview, presumably to avoid the expense and hassle of continuing the hiring process only to find out at the end that the applicant did not have a license.

  8. AdAgencyChick

    #7 — can you enlist your boss or a trusted coworker to help? Several years ago I called off my wedding and didn’t want to explain why a million times. My coworkers knew I was supposed to be getting hitched within a matter of weeks, so it’s not like I could have quietly gone about my business. So I let my boss know and asked her if she would mind being the one to inform the rest of the team, because I would get emotional telling people and she wouldn’t. She readily agreed. It really helped to have to tell the story at work only once.

    1. #7 OP

      That’s a really good idea. My boss has been extremely helpful with sorting out my leave and even offered to bring my monthly pay forward to help with the cost of plane tickets(!), so I don’t doubt she’d be up for helping me there too.

  9. KLH

    A driver’s license serves as verification that you’re a resident of the state if you’re also a law-abiding sort.

    There’s sometimes also an assumption that if you have a license, you also have a car and wouldn’t mind using it on business. I’ve found that in library positions where the wage wouldn’t cover the cost of even a beater, but you’d need to travel between locations as described in the job ad.

    I live in a city where a car is described as a must and routinely confound people that I have a clean driving record, no physical impairments and a license, but don’t own a car.

    1. Natalie

      That’s all fine, but it still doesn’t explain why you would ask for a license copy in the application packet – as the OP notes, it’s pretty risky from a discrimination standpoint.

    2. Long Time Admin

      “A driver’s license serves as verification that you’re a resident of the state if you’re also a law-abiding sort.”

      So does a utility bill. I’ve seen that used as proof of residence in this area. People don’t always get the drivers license changed right away when they move.

      1. Long Time Admin

        Oh, and I’d probably black out everything except my name & address. No one would need to see my account number or the amount due.

        I guess I really *am* a privacy nut. I think it comes from growing up in a big family.

    3. KayDay

      Do most library jobs require you to be a resident of the state/city/county/other municipal boundary? I’ve heard of this for state/city employees who work in the government (e.g. mayor’s office or county legislature) but not for other public employees (teachers, firefighters, etc).

      1. GeekChic

        Many of the library jobs I hired for / applied to in the U.S. had a residency requirement. That said, most U.S. public libraries are part of municipal government and it was the municipal government that was setting the residency requirement when I was hiring, not the library itself. I can’t speak to academic, school or special libraries.

  10. Anonymous

    #3 – you can try, keyword: TRY to get google to remove it from searches. Here, go to this link:
    https://www.google.com/webmasters/tools/removals?pli=1

    more info on the google removal here:
    http://support.google.com/webmasters/bin/answer.py?hl=en&answer=1663637
    Where you are not the site owner, it might not work – but again, worth a shot.

    I’ve done this for myself a few times – I submitted a request to google to remove a page that my local newspaper had published with my college graduation date on it.

    Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. but it is worth a try!

  11. Blinx

    #6 – In times of rampant identity theft, I am very leery of giving out anything but the most basic information, until I’m at a point in the interview process where they are going to do a background check. Is there any way you can just add a note “license information to be provided upon imminent offer?” And really, why do they need more than the number?

    I once applied for a library CARD, and the application wanted my SS# and driver’s license number! I had visions of my completed application crumpled in a waste paper basket or languishing in an unlocked file drawer for someone to steal. I left the info blank, and no one said boo!

  12. Anonymous

    #6 – It’s possible they’re getting a head start on filling out the I-9 even though it’s improper to request specific documents from the employee. I have seen companies ask for those items by name during the application process if most of their employees, historically, use a Social Security card and a Driver’s License for the I-9.

    1. Meg

      I agree that most of this for the I-9 documents. I’ve never had candidates submit this as we do the I-9 as part of the new hire paperwork, but once hired, I have to fax off a copy of their ID or Drivers License and SSC to our back office to keep on file.

      A little strange as to why they want it for the application though, especially if you don’t get hired.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Good! I’m finding it a little harder to keep it up than I thought it would be, but I think what I’m concluding is that at least on days when I feel like doing a bunch of posts, it won’t be problematic. And that’s good to know!

      1. Jennifer

        I’ve enjoyed the extra posts too.

        I’d originally thought it would be tough to keep on top of all of the comments. I was surprised at how few comments were coming through my RSS feed – until I noticed that not all comments *are* coming through the RSS feed.

        I discovered it last night when I was surprised there were only 17 comments on one post. When I went to the original post / comment thread, there were well over 100 actual comments. I checked a number of other posts and discovered similar discrepancies.

        I have no idea what’s going on but I though you might want to know. I could try to track the metrics of received vs. posted comments (but it’s too late tonight).

        In the meantime, I can handle the number of comments I’m receiving, so maybe that’s a good thing…

            1. Twentymilehike

              I have been using the pulse app on my iPad–it syncs my google reader feed. But since yesterday it shows the posts but when I tap on them nothing is there. And it’s not the same one each time. And it’s doing it with all my feeds, not just this one. I’m wondering if google reader is having an issue?

  13. Shackleford Hurtmore

    #7 – if I read correctly, the OP is living in the UK; as a Brit myself, I’m pretty sure that if you just say “I’m going to a funeral”, conversation will dry up pretty fast as we get embarrassed easily about that stuff. Plus, colleagues will be far more willing to absorb the slack (if any) while you are away. Plus, taking 3.5 weeks off isn’t that big a deal at all… a lot of people get 5 or 6 weeks a year of holiday pay and chased by management to use it all up before year end. Compassionate leave is usually on top of your holiday allowance, too, so don’t feel awkward about taking more leave later.

    Also, I recommend the book “Watching the English” by Kate Fox for anyone visiting the UK for work/holidays – it will help you understand the inner anguish of any British person and why we all seem so stuffy sometimes.

    1. #7 OP

      My (Brit) husband gave me Watching the English for my last birthday – I loved it! I’ll have to dig it out again for a reread sometime.

      I should clarify I have five weeks’ holiday, but I used up the other two visiting my family in the US over Christmas. It’s been a very fly-heavy year for me…

  14. Emily@HiringLibrarians

    #6 I think the Driver’s License is most likely because of a residency requirement, if there is no driving requirement as part of the job announcement. It’s also possible that it’s a leftover bit of bureaucracy that someone had a very good reason for, or opinion about, at one point in the history of that library.
    You could always ask the HR department, now that it’s after the fact.

  15. Anonymous

    #6- We always take copies of licenses where I work because if we want to make someone an offer we 1)need to get driver’s clearance for them and 2) need to run a background check. If we get this in advance, it makes it much less of a hassle when it comes time to actually run these.

    Also, if you live somewhere suburban or rural, where there is not public transportation, most employers prefer someone who has a license (it means the applicant does not have to rely on someone else to get them to work on time every day!).

    1. Natalie

      I have a really hard time believing that getting a copy of one person’s license for a background check is so much of a hassle that you need to ask all of your applicants for a copy of their drivers license with their application materials. These days, that means you’re asking hundreds of people to send you a copy of their license to save what, a 5 minute conversation?

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Exactly. It’s a huge violation of privacy (and potential security risk) for tons of people in order to save the employer a few minutes. It’s a bad practice.

  16. JT

    By collecting private information of people who don’t work for you, you are increasing risk to your organization if that information is lost or stolen. You need to either ensure that information is safe or document you have destroyed it when the person is turned down.

  17. OP #6-Danielle

    Thanks for answering my question!

    The job posting does not say anything about driving being a part of the job nor does it mention residency requirements. The job is in a small suburb with adequate public transportation. They even have what seems like a million bike lanes, so I don’t think it’s about driving at all.

    I’m more concerned about them seeing my age (I look younger than I am, 26). I have a lot of experience for a person my age, and now they can do the math and see that I started working when I was very young. I once had someone ask me if my parents were dead or if was I emancipated, since that’s the only reason a 14-year-old could start working (I had co-op in high school, so I was working 28 hours a week). I’ve had interviewers ask me why I even include that work on my resume, but it’s so substantial!

    1. AnotherAlison

      It seems like you are really most concerned about your age, not any discrimination based on weight, race, etc. or ID theft. Won’t you include education dates on a resume anyway? At some point, even without the driver’s license, they ask for your DOB.

      I say own your age — if your experience qualifies you, then it qualifies you. If you’re stretching your experience, then yes, they will see through that.

      1. Danielle

        I don’t include graduation dates on my resume (I thought that was a no-no? And graduation dates don’t really tell your age, what with many non-traditional students.)

        At what point would my employer ask for my birthday? They always ask if you’re at least 18, but not your exact age. I’ve never had this happen. Is this common? HR has always done my I-9 forms, not my direct boss or the hiring manager. I’ve never heard of that.

        But aside from age, I do think that other discrimination could occur, as well as sloppy paper handling, which could lead to identity theft. But now I’m over thinking it! :) It’s mailed in now!

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Yeah, your date of birth shouldn’t come up until you’re filling out tax forms after being hired. (And is it even on those? I can’t remember.) There’s no reason to ask for it before you’re hired.

          Graduation dates on resumes: People over a certain age (usually 45ish) are often advised not to include them, because of age discrimination (and also, at that point, who cares what the date was). I typically don’t see them on resumes from candidates who are mid-40s and older, but nearly every candidate younger than that does include them.

          1. AnotherAlison

            IIRC, if you get to the onsite interview stage, you could have an application to fill out that normally has ALL education and dates attended, including high school. This may not be something small local libraries do, but it’s common at the big companies I’ve been with.

            As for the college dates & nontrad students, I’ve never interviewed a nontrad student that I could not figure out was a nontrad student – I’d be 99% sure ahead of time, and then I’d turn out to be right.

            I wasn’t sure about the DOB thing, thanks for correcting me.

          2. Stells

            One correction – DOBs are often requested for background checks since criminal records on my state don’t include SSNs. However, due to liability issues, we don’t ask for the DOB or SSN until the offer has been accepted (although I know some employers ask for it on the application, which is just asking for a discrimination suit, IMHO).

  18. Danielle

    #4–Please stop saying you were fired! Many people confuse the terms and if a prospective employer hears “fired” they’ll probably just assume you had performance problems. I would say I was laid off or let go.

  19. some1

    #4 happened to me. I was unhappy at my old job & started looking for something else. I had a phone interview for a position in a completely unrelated industry, then I was brought in for a face-to-face interview.

    Between the phone interview & the in-person interview I was let go in a round of layoffs that included about 20% of the entire company. I was asked by each person in the interview “So you work at X?” directly so I felt I had to be honest. I followed a friend’s advice and emphasized that industry was doing badly in general (and it wouldn’t be unusual for people outside the industry to know that). None of the interviewers seemed to take issue. I did not get that position, but a couple months later that company called me back about a position in another dept, & I got that job after an interview.

    1. Vicki

      #4 – Similar response to some1’s. This has happened to me twice now.

      Interviewers will ask. If they don’t say “So, you work at X?” they will ask “Why are you thinking of leaving X?”

      Give them Allison’s answer: “A new director was brought in with her old team, and they let the rest of us go.”

      It’s _so_ common these days to be let go for financial reasons, for new management reasons, for restructuring reasons….

      You were NOT fired (not for cause). It may not have met the “legal” definition of a Lay Off but you were NOT FIRED and you should NOT be embarrassed to tell interviewers why you are no longer at that company. And when they ask “when can you start?” you can say “immediately” without making anyone wonder why you’re not giving notice.

      (p.s. I was “laid off” from Yahoo! last year after a dept restructuring. No one asks me why I’m no longer there. They just nod sympathetically. Sometimes no-longer-working for a company that’s in the news a lot can short-circuit a lot of interview conversations. :-)

  20. Stells

    #5:

    Some backgrounds can take forever! Reach out to the recruiter or HR person you’ve been in contact with (via email, preferably) to see if there’s anything you can do to help speed up the process. Usually it’s a school (USUALLY) or employer (sometimes) that isn’t returning phone calls in a timely fashion.

    Also, just so you know, by law if you fail a background check, the employer has to notify you in writing that there was something negative on there, and give you the contact information to contest it with the company (which has to be done within 5 days).

    You’d be surprised how many people have had their identity used by a third party who has been arrested.

  21. Elizabeth West

    #2 – This is a good question to ask your network people too. I spent an hour on the phone earlier with a former college instructor, preparing in case I get an interview with HIS former employer, a law enforcement agency (they posted my dream admin job and I applied–eek!). He walked me through the entire process they use, including what to wear and how much to smile/not smile. I may not be called for an interview, but I know now if I am, my chances of doing well are much better. :)

    #3–I wish employers would be more open about what they are paying. Then we could spend our time applying for positions that we can live on, rather than wasting it interviewing for absurdly low salaries.

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