fast answer Friday — 7 short answers to 7 short questions

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

1. Responding to a personal attack on LinkedIn

I’ve been participating on a LinkedIn Poll recently, delivering my comments on a particular poll question, and much to my disappointment, someone responded to one of my comments very inappropriately. He basically said “If I understand you correctly, you’re a snob. Charming.” I of course was upset and in response said, “Neither charming, nor very professional. Feel to disagree with me if you wish but do so respectfully.” He then responded again with another negative reply and I noticed he looked at my profile.

Basically, I’d like to see what you think would’ve been the best way to handle this situation. I think it would’ve been best to ignore it and pretend it didn’t happen, but is it asking too much for people to treat me with respect in a professional network setting like LinkedIn? Your thoughts please.

Yep, ignore it. There’s no point getting into it with random strangers on the Internet who are willing to act like jerks to other random strangers.

2. Will an old bankruptcy and arrest hurt my job search?

Nearly 10 years ago, I had to declare bankruptcy. Around the same time, I was arrested for a pot possession misdemeanor and it was dismissed. I never had an issue with employment but now I am looking for work again.

I have a clean record since then. I am getting the pot charge removed from my record, but this can take 7 months. The bankruptcy will not leave my record for two more years. I have excellent references and work history but am so worried/embarrassed. Will I ever be able to find work in a marketing/ad agency or is this just a waste of time and should I just try to freelance? Do you have any advice?

Tons of employers don’t do credit or criminal record checks, especially in jobs where it wouldn’t be relevant — like marketing and advertising. You’ll be fine. Plus, even if you apply with an employer who does do them, (a) a bankruptcy 10 years ago is highly unlikely to be an obstacle, and (b) most criminal records checks check for convictions, not arrests. Oh, and (c) arresting adults for using marijuana in the privacy of their own homes is a terrible use of tax dollars … but you already know that.

3. How to answer the phone for a scheduled phone interview

Okay, I know this is obsessive. And I know that the content of the interview matters more than my question, but anyway: How should I answer the phone for a scheduled interview? My first ever, I just said “Hello?” And they said “I’m X from Y company…Is this a good time?” And I just said “right, yes.” So then I thought I should answer with “This is [first name].” But still, when they say “I’m X from Y company,” I want it to sound like “Yes, I am prepared for this interview, let’s get started.”

Saying “nice to meet you” would be weird on the phone, so what other line conveys that? (Again, I know this is nitpicking and obsessive, but I’m new to this, and obsess over everything.)

“Yes, I was looking forward to your call.”

4. Do employers tend to follow up on interviews by email or phone?

After you have had an on-site interview and are awaiting an answer from HR, does that usually happen by email or phone (and is there any correlation as to whether it is a rejection or a desire to make you an offer)?

Rejections usually come by email (but sometimes they don’t come at all, and very occasionally they still come by mail or phone). Job offers usually come by phone, but that’s not ironclad.

5. Being paid to do an assignment as part of a job interview

My husband and I recently moved to a small Midwestern town for his job. I had to quit my job and am now looking for one. I haven’t had any luck here locally (I’m an editor and there just isn’t much in a small town–shocking, I know) and so have been looking for telecommuting positions.

A few seem promising, but one has two assignments that I must complete before I’m entered into the next round. That’s fine, but both assignments are paid. Is that common practice? Or are they just trying to get freelance work out of applicants?

If they wanted to pay freelancers, they would just pay freelancers — there’s no shortage of them, and they wouldn’t need to scam job applicants into it. I assume they’re paying you because they feel an ethical obligation to pay you if you’re doing work they might use. (If there’s no chance they’ll use the work, then it’s really unusual that they’re paying you, but I wouldn’t worry about that. It’s nice of them either way.)

6. Backing out of a two-year work commitment

Some employers ask a commitment of two years from employees. What are some possible repercussions for breaking this commitment — for example, if you’re in serious debt and find a better opportunity? I’m not in this situation…yet.

If it’s a written contract, the penalties for breaking it are likely spelled out there. If there’s no written agreement, you can walk away at any time — that’s what at-will employment is. Worst case scenario, you might burn the bridge if they feel you reneged on your word … but if you explain why you’re leaving and are apologetic, it’s usually fine to do. I’ve told people before that I’m looking for a roughly two-year commitment, but that’s never written in stone and it’s always understood that it might not work out on either side or life might get in the way.

7. My interviewers thought I wasn’t enthusiastic about the job

I had an interview today for a role at my current workplace with an entirely different team. I was told that my application form was really good and my test letter was one of the best, but in the interview I did not come across as enthusiastic enough, like I did not want the role. Which I am quite shocked about, because I was sure I was smiling and making eye contact but apparently I seemed very nervous and reserved! I don’t know how to improve on this and show more enthusiasm. What can I do?

Go talk to them and tell them how interested you are in the job. Or, if more appropriate for your workplace, write an email saying that.  (And for what it’s worth, smiling and making eye contact are both good things, but generally won’t convey enthusiasm on their own. For that, you need to be attentive, ask thoughtful questions that show you’re genuinely trying to get insight into the role, and actually engage in an enthusiastic way.)

{ 115 comments… read them below }

  1. Hari*

    Sidenote: I just want to thank Alison on behalf of all the insomniacs like me, giving us something to do because we can’t fall asleep at normal hours.

    #1. It’s the internet, it’s to be expected. Nothing is safe (you can thank 4chan anons for most of that though). Your respectful response was enough. If anything it just shows to the rest of the network just in fact how unprofessional he is. What goes around comes around he maybe burning bridges he doesn’t even know about.

    #2 I work in the industry and I would say it depends on the place. Larger more corporate agencies would probably do the whole background/credit check but a smaller agency would not (or not to the same degree). I would say if it did matter (which I don’t think it should) it would probably affect you more at a bigger agency with more bureaucracies. A smaller agency wouldn’t care so much, especially an urban/hipster one (all pothead geniuses, lol jk, no but really). That said, the only thing that might be perceived as bad is if they thought your bankruptcy would keep you from getting a company credit card if your position needed them (PMs, producers, IT, client services would be likely to have them). This is assuming its being backed by your credit and not the company’s. Although the smaller agencies I worked for backed them, there are some that don’t. A good place would work with you though so I think you are pretty much good.

    #3 I always find it weird when interviewers say “Is this a good time?” when the phone interview was in fact scheduled for that time.

    #7 Insightful questions are key! I always gave myself an inner high-fives during interviews when I would ask a question that would make the interviewer actually say “Now that’s a good question…” and have to think a bit about the answer. Shows you really are trying to do more than scratch the surface. The key is to engage them. I once had an interviewer who talked the entire interview. The only reason I got a word in edgewise is I interjected to try to turn it into more of a conversation than monologue. Even though I didn’t end up getting the job during the second rounds I was told I came highly recommended by the first interviewer (which really surprised me cause I felt I hadn’t said very much of anything).

      1. Hari*

        No but it certainly gave them platform and support to do more ridiculous things in droves rather than individually or in small numbers as the case before. Also I think its contributed even more to the “its the internet so there is no consequence for my actions” idea that surprisingly hasn’t died off yet (really surprisingly).

    1. class factotum*

      Even though I didn’t end up getting the job during the second rounds I was told I came highly recommended by the first interviewer (which really surprised me cause I felt I hadn’t said very much of anything).

      People love to talk and love it when someone will listen to them.

    2. Ellie H.*

      I hate hearing “Is this a good time?” too because it makes me think that they are asking because I seem really discombobulated and caught off guard, which is not the demeanor I would like to convey. (This may be just paranoia based on the prevalence of people telling me I look/seem worried, which we’ve discussed here before.)

      1. fposte*

        But also as we’ve discussed, it’s a valid question–interviewers screw up, interviewees screw up, we all want to make sure we’re on the same page and ready to go. So take it as procedural rather than as a response to you.

      2. OP3*

        This is exactly what I was worried about! Do I sound like I was asleep? Do I sound surprised?
        But anyway, I’ll use Alison’s line from now on

        1. Kinrowan*

          I think it has to do with the fact that it is kind of awkward to have that phone interview. In a face-to-face interview, you would be shaking hands and that sort of signals we are all here and ready for this but on the phone there is no such signal, and you can’t get any other clues since you can’t see each other.

      3. TMM*

        I usually ask “Is this still a good time?” because life intervenes – like an overflowing toilet, a sick child, your mother-in-law just dropped by with the pastor and you’re tactfully trying to get rid of them, etc….

        1. Anonymous*

          This! I want all my candidates to have the best chance to shine. I’d rather not miss out on a great candidate because something intervened. There is only so much I can do, but a little flexibilty goes a long way.

  2. Vicki*

    Re: 5. Being paid to do an assignment as part of a job interview

    This is a nice twist on the usual question which is about unpaid work being part of a job interview. If you want the job, do the assignment and be happy they’re paying for it.

    (I did one of these a few years ago, unpaid, because I wanted to learn for myself if that’s the kind of work I wanted to do. It wasn’t… but I did find a bunch of bugs in their software. :-)

  3. kristinyc*

    #5 – I had that happen once. I was in the final interview rounds for a writing position for a trade mag, and they had me write an article. I had to spend an entire day researching, calling sources, and writing it. They said that “HR requires us to pay people for this type of assignment.” I didn’t end up getting an offer, but I got $500 and a byline in a national mag (they published the article!), so it was the happiest job rejection ever.

    1. Anonymous*

      I was once told by my HR person that it is illegal to get a candidate to perform actual unpaid work under the guise of an interview. Perhaps some states actually have a rule like this? I was advised that his also meant that I could not ask them to address a problem we actually have during an interview, only a hypothetical, which I am more dubious about. I would be very interested in any actual references to whether this is true.

      1. Mike C.*

        More like all 50 states. You have to compensate people for work done. With money. It goes back a long, long way in our history.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I think your HR person was confused about what “actual work” means in this context. Yes, if they’re writing an article that you might actually publish (like Kristin’s example), you need to pay for that. But asking them how they’d approach a real-life problem if they were in the job? Of course you can do that, and NEED to do that in order to hire well. Your HR person sucked.

        1. Soni*

          This may have to do with unemployment laws. I ran into something like this when I was considered pursuing unemployment recently. I was technically employed and was turning in assignments, but was not currently being paid because the company was failing, although my back pay was being accrued on the books and would be paid out should the company manage to find a buyer. At the time, I was warned that the unemployment office had legal issues with people working for free and filing/collecting unemployment, something about employers using it to game the system or something. Now, that could have been a misunderstanding on their part, but they seemed like a creditable source to me.

      3. Natalie*

        As far as addressing an actual problem, I’m sure you can ask the question but you would be on shakier ground if you decided to use their solution without compensating them. Your HR person was probably hoping to avoid any suggestion of impropriety in the way so many HR people do.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Some HR people have lost sight of the point of what the business is all about and start thinking that even a 0.5% chance of a frivolous lawsuit trumps actual business needs. Managers need to push back against this kind of thing if it happens in their company.

        2. Jamie*

          FWIW if that’s the HR’s reasoning, it’s ridiculous.

          It’s much cheaper to hire a contractor to do almost anything than waste the time and resources trying to profit off of the free work of candidates because you have to screen them, interview them, the whole deal…and lets be honest if everyone who applied was competent this would be a much different world.

          Compare that to calling an agency > tell them what you need > screen a couple of candidates > pay > done. It’s way cheaper and easier to be ethical in this instance.

          1. Patti*

            “…and let’s be honest if everyone who applied was competent this would be a much different world.”

            A-to-the-men. I’d be happy if I felt like they even READ the job posting for which they are applying.

      4. Jamie*

        I think your HR person was confused.

        Yes, if I am hiring some to develop crystal reports and as a test I give them the specs for a real report that I need and they create that – and then plunk it into my ERP and start using it that’s wrong.

        If I give them the specs for a real report I already have and am using – to see how their work compares to the product we have I’m not benefiting from that because I’m not going to do anything except delete their version anyway.

        Just an example – but I think that’s what they were getting at.

      5. Hari*

        Reminds me of this “Social media editor” job I saw a while back where to apply you had to not only send a resume but go to their site, join as a user, write and post 3 articles while making thoughtful commentary on 5 others. Only then would you be considered for an interview based on your work. Considering the ad kept on running for months (I’m sure its still up now) they were just trying to use people to make their site active. This was without pay btw.

    2. dangitmegan*

      Yeah, I just did one of those over the summer at a commercial pattern design house. They had me cut and sew a silk shirt. The job would have been a horrible fit but I got a big check out of a day of “working” for them.

      1. Camellia*

        dangitmegan – makes me think of one of my favorite lols:

        “Hi, my name is No-No-Bad-Dog. What’s yours?”

        1. dangitmegan*

          No, but I used to work there actually lol. You can even see me on a couple random episodes of Project Runway cutting fabric!

      2. Meg*

        My mother tells people that my brother and I told our elementary school teachers that our names were Joshua Damnit and Megan Quit.

    3. LMW*

      I wish this had happened to me. I just went through a very lengthy interview process (4 interviews, a lunch, two assessments and an assignment). It would have been nice to be paid for the time I put into the article I wrote for them. (Although I did get an offer, at least. Which I had to turn down. Sigh.)

  4. Sharon*

    I was going to say what Vicki said: in the IT industry it’s becoming common practice to make candidates do a programming assignment as a test. They are usually not paid, which makes a lot of people feel that the company is taking advantage of the candidate pool to get free work done. To the OP, don’t complain about being paid to do something – EVER! :-)

    1. The IT Manager*

      Yes, #5, in an alternate universe you wrote into AAM to ask if its a scam that as part of the interview process you are being asked to perform two assignments work for free. This really strikes me as they want to test you with actual work, and they don’t want you think them a shady company trying to get you to work for free.

    2. Meg*

      I actually had an interview (or “visit”) after a phone interview (“screening”/”conversation”) for a front-end web developer position. In between, I had to mockup a flat PNG into a webpage using whatever HTML and CSS I found appropriate. During the in-person interview, I had to explain my coding decisions, and then I had to describe how I would write a function to do a random task (like find the minimum value of an array of integers containing a finite number of items without sorting them, and then explain why it was better than sorting). Then I had a Javascript/jQuery task.

      This work was more like tests than assignments though, but they weren’t called “tests” – they were assessment projects.

      tl;dr (or too nerdy): Assignments/tests/projects are very common in the interviewing stages for programmer/developer jobs.

      1. Andrew*

        In fact, coming up with a good programming test — one that tells you something about how the candidate would perform in your environment, but is still easily understandable and self-contained — is a project in itself for the team trying to hire.

  5. Jenn*

    #7 I got that same feedback after an interview once. The only thing I can think of that could have affected my enthusiasm is the fact that they held my interview in the employee cafeteria. Yeah. Awkward, anyone? I’m sure the fact that I (and my answers to their questions) were basically “on display” for the other employees had a little something to do with it. Yeesh.

  6. Wilton Businessman*

    1. Do not argue with an idiot. He will drag you down to his level and beat you with experience.
    2. Depends on the industry. They wouldn’t touch you with a 10′ pole in finance. There’s a simple way to keep drug arrests off you records, don’t do drugs.
    3. When I interview people, I like to do a little light chit-chat on the front end of a call. “Hello” is fine followed by some indication that you were waiting for the call.
    4. Verbal offers by phone, rejection by email usually.
    5. Weird, never heard of that.
    6. Yes, depends on your agreement. If it states the two years in your offer letter and you sign it, at the very best you will burn a bridge. Most likely, you are an at-will employee and nothing but hard-feelings will result. If the money is the issue, I would talk to your manager and see if there is any chance for a raise. I know that I want my employees concentrating on work and not worrying about their financial issues.
    7. It’s an internal position, go talk to them. There may be a back story also between your current management and the new management. Lots of funny stuff goes on with internal transfers…

    1. Mike C.*

      You’re making a huge assumption with your response to #2, and violating a core principle of the US legal system – one is innocent until proven guilty. Arrests don’t mean anything and your assumptions are rather harmful to others. It’s trivially easy for an officer to arrest someone for a crime, and then have the DA drop charges the next day.

      Arrest records are a terrible way to judge someone.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I’d also add that it’s really not the government’s (or anyone’s) business what you do in the privacy of your own home. “Don’t use drugs and you won’t have to worry about being arrested” isn’t all that different — to those who believe the law is wrong — from saying “don’t read banned material and you won’t have to worry about the government.”

        1. some1*

          It also might be irrelevant anyway. My current employer did a criminal background check but it only went back 7 years.

        2. class factotum*

          Amen! The people who say, “Well if you aren’t doing anything wrong, why do you care if the government watches?” are of that ilk. The government shouldn’t be watching what I do privately, period, and certain things that are illegal should not be illegal if they are done by consenting adults and bothering nobody else.

        3. Jamie*

          This. Or stop dating people of your own gender and you won’t have to worry gay rights.

          Or…the government can worry about stuff like the deficit and fixing the roads and not waste time and money worrying about harmless activities. I vote for that one.

          1. Ellie H.*

            Me too. Another step toward legalization is on the ballot in MA next month. I’m not sure which way it’s supposed to go though.

            1. Andrew*

              I’m in MA and one recent poll shows 81% support. That seems too high but everyone is assuming medical marijana decriminilzation will pass.

        4. Your Mileage May Vary*

          I agree with the “privacy of your own home” but did the OP say that they were in their home when the arrest was made? I don’t see it here but maybe it was in the original letter they sent you?

          Regardless of where the arrest occurred, 10 years is a long time. Any reasonable employer would chalk it up to youthful indiscretion and not hold it against you.

        5. Wilton Businessman*

          Sure it is. In the privacy of your own home you can’t whack heads off random strangers. It is the government’s business if you are running a meth lab in the privacy of your own home.

          The laws of the land are the laws of the land. Don’t like them, change them. Until then, follow them or risk punishment.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Surely you’re not comparing physically harming someone to smoking a joint. That’s rather hyberbolic. And yes, the laws of the land are the laws of the land, but some of them are wrong, and personally I’m not going to follow laws that tell me what I can and can’t do with my own brain, whether it’s reading banned material or using a mind-altering substance. The law isn’t the final word on morality (as our history shows clearly).

            And yes, people should should absolutely work to change laws they disagree with.

            1. Wilton Businessman*

              I agree some of the laws are wrong. However, until they are changed they are the law. Break those laws and you suffer the punishment. One of those punishments is you have a criminal record. It’s actually rather simple.

              1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                I’m not disputing that — it is indeed sometimes the consequence. Personally, I’m willing to take some risks in that regard because I feel strongly about the freedom to do what I want with my own brain — more strongly than I feel about abiding by the law simply for the law’s sake — but that’s a decision everyone needs to make for themselves.

  7. Anonymous*

    #5 Sweet! Otoh, we used to test candidates for technical proficiency by having them take a crack at something we’d already publicly released. If the candidates had done their homework, they’d have easily known where our test came from, and even had a head start on knowing what we wanted to see. Even so, we regularly had people accusing us of “stealing” their work for free. Um, and then we went back in our time machine to release it a year before you interviewed? It was a great screen not only for the technical aspects of the job but figuring out who had done due diligence in researching us!

    1. TMM*

      That’s exactly what we did – asked candidates to code a piece of code which we had already used. And told them that it was already embedded in our released software so they’d know. Naturally we removed their cell phones so they couldn’t call a friend or look it up on-line.

  8. I wish I could say*

    “Oh, and (c) arresting adults for using marijuana in the privacy of their own homes is a terrible use of tax dollars … but you already know that.”
    This made my really crappy week all better. :)

  9. danr*

    #1… These folks are good at starting arguments based on nothing. They enjoy it and have a lot of experience. Ignoring the comment is best and makes them madder. Don’t assume that you can be reasonable with them.

    1. fposte*

      There was an old Usenet axiom that the winner of a flame war is the person who gets in the second to last word. That works even better in a group of people who know the axiom, so nobody wants to leap in and get the last word lest somebody taunt them with the axiom.

  10. Mike B.*

    2: (d) If the advertising industry had to do without casual drug users, it would shrivel up and die. Zero danger.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes. And about one-third of the U.S. population has used marijuana at one point or another, according to the government’s own figures. We’re everywhere.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Three of them in fact (the last three have all acknowledged it). And possibly five (adding in Carter and Kennedy) if news reports are to believed. And unless AAM readers are an entirely unrepresentative sampling of the population, so have plenty of us here.

        2. Andrew*

          It always confounded me that after Clinton said that he “didn’t inhale,” no one ever thought to ask him about brownies.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      I don’t, because it tastes like crap. Also stinky. Also, smoking anything is bad for your lungs, and I had to use Chantix (expensive!) to stop smoking tobacco. If I smoked pot, I would want cigs again because the act of doing it is pleasurable for me. And cigarettes are like heroin for me. So, no no no no no.

      Not to mention all the stupid drug testing for basic clerical work. Really? You need to dipstick my pee for me to answer your phone? I bet I could do that in my sleep, or even drunk off my butt. No, I barely drink either and not at work!

      That said, I do wish we could start growing industrial hemp again. It’s kind of a cash cow and you can’t even smoke it!!!

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        For what it’s worth, you don’t need to have used a drug yourself to believe that it’s not right to put those who do into the criminal justice system, and to speak out against it.

        1. Jamie*

          This is an excellent, and often overlooked, point.

          Personally, from what I remember from college, I didn’t like it much. It gave me a wicked headache and then sleepy. It did not have the same effect on me as it had on others.

          So I’m someone who is fully in favor of legalization who won’t use it even after it’s legal. I rarely drink and that’s legal…but I’m certainly not in favor of prohibition.

          For me it’s not like I would get any direct personal benefit from the legalization, but for the life of me I can’t understand the logical gymnastics behind the arguments to keep it criminalized.

          If it were to be legalized then there is some type of QC process so you know it’s not laced with anything weird from sitting in someone’s sock drawer. You don’t know how people are storing things – there could be all kinds of dirt and cross contamination. Legal it’s grown properly under controlled substances and sold safely in stores. In many urban areas gangs control the distribution. If someone you love is going to partake wouldn’t you prefer they be able to get it from a local Walgreens than a local gang? I would.

          The last time we talked about drug testing Alison made a comment that it’s important for people who don’t have a personal stake in eliminating them to voice their opposition also, because otherwise people write the opposition off as people having something to hide or something to gain.

          I think it’s the same principle here. I have no dog in this fight personally – my life isn’t going to change one way or the other if you legalize marijuana. Just like my life won’t change personally once gay marriage becomes legal – but I just don’t understand the illegality of either one.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Like you, Jamie, I don’t smoke pot and such. But I firmly believe don’t we have bigger fish to fry? Why do we have to make every. single. thing. a battle ground?

            I am really surprised government has not figured out- “hey legalize this stuff and watch MORE revenues roll in.”

            Here I am seeing places sell stuff to help grow pot. The police sit outside and watch people walk out with their purchases.

            My tax dollars hard at work.

  11. Bridgette*

    Follow up question to #7 – when I’m in interviews, I tend to be succinct in my responses – thorough but succinct – and sometimes there are pauses, like the interviewer is expecting me to say more. This happened to me yesterday in a (surprise) phone screen for a job I applied for a while ago and really want. I don’t like to blather on unnecessarily but sometimes it feels like the interviewer wants me to. Could this be interpreted as “unenthusiastic” or not interested? Like I have my answers down too pat? I do rehearse my answers but I try to make them sound natural and I answer honestly. So should I fill those pauses, or just stop when I feel I’ve answered sufficiently? Ach, job hunting. So stressful. So much paranoia.

    1. Jamie*

      I tend to pause if I think the answer is insufficient, as I assume they are collecting their thoughts to expand. If you’re done and the pause goes on unnaturally long, there is nothing wrong with asking if there is a particular part they would like to you expand on.

      1. Hari*

        THIS. Say what you need to say and don’t ramble. Once I realized this early on my interviews went over a lot better. I find the interviewer will usually ask if they need more. Also its worth to note an interviewer might be taking notes and if you are on the phone you can’t see this.

    2. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      When I’m interviewing, I like to leave a bit of blank air after they answer a question (ESPECIALLY on a phone interview, but also in person), in case they want to add something. I just don’t want to interrupt people, or make them feel like I’m cutting their answer short.

    3. Patti*

      Some tougher interviewers will do this as a sort of “test”, also. My boss (who is the greatest man alive, IMO) has little tricks like this just to see how people handle themselves.

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s a pretty common interviewer technique — stay silent when the person stops talking to see if they add any more. A lot of people get nervous when there’s even a few seconds of silence and start talking and say really ill-advised things. Interviewers wait to see if you’ll do that.

      1. Bridgette*

        Thanks y’all, this makes me feel better about what I’m doing. Apparently shutting up when you’re done is the way to go.

    5. Not So NewReader*

      I hate that pause.

      It takes two people to make conversation and it takes two people to make silence.

      Am not sure when I did it the first time, but I decided to wait a couple of seconds and then say “Have I answered your question to your satisfaction, or do you need me to expand a particular point?”
      I was careful to watch my tone of voice so I reflected concern and sincerity.

      I don’t like head games. I mean I detest that stuff. But in instances like this it could be that the interviewer is just collecting his/her thoughts. I have to make myself wait and see which one it is.

  12. Andy Lester*

    #7: To ensure that they know you’re interested and excited, always ask for the job as you wrap up. You don’t have to say “I’d really like this job, sir!” but you can say something like “I enjoyed meeting with you today, and it was very interesting to hear about the plans for the Foo Project. I think I’d be an excellent addition to that team. What are the next steps?”

    Sometimes when I give this advice, I’ll hear “Well, of course I’m interested, I went to the interview!” but that’s not the case. A lot can change from the time that you walk in and you get up to leave. Maybe you came in enthusiastic but lose interest along the way. The key is to not leave any doubt in the interviewer’s mind. Make it explicitly clear that you are interested in the job.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      One quibble — don’t ask for the job, as in actually ask for it. That’s awkward and uncomfortable for your interviewer. But reiterating your interest is good.

      1. Andy Lester*

        Agreed, “ask for the job” isn’t quite right, but it’s the term I’ve used for years. I should probably rephrase it to match the examples that I give. The key in my mind is the need to be explicit and verbal in your intentions, rather than hoping the interviewer reads your mind.

    2. Yup*

      I’ve used phrases like “This sounds like an amazing opportunity” and “I’m very impressed by your organization.” If you say them towards the end, you convey that you like what you’ve heard and are still interested.

      “I’m really excited about this position, and look forward to the next steps in the process” is a good closer.

  13. Ellie H.*

    Can I share two unrelated work peeves? It’s Friday . . . 1) Having my food commented on every day. I toast an English muffin and eat it with peanut butter every. single. day. Every single day, the same woman in my office comments “That smells so good!” in a longing way. In fact, she, too, can eat peanut butter on an English muffin. It’s not an obscure food. If it smells so good, eat your own and stop talking about and paying attention to mine! 2) Sending a password protected document, including the password in bold font in the email, and receiving “Thanks, but it came through password protected so I can’t open it” in return. I was really proud of my restraint in just sending back the password without any reference to the fact that it was included in the original email.

    1. GeekChic*

      You’re nicer than me about #2. In those situations I usually reply with something like: “That’s in the original email I sent.” Without Jamie’s helpful highlighting.

    2. Anonymous*

      Sending a password protected document, including the password in bold font in the email, and receiving “Thanks, but it came through password protected so I can’t open it” in return. I was really proud of my restraint in just sending back the password without any reference to the fact that it was included in the original email.

      Haha … OT, but it made me laugh! I get the same thing … I send people order confirmations with ETAs on them … and they almost always reply to them asking for the ETA. Makes me want to slam my head on the desk ….

      Happy Friday!!

    3. I wish I could say*

      “1) Having my food commented on every day. I toast an English muffin and eat it with peanut butter every. single. day. Every single day, the same woman in my office comments “That smells so good!” in a longing way. In fact, she, too, can eat peanut butter on an English muffin. It’s not an obscure food. If it smells so good, eat your own and stop talking about and paying attention to mine!”
      I have one that does that exact same thing. While hovering over me (and my food – ick!) she holds her stomach, making a huge inhaling noise w/her nose as if she could snort my food! It makes me so uncomfortable.

    4. some1*

      Really? I comment all the time when my co-workers’ food looks good. I’m really just making a harmless comment, I am not asking for a bite of anything.:)

      I don’t say it to the same person every day, though.

      1. Ellie H.*

        I just really hate having what I am eating called attention to – I know this is my own quirk and not something other people should go out of their way to read my mind about or accommodate. It’s just that it’s the same comment literally every single day, and whenever I toast anything else (e.g. a cinnamon raisin bagel) in the toaster it is exclaimed about to a much greater extent.. Fortunately this is her last day!
        But for what it’s worth, I think there are probably a lot of other people who prefer not to have what they are eating discussed at work.

        1. Jamie*

          I was just going to say – I feel the same way and I used to think it was just me, also, but this is a really common complaint.

          I think my reaction is a little stronger than most, as it really bothers me as opposed to a minor annoyance, and I know where that stems from…but it’s pervasive enough that a lot of people without my quirks don’t like it either.

          I think it may come from childhood where we were conditioned to share. If you didn’t bring enough for the whole class don’t bring any kind of thing. And when we go to restaurants as adults it’s awkward if someone at your table didn’t order anything and is just sitting there while you eat.

          Work is a weird zone where it’s not a communal meal – people eat at different times and some not at all – so commenting on what someone is eating is weird since it’s not being shared. So if someone says something looks so good I think there is residual guilt for not offering to share, and then resentment because why should you feel guilty that you didn’t want to share?

          I’m not a therapist – I just play on on the internet.

          It just feels intrusive when it’s your food.

          1. Hari*

            This is a good point. Fortunately I always worked in open kitchen places where 90% of the food people ate was provided to us by the job and the 10% that was outside food was likely a comped lunch order. If someone commented on what you were eating sharing was never an issue because they could just get their own or had their own of something else.

            Also sorry, I am definitely that friend who goes to dinners/happy hours and doesn’t order food. Mostly because restaurants offer 3-5x normal portions and of usually really unhealthy food. I’m not a health nut but I am conscious of what I eat and I’d rather not order anything but still go to dinner/happy hour just to socialize. If you offer and it looks good I might have a bite of your food but I’m not hovering over it salivating lol.

          2. Ellie H.*

            I totally agree with you Jamie. As I mentioned once before I used to have an eating disorder and consequently have this very strong privacy instinct about food. It’s just a near biological instinct – I can’t get rid of it. I also always want to hide my food and whatever I am eating from my roommates. So it “really bothers” me too. I just have to remember to act normal in reaction to comments. I agree that the weirdness comes from work being a semi communal and semi private zone (which, I think, is the root of many of these interpersonal workplace “issues”).

            1. Jamie*

              This is one of those areas where “fake it till you make it” doesn’t really work. It’s more of a “fake it until you can act like other people so they stop freaking talking about it” thing.

              Biological instinct is an excellent way to put it, because I can’t override my reaction to this either – but like you I know that it’s not my co-workers fault that by commenting on what I’m eating for lunch they’ve completely ruined any enjoyment I could have had in the meal.

              My triggers aren’t their problem – so I’m not mad at them as much as at myself for this still bothering me so much.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        I do it too, but mostly to ask “Where did you get that? It smells fabulous!” or “Would you kindly share the recipe?” if it looks especially good. If they don’t want to tell me, I don’t press. But I like food, and I like to find new things to eat. If I’m eating something unusual and someone asks about it, I’ll happily share info or even a bite.

        I agree about the PB lady. Commenting every day would get old. Get your own and stop smelling it!

  14. Jamie*

    You are diplomatic. When replies to me asking for something included on the original email I generally say “see original email” where I now have the original info highlighted in a different color font.

    I’m not rude about it, but I think of it as training people to read the original email before asking a follow-up.

    1. Andy Lester*

      I’m not rude about it, but I think of it as training people to read the original email before asking a follow-up.

      I suggest that treating people as if it is your job to train them is at least condescending, if not insulting.

        1. KellyK*

          So do I. Maybe you’re using “training” in a less formal and more general way than Andy is taking it?

          Pretty much all interactions are training the people you interact with in one way or the other. Any time you react to something someone else does, you’re providing input that may lead them to modify their behavior. I don’t think that’s inherently condescending; it’s just a basic part of how people (and animals, for that matter) function.

          If I thank someone profusely for helping me out and bring them chocolate, that’s training them. If someone makes a racist or sexist remark and I tell them not to talk that way around me and leave the room, that’s training them. If an IT department ignores trouble tickets and only installs a program after repeated in-person bothering, they’re training users not to use the trouble ticket system. If you spoon-feed someone information that you’ve already given them, you’re training them not to pay attention. Et cetera, et cetera.

          1. Jamie*

            Correct, Kelly, that’s how I meant it.

            I have 100+ end users and couple hundred devices…and I am the only IT. When people stop me on the way to the ladies room to ask me to troubleshoot something that’s been wonky for two weeks but this is the first I’m hearing of it I can’t whip out my phone and start typing. I tell them to submit a helpdesk ticket.

            I have a queue, I can prioritize, I can track my metrics that way and they know exactly their status at all times. The only way to get them to stop using it was to refuse to cater to their requests which only popped into their head as I was on my way to the bathroom, or home for the weekend.

            Speaking of weekends – I am proud to say I’ve trained many people in the true meaning of an emergency. Server is down = yes. Production is bottlenecked due to computer issue = yes. Something which falls under the IT umbrella is on fire = yes. Almost everything else = no. Submit a ticket.

            See I was trained earlier in my career that if I don’t train/teach/whathaveyou people how to communicate with me then I will spend my nights/weekends/holidays catering to non-emergency demands. I will end up typing the same information in email after email if I don’t point out where they can find it in the information I already have.

            It works, and it not only makes my life easier but it’s more efficient for them as well. When they get used to reading the original email the first time, they don’t have to wait on my response to something for which I’ve already sent the answer.

            I have seen incredible results from this. I also don’t think it’s insulting, because if someone sent me an email to receive in a PO so the invoice can be paid and I email back asking for the PO number I appreciate a reply of “it’s in the subject line.” Which I missed – oops. So I’m more careful now and check the subject line before asking for info I already have. If the person in AP was training me I appreciate it, it worked.

            1. ChristineH*

              Jamie – You would love talking to my husband. He’s in the IT industry, and has told me of countless instances of some of the very things you’re describing. I think his work is a bit different from yours (also deals with servers, but mainly for major projects, not individual troubleshooting), but I think he too has dealt with people who’ll go directly to him just because someone provided his name, rather than going through the proper channels.

            2. TMM*

              Totally agree and this is exactly what I did when I was support for our e-recruiting system. I put together job aids and FAQs which I would send employees (pluspost on a shared drive/dbase) in which the answers were contained.
              It’s just being efficient, not condescending. I’d suggest it’s the person’s attitude which makes it seem condscending, not your brief reply.

      1. Patti*

        I disagree also, especially since they made it obvious that the training is needed. It is rude/incosiderate of them to not read thoroughly before requesting more of my time to clarify a point that has already been explained. I’ve seen people reply and ask for information that is clearly contained in the SUBJECT LINE. It’s just silly.

    2. Ellie H.*

      Oh, but it’s an opportunity to feel like “the better person”! Haha. (After my email, she actually replied saying ‘Sorry – I should have read the whole email’ – so I was pleased.) I’ve done it before too, I guess.

      1. ChristineH*

        People not reading an email properly is a huge pet peeve for me. My mom does it to me all the time, and it’s like “arrrrggggghhhhh!!!!”

    3. Ellie H.*

      OK, just received a second “Can’t open it, it is password protected” email. It is SO annoying! I sent the same “diplomatic” response. I’ll probably get more because I have eight more of these things to send out today.

      But speaking of email mistakes, one I make a decent amount is forgetting to change all the necessary information in a form email. I send a good number of “form emails” to students where I change the name and a bunch of other information and sometimes I will change the name/other info in one place but not the other so it ends up like “Dear Mark” sent to Adam. This always embarrasses me and I usually send a quick follow-up correction as soon as I notice – I am weirdly sensitive about people getting my name wrong (I have a weird/difficult to spell name) so I feel really bad whenever I do this.

  15. AA*

    Thanks for posting #3 How to answer the phone for a scheduled phone interview.

    I usually answer with a “hello” and say “oh great, how are you,” but AAM’s reponse sounds much better. Thanks for the tip.

  16. Job Seeker*

    #3. Very glad you asked this question. I am so thankful to Alison for stressing the importance of a good cover letter. I was at the coffee shop this morning with my husband and got a phone call from my son. I have a phone interview today. This is from another company I applied to last week. I am starting to get responses again and interviews. I believe it is due in part to my new cover letter. My son showed me how I was writing boring ones and not marketing myself. I really appreciate all the help and good information here.

  17. Elizabeth West*

    Fuggedaboudit. He’s making HIMSELF look like an ass.

    #5 re paid interview work:
    It’s good that they paid for the test work. I worked for a website last year and they did the same thing. Impressive and above board, since there are people out there scamming freelancers by soliciting assignments this way and not paying for them. It’s no different from pre-employment testing, but since you are actually producing something, they are recognizing that and compensating you accordingly.

  18. LadyTL*

    I would say that enthusiasm in interviews comes across in different ways to people. To some smiling and eye contact and paying attention can be enough in others they want more obvious displays of it. It’s hard to tell which they want and what is too much. Too little and they think you aren’t interested and too much and they think you are hamming it up.

  19. Kat M*

    #5- This is very common in the massage therapy world, where a second interview is typically hands-on. Usually the owner will trade massages with the applicant (bodyworkers get sore and can generally use an extra treatment!) or pay for it if they’re not a massage therapist themselves.

    Those that don’t pay for services provided in an interview are employers I don’t want to work for; they’re usually cutting corners in other unethical ways as well.

  20. Job Seeker*

    I had a phone interview today that was very interesting. The interviewer was nice but she sound really young. She did tell me she would like to interview me in person. One thing bothered me a little, she said the doctor there and all the staff go on outtings together. They wanted to make sure the person fitted in with them. I don’t exactly know what going on outtings with co-workers means. I don’t have a problem with going to cook-outs, Christmas parties or something like this, but outtings? I remember what Alison said, you are also interviewing a company to see if it is a fit for you. It is not just one-sided. I am so busy with my personal life right now, I don’t know how I could go to very many outtings.

  21. Suzanne*

    Re #1. I had the same thing happen once on LinkedIn. I made some comment regarding the fact that I work in a low salary profession and that I would gladly pay higher taxes on a double or triple salary because I’d still come out ahead.
    I was called a moron by another commenter and told that I was really an idiot for going into something that payed so lousy. The whole discussion was taken down soon after. Whew! I admit I was shocked at the whole thing.

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