short answer Saturday

It’s short answer Saturday. Here we go…

1. Expenses when working remotely

I’m starting a new job on Tuesday. I’ll be primarily working from home and I’m not sure what equipment I should expect my organization to provide, and what I should plan on paying for myself. Remote work is standard for my organization. There are a few executives based out of the national headquarters in New York City, but the organization is aggressively decentralized. Administrative and executive staffers can work anywhere. I’m in a regional programmatic role and I’m the only staff person in my state. We are affiliated with a much larger nonprofit that has an office in my city and when I was hired I was told that if I preferred not to work remotely they could arrange for me to have an office there.

I realize that my organization probably has all of this figured out, but I’m wondering what’s standard in terms of equipment. They’ve sent me a computer and a BlackBerry. I’m wondering about other things, like a printer, a laptop case, etc. And what about things like internet service? Are there some things they’ll just assume I have (or expect me to provide)?

Since the organization has a lot of people working remotely, they probably have polices or norms for all of this. I’d just ask on your first day, “What’s standard for handling telecommuting expenses?”

Different companies handle this differently. Some will only pay for expenses that you’re incurring because of the telecommuting (so they’d pay for a printer that you had to buy for work, but not Internet service, because they assume you’d have Internet at home regardless). Others will pay for any and all services you use for work, even if you’d have that service regardless. So you need to ask how your company does it.

2. Application requirements for entry-level positions

I am a recent graduate, and the head of Career Services at my college always said that any position requiring two years or less experience is “entry-level,” and therefore we qualify and should apply for jobs even if they say they require two years of experience. Since I did a four-month internship in my field and a have few related volunteer experiences, I can (almost) justify applying to positions that say a year of experience is preferred, but it seems to me that if the employer says that two years of experience are required, they want you to have more know-how than I do. What are your thoughts?

Your career services person has some tortured logic there. While a position requiring two years of experience might be entry-level, that doesn’t mean that an employer asking for two years of experience would be just as happy with a new grad with no experience. That said, though, there’s no reason not to give it a shot in the situation you described, because if you have enough other (demonstrated) strengths, an employer might be willing to be flexible on the experience requirement. In other words, you have nothing to lose by trying. You’re not going to offend an employer by applying without meeting all their requirements; the worse that would happen is that you’d be rejected.

3. Including praise from others in a self-evaluation

Is it appropriate to incorporate kudos into employee evaluations? I work behind the scenes in an online environment and one of my main tasks is to troubleshoot/fix/help end users. Oftentimes, after I’ve helped someone they will send a nice thank you email to me. Examples are: “Whoever is running the Blackboard system is phenomenal. I did not experience one difficulty with the system in 18 months. It was always up and running and the help desk was reliable and polite. Excellent online service from the Bb team!” or the much shorter versions “you are a rock star” and “Seriously fast, wow. I am in awe.”

Since I am in a completely online environment, the end users have absolutely no idea to contact my boss and pass those compliments along to him. I also feel that I’m not fully utilizing these awesome comments because they are sitting in my email folder. Is it appropriate to incorporate many of the better written kudos into employee evaluations (include them into the self-evaluation portion)? What would be the best way to do this?

Yes. You can either include it as supplemental material with your self-evaluation, or quote them as part of your answers. In the latter case, I wouldn’t quote “you are a rock star,” but I’d definitely quote things like your first example, which have solid details. Also, include the names of people they’re from.

4. My boss tried to stop me from seeing my sick grandmother

My grandmother is ill, and I informed my supervisor two weeks ago that I need to see her. The first week, I pushed my visit back because a day before my trip, he wanted us to clean our new office space. The next week, I told him I had to see my grandmother and there was no room for negotiation. He agreed. A day before I was supposed to leave, he emails me and says a meeting has been called by our office director, with him and me. I reminded him that I already made plans to go out of town to handle some arrangements for my grandmother’s care and I can call into the meeting. Long story short, he said no to a call-in, no to rescheduling the meeting, and in a condescending tone said I signed up for a position where you have to work long hours and 7 days a week. (Even though this guy has taken off just to have a couple of family reunions.) He was unreasonable, rude and disrespectful when I explained my situation, and he flippantly said, “Well, after the meeting, you can hop on a train and see your grandmother for a day.” I had a few choice words with him and went to see my grandmother anyway. (God forbid something happened to her and I would regret it because I had to stay for a 15-minute meeting. That would be on my conscience for life.) So it looks I may be fired when I get back. What can I do in this case?

Well, two relevant factors here: (1) You are working for a jerk. (2) You can be fired for “having a few choices words” with your manager (assuming that means it became hostile) and also for refusing to work when asked to, even when you had previously approved time off. So yes, he may fire you. That doesn’t mean he’s not in the wrong for how he handled this — he is. But you also could have handled this better yourself. You should have calmly said, “I have a family emergency that I need to attend to, and I’m not able to come in. I do have approved time off for that day.” … and continued repeating it as necessary, not resorted to “a few choice words.” In any case, all you can do is try to work this out with him now, explain that your grandmother was seriously ill, etc. If you want the job enough, you might need to apologize (again, because he’s a jerk, not because you were wrong to go).

I hope your grandma is doing better.

5. Who should I use for a second reference?

I want to apply for an unpaid internship in my field of interest that’ll last a semester. The application requires you to list two people that they can call as references. My problem is I only have one person I can think of to use as a reference (they oversaw me for 2 years as an intern and then a volunteer in a position related to the internship I’m applying to).

I’m taking online classes to get a degree in my field of interest, so I guess I could ask one of my professors to be a reference, but none of them know me personally so they could only speak in general terms of how I did well on the class projects/assignments. And they might prefer that I provide an e-mail instead of a phone number. Do you think it would be better to just list the one reference and skip having a second? Or should I include a weak professor reference?

Don’t skip the second reference! You don’t want to imply that you only have one person who can vouch for you. Resort to a professor if you absolutely have to (although they’re not ideal for the reasons you cite), but it would be better to have a second professional reference. Is there anyone else from your internship you can use? Someone who knows you and/or your work reasonably well, even though they didn’t manage you?

6. My salary requirements were too high

I applied for a job, listing my salary requirements in my cover letter. I received an emailed response, saying basically, “You appear to be a good match for the position, but we are unable to meet your salary needs.” I responded by saying that I was very interested in the position, that my salary range was negotiable, and that I’d love to meet and discuss the position further, specifically stating that I was seriously interested in the position. I never received a response. What did I do wrong? It’s a job that I would have liked to take, even for less pay, because it was in a new-to-me industry and seemed well in line with my interests and skills.

I can’t tell if you were required to list your salary requirements or if you did it proactively. If the latter, never, ever do that. Discuss salary only when required. But if you were required to — yeah, this is one of the frustrating things about job hunting. Employers often require you to share salary info without divulging it themselves, and you risk pricing yourself too high or too low. Once that happens, it’s very difficult to undo. You don’t have a lot of recourse, other than chalking it up to “one of the many crappy things about job-hunting” and moving on.

7. “What makes you think you’re worth $X more a year?”

I applied for a position, and the salary range was listed in the job description. In the online application, it asked me to list my desired salary, and I put a number that was in the upper half of the range found in the job description. Further on in the application, it asked me to detail previous employment and my starting and ending pay for each job. At my last job, my ending pay was slightly less than my new “desired salary.” I got an interview, and the interviewer brought this up, saying that she almost didn’t bring me in for an interview because of this, and what made me think that I was suddenly worth $X more a year? I was flabergasted and do not remember the response I gave, though upon reflection I believe the disparity is due to the fact that the jobs were in two different states with different economies and costs of living. The positions were nearly identical and I was fully qualified. This was bad interviewing on her behalf, right? Or is there something I’m missing?

She was a jerk and abusing her power in the situation (as was the employer itself, by requiring that personal information on the initial application).

{ 45 comments… read them below }

  1. Jamie*

    #1 – Yes, they will most likely have procedures as they have a lot of remote employees. Where this gets dicey is when youre the first remote employee…so youre the guinea pig. Not the case here. Speaking of cases (lame segue, I know) i always provide phone/ipad/laptop cases because our remote workers are required to use reasonable care and I want to make sure they have what they need to do that.

    Definately make sure you understand how expenses are handled. Do you put new expenses on the company card, go through IT, pay out of pocket and submit for reimbursement? Make sure there are no misunderstandings on how things (including repairs) are approved.

    Printers? Yes if you need one for work, but ive seen people ask even though they are 100% electronic. Then no.

    #6- lousy question they threw at you. Id have answered that each job is different and i stated a fair salary for my nderstanding of this position. Im not going to rant about how much i hate when prospective employers botch the salary discussion like this. Considee the rant inferred.

    1. Jamie*

      Oh I forgot, internet access: If were paying for a seperate data connect plan which is adequate for work both home and on the road – then no reinbursement of home internet even if you prefer to use that. If not, then its totally reasonable to ask. Yes, some employers figure ou would have that expense anyway and thats a perfectly acceptable pov, kind of like how your comoany doesnt pay for the car to get you to and from work. But I can see paying a portion of this, especialy for people not making crazy money, because the business is benefiting as well.

      1. Anonymous*

        Food for thought. For the first couple of years of telecommuting, I just used my residential cable service since even I saw no point in having a second connection from the same provider. The problem is that, with residential service, you get residential support with no SLAs and no particular priority put on your issues that will keep you from being able to work.

        After Four Months of having my internet connection disappear between 1:00pm and 3:00pm Every Day with no resolution despite service call after service call, I asked my manager to approve having a business line installed. The day the business line was installed, my residential line problems disappeared because the glitch that had existed for so many months between the pole and the headend was fixed immediately with my first ticket to our internal help desk.

        Even though it’s the same provider, there’s a world of difference between me calling for residential support and my Fortune 25 employer holding them to their contracted SLA.

  2. NewReader*

    This is for OP#4 with the sick grandmother.
    You made the right choice, of course. And I can understand your tension because it is incredible to find out that employers do not care about our dying family elders. So yes, perhaps you could have said things a little differently, but that is hugely hard. I know first hand.
    I had a similar situation where I worked. I was “lucky” to have an HR department to go to. Apparently the boss had a habit of talking like this to people about their dying family members. (“Do your work.” ” Put him in a home and forget about it. ” ETC. ) HR did take it to the VP and the boss got spoken to. It worked into a long drawn out story that took literally a month to play out.
    Finally, the boss did apologize. But my work place was never the same to me again. It was very difficult to work there knowing that I worked with individuals that were so cold and so cruel. (It was a people type business!) I had trouble trusting that basic human decency was in place. I did not last that much longer at the job. I hope somehow this helps you to know that staying in the job might not actually be desirable…
    With what I know now, I realize I should have just left the company.

    1. Anonymous*


      Having a “few choice words” may not be the wisest, but it would be really really hard not to. The stress and emotional turmoil of having a very sick/dying loved one would be intense anyway. Being frustrated in your attempts to take care of the loved one by a major jerk boss could easily push you over the edge.

      1. NewReader*

        Companies should realize- If you make an employee chose between a job and a seriously ill family member, the employee will chose the family member.

        Additionally, we will all have our turn at being old/infirmed. Karma has a way of coming back around decades later.

        Meanwhile, grapevines flourish, rumor mills run. “Don’t go to work (or do business) with XYZ, Inc. They don’t care about your dying family member that needs you.”

        I read a really great article a while ago that said something to the effect rumor mill/grapevine does more damage than the BEST PR campaign can fix. Yeah, karma in action.

  3. Kristi*

    #7 Application / Salary

    For these kind of applications (specifically university settings) is it expected we’ll list every job we’ve held or can I limit it to the last 10 years to be consistent with my resume? And for salary, do I have to include or can I list “$O” so I won’t be tied to by previous dismal salary?

    I just read recently that among other things, applicants should at a minimum follow the instructions provided. I’m just reluctant to share this information.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Look at what the application wording says: Some require that you list jobs going back a specific period of time. If they don’t, however, then it’s fine to just go back some reasonable amount, like 10-15 years.

      The salary thing is tricky, and there’s no one right answer. Some people write in “0,” and assume a sensible employer who wants to talk with them won’t be deterred by that. However, some unreasonable employers will hold that against you — so it depends on how much you care if they do.

  4. AQ*

    Re; Application requirements for entry-level positions

    Thanks for posting this as I have always wondered about that myself. I’m in that 0 to 2 year phase and I feel like I’m just stuck in the middle. When employers state 0-1 year experience, it’s usually internships and very entry-level positions, but when employers post qualifications for 2yrs+, then it’s like well, I’m not quite there yet.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Apply anyway. If you meet most of the qualifications but not every single one, it’s worth applying — sometimes your overall package will be stronger than other people’s anyway. And again, you have nothing to lose except for the time it takes to apply.

  5. JT*

    Re: What makes you think you’re worth $X more a year?

    When online applications ask for a salary, I usually write something like 00000.

    1. mh_76*

      I tend to give a salary range (e.g. “low 40’s per year”), knowing that I don’t want to work for a place that will have a problem with that and knowing that my minimum to accept a FT-W2-benefits job is more than I’ve ever made. If asked for a desired range, I state that I’ve been interviewed for jobs paying $X (e.g. “low 30’s per hour”) and go from there.

        1. Kip*

          True but most online applications only allows you to enter in a specific number, rather than a range or inout words.

          1. mh_76*

            I’ve rounded a bit in the past or just left it blank. Now, I’m trying to avoid the “Black Hole” sites altogether. They were, for me, just an exercise in futility.

    2. JT*

      This will sound a little obnoxious, but for JT who posted at 1:30pm, could you perhaps use another name on this site. I’ve been posting quite a bit for several months under that name. If you can, I would greatly appreciate it.

      1. LL*

        Not obnoxious at all. I thought about posting something similar myself when I saw another LL comment under a different post, but I didn’t know how to phrase it. I guess that’s common when you only go be two letter lol.

      2. JT@2*

        I’ve been posting under this name for years, but no problem, it’s what happens when you only use 2 letters.

  6. Jen*

    As for question #6 I do sometimes wonder about the difference between “state your salary requirements” and “state your current salary”. Because if you state your current salary, an objective number you can’t really fudge, and if you are too high, but they are seriously interested in you, they could still potentially pursue you as a candidate. But stating your “salary requirements” is so much more subjective, where you have to sort of psych out what you think is reasonable. Also, in this economy do people really get significant raises this way? Not easy to know or measure, I realize.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yep, salary history and salary requirements are two different things. The first is no one’s business (in my opinion), but the second is very relevant.

      People do still get significant raises this way, although obviously it’s harder in a tight economy. It’s another time when being really awesome and having a great reputation can pay off.

      1. Anonymous*

        So how to handle when you are asked for your salary history? I usually leave it blank. Then, if they respond and ask for my salary history, ignoring the fact that I ignored this part of the instructions, I reply honestly. I don’t think I can say “it’s nobody’s business” if I want to be considered seriously for a job.

      2. KB*

        I wonder this too. I am grossly underpaid which I have accepted for a variety of reasons including non-monetary benefits, but now that I am job hunting the very minimum I would accept is 25% more than what I make now. I realize this sounds crazy but it is not at all out of line with the prevailing market rate – in fact I’d probably get 30% more than what I make now without trying. But when I’m asked about salary history, its hard to explain that I’ve accepted a very low salary that also included very excellent benefits. That’s what I say when asked directly, but when its just a line on a form or website, it’s hard to explain. Some of the benefits are unusual and not easily explained (paying for personal travel, Cadillac-level health insurance, etc) so even when I do explain, I worry people don’t “get” it… or they think I’m a fool for staying there at that salary!

  7. Neeta*

    #2 In my field – computer programming – you are considered entry-level (i.e. junior) up to 3 years of experience.

    As for what your adviser told you about applying regardless, well you can certainly do that, because the employer may see some growth potential. Plus, depending on your field of interest, you could pass the interview anyway.

    Eg: I learned HTML and CSS on my own as a hobby, which my first employer found to be a skill that a lot of recent grads lacked. I didn’t have any prior commercial experience.

  8. #5 OP*

    I sent my question late last night, and it’s already answered. Alison’s a speed demon!

    The internship/volunteering gig was for a nonprofit with only two staff members. One staff member was my “supervisor” for my second year there, and she’s the one I wanted to use as a reference. She’s the nicest person, we talked a lot, and she knew about and appreciated everything I was doing.

    The second staff member was my “supervisor” for the first year, but I’d be really uncomfortable asking her to be a reference for various reasons.

    The rest of the people I interacted with were elderly volunteers. I talked to them a lot, and they had a vague idea of what I was doing, but I don’t think they’d be good references.

    I’m kind of stuck with just listing a professor if I have to list a second person. Could a nice cover letter/application make up for this? Or is the references important enough that I should be trying to find internships that don’t require references?

      1. #5 OP*

        A somewhat related question: I started another internship in mid August. I obviously can’t ask them for a reference since I’ve only been there two weeks, but would it be a good idea to include them on my resume in the application for this internship? Like, would that help show that I’m earnest about getting experience, learning and working hard? Or would including an internship I just started make me look like a newb?

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          It’ll raise the question of why you’re looking for other jobs so soon after starting one, so make sure to indicate very clearly that it’s an internship.

  9. Jennifer*

    #7 – Was the rest of the interview normal, or was the entire tone like that? I could almost see that type of question working in a stress-interview type setting, but otherwise, wow!

    Most people tend to seek a higher paying position if they plan on leaving their current position, with some exceptions such as better benefits/location/culture etc or something like when switching to a new field. The interviewers question seems not only very rude to me, but not very rooted in reality.

    1. OP #7*

      The rest of the interview was kind of harsh. I’m not sure what her game was, but I ended up turning down a second interview, largely based on her attitude in asking that question. I guess it just wasn’t a good fit.

  10. Rana*

    #2 – I agree that if you can find someone who’s worked directly with you, that’s a far better reference than one of your professors. But if you have to go with one of the professors, I can reassure you that you’re not the first student to ask for a reference in those situations. Your professors might not be able to speak about your work or habits in person, but they can talk about things like your attention to detail, ability to follow instructions and keep to deadlines, your writing and analytical skills, etc. Remember that they’ve got a pretty large body of examples to compare you to, so if you did well in the class, they’ll generally make a point of saying so.

    That said, the better you did in the class, the better the reference.

    Also, when requesting the reference, if you can tell the professor what you’re applying for, and what skills and characteristics you’re emphasizing in your applications, it really helps them give a constructive, specific reference rather than a general one. It also means that you, and your records, are more likely to be on the top of their files/mind when the hiring team contacts them.

  11. Zee*


    When I was a teenager, my grandmother was sick and dying. I worked part-time retail at a mom and pop store. My bosses knew she was near the end. Then one day, we received the call from the nursing home that she had died. My mom and I went over there and started collecting her things and making arrangements. However, I still had to get to work that afternoon. I called work and asked if I could come in an hour late due to my grandmother dying. The one boss agreed, but I was quite surprised that she never bothered to offer to give me the day off. Before anyone jumps down my throat about being entitled, I’m not. It’s just a bit strange, however, that she didn’t offer it. Even now, my mother sometimes would say I should have just called out. But I guess the boss figured I’d get the day off for the funeral.

    This particular question, by the way, reminds me of the movie “Horrible Bosses.” Anyone else know the scene I’m thinking about?

      1. Zee*

        Thank you.

        I was thinking someone might say, “She didn’t have to offer you the time off. If you wanted it, then you should have asked for it.” However, at the time, my mom and I thought it would help get my mind off of things and just keep busy for the afternoon. But being 10+ years removed, reflecting back we just think it would have been courteous of the boss to offer it, even from just a courteous standpoint.

        1. Anonymous*

          I’m reminded of a recent episode of Suits – was the boss by any chance the ‘tough love’ type? They might also have thought that keeping you busy would help.

  12. EngineerGirl*

    #4 – If the company is big enough and you’ve been there for a year this could qualify for FMLA. The manager can get into huge trouble for trying to block you from taking it. As much as I hate HR, this is one of the times you may wish to bring them in.

  13. mh_76*

    4. Some bosses just suck. My grandmothers died 10 days apart and that boss was sympathetic etc. but when my grandfather died ~6 months later (I was in the same job)…I don’t remember how the boss was before the funeral (I even offered to show a death certificate / proof because of the close timing) or how long I took off (maybe a day for travel) but I do remember that there was a snowstorm on the day after the funeral, buses weren’t running between my folks’ neck of the woods and here, and I had to miss another day of work. When I got back, the boss told me that my job would be on the chopping block within the next few months because they needed me to stay and finish out the cycle for one of the biggest responsibilities that I had…and indeed the job did end a few months later. This boss wasn’t all bad but on this count, he sucked just like your boss sucks. Could you talk to your boss’s boss about this also? Maybe send your boss an email summarizing, explaining, & apologizing (even though she’s an ass-hat) and copy her boss. Oh, wait, change she/her to he/him.

    Best to you, your grandmother, & your family.

  14. Anonymous*

    Re #4 – I took time off for a sick cat, and my boss didn’t even find that worth commenting on. I see this manager’s actions and (depending if HR backs this person up) HR’s actions to be so bad, that leaving this place would be the only option.

  15. Vicki*

    Re #4 – I keep coming back to the fact that the first vist had to be postponed because “a day before my trip, he wanted us to clean our new office space.”

    Seriously? This guy is making up excuses. Cleaning your new office space is something to be contracted out top professional cleaners, not foisted on the employees.

    I can see why you had some “choice words” the second time. There should never have been a “second time”. I would have gone as planned the first week.

    Crazy bosses. Can’t live with ’em. Can’t fire ’em. (wouldn’t it be cool f the employees could take a vote and fire the bad bosses???)

    1. Long Time Admin*

      I only glanced at your last sentence and thought it read “take a fire hose to the bad bosses”. I would have “+1” that.

  16. Ashley*

    #3 – I forward all of those types of messages to my boss with a nice, “Thought you’d want to see this!” No one is as good an advocate for yourself as you are and tooting your own horn is perfectly acceptable in this situation. I agree with Allison, too – quote them in the evaluation.

  17. Anonymous*

    #2 My experience looking for jobs as a new grad has been that there are not really any jobs being advertised in my field (Geology/Biology) that want less than 2 years experience. My feeling is that as long as you have some relevant experiences (6 months +) to demonstrate that you can actually work in the real world you should be applying for these jobs. IF you have little to know post academic/internship experience I highly recommend trying to find yourself a paid internship (or if you get desperate unpaid). Paid internships tend to be the best way to get that “2 years”.

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