wee answer Wednesday: 7 short answers to 7 short questions

It’s wee answer Wednesday — 7 short answers to 7 short questions. Here we go…

1. Did this hiring manager lie to my reference?

I just got off the phone with a former colleague. I interviewed a few months ago with a company and the hiring manager had just called her asking about me. I had not listed her as a reference, but that itself doesn’t concern me. The problem is that when they phoned my reference they told her I had given them her name and that I had said she was my boss. My former colleague and I are friends, so she went along with it and gave me a positive reference.

This has me feeling more than a little annoyed. I feel like it put both of us in an awkward position. Fortunately, she gave me a call right afterwards and we were able to figure it out, but I’m thinking this should be a red flag about working for this person. Should I be concerned that the hiring manager lied to my reference?

I wouldn’t assume that hiring manager lied — that would be really odd, and there wouldn’t be any point to it. What’s far more likely is that the hiring manager simply got the information wrong.

I might be annoyed with your colleague, though, since she’s the one who did lie. I’m sure she thought she was helping you and she was indeed in an awkward position, but if the hiring manager figures out her mistake at some point, that reference is going to look really shady. [Plus, it’s kind of insulting that your former colleague was so ready to accept the (false) idea that you’re going around lying to employers — and what’s more, doing it so cavalierly that you didn’t even mention the ruse to her prior to the call!]

2. Asking about salary

I just lost my husband and need to go back to work. A personal friend of mine (also my ex-boss) offered me an administrative job (in my previous company) and I accepted it. However, he has secured the job for me but has not given me a salary indication. He knew I haven’t work for 8 years and have an 8-year-old child to provide to. I would like to send him an informal email asking about the salary without pressuring him.

This is totally normal to ask about (necessary, even), so don’t feel weird! I’d just say something like, “I’m really looking forward to starting work with you. I realized that we haven’t discussed salary — can you give me an idea of what you’re thinking?”

And I’m so sorry for your loss.

3. How to thank a recruiter

My husband got a great new job and he worked with a recruiter to get it. She will receive a percentage of his first year’s salary as part of her agreement with the company she recruited him for.

He has thanked her by email. Should he send a written letter of thanks? Should we send her a small gift as a token of our appreciation? Something small like an Amazon gift card?

My husband says no to both, because he thanked her by email and she is getting a nice commission from the company. I think yes, because it’s mannerly to send a written letter and because a small gift won’t cost us much, and it’s a nice gesture of appreciation. What is the norm, and/or what’s acceptable or considered overkill in these situations?

A nice email of thanks for her help is ideal. A handwritten note is nice too, but both would be overkill, and it sends like he’s already sent the email.

Remember that as grateful as you and your husband might feel for her help, she was really just doing her job, for which she’s being well-paid. (And moreover, she works for the company, not for candidates. She wasn’t personally helping your husband out; her job is to find the company the best candidate for the job.) Going overboard with the thanks would imply she did your husband a favor, when in fact he presumably got the job on his own merits — and has entered into a business arrangement that all parties benefit from, not just him.

4. Indicating legal work status on a resume

I just obtained my green card and am currently looking for a job. Even though I have work history in the U.S., my name and resume make it obvious that I am a foreigner. Should I specify in my resume or cover letter that I have work authorization?

You should indicate it on your resume (such as “legal permanent resident” or so forth).

5. Explaining that I left my last job over money

I’m wondering what my appropriate answer should be when asked why I left my last job. The truth: I was there for over 4 years without ever receiving a raise, so I lost all motivation/morale to go further and resigned.

The way I’m currently phrasing my reason for departing to employers is that I wasn’t receiving the professional growth I wanted anymore. Which goes ok up until they ask me for my starting and ending salary. That’s when they usually put two and two together and question if it had to do with financial growth as well. I don’t want to be caught lying through my teeth, so I say yes, kinda. What do you advise?

The way you’re handling it seems fine. The bigger issue is likely to be that they’re going to find it notable that you resigned without having another job — rightly or wrongly, people usually wonder if that indicates some bigger flame-out.

6. Second interviews

I found out today that I am invited to a second interview. If the second interview is with different people from the first, do I just modify my responses slightly based on the new information I got from the first interview? And what usually happens when the same people interview you the second time?

Yes, you don’t need to come up with whole new responses for a new set of interviewers. And if you’re meeting with the same people, it’s likely to be more in-depth or more targeted/focused questions than in the first conversation.

7. My butt dialed an HR person

Two weeks ago, I had a phone interview with an HR rep that went well, and I’m going in for in-person interview on Thursday. Since I’m traveling to a new city, I saved her phone number, address, email, etc. to my cell phone. It just so happens her name is close to my sister’s and they’re right next to each other in my phone book.

On Sunday, after getting off the phone with my sister (who was coming to pick me up), I got in her van, greeted my sister, niece and nephews and off we went. About five minutes later, I get a text message and go to check my phone. I then realize that I have left this HR woman an almost 4-minute voicemail on her mobile phone. I don’t remember exactly what we were talking about when i got in the car, but I know it wasn’t anything crazy since the kids were in the car. I haven’t seen my sister in a few weeks, so we were probably just getting caught up.

I’m just wondering if I should:
a) email an apology for “butt-dialing” her
b) apologize in person at interview in 3 days
c) not acknowledge it unless she brings it up
d) not acknowledge it at all & play dumb ( as in “oh, I did what??”)

Personally, I’d send a quick email just saying, “I noticed my phone seems to have dialed you on its own the other day while I was with my sister — my apologies if you received a long message of barely audible chit-chat.” But doing nothing would be fine as well — we all know phones sometimes do this.

But whatever you do, don’t refer to it to her as butt-dialing.

{ 61 comments… read them below }

  1. TheSnarkyB*

    I’m confused about the response to #1. How could the hiring manager have gotten their information wrong? From my read of the letter, it seems that OP #1 never gave any sort of contact info for this coworker (not listed as a reference, not listed as a boss), so where did the hiring manager find the info and at that point, how can it be seen as a mistake?
    And if a friend of mine were in that awkward situation, I would certainly not expect them to refute the story on the spot- you just don’t know what you’re stepping into if you can’t contact the original person first.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      For instance, could have looked into who her manager was at that company and found the wrong person. Who knows — but that’s way more likely than that the hiring manager deliberately lied; there’d no incentive to do that.

    2. NewReader*

      Snarky- that was my knee jerk reaction too. The friend had no reason to expect this call from an interviewer. It probably caught her totally off guard.
      OP says she went along with the interviewer. I wondered if she just said things that she would say as a coworker OR if she pretended to be speaking as OPs boss. I could see myself skating by the part about being OPs boss and just discussing OP as a coworker. In other words, I did not correct the interviewer but I did not pretend to be OPs boss either. (This could happen- if I was having an off day, drowning in other work, etc. Something where my presence of mind was not up to par.)
      We have no idea how long the phone conversation lasted. But if it was a brief conversation a lot could go unmentioned.

    3. OP #1*

      Hi, OP #1 here. From what I understand, the hiring manager called and said I had given this person’s name and said I reported directly to her. Based on our job titles this is an assumption that you could make, but it’s not true and it’s certainly nothing I ever said.

      It really put her on the spot. If the person had called and been straightforward about why she was calling it would have been easier to correct the misinformation. But when it is supposed to have come from me she felt like she needed to cover for me.

      It’s just a really awkward situation for everybody but more than anything it gave me a bad vibe about working for this person. It made both of us a little creeped out.

      It’s a small town so everybody knows everybody, these two have had professional connections before. My friend, whose judgement I trust, does not have a good impression of this person and mentioned a couple of previous interactions with her. So basically out of this process I got a reference check of my own about the manager.

      The larger context is that it seems like the hiring manager wasn’t completely sold on me as a candidate since I interviewed for this position almost two months ago. When you consider that I’m not totally sold on them, as well as the fact that this position would be a more junior and lower paid position than those I’ve held for the past 7-8 years, it wasn’t too hard to say no. They contacted me yesterday for a “pre-employment test followed by a meeting with [hiring manager]” which I politely declined.

      Thanks for answering my question, and thanks to everyone for your contributions to the discussion.

      1. NewReader*

        This is one of the problems with small towns. The grapevine runs everything.
        Simple decisions become unbearably overloaded with implications/innuendos/head games. It is so hard not to get caught up in the “drama”.
        I know people that refuse to work in their small town- just so their work life does not get caught up in the small town cliques/rumor/etc. They work in the next small town over- hahaha.

  2. Liz*

    A hiring manager once read the wrong resume to my references, before putting me through a six-hour interview with people who I thought just hadn’t read about me before the interview. It was a total disaster.

  3. Anonymous*

    In response to question 3, recruiters do receive little gifts and cards all the time from candidates they’ve placed. Even holiday cards. But really, they’re just doing their job. If you really want to thank them, leave them a raving recommendation on LinkedIn so others can see how great they are.

    1. Camellia*

      I find this very interesting. I am in IT, and since being laid off from the shop in which I worked for 20+ years, I have worked three contracts found through recruiters. The recruiters give ME thank-you notes and Christmas gifts, stop by periodically to take me to lunch, and in general make sure I am happy where I am. I am guessing they do this because, if I quit, they no longer get paid.

      And I find I like contract work. The relationship is very simple – if the company likes my work they keep me and if they don’t, I am gone (which hasn’t happened yet). I don’t have to get involved with office politics, I don’t have to suffer through the infamous yearly reviews, and I mostly get to do work that I enjoy very much since I am usually hired for a specific project. Win-win-win!

      Oh, and I am earning twice my last salary at my original job.

  4. Scowling cat*

    #4 – I’m also a foreigner with a green card (totally foreign-sounding name, but native English speaker), and not only do I include my immigration status on my resume, I’ve also indicated in the ‘skills’ section that I’m a native speaker, AND I’ve put a little pronunciation guide next to my name. Back when I didn’t do this, I had interviewers constantly asking me if I was a citizen, if I needed sponsorship, how long I’d lived in the US… best to get all those questions out of the way before they have a chance to stereotype me as an international student with a heavy accent.

    1. twentymilehike*

      RE #4 You should indicate it on your resume (such as “legal permanent resident” or so forth).

      I was actually really surprised to read this. And quite shocked that this is an issue, but it could be that I’ve never been in a situation that would indicate so. I’m also a green card holder, and I’ve lived in the US since I was four, so I don’t have an accent and that’s probably why its never been an issue for me. But I’ve also never witnessed or heard about it being a problem for anyone else.

      I am particularly curious if this is a concern in some regions more than others, and if anyone who experienes this is super annoyed by it or not.

      1. Toast*

        I hadn’t thought of this either because I grew up in the US and naturalized at 18. Would a “foreign sounding” name paired with an otherwise stellar resume make hiring managers doubt that candidate? I’m thinking that maybe I should change my last name to my husband’s on my resume now that I am changing careers, even though up until now I have used my maiden name professionally.

        1. twentymilehike*

          I’m thinking that maybe I should change my last name to my husband’s on my resume now that I am changing careers

          I was SO RELIEVED when I got to start using my husband’s name becaues it meant I could finally stop spelling my last name eight times for people and they still got it wrong.

          But seriously, you would think that these days you won’t get discrimination based on your name, but I’m sure there are places where it happens. I wouldn’t want to work at one of those places, though, so I guess it could be a blessing in disguise. If anyone has had this happen to them that they know about I would like to hear about it!

        1. twentymilehike*

          Ah, that makes sense. The OP did say she had work experience in the US, so that probably means she has some outside, as well.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Yeah, she had said her resume makes it clear she’s a foreigner, so I was assuming that meant some foreign work experience. If I’m wrong about that, though, and her education/work has all been here, I wouldn’t worry about clarifying it as much.

            1. OP#4*

              I’m the OP. Thanks for the answer Alison !
              I’m French so I’m not really worried about discrimination based on my name. But I have a French degree and was sent to the US by the same company I worked for in France so I am indeed worried that recruiters will assume I need sponsorship.

    2. Nameless*

      This is not issue, imagine how many Americans are born here to immigrant parents (Obama). I was told this by a partner at a BIG.

      You don’t hurt yourself by putting (Permanent U.S. Resident as a header)

  5. Neeta*

    #6) From the OPs phrasing one would assume that you’d get the exact same questions on your second interview. Aren’t people asked different things during different interviews?

    I mean, OK, let’s say 1-2 questions might be the same… but for the most part, my first interview is with HR, so I get asked really generic stuff. Next is a practical test, and then it’s a final discussion with the hiring manager. Assuming I get to this point, of course.

    #7) I don’t think I’ve stopped laughing at the “butt-dialing” phrase since I’ve read it.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I don’t think the OP is assuming she’ll be asked an identical slate of questions, but if she’s meeting with different people, there’s likely to be some overlap.

      First interviews aren’t always with HR, and second with the hiring manager. Hiring managers will often do two (or even three) rounds of interviews themselves, leaving HR totally out of it, and subsequent interviews can also be with peers, a manager a level above the hiring manager, and so forth.

      1. Neeta*

        Interesting… I’ve never had more than one interview with the same person. OK, the order wasn’t ALWAYS the same as I first described, but the people who interviewed me were generally those (HR being interchangeable with recruiting agency, for my specific case).

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yeah, the idea is that you want to go more in-depth in the subsequent conversations. It really raises your chances of making the right hire if you have more than one conversation with them!

    2. OP #6*

      OP here! The first interview was with the supervisor and a team member. The second interview was with the CEO.

      The second interview went very much like the first, starting with an overview of education and work experience, but with a couple of different scenarios and even one requiring roleplay.

      When I sent the question, I thought I might as well ask what happens when the second interview is with the same people as I have never been invited to second interviews before.

      1. Neeta*

        Hmm… interesting. I would have actually thought in such a case that the CEO had not talked to the supervisor and team member at all. A few questions, I get it. But most of them…

        Then again, perhaps this is just a cultural difference.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Often you want to hear it in the candidate’s own words — how they convey the info, how they communicate, etc. Also, lots of people who hire will specifically say, “don’t tell me your impressions of the candidates yet,” because they don’t want to have that bias when they go into their interviews — they want to form their own impressions without being colored by what someone else said.

          1. Neeta*

            “… because they don’t want to have that bias when they go into their interviews” that’s a good point. I never thought of that.

    3. Vicki*

      She might actually be ased the same questions. As we all know, there are many pseudo-standard questions that tend to come up.

      Also, in some companies, interviewers are given sets of “suggested” questions, e.g. Bob, you ask about her background in XYZ, Sally, you probe JavaScript skills, Meg, ask about “soft” skills…

      And you really want to answer the similar/same questions in a similar (not rote identical) way because interviewers do compare notes.

  6. Josh S*

    #4: Green card holder working in the US

    You may want to say “Legal permanent resident (No sponsorship required)” or something like that. It lets them know that you are not only a permanent resident, but that they won’t have to jump through any hoops with visa stuff to allow you to work for them.

    1. Anonymous*

      One would hope that any HR department would know that Legal permanent resident => No sponsorship required, but sadly, it probably wouldn’t hurt to literally spell it out.

  7. Josh S*

    #7: Butt-dialing the HR manager

    I’ve always called it ‘pocket-dialing’. I’m not sure how the term ‘butt-dialing’ got started, but I find it difficult to imagine that many people–particularly those with $300 smart phones–would be sitting on their phones in their back pocket.

    I’ve made my share of pocket dials, to be sure. And I think it’s fine to call it a ‘pocket dial’–or to just say, “My phone made an inadvertent call…”

    This stuff happens. It’s embarrassing, but not the end of the world.

    1. Nodumbunny*

      Actually, in the emergency response world, they do refer to them as butt-dials (it’s a big problem for 911).

      1. Josh S*

        But why? Do people really put their phones in their back pocket? I don’t think I know anyone who does this…

          1. Josh S*

            Mind == Boggled.

            And all ya’ll folks don’t think it’s a bit risky to put a hundred pounds (or more) on a thin piece of aluminum and glass that has pressure-sensitive components? >_<

        1. Two-cents*

          That’s how my husband ruined his phone…he kept his phone in his back pocket while doing work on the house then fell on his “butt” when he missed the last step on the ladder and crushed the screen on his phone. Actually the phone still worked, you just couldn’t read the screen.

    2. Laura L*

      It goes way back to when people had those stick phones where all the buttons were exposed. Many people put those kinds of phones in their back pockets, so I assume that’s where the term came from.

  8. Jamie*

    #1 – I’ve had people use the word boss more loosely than they should, as well, so depending on the circumstances I can see where the former colleague was confused.

    I’ve had people refer to me as their boss when I was just head of a project on which they worked under me. I’ve also heard many people use boss to describe anyone above of them on the org chart who had anything to do with their position.

    I personally only use it to mean the person(s) to whom I report and who have a direct impact on my reviews/salary/promotions etc. – but I’ve seen it used much more loosely.

        1. OP #1*

          I can see your point but it’s a tough position to be put in when you are presented with a situation where I supposedly involved this person in a lie. In the heat of the moment she had to make a decision about what to do. Trying to help a friend out isn’t the worst thing you can do in the world.

          I suppose the best response would have been to call the person back and get hold of me first but really, this whole thing could have been best avoided by the hiring manager being clear that I had not asked them to use her as a reference nor stated that she was my boss.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Right, but it’s really unlikely the hiring manager lied — why would she? It’s more likely this was a mistake, either her own or HR’s (for all we know, HR handed her a list of people to call and they’re the ones who got it wrong).

            1. OP #1*

              In this case I don’t think so… Both my friend and I have moved on from our previous company and are working elsewhere. The HR manager is new to the area and, as I mentioned above, my friend and the hiring manager have had some professional dealings, including while we were at the old company. So I’m pretty sure it was a case of the hiring manager tapping into her network, which is of course completely acceptable.

              That leaves a bit of hearsay on my part as far as what was actually said on the phone, but I trust what my friend is telling me.

              As I mentioned this situation did give me a bad vibe, but more significant to me was the fact that I knew the hiring manager had doubts about hiring me, which she was trying to assuage by talking to some other people.

              From the interview I get a sense we may have not worked well together and based on what she said to my friend she was concerned about that as well. So it’s probably better for everybody in the end.

  9. Joey*


    I’d wonder a few things:

    1. Why didnt you get a raise? Was it because of you or was it a company that couldn’t afford it? Did you know that up front?
    2. If it was truly only money how is no pay better than low pay?
    2a. Was your desire for raises unrealistic? Were others being laid off, etc.
    3. What was the specific turning point/ trigger that caused you to quit?
    4. On the surface does your salary look reasonable or not?

    1. Joey*

      I rarely get believable explanations when someone tries to explain how no pay is a better situation than low pay. The rare times I believe it is because it’s usually associated with high work related expenses like childcare or commuting costs. More often than not it usually ends up being something else like they didn’t like the job, the hours, or their manager and low pay sorta added fuel to the fire.

      1. No pay is better than...*

        For Joey (or anyone) – Is not believing the person better than believing them about a something that raises a red flag?

        I was essentially bullied out of my last position and left without having another full-time job. The supervisor had actually bragged to a coworker about having a talent for making people quit, and there was a relatively high turnover for the industry/position/region. Things were so bad, my friends and family were continually shocked by my stories…after hearing them for years. I coped by laughing things off until I became the target. I knew how bad it would get, so I left. It was a bad professional decision but a good professional one.

        Of course, I can’t say that in an interview, but I can tell that interviewers don’t believe me, either; I’m not a good liar. So which is better? A lame lie or the awful truth?

        1. NewReader*

          GOOD question. I would like to know myself- what do you do if you have a bully for a boss? What do you say on interviews?

          I had a job at one point where I had to take the promotion OR fall off the radar. Well, I did not want to fall off the radar. I took the job. The boss (female) hated having female subordinates. You can guess what happened next. I lasted a little over a year. It was a nightmare.

          1. some1*

            Admittedly, I have only been in this situation when I was still employed but I just didn’t go there at all. The first time I said I was looking for a new opportunity [not said: because my boss is terrible]. The second time I was asked straight out, “Why are you looking for a new opportunity” and I said there was no opportunity for growth. I knew there was no opportunity for growth within my first month on the job and chose to stay 4 years anyway, but the interviewer accepted it as a reasonable explanation.

    2. I'm #5*

      Hi! Thank you all for your feedback.

      Yes, no pay over low pay has given my sanity back. I was overworked, and for many years I tackled it head on. But I also had a handful of inexperienced mangers who didn’t know how to manage during my tenure, making my situation intolerable and work assessment full of oversights. My last supervisor was a slaver driver, fostered a really low-morale boosting environment and practiced favoritism. We had a high turn-over rate.

      1. Why didnt you get a raise? Was it because of you or was it a company that couldn’t afford it? Did you know that up front? = When I started I knew raises were hard to come by… but I had many supervisors who they themselves didn’t know what I was doing. I stuck around because it proved to be valuable experience. I knew my last supervisor handed out raises to her true favorites though.

      2. If it was truly only money how is no pay better than low pay? = It is when you’re overworked without any incentives… even after you achieve some pivotal moments for the company. It’s demoralizing – I could only take so much disillusionment.

      2a. Was your desire for raises unrealistic? Were others being laid off, etc. = No lay offs… if none of my peers were really receiving raises, was I being unrealistic then? – I don’t think so. She practiced favoritism. The company as a whole did… I know my worth so I left. How should I explain this to the recruiter this as professionally as possible when they ask for my last salary to assess what I’m worth?

      3. What was the specific turning point/ trigger that caused you to quit? = More work on top of more hoops to jump, without compensation in sight. On top of my duties I had translation work too.

      4. On the surface does your salary look reasonable or not? = No, again, on top of my work, I had translation work too.

  10. Rai*

    Follow-up to #7 ….. the HR woman didn’t bring it up and I forgot to. I had 3 short interviews, one with hr, and two with people I’d be working under. Most of the time was them talking 2 me and not asking questions (which was different). And the questions I did get asked kept getting repeated by the next interviewer. Here’s to hoping I get that awesome job !!!!!

  11. Liz in the City*

    #5 — I can sympathize. Our company is (supposedly) on a hiring and wage freeze–and that started four years ago. Since then, the company has (a) bought two other companies and added those workers to our payroll, (b) refurbished the office with new cubes and furniture, and (c) given only select people raises. It’s really demoralizing.

    Yes, I’m looking, but I’m also fearful that because my salary has been frozen (despite asking for and receiving a review every year) for so long that the jobs I am qualified for, no one will pay me.

    Oh, I almost forgot to mention: when people quit, their jobs get rolled into your duties. I’m currently doing my original job, plus two more. Yay.

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