tiny answer Tuesday: 7 short answers to 7 short questions

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

1. Listing Amazon reviews on your resume

I had a question about putting something on a resume. I am in between jobs now and searching. I have been doing Amazon Vine reviews for over a year now. You have to be asked into the Amazon Vine program to do reviews. You receive free products to review and you must review 75% of what you receive. I also frequently receive review requests from new authors. Is this something I should use on my resume to fill in the holes or is it too much of a hobby?

I wouldn’t put it in your employment section since it’s not a job or even really volunteer work, but you could certainly list it as a hobby, if you’re someone who likes to have hobbies on your resume.

2. Letting a reference know you’d like to work with them

I’m currently job hunting and trying to keep it away from my current employer. I temped at an organization in the same industry last year, and want to ask one of my former colleagues to be a reference in my search. The manager I want to ask to be my reference isn’t currently hiring at my level, but if they were I’d apply in a heartbeat because I loved the people and atmosphere of the organization, and they do some fantastic work in their area.

Is it beyond tacky (or simply unnecessary) to put in a line in my request for a reference, letting them know I’m interested in working at the organization and would love to apply if a place at my level opens up in the future? I worry they think they’re my second choice compared to the organizations I’m applying for, when actually they’d be my first, and I’m a bit gutted they’re not hiring.

It’s not tacky at all. Let them know.

3. Leaving a job after six months

Throughout college and even before, I wanted to become a teacher, and I planned my academic career accordingly. I was accepted to several graduate programs for this — when, almost out of nowhere, came a totally unrelated job offer with an iconic company in an unrelated industry, a company that many people dream of working for. I set aside my teaching plans for the time being to move across the country and try this out, unsure of whether I would like it, but feeling that it would be foolish not to find out.

Three months into the job, I’m unhappy. With the job itself, with the fact that I’m not on the path to teaching, with being far away from my friends and family, and so forth. So I know that sometime in the fairly near future, I need to quit and get back to my original plan in my original city. Mainly for logistical reasons, the two basic options are to quit after I’ve been at the job for six months or for a year. How damaging would the six month option be to my future hireability? Other than giving an honest explanation of how I tried something that turned out to be a poor fit, is there anything I can do to mitigate the damage?

Your honest explanation is fine. The problem with short-term stays comes when you have a bunch of them. One isn’t especially worrying — a pattern would be.

4. Withdrawing from consideration for a job that would aggravate a medical condition

I recently had a second interview for an HR position that would be extremely beneficial to my career; however, after asking for and receiving a thorough breakdown of the job, I realized that my fibromyalgia, which is well-controlled in my current position, would become unmanageable due to the large volume of meetings, nonstop interaction, and hectic environment. Since it’s not fair to the employer or the other two candidates to keep myself in the running when I have no intention of accepting, I’d like to alert the hiring manager immediately, who is someone I meet regularly at HR-related functions, and simply being given the chance to interview with him can open other opportunities for me. I want to be honest, but I fear that in doing so I’m oversharing. On the other hand, I worry that if I am vague, he’ll think me rude. What do you suggest?

I’d be straightforward. I know some people will say to never reveal a medical condition to a potential employer because it could be used against you in the future … but the reality is that you’re clear about what will and won’t work for you medically, and it makes sense to be clear about that with people who might connect you to future jobs too. Make sure that you emphasize that it’s a non-issue in your current positions and in similar contexts, so that he understand that the problem isn’t your illness per se, but rather how this particular job would influence it.

Another option, though, would be to keep the medical issue out of it and focus only on the environment being the wrong fit (which is true — you’re not obligated to explain why it’s the wrong environment for you).

5. When references are contacted before an interview

I recently had a phone interview with a company where I worked before as a contractor. It was a different team/group than before, although they asked if I knew a particular manager. I stated that I did, and that I had worked with them before. We went ahead and scheduled an in-person interview. The following day, I was emailed that the interview had been canceled and that they are proceeding with a candidate that they felt is a good fit for them (and would possibly contact me later if more interviews were required). Was the mentioned person contacted and perhaps didn’t give them the feedback they were looking for? Feels like I didn’t get a fair crack at the interview process.

There’s certainly a good chance that they did ask that person about you and used that feedback to decide it wasn’t the right fit. That’s pretty normal to do, when the reference is already working there (or even when they’re not, if they happen to be an acquaintance of the interviewer). I wouldn’t look at it in terms of getting a fair crack or not, since hiring isn’t about giving people a fair chance; it’s about the employer finding the person who they think is the best fit for the job.

6. Creating a presentation for a hiring manager

I’ve recently had an interview and followed some advice I’d read about preparing a printed presentation and sharing it with the hiring manager. The presentation is meant to be short and it covers the skills they want and the skills I have, personal traits, and a proposed action plan for the first 30 and 60 days on the job. My interviewer was quite impressed by this when I showed it to her (I still didn’t get an offer, though). I thought it was helpful for me to do it and for her to remember who I was (I left her a copy). I wonder what your thoughts are on this approach.

Personally, I wouldn’t want a presentation about skills and traits — in large part because I want to figure those out through my own observations, not just rely on someone’s own self-assessment. But a demonstration of how you’d approach the job is good. For instance, when I was hiring for a campaign manager position once, a candidate created an actual campaign plan. And once when I was hiring for an events position, a couple of candidates wrote up plans for suggested events. That type of thing is great — it demonstrated how they’d actually do the work, which is exactly what the hiring process is designed to figure out. A big caveat about these, though: They have to be great. If they’re not, and you’re presenting it as something to impress, it will basically kill your candidacy. So depending on the quality, it can make you or it can break you.

7. Alerting prospective employers that your employment status has changed

I am currently waiting on two job offers, but just recently was let go on Friday. Should I call and tell the pending job offers? I do not want them to think I was keeping this from them, but do not know how to tactfully say so. I contacted the HR of the company I was working for and she said that the only thing they were allowed to say were my dates of employment and title, so basically they are not allowed to say if I was fired or not. Would it be wise to go ahead and tell the pending job offers I am no longer with the company?

No. You’re under no obligation to alert them that you’re no longer at your job, unless they ask. (And in fact, it would seem slightly odd to do so, especially since you were let go.)

{ 41 comments… read them below }

  1. Melanie

    Looks like there was a misplaced cut’n’paste in the middle of Question 5 you might want to edit. :)

  2. KellyK

    For #4, I think you should be up-front that it’s a medical issue, but I wouldn’t necessarily disclose specifics. It sounds like you don’t know him all that well, and it would be really easy to overshare. I’d be especially hesitant to share a diagnosis like fibromyalgia because there’s a perception that it’s not “real,” so there’s a risk that it will change his impression of you for the worse. (I’d put ADD and most mental health issues in this same category.) That’s unfair, and it shouldn’t be that way, but it’s a risk that you probably want to take into consideration.

    You might also mention one or two of the specific things that make the position not workable, so that he has an idea what’s a deal-breaker for you if something else comes along. The downside of that is that it might prompt curiosity about what the issue actually is or might lead him to conclusions about what it is, so it depends on whether you’re okay with that.

  3. fposte

    I would answer #1 slightly differently if you were looking for work in communications and you didn’t have professional examples of your work (if you were a recent graduate, for instance, and your other writing work was all student papers). But that’s about using the work itself as an idea of your writing, not about listing that reviewing as a job; even in that case I wouldn’t list it under career, just include some examples in your portfolio.

  4. AnotherAlison

    #3 – I know that not loving a job can happen to anyone at any point in their career, particularly when you took a chance on a field that wasn’t part of your original plan.

    However, I cannot help but react negatively to this post.

    First, I know someone who has been looking for a F/T teaching position for a year and a half. The OP seems to assume that she’ll easily be able to find something. (I hope that the plan isn’t to live off the parents until she finds a teaching job.)

    Second, three months isn’t enough time to decide if you like or don’t like a career path. You might dislike your boss or your new part of the country, but you’ve barely stuck your toes in the water. No one does fun cool stuff right away. You don’t know much. You have to learn & gain experience before you get to do the fun stuff. Your job also *becomes* more fun the more you know.

    If the OP really wants to teach, yes, she probably needs to get back to it as soon as she can, but to me this sounds at least 25% like justification for a job that turned out to be work and other things she’s not happy with (location).

    I am not a big proponent of the one perfect career for everyone if you just find your passion theory, although I did believe it for a long time and this caused me years of discontent in my twenties. I think you have to really think about what you’re giving up and what you would gain before you make a choice. To me, everyone’s best opportunity is the job you have right now. This is where you are getting paid to get experience, learn, and meet people. You are learning on their dime right now and they aren’t getting a lot from you yet. Rather than give up, suck everything you can from the job. Because I’ve been there and done that, I think one of the worst things people do is try to force their next opportunity instead of taking advantage of the opportunity they already have.

    (Sorry OP, this is not meant to be so harsh to you. . .just want to give the younger crowd something to think about.)

    1. fposte

      AnAl, I’m reading the OP as taking this job before she goes to grad school for teaching, not before she hits the market as a teacher.

      1. AnotherAlison

        Ah, you may be right. In that case, don’t do it! (Seriously, that’s what my sister did & she has not had a single offer. Money down the toilet. I think a lot of it is her, not just the job market, but the teaching job market still isn’t exactly robust.)

        They do have night school programs for M.Ed. degrees, too, although spending money on any graduate degree to get a job with a starting salary of <$40K doesn't make a lot of sense to me (I freely admit bias). There are always more than 2 black & white options.

        1. fposte

          Oh, geez, I didn’t even see that. I will definitely not do that again! Sorry.

          (I like the ikeahackers blog, which just cheerfully shortened an Ikea-relevant merchant’s handle to PoS. The Americans suggested that maybe wasn’t a great idea.)

  5. Bridgette

    What constitutes short term stays? I currently have 4 jobs listed on my resume (I’m in my late 20s): first is a 3-month overseas internship, the second was 1.5 years, and the most recent 2 I stayed for 2.5 years each. I’m job hunting right now and worried that potential employers think I’m being young and flaky.

    1. Bridgette

      I’m currently employed at my most recent job, I should add – so it’s been almost 3 years for that one.

      1. Elizabeth

        I don’t think the internship would count against you because it was short; a lot of internships *are* temporary positions – presumably you couldn’t have stayed there for five years even if you’d wanted to.

        I also think you get more of a pass on shorter stays when you’re just starting your career, as you might take an intro-level position at a company where there might not be room for advancement without going to a different company. I think if your jobs show a progression then it’s not as flaky-seeming as if you’ve been in intro-level positions at four wildly different companies. For example, a teacher who spent five months as a student teacher, a year working as a private tutor and a sub, two years working as an associate teacher, and then a year as a maternity leave replacement wouldn’t look flaky, even though she’d be on the job hunt for the fourth or fifth time in five years. (This was me. It sucked. I’m so happy to be somewhere long-term now!)

      2. Parfait

        That’s not short-term in my view, except for the internship, and everyone understands those are of finite length. Plus, the trend is toward increasing duration!

    2. blu

      I think the answer is it depends. In some industries moving on every couple years is totally normal and expected, but in others it’s frowned on or sends up red flags. It also matters whether you are continually gaining experience and skills, or if you just bouncing from one entry level spot to the next or swinging between widely different fields. Probably the best place to start is to look at the tenure of your current and past coworkers or others you have encountered in your field and see what the trend is there.

      1. fposte

        Also, it’s different if it’s the job that’s term-limited, as it sounds like the internship may have been.

      2. Jamie

        I agree with this. It differs between industries and fields…but I would think it’s also important to note if each job has been an increase in responsibilities. A bunch of similar jobs which seem like lateral moves would be more of a red flag to me than upward progression.

        I read somewhere once that the median time spent at one company in IT is 3-5 years…and some conventional wisdom says the only way to make the big jumps in pay is to to jump companies.

        For SMB who have one IT on staff there is a fairly common cycle. Your network needs help or you’re growing so you bring someone in. They love it because they are busy organizing the network and solving problems. After a while everything is running smoothly and some people wonder why they are paying someone so much when really, they hardly do anything…we rarely have any problems. It’s cheaper to outsource…so either there is a “restructure” or (more often) the bored IT heads elsewhere for new challenges.

        Then the company realizes that things were running smoothly because of that person who didn’t appear to do anything and so now outsourcing for 3X their hourly is killing you – not to mention downtime…

        So you recruit a new IT who just left her/his old company because they were in search of new challenges and gosh, are you a challenge now.

        The definition of a vicious cycle.

        Now that is not most IT situations, but it’s common enough in SMB to be more than apocryphal.

        So – there could be instances in IT where I wouldn’t consider it a red flag if you had a new company every 3-4 years. By the same token if you were a staff accountant at 4 different places in 10 years, with the same duties, I’d wonder why it was so difficult for you to find a fit.

        1. Bridgette

          Thank you all for your answers! My first 3 jobs (including the internship) have shown a progression, but my current job was really more of a lateral move to a different company, in a very similar position. Right now I’m trying to get into my dream field but it’s difficult (and it is IT related, as are my jobs, so I can see the argument for shorter term IT positions applying here).

  6. twentymilehike

    We went ahead and scheduled an in-person interview. The following day, I was emailed that the interview had been canceled

    I would be SO. ANNOYED. if they actually scheduled an interview and then cancelled it. Don’t you think if the interview was contingent upon some sort of reference or additional information that they would want to gather that information before scheduling the interview? It’s like getting the message, “We really want to meet you! …. oh wait, we changed our minds, sorry. But thanks for clearing your schedule for us anyways!”

    1. Jamie

      That can happen for any number of reasons, though. If you have interviews scheduled Monday – Thursday and Monday morning you’re blown away by the perfect candidate it’s possible for an offer/acceptance to happen on the spot.

      I think it’s prudent to meet a variety of candidates because there could be someone even more awesome scheduled for Wednesday afternoon – but I’ve seen companies move fast and cancel the rest of the line up. Typically I’ve seen that in more entry level positions where you aren’t doing multiple interviews.

      1. twentymilehike

        I’ve seen companies move fast and cancel the rest of the line up.

        Sure, I could see that happening, but I would still be really annoyed. I’m not a hiring manager, but knowing my personality, I’d never be able to let myself pick an option without reviewing all of them. I’m a thorough sort of gal like that … But I guess that’s why I’m stuck doing detail oriented admin work instead of hiring other people to do detail oriented admin work … ha. Joke’s on me …

        1. Anon

          This would annoy me too simply because I would have arranged to take a day off of work for it. So here’s a day off of work where I didn’t get the chance at a job or even the practice of an interview AND lost money or vacation time.

          On a slightly unrelated note: I had an interviewer who kept rescheduling on me. I had to say no to the attempted 2nd reschedule – I respectfully let them know that I couldn’t give that short of notice to my current employer and then keep changing it. (I got the job in the end so all worked out)

  7. KayDay

    For #1 (amazon reviews), I can think of a lot of jobs (specifically, those that involve lots of concise writing, social media, communications….) where this sort of thing might be helpful, but I would not include it if it isn’t relevant at all. If you do include it, it would probably be best to place it at the bottom of your resume in an “other activities” (or something like that) section.

  8. Anonymous

    Re #4 – If you’re going say anything about your medical condition don’t use the word fibromyalgia. Some people don’t think it’s real, or think it means you have psych problems. For some reason this seems to a major problem with the medical field.

  9. EAC

    #1 If you have a LinkedIn profile, I think you can attach it to that. A lot of companies/recruiters check to see if you have a profile, so they’ll see it there.

  10. 7. Alerting prospective employers that your employment status has changed

    Great Question and Great Answer. I did not know that you have no obligation to tell prospective employers. What if the resume states that you are currently working there? Also, is it really true that HR is not allowed to convey if an employee was fired or not? Does that come up on a background check?

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      HR can say anything they want, as long as it’s true. In this particular case, it sounds like HR assured the OP that they won’t say that she was fired … but different companies handle this differently.

      You shouldn’t send out a resume that says you’re still working somewhere that you’re no longer at (or fill out an application to that effect), but if things change after that, you’re under no obligation to go back and update the prospective employer. If asked, you’d simply say, “Yes, my last day there was October 1” or whatever.

  11. Angela

    Alison- I’m the OP of #1. Thank you so much for posting my question and answering it. I’m not one to put hobbies on my resume, so I’ll put it in my LinkedIn Profile instead.

  12. KI

    Re: 3. Leaving a job after six months

    I agree with AAM. As long as it’s not repetitive, then it’s fine, especially when you have a legit reason to leave. I know a couple people who left their position after 3 months for another one (although it was an entry-level one).

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