short answer Saturday – 6 short answers to 6 short questions

It’s short answer Saturday — six short answers to six short questions. Here we go…

1. Missed a phone interview due to technical problems

I’m in the process of going through a series of phone screens before (hopefully) meeting someone in person. This company has offices around the country, and I’m screening with people performing similar roles in other cities. For my recent phone interview, I called in and entered the conference code, using a land line, and was there ahead of the moderator. I heard the same hold music as I heard through my first round, so I know I was in the right place. I heard the tone that someone had joined, and heard them briefly, but they couldn’t hear me. I hung up, called back, same thing. I tried another phone with similar results.

I immediately sent an email to the recruiter, and the person I was supposed to speak with (I used what I presumed was her email address, based on their email conventions), but this was ultimately 10 minutes after the scheduled time due to retries. Now I know this is beyond my control, and I feel I’ve taken reasonable steps to alert them that I was there at the appointed time, but is there anything else I should/could have done? I’ve been on time and ready for my previous screens, so hopefully I’ve shown that I’m not flaky enough to be late or miss the appointment.

Nope, it sounds like you did what you should have. Conference call services are notoriously hinky. If they’re reasonable, they’ll understand and reschedule. (And if they’re not, there’s not much you can do about it, but it’s good to have that information about them.)

2. Applying for a job where I’m consulting

I’m a recent graduate. While a student, I did a practicum with a company that I am currently consulting with on a brief project. I noticed recently that they have an opening for a position that I am qualified for. Do I apply and mention to someone here that I am applying, or do I wait until I finish the consulting job and then apply and mention it at that point? What is the best way to handle the situation? This is a highly structured business/government agency, so I want to get it right.

Apply now and tell your contacts there that you’re applying. This is very normal to do.

3. Networking after a public presentation

There is a think tank I’ve been following for some time. I love the work they do and I would really like to work with them. They will be having a some public presentations soon, and the interesting part is that they include some discussion groups for the audience after each dissertation. Each group is monitored by one of their researchers (you may even be in the same group as the president of the think tank!). So here is my question, would it be appropriate to approach the researchers to ask them about job opportunities?

Sure, absolutely. Just make sure it’s after the group discussion, not during it, since that’s not what that part of the program is for.

4. Is client trying to go around staffing agency’s back?

My husband is presently working a long-term temporary assignment. The client has suggested that he go online and apply for the full-time position that is available. Is it possible the client is testing his integrity? Should he apply for the position? Should he inform the recruiter that the client keeps making the suggestion? We wonder if the client is somehow attempting to cut out the “middle man” and hire him directly, especially since the agency hasn’t mentioned direct hire to him.

Staffing agencies generally have contracts with their clients that spell out when and whether a client is allowed to hire a staffing agency temp into a regular position. It usually involves a waiting period and/or paying a fee. I’d assume that the client is planning to abide by the terms of their contract (such as being willing to pay a fee, if one is required) and that they’re not doing anything shady. But if your husband is worried, he could just ask the staffing agency how to proceed.

5. Job-hunting after being in jail

I have a friend who was recently released from being incarcerated. He is working as a seasonal worker at the moment, but that position is about to end by the end of the year. I developed a resume for him but due to him being in trouble in the past, there is not much to put on there. He is a very dedicated, energetic, and hard worker who would like to show his skills for a company. The thing is, he’s worried that his past will affect his job search. What would be the best advice for someone who may have a record due to their past but is looking for a job? How could they assure the company that they have changed for the better?

I wish I had a good answer to this, but it’s not a topic I know much about. (Which sucks, because it’s a really important issue.) However, there are some good organizations that work with released offenders on exactly this problem, and that really know what they’re doing. For instance, this is the one in my local area, and there are similar ones around the country. I’d talk with an organization like this to see what they recommend. (There’s also almost surely a bunch of information online designed to help people in this situation.) And maybe people here have advice to lend in the comments.

Best of luck to your friend — that’s a tough spot to be in and I hope things work out quickly for him! And here’s wishing for a criminal justice system that makes it easier for people to reintegrate into society.

6. Car was broken into before job interview

I had an interview scheduled for earlier this morning, and the place is only 20 minutes from where I live. As I was walking to my car, I noticed glass all over my building’s parking lot. This glass originated, as it turns out, from my driver’s side window. There’s been a rash of this going on in my neighborhood, so it figures it would happen to me before an interview. Immediately I tried two cab companies and they both had an hour wait. Fantastic! I called the corporate recruiter and told him exactly what happened. Obviously mortified is an understatement and I was prepared for the possibility that they might not be open to rescheduling. Of course I was appropriately apologetic and expressed that I was very interested in the position and felt terrible for inconveniencing the interviewers. The recruiter proceeded to tell me how unprofessional I am and then informed me that there was no way they would reschedule. I said, “I completely understand and I am really terribly sorry.” At which point, the recruiter…laughed and hung up on me. Again, he hung up on me. I learned a very important lesson that, in the future, I should either (a) make an appointment with any car vandals to minimize schedule disruptions or (b) suck it up and show up with glass in my eyebrows. Thankfully, I have other interviews!

Wow. You also learned that the recruiter is unprofessional and a jerk. Life does get in the way of things sometime, and anyone who hires for a living and doesn’t understand that is doing their job badly. Hiring isn’t about being a gatekeeper to keep people out on small technicalities; it’s about finding the best people for your staff. This guy doesn’t understand that.

{ 42 comments… read them below }

  1. fposte*

    On #4: if it is actually a test, that would make the company seriously crazy.

    On #6, that makes the recruiter seriously dumb.

      1. Jen*

        I really, really feel for #6. Looking for a job is hard enough, and getting an interview is such a red-letter day. There are so many obstacles in life that we can’t avoid, and when you handle it so graciously and politely and then the recruiter responds like such a jack@ss, all I can say is I hope that after the initial shock wore off, you had some real clarity that it isn’t a person you would want to depend on/work with/entrust with your job search. I’m seething for you and applaud how you handled it.

        1. BGirl81*

          Thank you so much for the kind words Jen :) You’re very right and I did have to take a step back and think it through. Yes, I wouldn’t be working with this guy, but I wasn’t, errrr, heartbroken after they did eventually reschedule and then cancel the morning-of. Hopefully, at some point some brave soul (aka, “someone who is not me”) will bring to their attention that their internal recruiter sucks!

          1. Another Emily*

            Maybe it could be you, since you don’t want this job anyway (and I don’t blame you at all). You are in no way obligated to, but it would be too bad if this company was actually okay except this one employee who’s terrible.

            You certainly handled what sounds like the worst day ever with professionalism, so more power to you! I hope you find a great job soon.

  2. Sabrina*

    #4 This is exactly how my company operates and they hire a lot of temp workers, so that sounds normal to me. In fact when they offered it to me I emailed my contact at the staffing agency and they said that they aren’t involved in the process. (Other than to collect their check, I’m sure)

    #6 WOW It sounds like you dodged a bullet on that one. Was this a call center or some other revolving door type job? I wonder if the recruiter has “heard it all” because they have to interview so often. Not that it excuses their behavior.

    1. BGirl81*

      Sabrina, it was for an admin role at a pretty well known company! In the end, dude wound up having to call me late that afternoon to reschedule (I’m guessing they didn’t think they found The One in their other candidates or simply wanted to make sure they met enough people to make an informed decision.) Wouldn’t you know, he was as nice as pie. Being that I wouldn’t be working with this guy and girlfriend needs a job, I agreed. Ironically enough, he called about two hours before the interview to say they needed to reschedule. Being that I’m, you know, rational I agreed. Haven’t heard back so far. Oy vey.

        1. BGirl81*

          Christine, I think you may very well be right! As I said to a friend last night, “The longer your parents have been paying your rent, the more the line blurs.” and that isn’t a good thing.

          1. Lisa*

            An extra interview experience with some new contacts on your network is worth going. I would still say something like, thank you so much for being understanding about why you missed your first interview. If they blank stare at you, tell them the truth that your car was broken into. I bet the recruiter just told them you bailed,.

  3. COT*

    #5–it’s going to be really tough (especially in an economy where employers can be choosy), but there are some strategies that will help.

    I definitely agree with Alison that your friend should connect with any nonprofits that help with employment services. Many of them have special programs or help for people with criminal backgrounds.

    Your friend should also consider an employment training program or schooling. It will help him boost his resume, gain references, and develop a track record of good performance. Again, many nonprofits teach such programs, whether in a specific field or just general job-readiness, computer skills, etc.

    Volunteering will also help. Some places will do strict background checks (esp. those who serve kids, seniors, or vulnerable adults) but there are plenty of options out there. He can start with one-time, no commitment opportunities to explore what he likes to do.

    All of these things will also keep your friend busy, get him reconnected to his community, and give him purpose. Coming out of prison is really hard. Doing something with his day will build his self-esteem and keep him from falling back into troublesome patterns.

    When it comes to interviewing, the best thing he can do is be honest and open about his past and be able to show how he’s changed. Employers are much more receptive when you’re forthcoming. If he isn’t, they’ll wonder what he has to hide. That doesn’t mean that he needs to blurt out his background as soon as he sits down, but if an employer asks, he needs to be prepared to talk about it. Help him practice this.

    One last tip–a lot of people don’t even fully know what’s on their criminal background (what the exact charge was, etc.). He should acquire a copy of his background check and have it handy for employers to review.

    You’re a good friend for wanting to help your friend reintegrate into the community. Good luck!

    1. Anonymous*

      Good answers on where to start rebuilding a resume. Start at the public or local college/university library with questions on computer training, interview skills, etc. mentioned in the post above. If they don’t offer them themselves, they might make a referral if they know of a place that does.

      There may also be a One Stop center in the area. These are federally funded through WIA, Workforce Investment Act, programs.
      They help with writing resumes, finding employment, practice interviews. all kinds of stuff. Local employers post jobs there too, at least they do in South Carolina.

    2. Jil*

      Another suggestion is for the friend to assess their talents and interests and create their own business.

      Some of my client’s (I was a social services case manager before my layoff) had many marketable talents and just needed to be encouraged to learn entrepreneur skills.

      Another potential issue is housing for this population. I encouraged them to utilize networking to maximize exposure to people who own property. Plus, a great reference from a community leader would be valuable in both employment and housing as a result of getting to know people.

      1. Anonymous*

        The Chamber of Commerce in most areas offers a cheap short course with all the documentation you need to form different kinds of companies in their city/county/state. They go over all the different types of ways you can set up your business depending on number of owners or employees.

    3. Paige*

      (+1 @COT) OP: I would like to point out the obvious, though, your friend has a job! Getting that first position is usually the hardest part! It sounds like he still has a few months to build skills and a solid reference.

  4. twentymilehike*

    Volunteering will also help. Some places will do strict background checks (esp. those who serve kids, seniors, or vulnerable adults) but there are plenty of options out there. He can start with one-time, no commitment opportunities to explore what he likes to do.

    Great comment, but I want to echo the part about volunteering. I’ve used to successfully find opportunities in the past. One particular that I really found rewarding was working with an organization that held events for homeless vets. I met all sorts of people from all walks of life and it was very fulfilling. This is immediately what I though of when I read “volunteering.” He could do a weekend event and probably end up making a few connections.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes! And in this case, it’s probably especially important to meet people who will get to know you and therefore will be able to see past the conviction because you’re a known quantity.

      1. Realistic*

        I would add that your friend should contant these local agencies sooner rather than later. Many of them have a time restriction on how long after release they can help the formerly incarcerated (for some, it’s only 6 months after release, at most of them it’s less than a year after release). If your friend had a felony, in many states he can qualify for job retraining programs which will help him re-enter (or enter for the first time) the work program, but there can be long waiting periods to get into the programs. It could be that he can volunteer at these agencies while waiting to enter the more formalized program. If he has parole or probation restrictions on him, his support officer may also know of additional agencies willing to take him on in a volunteer or temporary basis. So many people contact these agencies and get discouraged while waiting to get into the program that they let their eligibility lapse. Good luck to your friend!

  5. EngineerGirl*

    * The first thing you have to do is make sure that the thing that landed your friend in jail won’t repeat itself. Did your friend successfully graduate from some internal program that addressed it? Companies are worried about the bad thing coming back. Whatever steps you can take to show that the situaton is no longer true will help.
    * Definately work with the volunteer organizations.
    * Another thing you really want to do is networking. Are there other business type people that know this person and know how much he has changed? They are your allies. You need to reach out through them so that others can vouch for him too. You’ll have far more success if there are several personal references that can add recommendations. I would also try to make sure that the first contacts are the actual hiring managers. The resume is too likely to get filtered by a middle-man.
    * Work with the persons current boss on recommendatons. An enthusiastic recommendation here (with proof that the previous problem no longer shows up) will count more than most.

  6. May*

    I agree with everything mentioned above. I think that knowing the laws and what employers can and cannot ask, and what his rights are as an applicant with a criminal history would help as well.

    1. moe*

      He may also want to look into the availability of expungement or sealing in his state. The local Legal Aid organization should have information on this.

  7. Carrie*

    For #6, if I were her I would have taken photos of my smashed up car and emailed/ mailed them to the recruiter with a note “Clearly, how unprofessional of me not to have anticipated this. Thanks for being so understanding.” LOL. Sounds like she wouldn’t want to work for them anyway, but man what an a–hole!

    1. Zee*

      I just thought of the same thing. And if they still didn’t believe it was my car, I would have mailed him a copy of the police report.

      1. Zee*

        I’m not the OP for that question, by the way. I just meant if I was in her shoes, that’s what I would have done.

    2. BGirl81*

      Ladies, I’ll admit I was tempted to do just that haha! It was really nuts, because I didn’t get the sense that he actually doubted that I was telling the truth – just that the timing was all wrong and I should have been able to figure out an alternative. It wouldn’t have been at all unreasonable for him to say that he wasn’t sure if they’d be able to reschedule, but hanging up?! Who does that?! (That dude does.)

      1. Greg*

        BGirl, was this a third-party recruiter? If so, and if you have the contact info for the hiring manager, I might even advise going around the recruiter’s back and pleading your case directly to them. I wouldn’t rat out the recruiter’s appalling behavior, just explain what happened (since there’s a chance the recruiter didn’t give them the real story).

        As for that recruiter, forget about the job situation for a second: What kind of human being responds to the news that someone was a victim of a crime by laughing at her? Ugh!

        1. BGirl81*

          Hey Greg! It was their internal recruiter. I know, right?! He did wind up calling me late that afternoon and said they could reschedule for the next day. The next day he called to say they had something come up and needed to reschedule. I never heard back, but it’s kind of a relief!

          p.s. Alison, thanks for including my story despite the fact that I was too busy complaining to include, you know, an actual question. You’re awesome.

  8. Steve*

    #5 I have one suggestion, and that is to make sure your friend seeks employment in an area where the conviction is not relevant. For example, if the conviction was for embezzlement he is unlikely to be successful searching to be an accountant, or if it was for prescription drug abuse don’t apply for a job in a pharmacy. Look for employment in a field where the conviction says nothing about his ability to succeed. Good luck!

  9. perrik*

    #4 – It’s likely that the company requires that everyone go through the online application process, and that includes temps applying for permanent positions. When I was moved from temp to perm in a large organization, I had to complete the formal application process to make things official per policy. My agency still got their conversion money, so everyone was happy.

    It’s also possible that the person at your husband’s client is unaware of how temping via an agency works – no malicious intent, just a lack of awareness of “ownership” and contract fees and such. The client just sounds eager to get your husband into a permanent role there!

    If I were your husband, I’d contact the agency to let them know he’s applying, and then apply. The agency will protect its interests, but that’s between them and the client to sort out.

  10. TR*

    I don’t know what kind of work your friend is looking for, but there’s more than a few small business owners/independent contractors who need minimum-wage type help who are understanding of a checkered past. It might be worth asking around the community to see if anyone has a reputation of hiring people who would otherwise struggle getting jobs (or has previously done time and gotten their life back together.)

  11. Karl Sakas*

    #3 (asking think tank rep about job opportunities after they moderate the public discussion) —

    Be sure to do your background research! Employees are more likely to help you if you come across as interesting, thoughtful, and well-informed (for instance, I find it’s better to ask 1-2 good questions, vs. talking at length on the topic). If you’re not good at thinking of that kind of thing on your feet, come up with a question/comment or two in advance that’s likely to be relevant to what was discussed. Open-ended questions about opinions or trends work well.

    First impressions count.When I meet people at events who want to work for my company, I’m more likely to champion them internally if they make a positive impression and seem like someone with a lot of potential. If someone is more “generic” (for lack of a better word), I’ll probably just point them to the online job postings.

    Finally, given that you’d really like to work with them, spend time doing some scenario planning about your angle for the people who’d moderate your breakout group. For instance, if it’s someone more junior, mention you’re interested in their work, and ask if they’d be open to talking at a future date about what it’s like to work there (and then follow up by email to suggest coffee). If it’s the president, they’re less likely to have time to meet in the future, so it’s higher-stakes to make that impression immediately. The ideal is to have a good reason to follow up that’s in their interest, like an article you read recently that you’d like to share with them (assuming they’d truly be interested). You can find that article beforehand.

    This kind of thing can definitely work — I got invited to interview for a job (without having applied for anything!) after making two insightful comments on the CEO’s blog. Good luck!

  12. Chris*

    #4. It may just be a different position. That is how I ended up where I am currently. I was working for another department working as a vendor (staffing company), but one of the managers let me know they had an internal position available. I had been with the staffing company long enough where I could make the move without any issues. I kept the staffing company in the loop so they could back fill my position if I got the internal position. I got it and it has been great. They had time to back fill it and everything went well. The staffing company I was working for was very cool with it. They made a good choice who the company wanted full time.

  13. Lily*

    #6 Can I totally feel for the OP, but also imagine one reason for the recruiter to behave this way? The recruiter may be confusing OP with someone who lied to him previously, either mistaken identity or overgeneralisation. I am no longer am that sympathetic to sob stories that people tell me, because I have been lied to so often. This is a pity, because some people do deserve a break, like OP!

  14. Anonymous*

    #5’s friend may try a temp agency as well. In my area, most of them are well versed in the policies of local companies regarding convictions and can steer him in the direction of a company who has a good track record for hiring people in his situation. Even if they can’t get him a permanent job, it will help build a positive work history since release. Our office of workforce development also has a person dedicated to the WOTC program, which matches recently released felons with companies taking advantage of government subsidies for hiring them. Not sure if it covers anything below a felony, but worth a try. And maybe this goes without saying, but *do not lie.* Our director of HR (and we are one of the top employers in my area) once said that they would hire someone with a criminal record if they were honest and it didn’t affect the job, but if they lied about it they don’t have a chance, no matter how small or unrelated the offense.

  15. Barko*

    I’m the OP for question 1, and actually heard back from the recruiter shortly thereafter. She understood that it was a phone glitch, and offered to re-schedule me this week, which turned out to be today.

    The screener said that she could tell that I was in the conference, but couldn’t hear me, and eventually had to move on to her next candidate.

    Screen today seemed very positive, so hopefully some good news soon. Thanks for answering my question.

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