short answer Sunday: 4 short answers to 4 short questions

It’s short answer Sunday — four short answers to four short questions. (Yes, only four! I’ve cleared out my backlog of short questions.)

Here we go…

1. Applying with an employer where you have a bad internal reference

Recently, an employer for whom I interned early in my graduate degree informed its former interns of a new, available position. The job sounds great, and I plan to apply.

The problem is that I have a bad internal reference. As I was searching for a later internship, a prospective employer asked another reference if I was immature, citing concerns of another reference. Once I figured out who it was, I removed him from my reference sheet. I was upset, however, because neither he, nor the intern coordinator, ever mentioned these concerns to me. In fact, they only told me that I was doing great work. The deeper truth, however, is that I was a bad fit for the department. I was less experienced than their typical intern and a bad cultural fit, with a supervisor (the reference in question) with a short fuse. On a personal level, I’m willing to chalk it up to a bad few weeks in the department, made worse by the problems I discovered, but on a professional level, I’m sure it inhibited my ability to put my best foot forward in this eight-week internship.

The current position is in a different department, with a different boss, and I’m a different (more experienced, talented) employee. How can I stop this old conflict from coming back to haunt me?

You might not be able to. If that person’s reference was negative enough to be a deal-breaker for a different employer, it’s probably going to pose a pretty big obstacle here, especially since (a) people are generally more candid with their own employer than with outside reference-checkers, and (b) a reference from a current employee generally carries a lot of weight. It might simply be unlikely that you’d be able to return to this employer any time soon, unfortunately. That might seem unfair, but hiring isn’t about being fair — it’s about them choosing the person who they’re most confident will be the right fit for them.

2. How long does it take to create a new position?

How long does creating a new position take? My friend said at least two weeks, why all this time? It is a multinational company and this is a contract position.

It varies widely by companies. At some places, two weeks might be enough — at other places, it could take six months or more. It depends on several factors, including how much bureaucracy they have, how committed they are (or aren’t) to pushing it through quickly, and what other priorities they have going on. But if you’re in the running for this new job, it’s fine to ask for a sense of their timeline for being able to move forward.

3. Did I shoot myself in the foot with this salary negotiation?

I think I “shot myself in the foot” when accepting my new job. At the beginning of the week, I had a final interview with Company A, which went well and I was given an offer on the spot. They allowed me one week think it over.

Two weeks prior, my former employer (Company B), who I had interned for in the spring and was liked so much that I was kept on for a few additional months of contract work, told me to keep them updated on my search and that there was a possible position creation at the beginning of the year (contingent upon the organization receiving a grant). Flash forward to the Monday of the interview, I updated my previous employer and within the afternoon I was talking with them about returning. Three days later, I was given a verbal offer over the phone from them, and while the salary was less than Company A, it wasn’t bad. I expressed that Company A’s offer was higher, but also that I really liked their organization. When I received the final written offer, the salary was a little lower than I had anticipated but still comfortable.

I signed and accepted the offer and am now wondering if I should have done something differently. Do they think less of me for not negotiating more, and is there anything I can do now or in the future to ensure the salary is fair? Any advice would be greatly appreciated. Side note that I think is important, both organizations are nonprofits, Company B is in my top 3 organizations to work for EVER, and Company B never expressed if they received the grant.

They don’t think less of you for not negotiating. Lots of people don’t negotiate. Plus, if you were an intern there recently, you’re presumably not at a point in your career where you have a lot of negotiating power anyway … and besides, it actually sounds like you did negotiate, by responding to their first offer with a statement that your other offer was higher. That’s negotiation.

As for doing anything now or in the future to ensure the salary is fair … I’m not sure what you’re thinking of, but it’s basically moot, because you’ve already accepted this salary. If you were uncertain about it, the time to deal with that was before you accepted. At this point, you’ve already accepted it, and you can’t go back on that.

4. Should I reapply for a similar job?

Should I re-apply for a very similar posted job? A company posted a job last month, I applied, and now a new posting is up in which the job is permanent and the salary is $600 more. (The previous job posting stated that the job is temporary but there would be a possibility of extension.) Same job title, same qualifications. I didn’t hear back after applying for the first posting. Does it look desperate / overeager to apply for this new posting?

No. You have nothing to lose, so you might as well apply again. It starts to look bad when you’re applying over and over, but twice — for two slightly different positions — is fine.

{ 17 comments… read them below }

  1. AB*

    “How long does creating a new position take? My friend said at least two weeks, why all this time? It is a multinational company and this is a contract position.”

    Wow, I work for a Fortune 10 company and can assure you that a position created in 2 weeks would be speed of light for our standards.

    The person asking this question better prepare him/herself for what’s to come if he/she gets the job. If this is a large multinational, expect everything to take very long — even approving travel that is being required by management for critical work may take months. It’s simply the nature of large organizations: typically you need multiple levels of approvals from various areas before a final decision can be made on any aspect that has financial impact.

    Just relax and be patient. Like AAM said, it’s fine to ask for a timeline, but don’t be surprised if you learn that there is a lot of paperwork to happen even after the position is finally created, before someone can be hired.

  2. fposte*

    I’m confused on #3–Company B is where the job is contingent on a grant, and Company B is the offer you accepted, but you don’t know if they got the grant?

    There might have been a twist in there I missed, but if that’s the situation, I recommend you find out for sure if you’re paid on grant funds or not. It can make a big difference in all kinds of ways.

    1. Anonymous*

      Hard-money versus soft money is a major difference. If company A’s position was hard-money (as in the money is guaranteed long term somehow, like with an endowment, or investments) and company’s B position was soft-money (non-renewing money, usually grant money), then even if company B offered more money, it’s actually more risky financially, because of the uncertainity of how long you will have a job.

      1. fposte*

        Exactly, and ditto on raises, etc.. It can also mean different laws apply to your work (some people on federal grants are technically federal employees, for instance).

        So if there’s a question about the source of the funds, OP #3 needs to find out what they are.

  3. Anonymous*

    #1: It might not be the most honest approach, but if quite a bit of time has gone past – you could drop the internship from your resume. Then it would require the new manager to know that you did the internship in another department and think to go talk to them. The other thing is people move up and they move on, perhaps the old supervisor left on to bigger and better things and wouldn’t be there to be a lousy internal reference…

  4. perrik*


    Once upon a time I worked for a large hospital. To create a brand new position we had to write the job description, get the job description (including desired skills, proposed duties, title, and pay grade) approved by the department administrator and then the department’s HR generalist, wait for the head HR honcho to sign off on it, then take it to the executive offices for budgetary approval (so they had to approve the job description, the department’s rationale for creating the position, and the distribution of the position salary among one or more funding groups).

    In a best-case scenario with a pre-approved job description, clear business necessity, and ready funding, the process might take two weeks if all went smoothly and everyone was in the office and not too busy to sign stuff.

    Contract work may have a streamlined approval process, or it may be even more bureaucratic. The hiring manager should have a timeline for you.

  5. Anon*

    Re: #1 You have nothing to lose by applying. If your former supervisor was truly “short fused”, there is a chance that the hiring manager knows that, and will take the internal reference with a grain of salt. Believe me, I have seen more ridiculous things happen internally.

    1. Julie*

      That is actually my question – does she (or he) have nothing to lose by applying? I think if she decides to apply, she should address the issue up front, like she did in her letter to AAM. I don’t know if it should be in the cover letter or wait until the first interview (assuming she gets one). I can see pros and cons for both.

  6. Pearl*

    I am the one asking the creating new position question. The CEO is a friend and he said he checked with HR last Friday and there is no real progress and he would check again later this week. Now the question is how often I should follow up with him? He is really nice to me and offer to help me this way.

    1. Anonymous*

      I’d say not too often – it’ll happen when it happens, and you don’t want to seen as a prima-donna type.

    2. fposte*

      At this point I’d give him a month. It sounds like they’re being pretty communicative, so it’s not likely to be something they’ll forget to tell you when it happens. If he calls you in the meantime, say “Is it okay for me to check back at the beginning of December?” Then he has room to say that you should hold off until January or whatever if he wishes.

      You should also absolutely keep your job search open in the meantime. Currently this is neither a job nor a job offer, and there’s no guarantee that it’ll become either of them.

  7. Ivy*

    I have a followup question to 3. When is the right time to start negotiating salary? Not in terms of timing in the interview process, but in terms of experience and position level? I know everyone’s experience and field is different, but AAM rightly says you don’t have a lot of negotiating power as a new graduate. Is negotiating as a new grad viewed as naive? Obviously you would negotiate for an executive position and generally positions of leadership, but what if you’re not quiet a new grad, you have some experience, but you haven’t reached any management roles?

    1. fposte*

      Do you mean when you get a job offer? That’s not a privilege reserved for people higher up. It’s helpful if you can back up the request with a reason why you bring more value than the amount they’ve offered, but as long as you’re polite and professional in inquiring it shouldn’t hurt you to ask at any level.

      That being said, I’m talking about salaried positions–I don’t know about hourly positions, which may be handled somewhat differently–and I’m talking from my U.S. experience, and something in my memory is suggesting you’re not in the U.S.

      1. Ivy*

        Yes, this answers my question. I just didn’t know if it would be presumptuous of a new grad to negotiate even if they had legitimate reason for doing so.

        Good memory! I’m a little north of you, but professional norms are pretty much the same :)

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yeah, it’s not that it’s out of line to negotiate as a new grad — it’s just about realizing that without a lot of experience, you probably don’t have a lot of negotiating power — arguments to base the negotiation on / standing to command more.

  8. books*

    #2 – It could take a long time. We have everything in place to hire a new member on our team, but it’s contingent on a contract, which is contingent on getting sign off from the AG or something in a state. Plus, where I work, even if we’re creating a position for someone, we need to post it and get enough resumes that we can go forward with moving someone through and it takes us about a week once we choose to hire before someone can start, that’s assuming you’ve talked salary etc with them already. So. Longer than you’d expect…

  9. Anonymous*

    I Alison, thank you for responding. (#3). Looking back on the conversation, and the situation, my biggest worry was that they thought less of me for not negotiating, but knowing that lots of people don’t negotiate gives me comfort.

Comments are closed.