short answer Sunday — 6 short answers to 6 short questions

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

1. Might have stated salary expectations incorrectly

I do have a question regarding a conversation I had with a recruiter during the phone interview. It might be silly and I’m over-thinking it. It is for a 6-month contract position and the recruiter asked what my expected salary was, and I told a number that I would like for the length of the contract but she did not explicitly ask “What is your expected salary for this 6-month term position?” I am scared she intended to ask me what I would expect annually.

You can always just follow up with her by email and say that you realized after you spoke that you weren’t sure if she was speaking in terms of an annual salary or pay for the length of the contract, but your answer was, of course, for the six-month contract length. But I would think that if you were off by half, she probably would have clarified it with you during the conversation. Either way, I wouldn’t worry about it too much.

2. Hot flashes during a job interview

I have an odd question — I’m conducting a job search, and occasionally have hot flashes. When they happen, I turn red, break-out in a sweat, and feel miserably hot. They aren’t often enough to justify medication, but do you have any suggestions for how to handle it during an interview? It is hard to ignore (pretend nothing is wrong) when the physical signs are so obvious.

I’m hoping women who have dealt with this will chime in with suggestions, because I don’t know if mine are going to solve the problem or not. My thoughts are (a) do not announce that you’re menopausal, (b) wear layers, making sure the bottom layer is much cooler but not too skimpy to be revealed if you suddenly need to remove the top layer, (c) carry a bottle of water, and (d) …. what else can this letter-writer do, readers?

3. Interviewing an internal candidate who isn’t right for the role

I have a job opening that will attract a lot of internal candidates, including my assistant. While she’s great at the job she does, she’s not the best person for this other position. She’s efficient but this position needs more of an intellectual bent. We interview internals. How do you sit across from your own direct report, knowing that they’re not right for the job?

You have to either tell her honestly now that you don’t think she’s the right fit and why, or you have to interview her with an open mind. What you shouldn’t do is go through the interview but treat it like a charade. If you interview her, you need to make it a real interview, coming to it as open to her as you would be to anyone else — because she deserves it if you’re going to let her spend her time interviewing, and she might surprise you. (And plus, if you don’t approach it that way, she’l likely pick up on it and feel she wasn’t given a fair shake.) And if her interview proves your hunch that she’s not the right person, then you talk to her later to explain why she’s not the right fit for the role.

4. Am I being pushed out?

I work at a small storage facility with a crew of just three people. I was referred by a friend of a friend over the summer, and things had been going extremely well until I went back to school this past September. My school schedule is not always reliable and often changes, which has resulted in me having to cancel the (very) odd shift.

In the past couple of weeks my boss had been contemplating bringing on a fourth person to pick up the slack if you will, and since I’ve gone from 40+ hour work weeks in the summer to just weekends now that I’m back in school, I’m wondering if I’m in the process of being pushed out, regardless of what my boss might say — or if I’m just paranoid.

Well, if your schedule is now “not always reliable and often changes,” it’s likely that your manager simply doesn’t want to deal with that and so is just scheduling you for weekends, since that’s when he knows he can count on you being available. While school is your first priority, it’s not his — he needs a reliable schedule. But why not just talk to him and ask what’s going on so that you’re both on the same page?

5. Travel plans toward the end of a hiring process

Last week, I had an interview for my dream job. And I mean Dream Job! I couldn’t even imagine a job more suited for my skills, experience and passions. Everything went well and it seems as if the hiring manager is interested in me.

The problem is this: I have travel plans for later this month that could interfere with future interviews or the hiring process. The hiring manager said they are looking to fill the position by the end of the month (I am scheduled to get back into town by the first week of next month) and they should start doing second round interviews within a couple of weeks after they have interviewed all 12 candidates. So, if I get called in for the second interview before I leave town should I tell the manager my travel plans? If so, how should I go about it? And if she calls while I’m out of town, what should I do? I don’t want to seem flighty or as if I’m not committed to this process. Also, should I inform her that I am willing to cancel or adjust my plans (which I am completely willing to do for this job, although it would not be ideal) to continue with the interview or even hiring process? I don’t want to give up my trip if I don’t end up getting this position, as I have already taken the time off from my current job, so I’m in a bit of a sticky situation.

Email her and explain that you’re going to be traveling on X dates, but that it will be easy for you to arrange to be in town for the next stages of their hiring process, as long as you have a few days notice. I would not volunteer that you’re willing to cancel your plans, since it sounds a little too desperate when you don’t even know if they’re interested in hiring you yet, and when there’s an alternate thing to say that will work just as well.

6. Former manager asked me to write my own recommendation letter for her to sign

I recently got in touch with my manager from a summer internship two years ago. Basically, she promised to write me a recommendation letter (for the purpose of a reference for Linkedin or future internships), but complicated things happened and she’s finally settled in another company. She offered that if I wrote the recommendation letter, she would endorse it. She is still one of my favorite managers that I ever had but I was taken aback by this suggestion. I turned down the offer because
a) That is awkward (writing about yourself)
b) Sounds immoral (I would never live with that type of action through my professional career)

I have had friends who had teachers carry out this type of system for college recommendation letters, but I don’t know what the etiquette is for the professional world. Does it vary by situation? Is this common?

It’s very normal. Happens all the time. It’s a little frustrating when you’re the one hoping for the recommendation, but writing good recommendation letters takes a lot of time and energy, and so people frequently handle it this way.

However, letters of recommendation are pretty useless in most industries; most employers don’t put any value on them (although academia is one big exception), so you might want to save her for a phone reference instead.

{ 87 comments… read them below }

  1. fposte*

    Oh, #2, that’s a toughie. The other problem is that everybody seems a little different on their hot flash triggers, so my suggestions may not do you any good. First, avoid coffee or any hot beverages during and for a good time before the interview (in general, ditching the caffeine might help overall). Try to leave as much open skin or air exchange as you seasonally can manage–short-sleeved under a nice sweater with bare legs rather than a pants suit with jacket, for instance. And a definite yes on the water bottle, and not just to drink it, but because holding the cold bottle (make sure you keep it cold–even partially frozen) will help as well. Don’t clutch it the whole time, of course, but if you can pour small amounts from it into a cup every now and then, that’s handling time that’ll cool you down. If you’re really determined and have a pocket that’ll take it, you might even include one of of those little chill-packs for lunchboxes in a pocket where you can put your hand.

    It also may not be as externally evident as it feels, and such symptoms generally look a whole lot like nerves anyway. So I’d be inclined to carry on without mentioning anything unless somebody asks, in which case I’d go with something vague like “I’m fine–the joy of interviews, right?”

    1. Anonymous*

      I had this same issue and while it may not be possible because of costs, I had my make up done by a make up artist, she covered up the red patches, and used some kind of miracle powder/ gel, and absolutely no redness….the cost$40.00 – some also show you how to do this yourself or what products work best, but these job interviews were so incredibly important, I didn’t mind spending the money. Also, sleeveless tops under a jacket, work wonders…..good luck

    2. M-C*

      #2 much depends on your own intensity of symptoms of course. And naturally, real nerves might make it all worse. But I’d take the same angle as suggested and dress over-lightly (and count on office air conditioning) to keep any episode from getting overwhelming. If you’re wearing a sleeveless shell and a lightweight silk jacket, you still look professional but you aren’t going to need to strip down if it happens. Don’t wear tights, avoid pantyhose if you can. Risk a chill rather than a strip. And of course some cold water instead of coffee is good advice.
      Whatever happens, don’t mention it. Hot flashes aren’t nearly as obvious to the beholder as to the person afflicted, mercifully, and while everyone understands they happen what you really want to avoid is a conversation about them (jokes! eeeck!). Even if your interviewer is having them yourself :-).

    3. Natalie*

      If air exchange would help, unlined, summer-weight pants might a good option if the OP wants/needs to wear pants. I don’t think anyone would be able to tell your interview suit was lightweight unless it was also, say, offwhite linen.

    4. Just a Reader*

      I’m not menopausal but I do get the occasional medication-induced hot flash.

      My best advice beyond the tips already given is to pretend it isn’t happening. Don’t fan yourself. Do keep your focus and carry on with the conversation. Ignore the sweat sliding off your scalp and down your back. Keep a hanky handy to discreetly mop your forehead if you think sweat might get in your eyes.

      This is how I handle them at work. It’s not pleasant but it’s better for everyone if you go into denial during the meeting.

    5. Kathleen*

      Oh, that’s so hard. I’ve been getting them for almost 20 years.
      I just went through a successful job search (with Allsion’s help of course). Everything she and the others said, and try to control your breathing, there’s a breathing method you can use when you have a panic attack, and I think it works pretty well for other stuff. Good Luck!

      1. Hang in There*


        I’ve been in your shoes, and it can be difficult. Try not to get over anxious about it, and definitely do not fan yourself if you can help it. Most people cannot tell you are experiencing it unless you let on. Remember however uncomfortable it is, it will pass briefly.

        If you’ve not seen a doctor, please do. Depending on your age, hot flashes could be a few other things, all of which, for women under 40, are not good.

        1. Ariancita*

          Agree with seeing your doctor about them if you’re not of age for menopause. I was having hot flashes (and other menopause like symptoms) and it turned out it was my thyroid.

    6. Mints*

      Not menopausal, but get sweaty when nervous.
      I’d also suggest containing your hair a bit. My hair is curly, and if it were just completely down, the sweat on my neck would make my hair gross. It then makes me even MORE hot & sweaty, as well as self-conscious. So usually I tie it someway

  2. Anon*

    I think #6 is an interesting one. I know it happens all the time, but it’s always seemed a bit off to me as well since surely someone who does ask for a letter of recommendation is expecting an honest assessment of the candidate’s strengths (and perhaps veiled hinting at their weaknesses). Though I suppose for Linked In or something where the letter is optional, there’s a different dynamic.

    Incidentally, my legal ethics professor in law school used to rail against this practice, and ended up talking to the dean and getting him to send out a strongly worded note to faculty telling them they should be writing their own letters of recommendation to judges for clerkship applicants (where it most often came up). So at least in that field, there are people strongly opposed to letter of rec ghostwriting. That’s a somewhat specific situation though.

    1. Ariancita*

      Writing thorough letters of recommendation is extremely time consuming and not a small ask. That said, I’ve never had a student write their own. I not only is it weird, but it isn’t doing the candidate any favors and they typically don’t know what goes in a letter anyway, will miss key points, and thus their own written letter will typically be weak (because adjectives of amazingness does not a letter make).

      1. Anon*

        I didn’t say it was a trivial task. I remember professors requiring that you ask a certain amount of time before the letter was due, and also to provide certain materials, all of which seemed like a reasonable compromise.

  3. Dr. Speakeasy*

    Ugh, poor #6. I don’t care how busy you are (even in academia), write your own d#%n letter or just say no.

    IF a reference letter is going to be useful it has to frame how a candidate is situated in larger context. It is unlikely the candidate will be able to see that as well as the supervisor/professor/adviser and thus a candidate written letter is not going to be as good as a professor written letter.

  4. Ashley*

    #6: I’ve worked in several fields within academia where reference letters do make a difference. This includes a position as a guidance counselor where I wrote 50-100 letters a year for students applying to college. Many of these students, I did not know well. We had a form for students to fill out with their achievements and anything else they might want highlighted. It really helped me as the letter writer.

    I carried this idea to my reference letters. When I would ask for a letter of recommendation, I would list a few things that the writer could use to outline the letter. This gave me quality letters that highlighted different skills and accomplishments.

    Maybe you could send her a list of things you would like her to highlight and that could help move things along.

    1. Ariancita*

      Yes. A candidate needs to provide materials. For my students, I asked for their transcripts, copies of all their work for my class, a resume, a copy of their senior thesis, a list of achievements and awards, and materials related to what they were applying for (their essays for fellowships, grad school personal statements, post doc fellowship applications, etc.).

      1. Dr. Speakeasy*

        Ditto. I require those materials from my students. But then my job is to contextualize them. Otherwise whoever is asking could just go off the materials and they don’t need the letter.

        1. Ariancita*

          Yup, exactly. I have no idea how a candidate would be able to properly contextualize that information.

      2. MentalEngineer*

        This was serendipitous and extraordinarily helpful. I’m just in that stage of the grad school process where I have to hunt down the professors who previously agreed to write me recommendations, and I’d been trying to figure out what I needed to give them beyond my (frighteningly short) brag sheet that would help them write knockout letters for me. So thanks!

        1. Ariancita*

          Great! Just don’t forget to tell your professors the results of your applications. You wouldn’t believe how many don’t follow up with that info and it’s nice to hear where former students end up! :)

  5. Josh S*

    #4: Being pushed out

    Why not just talk to him and ask what’s going on…?
    It’s clear that the OP doesn’t necessarily trust what his boss is telling him. Whether that’s justified or not, who can say? But the boss has already assured him that they’re not pushing him out, and he doesn’t trust the boss’ word.

    I’d tend to think it’s a scheduling and reliability thing, and that the boss doesn’t care–just wants predictability. Asking the boss again isn’t going to build more trust.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I should have been clear — I didn’t mean to just say “hey, what’s going on?” But rather something like, “I’ve noticed that I’m only on the schedule for weekends now, and I realize it might be because my school schedule can be unpredictable. Is that why I’m only being scheduled for weekends now?”

      1. Josh S*

        I suspect there’s plenty of bosses who would hedge even with such a direct question.
        Response: “Yeah, I’ve put you on weekends just because that’s how the schedule worked out this week. Things are just slower right now. I hope to give you more hours during the week soon.”

        Now, you can take that answer at face value if you trust your manager. But if you don’t trust your manager, you can totally read that as the “manipulative-manager-doesn’t-want-to-lose-a-good-worker-so-he’ll-string-you-along” response.

        At some point, you either have to trust the boss, or not. But asking more pointedly/directly isn’t going to change the OP’s reading of a less-than-perfectly-clear answer, since that is based more on trust than the actual words said.

  6. Beth*

    #2 I’m in the same boat. I’ve decided that it’s fates way of telling me the job will be a bad fit. If it’s meant to be the flash won’t happen. ;-)

    #3 Be honest. Interview her. Ask her the same questions. If she is not the right candidate. Help her develop a plan to do what she’d need to do to become the right candidate. If she you truly don’t believe she’ll ever be the right candidate for that type of job work with her on a professional development plan to help her grow out of the role she’s in. Her interest in the position is saying she does not aspire to always be someone’s assistant.

    #4 If you are in school, your schedule is set for the term or semester whichever the school uses. You should be able to tell your boss weeks in advance what your reliability may be. You need to look deep inside yourself and do an honesty check. Are you canceling shifts because you really have to or are you choosing to cancel shifts because it’s more convenient for you. If you aren’t reliable to show for your shifts, you aren’t being pushed out, your asking to leave.

    1. Natalie*

      Since OP #4 says they have only cancelled the occasional odd shift, I would guess the issue isn’t their class schedule so much as it is their homework schedule. My partner supervises student employees (at a university) and an unexpected paper or rescheduled test comes up every once in a while, even for the best planners.

      It is one of the primary selling points of a work-study job, IMO – they are far more understanding of the academic calendar. For example, everyone knows the schedule will get weird at finals, since final exams are not necessarily held during a students normal class time.

      1. Long Time Admin*

        “#3 Be honest. Interview her. Ask her the same questions. If she is not the right candidate. Help her develop a plan to do what she’d need to do to become the right candidate. If she you truly don’t believe she’ll ever be the right candidate for that type of job work with her on a professional development plan to help her grow out of the role she’s in. Her interest in the position is saying she does not aspire to always be someone’s assistant.”

        THIS!! And if she’s the best assistant you’ve ever had and you hold her back because you don’t want her to leave – she will. She will know, and sooner or later, she’ll find the job she really wants and will consider the day she gives notice as one of the happiest of her career.

  7. The IT Manager*

    #6 – It’s not immoral and is very common. It is,also, very awkward having to praise yourself and your accomplishments especially if you have not had much experience doing it.

    I worked in an organization where we all wrote our own performance reports every year. Supervisors were supposed write the report, but that’s not what happened. This was a lot worse when I was just starting out and didn’t write performance reports well but I got better as the years went on. (It’s always hardest to write on yourself and talk up your own accomplishments.) What happened there, though, is that the supervisors would edit the reports as needed and wouldn’t sign their names to anything that was untrue.

    Think of it as you’re being asked to provide a first draft. You’re probably more familiar with your day-to-day activities than your boss and can provide some insight that she might not have. Write about what you think are your strengths and give it her for her to edit as she sees fit before she signs her name to it. (And if she does little to no editing either you did an awesome job or she’s lazy.)

    It’s not as heavy-handed in my current job, but I recently had to provide inputs to my performance report for my supervisor so it’s relatively common. And my supervisor has 20+ people to write on so I don’t mind refreshing her memory on what I did well in past year.

  8. The IT Manager*

    LW#4 … I feel like there’s some critical details missing to your story.

    I do not understand how your school semester does not provide a reliable and stable schedule. Class schedules are set so you shouldn’t be having to cancel work unexpectedly. Perhaps your boss thinks the same as me and just doesn’t want to deal with your apparent flakiness. If you have a good reason for your occasional unreliability perhaps you can explain to him, but it may not matter to him. Some place can be more accommodating to unusual schedules, weekends only, or short-notice cancellations, but a crew of 3 people probably can’t be very flexible since when you don’t show up 33% of the work force is out.

    Warning … But if you went from working 40 hours a week over the summer and were kept busy and are now requesting to work less than that and only on weekends then of course your boss will bring on someone new to fill the gaps. And if its easy for him to find someone that can work a flexible 40 hours a week, you might find yourself out of a part-time job soon.

    Alison’s advice is right, talk to your boss. By the way did you already have a discussion when you went back to school about how you could continue to work around your schedule?

    1. Anonymous*

      The only critical info that could be missing from #4 would be if they are TAing, doing some type of research, or are a graduate student.

    2. Ellie H.*

      There is also the possibility that it is not possible for the LW to work as many hours in weeks in which he has a major project, test, etc. to turn in. Or that he’s doing research or lab work or something that requires changeable and ad hoc time commitments. I wouldn’t be so critical toward the LW, he probably knows more about his own schedule than we do.

    3. Not So NewReader*

      I can kind of see how students might have trouble with balance the education demands and a job. I returned to school after being away for many years. What an eye opener.

      There would be guest lecturers on campus for one day. It would be mandatory to attend the lecture – Wednesday at 7pm OR Thursday at 2 pm. I would receive notice only a day or two before hand.
      Most of my courses required us to work in teams. The team work was done on our own time but was a required part of the work. I found the whole environment to be extremely casual as my team would suddenly decide to meet tomorrow at 10. I had to be there because it was part of my course work. If I had plans- “oh, well, too bad for you.”

      Honestly, I found the system kind of crazy. People did not sleep (no time) and did not eat regular meals (no time). Even with all this rushing around and constant meetings things were STILL not done on time.

      1. KellyK*

        I agree with you. That is really crazy. And looking at the other comments in this thread, it’s a common problem. I guess it stems from the assumption that a college student’s first job is being a college student, and that any jobs they’re working are just for beer money. Or that everybody’s working at the dining hall or the library, and those places will understand if you have to bail for class-related reasons.

        I’d be inclined to push back every time I was given something mandatory outside my normal schedule with less than a week’s notice whether I had a conflict or not, but unfortunately that doesn’t exactly endear you to your professors or your classmates.

        I think if the LW is in this kind of situation, he should check in with his professors to find out how unpredictable his schedule *really* is. Explain that the last-minute stuff is a problem and ask if there’s any way to either have more notice or to have some flexibility when a lecture or lab gets announced two days in advance.

        For group work, I would hope that classmates would be more understanding. They’re all presumably juggling jobs and sports and clubs too. One thing that might help with group work is to suggest divvying up tasks prior to meeting in person, or to do some coordination by email. The more you can divide and conquer, the less time you actually have to spend in person together. Also, if you try to be a kick-ass group member and really pull your weight, that should buy you some leeway. Lots of people hate group work because there always seem to be one or two slackers and one or two people who carry the group. If you prove that you’re an asset to the group, that can go a long way.

        I got my master’s degree through an online program, and scheduling group work was a little insane. Not only did we all have jobs and other commitments, we were also spread across three different timezones. Fortunately, because it was a program designed for working professionals, everyone was in the same boat and there was the expectation that we’d work around people’s other commitments.

        Depending on how important this particular job is to the LW, and whether just working weekends is enough hours or not, it might be worth seeing if your school offers night classes. The scheduling might be more compatible with the job *and* a professor who has a class full of working adults is a lot less likely to spring random mandatory events on their students.

    4. Anonymous*

      The school schedule may not be steady because of the need for classes to meet the same number of times. For example, if classes are cancelled on five Mondays during the fall semester, the Monday schedule may be followed on a Tuesday or a Thursday to even things out. LW # 4 should know this in advance, but it’s possible that the boss simply doesn’t want to change the schedule every week even if the LW does give advance notice.

    5. JT*

      In a recent experience I had in school (in this case grad school) most of us were also working and juggling different aspects of our lives, and coordinating time for group work on projects was tricky. I can see that making it hard to say exactly what our schedule would be. And sometimes projects and papers took much more (or rarely, much less) time than anticipated.

    6. Flynn*

      I worked part time around my study for years and was lucky to have a very accommodating manager.

      My classes were set ahead of time, yes, but may be available or finalised only about a month or less before the semester started.

      Field trips and exams were known about, but the actual dates and times that applied to *me* (e.g. if there were multiple trips that might fill up) weren’t often known until a month or a week before. Exam schedules weren’t announced until most of the semester had passed and exams could be ANY day except Sunday. One off tests, special labs, guest speakers, lectures that were moved – all these could come at short notice and be mandatory.

      I never had to cancel work because of study pressure, but that’s partly because I didn’t take on a full course load and because I could often study at work.

  9. Just Me*

    I think you should give her a fair shot at it. You really might be surprised at what might come of it.

    You see her only as what she does now and I get that makes sense and all you have to work with. But that doesn’t mean she has no other talents to offer.

    I am in a job right now that is a complete pigeon hole to anything else I can do and have backgrond in. I do ” job X ” and that is it. They do not care about the fact that I have planned, organized and executed successfully ” xyz” programs, that I have hired, fired and disciplined staff and whatever else. They only see what I do now.

    All I am saying is yes, interview her with an open mind. Maybe she does have the something to give to the position you may not realise.

    If she ends up not being right then tell her why and what she can do to help herself move forward.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      ” She’s efficient but this position needs more of an intellectual bent. ”

      I am not sure where the exact short coming is here. Is it something that can be fixed with education? Using myself as an example: All the education in the world will never make me a master mechanic. I just do not have the inclination/ability/desire/etc.
      If I were on the receiving end of OPs message it would be helpful to me if OP said “Do you realize that this job requires the employee to rebuild carburetors?” This would be an opportunity for me to say “Hmmm. I did not know that.” I could use the opportunity to collect OPs thoughts on what I could do to advance in the company. Probably I would be okay (or even relieved) about not getting this particular job.

      I think all that is needed here is a clear explanation of the job duties or level of responsibilities. And this is a type of explanation could be used with everyone not just the applicant in question.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I took that phrase to mean “not smart enough” or “not intellectually serious enough.” Which would be a pretty hard message to convey to someone, which would be a reason to simply interview her with an open mind — and if indeed she’s really not smart enough or intellectually serious enough, that’ll come out in the interview process.

        1. Ellie H.*

          For what it’s worth, I think it’s possible to say “intellectual” and mean it literally as opposed to its being a nicer way to say “intelligent.” Maybe the assistant is incredibly clever at keeping track of small details, multitasking, complicated Excel tricks and the like but would have a harder time, say, analyzing sources and synthesizing new ideas, coming up with grant proposals, or something like that.
          Among other assistants at the place I work, there are definitely people who are great at those more administrative tasks but do not necessarily have the inclination to expand on what they do along intellectual lines.

        2. Ariancita*

          I read it as not strong enough in abstract thinking or critical analysis. (Though definitely could have meant not smart enough, though that’s really tough to judge.) I’ve worked with plenty of super smart people who couldn’t think a problem through or come up with creative workable solutions outside their specific area of training. I was thinking, even if someone is stuck doing X job which may be limited (like the OC–original commentator here), you can still generally see if one has those skills by the way they do X job, problem solve, etc (but only if you work closely enough with them that you can judge that accurately).

          1. JT*

            What Ariancita said. Or perhaps creative thinking.

            That said, it might be worth doing the interview but pushing hard on those skills as essential to the job and seeing if the candidate can convince the OP. But if the OP is certain this person doesn’t have them, I guess that would be unfair.

        3. Zee*

          That’s how I read it. I think this OP has this person type-casted into the role of the assistant and nothing more. The OP needs to take her into consideration as much as the rest unless there’s something lacking in the resume (not the right education or not enough experience), but if that’s all okay, then an interview can either confirm or deny the OP’s initial thoughts on this candidate. I just don’t see how someone who will be rejected with the reason of “you don’t have the intellectual bent” for the job would react too well.

          1. fposte*

            I can actually see pretty easily where you could in fact see this about an employee from her work, though (presuming I’m interpreting “intellectual” correctly). If she has this ability and has kept it under a bushel, that’s not really in her favor either.

            I’m still in agreement that interviewing her–and with an open mind–is the best thing to do, but I find the OP’s presentation of the situation quite plausible.

        4. Rana*

          Another possibility is that the assistant is bright and intelligent, but not obviously curious about things beyond their job. Now, their applying for the new position suggests that there’s more to them, perhaps, but I could easily see a situation in which a boss has mentioned new projects or challenges she’s excited about, and gets only polite but vague interest from her assistant. If she’s looking for someone who would be more of a colleague to bounce ideas off of, polite interest wouldn’t cut it, no matter how smart or well-educated the other person is.

    2. Peaches*

      I would also add onto this comment to make sure you aren’t assuming she’s not intelligent because of appearances or because you’ve never bothered to explain other procedures to her.

      While she could learn a fair amount from observation, there is still a limit if one doesn’t understand the whole process or something. So, what may look like a lack of intelligence to you may only be ignorance and there is a *huge* difference. (You didn’t give any examples, so I am just listing possibilities.)

      Also, being not a beauty queen myself, I often get treated like I am less intelligent or somehow less moral than other people just because of my appearance. It has held me back from job opportunities and it is really frustrating. By every measure of intelligence and academic achievement I am above average, but people just see the outside. I don’t have a long resume yet and I can’t change my genetics. Please, just consider for a second, if maybe your biases (for or against beauty) are getting in the way.

      To sum up this long comment: she might be way smarter and more creative than you think.

      1. Just Me*

        Exactly. That was my point in my earlier post. I have a lot of ” intellegent” thoughts ( OK I am not a brain surgeon or Einstein.. but go with me on this… ) but I am not asked nor do they care.
        I do the job I have to do and there are no questions asked.

        Even if this position is not the right one for her you might expose a whole other part of your assistant you never knew.

        That in the future might help you with other projects as well as help her move to other positions where there is a better fit.

  10. rollwithitbaby*

    #2 Hot Flashes
    Hi Alison:
    You’re answers are great. The only thing I would add is that she should see her doctor because there might be a medication or OTC supplement she can take preventatively before the interview to minimize/manage the hot flash symptoms. I know she said the hot flashes aren’t often enough to justify medication. I disagree. In this case, just once is too often! If she is concerned enough about the hot flashes to seek advice, that makes it a big enough issue.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I would like to add- if there is a good health food store near OP2 she could inquire there. I would frame the question as “what products are popular?” Or “Which products are customers the most satisfied with?”

    2. fposte*

      Mostly, though, things like that require you to be on them for a bit before they start having an effect–there isn’t much to be done short-term. Not that it would hurt to ask, because I might have missed something and who knows what might help?

  11. Ellie H.*

    #6 put me in mind of in Mad Men, when Allison throws the award at Don when he tells her to write her own letter of recommendation. I was so sympathetic toward her.

    My college advisor has written me a few letters of rec over the years and she has always had me look them over/edit them first because she’s worried about not being a native speaker (despite having taught in the US at the graduate level for years and years). It makes me uncomfortable but it’s the best thing to do in the situation. I do not like the practice of writing your own letter, especially because, as above, ideally your recommender will be good at writing letters of rec and you are probably not, especially about yourself, but I know people do it. My parents are both professors and I know how incredibly time-consuming letters of rec are to write.

  12. Hari*

    #5 Agree with Alison’s advice. Not to mention this might not even be an issue. I have yet to go through a job interviewing process (other than contract work) that has kept to its timeline. It’s always gone over by at least a week if not two. It might just be my industry, advertising, but something always comes up that ends up delaying the process.

  13. nyxalinth*

    #6 if Letters of recommendation are mostly useless, why do people insist that they’re useful to jobseekers? I had two supervisors write them for me and no, they never did a bit of good.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Who knows? Same reason they give other bad advice, I’d imagine — outdated information about how things work, lack of experience, or just not really knowing what they’re talking about.

      1. Long Time Admin*

        “…just not really knowing what they’re talking about.”

        Good Old Brand X gives layoff victims letters of recommendation. The letters don’t really say anything and would not be much help, anyway. Our management has not been out in the real world for a couple of decades and just doesn’t have a clue.

    2. LK*

      I agree that they’re pretty much useless, but in some fields they are expected. I have great rec letters but I still think it’s silly that I have to include them in my applications because that’s the rule in my field (education).

  14. Anon21*

    I’ll just say–there are industries/communities other than academia where letters of recommendation are, for some unaccountable reason, frequently requested. Those are certain entry-level legal jobs, including judicial clerkships and public interest legal fellowships. I would speculate that this is because applicants for these positions generally have few professional legal references, and employers are less interested in reference checking with professors.

      1. Anon21*

        I think there it might be a matter of inertia. Judges tend to be older, and my understanding is that letters of recommendation were more an expected part of the hiring process several decades ago.

        1. Anon*

          Also, a federal judge will get literally hundreds of applications for a clerkship that she’ll then have to go through in under a week (okay, that her law clerks will have to go through in under a week, but still). There’s just no time in the tight hiring timeline to call professors. I suspect that judges who hire practicing lawyers rather than law students – and who can do so at their leisure – probably do call references.

          1. Anon*

            (And when I say under a week, I mean a week from receiving the application to interviewing to hiring, basically – two at the most.)

            1. Anon21*

              Well, only if they’re on The Plan. Plenty of judges aren’t, and do their hiring at a less breakneck pace.

  15. Red*

    #2 – try also special powders. I blush a lot and in critical situations I have a special powder that I put under my normal make up. The powder is green and on skin just makes the skin a little paler (not green). The effect of it is, though, that noone can see if I blush. I got mine at The Body Shop.

    For sweating – there are special tough deodorants that help with perspiration. Also, blotting sheets are very useful.

  16. Girasol*

    #2 If your makeup permits and you can get a moment to yourself, a quick swab with rubbing alcohol just before the event can help. Even if it’s just ears and eyebrows it will help. They’re good heat sinks. Guzzling something ice cold can help to keep flashes at bay temporarily. But since sometimes nothing works, wear layers and at the critical moment pull off a jacket while trying to project an air of rolling up sleeves to get down to work. If all else fails, act like nothing is amiss and distract attention from any outward signs by diving into the subject at hand. I like to think that people aren’t really so focused on age and appearance that they’re diagnosing menopause in the middle of an interview, but if they are, you can at least show them that it doesn’t slow you down in the least.

  17. JessB*

    #2, yuk, that can’t be much fun.

    I would follow all of Allison’s advice (of course!) and if it happens, just say, “whew, I’m suddenly really warm! I’ll just take my coat off.” This acknowledges it, without making it a big deal.

    I also like the advice from someone else to carry a cold water bottle with you. I have a nice red metal one, and when I put refridgerated water inside, it beads on the outside and stays chilled for a couple of hours. Sometimes on trains on the way to work in summer (I live in Australia, where temps in summer are routinely in the 30’s), I’ll swipe my hand over the water bottle and use it to moisten my face. I wouldn’t recommend this actually in the interview, but even cooling your hands can help, and your wrists too.

    Good luck!

  18. dismayed*

    RE: # 2–what kind of world do we live in (employment-wise), that an interviewee need fear the outward signs of a hot flash–flushed skin, perspiring, etc. This should matter to an interviewer why, exactly? If the candidate is capable, why would flushed cheeks and even mild sweating damage their chances? The whole hiring process has become such a ridiculous dance–it’s more contrived than dating.

    I have similar thoughts about #1 and the suggestion that the candidate not mention their willingness to cancel plans for fear of looking desperate. Isn’t eagerness and a strong desire for the job–as well as flexibility–a good thing?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Hot flashes: I think she probably worries about it for the same reason anyone would worry about flushing and sweating in an important business meeting — people generally like to look calm and collected in those situations.

      #5 and looking desperate: Appearing enthusiastic is good, but appearing desperate is not. Desperation makes it look like you don’t have other options, which is unappealing to employers for the same reason that desperation in dating is unappealing.

      1. dismayed*

        But these days aren’t employers more sympathetic to the plight of candidates knowing how incredibly difficult it is to find employment, even for the very qualified and experienced? Would a potential employer really discard a candidate simply because the candidate wasn’t interviewing with anyone else at the time? In this economy many people thank their lucky stars to have even one interview (as you know).

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          It’s more about the overall perception you create. You want to come across as someone with options, someone who isn’t pinning all their hopes on getting this one job.

    2. OP#2*

      I’m the OP for the ‘hot flash’ question. While I don’t have hot flashes often (many months apart before having a several over the course of a week), I’ve had people ask me if I’m ok when I have a hot flash. I usually say that I get hot easy.

      I really appreciate the suggestions that have been made.

    3. Long Time Admin*

      Dismayed – you wouldn’t believe the discrimination in the workplace against middle aged women. We have to do as much as we can to not draw any more attention to our age. If you’ve ever heard hiring managers laughing later about the old bag who came in for the interview, you’d understand what I’m talking about.

      You’re right – it shouldn’t matter, and in some instances, it doesn’t. Not often enough, though.

  19. dismayed*

    To the carry the dating analogy further–if I really enjoyed someone’s company, I wouldn’t be put off that they weren’t seeing other people and that I was, maybe, the only person they were pursuing. Some might even argue that it’s flattering. Why don’t employers feel the same way?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Well, you probably wouldn’t feel that way after only a one-hour conversation with them. And you probably wouldn’t be too comfortable if they told you they were willing to cancel a vacation if you were by chance willing to see them for a second date during that time.

    2. Anon*

      No, but if they gave you a wet kiss on the mouth the FIRST moment they met you (having “met” online previously), then referred to you as their girlfriend during the first date, you’d be put off. BTDT. EEEeew!

  20. P*

    I applied to an internal job a year ago. It would be a lateral move but a job to increase my skills. The interviewer told me I was the highest qualified applicant but felt because I worked with the customers more then the job posted I was not a good fit. This was all within 5 mins of the interview yet she still went through the recommended questions for an internal hire/transfer.

    My point, internal hires are different because we see you everyday. To this day this interview has jaded my opinion of this VP.

    1. Former Hiring Mgr*

      I have been in internal hiring situations where the manager feels that I am owed an interview even though I will not be hired, either because they have found another candidate or for reasons more specific to me. Every interview is like a big date, for me. If I feel as though my hair or my wardrobe needs that extra bump I may spend money, but in any case I spend time and hope. I imagine myself in the job, I allow myself to believe that since the hiring mgr knows me they must have seen something that makes tham think I am qualified. Afterwards I feel foolish. Some orgs. will require that all internal candidates be interviewed, and so there is no way to know if you are being invited to what a call a “real interview” – where the interviewer truly has an open mind. It would be so much kinder not to raise hopes if the outcome of the interview is a foregone conclusion.

  21. Anonymous*

    #2: This won’t suit everyone, but peppermint essential oil on the back of the neck drops my temp and takes the red out of my face, leaving me cool for hours. Just one drop on a palm, rub hands together to spread if and then wipe it on the back of your neck. Yep, I smell like peppermint sometimes. It’s astonishing how quickly that takes the heat and red out. Leave time for the oils to soak in so they don’t discolor blouse or jacket collar. As with anything, if you are interested experiment with this at home before taking it to an interview. This is a new discovery for me, so I haven’t experimented a lot with this yet.

    1. Bridgette*

      Peppermint is a nice, neutral scent (and I love it), but yes, please make sure you test it out before trying this method in an interview. It sounds like a great idea. I would just worry about it being overpowering – some essential oils are really, really strong. But in general, people use breath mints and gum before interviews so a whiff of peppermint shouldn’t be a problem.

  22. Anonymous*

    Writing recommendations is part of being a manager. I know of managers who have had their assistant write them, and I know of managers who engage in the practice mentioned by OP6. Yes, this is time consuming, but it’s part of the job, in my opinion. And if a manager truly values their staff, they’ll make an effort to write a great recommendation.

    Letters of recommendation are going out of “style”, but LinkedIn recommendations can be very, very useful. Sometimes life isn’t ideal, and we end up doing things that are awkward because, in the end, they benefit us. I’d go ahead and write the recommendation, then send it into her with some kind of explanation as to why you changed your mind.

    I don’t think it’s immoral, but it’s lazy. When I was managing staff and received my first requests for recommendations, I used to feel terrible because I didn’t think I did some people justice to how great they were. But over the years I’ve gotten much better about it. And the great thing about LinkedIn is that you can go back and adjust recommendations. So I’ve been able to improve upon the older ones.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Keep in mind, though, that LinkedIn recommendations don’t carry the same weight as normal references — because they’re clearly written for the recipient’s eyes.

  23. Rana*

    Another thought about #2 –

    Whatever your top layers are, be sure that they aren’t going to show sweat stains! I don’t get hot flashes, but if I’m cold and nervous I tend to break out in a sweat, and I’ve found that a lot of shirts, especially if they have close-cut sleeves, show sweat patches really easily. (Ew, I know.) Patterns are good. Medium-dark solids are not. Really dark (navy or black) can work, as can some light colors, but make sure they’re not see-through. You can test them by wetting the armpits with water and trying them on beforehand.

    1. TL*

      For this purpose, dress shields, either sew-in or stick-on/disposable, are incredibly useful. They’ll show through light fabrics, but they’re fantastic for jackets and darker tops. (Just remember that you won’t be able to remove your jacket if you use them!)

      Second the suggestion for keeping one of those chill packs in a pocket. The chilled water bottle sounds great, but the condensation will leave your hands wet, will require a coaster if placed on a desk/conference table, and might leave wet marks on your clothes or interview papers. I learned this one the hard way!

  24. mh_76*

    Another one for #6 – I’ve had ppl make that suggestion when I requested a LI reco. Even though they thought highly of me, I had no way of knowing what words they’d use or how to write in a way that would sound like them, so I just let it go. It would be one thing for them to communicate w you further and ask you to review a draft or to wait until the words come to mind but to ask you to write it yourself is just plain lazy. Yes, I owe someone a LI reco. but I’ll write it when the words come to mind instead of asking him to ghost-write it for me because the thoughts are there but I haven’t yet been able to put them into words in an un-boring way (esp. b/c the oe he wrote abt me is great).

    I don’t know whether/not LI recos are valuable in the eyes of HMs / HR / recruiters etc. but it’s nice to know that someone else’s good words abt me show up when someone views my profile.

  25. (#6) Cammy*

    I very much appreciate Alison for posting and to those who responded to my question. To provide some context, I am still a college student and inexperienced with the professional world. Also, because of my background, I am alien to American/Western culture etiquette. It has been my concern to retain some credibility about the companies I worked for but it seems that references are the way to go. Thanks very much and I do look forward to future responses to my question. :)

  26. Former Hiring Mgr*

    Hot flashes–oy! I would agree that your suffering is probably not nearly as visible to others as it is to you, so carry on. I am far more interested in the candidate’s level of engagement with our conversation than I am with their uneven skin tones. I would even go so far as to say that unless you are sweating buckets, most visible signs of hot flashes could be put down to nerves. However, if you just KNOW that you blew it, I have successfully landed a job with a follow-up calls that wentsomething like this, after an interview where my physical state seemed to interfere with the moment. I was given feedback that I appeared to be a bit low key. I had at that point nothing to lose so in my thank you letter I apologized for appearing to be unenthusiastic, and offered that I had a bad cold and several people told me that day that Iwas not really myself. I asked if I might have another opportunity to meet, and I did, and I was hired. I wouldn’t share menopause just because it is still TMI for many people but you might find someway to explain a symptom in a manner that suggests it was a non-recurring event. I hope this helps. Many friends have had hot flashes etc and I had no idea until they started fanning themselves and taking their clothers off, so plow through and stay connected. good luck!

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