short answer Sunday — 7 short answers to 7 short questions

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

1. Photos on your LinkedIn profile

I know that photos in general should not be sent with resumes, etc., but from what I hear you are encouraged to post a picture of yourself on your Linked In page. I don’t think it’s a good idea, for all the same reasons you do not send it out with your resume or include it with online materials. Do you have an opinion or thoughts about this?

It’s fine to post a photo on LinkedIn (assuming it’s professional, doesn’t include your children, etc.). LinkedIn is different; it’s for networking and building relationships, and many people use photos to help people put a face with a name. That’s different from your resume, where the point is to explain your qualifications for a job, since what you look like isn’t part of your qualifications.

[And I know you could argue that employers might want to put a face with the name too, but (a) rightly or wrongly, photos with resumes are considered cheesy in the U.S., and (b) employers really don’t want to be accused of putting a race with the name, so are uncomfortable when applicants send photos.]

2. Can you have too many LinkedIn recommendations written at once?

Due to a corporate merger/company reconstruction, my position, along with over 150 others, were eliminated. In order to help me in my job hunt, I reached out to several people in my network via LinkedIn, requesting LinkedIn recommendations. While I was expecting a handful to respond, I’ve received an overwhelming response. I am extremely grateful that this many people are willing to vouch for my work, but am worried that it will it look suspicious to have so many (7 and counting) recommendations all written within days of each other.

In LinkedIn recommendations, does quality trump date and quantity? Should I approve all of these to be displayed on my profile?

Yeah, some people will notice that they were all written at the same time and will assume that they were the result of a push by you. How much this matters, I can’t really say. The fact is that LinkedIn recommendations don’t count for all that much — they were written for you to see, so employers know that they don’t necessarily tell the whole story.

3. Should I reapply?

Last week, I had an interview and didn’t get the job. However, I passed the personality and computer literacy test. I can reapply in 6 months. Is it worth reapplying or will I be denied another interview?

There’s no way to know, but what do you have to lose by reapplying?

4. Explaining a layoff in a cover letter or resume

I am a job seeker, having been retrenched. Your advice on how to graciously address the fact that I am not working, and why, would be much appreciated.

I prefer to get it out the way and mention it in my cover letter, or resume where there is not an opportunity to provide a cover letter, e.g. an online application. The real question is, how do I word it so that it does not reflect poorly on me? I have been advised, off the record, by HR at my former employer to say that my job was lost due to off-shoring of posts, and then to talk around it in the interview. While it is true that my former employer has a strategy of off-shoring, my job was lost because of poor business and the need to cut costs. I think that the advice was actually aimed at protecting my former employer’s reputation in the marketplace rather than to assist me! So, how do you advise I address this issue with prospective employers?

Whether your job was lost due to offshoring or due to the need to cut costs isn’t going to be all that relevant to prospective employers; your answer to them only needs to be that your job was eliminated in layoffs. Employers want to know whether you left voluntarily (and if so, why), or whether you were fired (and if so, why), or whether you were laid off. You were laid off, and you don’t need to get into details.

You really don’t need to get into this in your cover letter though, and definitely not on your resume. This is something for the interview, if you’re asked — not for your application materials, which are intended to demonstrate why you’re right for this particular job.

5. Will I qualify for unemployment if I’m fired for saying I plan to resign?

I’ve been with my company for about 10 years, and while I originally very much enjoyed working there, I’m now at the point where I’m unhappy there and need to move on. Because I put in so much time with the company and don’t like the idea of sneaking around interviewing, I want to let them know that it is time for me to begin the job search, or at least just tell them that I’m unhappy about my current responsibilities and if there is no change, I will be looking elsewhere. While I don’t believe they will ask me to leave upon hearing this, I do want to make sure I’m prepared just in case.

If they do terminate me because I expressed my intent of leaving, even if I haven’t officially resigned or advised them if a time frame, would I qualify for unemployment at all? I’m in NY, if this makes any difference.

I can’t speak to New York specifically, but in general, in most states, you would qualify for unemployment. In fact, even if you give a specific date of resignation — say, December 1 — and they told you to leave now, in most states you’d be eligible for unemployment between now and December 1.

However, I strongly encourage you to base your decision on whether or not to give them a heads-up on how you’ve seen them handle other people who have given generous notice periods. Have people been pushed out earlier than they would have otherwise planned to leave? If so, they’ve given up any entitlement to a long notice period from other people. But if they have a track record of accommodating long notice periods, has been grateful to employees who provide long notice, and has generally shown that employees can feel safe being candid about their plans to leave, then you should feel safe in proceeding with your plan.

6. Name-dropping in cover letters

I have a cover letter question. Is it appropriate to drop a family member’s name in your cover letter, ever? Or would it just come off as unprofessional or insincere? My case is my grandfather worked for a certain small sector of the government for over thirty years, and I am applying for a position there now. I would like to mention him because his career is inspiring to me and one of the reasons I am very interested in this field of work. I am not assuming they will recognize his name as he passed away many years ago, but who knows. I thought since this is a unique connection it might be worth noting. Would it sound better to leave his name out but still mention my grandfather worked as a [title], or leave out the connection out all together? My main concern is I will come across as presuming I will get the job because I have a connection.

And on a similar note, how do you feel about mentioning living family or friends who are currently working in the field you are applying to (assuming they are influential and well-known in this field)? Cheesy or helpful?

I’m not a big fan of name-dropping unless it’s something like “Jane Smith suggested I apply,” and Jane Smith is someone who the person reading your cover letter knows. Otherwise it sounds like name-dropping for name-dropping’s sake. The better way to utilize contacts who are working in the field you’re applying in is to have those people reach out to their contacts on your behalf to recommend you.

With your grandfather, I could potentially see saying something like, “My grandfather, Bill Smith, worked for XYZ Agency more than 30 years, and my talks with him about A and B are what originally interested me in the field.” But even then, you risk your reader wondering if you’re mentioning him because you think it’ll get you preferential treatment, so I could argue this either way.

7. Correcting a cover letter mistake

I am a recent graduate and I have been diligently working on job applications. Last month, I applied to a position at the global research department at HSBC’s investment bank. It was a long shot, but I later completed a first round phone interview and was told my application will be more thoroughly screened before deciding whether to invite me to a final round interview at their head offices.

Great, I thought. I checked my application again and then realized an embarrassing mistake this weekend. On one question on the application form, it was asked what interests me in applying for my chosen business area. So I spent a long time explaining what fascinates me about research. But at the last sentence I wrote “what attracts me to the fast-paced world of trading.” I had not applied to any roles of trading anywhere.

I know that since I’ve already gone this far, this small thing could undo my entire application. What do you recommend to salvage my mistake without drawing attention to it? I know this role is detail oriented, so I want to spin my message into pointing out how picky I was to point out a small mistake which is greater than a typo. Should I call the HR? Should I email the manager of the department? Or should I do nothing and accept whatever happens?

Do not call HR. The last thing they want is to be bothered with a phone call about this type of mistake. If you do anything, send a short follow-up email correcting it. It may or may not help, since generally they’re looking for candidates who will find the mistake before the material gets sent out, not after, but there’s no harm in trying. Be aware that they’re going to assume you were copying and pasting from another cover letter that really was about trading.

{ 39 comments… read them below }

  1. AdAgencyChick*

    OP #2, if I were looking at your LinkedIn profile, assuming I bothered to read the recommendations (I don’t always), yes, I would notice that they were clustered around a particular time period, and that would make me assume not only that you asked for the recommendations but that you asked because you were fired or let go. So, not only would I take the recommendations with the usual grain of salt (see below), I’d also be wondering whether you were fired for cause or not, before I even brought you in for an interview.

    As for recommendations themselves, I don’t put stock in them unless they’re made by someone I know personally (and even then, I would use that as a jumping-off point to talk to that person and find out more). Not only, as Alison said, are they written for you to see (plus, you can delete ones that don’t please you, right?), but I have also seen at least one example of a recommendation written by a family member masquerading as a professional associate (they had different last names, so I guess the job seeker, a graphic designer, was hoping no one would figure out her MOTHER was the “satisfied client”). I know, not everyone is this shady, but it’s hard to tell who IS being shady from reading the recommendations (or who’s being nicer than s/he would be if called for a reference).

    Not everyone is as suspicious as I am, of course, but know that there might be hiring managers out there who will see a cluster of LinkedIn recos in the same time period as a slight negative, not a positive.

    1. The IT Manager*

      I honestly think LinkedIn recommendation are pointless because there’s no balence like a hiring company would recieve during a reference check. This is much the same as letters of recommendation which are pretty much no longer used. And both are easier faked then a reference check call (or email).

      What you want to do is keep in touch with your supervisors and superiors (not so much co-workers) so you can provide their names when you are asked for references.

    2. Bobby Digital*

      This is a (semi-related) question I’ve had recently:

      Aren’t references more likely to put only positive things in writing (or email), and be more candid about criticisms/weaknesses over the phone (when there’s no paper trail)?

      I’m wondering because a lot of applications/reference requests ask for both phone and email. Do most reference-checkers prefer speaking on the phone? Are there any advantages to checking references by email/LinkedIn?

      1. The IT Manager*

        I don’t know for sure, but a trend does seem to be asking the direct questions in email. i.e. what are the applicant’s strengths, weaknesses, do they meet schedule, etc, etc.

        Perhaps a reference may be less likely to put an outright lie in writing – “He’s always on time.” And may have less opportunity to hem and haw. But on the phone, I assume the hemming and hawing is a sign that you won;t get over email.

      2. Eric*

        In my case, they asked for an e-mail address for the references, and used e-mail to set up a time for a phone call, rather than having to play phone tag.

    3. Blinx*

      I could have written #2, since I have 6 or 7 recommendations, all from the same week or two. Future employers can tell from my profile that I haven’t worked in the last 10 months, so they don’t need to read between the lines on the recs. I’m not sure why someone would assume I was fired for cause, especially since the recs are from past supervisors. I do like that they are there, though, since I’ve got recs from 3 past employers and colleagues from various departments that I’ve interfaced with.

      I am curious why LinkedIn attaches dates to these. At the bottom of the page there is a link for Feedback — we could suggest that dates be optional or left off altogether. Also, you DO have the option not to show some of the recs.

      1. Anonymous*

        Dates are helpful to show the ‘freshness’ of the recommendations. Imagine if a former colleague asked you for a recommendation, but you haven’t worked with them in several years. What you write now may not be the same as what you’d write back then.

    4. Hari*

      I don’t see how someone asking for recommendations would be bad? Linkedin practically sets it up were you can ask for recommendations en masse (I think its told me before my profile wasn’t “completed” because I had yet to ask). I’m thinking a greater majority of those with recommendations got them from asking. Also why would it be worse if someone was recently let go? For me, until I was laid off from one of my first jobs I didn’t think of asking anyone for a recommendation on linkedin. If the candidate was fired or did a poor job I doubt they could get a bunch of recs anyway or if they did (out of obligation) its not like a company doesn’t hold their own reference checks which are the ones that really matter. I know it doesn’t look “natural” if it looks like the candidate asked for the recs, but I don’t see how that should count against them if people were willing to give it.

      1. OP #2*

        Interesting feedback, thanks everyone! If the recommendations I received were vague and along the lines of “Yea, she’s a really nice person”, I think I would just not risk it, and opt to leave those out, but the recommendations are very specific to my field, and the experiences that each colleague had working with me. Almost all provide positive concrete examples of my work and work ethic, so I think I believe they’ll do more good than harm.

        Because I’m 24 (2 years out of college), I’m competing with folks with much more experience, so if LinkedIn recommendations can help me out (even a little), I think they’re a positive. I know LinkedIn recommendations don’t carry much weight, but ANY positive reinforcement I can carry with me throughout this job hunt, I’ll take!

      2. OP #2*

        Also, I know that ideally recommendations look better spread out over a time period rather than all at once (clearly indicated that I asked for recommendations), but I don’t think it’s all bad anymore.

        I can think of several colleagues that I would absolutely, positively write glowing references for, yet I never have. Not because they weren’t deserving, but because I, like many others, don’t really set aside time to write recommendations.

  2. The IT Manager*

    LW#1 LinkedIn is not a electronic resume. Okay so it sort of is, and many people only update it or work on it when they are job hunting, but it is designed to be more than a resume. It is designed as a professional social networking site so photos are okay and very helpful when I am trying to hunt someone down with a common name from my past.

    A lot of people only use it when job hunting, and I admit I only created a profile when I was out of work. It has been mentioned here that if you do have a job you should still keep updating semi-regularly so when you start your next job hunt you don’t alert your employer by making the first change in your profile since you were hired.

    1. Blinx*

      There’s an option on preferences to not make any updates public. If you think you will be heavily revising your profile before job hunting, just turn this feature off.

  3. Lindsay H.*

    For #7, how do you send that second email after a mistake? Do acknowledge it with a “I realize I did not put my best foot forward with my previous résumé. I would like to submit this one for your consideration.” or should you keep it more general like, “I have made a couple of minor updates to my résumé […]”?

    1. Aaron*

      If you [I realize you are not necessarily the OP] wanted to update it, I’d try to spin it as something you learned in the first-round interview, unless there’s no getting around the fact you should have known originally.

      But at this point I personally wouldn’t update anything: the company decided they liked you despite the mistake, and is moving you on despite the mistake–it’s obviously not a deal-breaker for them. You’re guaranteed to speak in person with more interviewers, so you can deal with it at that point if it comes up. Just make sure you have a very good idea of the role, so you don’t compound the idea that you don’t know what the role is.

  4. Just Me*

    I literally just re-applied for a job yesterday. Last year I intereviewed, got a 2nd interview but didn’t get the job. Now the job is available again almost a year to the date again.
    I do not know if it another position opened or they are replacing someone.
    The reason I say this was when I applied for the job they were thinking of hiring 2 but then went to only one.

    Anyway, I shot off a cover and a resume. In my cover I just said I spoke with ” Mr. Jones” last year and would like to disucss my qualifications again…. ” Something to that nature.

    I figured that since I had gotten a 2nd interview I must have done OK to start with.

    Hopefully I will get an interview again and this time a job offer !

    1. Just Me*

      Should I contact the manager who I talked to before directly by E-mail ?

      I am kind of thinking not and to let HR see it and make that decision to forward on my resume.

      Thoughts anyone ?

        1. Just Me*

          This would be directly to the guy I spoke with before. The one hiring.
          Just a quick ” Hi am back… still interested in the position……” with my resume and cover. And let him know I submitted it through HR ?


            1. Just Me*

              Yeah.. I know… : )
              Cool thanks !

              Like I said I made it to the 2nd round the last time so I am to believe they liked me enough.

              Ok… onto to creating an awesome cover…

  5. The IT Manager*

    LW#7 said the error was on the application. So if she means electronic application system, I think she’s stuck. She might could ask if she could update her application, but this may be nearly impossible depending on the system – application closed out and promising ones forwarded to reviewers already.

    Frankly it sucks after passing the first round, but I think this a rock and a hard place. Your opportunity to correct mistakes was before you clicked submit, and I just don’t know if you should draw attention to it now by bringing it up.

    If you had made an error in your research and it had been published/sent out before you noticed the mistake then you’d have to alert your bosses, but in this case the only one hurt by your mistake might be you. And depending on the impact of your hypothetical error on the job, you might have been fired.

    Assuming I understand the situation correctly (closed out, electronic application), I’d personally not mentioned it but also be prepared to address it in the interview if it comes up. If it was a mistake on a cover letter, I would email HR a new cover letter and ask them if they could use the new version with my application packet.

  6. Blinx*

    #4 – Mentioning a layoff… I recently had 3 interviews (yeah!), and none of them brought up the fact that I was unemployed and wanted to know why. If they did ask, I could just say I was one of 6 laid off from my department (of 1 or 15,000 from the company overall), so that it’s understood that I wasn’t the only one let go. On online apps when there’s a spot for “why did you leave”, I usually put layoff/outsourced. But I’ve never put it in a cover letter.

    1. Kou*

      Actually, you made me just realize that none of the interviews I’ve been to recently asked me about the fact that I’m unemployed, either.

  7. Anon21*

    #6 – I’m got a similar sort of situation, though not with regard to a family connection. I interned at an organization about a year ago, and am now applying to a full time position. In my cover letter, I am planning on mentioning that I worked on project x with person y, who is still with the organization. I don’t feel I know y well enough to reach out and have her recommend me, but I figure that the hiring manager might reach out to y and say “remember when applicant worked on x for you? How was that?”

    What do people think? Good idea? Bad idea?

    1. Zed*

      IMHO, that’s not actually a similar situation–what you have here is a business contact and a possible recommendation/reference!

      You should DEFINITELY mention Y in the cover letter and also reach out to her, especially because it is likely that the hiring manager will. This is doubly true if Y was your internship supervisor or coordinator.

      I would write an email that says something along the lines of, “Dear Y, I just wanted to let you know that I am applying for the XYZ position at Company. The ABC internship I completed last year convinced me that I’d love to work at Company for Reasons. Thank you again for your role in helping me gain valuable work experience in [field].” Don’t do a hard sell, but definitely remind them who you are and what you did. Unless this person volunteered to be a reference in the past, I would not ask her directly if she’d be one–but telling her about the job gives her the chance to volunteer to be a reference or to contact whoever is doing the hiring.

      1. fposte*

        I agree. This also avoids the weirdness of Y finding out from the hiring manager that her name was included in a cover letter without her knowing.

    2. Kou*

      Definitely tell the person you worked with that you’re applying there. I like Zed’s format, too. And I think this is a good idea because, unlike in the OP, the person your mentioning is still there.

      1. Anon21*

        Well, since that seems to be the consensus, I guess I will. I think I’m more than usually self-conscious about networking type interactions, because I hadn’t been planning to reach out to this person out of fear she wouldn’t really remember me (it was a pretty small project I worked on with her). Maybe that means I ought to drop the mention of this particular person in the cover letter, if I don’t even feel comfortable reaching out to let her know I’m applying.

  8. OP #6*

    Thanks for answering my question! I’m leaning towards leaving it out, although I could see bringing it up in an interview if they ask what interests me about this work. It seems less forced and hinting of preferential treatment that way, at least imo.

    1. KarenT*

      I think that’s a good plan.

      This is anecdotal evidence, so it may not work for you. My cousin applied for a job at the company his grandfather had worked at for his entire career. My cousin decided not to mention his grandfather at all but during the last round of interviews was asked why do you want to work here. My cousin spoke about how his grandfather was his inspiration and how proud he was of the company. My cousin was hired. His boss told him they were going to make him an offer regardless, but that that story gave them an extra boost of confidence that my cousin was the right fit.

  9. Sabrina*

    #5 I got unemployment after saying I was already looking elsewhere. I was really stupid to tell them that, but my manager asked me point blank, and I’m a terrible liar. She said no problem, don’t worry about it, let us know if you need time to interview. A month later she wanted my end date from me. I knew the situation could not have continued forever with me looking and them being so “generous” but I wasn’t expecting her to say that. I told her I didn’t have one (since I hadn’t found a job yet!). I asked her what she thought. I didn’t want to be seen as quitting, since I wasn’t. She gave me a date, and that was my last day. They did try to fight UI, saying I was fired due to misconduct, but the state found in my favor.

    Anyway, I’d just be careful in what you say to them. Sure you want to give them a heads up but if you don’t have something lined up, they could get antsy if something doesn’t happen as quickly as they would like.

    1. OP #5*

      thanks for your story. One of my concerns was that upon me telling them, that they would try to terminate me on other grounds – like they attempted with you.

      1. Long Time Admin*

        This happened to me once, too. The Unemployment lady that I talked to knew all about this kind of thing, and could not find any truth in the company’s claims, so I got my unemployment.

      2. Anonymous J*

        I did let my old company know that I was intending to find a new job, trying to be gracious, but they ended up firing me 3 months later.

        My advice, don’t tell them anything. Find a new job and then give your standard 2 week notice. It was a tough lesson, but I learned that it doesn’t matter how long you have worked for a company, they aren’t your “family” they are a business. There is no loyalty.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      I don’t know how it is in other states. In NY they can fire you, if you tell them that you are looking for another job. They cannot fire you if you have given notice (with a specific date).
      I know of one instance where someone gave three weeks notice and he was fired. Simply because the notice was longer than two weeks.
      There are probably variations depending on what industry.

      My thought is to approach this with care. If there is a company handbook- I would do exactly what it says in the handbook.

  10. OP#7*

    Thanks for the comments. I realize that it’s already somewhat miraculous they still consider me despite my rather goofy mistake and that the only thing to do now is to hope for the best and be upfront about it if a real interview comes up.

  11. Ouette*

    #4 Thanks for the advice and feedback. Maybe I feel that there is a perception that layoffs are a way to get rid of deadwood, and that if you had been any good at your job the company would have kept you on.

    1. Blinx*

      That is a huge misperception. Deadwood should be gotten rid of regardless of a layoff situation. Layoffs are to eliminate positions, not people (although it IS hard not to take personally). What is surprising, though, is seeing top-performers let go.

      1. Long Time Admin*

        We’ve already had 4 layoffs at my company, so the deadwood is long gone. Now they’re eliminating jobs strictly as a cost saving measure. (And all the executives took a cut in pay! That surprised the heck out of us.)

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