mini answer Monday — 7 short answers to 7 short questions

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

1. Employee won’t drive in mildly bad weather conditions

I have an employee whose job largely consists of using our company vehicle to drive around the outlying areas to run programs or meet potential partners. She started in the spring and does a great job. However, now that winter is coming, it’s become apparent that she is overly nervous about driving in what she considers “poor” weather. I don’t mean a blizzard or icy conditions. She’s not comfortable driving if there’s a speck of snow or frost on the ground or in the air. I can see this becoming a problem because she can’t just shut down our services over the winter just because she’s scared to drive, nor do other staff have time to drive her around (which has happened on a couple recent occasions). On the other hand, I don’t want to force her to drive if she feels unsafe, and clearly our definitions of poor conditions/weather is different. How can I approach this with her?

Of course you don’t want to force her to drive if she feels unsafe, but the job consists largely of driving around. I’d address that head-on with her: “Jane, I’ve noticed that you don’t seem comfortable driving when it seems like it might snow. I certainly don’t want to put you in a situation where you feel uncomfortable, but the majority of the job involves driving. What are your thoughts on how to handle this as winter approaches?” You should be explicit with her that the person in her role will need to drive unless ___ (it’s a blizzard / dangerously icy / whatever the case is), and ask if that’s something she feels she’ll be able to do.

I hate driving in bad weather too, but the reality is that she’s in a job that requires it, so she’s going to need to figure out whether it’s the right position for her or not.

2. When should I tell my current company that I’m interviewing?

I am in a job that I love. The people I work with and for are great, and work is something I am passionate about, I certainly wasn’t looking for more. However, a recruiter contacted me recently, and what she had to offer was too good to not follow up on. Now I have made it through 2/3 of the interview process for a position that would not only take me away from the company I am currently working for, it would force me to move across the country. It would also be a considerable promotion.

The last portion of the interview process is to meet with the potential new company in person. The company is flying me out there the first week in December. I need to take time off from my current job in order to accommodate the interview for the other, I have the time to take, but I work at a small company and I am not sure how to handle people asking me where I am going or why I am asking for the time off. I know I could just shrug it off and say that I am taking personal days, but here is the rub:

If I get an offer from the other company I would not want to have seemed dishonest in not explaining where I was that first week in December. If I do not get an offer from the company but explain that I am being flown out for an interview I am worried that my employer will be on edge thinking that I am looking to leave. My current job is asking for schedule commitments far into the future, I do not have a reason to say “no” right now, but the chance of me getting this other position is quite good. So , when is the right time to talk to a current employer about a possible new position? When there is an interview? When there is an offer?

Unless you have an unusual relationship with your manager, wait until you have a job offer. Hell, wait until you have a job offer that you’ve accepted. All too often, when employees divulge that they’re job searching, they end up being pushed out of good projects, not given bonuses or raises (which are seen as a retention strategy, and why bother if you’re leaving anyway), or even let go (whether it’s being first on a layoff list or outright fired). That’s not always the case, but you need to be positive that your manager and your company don’t operate that way before you risk it.

Yes, if you resign, it may be obvious that your trip was for an interview, but so be it. That’s how this stuff goes; it shouldn’t mean that you put yourself at risk unnecessarily. Most employers are aware that employees don’t announce when they’re job-searching.

3. Showing increasing responsibilities on your resume

How do I show how my responsibilities increased within the same position on my resume? For example, in my first year as communications coordinator, I redesigned our annual report, adding additional graphics and making it more reader-friendly, but my predecessor did all the writing. The second year, I edited the program overview, written by someone else, and drafted the financial information. The third year I drafted the whole annual report (although it was edited by my boss). How do I show that my level of responsibility has grown?

“Assumed increasing levels of responsibility for X, Y, and Z.”

4. Being required to take time off

I work at a very large hospital in Georgia. My department has been mandated to take off 6 days in the month of December. My manager has told me that I (only me) needs to take an additional week off due to “workload.” I do not wish to use my vacation time for this week. Can she mandate me to take this additional week? It seems I am being singled out as no one else in the department has been told they also have to take an additional week during this time?

Yes, that’s legal, as long as the reason you were selected isn’t your race, religion, sex, etc.

5. Interviewer never followed up after missing our scheduled call

I was recently contacted by a recruitment specialist to discuss a senior-level job I had applied for at a small international NGO. We exchanged about 6 emails, with her asking me my salary requirements and then asking me my availability so that we could chat about the job by phone. She proposed the day and I proposed the time. Anyway, I brushed up on my interview techniques (using your guide, of course!) and the time for my phone chat came… and went without a call. Thinking she had gotten the time zone mixed up, I sent her an email to ask if we were still on. No response. So later on that day I called her office and was told that she was out sick. Fair enough!

Three days have now passed without a word. I decided to put matters to rest by phoning this morning and was told that she was “away from her desk” and was instructed to leave a voicemail.

I was hoping you might be able to help me figure out what’s going on. I’m not going to contact her further and I don’t mind if they may have filled the position but isn’t it unprofessional to set up an interview time with a candidate ( I took time preparing) and then never follow through by phone or email to cancel the session? This whole ordeal has left a sour taste in my mouth about the organization.

Yes, it’s extremely unprofessional. And rude. But also extremely common, unfortunately, particularly among employers who wrongly feel that they hold all the cards in a hiring situation. You can certainly continue to try to reschedule with her, but you’re right to be put off.

6. Listing multiple versions of software on your resume

When submitting a resume for a technical position, I hate it when people list every VERSION of the software they have experience on. I’ve seen people list every version of Word, Excel, Power Point, Access and all manner of other software. It doesn’t look impressive; it looks like you’re padding your resume. There are some things where listing the version of software will matter, but not basic things, which don’t change all that drastically from version to version or things which are so extremely outdated nobody uses them anymore. (No … I don’t really care if you’re familiar with Windows 3.1 and 3.11 … really.)

Agreed; it often looks like either resume padding or naivete about what’s significant. (Obviously, there are some software programs where it might matter, but Word isn’t one of them.)

7. Listing side work on your resume

I’m wondering what your opinion is on whether it’s wise to put a side job on my resume. I have a full-time day job and do some iOS app development on the side. I’m torn because the side business is successful and relevant to the industry that I work in. On the other hand, I don’t want an employer to think that I wouldn’t focus on my day job. I make it a point to separate the two responsibilities but it’s hard to convey that in a resume. The whole situation is complicated further by the fact that I’m updating my resume to apply for a lateral move within my present company.

If it’s relevant and strengthens your candidacy, I’d include it. However, be prepared for questions about how much of your time it takes up. And in some situations, you might even be told you’d need to drop it if offered the job, so you’d want to be prepared for that too.

{ 166 comments… read them below }

  1. BW*

    #6 – even in situations where it might matter (For example, Clintrial 3.1 and 4.5 are wildly different) there is no need to put the version on your resume. I’ve found that hiring managers will ask the version if it has any bearing on anything, which is usually how much training you might need if you are used to working on a different version than what’s being used on that particular job. I have a lot of software I could list on my resume. I keep it relevant and don’t list versions. When employers are looking for something specific, don’t make them dig though a novel to find the one or two skills they really care about.

    1. BW*

      And there’s really no need to add OSs to that list unless the job requires being familiar with multiple OSs or a specific OS that isn’t some flavor of MacOS or Windows. If you are looking for a job as a Unix admin, this kind of thing is appropriate. If you are doing administrative assistant work, just listing MS Office covers your bases there.

      1. Lulu*

        As someone on the admin/non-tech side, I was actually advised by a recruiter to include the this kind of thing for ATS reasons – i.e. PC and Mac proficiency; Microsoft Office (Outlook, Word, Excel, Powerpoint), etc. I hadn’t been doing it previously, because to me it seemed to look either like padding or like I didn’t realize that these were not out of the ordinary skills. But given the number of postings I see that cite things like Mac experience or heavy Excel as requirements, it does seem prudent to include. (Obviously, this doesn’t negate the point about versions being redundant – I’m hoping ATS doesn’t get *that* granular!)

        1. Jamie*

          If you have anything besides the very basics in Office you want to note that. People are not proficient just because they can open an xlsx file and add up a couple of cells. If you can do pivot tables and other advanced functions you want to note that. Because that makes you about 1000X more interesting to someone hiring for that than everyone who think they are awesome because they learned how to resize a column.

          And Mac experience isn’t that common in all businesses, definitely list it.

          If you were applying at my company as a non-tech admin and you had advanced Office and Mac on your resume I’d push hard for you to get an interview, for selfish reasons. I’d be hoping like heck you were awesome and willing to train people on all the crap I’m sick of talking about.

          If I had the time back I’ve spend teaching people to capture screen shots and paste them in Word I’d be a much younger woman.

          1. Blinx*

            And the reverse is true. I work in graphics, and Mac is the standard. I’ve also used PCs forever, but don’t mention either Mac or PC on my resume. But quite often, I see “must be proficient in Mac and PC” on a job posting. I’ll mention it in a cover letter, but I guess I should add it to the resume too. Same for Quark. I used that for 10 years or so, but not since switching to InDesign a while back. Now I’m seeing that in ads too! But I’m not going to put the version no.

            1. Esra*

              Oh man, seeing Quark required in a job ad is code to run.

              I have the Adobe suite listed and that I can work in Mac or PC environments. Honestly, I think most people would be comfortable switching between them if you’re using the same software, but some shops just get stuck in their ways and seem to think it’s like speaking a different language.

          2. BW*

            One project I was on, we made up handy small laminated cards with instructions on how to take a screenshot and paste it in Word and distributed them to everyone. Whenever someone new came on, they’d get one. When I’d go offsite it warmed the cockles of my heart to see that people kept them on their desk or pinned them up within eye shot. :)

          3. AnotherAlison*

            +1 – agree with what Jamie said, but also, please don’t just put “advanced Excel skills” on your resume. List ’em. Pivot tables, arrays, VBA?

            1. Katie*

              Does anyone know a good tutorial site where I could study things like this? I’d love to learn how to use Excel better; I fully admit I’m not an advanced user. It doesn’t seem like these sorts of functions would be too difficult to learn on one’s own (though feel free to disabuse me of that notion, if need be).

        2. KayDay*

          I keep a small section at the bottom of my resume with all my software skills, including MS Office and Adobe Creative Suite. I’ll delete if those sorts of things are listed at all on the job description, but I’ve seen so many job descriptions requiring things like “proficiency in MS Word” so I normally use it. It’s one of those things where you don’t know if the hiring manager is someone who thinks that writing a formal in excel to do addition is a miracle, so I like to mention it. (This applies to non-tech role only, obviously).

    2. M-C*

      However I’ve been working in software for decades, and my exposure to specific software could be way out of date. Don’t want to mislead people. However, it’s OK to mention at most the first and last versions, not the entire list :-).
      I’d say it can be important though – I look through junior people’s resumes with an eye to whether they’ve lived through a major upgrade already. If not, I know I may be in for some major training, as they won’t know how to prepare the terrain for a less painful experience, or even think to do it.

  2. Not So NewReader*

    For OP #1, I too have big time fear of winter driving. There are lots of things the employee can do to help herself. I take defensive driving courses every three years. I have Triple A. My current thing is to learn something about buying good snow tires. (I have no clue about tires. And yes, quality tires do make a difference.)
    So in short- I would ask her what tools she has collected up to help herself with her fear. Probably she has not collected up any. I think reassurances from you that she does not have to drive in an ice storm would be helpful.
    Telling her that her job depends on it- will only make things worse for her. She already knows her job depends on it.

    I had to drive in ice storms. I have a small scar on my face from that time in my life. This is when I started taking a more proactive approach- because the accident made my fears even worse. I don’t know if I am less afraid- but I do know that I am working things as best I can.

    1. Mike C.*

      I think it’s appropriate for the employer to provide AA coverage or proper tires given that it’s a company vehicle.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I agree. However, very seldom do I see this happen in real life.

        Yes, even the tires on the company car are sadly lacking. I have been sent out in company vehicles were brakes were optional. This was considered very funny.

          1. Not So NewReader*

            Yep. The company culture was such that I was perceived as silly for expecting the brakes to work. In the end, I spoke to another high ranking woman in the company and she saw to it I got a safe vehicle. I really did not want to go over anyone’s head so that was hard for me to ask.

          1. Anon*

            Unless you are in the UK, where AA stands for Automobile Association and is one of the major roadside assistance providers…

            Yup, great potential for cultural misunderstandings!

    2. businesslady*

      this is slightly OT, but a few years ago I took an unpaid day off from my job because the forecast was dire & I was temporarily living 90 minutes away from my office in an area that didn’t plow or salt at ALL. I called my boss very early that morning, explained that I didn’t have that much going on that day, & would it be all right if I didn’t come in? her response was “do what you have to do.”

      …the following day, I found myself getting written up for absenteeism. in the subsequent meeting with HR, I learned that my boss had conveniently failed to mention our phone conversation, a detail I clarified in the rebuttal email that was included in my “file” (which I can only assume is like your Permanent Record–only worse) along with the citation.

      I’ve gotten two promotions since then, so clearly I wasn’t marked as unreliable for all eternity, but man did that piss me off. bosses, don’t say “do what you need to do” when your employee has made it clear they intend to do something that you feel is grounds for a write-up!

      1. anon-2*

        Yeah once I stayed home to care for my house and family when a hurricane was about to strike our area (and it did).

        I was docked.


        What did the company do? They waited until the hurricane hit and sent employees out, closed the office IN THE MIDDLE OF THE HURRICANE!

        This is what I call, rightfully and correctly disrespectfully, a “management DUH”…. Yeah I lost a day’s pay. I think somewhere in that process I gave the impression that I’m not stupid.

      2. Jamie*

        her response was “do what you have to do.”

        I’ve always assumed that was passive-aggressive speak for “this will have consequences.”

        I personally wouldn’t be so vague – but I’ve seen this enough to assume this is code for a write up or lecture is to follow.

        1. anon-2*

          Also, keep in mind that a senior VP, who may live in a penthouse apartment in the city and one block from the urban office, might view weather conditions a little more pig-headedly than someone who has to drive 35 miles to work.

          When the decision-maker / manager ends up wrapping his/her car around a phone pole in an ice storm, then, often ONLY then, are conditions “bad enough” to say “we must close the office today.”

        2. BCW*

          I agree. I’ve had managers say that to me, and I know it meant they disapproved of my actions and there might be negative consequences if I chose to do whatever it was.

          1. businesslady*

            after this experience, I’ve definitely learned to consider the other possible interpretation of this phrase (& earlier in my career, I’d heard it used in response to calling in sick from my retail job; there, the tone conveyed the real intention).

            but I’ve also had a lot of bosses & colleagues use it sincerely–“I just learned there’s an emergency at home; mind if I leave early?” “oh, of course! do what you have to do”–so automatically assuming it’s passive-aggressive just seems cynical. plus, it seems more appropriate to attach the potential consequences if you’re using it that way–“do what you have to do, but our policy dictates that we treat this as an unexcused absence,” for example.

            1. some1*

              I had to say this once when I was the equivalent of shift leader years ago in retail. I was closing with just one part-timer and we were swamped. My co-worker’s kids were home with a sitter, who apparently left for a quick errand and didn’t come back. I said, “Do what you have to do” because I was upset at being left alone for the rest of the night, but I knew it wasn’t her fault. I did not try to get her in trouble for it, though.

    3. Angie*

      Perhaps you could refer this employee to the EAP, who may be able to find a driving instructor to teach/reinforce good driving habits in bad weather. It might bolster the employee’s confidence in driving in poor conditions.

      I live in an area that frequently has bad winter weather. Its a matter of taking a deep breath, paying close attention to your surroundings and going slow!

    4. Camellia*

      Excellent advice! Keep in mind that AAA coverage belongs to the driver, not the car. So if you are an AAA member you can request services for whatever vehicle you are in and it doesn’t matter if you are the driver or a passenger.

      When my teenager started driving and being with others who were driving, it was a great relief to add her to my AAA membership and know that whenever she was out, she was covered.

  3. Mike C.*

    OP1 – A few thoughts. Perception of weather is really, really hard, because it’s all based on where you grew up, what you’re used to, what you’re experiencing now , how prepared you are for it and how well the local authorities deal with the issues.

    1. Set a clear line as to what safe driving conditions are and aren’t so there isn’t an argument. Say, “if the local authorities advise people not to drive” or if “schools are closed down for the day”. That way there’s a clear standard for everyone to follow, and there’s no ambiguous “well I feel/don’t feel safe”.

    2. Are your company vehicles prepared for winter in the climate you’re based in? Do they have proper tires/chains and emergency gear in case someone gets stuck? Do you have a set plan for what employees should do in case something bad happens on the road? Numbers to call? This not only shows that you care about your employees, it also gives your employees confidence to know how to handle a bad situation should they find themselves in one.

    3. If these fears are serious and you say this person is an otherwise solid employee, have someone go driving with them to get used to the idea of ice and snow. If you aren’t used to driving in snow or ice it’s the scariest thing until you do it in a safe environment, and it’s hard to understand if you’ve grown up doing it all the time. Maybe having a more experienced drive with them for confidence.

    Now, if you’re located in Tampa or something, then I have no idea what to tell you. But it sounds like this person needs the tools to overcome a very reasonable fear, and once overcome the problem should be taken care of.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Right on! My friend had a boss that had lived 5 hours south of here. He took a new position up here. Boss had NO clue how big a difference that 5 hours made. People tried to explain to the Boss Man. It took two years. Finally, after one particularly nasty snow storm, Boss Man broke down and admitted, “Yeah, this is tough. And yeah, I need advice from you guys how to handle problems x, y and z.”

      1. Josh S*

        At least Boss Man (eventually) admitted he needed help, and sought it from his in-house experts/employees. Speaks a bunch for him, even if it took him a while to get there…

        1. Not So NewReader*

          He was basically a good guy. I think he had so much new stuff coming at him that he had to pick and chose his battles. He had a new job, new house, new area, new school for the kiddos, etc. The real issue was he handled the situation gruffly. He could have had more of an open mind- that people do know about the area they live in.

    2. BCW*

      Good point. I’m from Chicago, so I’m pretty comfortable driving in just about any winter weather, since I did my drivers ed in the middle of winter. It takes a lot for me to feel unsafe driving. But if people are from the south and they live up here, things that I would find perfectly safe, they may find unsafe. The problem is, if they feel unsafe then it is, since the less confident they are, the better. However, with this being a work thing, they need to get comfortable really fast, because as the poster said, work doesn’t just stop because its snowing.

      1. Chinook*

        +100. Up here in most of Canada (notable exceptions being the Vancouver area), such complaints would have them questioning your general competency as winter driving IS driving. A few snow flakes? We call that June (I only wish I was joking).

        But, when I have worked with someone from farther south, I have taken them aside the first time they mentioned they were nervous about driving in the weather and talked to them about all the things I learned growing up in this weather (up to and including how to walk on the icy parking lot and that, when you fall, remember to keep your head up so you don’t knock yourself out).

        I would also recommend she take a winter driving class where she can learn what it feels like when your car slides out of control and how to get it back. Treat it like a professional development skill, even if she can’t use it on a resume in the future.

          1. Chinook*

            1. Good footwear is essential. Carry your heels and put them on when you get inside. Backpacks can change your centre of balance and you risk landing on the contents as most people fall backwards.
            2. Watch where you are walking. You are better able to react if you know you are walking on something slippery or uneven. Black ice can sometimes be spitted because the surface looks a little different that the surrounding area.
            3. Make sure you place your foot firmly down when you take a step. This may seem obvious, but most slips happen when someone is moving quickly. Wen in doubt, assume that you won’t have any traction.
            4. When you fall, keep your head up and relax. The only part of your body that you should be worried about hitting the ground is your head. If you you relax the rest of your body, it will hurt less the next day.
            5. Unless you are in danger of being hit by a vehicle, when you fall, take a moment to assess your body and the ground before you get back up. Make sure you are in one piece, haven’t hit your head and aren’t bleeding. Then, check to see how icy the area where you landed is. Most of the time, you can just get up, brush yourself off and keep going. But, if there is a large section of polished ice, you may want to be crawl to where you have traction. Undignified, yes. Safe, yes.
            6. Bumps and bruises can be treated with a hot bath that night. If you get sharp pains the next day, make an appointment to see a doctor. It is not an emergency but you may have done damage to your tail bone or hips.

            Did I miss anything?

            1. MN*

              Shuffle your feet (walk like a penguin, almost) instead of actually picking up your feet. Otherwise, you’ve got a nice list. :)

            2. Long Time Admin*

              If you are carrying anything and you feel yourself starting to fall, drop what you’re carrying and save yourself.

              I took a tumble last week, and when I knew I was going down, I let go of stuff I had in my hands. I also have an ample backside, so when possible, I try to land on that, rather than my knees. Of course, sometimes you don’t have time to do anything or even think.

              Some people will carry a cane or a walking stick, but I think that’s just one more thing that can slide out from under you if you put any weight on it.

              Definitely do the penguin walk, or the skate glide. Don’t worry about what anyone else thinks.

    3. Bridgette*

      Glad you mentioned setting clear definitions of unsafe conditions. I grew up in Texas and if we get an inch of snow or sleet, everything is closed and it’s the end of the world. It sounds like the OP’s employee might come from a similar culture.

      1. Katie*

        I don’t know if I would call that a culture so much as a region/municipality that is not prepared to deal with extreme winter weather. Two years ago Houston shut down everything but emergency services in anticipation of an overnight ice storm. All the northerners were cackling at the absurdity of it all, but there were still 500 traffic accidents the next day. And that’s not all because people don’t know how to drive in those conditions. It’s not like Houston is investing in plows and salt trucks. Some cities don’t have the tools to deal with extreme weather they don’t encounter very often.

        I nostalgically pulled my ice scrapers out of the trunk that day. Thank goodness I neglected getting rid of those for a good ten years.

        1. Bridgette*

          Good point, I think it is a bit of both. First, we’re simply not prepared, as individuals and as a region, for that kind of weather. Second, there are people who don’t want to drive if it’s somewhat cold and raining – the threat of ice and snow is simply not there, but they are afraid it will happen. I used to have a coworker who would not drive in rain, period.

    4. Kou*

      I completely agree. And if she’s from an area that doesn’t get dangerous winter conditions, or if she’s never needed to drive in them before for some reason, there will be a learning curve she will need to ease into as well.

      It’s weird how regional commuting and weather expectations are. I grew up in Texas, then went to college in New Jersey. I was terrified in the winter and left extremely early (so I could drive extremely slowly) when there was snow or ice because I had never, ever driven in it before and had never been taught how. I looked it up and all, but it wasn’t yet a skill for me like it was for everyone else. No one batted an eye at it. Now I’ve recently moved to Seattle, and on rainy days (like today) I’m shocked to see people arriving very late and everyone shrugging it off because the weather’s bad and they just assume people will be late. It rains all winter here!

    5. M-C*

      I do feel for #1’s employee, as I’m from California :-). We have a hard time driving in the rain. I had a hard time adjusting to New England.. But I’ve since before the Expert Driving to go skiing in California, so there you go.
      I’d definitely check about the vehicle conditions, and address with the employee the fact that proper winter preparations have been made. Then talk about how driving is pretty much required through the winter as well and address the personal aspects.

    6. Long Time Admin*

      I’ve read a lot of the comments about this, and I have to say: Didn’t this woman *know* that driving was the job? Why would she take the job if she knew she would be unable to drive in anything but optimal conditions?

      It sounds like she is not the right fit for this job.

      Maybe there’s another job in the company that would be a better fit for her.

    7. KA*

      WOW, Mike, this is a great response!!

      I recently moved in Canada from California. I learned how to drive on the 101, and when I lived in San Francisco, I learned how to parallel park on a 90 degree angle. Seriously! Now, I’ve been practicing on Calgary’s city highways, and as long as I go slow and leave LOTS of space with the car infront of me, I’m just moderately freaked out.

      Recently, I was asked to travel 2 hours north for a company event. 2 hours north, in a freezing rain, snow storm. Coming back was the worst, with cars skidding off the road, and 2 major accidents. It took me 3.5 hours to get home, and I called my boyfriend just sobbing. Never, ever again. I told my boss, and he was really understanding and said he’d fly me out next time, and said if I’m ever unsure to just not go. I actually feel like that made me more comfortable for future trips, but I might ask about CAA, because you’re right, there should be a plan and a phone number to call if something happens!

  4. Spolio*

    OP #2: I was in the same situation, interviewing while working at a job that I liked, in a workplace where people got along well and talked about their personal lives at work.

    My solution was, if people asked why I was taking time off, to just say, “I have to take care of some personal business,” and smile. Most people will take the hint and assume it’s something they’d rather not know. If they keep asking, just say, “It’s kind of personal,” and give them an embarrassed smile. You don’t have to worry about being “caught in a lie,” because even if someone looks back on that incident (which they probably won’t) they will realize that you truly were attending to personal business.

    And yes, I did rehearse this whole routine in the mirror several times, though I ended up not needing it. :)

    1. Mike C.*

      There’s no need to be so passive. Tell them it’s none of their business and leave it at that. No need to games or clever turns of phrasing or fake smiles.

      You need to set limits with others and enforce them. If they get upset then that’s their issue, not yours. No one asks you how you spend your paycheck, and they shouldn’t be asking you how you use your other benefits either.

      1. Spolio*

        I am referring to situations where you are friendly with your coworkers, and generally talk about plans for the weekend, family, social activities and the like. In which case, is would be quite off-putting to suddenly shroud this one vacation day in mystery. I don’t feel any need to explain time off to random coworkers, but to friends at work, I do.

        1. Lisa*

          Do people not realize that curt responses make things worse in a workplace? If you want an enemy for making someone feel stupid for asking a simple question, then by all means tell them its none of their business. Suddenly people are hating on you and talking about how mean you are and what you could be hiding, when you want your time off to be a non-event and unnoticed.

          I do agree with the “no need to be passive” part, but come up with something benign to say like “staycation”.

          1. Lisa*

            I did once over share on purpose with a lie …

            coworker – where were you yesterday, interviewing?
            me – I went to the gynecologist. (looked dead straight into his eyes) Want to share some more?

            I was interviewing, but I felt like messing with him that day.

  5. Emily, admin extraordinaire*

    #6– I’d say there is an exception if you’re looking at admin work, and that’s the jump between Microsoft Office 2003 and 2007/2010. There was a significant redesign between these two versions, and knowing how to do something in one doesn’t always mean you can do it in the other. I learn new programs really easily, but having worked with 2003 in my last job and 2010 in this one, I faced a significant learning curve to get even the most basic things done and it really affected my productivity at first. When I apply for admin positions, I’d list it as “Microsoft Office (2003/2010)” because you never know which one the company is using.

    1. Jamie*

      I agree with this. When I upgraded version the training I needed to do to get people up to speed from 2003 was intense.

      If I were hiring for an admin position I’d want to know which version of Office.

    2. Flynn*

      I was going to say that – the update immobilised most of our students with terror and confusion and we had to figure out all kinds of odd things in a hurry for them. Not all of them are intuitive!

      Word is basic, but it’s also needed everywhere, and the shift from the 20o3 version was pretty major.

    3. Lulu*

      I was just thinking about this – when I left my last job, we had just been upgraded to the new 07/10 software, so I knew there was a big difference with the interface… and of course, I had a Mac & used Open Office at home. Fortunately I managed to get access to a PC so I could try to get up to speed for the future, but there’s definitely a learning curve.

  6. LCL*

    #1 What kind of car is the company car? Is it front/AWD? What kind of tires are on it? It is not right to tell her that she is expected to drive in bad weather then send her out in a prius or 2WD sedan or van. Make sure your vehicle is appropriate for the conditions she will encounter, then send her to a session of inclement driving school, then tell her that’s her job.

    1. fposte*

      But it’s not bad weather; it’s frost on the roads. You don’t need a four-wheel drive for that. In fact, you don’t need a four-wheel drive for most genuine winter driving in industrialized areas. It’s perfectly fine to send somebody out on the highway in a Prius in a frosty November.

      1. Chinook*

        Heck, I even see Smart Cars bombing around Calgary in -30. They are smaller than some snow piles. If you stick to main roads and put winter tires on, any car would work.

          1. Chinook*

            On the plus side, we’ve been plugging our cars in for years, so there are plenty of outlets in parking lots (even public ones!)

      2. MN*

        Ditto – If the city plow/salts/sand, you’ll be fine a 2WD vehicle with all season tires.

        I have lived in MN all my life and never had anything more than front wheel drive sedan with all season tires. In fact, I don’t think my family has even had an AWD vehicle, and we lived in the country on a gravel road (that did eventually get plowed).

        1. Chinook*

          I agree with the all-seasons tires. IT is also important to be able to do winter driving with them even if you do use winter tires because, you know, it can be winter conditions in September.

          But, if she is not used to winter driving at all, OP should suggest the company supply winter tires for her. The increased stopping distance in winter probably freaks her out and she may not be aware of how to compensate for it. If not for her safety, they should do it for her coworkers who share the drive in with her.

    2. Malissa*

      As a fleet manager I will tell a person that if they aren’t comfortable driving a front-wheel-drive car in the inclimate weather then they need not be driving any company car at all during bad weather. We live in an area where snow is common. Knowing how to drive in it should be a life skill.
      Now there are times when those who are traveling actually need 4WD and those people do get the proper vehicle for travel. But that’s due more to the DOT restrictions on a pass that our people have to frequent. The 4WD restriction is a result of people who live on the other side of that pass who enjoy mild weather all the time trying to cross it while not knowing how to drive in inclement condition.
      If an employee asks, our insurance company will set them up with a defensive driving course so they can improve their skills.

    3. Chassity*

      Often a company’s auto insurance company will provide free training, usually in video format, but sometimes a live class, for its clients’ employees. Clearly this employee isn’t a confident driver, so as LCL suggested, a simple class (preferably free!) could change a bad situation into a positive one.

      1. Chinook*

        As much as I am a believer in on-line tutorials, this is one of those times when hands on experience is important. Most of us winter dwellers have had at least one person (parent, friend of parent, or really crazy friend) take us to an empty parking lot and made us brake and slide our cars in snow, slush and ice so we would be comfortable. In fact, whenever I get a new car, I do this after the first snowfall just so I know what its breaking distance is.

        1. Laura L*

          YES. I’ve never had anyone take me to a parking lot to practice breaking and spinning out, but pretty much all my knowledge about driving in snow/ice comes from experience.

          Luckily, most of that experience was driving on empty roads in high school. Don’t practice this during rush hour!

    4. Not So NewReader*

      I am echoing everyone else here- I found that I really did not need a4WD. I preferred a front wheel drive vehicle. I had an SUV for years- by the time I got rid of it I had totally had it with that vehicle. The straw that broke the camel’s back was the black box control kept failing. Sometimes it would go into 4WD by itself, then other times I would want 4WD and it would not work. Nerve wracking…

  7. Jamie*

    I am curious as to whether OP #1 employee is a transplant from somewhere with milder weather.

    I’ve seen this in people who learned to drive in more temperate climates, and in those cases it a matter of time and experience to get acclimated.

    I learned to drive in winter in Chicago – but I’ve seen people refuse to take to the roads in Maryland when there was 1/4 inch of snow because of conditions. It’s all about what you’re used to.

    Now, if she’s a native of where ever you are and this is just a perception problem than I was of no help whatsoever.

    1. Josh S*

      I’m with you Jamie. It also makes a difference that the powers-that-be in MD don’t stockpile salt to spread on the roads. So that 1/4″ of snow quickly becomes 1/16″ of compressed ice, especially near intersections where warm tires and hot engines melt the snow while cars are stopped…

      I thought DC drivers were stupid scared about a little snow until I got on the roads. Took 3 days for them to get salt down and plow for about 6″ of snow. Yeah, I could handle my car just fine, but the conditions and lack of familiarity made me suspect everyone else was a skid away from a T-bone accident.

      1. Jamie*

        Agreed – and I wasn’t taking a shot at Maryland. It would be as ridiculous for them to invest in high level snow removal equipment as it would be for us to NOT invest in the same.

        I miss Maryland. Mild winters. Crab cakes. Tours of the Surratt house in summer and a picnic lunch on the benches outside.

      2. KellyK*

        Yeah, I had a very similar experience moving from northern PA.

        The fact that it’s slightly warmer here actually doesn’t help, because it makes “icy, slushy crap” much more likely than “powdery snow.”

      3. Elizabeth West*

        My city doesn’t salt side streets. I live on a side street off a side street, neither of which gets diddley. So when there is a lot of winter precipitation, I would tell my old bosses that I might be a bit late, because it will take me a bit of extra time to get out of there. If it snowed more than a few inches, I would have to shovel my way out. Now that I have a smaller car, there will be issues with that.

        At least this car is better than the old one. I had so much trouble with it my boss sometimes had to come get me!

      4. BW*

        I drove between DC and Richmond in what would otherwise be considered a pretty mild snow storm. It was the most harrowing white-knuckled 3 hours of my recent life, and I knew what I was doing and had a car that drove really well in snow and ice because I’m from Boston. I saw people spun off the side of I-95 long before anything accumulated on the road. It didn’t help that people were driving stupid fast over icy untreated snowpack causing them to slide all over the road and spin out. I felt confident in the ability to control my car and drive steadily and safely. What I was crapping my pants over was waiting for someone else to spin out and take me with them.

        1. Malissa*

          I know that feeling! I remember driving I-40 in a snow storm between Albuquerque and the eastern state line. 20 MPH at best and watching the idiots who were speeding start spinning and taking other people out. I owe the good shape of my car to a guy in a buick that calmly took the honda who hit in the rear off the road and onto the shoulder. We figured that guy was going to hit our empty tow dolly behind us and send us spinning.

    2. Scott M*

      Try driving in Dallas, TX, where the drivers are nuts regardless of the weather. Snow, ice, water on the road? Heck the reduced friction just means you can go faster!

      1. Bridgette*

        Ha ha, yes! It’s all so true. If they’re not freaking out about it and chugging along at 15 mph, they’re flying through at 20 mph above the speed limit.

        1. Mike C.*

          I think I hate the slow people the most. They always stop dead in front of me before a big hill when I need the momentum and won’t let you pass them.

        2. Blanziflor*

          I’ve seen that happen in NH in the snow – emerge from the jam caused by the thirteen car pile-up (we counted them going past), and some people suddenly had the urge to get up to 70 mph….

    3. Natalie*


      I live in flat plains state that rarely gets fog. It wasn’t until I started seeing someone who had lived in the mountains and regularly dealt with fog that I truly learned how to drive in it.

      1. mbm*

        I am from Chicago. Driving in terrible snow and ice is a fact of life.

        Last time I arrived in Heathrow, I looked outside to see a light snowfall. “How lovely for Christmas,” I thought. Turns out that little dusting of snow meant that all outgoing flights were canceled. We got on a train that turned out to be the last train out of London for THREE DAYS. It was like the whole city had never seen weather before.

        1. M-C*

          They hadn’t. Not anything like that.
          Do you really want to be driving around in a “light dusting” with people who have absolutely no control over their vehicle?

    4. Laura L*

      Good point. I don’t understand why people can’t drive in snow. However, I recently drove on some county roads in West Virginia and was shocked at how comfortable everyone else was!

  8. Josh S*

    OP#1: Show the employee a few episodes of Ice Road Truckers, then tell her it isn’t that bad outside and get her in the car. ;)

    Seriously though, this is going to be one of those issues that totally depends on where you are and where the employee is from. Florida people shut down schools when there’s the potential for frost 3 days out. Us Chicagoans don’t wear winter jackets until the temperature is in single digits. The only way to figure out the proper ‘balance’ between safety concern and the business need is to have the tough conversation about expectations by all parties.

    1. Jamie*

      So I guess the answer is if you lose this employee, either Josh or I are capable of filling in until you find someone.

      It takes a lot for us to call it as undrivable.

      And a big YES to the winter jacket thing – and thanks for the reminder to get mine to the dry cleaners. Haven’t worn it yet this year – just cardigans.

        1. Jamie*

          Yep. It is why I got the pony instead of the GT for better handling in the winter – because that’s why you buy one…for the traction!

          Seriously though, with rear wheel drive I’ve been able to rock out of little snow banks (you know, how you get plowed in while you’re working or whatever) that other cars with FWD have to shovel out.

          Fortunately my schedule is flexible so if it’s going to be really bad I will hitch a ride in with my husband who drive an Expedition and works about 3 miles from me. A couple of times I’ve even parked my Mustang in the loading dock at work and went home with him when the timing was such that the plows hadn’t hit 55 yet.

          I did get stuck on LaGrange Rd. once for hours, but I made friends with another woman who was stuck in a GTO at the same place. Stupid hill. Just goes to show even the most introverted among us will become social in survival situations.

          So if any of you in Chicago see a blue Mustang with the license plate PRTFM you should honk and say hello – I’ll be the woman driving it with a baffled look on my face wondering who the hell is honking at me. :)

          1. fposte*

            I figured that that was not a seasonal relationship, but I didn’t want to use it to illustrate my point until I knew for sure.

      1. the gold digger*

        I’m a transplant from the south to the north. I ordered my down commuter coat from Lands’ End three weeks ago. I wear that plus my sweatpants every morning as I walk the three blocks to the bus stop. I might look like the Michelin Woman, but at least I’m not freezing.

        I’m still cold, though. It’s not enough.

        1. Chinook*

          The key is layers with something that wicks away moisture near your skin and something windproof on top. Also, when you get into a building, immediately take off your jacket so that your body can adjust to the warmer temperature and so the inside your jacket can warm up for when you put it on later.

          Also, good socks, winter boots, a hat and mittens (not gloves – keep your fingers together so they stay warmer) and make sure your feet stay dry. If you have to, bring a spare pair of socks for your commute home. Keeping your hands, feet and head warm will do a lot to make you feel warmer.

          And invest in fleece sheets – they are the BEST THING EVER!

            1. Jamie*

              Your inner grandmother is awesome.

              And she reminded me to winterize my trunk with the coat, hat, boots, etc that I never wear but want available in case I get stuck.

              Thank her for me. :)

              1. Katie*

                This is one of those distinctive regional things I remember about Chicago. A place where one would have spare winter coats. You know, just in case it snows on opening day at Wrigley Field, or something.

          1. Bridgette*

            Fleece…sheets?…. I’m not sure about this. (Dallas girl who’s AC just went out. Yes, we use AC all through the winter.)

            1. MN*

              Ack – Fleece = plastic (static and no breathability). No way – flannel sheets and a down comforter all the way. :)

              1. Chinook*

                That was what I thought but I love mine because I don’t have to wear flannel Pj’s to bed and they feel silky soft on the skin. The best part is that they NEVER feel cold. I don’t even need a hot water bottle at the foot of the bed, and I have been known to use one in the middle of summer (I sleep with the windows open until the temperature reaches below freezing).

                There is something luxurious about satin pj’s, fleece sheets with a down comforter, a freezing cold room and a programmable thermostat (set to come on an hour before I get up). That is heaven!

            2. Rana*

              Wouldn’t fleece sheets be really staticky?

              I do love snuggly t-shirt and flannel sheets though. Mmm… soft.

          2. Your Mileage May Vary*

            “Also, when you get into a building, immediately take off your jacket so that your body can adjust to the warmer temperature and so the inside your jacket can warm up for when you put it on later.”

            When I was in high school in the South, we read a short-story where the characters came out in a snowstorm. I can’t remember why but they came to a house where someone was dead upstairs. But when they realized they were staying in the house for a little while, one of the characters said that they should take off their coats because they wouldn’t “feel them” when they went out. My entire class was like, what?? My teacher didn’t really know what that meant either.

            You have now clarified that mystery.

        2. Rana*

          Speaking as a fellow transplant (who also has one of those coats), the secret is long underwear. Get yourself some capilene or similar from Patagonia or other outdoor place, and wear it under your pants, etc. Even one extra layer on the bottom will help. And have a hat! I wear hats nearly constantly in the winter, even indoors. (But then, I also like hats.)

          Beyond that, be sure to eat and drink warm things. It’s easy to get dehydrated, and ingesting warm food and drink will help you stay warm, both from the heat and from the calories.

        3. Not So NewReader*

          Gold digger- I like to wear mittens over my gloves. My hands do not get cold. Of course, no dexterity is available, either. However, to just walk around outside it’s perfect.
          Rag wool mittens- preferably lined on the inside. That is another great investment. Twenty below outside and my hands are FINE.

          1. Chinook*

            Lined wool mittens are the best. I still use the pattern form my grandmother to make ones that have a second, inner mitten made of baby wool (for those who knit – just use the pattern from the other hand and pick up at the cuff). Newfoundlanders also have a version where spare tufts of unspun wool is knit in, making them bulky and warm.

  9. Laurie*

    #6 – I somewhat empathize with the people listing multiple versions of generic/trivial software on their resume, including and especially, Word and Outlook. This was before I started reading AAM, but I went through a phase where I had dropped all mention of Word and Outlook from my skills section (and just summarized it as MS Office) and kept getting asked in phone screenings whether I knew how to use Word and Outlook since I hadn’t mentioned it on my resume. Needless to say, I put them back on my resume very quickly.

    There’s also the irrational fear of getting rejected by unseen keyword-sorting applications that throw your resume out of the pile because ‘Word’ is a requirement on the job and your resume doesn’t mention it.

    1. Agile Phalanges*

      I think there’s also the risk of OVERstating if you mention MS Office on your resume. I’ve only used things other people have already set up in Access, and have never touched Publisher, so I’d be afraid of a potential employer thinking I might be able to set up a database and publish a newsletter my first week if I said I was proficient in MS Office. It’s probably better to mention the specific programs and even a few key tasks that are RELEVANT to the position.

      1. Jamie*

        That’s where descriptors come in handy. If you use words like advanced or proficient – then yep, I expect you to be able to set up a database in access, run queries, etc.

        It’s just about trying to give an accurate portrayal of your skill level – and it sucks that we don’t have standardized language for that.

        As often as I’ve seen people overstating their skills (not even maliciously, but because they have NO idea what excel is capable of so they think their little spreadsheets are the apex) I’ve seen people understating them.

        People able to set up complicated formulas in templates, macros, pivot tables…people who absolutely blow me out of the water skill wise (because I’m intermediate at best with Excel – contrary to popular belief this isn’t an IT skill) but they rate themselves as basic because they know how much more Excel can do.

        If people knew how often the majority of their co-workers can’t format a row of cells they would understand how valued their ability to make a chart or use the concatenate function is.

        Same thing with PowerPoint. Can you open and view a PowerPoint presentation, then leave it off…you aren’t a user any more than someone watching a movie is a projectionist.

        Can you create presentations? Put it on there. Can you create good presentation that include more then itty bitty text no one can read and public domain clip art? Then by all means if it’s needed for the job hit that hard.

        1. Blanziflor*

          As often as I’ve seen people overstating their skills (not even maliciously, but because they have NO idea what excel is capable of so they think their little spreadsheets are the apex)

          That definitely calls for a little in-interview test – sit them in front of Excel, and ask them to put together a Turing machine :-)

        2. Lulu*

          Thanks for addressing this, Jamie – I’ve often wondered whether job postings were using “proficient” in the way that I interpret it, so generally don’t bother applying anywhere demanding “proficiency”, as there’s no program I feel like I have a truly advanced level of competency in. With Excel, I can do sorting and adding, and am teaching myself how to do tables & graphs at least (it’s honestly just not something I’ve ever had need for) – I’m mentally counting that as “working knowledge”. I taught myself Powerpoint, but never used it in a work situation, so… not sure what to call that. I’m much more afraid of overstating and then ending up in a situation like Agile describes, so I actually avoid all descriptors on my resume and just list applications that I’ve used fairly regularly in the last few years or so under “Computer Skills” at the end, since I tend to assume I’m an under-user.

        3. Natalie*

          “…they rate themselves as basic because they know how much more Excel can do.”

          The Dunning-Krueger effect in action.

        4. Spreadsheet Monkey*

          I had a phone interview once where the manager asked me what the “most advanced” thing was I could do in Excel. I asked for clarification. She wanted to know if I could use VLOOKUP, HLOOKUP, and pivot tables. I can. She then told me that someone once answered that question with, “Well, I can sum a column.”

  10. Wilton Businessman*

    #1 is tough, especially since it’s a company car. If it were my car I could put brand XYZ tires on it and choose to drive a 4WD ABC car. But that’s not the case here. The manager needs to clearly spell out that they obviously don’t want her to drive in a blizzard, the performance of her duties entails driving.

    #2: when you get an acceptable written offer. Do you read this blog and see how many times people quit with a verbal offer only to be left hanging when the company changed their mind? It is expected that you will not tell them your are interviewing.

    #5: you don’t want to work there

    #6: List the most recent and relevant. I will assume you know version 10 if you specify version 11. If I am really hung up on features, I will ask you about it.

    #7: Tricky. If you are trying to do more of the work that you’re doing on the side, absolutely include it. If your side work is more of the same of the work you do during the day, skip it.

    I actually had this same issue a number of years ago. I worked on some ancient software on an old batch system during the day. During the night I worked on new technology “Client/Server” systems (that tells you how long ago) for a friend’s consulting company. At the time the money was in batch systems and the fun was in the new fangled stuff.

    I interviewed at three companies before I got an offer. Two big Three Letter Companies were horrified that I would steal “their time” as I was expected to be exclusive. After the second one, I changed my resume and sent out a new batch. The next day I got a call from a company that saw my old resume (my consulting friend had passed it around) and they thought it was awesome that I was exploring new technology and they had a Mainframe to Client/Server project that would be right up my alley. It was the perfect fit in the beginning because they allowed me to continue learning on the side because I kept bringing new ideas to the table.

    After a while, though, they put a stop to it fearing that I was using their technology in my side projects (yeah, basically the stuff I brought to them). I moved on three months later to a consulting gig where I owned everything I did.

    So, the answer is…it depends.

    1. aname*

      #1 – If the type of car is an issue then its one the employee should be raising and discussing with the employer since they might agree to change it for a preferred type (even if its not the exact brand/model/year suggested) if it makes her feel safer.

      It doesn’t sound like OP would be annoyed at that. Its certainly better than the employee not being able to do her job or disrupting someone elses to be escorted.

    2. Anon*

      Agreed. I actually do some IT work on the side, but I have a few non-for-profits that I work with unpaid, so I am able to list it in a volunteer section. This shows that I have a track record with it, but I don’t have to mention paid work elsewhere.

      Of course, people may not think volunteer work is as high quality, but it still means the right keywords are on my resume.

  11. Meg Murry*

    #5 – Given that you were once told she was out sick, then later that she was “away from her desk” its possible she went out on some kind of extended sick leave. You’ve left her a message, at this point I would just assume that you aren’t going to get the job, and then if she does follow up again you can be pleasantly suprised. I wouldn’t let it poison your opinion of the whole organization, but I wouldn’t jump through hoops to apply for another position with them again if I were you. Also, its unclear – was the recruiter part of the organization, or a 3rd party recruiter? Don’t let a bad 3rd party recruiter turn you off to an organization either – its possible they have realized this person is a bad recruiter and thats why you haven’t heard anything, as they are no longer using the recruiting company’s services.

  12. Elizabeth West*

    I put a side job on my resume under “Freelance,” because I want them to know I can write. I don’t feel comfortable putting my writer blog on there; it’s a bit irreverent compared to the office-ish one. The latter is on my LinkedIn.

  13. Ralish*

    Re: OP #1– Does her job require her to drive every day, or to meet partners/clients on a set schedule or timeline? If so, then I definitely agree with AAM’s response. If, however, there’s room for flexibility (and she’s a good employee otherwise), I’d recommend allowing her to have some control over her own schedule. For example, you might say that she needs to make x number of off-site visits this week, and then allow her to choose when to make them depending on weather forecast. Then at least you’ll have some metrics to rate her performance and see if the relationship can continue to work.

  14. some1*

    #2: Another good reason not to mention you are searching/interviewing elsewhere, besides the reasons listed, is that if you end up not getting an offer there could be a(n unfair) perception at your current employer that no one else wants to hire you, thus, you are stuck where you are & they can treat/pay you whatever they feel like and you can’t do anything about it.

  15. jesicka309*

    I feel for the employee in #1 – driving jobs can be really tough! I had a really awesome gig doing promo driving for the local TV station. I was out there rain, hail, or 40 degree Celsius weather. That wasn’t so bad. However, my shifts were 7 am until 11 am, then sometimes I would work again 1.30-5.30, sometimes up to seven days a week. I was also studying at the time, and getting up at 5.30 am to get to this job, so you can imagine I was pretty wiped. I had a huge wake up call one day when I had a minor accident in the company car returning from a job. I actually dozed off at the wheel.
    Sadly, I had frequently been doing that as part of my commutes. It was VERY scary, and prompted me to reevaluate what I wanted out of the job.
    The point is OP#1, please take your employee’s concerns seriously. Make sure they are safe, perhaps even offer them further driving classes to boost their confidence on the road. Are they young? They may not have much experience driving in poor weather, or may be under pressure from parents to not drive in poor weather. Just make sure they’re safe!

  16. IT_Person*

    #6 I would say there are significant reasons to keep some versions on various technologies, especially in IT.

    Example 1: Exchange 5.5- 2003
    Here, this is someone saying that the latest version of the software they handled was about 9 years old. Last thing someone wants to do is give this person a 2007 -> 2010 migration job, as the functionality is now rather different.
    It is however relevant in older companies that may need someone to tend to their 2003 setup, but don’t want someone who has only seen Exchange 2010.

    Example 2: Oracle 7.3 – 11
    Here, the two versions have different functionality, integrate in a different manner and if someone knows 1, picking up the other can’t be assumed.

    And yes, I’ve been stuck at the end of the phone with someone completely mystified by the Office ribbon. It drove me insane that these people would claim “advanced Excel” on their CV, claim large salaries then would end up on an expensive intermediate Excel course within 6 months to cover the shortfall in skills.

  17. Lulu*

    re#6 and the software questions in general, this is a huge bugbear for me (as I’m sure I’ve mentioned before): when I look at the job postings these days, it appears that everyone else has been getting way more extensive opportunities for advanced software use than I have.

    For you admin/non-tech types, is there software in addition to the Word/Excel/Powerpoint triumvirate that you find it’s generally assumed everyone knows now? I’m willing to take some classes, but not sure whether I should *really* be learning MySQL, ACT and InDesign in order to get work as a marketing or admin assistant, or if these types of requests are signs of delusional hiring… Right now it feels like both!

    1. Jamie*

      If you can even run a basic query in any SQL application then I would definitely not call that “non-technical.”

      If you were an admin at my company who had SQL skills we’d be having a little chat about how awesome it would be if you made the move to my department in IT…and if you were reasonably competent and not whiny I might ask you to marry me.

      For non-tech admins what I would be looking for is strong Office skills. And you can learn so much from the help files and online tutorials that don’t cost a thing.

      Truth – be self-sufficient enough to learn via the help files is a huge skill in and of itself.

      A couple of other things which I would want to see is the basic understanding of an ERP. Even if you’ve never used one you can go online and get the basic flow of how they are used, so I’m not starting from scratch. Also, Adobe photoshop or some kind of photoediting software. A lot of admins are tasked with editing pics for brochures, websites, etc. – and I’m not just saying that because I really miss having an admin here who could (and wanted to) do that. It’s all me and I freaking hate photoediting. I really hate it – so much.

      Also, an understanding of how a CRM works. More and more places are using them and it’s not worth taking a class as they are usually really intuitive and can be picked up on the job, but knowing how they are used and what maintenance entails will put you head and shoulders above most applicants.

      In office aside from what you mentioned I’d love to see some familiarity in Publisher and Access (use/not creating apps), and the advanced functions of Outlook.

      I’ve basically just described everything I would like to outsource to someone else – but it’s a pretty reasonable list to go on.

      1. Jamie*

        Meant to add – since I can’t shut up apparently – for all admins a basic familiarity with accounting.

        If you can take a basic accounting class, that’s great, if not there are free sites like accounting coach and others which are kind of like Accounting for Dummies – or get Accounting for Dummies (don’t blame me – I hate those book names but they really are helpful for this kind of thing.)

        It’s not just cliche, accounting is the language of business, and even just a basic understanding where you know the difference between a debit and credit (debits on the left) and what a journal entry is huge.

        1. Chinook*

          Yes, yes, yes! I am currently working with a bunch of admins and hr types who do not understand the purpose of a PO or don’t realize why it is important to properly code an expense report. They also complain about why they can’t get a cheque cut the same day they request it during year end. Myself and another experienced assistant (we have both done bookkeeping in small businesses and worked in an accounting firm) wish we could put the others through a “day in the life” scenario so they would stop ragging on accounting so badly.

          1. Jamie*

            You are doing the work of the righteous – don’t give up. Everyone these people will ever work with or for, going forward, will thank you.

            Just had the coding talk myself today…tis the season…

          2. Lulu*

            oof – yeah, I’ve done a ton of coding, expenses, facilitating accruals, reclassifying things. I actually spent a lot of time previously trying to translate to my team why this stuff was important to get right for Finance, as well as untangling the messes (and I didn’t work in Finance). Unclear why it’s so difficult for people to understand!

        2. Elizabeth West*

          This is why I can’t find a job. I have a math learning disability, and accounting is beyond me. Thanks to the recession, everyone has shoved this onto admins and receptionists. I wouldn’t want my receptionist doing my books–there are too many interruptions at the front desk. But NOOOO, we have to cut costs by making one person do everything.

          I really don’t know what I’m going to do. I’m trying to work with VR to go in another direction.

          1. Lucy*

            VR? What is VR? Virtual Reality?

            Sometimes reading through the comments here is absolutely mystifying. Acronyms are my nemesis.

      2. Lulu*

        Wow, it sounds like not only am I an “under-user”, but so were my previous managers in not asking me to do any of these things! I’ve always been a big “Google BEFORE you call Help Desk” person, but I get the impression there’s no room for on-the-job learning anymore, which is why I’m so stressed about this. I’ve used MS Paint for some basic editing (they wouldn’t ante up for Photoshop, since it was more a side-project that I was doing it for)… I have found some good online tutorials for the various MS apps, and just recently started Access to better understand database creation. The systems I’ve used for PO’s were based on Oracle or Filemaker Pro, but I never know what to call that without making it sound like I can do database maintenance (I know I don’t really have “working knowledge” of Oracle itself). To be clear, there are other travel and expense applications I’ve had to use as well as Office, they just never turn up under the “Required Qualifications” lists anywhere else, so not sure that’s of any use to me now. It’s basically like starting from scratch after 15 years…

        Thank you for relieving me of MySQL, at least – my brain still hurts after starting to research that one!

        1. Jamie*

          You aren’t an under user just because your former company didn’t require some things.

          And I don’t know what industry you’re in – I’m speaking from a manufacturing perspective so some of what I said may not be applicable for other industries. Except the accounting and Office – that’s universal.

          And I don’t know how other companies are, but we assume everyone will need some on the job training. Just because you know XYZ doesn’t mean you should be expected to fly solo without learning how we use XYZ in the context of this specific business.

      3. Sherry*

        My friend pointed me over here to read the responses as we’ve been having a discussion about all the seemingly crazy requirements on job applications for admins these days. What I found infinitely fascinating is the Adobe Creative Suite aspect. I can only surmise that it’s due to downsizing or simply smaller companies needing to have a “jack-of-all-trades” for the admin position. Jobs that would have been done by a marketing or design department (or even an intern in such a department as the case might be for simple image cropping, etc.) are being given to the admin to do. I’ll tell you though, Adobe products aren’t really something you can pick up in quickly and easily. Granted, I could run someone through how to crop or resize a photo on the phone in 5 minutes, but these are all professional level design programs. From Photoshop to InDesign (multi-page spreads/layouts), to Illustrator (and you do have to have some serious skill for this one!), to Dreamweaver (building websites from the ground up) these are all programs that design professionals are using. I never even thought of it being a requirement (or even a “nice thing to know”) for non-design office folks to know this stuff. The programs are also expensive (sure, they’re a nice business write off), any “official” training on them is also expensive and to really use them with maximum proficiency takes time and skill (even with free tuts on the web). Most of the clients we work for are small to medium size businesses who either never had or have cut their marketing/design departments. They leave even those pesky little items to their “on call professional design team”, which would be us. So while I totally understand how it’s just easy to have someone in the office who can do little tasks like that, there has to be a ceiling to that as well and I wonder how many businesses have bumped it (I can guess that a number of the ones who have called us have bumped it)? Or whether it’s just assumed that if someone has the aptitude or a little bit of Photoshop skills that they can be loaded up with more and more tasks as time goes on?

      4. Liz in a Library*

        I also recommend getting a basic grasp on SQL syntax for librarians.

        If you can think of any instance where you’d want to be able to customize the pre-packaged reports from your ILS without going through customer support, you’ll need it. All the various ILS I’ve worked with have used SQL within their reporting applications.

        Plus your coworkers will think you’re a genius. It’s a good feeling. ;)

    2. Chinook*

      Outlook for me is a must. I just don’t mean for email, but using it to its entire capablities. I took a course from Priority Management on how to get organized and they showed us how to use it as a tool. When used correctly, Outlook can do so many things for you as an admin assistant. Lotus Notes, I am told, is also useful (in the Canadian government).

      Now, if any of you know where I can get trained on how to use the Apple email/calendar/task/notes suite in the same way, i will send you honest to goodness cookies! I have been going through major withdrawal working in an assistant in a Mac environment.

        1. Chinook*

          The Geniuses are confused when I mention wanting to view 6 different calendars and 3 different mailboxes, and can’t understand why I want to be able to categorize emails into more than 9 categories or let someone access only some, but not all, of my contacts. Basically, I think the programs were not created to be used by a multitasking EA. We are trying to get the company to buy a better program.

          1. Rana*

            Odd. I’d think that those would all be pretty basic things for the them to handle, since I’m fairly certain they’re all possible with Mail. (I don’t know about the contact access thing, though; I’m the only person who uses my computer.)

            I mean, I have four different mailboxes, and a ton of sorting rules for my email, so it’s not like what you’re asking is ridiculous.

            1. Anonymous*

              Apple’s software tends to be targeted towards single users – I’d not be the least surprised if contact lists lacked ACLs. And multiple calendars might be missing some functionality, as compared to something like Outlook.

        1. Chinook*

          It doesn’t do everything regular Outlook does :(. Part of the problem is our network and part of it is we don’t have a dedicated Mac IT guy. Most of the company uses PCs using Microsoft 2003 Exchange server, which is a symptom of an overall issue. The owner of this business likes gadgets and wanted Macs for Management group, which means nothing integrates well. I think most of the issues will be fixed once they upgrade the PCs to something from this decade.

      1. Your Mileage May Vary*

        I use the Google stuff (shared calendars, email, etc) and then have them feed into my Mac Calendar/Mail. Works fine for me.

  18. Diane*

    #2, you can truthfully say you wanted to vacation in xyz city and explore the (hobby, restaurant, local attraction) you’d heard about. You do not need to mention you’re also going to an interview. You can tell the truth without telling everything.

  19. Mike Lewis*

    Re “Interviewer never followed up after missing our scheduled call”, the same thing happened to me. I waited for ten minutes past the appointed time then I called him. He was overly impressed that I was calling from Australia to the States and spent a lot of the interview talking about it. I explained that I do it all the time when calling my relatives. It only costs me a few cents per minute with a phone card.

    I got the job.

  20. Sara*

    #1. Replace her. If she’s not willing to do the job, then find someone else; the job market is that there are many who are willing to do any and all job duties.

    1. Sara*

      Ok now that I read the rest of the replies, I probably sound a bit harsh…..

      But I don’t think the OP for this question has replied and I am wondering: where is the employee from? Did htey get their license recently? Were they aware that the job duties included lots of driving in most kinds of weather? I’m not a driver so I *should* be more sympathetic but without more background info….

  21. Shannon Terry*

    Re: Q#3, OP could also word her increasing responsibility with the project over time something like,

    “Asked (or selected or entrusted) by manager to add X & Y accountability (after XX amount of time if notable) of successful Z only work .”

    To my way of thinking, being trusted with or specifically chosen for additional responsibility by the boss is a stronger (and more compelling) statement than simply “assuming” that responsibility, which is sorta passive & to me sounds like you just sorta starting doing it but we’re not sure why, exactly. I am guessing these increases in responsibility were because you proved you do good work & could handle it, of course. And that you enjoy that work. I wouldn’t recommend showcasing anything you don’t want to be asked to do more of in your next job if you can help it :)

    If it was an act of initiative to do so, that you saw a need & a way to fill it, I would recommend again a more active word choice “Initiated adding X & Y to Z work upon supervisor’s approval.

    And, if doing that thing you did improved something, made some happy, increased something good or decreased something undesireable (think time/money/resources for clients/customers/company), then explain the benefit of doing so, briefly.

    “Initiated adding X & Y to Z work, which streamlined the reporting process” or something along that line… Better yet, put the benefit 1st when you can, and show how that good thing happened because of something you initiated, or created or … (you get the idea)

    “Cut report processing time by 20% by (doing whatever notable thing you did) …requesting to do X & Y while doing Z.

    Okay, I’m getting a little carried away with possibilities. Hope this helps with ways to think about what you write & how on your resume!

    And remember… aim for 15-18 words per line… All the more reason to choose words that communicate more specifically the details of your experience. IMHO :)

  22. Anonymous*

    #1 – A class is great, but if one can’t be found, then practicing in a large empty parking lot is useful. Learning how to get in and out of spin by purposefully doing donuts, does help, and this is how a lot of people learn to drive and stop in snow around here. (I might not try this in a large SUV, but this works great in small/medium cars.)

    To all the people from Chicago, you do not know how good you have it as far as snow goes. I live on the other side of the lake, and you just don’t know what lake effect really means.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Thanks for mentioning that class. Someone mentioned it earlier and I could not find that reference. I just got done with my defensive driving course and I asked the instructor if he knew of such a class in this area. He did not. I am bummed. But I will keep looking for a class to beef up my winter time driving skills. I think it will help.

      1. Anonymous*

        A lot of places that have many employees who drive for the business actually get a trainer and hold the class themselves. I work for university, and that have regular defensive driving classes. I think in my state you also get credit on your state driving record for taking a defensive driving class.

  23. Liz*

    To the person who is waiting for the interviewer to call you back: I would add an alternative interpretation to this situation. I think 3 days, including knowing that she was out sick during that time, you should cut her some more slack. She still could be out sick when the person informed you that she was “away from her desk”. Also, even if she has returned to the office, she may likely be following up with dozens of missed appointments. She may still be out, she may be in but trying to catch up, or your email may have slipped through the cracks. Any three of those scenarios are completely excusable in my book, assuming they only happen rarely. If you come to find out that yes, she was in the office and never intended to follow up with you, I would also agree that this speaks poorly of her and the organization. But, I think you should wait a week, drop her another line, and give her the benefit of the doubt. If after that time, you feel that she is just irreverent or ditzy, consider stopping the dialog. But, I think you are giving up to early in the situation which you describe.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      I agree with Liz, OP. Do not despair. Wait a bit. Try again. Heaven forbid, you find out later that she had an accident and was in intensive care. Stuff happens.

      1. Lucy*

        I’m so glad there have been a few comments defending the situation in #5. My immediate thought was that something terrible has happened in the interviewer’s life. For example, I’ve attended 2 funerals in the past week. Horrible things happen all the time, and being out sick or “away from her desk” can be code for “house on fire”, “accident”, “suicide in the family”, “rape”, etc: Stuff you don’t want everyone to be asking you about later.

    2. #5*

      I appreciate the feedback. She was “in the office” but had stepped “away from her desk”. I think the advice given by Allison was correct, as more than two weeks later I still haven’t heard back.

  24. Andor*

    On #1: Probably others wrote above too, but when someone who ‘has to’ drive a lot regarding his / her position, but feels uncomfortable about winter conditions (or other bad weather), I’d just try to find a way to get a training on ‘extreme driving’ or whatever those special driving courses are called. (You know, the ones when you have to stop on a simulated icy surface or control the car to avoid the simulated barrier etc.)
    If there are company sources to use for, that’s excellent – if not, maybe there are others with same concerns, so in a group they could get a nice discount.

  25. M-C*

    #2 you can take some days off from work without mentioning that you’re going out of town at all. I’d do that.. Christmas shopping seems like a fine excuse for December, especially as you might be able to get some in while in Distant City :-).

    #7 I think since the side activity is relevant to the specific job, I’d mention it in the cover letter rather than the resume.

  26. M*

    OP #7 – I work in game/app development, and if you’re looking for work in that field, you’re potentially opening up a big can of worms.

    Developers (especially game developers) have notorious NDA and non-compete requirements for their employees. Working on a competing product on the side is a big no-no, and could turn into a nasty legal battle if they try to claim ownership of any product you worked on while employed by them.

    If you decide to list the experience is up to you, but regardless, you should officially copyright and trademark all projects you’re currently working on before you take a new job. IMO in your shoes I might say I’ve “worked” on side projects…past-tense, not presently working on.

  27. Anonymous_J*

    #7 I used to include it as a job entry (because my business IS my 2nd, part time job) with “(Part time)” next to my company name. I have stopped doing that now, and instead, I include any relevant projects under “other projects.”

    I made this change, because it occurred to me that employers might think I’d be working on my business on their time–which I never, ever do-nights and weekends only!–and maybe that was why I was not getting responses. Plus, but including it under “other projects,” I can customize for each different job to which I apply.

    What I do in my side business has nothing do to with my day job, but MAY help me change fields.

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