short answer Saturday — 6 short answers to 6 short questions

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

1. Company is letting me choose whether to interview by phone or in person

I had a phone message and email from an HR person about a position I applied for. Both mentioned wanting to schedule an interview. I called back as directed and agreed to the time they suggested, less than one week from now. After the date and time were set, she asked me if this would be on the phone or in-person. I was taken aback, because I assumed it would be on the phone. I also thought it was weird that it was up to me. Wouldn’t they set that? I told them I would let them know later today. She didn’t seem to care very much, but I do want to let them know quickly.

I don’t live in the same state and would realistically need to fly to make it there without taking lots of time off. I’m leaning towards doing the interview via phone right now, but I’m a little concerned it will hurt me if I am not there in-person. The cost to fly there may decide it for me. Do you think it’s OK to do a phone interview at this time? I was thinking that perhaps the next step, if that goes well, would be an-person interview.

Yes, it’s weird that they didn’t specify which they’d prefer. However, since they’re leaving it up to you and you’d need to fly there to do it in-person, I’d do it over the phone for now. If things go well and you’re both still interested, offer to come there in person for the next conversation.

If you run into this in the future, ask whether it’s an initial screen or a longer, in-depth interview, as well as whether they plan additional rounds of interviews beyond that. If there won’t be second interviews, then you’re better off going in person.

2. Managing without authority

I’m a supervisor in a call center, and while I am required to discipline people (write them up), whether the write-up sticks is HR’s call and they have firing authority. Sometimes, they seem to follow the process, and fire people when the handbook says they’re in danger of being fired. But sometimes an employee reaches the same level of disciplinary action, sometimes in multiple performance categories, and they’re inexplicably kept on. To the surprise of no one, these people generally still continue to have performance issues, like the person who took a 2 week “vacation” without actually clearing it with scheduling, resulting in a 2 week no call, no show. After they were allowed to come back, I found them sleeping on the job. What’s going on here? Turnover is very high, and I think there’s pressure to keep people on phones, but I don’t see how not firing helps, especially if the employee has attendance problems. And is there anything I can do to make sure my own write-ups stick and are given the proper weight? (So far I haven’t been in this kind of situation myself, but I probably will, since it seems like it’s happening more often.)

What’s going on is abysmal management above you. You can certainly talk to HR about the importance of employees seeing that there are consistent consequences, as well as your need to not have employees who sleep on the job, but horrible managers usually remain horrible managers. (By the way, I’m assuming that the reason HR has so much power is because this is a call center, which often operates differently. Normally, HR shouldn’t be making these calls rather than direct managers.)

3. Former colleague is trying to rile me up when I applied with the company again

I used to work for a company a few years back and was let go with 95% of the workforce due to a buy-out. I saw a job opening and applied with this company again. I received an email from one of the corporate directors that openly questioned my job title and my ability. This person also lured me into an argument with him, as he tried to question my abilities, and he actually told me I must be struggling to have applied with the company. It went back and forth, and he even said a couple of people that stayed were “doing just fine” in an attempt to rile me more, and that they definitely kept the “A team.” I would like to send this email to his HR department. Do I need to seek legal counsel to cover myself before I do this?

No. But this guy sounds like an ass, and you shouldn’t let yourself get riled up by such obvious jerkiness.

4. Applying with IT jobs without prior IT titles

Currently I am trying to get an entry-level IT position, but my experience in the workforce under the label of “IT” is lacking, even though my past positions have called for the knowledge of machinery, and on more than one occasion I have had to fulfill the duties of someone who worked for the Help Desk by fixing or setting up machines in the office I worked. I also have extensive hands-on training and multiple certificates qualifying me as an MCITP. Does this not count as experience I can put on my resume under the label as help desk experience or IT, even if the position I held was labeled as “office support”?

Sure. You can’t change your past job titles on your resume, but you can make sure to clearly describe the I.T.-related work that you did there, and highlight it in your cover letter.

5. Is this company charity drive mandatory?

I have a question about company charity drives for the holidays. Today, I received the following email from the company president’s personal assistant: “This year, [President] has requested we buy gifts for families not able to purchase their own… [President] would like each of us to spend about $25 on a gift, but you can obviously spend more if you’re feeling especially charitable.”

Is it implying that participating is mandatory? I’m worried because a) as the youngest and possibly lowest paid person in the company, I really don’t have $25 to spend for this — I’ll be lucky if my parents get gifts this year. Also, I used to work for a children-based non-profit, like the ones this gift would go to, and if I am able to give back, I’d prefer to give to my old nonprofit. What are my options here? Do I just ignore the entire thing and hope it goes away? My company culture is super uncomfortable at times, and the president can be very strict and demanding, but I’m not sure if that spills over onto this.

Ignore the email and assume it’s not mandatory. If someone follows up with you, explain that you support the drive but you’re not able to contribute financially.

6. Listing a current temp job on a resume

I managed to get hired as a temp at a local mortgage office, and they recently have expressed that they really like the work I’ve been doing and would like to increase my hours from 3 to 8 per day. I’ve been learning a lot and this is my first experience working in a non-academic office. Plus there are only 6 of us (including myself), so I have tons of work to do and have had increasingly more responsibility.

I’ve only been there 3 weeks so far, and I’m not sure how long the assignment is, but would it look weird if I put it on my resumé? For some context, the “big-girl” jobs that I’m applying to are mainly office-assistant/program-assistant jobs at nonprofits, and my other administrative experience listed on my resumé comes from a work-study position and a volunteer position in my church. This job is by far the most involved, even though it’s temping. What are your thoughts?

Sure, you can put it on there. Just be sure to indicate that it’s a temporary job, so that the places you’re applying don’t wonder why you’re looking to leave after such a short period of time.

{ 41 comments… read them below }

  1. B*

    3. Former colleague is trying to rile me up when I applied with the company again

    This guy was my Managers manager. He is very much a power hungry kind of micro manager and enjoyed brown nosers. His response really bothers me and I want to put him in his place. My concern is whether sending this e mail trail to his HR can come back at me legally.

      1. B*

        I am planning to forward the e mail thread to his HR. I am going to tell them I do not appreciate the response from their representative and if he wasn’t interested in me he should have just not responded. He should go through training in this matter.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Don’t tell them he should go through training — that’s their call to make, and you don’t want to blacklist yourself by handling this inappropriately. However, you can certainly forward the emails to HR and tell them that you were disconcerted to receive these emails from him, that you assume they’ll find them as inappropriate as you do, and that they’d want to be aware. But then drop it — don’t ask for or expect a response. (Keep in mind that they’ll be seeing your own emails in the chain too; you said he lured you into an argument, so if there’s anything in that that will reflect poorly on you, this may not be to your advantage to do.)

          Overall, though, this probably won’t get you a ton of satisfaction. You won’t know the outcome, and there’s the potential that you’ll simply look like you’re overreacting to HR (depending on exactly what he said).

    1. EM*

      “I want to put him in his place.”

      Whoa. It really sounds like this guy got to you, which is probably exactly what he wanted to accomplish. Don’t give him the satisfaction of knowing he got to you. I also don’t think it really is anybody’s job to shame or put someone else “in their place”. It just makes you look like the small person and only spreads negativity.
      What really pisses these types off is responding to their negativity with positivity. Kill him with kindness, as the saying goes.

        1. Steve G*

          What does it mean on these comments when people write “this” as if it is a full sentence? I saw it a couple of times before here and had no idea what the person meant.

          Does it mean “oh this old idea again,” or “yes I agree” or something else?

      1. Not So NewReader*

        OR (snicker, snicker) Pass the very first email to HR and ask them if this standard practice and should you answer the email? (snicker,snicker.)

        1. Not So NewReader*

          whoops- not clear on that. I meant at the very beginning. Does you not much good now, but if you ever encounter something similar- it might be a good plan to check with HR before answering.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          That would be fun, but MicroJerk will have the replies. If they did get into an argument, he can say “Look what OP said here, I don’t think we should hire him.” If the OP worked there before, this could come back and bite him in the butt when someone calls to verify employment.

  2. Anonymous*

    #1 – No one can “lure” you into a petty argument, you participated in this little email spat willingly. I doubt forwarding the email thread to HR will cast a favorable light on you – I’m sure you said some unpleasant things as well. Let it go.

    1. B*

      I did say things in response to his comments. I do not work for this company or report to this guy anymore. Any employment requests will go to a different company that was involved in the buyout.

  3. Mimi*

    Re: #5, I have a somewhat similar situation.

    The Director of our department recently transferred to another position that does community outreach, etc. He’s currently working on a well known company’s campaign, and apparently this involves a lot of administrative work that he needs help with (mailings, etc). He had his Admin Assistant email us non-exempt staff and offer us the opportunity of overtime if we wanted to help with this campaign. I don’t know how everyone else responded, but since I already work overtime, I declined.

    I just got ANOTHER email from the Director’s Admin Asst, inviting us non-exempts to a “meeting” on Monday to review the campaign’s mission, answer questions, and “formulate” work plans. This sounds, to me, like no one volunteered, and now they want to pressure us to do this work by giving us the hard sell. After all, who wants to tell the Director to his face that they won’t do this work?

    Am I being too sensitive, or does this strike anyone else as overly pushy?

    1. The IT Manager*

      I’m confused. Is this guy still your Director? Because if he’s not, it sounds like all of this should go through your new Director including if you should spent time at Monday’s meeting.

      It’s a strange situation for sure. Is he still in your chain of command at all? If not, I’d suggest you to run this by your supervisor/new director and get guidance. I’d skip the meeting if I didn’t have to go. Or you can go and say that you can’t take on any more OT.

      1. Mimi*

        He’s still the dept’s director, until the organization hires a new one, but he’s also started working in his new role. There are managers who still answer to him (i think), and we answer to the managers.

        Thanks for the input!

        1. The IT Manager*

          As I suspected. You should definately put it on your managers shoulders. “I already work overtime so if I attend this meeting for something outside my area I’ll get behind in my own work.” (A meeting may not be that big a deal, but …) “If I do any overtime for this community outreach project, I will do less OT for my primary duties. What do you want me to prioritize and what can I not do?”

          It’s as Alison often suggests – lay it out in black in white and put it on your bosses shoulders. If I have to do this, do you want me to skip doing A, B, or C because they all can’t get done.

          1. Long Time Admin*

            “lay it out in black in white and put it on your bosses shoulders.”

            Yup. That’s why they get paid the big bucks.

    2. Anonymous*

      Maybe some did respond, but the admin is sending to a list just to keep things simple. I’d ignore the email, personally, if I had already made it known I was not available.

  4. Canuck*

    At first glance, it seemed to me that the company knew you were relatively far away, and wanted to give you the option to call or come in person.

    I like Alison’s suggestion of clarifying the interview process. If they just do one interview, it may be worth going in person.

  5. Grey*

    #5: Are you required to wrap the gift? If so, buy something really inexpensive. No one will know how much you actually spent, and you’ll make some kid happy on Christmas.

    1. OP 5*

      The gifts are listed on cards – you have to buy what’s on a card. If you select a particularly inexpensive card, you have to get more than one. Essentially, the $25 amount is expected.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I would do what Alison says. The first time I skipped something like that I was pretty nervous. But I finally realized management has no right to tell me what to do with my money. It could be I have a sick family member. It could be the dog had pups and I buy dog food by the pickup full. Either way it is none of their business why my funds are not available.

        I rant. Sorry. It ticks me off when companies make employees feel like they have to make donations. Much better to say “For anyone who is interested we have X opportunity for holiday donations.”
        Clearly, the letter was written by the Prez to help the employees to feel more obliged to donate.

  6. COT*

    #1: Perhaps you could suggest Skype for this interview. Even if they don’t have webcam technology, them being able to see you (and you just hearing them, not seeing them) could help.

  7. Amy*

    #1- Phone interview vs in person.
    I agree with the idea of going in person if its the only interview you’ll get. Having said that, you might end up flying back and forth a bunch of times for different interviews if you’re not successful.
    I had this situation recently. I applied for a job out of state with a non-for-profit company (I was moving to relocate with my partner). I knew that I would pay any costs for travelling to interviews myself. They offered me both phone and in person interview. I didn’t really know how to take their ‘Whatever works for you’ attitude. In fact, they seemed to be pushing the phone interview.
    I was concerned that their attitude meant they weren’t that keen/I wasn’t the preferred candidate at that point and maybe they were interviewing me because I seemed like a good fit but they weren’t 100% sure.
    In the end I interviewed in person. When they rang one of my references they told her I was their first preference from the very beginning and looking back I probably could have gone with a phone interview because I most likely would have gotten the job anyway.
    This might not be the case in this situation, and as we know you can’t read too much into anything!
    In the end, even knowing what I know now, I’m glad I flew over because if I didn’t get the job I’d be kicking myself thinking interviewing in person may have made the difference.

    1. Anonymous*

      Sometimes it does feel like the prisoner’s dilemma, doesn’t it? From the company’s perspective, of course they’d want to accomodate their top candidate, but the candidate doesn’t know that.

    2. Kelly*

      I’ve been in this position twice in the past six months. One was the first and only interview for an academic position. The second was a second round interview. I didn’t get either one. I took the in person option for the first one thinking that maybe meeting me in person would make a difference and knowing that I had drove eight hours and took two days off from work for the interview would work in my favor. They ended giving the position to someone who had worked there previously.

      I just found out I got rejected for the second one an hour and a half ago. It was only a five hour drive, but still had to take two days off. I was the last of three people interviewed. It really hurts getting rejected, especially when the people making the decisions know you had to travel and take time off. I really wanted this position because it was in a new location and I worked really hard to prepare for the interview. The offer they’ve extended to the other person isn’t final yet – they still have to pass a background check. I’m clinging to a small hope that the offer will be rescinded if something comes up as fishy on their check, because more employers are using the more through checks again, instead of doing the bare minimum. That’s one of the benefits of a moderately more booming economy when employers can afford to be more picky and have the money for more through checks. I don’t know what I did wrong – I had the right clerical and customer service experience, plus I was willing to relocate at my own expense. I don’t know how I am going to get through the next month without having a breakdown due to stress and disappointment over not getting this job. It seems that no matter how hard I try and work, that nothing ever works out for me in finding a good job that I can use my education and skill set. I feel like I am cursed when it comes to getting these positions.

        1. Kelly*

          I read that. It’s still frustrating that I could have been as qualified as the person who was selected, but I didn’t get the job. I was the in the last three that were interviewed and people are telling me that means you did something right. It doesn’t feel that way. I didn’t get the offer. I don’t want to go into work today because of what a wreck I am. I really needed this job because I am sick of working part time jobs that don’t have any benefits attached. They also feel like a waste of my education.

  8. Richard*

    #5 In the past, I have replied to that kind of email, stating publicly that I would contribute $100 if that amount was matched be the president of the company.

    The president accepted and a lot of people did the same.

    That was the last charity drive at that company

  9. OP#2*

    Thank you so much for answering my question and posting it! I was somehow hoping there could be a reason for the ridiculousness, but it’s nice to know I’m not the ridiculous one at least! I’ll just have to keep doing my job correctly. And yes, it’s definitely our specific environment that makes HR so powerful. Basically, employees change schedules frequently and also change supervisors whenever that happens. I’m lucky to have someone remain on my team for an entire review period.

  10. ooloncoluphid*

    #4 There are a few non-IT people in my company who I would love to see join IT. They’ve saved us a ton of time in the past with their troubleshooting skills. Titles don’t matter to me, ability is what counts.

    1. Jamie*

      This is how I got into IT. The IT department got someone on-site to troubleshoot saving them the trouble of firing up a VPN connection and I got the chance to pirate as much knowledge out of their heads as I could.

      I went from being a friend of IT to the IT department at my next move.

  11. Neeta (RO)*

    Re 4: Absolutely! And professional certificates are a big plus in the industry, most especially if you apply for jobs at IT companies.

    In my experience, it really doesn’t matter what job titles you held, as long as you can perform the job. The only drawback here, is that if your Resume’s have to pass through HR before, they might not pick up on the relevance of the certificate. Like Alison said, make sure you highlight your IT-related experience very clearly.

  12. anon*

    OP from #1 here. I did the phone interview. I think it went well. It seems like a case of an HR person setting things up that was maybe a little less familiar with the process? The interviewers said a second interview would be in person or via skype. I’m crossing my fingers.

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