short answer Saturday: 7 short answers to 7 short questions

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

1. Should I put off a job search until my GPA is higher?

I am a biochemistry student in college. My cumulative GPA is a teeny bit lower than a 3.0. This is a sensitive issue for me, because while I did somewhat poorly in the beginning of college, I really worked hard to bring it up. I know by the time I graduate, my goal is to graduate with a higher than 3.0 GPA. But how and when do you address that kind of issue to an employer? A previous professor told me that if I spin it off as a good thing to show my progress, then it would be possible to put that behind me. Because of this I am inclined to put off my job search until I am sure my GPA is high enough. That would mean I have to wait til I graduate to really go out there and find a job/experience. My major questions here are, do I bring this up first or explain if they ask me, and should I wait til after I graduate to look/apply for jobs for the upcoming term?

Don’t put off your job search. First, job searches often take a really long time — months or even a year or more, especially for many new grads. Second, lots of employers aren’t going to ask about your GPA at all, so you’d be putting off your search because of something that isn’t even going to play a role. Start applying for jobs now.

2. When do I mention my perfume allergy?

I have read your post on perfume allergies. I am one of those people who has it severely. I just lost my work-at-home job and now have to look for another. This is severe enough that I stop breathing and paramedics need to be called. This is not limited to perfume but also cleaning products and cigarette smoke. Do I tell the interviewer that I have this problem? Do I wait until I am hired or what is the best avenue?

Wait until you have a job offer, just like you would if you needed any other kind of accommodation. At that point, once they’ve decided that they want to hire you, you’ll be in the strongest position to try to work out an accommodation. Be prepared to make specific suggestions about what would work, since you have more experience with this than they do. Working from home may not be an option, so you’ll want to be ready with other suggestions too.

3. Explaining my most recent job, which I’m not pursuing further

I am about to start a job search, but I am not sure how to address my current position. I have been working at my current company for 3 years, and about a year ago was given a new position as bookkeeper. I am not trained to do anything related to the job and have been struggling for the last year to make it work. I will not be looking for a position as a bookkeeper obviously, but what do I tell interviewers about why I am not pursuing that? They will be able to tell I did not go to school for that (I majored in a social science) and I’m sure will have questions about the job change.

Thank you for any insight you can provide. I will have a good job reference and I am getting the job done, but it has been mostly self-taught and I really think it only works because of the company structure.

I’d list your title for your time at the company this way:
Chocolate Teapot Maker and Bookkeeper — 2010-present

… so that your previous title is included more prominently. From there, if you’re asked about it, you can explain that you took on bookkeeping duties in the last year, but that you’re seeking work in your previous field because that’s where your strengths are.

4. What did this email from an interviewer mean?

I recently got a very odd response when following up with an interviewer. In early November, I got a call for a job in that I applied to back in October. The process moved very fast from there. Initial phone interview that week, conference phone interview the next week (company is based in another state, but I’d be working in my home state), then in-person meeting/presentation with someone else working in my area the week after that. The in-person meeting, which was the day before Thanksgiving, went very well. I followed up about a week later, just asking about the timeline. The hiring manager said no decision had been made, but one would be made “soon.” I know that “soon” is a very relative term and that my definition may be different than his, but everything up to that point seemed like they wanted a decision by the end of the year.

Well, 2 more weeks went by, so I followed up again, asking about their timeline. This is where the odd answer came in. His paraphrased response was, “We’ll be making a decision shortly. Regardless of the outcome, we really liked you and your background and would like to build a relationship with you because we think you’d be a great addition to the company. Aside from the position you applied for there are other opportunities (not full-time) that you could consider as well.” I just responded thanking him for the update and telling him I looked forward to hearing about the position I applied for and the other opportunities.

I honestly have no idea how to take it. My initial thought was I wasn’t going to get the job I wanted with them. I mean, why bring up other opportunities if I am still in the running for the original position. Other friends think the opposite and since they said they really liked me, that it was just a weird way to respond. So I’m curious as to your thoughts on this. Also, should I follow up again after the new year (this last response came around December 10) or just wait to hear something?

You should take it at face value: They like you, and if they end up not hiring you for this job, they’d be interested in talking with you about jobs in the future. That doesn’t mean that you’re not getting this job — you might, you might not. This message doesn’t indicate one way or the other. It means no more and no less than what it said — take it literally.

And since it’s been almost a month, yes, it’s fine to check in again and ask when he’s likely to be making a decision.

5. Why do these applications want my age and photo?

I’ve been out of the workforce for going on three years. I moved due to family circumstances, and now I’m back in my hometown looking for work in a very small pool. As time goes by, I am finding ways to expand my search and came upon two things that alarmed me.

First, for tutoring: I have a masters degree in a related field for a posting I saw on, which redirected to This seems to be a website mostly directed towards parents seeking tutors, and it wants to be a Facebook-LinkedIn hybrid. They ask for your photo, your birth date, your availability. It seems like rather a lot of personal information to be asking for and quite a lot to be giving. It all feels very raw and exposed.

Second, I’m applying for jobs in the health field. They will all require criminal background checks. So why are they asking for my age in the data entry field, and why is it required in order to move forward with my application? If it is an application and I haven’t yet made it to the offer stage, why would they need to know that kind of personal information? I thought that was illegal?

The tutoring jobs are probably asking for that information up-front because they do background checks, since you’d be working with kids.

On the health field jobs, I have no idea why they’re asking about age, unless they’re simply collecting all the info they’d need for a background check now. It’s not illegal to ask your age — it’s only illegal to deny you a job on the basis of your age (if you’re 40 or older). Of course, it’s stupid to ask because it sets off alarm bells for most candidates, like it’s done for you. But lots of applications collect information that would be illegal to consider in hiring (such as race for EEOC reporting), and companies have systems that store that information separately from what’s passed on to the hiring decision-makers.

6. Is travel money separate from salary?

When negotiating an athlete’s contract, is a salary considered different money than a travel budget? If the contract states $X for travel for a year (can only be used for travel), and then an agent gets a percentage of the athlete’s “salary,” but it doesn’t state travel budget, I’m wondering then, is the travel money different income than salary money?

I have no idea how athletes’ contracts are structured, but in general, the salary money and the travel money should be considered separate, and the agent should only get a percentage of the salary portion. But who knows what odd conventions the sports industry may have; they have mystified me for years with their running around and getting all sweaty.

7. Company is paying people slightly less than they’re supposed to

I recently found out that my company isn’t paying people the amount stated in their offer letter due to some weird payroll calculation. Basically, the salary is calculated using 2088 hours, but they’re only paid for 2080 hours. This doesn’t seem to be an issue with hourly employees, but it seems unethical to not pay a salaried employee those extra 8 hours so their pay is what they were told they would be getting. Is this illegal?

Probably. The company can certainly decide to lower people’s pay going forward if they want to, but they’re legally bound to pay the agreed upon salary. Has anyone pointed this out to someone at the company in a position to do something about it? It might be a mistake rather than deliberate malfeasance, and you might be able to get it retroactively corrected.

{ 137 comments… read them below }

  1. Not even close.*

    5… is a well known nanny/babysitter site for people of all ages. Babies, elderly, pets, etc. The site lists available people like an online store and people looking for care can go on and rummage through the available providers in their area, and if you like someone, you try to work out an agreement. It can also work the other way – people put in requests for care and nannies and such and seek out clients. Did you even look at the website? It is very obvious… And I only know all this from looking at it once.


    Can you not take anything? Like a shot? Being realistic, coming into a workplace and making demands about smells is not going to go over well with new coworkers. Everything has a smell, or perfume, these days. Even paper can be purchased infused with smell. There are perfumed laundry detergents, etc. it just seems like it would be putting a lot of people off. If someone is disabled, a ramp may be installed, they may get a desk closer to the exit, but nothing that affects someone’s day to day activities… Just not sure how you can approach your issue without causing hostility. Your best bet, IMHO, is to pursue working at home, again. There are websites that only list telecommuting positions.


    Check your math. Have a coworker check the math. If it is still showing up missing 8 hrs, then bring it up to your manager. It might be an oversight on your part or their part.

    1. Nyxalinth*

      About the scent thing…

      It isn’t just a question of “Eww, yucky!” People with scent sensitivities really is a thing. They can get violently nauseous, severe migraines, and so on. I’m pretty sure that the rest aside, no one wants to get barfed on while at work.

      You come across like you think it’s just a matter of being wimpy.

      1. Jamie*

        I don’t think it’s a matter of being wimpy – I’m aware that severe sensitivity issues exist – but it’s still a question of how much an employer needs to accommodate.

        Not all sensitivity rises to the level of being covered by the ADA, but even when it does an employer needs to make reasonable accomodations. The question is what is reasonable.

        In my job if I became wheelchair bound they would be able to reasonably accommodate me with a ramp and access. If I lost my sight there is no reasonable accomodation which would allow me to perform my duties without undue hardship to my employer – because of the nature of my job. That doesn’t mean blindness wouldn’t be a legitimate disability or that it would whiny of me to claim that – but employers do not have to accommodate to the point of undue hardship.

        1. majigail*

          Not sure what your job is, but regarding the blindness, you’d be really surprised what really simple, relatively cheap accommodations can be made to enable a blind person to do most jobs. Except for airline pilot. We’re out of luck on that one for a while.

          1. Jamie*

            I am CIO of a manufacturing facility, which sounds much fancier than it is. Regarding blindness I’m the sole IT for over 100 production machines all networked so I spend some time each week on the factory floor amidst some pretty scary equipment.

            If there was a way to accommodate it, it wouldn’t be for me because I’m afraid of flying arch welds now when I can see them!

      2. Jamie*

        Sorry – misread and thought that was directed at me.

        I’ll pay more attention from here on out…

      3. anonymous*

        Agreed. This is called multiple chemical sensitivity, and people can DIE from it.

        I have a dear friend who has such a severe case that he HAD to work from home, no questions. He can’t even bring in a new computer to his home or get a new car and drive it. His MCS is that bad.

        I think the letter writer should work with his/her doctor to get whatever documentation is needed, because I fear a lot of people react the way this person did. The LW may, indeed, need a high level of accommodation.

        1. fposte*

          A doctor’s note is a weird gray area, though; companies may require them for absences, but it has no force in law and doesn’t oblige an employer any more than an employee request. It does seem that such a disorder would be ADA-eligible, though, and an employee who seeks accommodation should mention that they’re seeking it under the ADA (presuming the employer has at least 15 employees). The Ask Jan site that’s included elsewhere is really helpful, and here’s a good ADA FAQ:

    2. Tasha*

      Allergy shots tend to be for specfic types of allergies and are very expensive. Though snarking about detergents and optional scented paper is a bit rude. It’s not the clothes that tend to set people like me off, it’s people who insist that they “need” a cloud of some perfume hovering over their workspace and body at all times. Or lotions or hand sanitizers that are strongly scented.

      There is a multiple amount of reasonable accommodation that can be made for people with severe perfume allergies. If they can be made for me working in a retail environment, it should be even easier in a office setup. Things like not allowing application of perfumes or lotions in the office itself or switching to a low scent deodorizer for office smells. Or putting her desk out of the main flow of air in the office so scents aren’t being blown to them.

      There is lots of reasonable options.

      1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

        Although there have been people commenting here on AAM where being near air vents was awful for them, because it just carries scents from otherwhere in the office directly to their desks!

        Accomodation for something like this may be difficult, but I think it’s worth applying at “normal” places, getting an offer, and seeing what they can do.

  2. Jamie*

    #2 – what kind of accommodations are you looking for? If what you’re saying is that perfume or the smell of smoke will necessitate paramedics being called how are you safe in public at all? Even if an employer would change their outdoor smoking area or put a ban on fragrances for employees, they can’t control customers, vendors, etc wearing perfume. Scent free cleaning products and I’m assuming no air fresheners in the bathroom – that will both increase costs and not go over we’ll even if people were willing to stop wearing fragrance.

    How do you manage it in your daily life where you have to shop, etc. in an uncontrolled environment?

    #7 – this sounds like a typo in the payroll system. Check the math and if you’re positive that its incorrect let them know.

    1. fposte*

      Yes, #2 worries me. The description makes it sound like nothing will be acceptable but total telecommuting, and that’s highly unlikely, especially right out of the gate. And didn’t sound like it was necessarily the perfumes in cleaning products, so unscented might not solve the issue. While it sounds debilitating enough that it might meet ADA standards, that doesn’t mean that they have to allow you to telecommute. So as Alison says, be ready with what reasonable accommodations other than that would suffice.

      1. Jamie*

        To this point is there a reason that respirators aren’t the solution in the majority of these cases?

        A quick google shows a ton of masks which are specifically to filter particulates for people with perfume and chemical sensitivity.

        This link says that an employer can’t force an employee to wear a mask if they are not comfortable doing so, but wouldn’t the better solution to be a resolution by the person with the issue rather than environmental changes which will never be completely controlled.

        Maybe I’m missing something, it it seems like a mask would be the way to go if the severity of exposure is such that it will result in cessation of breathing. I would never trust co-workers or the general public to comply if the end result could hospitalize me or worse.

        1. JT*

          #2’s question seems moot to me – I don’t see how he/she can even have an in-person job interview without revealing the allergy in advance. Otherwise the interview itself might stop his/her breathing.

          1. just me*

            Yes I see that as well. The receptionist might have something on that might cause a problem for the OP or maybe someone else in the reception room or maybe the bathroom might have scented air freshener in it.

            What does the OP do about those environments where she doesn’t know what to expect or uncontrolled areas such as parties ( any type Baby showers etc.. ) bars or even stores where they have perfume counters. (I avoid them as they stink too bad ). I am just curious as to how it is handled.

            I am no way trying to make light of this as I too have scent issues. Co-workers put on awful smelling hand lotion and a headache immediately follows for me. I literally have to cover my nose to a while to not breathe it in.

            Wishing you the best in your search !

        2. fposte*

          If the masks actually work and they’re affordable or covered somehow, that would definitely seem like a useful possibility. The problem I see is that scent molecules, which I believe are usually esters, are awfully small themselves (well under a micron), and smaller than most things that most masks are trying to filter. (Apparently we’re technically talking “respirator” rather than “mask” at that point, but the N95s are still disposable and inexpensive–it’s just not clear they’d block scents.) It’s cheap enough that I think it would be worth a try, but I’d believe somebody who said they didn’t help.

          The engineer’s note below about certified LEED buildings is a really interesting thing, too; while it doesn’t allow you to control other people, it may draw a population more sensitive to and aware of the problem.

          1. Jamie*

            The ones to which I was referring are marketed specifically for people with sensitivity to perfumes and fragrances so it seems like something worth exploring. And yes, respirators not masks.

            But I get migraines and I’m well aware of how a trigger can bring you to your knees no matter how hard you try to control your environment – but a migraine is one thing, if that could conceivably hospitalize or kill me I’d wear one if it worked – no matter how cumbersome. I think that’s why I’m interested in this, because I get migraines from certain smells and while I can control a lot of my environment I can’t guard against everything (the smell of tar, refinerary blowing on my route home, certain colognes/perfumes, etc.) so I don’t see how something so severe could ever be controlled environmentally.

            1. fposte*

              Yes, I’ve seen those, but I’m trying to find writing by somebody other than those trying to make money off of them to state whether perfumes (which are often alcohol-based) are adsorbable by activated carbon (which doesn’t work with alcohol, along with a lot of other chemicals). As noted above, I think straight mechanical filtration isn’t up to the job.

              I think reactions are a complicated thing, though, so it may be that masks would help by reducing contact with aerosolized liquids or other irritants that the sufferer didn’t even know were part of the problem; they also may help reduce the stress that can kick your body’s reactivity up if you find them reassuring.

        3. carol lee smith*

          Jamie, I did try a mask, made a mistake of leaving it on the desk one day and someone sprayed it with perfume while I was gone.
          If not for someone sitting at my desk while I was there, I might have picked the mask up and put it on. As it was, I broke out in hives.

          1. fposte*

            Wow, that’s a great co-worker, eh? However, it sounds like you’re saying the masks did work for you, so that’s definitely something to consider as an accommodation. You can see if there’s a locked drawer or bring them from home if you’re concerned about a recurrence.

    2. carol lee smith*

      Jamie, my personal life has changed greatly since I became this senisitive. Most my friends and family do not wear perfume around me or make sure they use very little. I shop either very early in the am or very late at night when there are not as many people around and yes I have left shopping carts loaded with food to get out of a building quickly. I am always aware of where the exits are. I have learned to back away from people quickly, not shake hands with some people explaining why of course. I do go out, but there have been times that we have had to change seats at resturants and movie theathers ect. I carry an epi pen, but my reaction can be so quick that I might have to rely on someone else doing it and then I have to be removed quickly from the problem.

  3. Clobbered*

    #5 includes provider photos in their listings. Yes, I know it is irrational, but people like to “see” who they hire for their kids. Normally I’d say “idiots, as if that would tell them something” but in fact if you look, it does screen out folks with really bad judgement (kids: don’t use a dating-site style photo for your nanny ad)

  4. Sandi*

    #7- it could be that you are looking at data from 2012, which was a leap year, and actually there were 2088 working hours, and for 2013, there are 2080 hours, since it is a non-leap year. I work with payroll, and every leap year we have to walk through the process since it impacts budgets.

    1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      You are a genius. As someone who recently had to compute interest on a loan and wasn’t sure if the leap year should be taken into account. I *still* didn’t think of this!

      1. JT*

        The number of working days doesn’t just vary between leap years and non-leap years, but also depending on where weekends fall.

        1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

          Although I suspect they don’t take that into account every year; where I work, you’re just expected to work 1920 hours a year. If the basic level of available work hours was calculated to be 2080, I could see them sticking with that and then just tacking on 8 hours when the leap day is a workday.

  5. Anonymous*

    2) How would one accommodate for this severe of an allergy? OP, I think that you’ll be best off only applying for remote-work positions. I just thought of how I could make my workplace safe for you, and it would be impossible. Are you in a field that lends itself to working from home? If not, are there different ways to approach your job to make that more feasible?

    1. AnonEngineer*

      Actually; I was going to suggest that OP#2 look into applying to work at companies located in certified LEED buildings ( Building with low- or no- VOC (volatile organic compounds) is one of the most common ways to earn points towards certification.

      In addition, if the building is being re-certified/maintained under LEED for Existing Buildings – Operations and Maintenance, it’s very likely that it will be cleaned using only “green,” perfume-free items.

      Companies that build to these specifications, and choose to maintain their spaces in green ways – as my employer does – also often have “no perfume or scents” in the office policies. As someone with chemical sensitivity – thankfully not as bad as OP#2 – I really appreciate this, because it means I can mention to HR that admin-foo is wearing perfume today, and it’s bothering me (really expensive!perfume, 20-yr anniversary gift) and let HR deal with the awkwardness of mentioning/enforcing the policy.

      I know that there are some here who say you should just speak up, but given that there are still people like “Not Even Close” out there , and I can’t count the number of times I’ve been told I’m lying about this, using LEED green building as a proxy to help find employers may be useful.

      Then, after you land that job, speak immediately to your supervisor/HR.

    2. Cali*

      It sounds like lots of people are assuming only large workplaces, which would be hard to control. Remember we aren’t all at large offices though. At one of the offices I work at, we have me (a chemo-phobe whom scents bother but for whom they aren’t dangerous- i.e. I may start to taste them, get a sore throat, and/or a headache, and become anxious about this/them to the point of having trouble concentrating, but while this is obnoxious it won’t hurt me really), and another coworker who is allergic (i.e. actual dangerous break out/swell trouble breathing stuff). As there are a total of six women working in this office though, for the most part we can just put a moratorium on anything that really bother us, avoid it, or, on rare days where it’s hard to avoid, either work outside (in summer or spring) or leave. OP #2 may be able to find a small office with nice coworkers.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      I’m really curious from a clinical point of view when this allergy started showing up, and what exactly is causing it. It isn’t something I can ever remember hearing about when I was younger, in school, etc. Have there been changes in product formulations that are doing it? A history of environmental contaminants? Is it like the immune system deficiencies of children whose parents practically sterilized them? I’m not criticizing; it interests me scientifically.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Meant to add: I’m allergic to some detergents. Can’t use Cheer, for instance; it makes me itch. Also, most things from Bath and Body or The Body Shop (which, to me, stink anyway). So it does interest me from that perspective.

        1. fposte*

          As AnonEngineer notes, I think that could be a sensitivity rather than an allergy (though of course I have no idea of which). I think one of the challenges is that the term “allergy” is being popularly used for many different kinds of negative reactions to a substance (you hear medical folks complaining when people use it about standard and common side effects to a medication, for instance), so the picture gets kind of blurry.

          1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

            Yeah. It’s like when people confuse being lactose intolerant with being allergic to milk. Very, very different things. But people conflate “sensitivity” with “allergy” all the time.

            1. fposte*

              Yeah, my health service has no space in the records for sensitivities or bad experiences–which means that because I noted a problem with horrible side effects taking a particular medication it’s down as an allergy in my records, so I have to explain every time that it’s not an allergy (it’s an antibiotic, so they really want to know about allergies).

              1. anonymous*

                Ha! I do this, too. It’s VERY annoying have to explain every time.

                Mine is augmentin. HATE that stuff. Will never take it again, unless I am out cold and they determine it’s the only thing that will help (it’s an antibiotic.) I’m happy to list it as an allergy, because my reaction to it was THAT bad (not life-threatening, but certainly not comfortable.)

                1. anonymous*

                  LOL! Yes. I think we are on the same page. It’s very common, but I think some people are just more tolerant. Ha!

              2. Jamie*

                I do this, too. I have an adverse reaction, not a allergy, to one med but I list it as an allergy because of the way the forms are written. I don’t know if my reaction was life threatening but I was given it my pulse went to 172 and I had a minor seizure – the only one in my life.

                So I have no qualms listing it as an allergy if that’s how they know its not an option.

                1. fposte*

                  I think the problem is mostly an occasional in-hospital one. I’ve heard medical personnel complaining about having to use another, possibly less-effective drug–which is what you have to do with an allergy– when they could actually have used the one that worked along another medication to counteract the problematic side effects–which is what you do with a sensitivity.

              3. Laura L*

                It’s funny that so many people do this!

                As someone with allergies, it annoys me because a lot of people don’t understand what allergies are in the first place and this further confuses them!

                But, it’s not the end of the world.

                On the milk thing: I had a legitimate allergy to milk when I was a baby. It gave me a rash around my mouth. Very different from lactose intolerance.

          2. carol lee smith*

            Yes, you are right it is a ‘sensitivity’ but a lot of people don’t understand that and do understand allergy so it is just easier to say

      2. Jamie*

        I’d be very interested in this, too, if anyone has links to studies.

        It’s the same with peanut allergies, I didn’t know anyone growing up with a nut allergy and some say its tripled in the last decade. I still don’t know anyone with this allergy, but there is no question that it’s real and can be life threatening. I’ve heard everything attributing it to the increase in breast feeding, cleaner and hyper-hygienic environments wearing our immune systems, changes in makeup of vaccines, etc.

        It’s hard to find evidence presented without bias as many people publishing on this have their own agendas.

        Something has definitely changed, though.

        1. K*

          It might just be that people with those allergies tended to die young and the cause of death to not be figured out, reported, or tracked in the past.

          1. Ellie H.*

            I have a couple ideas of why it might be. The first, as K said, is that maybe in previous times anyone with a serious allergy would have died in their first allergic reaction, without access to immediate medical care like we have now. The fact that allergies are at least partly genetic (confirmed in twin studies) means that this would have had kind of an exponential effect; that is, if more people now survive allergies, then they pass on their genes and then even more people will potentially have allergies.

            The second potential reason is to do with building up immunities and the prevalence of soap, hand sanitizer, antibiotics, etc. in modern society. (Called the “hygiene hypothesis”) Allergies, sensitivities, etc. are drastically, drastically, drastically less common in third world countries.

            The third potential reason is, as already has been said, people access much more preventative health care these days and there is much more literature and awareness about food and scent sensitivities, so people can now be aware of the very specific causes of their feeling unwell whereas, in the “old days,” they would have just been regarded as “kind of sickly” without a specific cause.

            I’m not a scientist so those are just some ideas/suggestions. And it’s important to not the difference between an allergy and a sensitivity. It’s an interesting subject, though.

            1. Tricia*

              I think another thing to add is that in today’s world we have more access to allergens – in past generations, you couldn’t necessarily get peanuts/strawberries/shellfish/etc. if you lived in a geographic region that didn’t produce these products, or at least not inexpensively.

            2. Windy*

              TLDR: I am not the #2 OP but looking at my experience alone I really believe that for a lot of people environmental factors trigger these “new” horrible extreme allergies that we are suddenly seeing a rise in.

              For those that seem to be interested in more details, I can tell you that in my case it’s really weird how my fragrance allergy came about and I am sure it differs from person to person. Growing up I lived in a large farming suburb to a big city, a 5 min drive down the interstate away. I had no sensitivity to fragrances at all back then, in my early teens when I was learning the art of makeup and using perfume I used to just douse myself in WONDERFUL scents like “Exclamation!” etc. I always thought my mother was making it up when she would tell me she was very sensitive to perfumes, they gave her migraines and made her nauseated, I mean she always wore Chanel No 5 on special occasions so she has to be lying right?

              I grew up a bit and in my early 20’s after moving around a lot from sorta rural to the woods kinda rural to an even bigger city, west coast to east and back again I finally came home. This time I lived closer to the city than out in the burbs and I got my first real job in a small IT call center located in a building that was only about 3 years old. After 3 months there I started breaking out into giant itchy hives, my lips would swell up to the size of giant balloons and the doctor could not figure out what was going on with me. After several allergy panels and other testing her “best guess” was that I was allergic to myself. I was young and ignorant, I probably should have found a new doctor. I was laid off from my job and could not hold down any regular job because the symptoms started flooding in any time my body temperature went up and the only thing that “fixed” the issue where a large dose of antihistamines that knocked me out to sleepy-town or my epi-pen for a worse case scenario.

              I lived like that for about 4 years. Then I moved back to the suburbs and one day I just quit getting hives at every little stresser I was able to find work again and the only times the hives, migraines, nausea would appear is if I was exposed to aerosol based fragrance. One odd tidbit is that citrus based fragrances did not appear to trigger my allergies. It was especially bad when someone would freshen up their scent in their office or outside and then walk in our building but even if they had been waring it for an hour or two it could still set me off. My boss at the time said she was also fragrance sensitive but she did not believe me regarding my extreme symptoms either. Sence my team was isolated in the building I had asked if it was possible for my immediate team not to use aerosols at the office as that was my biggest trigger, my request was granted. Let me tell you, it’s really hard to work with a team of resentful people who think you are a lying drama queen, just out to inconvenience them and their right to douse themselves in fragrances at the work place.

              Fast Forward to my mid 30’s I made a super extreme move to a real rural area we are talking 45 min drive to a very small city and a 2 hour drive to the Big city. I work in an office setting, the woman that shares an office with me often sprays herself after shes been out for a smoke and in the two years that I have lived here I have had exactly ONE allergic reaction to an aerosol fragrance from someone else entirely. Its a little ironic since it was this Friday I had that attack and this post was on Saturday. Fragrances still make me uncomfortable, I get a little anxious preparing for symptoms that don’t come, but that I can live with. I don’t even carry an epi-pen with me anymore.

              1. Elizabeth West*

                Hmm, that’s weird. Because your mom had a sensitivity, I would guess you had this potential, but it wasn’t triggered by the same chemicals. Then when you were more exposed, one or more of them (or a combination, perhaps?) set you off.

                “…just out to inconvenience them and their right to douse themselves in fragrances at the work place.”

                Sheesh, like anyone has a right to gag everyone. :P

                1. Windy*

                  I suppose for me it will be one of those great Unsolved Mysteries lol.

                  Before my personal experience with it, I once had someone call me to set up an interview and they made it very clear that it was important that I not ware any fragrances to their office including deodorant due to an allergy issues at the time I was mystified but now I sooo get it.

                  And Oops for all of the grammar issues in the above post, they where spelled right, and grammar check didn’t nab them. :)

        2. Kimberlee, Esq.*

          What K said, although I suspect it’s also due to the ever-increasing number of people (especially in America) having access to doctors; diagnoses of various ailments will go up in numbers over time due to population growth, and in proportion due to more people seeking those diagnoses, and being able to obtain them.

        3. Andrew*

          We’ve sped up the process of killing the planet, and we’re killing ourselves in the process, that’s what’s changed.

          OK, rant over; soapbox being put away.

          1. Jamie*

            Well, in 1900 life expectancy was 46.3 and 48.6 for men and women respectively. 2008 it was 75.5 and 80.5 respectively (numbers from CDC).

            Infant morality is down 90%+ from 1900 to 1997 (also cdc) so we’re killing ourselves a lot more slowly than we were before. There are a lot of benefits to scientific progress.

            1. V*

              I know you meant to say infant mortality is down, but i laughed to myself reading “infant morality is down 90%”… hehehe :)

            2. Rana*

              It’s the infant mortality figures that bring down the life expectancy ones, though. Keep in mind that those expectancy figures factor in the likelihood of death for all of the population at birth.

              So, while a baby in 1900 had a very high chance of not surviving infancy, a person who managed to reach their thirties in 1910 had just about as good a chance of reaching 75 as a person in their thirties in 2010.

      3. AnonEngineer*

        Technically, it’s not an allergy (this is a reaction to a protein that triggers a histamine response), but a sensitivity. I think that’s doctor speak for we have no idea why this is happening to you.

        As someone who’s whole family is “sensitive,” this is what I can tell you – it started affecting 3 generations of us, aged 8 to 70, in the mid 80’s. Clothing detergent was the first thing we had to switch out because the scent (perfume/parfum/masking fragrance) was making us itch – or in my case, break out in hives that I’d scratch until they bled. Over time we’ve had to eliminate more and more products – again across what is now 4 generations.

        I’ve found that naturally derived fragrances (eucalyptis oil, lavendar, other “essential” oils, etc.) that have no petroleum based / synthetic fragrances are usually OK for me. However manufacturers don’t have to disclose what/how they created the “fragrance” they include, so I have no idea what they’re made of, and generally steer clear to be safe.

        My guess – and this is just a guess, no research to back it up – is that starting in the mid 80’s products began to substitute synthetic fragrances for naturally derived ones, and/or the overall use of petroleum derived chemicals in our personal and cleaning products skyrocketed. I assume that we “always” were sensitive to this, but the chemicals that trigger it just weren’t present.

        1. Cathy*

          I agree it has something to do with petroleum based chemicals. I am extremely allergic to aspirin (as in complete respiratory failure). Aspirin comes from the bark of the willow tree. I can drink willowbark tea by the gallon with no ill effect, and it does a marvelous job of relieving various little aches and pains. I can only assume there is something in the manufacturing process which is causing the allergy.

      4. Not So NewReader*

        I do not know what type of things traditional medicine says about allergy. I learned with my alternative medicine program that allergy accumulates over time. They believe that we build up junk in our systems and this makes us less tolerant to adding on more junk.
        Initially, I felt this had little to do with my health concerns. I did not think I was an “allergy type” person. oh, boy. I was wrong. I was pretty overloaded. So I simplified my diet, removed chemicals and fragrances from my home. (darn. I missed those fragrances. Finding simpler cleaners- that was hard, it is easier now.) And I started feeling better. I was finally able to lose those last few sizes to reach my goal. Weight loss tied to allergy load? “Who’d thunk?”

        Anyway, I could be the OP! I know first hand allergies can be very debilitating. I am fine now- perfumes, etc, do not bother me very much. I do get concerned when people wear heavy scents in public- because you just don’t know who will be impacted by that scent. My feeling is that in the future we will see more and more about this subject.

        So not really a scientific answer to your question, Elizabeth, just a personal experience story. Definitely a good topic to keep an eye on.

      5. anonymous*

        In my friend’s case, he used to work for the EPA in the field as a botanist. He told us that his problems started as a result of a pesticide or herbicide–I don’t remember which or what product it was.

        He was able to swing working from home completely, due to the severity of his illness and probably due to the fact that he was well-respected in his field (this was with a different government agency.) He’s badly off enough that I’m sure his doctors provided what he needed for his employer to accommodate him.

        He CAN leave the house, but he has to pick and choose carefully where he goes. There is only, for example, one grocery store he can tolerate. In order to get a “new” computer, he has to have it shipped to his brother’s house and leave it there to outgas for months. He has a “new” car that he’s owned for at least five years, and he’s just now able to get into it to start it up for short periods WITH THE WINDOWS open. It’s a really tough life!

        I hate it when people minimize this. (Not saying YOU are minimizing this.)

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Ooh, that’s terrible. If the chemical he was exposed to caused lasting damage like this, I would SO slam the company that made it. I’m glad at least that his employer was able (and willing) to accommodate him.

          1. Anonymous*

            Yeah. He wasn’t clear on when it started happening. It may have come on AFTER he was no longer in that job, and saying it happened due to that compound may be his best guess.

            His life is hard, often lonely, and terribly inconvenient. My boyfriend and I see him fairly regularly, but our visits are usually short and take place outdoors (we go hiking a lot.) I worry about him.

  6. Anonymous*

    5) Could the age thing be for screening out age-restricted positions, such as how alchohal can be restricted? I’m not sure if medications are restricted the same way, but could that be a possibility?

  7. Jane Doe*

    2. I’m guessing the letter writer in #2 must have some experience dealing with this in every day life and it may not be terribly complicated for a workplace to accommodate her disability. While it’s possible to control what kinds of chemicals are in your own house, she can’t control what’s at the grocery store or public transit or anywhere else she probably goes on a regular basis.

  8. Not So NewReader*

    For OP #1- Yeah, what Alison said. I made this mistake myself. I had commuting plus family issues that distracted me heavily and pulled my GPA right down. A good life lesson on this one- don’t wait for X to be at Y level before starting something that needs to be started. For example “I am going to wait until I am making $40K per year THEN I will start my IRA.” This type of logic (postponing things) does not work to our advantage in a lot of instances. Sometimes it feels almost like punishment. Picture where you want to be in the near future and start making baby steps today to get there.

  9. Kristy*

    #1 – I was in your situation back in the day ;-) My overall undergraduate GPA was literally a 2.97. (I had mono for a semester in college, which affected the overall GPA). The GPA in my major, on the other hand, was a 3.8. So, when I was asked what my GPA was, I always worded it as “My major GPA was a 3.8.” Most places will not question you any further :-)

    1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      I graduated with, literally, a 2.999 GPA. I was kinda pissed… but then, that’s just math. :)

  10. perrik*

    #1: Are the positions you’re seeking the kind where an employer is very likely to ask your GPA? Some internships might, and the big consulting firms recruiting on-campus for entry-level analysts do. Otherwise, employers are more interested in what skills and attitude you’ll bring to the job.

    You can put a positive spin on the question – if it’s ever asked – by telling them your overall GPA and then your GPA for your major or last 60 credits. Some grad programs only look at those numbers because they don’t care that you bombed out Intro to Cow Massaging when your major is Teapot Making.

    Redemption is possible; I had a subterranean GPA in my first 60 credits, but finished undergrad over 3.0. My master’s GPA was considerably better!

    1. Elizabeth West*

      My first college experience was a round of parties, and my GPA suffered. My transcript is riddled with fail. But then I went back, and got a 3.6, got on the Dean’s List twice without even trying, and graduated cum laude. Grad school (didn’t finish) was a 3.8. If you look at both transcripts, you can really see the improvement, so I don’t worry about the first round anymore. For most jobs, I just send them my latest one if they ask. I’m giving one more degree a shot and this time, since I don’t have any gen ed classes (math!), I’m going for a 4.0. :)

  11. DA*

    I’m amused when it is a requirement of the application to put the GPA. I graduated from college six and seven years ago and don’t remember. Needless to say, I just put something over a 3.0 and leave it at that. If the GPA requirement is that big of an issue for the employer at this point in my career, then that is their problem and not mine.

    1. JT*

      If you get hired and it turns out that in fact your GPA was lower than what you wrote, it seems to me you’d be risking losing your job for not being accurate. I hope you write “approximate 3.0” or something like that. Or clarify it later in the hiring process.

      Also, if you don’t remember your GPA, you could get a transcript from your college to find out.

  12. Anonymous*

    Re #4
    Say this person doesn’t get the initial job, but has an offer extended to apply/interview for another position, but then they don’t get the next position, but are offered another try for another position? How many times is it worthwhile to apply/interview for another position within the same company, in a short time frame? (Assuming all jobs are closely related)

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      If they keep extending invitations to interview, and you remain interested in working for them, there’s no reason not to accept the invitation. Sometimes you’re a perfectly good candidate who they’d be glad to hire, but someone else just happened to be better. Sometimes that happens multiple times — but it doesn’t mean that you’re in any less a strong, viable candidate. And they’re not going to keep interviewing you if they don’t consider you a serious candidate, believe me.

      1. anonymous*

        Re: #4 Is there a way to to tell if a company is doing a bait and switch offer when it comes to full-time and part-time? I had a somewhat similar situation where I interviewed for a full-time position and was later told they hired someone else but would consider me for the next full-time position that opened, as the company was planning to fill additional spots in the next few months. BUT in the same breath the employer/interviewer asked if “on a side note” would I be interested in doing some part-time work for the company.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          If you knew you weren’t going to be hired for that full-time position, would you still be interested in the part-time work? That’s one way to think about it, since there are no guarantees that you will be hired for the FT position, even if they love you — other candidates can always come along.

          1. Anonymous*

            Yes, true. I would still want the part-time work depending on how much they paid…but the full-time position comes with a salary plus benefits, which of course makes it more appealing…had the same job been listed as part-time I’m not sure I would have applied because I really do want a full-time position…

  13. EngineerGirl*

    #1 – If your major GPA is higher than your total one, make sure to state that. Also try to work your connections with the hiring managers. That may help you get by HR with all their silly filters on GPA.

    #2 – If you actually stop breathing you should probably refer to your condition an anaphylaxis, not an allergy. Most people think of allergies as hay fever. If you call it by its medical name you may get a better understanding from others what it truly means. You do need to think about your side of the issue to. Are you seeing an immunologist and carrying an epi-pen? That will show you are doing all you can to work with your condition.

    1. Zxyn*

      Oh, I second the advice about using your major GPA if it’s higher than your overall. My boyfriend listed both to avoid looking like he was trying to hide his total GPA, though. That worked out for him.

  14. Zxyn*

    1 – My boyfriend just finished college as a chemical engineering major and was in the exact same boat re: his GPA. It was very low and he worked to bring it up by the time he graduated, but it was still low by many employers’ standards. He got advice to address it head-on in interviews, focusing on how he worked hard to improve it from where it had fallen. He did and received positive feedback from potential employers for doing so. Definitely start your job search now and be open and honest about your GPA should it come up in an interview, as a lot of employers in the science and technology field do care about it, whether or not they should.

    1. Divya*

      Yeah, most of the sci/tech jobs I’ve seen ask for at least a 3.0 GPA. I’ve even seen a company that wouldn’t let you go on to the real application if your GPA was not higher than a 3.0. I’m not sure what the OP would do in that situation since it seems like they would be looking in that field as a biochemistry student.

      1. Zxyn*

        Just going on my boyfriend’s experience, there isn’t much you can do about a company with a hard GPA minimum unless you have some kind of inside connection to the company. He’s told me about recruiters at career fairs that won’t really talk to you if your GPA is below their threshold (On more than one occasion, a recruiter would start talking to him, take a look at his resume, and then say something to the effect of “Sorry, we don’t accept resumes with a GPA below X.X) and online applications that block you from progressing if your GPA is too low.

  15. Tasha*

    #2 Since I have an extreme sensitivity to perfumes and chemicals, I try to think of accommodation before a job offer so I can have them right away to provide. If possible, try to learn about the office environment before or as much as possible during the interview. If you are having trouble just during the interview itself from perfumes though, I would find a different job. The more used to perfumes an office is, the harder they push back against not using them and can even be hostile about it.

    Be prepared though at any job for people to call you a liar or try and trick you or deliberately trigger them to “test” how bad they really are. Many people don’t believe perfume allergies or chemical sensitivities are real.

    My mother brought it up during a temp job once and the woman she was complaining about deliberately brought in a lotion to set off the allergies and used it multiple times a day to make sure the scent stayed fresh just because my mother asked her politely to stop.

    Also for some people who don’t understand. There is a world of difference between a brief exposure out in public for a few moments until you get away from it and hours of constant exposure where you can’t. The first is a tolerable point of having to live life and the second can be a health hazard depending on the allergy.

    1. ChristineH*

      Reminds me of a scene in Freaks and Geeks in which a couple of classmates purposely slipped some peanuts into the sandwich of a kid with a severe peanut allergy, leading to a near-fatal reaction.

  16. Laura*

    I was always taught by my career center (so take this with a grain of salt because I know AAM’s thought on them…) that you do not put a GPA if it is under a 3.0 on your resume. If it is higher, than you list it where you list your major/university.

    Yes yes, then effectively if they see your resume with no GPA they may assume its low, but they may not. For companies that don’t care about it, its not worth listing it to potentially negatively hurt you. Let them ask you!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Totally agree. In fact, I’d probably only encourage listing it if it’s 3.7 or higher. Otherwise, no reason to list it; let employers ask if they want it.

      1. EM*

        What about listing “cum laude” or higher under your education? It’s been 10 years, and I have a masters, but I worked hard for that, dammit.

      2. ChristineH*

        Is it okay to list your GPA even when you’re years out of school? I have my GPAs of both my Bachelors and Masters degrees listed (graduated in 1995 and 2007, respectively).

        1. fposte*

          I’d say don’t include them, because it means including a GPA for a close to 20-year-old degree. If it was just the 2007 one it would be unnecessary but probably not offputting, but since you can’t include the one GPA and not the other, you end up putting information that isn’t relevant in a prime position.

  17. BCW*

    For #2, I’m not trying to be mean, but how far do you really expect people to go who are already there? I mean I understand strong perfume, but what about body wash and deodorant. A new employee coming in and people then needing to change everything about their hygeine is a bit much to ask I think

  18. carol lee smith*

    Thanks so much for your answer about when to let someone know about my perfume allergy. That is what I had planned on doing. I will let you know when I find a new position and let you know how it worked. Thank you again

    1. AG*

      I just wanted to chime in and say that I am very empathetic about your allergy/sensitivity and wish you the best of luck! I am sensitive to heavy scents although not as bad as you, and I really hate how perfumed our culture is! I feel like the air freshener and perfume companies have brainwashed people into thinking that they *need* to use an artificial scent! My laundry smells just fine with All Free Clear, and unscented soap and body wash get me perfectly clean, thankyouverymuch.

    2. EM*

      Would it be too dangerous to wait to see how “scented” your office is, or is that too big of a risk? I’ve become sensitized to fragrance over the years, and I’m normally fine at work. Although, I did ask if they could stop putting lavender-scented air-freshener in the bathroom; anything scented like lavender makes me sneeze uncontrollably, even for the brief duration of being in the bathroom.

      1. jmkenrick*

        I feel like making a request that they remove air fresheners, etc, from the bathroom would be well-received. That’s easily doable.

        A bigger risk would be if the allergy required that other employees not wear certain scents.

        1. K*

          Though, seriously, if the issue is mostly perfume (and people who spray themselves in a cloud of it every morning) I bet there’s plenty of other co-workers who would be grateful to have a “no perfume” policy even if they don’t have allergies.

          1. jmkenrick*

            I take your point, but what I’m thinking is that many managers I know try to avoid nitpicking non-work-related items, and I think many wouldn’t like the idea of having to enforce a no-perfume rule.

            1. K*

              I think a smaller office might be Carol’s best bet – the kind of place where there’s not a lot of enforcement because people will know her and be happy to not wear perfume because it’s obvious who they’re affecting and how.

              (Granted this gets more complicated if we’re talking not using any scented products whatsoever at any stage, but I think just not wearing perfume is a pretty easy request to make and have followed in a small office with the right culture.)

        2. Jamie*

          Do you think? Personally, I don’t wear fragrance often but I’d be more than happy to forgo it totally at work – but lack of air fresher in a shared bathroom would bother me daily.

          Don’t get me wrong, if it was making someone ill I’d deal – I wouldn’t want anyone to suffer because of my preference – but I’m not sure I’d be able to use the bathroom unless everyone agred never to do anything malodorous.

          I’d find a nearby gas station or give up drinking water during the day.

          1. K*

            I think the key is proper ventilation. I don’t think my office uses air freshener at all and it’s fine.

          2. fposte*

            And I’m not much bothered by the bathrooms, but I really like my perfume, so I’d want to get the safe use policy clarified as much as possible so I could enjoy stuff without feeling like I’m killing somebody. (In general, only people who are cuddle-close to me know I wear perfume, so I’m pretty sure I’m not making the non-allergic crazy, but it’s a different matter if it could send somebody to the hospital.)

          3. Ellie H.*

            Personally . . . I would rather smell almost anything (including gross bathroom smells) than air freshener. I don’t have a sensitivity or anything but it really grosses me out. Those pine tree things people used to put in their cars would practically make me gag.

          4. jmkenrick*

            I think the issue is more what is easy/difficult for management.

            If they need to remove an air-fresher to keep a good employee happy, that’s pretty feasible.

            If they have to start laying out (and enforcing) office policies about scented soaps and perfumes, that seems like it would be much more time-consuming and potentially problematic for them. I feel like good managers try to avoid nit-picking at details not related to output, and might balk at the notion of having to take on that responsibility.

            1. fposte*

              I think that’s true, but since this is likely to fall under the ADA, they might need to figure out what could be a reasonable accommodation even if it doesn’t thrill them. I think that policing/enforcing every other employee probably rises above that level, but making a scent-free area and a *request* that the employees refrain if they’re going in that area would seem reasonable to me in most workplaces. (Again, that doesn’t solve the cleaning thing, but I think we’re talking about the subject in general, too.) That might not be enough for some sensitive people, but then not every reasonable accommodation is enough.

    3. anonymous*

      Good luck, Carol.

      I really feel that, if you have not, you should get documentation from your doctor.

      Also, please consider trying to seek out and apply for remote positions only, if you can.

  19. Anonymous*

    My boss who also owns the company I work at has chemical sensitivity, /so there a scent free policy in place. It’s actually quite refreshing and not a burden. We also use a green company for cleaning services. I used to work in an office where people wore all sorts of different perfumes and scents, sometimes headache inducing, and personally the worst were those who used too much Downey softener on their clothes, which in my opinion, is gag worthy.

    1. Rana*

      I hear you on the Downey. I’m not really sensitive to smells in a medical sense, but the detergent row in the supermarket is horrible to navigate. In fact, I call it the Toxic Chemical Aisle and do my best to avoid it.

      (The only thing worse is a scented candle aisle; that actually makes me cough and wheeze a bit.)

      1. Natalie*

        That smell takes forever to wash out, too.

        My friends I occasionally do a clothing exchange, and I usually end up washing anything I get with vinegar to get the smell of their detergent out. I spend enough money on my perfume that I would prefer it not be overshadowed by cheap laundry detergent smell.

  20. anonymous*

    Since having met our friend–the one with the severe MCS–my boyfriend and I have made a habit of making our own body care products, cleaning products, etc. at home. While they are not unscented, they are made from things like lemon juice and vinegar and other fruits and baking soda, salt, etc.

    We also keep a bottle of unscented Dr. Bronner’s on hand and shower with that instead of our other soaps specifically for times when we know we will be seeing our friend. We have learned a lot from him about this whole issue, and in the process, we’ve made our own home much healthier for us and for our pets.

    He generally can’t come to our house and “hang out”, but he can at least stop by for a few minutes.

    My boyfriend is currently fixing his laptop, and we have a complex list of protocols in place while that laptop is in our house.

    It’s been very educational, and it’s made me hyper-aware of this issue. I love perfume, but I very rarely wear it any more, because of all I have learned from our friend.

        1. Jamie*

          I read somewhere that the average household spends somewhere between $600 – $800 per year on cleaning supplies which is crazy low (same site said housing+ utilities averaged just over $600…so clearly skewing low.) Seriously that’s between 11.54 and 15.38 a week. I spend more than that on laundry stuff per week.

          This makes me wonder, since we were talking about scents, how much we need the scents is in our heads. I’m not talking about perfume – where the scent is the whole purpose – but the ancillary smells with cleaning products, shampoo, etc.

          When I read that you use natural cleaners my first thought was I can’t do that as the house would never smell clean. And then I realized that while I think I’m a pretty intelligent and savvy person I’ve bought into the whole marketing thing hook, line, and sinker. I do not associate ‘clean’ with an absence of bad smells…I associate it with Pine-Sol (my third favorite smell in the world), Kaboom, Murphy’s Oil Soap (my second favorite smell), and I love the flowery smell of a fresh load of laundry. I have a son sensitive to Downy so his clothes are washed separate and I’ve always felt sad for him that his stuff doesn’t smell as nice.

          It’s totally conditioning. I use a steam cleaner to clean my kitchen/bathrooms and it’s awesome – everything wipes clean. But it’s the Pine-Sol afterward that makes me think it’s clean – while I’m pretty sure the steam and friction was fine on it’s own.

          Just rambling, but it made me think that maybe that’s why this is such a touchy subject. Because it’s not so much battling logic as people’s inner concepts of what it means to be clean and, conversely, what the lack of the scent of cleaning products would mean to them.

          1. Natalie*

            It’s absolutely conditioning.

            My grandmother was sensitive to perfume and artificial scents (they gave her migraines) and avoided using scented products as much as possible. It’s honestly too bad she died before so many things because available scent-free. She would have felt vindicated.

            The only cleaning products she ever used were bleach, wood polish, laundry detergent, and dish soap. My dad never learned to associate a clean house with a dozen warring smells, and I don’t either.

  21. Joey*

    I wouldn’t mention it until after you start working and its an actual work problem. Mentioning it before hand suggests that there’s no way it won’t be an issue. Who knows, maybe they already have a scent free policy? And if no accommodation is needed you’ll look a little silly for asking for one.

    1. Joey*

      Besides, its kind of ridiculous to make such a blanket request before you start. Where do you remove the scents from, the whole office? And to what level? And do you remove all scents even if she may not notice or be bothered some of them?

  22. Lulu*

    Related to #5: In throwing caution to the wind and perusing the Craigslist jobs board the other night, I noticed an awful lot of standard “office jobs” requesting a current photo be submitted with the resume. I’m really hoping that is not some new, Mad-Men-induced trend. It’s certainly convinced me (along with the beyond ridiculous salaries that seemed prevalent) that my usual rule about not looking for jobs on Craigslist still applies!

    1. Jamie*

      I know there is some reason for caution but fwiw I got my John Craigslist and I’ve persoanlly placed ads for many legit openings there.

      1. Jamie*

        I t my ‘job’ on Craigslist.

        I am so not the person for the other thread who has only made 2 typos in her whole life.

        1. Cali*

          Gotta admit for a second there i wondered if “John” was your husband, then I realized it was probably a typo. :)

    2. Job seeker*

      I have actually gotten some interviews from some job listings on Craigslist. I feel comfortable if they list a company name. I have lately felt uncomfortable with listings without a company name accompanying the post. I wonder just who is receiving my information which includes address and cell and home phone number. The world is becoming crazier and crazier and we should never let our guard down.

      1. anon-2*

        Job seeker – absolutely – I’d be careful about answering an anonymous ad.

        Years ago, I heard of an unscrupulous manager who placed a blind ad — for a specific skill set — for the express purpose of finding out if anyone on his staff was job searching!

        1. Jamie*

          Ugh – that’s scary.

          I really hate that there isn’t more transparency in this kind of thing.

          For example, if I have a contract with a vendor and it’s coming due there is absolutely nothing wrong with getting quotes from other vendors before re-upping to make sure I’m getting the best possible deal. Because we’re willing to pay a fair price for a service, but we want to get the best deal possible while still getting everything we need from that vendor.

          Vendors expect this. If I get several quotes and realize that I am getting an excellent deal for great service I’m even happier with the vendor and our relationship is even stronger. And I sign another contract.

          In a way the employer/employee unwritten contract is similar. I am selling my services and I want to get as much as possible for them in a work environment that gives me professional satisfaction. Employers want to purchase (lease?) services for a fair price while getting top value for their payroll dollars.

          So someone could conceivably send out some resumes and feel out the market and realize they are even happier with their employer (because sometimes people hear about other people making X and can get an unrealistic idea of their worth or what the market will bear.)

          Or they could test the market waters and realize that everyone else is willing to throw 35% more at them with better perks. In that case, why would jumping ship be considered an act of betrayal? Businesses don’t want to be underpaid for their services, nor do employees.

          If you have a good work environment and are paying within market you don’t have to post blind ads to try to catch people – you’ll trust that they can look and will see they have a good deal. If they can do better, more power to them.

          It just becomes infused with so much personal angst on both sides – often. Loyalty, betrayal, “like family.”

          I believe in loyalty – doing as good a job as I’m capable of doing for as long as I’m employed and making sure my employer is realizing the value of having me here. If my career leads me elsewhere I owe them proper resignation, as smooth as transition as humanly possible, and (in my case) some availability after the fact so the new person doesn’t run screaming into the night before they settle in.

          What I don’t owe them is wearing blinders so I never wonder if I’m positioned properly in my career, never explore other options, and never want more than exactly what I have at this moment.

          Sorry – this along with not listing salary ranges for jobs is a pet peeve of mine. Employee/Employer is a business transaction at the heart of it, no matter how much you like people personally, and I hate the environment of secrecy many places create because it’s somehow seen as wrong to check out options.

  23. OP #5*

    I read so many sensible responses in wondering “why would they want…?” They are all good thoughts, I am still not sure that any of them fit in the case of the first question.

    Elaborating on that case:
    First, the photograph. While I too would want to set eyes on the person to whom I would be entrusting the care of my child, my elder, my pet… the context in which it was used was strange. “Here’s what potential clients will see!” the progress page said. It showed a place holder for my photo (as I had declined to provide one) which took up a good deal of space on the page. Right next to the photo there was a large font block of text which said “Alison G, 48, is a science specialist with many years working with children. She enjoys rock climbing, building crystal radios, and loves hiking with her two Irish Wolfhounds.”

    This seems dating site behavior to me, but in reading the comments I get the sense from the group that it is possibly deemed acceptable when it comes to hiring personal staff. Am I getting the right sense of things?

    Second, the birthdate. Early thoughts were that it was to be used for a background check on the job seeker. However, the website is a venue by which care seekers find care givers and vice versa. The website is not the agency doing the hiring on behalf of families. They make matches and sell add-ons to both sides, one of which is a “background check” for the care givers (aka job seekers) so that they look more appealing to the care seekers.

    Speaking only for my experiences in Pennsylvania, the information given about the background check provided by the website is not something that would allow a person to then walk into a school and teach.

    Actual required documents include: child abuse history check (whose form cannot be submitted electronically) and criminal history record check from the Commonwealth of Pennsylvania and an FBI criminal history check which requires a person to print the form and present themselves in person for fingerprinting.

    All of these things cost more than the low low price of only $8 charged to increase click throughs to your profile.

    Regarding the second question:
    Thank you, it is helpful to know that they may possibly be holding the “illegal to consider in hiring” information separately. The documents that I mentioned above? Those are specifically mentioned in the jobs listings as being the required background checks. In those cases, it is the responsibility of the employee to present those documents within a certain time frame to the employer.

    Thanks to you all for your carefully considered comments.

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