wee answer Wednesday — 7 short answers to 7 short questions

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

1. Mentioning a large raise in your cover letter

I’m working on some draft cover letters for my job search and I was wondering if it’s ever advisable to mention getting a significant raise (~8+%) after less than a year of employment, ideally to show how my work was valued at my company. In that same vein, do people who have worked in the legal professions ever mention how many hours they billed? I got a raise, a bonus, and billed over my target after a year of hard work as a paralegal, but I’m not sure if it’s okay to mention any of that. My gut feeling is no, but I’m eager to demonstrate my worth to a new employer and I thought I’d head to AAM to see what you say! Any advice you could give would be much appreciated.

Yes, you can absolutely include that stuff. Include context so that it’s clear why it’s impressive. For instance, “awarded significant merit raise after X months” or “was billing at X% over target after one year,” etc. (Disclaimer: Maybe this shouldn’t actually be done in the legal industry — readers?– but it’s the kind of thing that would certainly work outside of it.)

2. Coworker won’t stop wearing heavy perfume, even after HR talked with her

There is a coworker in my office who repeatedly wears so much perfume that the odor stays in the areas where she works and walks through. It is extremely strong and bothers several other employees. Our former HR director, who has now left, spoke with her about this issue, but she only started wearing her scent more heavily. We do have an HR coordinator still. Should this now be addressed a second time through these channels? I read in one of your articles about saying to the offender “Jane, I love your perfume, but I have allergies to scents and it sometimes bothers me, could you wear a little less when you are at the office?” But since there were several employees, none of whom wanted to approach this person, it was addressed by HR. But, as you can see from my statement above, she just started wearing it stronger. Any suggestions?

Her manager or HR should talk to her and tell her — not ask her, tell her — not to wear perfume that others can smell. If the problem continues after that, they need to tell her in sterner terms that she’s creating an uncomfortable environment for her coworkers and that the directive to stop wearing it is as much as a part of her job requirements as anything else — i.e., not optional.

3. Mentioning religious motivation for applying for a job

I’m a recent grad looking for a part-time position (I already have a great part-time gig, and am looking to supplement my hours a bit). I’m looking specifically in the nonprofit realm, because my religious beliefs motivate me to do social good not only in my private life, but my professional life as well. (I’m a member of the Religious Society of Friends, a.k.a. Quakers. A religious affiliation chosen in adult life, not one I was raised with.) However, I am afraid I am overqualified for many positions I’ve found, as I have a Bachelor’s degree (in a hard science).

My question is this: should I mention my religious affiliation as a motivator for seeking socially-laudable-but-low-paying work in my cover letters, or should I just skip it, so as not to overshare with potential employers?

Don’t mention your religion to employers. It’s too much a violation of workplace norms and will make employers uncomfortable (since it’s illegal for them to take your religion into account when making hiring decisions). However, you can certainly explain that your personal ethics and worldview emphasize charitable work, and that you’re strongly committed to working for social good.

4. Relocating when you can’t explain why you’re relocating

I am an assistant pastry chef currently living in the midwest. In about two years, I would like to be able to relocate to either coast in a similar position. I plan to spend the next two years attending a few short courses on pastry, building an online portfolio, and of course continuing my current job at a boutique hotel.

Much of the advice I see online presumes that I am moving to a specific place for a specific reason, and the sample resumes and cover letters reflect this. Do you have any advice on long-distant job searches when I’m not relocating for any reason other than that I would like to relocate?

Yes: Come up with a reason. Employers considering long-distance candidates tend to want to be reassured that the candidate is committed to moving to — and staying — in their area. Someone who just wants to relocate anywhere and doesn’t really care where is likely to be looked upon with skepticism. So when you’re applying for a job in San Diego, come up with reasons why you’re excited to move to San Diego, specifically. When you’re applying for a job in Boston, come up with reasons why you’re excited to move to Boston, specifically. And so forth. (And if you can’t come up with any such reasons for a particular city, reconsider whether you really should be applying to jobs in that city.)

5. Collecting on a finder’s fee

I am wondering about finders/referral fees. I mainly do political and online consultant work, and I was asked for advice on an advertising project. I knew someone that specialized in this field, so I asked him if it would be alright if I recommend him. He said yes, so I then asked for a finders/referral fee to be involved, which he agreed to (all over chat/email). Although I did not get the exact amount/fee in writing beforehand, I have a good working relationship with the party involved and we both understand that 5-10% is the industry standard.

Now the project is wrapped up, so I am wondering how to properly follow up with collecting the finders/referral fees? We have a good relationship, but I want to make sure the wording is diplomatic and commanding at the same time. If you could recommend how to respond in regards to collecting finders/referral fees, I will greatly appreciate it. Also, if you have any recommendations on how to properly set and document finders/referral fees in the future, that would be quite helpful.

I have zero experience with finders fees, so maybe someone who does can chime in here. What I can tell you, though, is that you need to get this stuff in writing at the start. That gives you a natural way to collect, and it also prevents the surprises that are inevitable when you haven’t even nailed down the amount of the fee. After all, you may be thinking 5-10%, but he may be thinking 100 bucks. And trying to collect “in a commanding way” on an agreement that was never fleshed out with real numbers is a good way to sour a relationship.

If this is a normal thing in your field, get a standard agreement, and shoot it over to people ahead of time as a matter of course.

6. Needing the work vs. being passionate about it

Would you rather (all else being equal) hire someone who NEEDS the job or someone who doesn’t need any job, but is passionate enough about the job to want to do it anyway?

To clarify (if necessary), say you have narrowed a selection down to two candidates. One doesn’t need to work but loves the industry, the work, etc. The other person need to work and is just as qualified, but maybe not as passionate. Or does this matter at all?

Granted, I don’t know how exactly this would be discovered in an interview, but would love to know your thoughts on it.

If everything else is truly equal — skills, experience, accomplishments, intelligence, people skills, and culture fit — then I’ll go for the candidate who’s more passionate about the work. That person is more likely to be engaged in the work, to go all out to get more done, and to think creatively about the work than someone who just needs a job. Plus, the person who’s less passionate about the work is more likely to leave when something that interests the more comes along. These are obviously wild generalizations, but hey, I’m responding to a hypothetical about two totally equal candidates, which rarely happens in practice.

Side note: It’s worth mentioning that passion on its own isn’t a qualification and should never be viewed as a substitute for talent; it’s only valuable when it’s attached to the skills to do the job well.

7. Asking for feedback on interview skills after being rejected

I’m currently applying for jobs and I went to an interview recently that I felt went quite well. While I did not receive a call back from the employer, I was wondering if it was polite to ask for a critique of my interviewing skills or whether to bite my tongue?

Don’t ask for a critique of your interviewing skills; that’s not an employer’s job. They’re not job coaches, after all. However, you can certainly ask for feedback on your candidacy overall — that’s different.

{ 181 comments… read them below }

  1. Malissa*

    #2–if you can’t change the person can you change your location relative to the person? I have a similar problem, but I make sure to keep at least 10 feet of space between me and the person. The more distance the better.
    I’ve also got a small fan on my desk to redirect air flow to send the perfume away.
    #4–Just say you’ve always wanted to live in X area.

  2. dejavu2*

    I’ve got a question about the flip side of #4. I recently relocated to my hometown Big City from Tiny City across the country because my partner and I separated. (I was dying to leave Tiny City for Big City, but my ex had a compelling reason to be in Tiny City so there we were.) Now I’m networking and getting interviews in Big City, but everyone is curious as to why I suddenly dropped everything and moved. Is it uncomfortably personal for me to simply explain that my relationship ended, and I’m thrilled to be back in Big City? I’m interested in any and all suggestions on how to deal with this.

    1. Elise*

      Why mention the relationship at all? Just say that you had been living in a small town for a while, but then you decided you wanted to move back to you hometown area. It’s not so odd since you had lived in Big City before.

    2. Josh S*

      “I’ve moved back to Big City because it’s where I’m from/where my family is/where I’m the most comfortable/where I love to live. I’m excited to be back and to do [job/industry you’re looking to work in] here at ‘home.'”

      You shouldn’t mention the ex at all. The reason the employers are asking is to assess whether you’re likely to freak out after a short time of city life (the whole trope of “small town kid moves to the big city and finds it overwhelming; moves back home” seems to be hard to shake). If you’re a ‘flight risk’ they may not want to invest the time training you in the position only to have you leave again.

      The best thing to do is assure them in a simple, straightforward fashion that you’re comfortable in the city, that you have roots there, and that there’s very little chance that you’d move any time soon. The language above does that.

    3. dejavu2*

      Thanks, guys. It’s really helpful to have insight into what they’re thinking. I am pleased to be able to keep my business to myself.

    4. Jamie*

      I agree with Elise and Josh. Moving back to your hometown area is the easiest thing to explain ever.

      The OP in #4 would make me extremely nervous as an employer – but moving back home? Nah – you know what you’re getting into. :)

  3. Josh S*

    #5: As a freelance guy, I know this all too well: Get the terms up front in clear, plain language and get agreement. If you don’t, you’re in for a world of hurt after the fact.

    Seriously, if you have no firm agreement on price/percentage in writing, you may not even have much in the way of a legal claim (which would likely be too expensive to pursue for the money you’d get anyway). I cannot emphasize enough, if you don’t have a clear agreement up front in writing, you might as well not have an agreement at all.

    1. OP*

      Thanks for the advice. Looking back I should have got the terms clear in writing, instead of going between a few G-chats. I think I may let it slide this time, as to not damage our friendship, but will definitely get a referral fee agreement in writing for next time.

      What do you recommend to be in the agreement?

      1. RF*

        “I think I may let it slide this time, as to not damage our friendship”

        Maybe I am missing something here, but this reads like you are now planning on letting it go without even once trying to get the fee? Maybe your friend just forgot and needs a reminder – doesn’t have to damage the friendship at all.

      2. Victoria HR*

        You could try responding to the last email in the chain from when you and he agreed on the fee, and say “Hi Bob, just following up on this – how did the project go? Please let me know the status of the finder’s fee.”

        1. OP*

          Thank you for the suggestions. I am going to send him a follow up email with a combination of Ask a Manager & Victoria HR’s wording.

          I really appreciate the help and will make sure to get a written agreement upfront outlining the fee, payment terms, etc. next time.

      3. Josh S*

        I wouldn’t “let it slide” for the sake of the friendship. Yes, you have a friendship, but this was a business arrangement. Navigating the line between the two can be difficult, to be sure. But keeping the friendship the friendship and business as business is important. If you give your service away for free this time, you may be creating an expectation that your service will be free every time, and that is decidedly NOT where you want to go with this.

        Instead, I like Alison’s wording: “So glad to hear of the success. What seems right for the finders fee we talked about?”

        If it’s remarkably lower than the industry standard ($100 instead of 5% or whatever), you are absolutely free to say, “Thank you. Normally I charge 5% [or 10% or whatever you think is fair] as my finders fee. Since you’re a friend, I’m happy to discount the service for you this one time, but for me to be fair in valuing my own time, we’ll need to agree on the terms up front. Thanks again. I am really glad this worked out for you.”

        And incidentally, Google Chat is ABSOLUTELY getting it in writing. It doesn’t need to be a formal contract with signatures or anything–just agreement in some form of written communication (and Google Chat is archived by default unless you take the conversation ‘off the record’ — you can check the “All Items” folder or search to find your previous chats that have been archived).

        1. KarenT*

          If this guy is reasonable, and I’m assuming he is since you think highly of him, he will likely see that not paying you the fee would be a bad business move for him. I’m sure he wants the referrals to keep coming!

      4. Josh S*

        As for your last question, all you have to do is say during your discussion/Google Chat — “I have someone who would be perfect for this! I’ll gladly refer them to you for a finders fee of 5% of the cost of the project. Does that sound OK to you?”

        As soon as they say “yes” you have an agreement. If they negotiate or say that 5% is too steep, you can negotiate. But as soon as you both agree, you’re all set. Doesn’t need to be formal or complicated or anything since it’s between friends and presumably your friend is good on his word. I+f it’s an unknown 3rd party that you’re giving a referral to, it would be a good idea to add in terms of payment like “5% of the cost of the project, an estimate of 2% at the start of the project, and the remainder within 10 days of the end of the project.”

  4. Elise*

    #2 – I would suggest that HR do more than just talk to the offender. I would suggest they have wet wipes on hand so that she can wipe off the excess immediately. Then, on future days that she overdoes the scent, they can provide more wipes as soon as she enters the building.

    At least it’s something that can be dealt with in the office. If it was a clothing dress code violation, I would say send the person home without pay until they can dress appropriately.

    1. Jamie*

      Do wipes work? I remember being young and getting into my sister’s Chanel #5, way overdoing it, and trying to wipe it off (soapy washcloth) and my mom saying the rubbing was making it stronger and to get in the shower.

      In my defense I was 11, not going to an office, and I got a migraine from that that I still remember as one of the worst…it’s kept me from committing sins against people’s olfactory senses as an adult though…so there’s that.

      1. Natalie*

        I imagine it probably depends on the formulation of the perfume. Not a perfume expert, but I seem to recall that typical department store fragrances include more chemicals to keep the perfume uniform throughout a day, whereas a perfume oil (a blend of essential oils and maybe a carrier oil) will change and fade over the day.

    2. Malissa*

      Except scent that strong get into a person’s clothes. Also unless the wipes are alcohol based, chances are they will not work against the perfume, which is usually oil based.

    3. LG*

      As someone with a sensitivity to perfume, I would say the wipes won’t be helpful, as they’ll likely cause problems on their own. I always cringe when people pull out cleaning products and wipes and start cleaning their desk. It really bothers me, though fortunately, the scent hangs in the air far less long than perfumes do.

      I had a similar problem in my office, where someone refused to follow the instructions. She continued wearing it and I continued to complain to HR until they finally were able to get her to stop. Don’t know what they did though. It took several conversations (according to HR) for them to get her to stop.

      I’ve found that some people get really nasty where this area is concerned and don’t care that someone has a health issue with it. It was always the least likely people too (the overtly religious, for instance, who also have their own health issues — you’d think they would understand).

      1. LG*

        As an aside, I’ve done as AAM has suggested, and talked to offenders directly, but due to how offensive some people get, and feel entitled to wear what and how much perfume they want, it gets really uncomfortable fast. So I no longer wish to do it unless it is someone I have a rapport with, and I know the person will be receptive. Failing that, I leave it to HR. And, I’ve been very nice about it and explained that the scent is lovely but that it unfortunately aggravates my allergies or sensitivities, and that most all scented products do that.

  5. Anne*

    Whoa, a Quaker! It always shocks me when I come across others anywhere but at Meeting, we seem to be so rare. :)

    1. EngineerGirl*

      But a lot of Quaker descendants are in the US because of religious freedom offered here – or rather, the persecution elsewhere.

  6. Jamie*

    #6 – I have a slightly different take on this than Alison, for my industry.

    For many industries/fields I would agree with her answer. Medicine, non-profit, teaching, politics…the list is long. Passion for the job itself is a key component and the crap that you need to wade through in any job is just par for the course.

    But in other industries, using mine as an example, I don’t know anyone who grew up passionate about going into the metal fabricating sub-sector of manufacturing. I know many who are passionate about their jobs – engineering, QC, management…definitely…I love my little IT/Cost Accounting/IA amalgam myself.

    But I think there is something to be said for ‘needing a job’ being the motivation for slogging it out when things get crappy. I love the technical end of my job and I love computers. If I were independently wealthy and didn’t need to earn a salary there are a million different outlets for me to fulfill that. I could find an animal rescue place that needs some pro-bono IT work. I could help people/organizations/schools with special needs kids, or caregivers for hospice patients, or adults with developmental disabilities with networking and hardware issues and the payoff would be in doing work I felt was important and giving something back.

    I found my niche – don’t get me wrong – I am able to make a living doing something I love amongst some really great people I like a lot. That’s a verylucky break and I don’t take that for granted.

    But yes, there have been times where I’m on hour 70 of the week with no end in sight, or teaching the same end user the same simple task for the 1000th time, or any of the other million aggravations that cause me to marinate in stress that I’m acutely aware of why I do this. Because I like paying my mortgage and I have kids to get through school – and that is why I may get frustrated but I don’t walk away.

    And, to be honest, I think in some stressful positions if people didn’t need the money there would be more walking away and not working through it. I know that’s cynical – maybe it’s just me.

    1. R*

      I think this is exactly right. I’ve never been in the position of not needing a paycheck (probably never well be, either!), but I do know that there are some tough times at work when the paycheck is pretty much the only motivator.

    2. Sasha*

      I agree, and like Alison said, she is choosing amongst two hypotheticals that are equal in all regards, which is very rare in reality. My 2 cents is that I have encountered people who seemed “passionate” about the job and industry, and didn’t really need the paycheck, and they tended to act like prima donnas – as if their passion for the work somehow made them better, more pure, etc. Some of them had the talent, some of them didn’t. These special snowflakes tended to not work as hard, and only want to do special tasks, because more mundane things were “beneath” them. And then I have encountered others who are just as passionate and are wonderful people and workers. There are just so many variables.

      As for me, I have found my passion is not an industry or a specific job, but rather something intangible. I love to organize and make things efficient, and work on projects. So I am in the process of transitioning into a business intelligence/project management job. A few years ago I channeled this passion into web design. I have also channeled it into scholarly research (a well-written research paper is a beautiful thing!). So I don’t really have a passion for a particular industry or job, but rather for a set of processes/tasks that are necessary in various industries. So yeah, if I could do this at an animal shelter, I’d be hanging out there. :)

    3. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I can see that take too. My answer is probably colored by coming from nonprofits, where someone committed to the issue we’re working on is more likely to go the extra mile / work long hours / etc. than someone just in it for a job.

      1. Jamie*

        Absolutely. If I were interviewing to be the IT at a humane society I would sincerely stress how it’s the mission that matters to me.

        But you know those metal tracking rails inside of sliding closet doors? Or on the sides of windows? I’ve known people who design things similar to that – also those little plastic thingies on the bottom of displays and chairs.

        It would be really weird to hear about their passion for closet door tracks/rubber footie thingies and if they felt they could help make the world a better place by their contributions in this area, you’d almost wonder if you were being punked. You really want to hear about their passion for efficient design, customer satisfaction, and engineering maybe…but it while their may be people who have a personal investment in closet door tracks, there are more who will do a good job with them and if not, go design window tracks for someone else, or curtain rods.

        But I’m in 100% agreement about passion where the mission really resonates with people.

        1. Malissa*

          Ha I get the weirdness! The latest hire at my husband’s work got the job because he’s always dreamed of working on the local fish farm. Not to knock anybody’s dreams, but that just seems odd.

          1. Sasha*

            One of my secret dream jobs is writing copy for books and movie jackets. For some reason the writing just cracks me up and I think it would be fun, and I wonder how people get those jobs. Or be a store window designer, like at one of those big expensive department stores. :)

            1. KarenT*

              Haha–book cover jackets are really not that glamourous. We have marketing staff dedicated to writing back cover copy and jacket copy, and believe me, it’s not fun!

            2. danr*

              Writing book jacket blurbs is one of the duties mentioned in a lot of assistant editor positions for publishers.

        2. AgilePhalanges*

          I know a guy who literally used to sell douche (to buyers for stores). Can you imagine that job interview, just after the interviewer asks why he’s so interested in that position? “Well, I have a passion for feminine hygiene. Well, not me, PERSONALLY, you see, but um, well. I’ve just always really loved…I mean…”

    4. skylark*

      I believe companies want you to be passionate about needing the job, which is why they seem to prefer and promote married employees with obligations than single, ‘carefree’ ones.

  7. JT*

    ” I am afraid I am overqualified for many positions I’ve found, as I have a Bachelor’s degree (in a hard science).”

    This is a little strange.

    1. Jamie*

      I wonder if “overqualified” is being used correctly, in this instance.

      Suzanne Lucas, the Evil HR Lady did a great column a while back on the misuse of the word overqualified. Just because you have more education or experience in a different area doesn’t make you overqualified for a position.

      I am a good IT professional, but that doesn’t make me overqualified for food service or retail as I’ve never done either of those things. I would be woefully under qualified for both.

      I would, however, be overqualified to work tier 1 tech support.

      Having qualifications in one area doesn’t make you overqualified for all lower level jobs regardless of position. I’ll see if I can find the link…

      1. KellyK*

        Yeah, I remember that too, and I thought it was a good point. I think there are actually two meanings of “overqualified” that concern employers and tend to get lumped together. One is “overqualified for this job,” meaning that you’ll find it easy and possibly boring. The other is “highly qualified for something unrelated that pays better than this job,” which suggests that this isn’t “your field” and that you’re likely to leave when something else comes along.

      2. Elizabeth West*

        What blows my mind is how people who can’t even answer the phone get hired for stuff. Or like this that appeared in a friend’s Facebook this morning:

        “Reminder: Do not use your Trash folder to store email” Yes, this was in my work email this morning…and yes…they are serious.”

        *FACEPALM* No wonder employers are still asking for MS Office skills in the job postings.

        1. Jamie*

          I cannot tell you how many people use their deleted items folder for storage.

          No matter how many times I explain it’s like keeping your most important legal papers in your kitchen trash can and hoping no one throws them out.

          This is one of those things that make me wonder what kind of world I’m living in.

          1. Natalie*

            Oh, I actually had co-workers who refused to let the cleaning staff empty their deskside recycling, because they wanted to go through everything before “actually” throwing it away. I never understood why they put it in the flippin’ recycling in the first place if they might need it later.

          2. ooloncoluphid*

            Jamie, are you my co-worker? We’ve had to give the trash can analogy many times around here. It’s amazing that people actually think it’s a good idea to store stuff in the deleted items folder.

        2. Lulu*

          Ugh… I think more than ridiculous job posting requirements, THIS kind of thing is what makes me nuts re: the job hunt. I promise, I have NEVER EVER considered “Deleted Items” or “Trash” the appropriate location for things I intend to refer to again. Maybe we should start including that on our resumes? ;)

      1. Meaghan*

        But you guys, it’s in “hard science.” So they’re obviously 9x more qualified than anyone with a degree in social sciences or arts.

        1. Posey*

          You scoff, but I have a degree in engineering and found it very difficult to find a non-engineering job. Most employers did not believe I was serious about leaving engineering and even once I had experience in other areas it was still difficult to be considered for positions.

            1. Reeya*

              I have a film degree, and no desire whatsoever to work in the film industry (four years of studying the industry was enough to turn me off of that, thanks). I graduated six years ago and have worked in a completely different field since then (a field that I love), and I still field questions from people who wonder if what I’m doing is just a “day job” and I secretly want to be a filmmaker. So frustrating.

              1. Elizabeth West*

                Yeah, I tried grad school in education after the English BS (ha ha), but all the complaining teachers in the program soured me on it for life. Thanks to MAP tests and other government bullpoop, teaching is not the same as it was when my English teacher inspired me. Not to mention, if I wanted to teach college, I would need a PhD and we already covered the whole advanced degree mess.

                1. KellyK*

                  Hey, at least you didn’t have to actually do it to discover that it wasn’t for you. (It took me two years of teaching middle school to determine that I was really not cut out to be a teacher, at least not in the current public school environment.)

                2. Elizabeth West*

                  KellyK – I did take most of a grad program, but didn’t finish. I can always go back and finish it and have it for something else. Education classes are good for training, running seminars, etc. I don’t feel like it was a waste at least.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            I think it’s more about feeling that a bachelor’s degree in hard science would make you overqualified for jobs that don’t have anything to do with science. One would have nothing to do with the other, of course, so it can sound a little off-base.

            1. Meaghan*

              Well exactly – having a degree in hard sciences would make you, to my mind, UNqualified for a job that had nothing to do with science, not OVERqualified. It just comes across as really condescending.

        2. EngineerGirl*

          That’s kind of unfair. Hard science usually is harder and the vetting process to get a degree is painful. That’s why it is easier to get a job – fewer people can get through the program. I always found my soft science and humanities classes way easier than the science/engineering classes. The math needed for hard science usually was a discriminator.

            1. KarenT*

              Yes, and many an engineering or computer science student graduate with terrible writing and communication skills. Not all do, of course, but an English or communications grad is easily a better fit for an entry level marketing, writing, editing, or communications job.

          1. K*

            I’m sure plenty of hard science people would breeze through a humanities program, but I also think that there’s something else at work: because soft sciences and humanities don’t have right or wrong answers, and there aren’t obvious metrics, they often appear easy to people who are used to knowing immediately whether they got something correct or not. I read and edit the writing of plenty of hard science types and after a while, they stop scoffing at what we do because it’s clear that it is a skill that is equally difficult to learn and which does add value.

            1. Elizabeth West*

              *hopes this is true when she starts doing tech writing*
              You should see the editing sample I got for a recent application as a proofreading/consulting assistant. I was like, YOWZA.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Take it as “great job, and we will probably reach out about a phone interview.” But really, put it out of your mind altogether for now — much better for your state of mind than to be waiting and wondering!

          2. Laura L*

            But some people have an aptitude for math or engineering. The just get the math without really working at it.

            Also, I took some history and English classes in college and they were waaay more difficult than I’d thought they’d be. So, I don’t think English is an easy major.

        3. Laura L*

          Ha! I know people with this mindset. Or, rather, knew them. In college. It was funny, because a few of my close friends were bio majors and they made fun of me for being a psych major, which isn’t a “real science” even though it was in the science department.

          Then I realized that physics majors looked down there noses at bio majors, because it’s a soft science. Or something. The science hierarchy is interesting. And silly. :-)

  8. Scott Woode*

    #4 – In my experience, having worked both FOH and BOH for various restaurants, the best reason to list as a motivation for moving would be a particular chef that you wanted to study under, or an area where you had a particular interest in their food. The culinary world is pretty much the last great meritocracy (i.e. you can come in as a dishwasher/bus boy and after 3 years become a line cook/server/bartender) so you might do best to find a selection of kitchens or chefs who inspire you and under whom you would like to train, learn, and grow. Also, if you have the chance (and are willing to take a weekend here, a weekend there) I would recommend staging in the kitchens you are interested in beforehand even if you haven’t applied there for a job. It’s a great way to network and show off your talents. It’s a huge amount of money (flights here and there, etc.) but it would also be a great way to test out the city too. Best of luck!

    1. Jamie*

      I know someone who is nearing the end of culinary school and interviewing for internships.

      I find it so interesting how that field is so radically different than anything I’ve ever known – you are absolutely right.

      If someone came to my employer and said that I inspire them and they wanted to train under me I’d call security – but there’s no greater compliment in the culinary world. That’s where it’s truly an art thing.

      Also, the opportunities to work for free…I can honestly say that never once has a stranger cold called me asking if they can come and sort my software CDs or organize my event logs for nothing – but that kind of stuff happens in high end cuisine all the time.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        Also, I think it really is a passion-driven field, as we were talking about earlier. Watching Gordon Ramsey’s show, I was hearing them say “They hired the 3-star chef at $20K.” Are they SERIOUS??? I made more than that at the front desk!

        1. Jamie*

          I can’t seen to quit the cooking shows – Top Chef, Hell’s Kitchen among them and I have come to understand that it’s a lot like the acting field in that a ton of people with the passion and inclination go into it hoping they will be the one of many who rises to make a decent living. Like those “that’s guy/girl” actors that work enough to support themselves, but don’t really hit the fame apex.

          Then you have your one in a million shot at being the next Gordon Ramsay.

          Speaking of which, why are there no reality shows based on IT or accounting or QC? They have it for pawn shops, people who run storage units, people who cut down trees…so where is the peek into the wonderful and competitive worlds of my people?

          It’s an untapped market – there are viewers for that.

            1. Josh S*

              Gordon Ramsey should host: “You switched the bloody debits and credits?!? Don’t you know the first f***ing thing about double-entry!!!? Get OUT! Take your calculator and GET OUT!!!”

              1. Jamie*

                The problem is when Gordon does this to chef’s they cower and apologize and try to please him.

                The accounting department will quietly and politely ask to see his audit trails…with the dead eyes of the shark in Jaws.

                Gordon won’t win that battle.

                1. Malissa*

                  Ha! That’s how you tell the good ones from the bad ones. Accountants I mean.
                  But there was one person I would have loved to tell her to take her calculator and get out. But on the other hand she was a whiz at collecting all the past due accounts from the people who didn’t speak English so well.

          1. KellyK*

            I’m pretty sure I would watch the IT reality show.

            Though I would like to institute a rule that if you’re a cable channel with a theme, your reality show must be related to your theme. Chopped, Top Chef, Restaurant Impossible—totally acceptable on the Food Network. But, much as I like Mike Rowe and the guys on Ax Men, if you’re the “History” Channel, your programming should include some actual history.

            1. Jamie*

              I agree. And TLC is the learning channel – although I think I need all I need to know about families with a bazzilion kids so maybe they can air something actually educational now and again.

              Although Mike Rowe can be anywhere, anytime and I will not stop him.

                1. Lulu*

                  I recently suggested to a TV friend that there were several networks that had outlived their original names, perhaps it was time for an overhaul…. One of my favorite tweets last year was this gem from @GerryDuggan: “Congrats to that skydiver, but technically humanity’s longest free fall is still @TLC”

          2. Sasha*

            Too many stereotypes about IT people, I guess. Maybe the network execs don’t think we’re pretty enough. :)

            1. Jamie*

              Have you seen some of the people on these shows? If they were deemed worthy every IT department in the world should be sashaying down a cat walk as we speak.

                1. Jamie*

                  Thanks for this link – this actually looks pretty funny and since Survivor and the Amazing Race ended I’m trying to refill my tv schedule (all I have now is Top Chef).

                  I covered a season of Beauty and the Geek so if any site needs a recapper for this show I’ve got experience…

                2. Elizabeth West*

                  Oh craaaaap, I need a job that pays well enough to get my DirecTV back! Arrgh!

                  I’m tired of watching Hoarders on the computer. And I hate hate hate the digital rabbit ears for network channels. What is this, the ’70s?! >:(

        2. Natalie*

          My partner is a former chef. We met in 2005 after he went back to school, and 2013 will be the first year in his entire life he makes too much to qualify for the EITC.

        3. JT*

          My next-door neighbor is a high-level chef – that is, executive chef at a good restaurant in New York City, though I doubt anyone here has heard of him. I’m certain he’s making six figures.

          $20k for a good chef can’t be right, at least not in a big city.

    2. Cody*

      OP here. This was closer to what I was thinking… that the restaurant or pastry shop (and the experience I could gain there) was more important to me than the location, to a point. Thanks for the comment!

      1. Hlx Hlx*

        One possibility, if you’re open to relocating around the country, is to get hired by one of the big posh hotel chains.

        I have service industry acquaintances that work at the Four Seasons and can be transferred (if they request) all over the place, where ever there is a FS.

  9. Carol*

    Thank you for your answer and all of the comments to my question in #2. I will discuss this issue, again, with our HR department and hopefully can get the air cleared again.

    1. Victoria HR*

      Pun intended? *clap*

      Seriously though, this woman is jeapordizing her job by being obstinate about the issue.

      Isn’t the whole point of wearing perfume so that others can smell it?

      I wear a really cool perfume that I got from Black Alchemy Lab, but if I was told by a coworker or HR that someone didn’t like it, guess what, I’d stop wearing it. They can smell powder fresh deoderant instead :) Anyone who would do otherwise is, IMO, rude.

      Perhaps she loves the fragrance so much that she has lotion/soap in the same fragrance, and that’s why it seems like overkill? My mother-in-law loves White Shoulders, so I found a fragrance oil dupe and made her some homemade soap with the fragrance for Christmas. Now she’s nice and floral all day, every day :)

        1. Kelly L.*

          Seconded! Co-squee! (My boss loves that I wear BPAL. She gets headaches from the “cool aquatic” type perfumes that a lot of people wear, but not when I wear spicy incensy schtuff.)

        2. Natalie*

          My favorite thing about them is their apparent inability to not send free samples. It worked, too – there was at least one I *never* would have tried based on the description, but I got a free sample with an order and loved it.

            1. Natalie*

              I suspect they send stuff that is going to exhaust it’s shelf life soon. They’ve never been consistent on samples – sometimes I get zero, once I got 2, and once I got 6.

        3. Elizabeth*

          I know BPAL, but I also sneeze uncontrollably at virtually everything I’ve ever smelled of theirs. It makes one of my best friends very sad, because she’s addicted to their stuff, but she can’t wear it if we’re going to hang out.

  10. K*

    I work at a relatively small, public-interest side firm, and I’ve never seen anyone mention raises or hours billed in their application but would probably be fine with it for (a) a paralegal candidate, like the OP, since work ethic and willingness to pitch in are so important, and (b) for a junior associate, for the same reason and since I understand that they’re not going to have been handling cases on their own or anything so this is an important measure.

    This is just my instinct – I don’t have anything to back it up – but I would probably be reluctant to mention hours billed in an application for a government or non-profit job. I think people in those positions tend to be little cynical about the billable hours model, and private practice lawyer billing practices (not without reason). Which shouldn’t be imputed to paralegals, but those biases might show up anyway.

    1. K*

      Oh, and on (5), my understanding from acquaintances is that in some industries where there’s a standard like that (and a standard not to get it in writing), the practice is just to send an invoice at the end of the year like you would to a client. If the person doesn’t pay it, you’re not going to be able to take them to court, but realistically you wouldn’t want to anyway since this whole thing is dependent on mutual professional good will to begin with.

    2. D*

      I completely agree. I’d say X% over hours goal or hours requirement or whatever instead of just number of hours, though. I say this because billable hours can be a bit of a contest in certain places, and there’s always the chance that the person reading your resume would look at an actual number and think something like, “Oh yeah? I billed X+200 last year…”

      And I agree with K that it’s a bad idea to do that with government or non-profits. All my friends who work in one of those position are quite excited to not have billable hours.

      1. AG*

        I agree with D. List hours as percentages since billing requirements can be a pissing contest in private firms, but do list them. Skip it for public-oriented or in-house positions, but still list the bonus or raise either way. Again, list it as a percentage, especially if you’re going for a raise at the new position.

  11. Lizabeth*

    #2 Is this worker on the older side? I’ve discovered that as we age our sense of smell can be reduced or disappear entirely. Not that I’m excusing the co-worker’s amount of perfume but something to keep in mind. Is there someone at home that can give her a sniff test before she leaves for work? And with the sense of smell going, your sense of taste goes south as well. Ever wonder why grandparents say (mine did) that things don’t taste the same?

    1. Esra*

      Or if they’ve been wearing that particular perfume too long. If she’s been wearing it for more than a few years, her ability to smell it on herself is probably not great.

    2. Anonymous*

      I think this is true. An elderly aunt of mine always used to wear Beautiful by Elizabeth Arden and she always reeked of it. It wasn’t unpleasant but you could always smell a wave of it when she walked by. I remember when she came over, she held our cat and the cat smelled like her for a day or two afterward. :)

  12. moss*

    A POX on perfume wearers! Perfume wearers, I hate you and wish you ill every time you aren’t present but your perfume is.

    We have two people in the office who violate HR policy on perfume. Luckily they don’t work near me. But it makes me crazy that these women think it’s appropriate to smell like a strip club (I don’t actually know what a strip club smells like) and violate my nose.

    Also I think poorly of their intelligence. If you are wearing too much perfume or cologne, I think you’re dumb.

    1. fposte*

      That doesn’t make a lot of sense, though. As Lizabeth notes, this is often due to a worker’s sense of small growing less acute. Do you think people who raise the volume on stuff because they’re deaf are dumb too?

      I’m not saying it’s appropriate, just saying that that seems an odd characterization for something that doesn’t really connect with intelligence. (And also just thinking that the more adversarial you make it the less likely you are to negotiate a space-sharing agreement that leaves you both productive and satisfied.)

      1. moss*

        I can assure you I do not act adversarial at work.

        Stand by the over-perfumed = not that smart though.

      1. Victoria HR*

        Agreed. Settle down, Scrappy Doo.

        And as anyone with a cat can tell you, once you are around a smell every day (litter box), you start to not smell it any more. Some people then overcompensate on the perfume because they think it’s not working or not strong enough, whereas people who haven’t been around it get one whiff and go “whoa!”

      2. moss*

        Everyone has their little peeves. Perfume is one of mine. And yes, I think if someone is too old to notice how strong they smell, then that’s a mental decline issue. Maybe senile instead of dumb, but when people don’t smell office-friendly, that’s indicates a cognitive problem to me.

        Same with bad breath and regular stink.

        Also I don’t like cats and one reason is cat people usually have smelly houses because they don’t smell it anymore. A smart person will take that into account when deciding if it’s time to change the box.

        No need for name calling.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Wait now — have you really thought this through? Senses dull as we get older. I’m sure you wouldn’t say that someone whose eyes aren’t as sharp as they used to be (pretty much anyone over 40, I think) is having a mental decline issue.

        2. moss*

          No, I really do believe this. Yes, senses dull. If a person doesn’t recognize and compensate for that then I think there are either cognitive decline issues or the cognition wasn’t there in the first place. If someone continues driving, even though they can’t see very well, or drives *even more*, isn’t that a problem?

          I consider over-strong perfume, like over-noisy pen-clicking, to be a violation of the office social contract.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            Wow. I really disagree! I’d encourage you to rethink taking such a hard stance on this; I think you’re probably not allowing for natural variation in senses, particularly as people age, and there’s room for more empathy in how you’re thinking of it.

            1. moss*

              If a person’s senses are declining, like, say someone is going deaf, and they turn up the tv so they can hear it, fine. If they can’t hear so they get on speakerphone and turn it all the way up and it interferes with my ability to concentrate, that’s a violation of the office social contract.

              Same with smells. Perfume gives me a headache, it invades my space by forcing me to know what someone else’s body smells like (ew) and distracts me because I get so annoyed by that.

              If someone over-scents because they are older, it still affects me the same way, regardless of how old they are so I believe they should be the ones to dial it back.

              Compassion doesn’t come into it. I’m not REALLY cursing people, especially since I don’t have the power to curse, since I am not a witch. I’m not pushing the smelly down the stairs. I’m just privately stewing or notifying HR that my work is being affected.

          2. Jamie*

            Yes, senses dull. If a person doesn’t recognize and compensate for that then I think there are either cognitive decline issues or the cognition wasn’t there in the first place.

            I went too long between getting my eyes checked and was unknowingly compensating by squinting a lot.

            When I finally got my prescription adjusted I was amazed by how great it was to see without squinting again.

            In other words, my senses declined to the point I was compensating before I was aware of it. By your statement that indicates either cognitive decline or cognition lacking in the first place. Neither is the case.

            When things change gradually you don’t notice every increment. When I was 20 I could easily get by on 4 hours of sleep and do a full day of classes and still go out. I’m in my 40s and if I don’t get 8 hours I’m dragging butt all the next day and forget eating dinner much less going out. I don’t know what day that change started happening – I just know that at one point I had a ton of energy and needed less sleep and got out of low chairs without holding my back and a couple of decades later I need to sleep and can no longer eat exclusively from cellophane bags.

            It’s really harsh to question the intellectual capacity of people because of the gradual nature of the aging process.

            1. moss*

              Well, I noticed I was having a hard time seeing things up close (things my little son was sticking right up in my face, to be exact). I got my eyes checked.

              I really… I didn’t mean for this to get so overblown. Yes, perfume annoys me and I privately question the mentality of people who pour it on. That was my main point.

              Also, aging happens to everyone and people should be aware of how that happens. So that was my followup point, that if people don’t realize how what they are doing affects others, maybe they should think about it.

              I take time to get clean before I come to work. I don’t eat fish at work. I am quiet at work. I wish other people would do the same, regardless of their age.

              1. KellyK*

                So that was my followup point, that if people don’t realize how what they are doing affects others, maybe they should think about it.

                But by definition, if you don’t notice it, you can’t think about it. If no one says, “Could you wear less perfume?” and it smells fine to you, why would you assume that it’s going to bother people? Just like if you’ve never heard of misphonia, it will probably never occur to you that eating at your desk would bother someone two cubes over.

                Pretty much anything anyone does could bother someone. But unless it’s a thing that’s talked about so much that it should be well known (e.g., fish in the office microwave), or a thing that’s obviously distracting, the onus is on the person it bothers to say something.

                You don’t wear perfume and it’s a pet peeve for you, but someone who’s more sensitive than you are might be put off by your brand of shampoo or the amount of fabric softener you use. Is it your job to go completely scentless just in case someone’s bothered? And if someone is annoyed by your shampoo, and they don’t say anything to you, should they assume that you’re dumb because you should’ve realized it might be a problem?

                1. moss*

                  Come on. This is reductio ad absurdum. Shampoo is not a common annoyance. Perfume is. It’s in our company’s HR manual that too much perfume is against policy.

                  However, to play along, if someone had a very strong odor, so strong that you could walk in a room they had already exited and smell a cloud of their odor in the air, then yes regardless if it is from perfume, stink, fish, shampoo, whatever, they should tone it down.

                  Being “older” is no excuse for inflicting your disadvantages on other people. If perfume is a thing that often bothers people, and it is… can we all agree on that? That perfume is a common irritant? It is in my company’s manual anyway. So if it’s a common thing that can bother or cause illness in people then yes, i think you should ask yourself, when you are applying it, Is this too much? And if it never occurs to you, then maybe it’s time to start thinking about it.

                  Every employee that starts here goes through HR training. So they hear HR state, “Strong perfume is not allowed here.” So even if they never heard of such a thing before, once they start working here, they know.

                  YES we all have a responsibility to realize when we are doing something annoying and try to mitigate that.

              2. Editor*

                @Moss —
                My late husband developed bad breath that I could smell from a yard away. He never noticed and I had to tell him. Worst. Conversation. Ever.

                We never did figure out the source, either, despite his trips to the dentist and doctor. At one point I thought it was due to his medications, but it might have been caused by the cancer no one knew he had.

                Not being able to smell oneself isn’t due to a cognitive decline. During the bad breath period, he was working on an IT project and saved the company a bundle of money. A heavy perfume wearer in the sales department where I used to work was regularly the highest performer in the department, and her compensation reflected it. I haven’t observed any consistent link between competence and the way a person smells.

    2. AnotherAlison*

      You’d feel badly if you worked here. We had a nice older lady, who had been here for decades, with a perfume issue. It would linger on the elevator long after she left. Last year, she got an aggressive cancer and passed away suddenly. I never wished a pox on her.

        1. Laura L*

          “The problem with wishing poxes on people is that they don’t work.”

          Also, that, at least in developed countries, most poxes have been vaccinated away (more or less). :-)

    3. Elizabeth West*

      We had a coworker (a man) who wore so much cologne you could smell him across the office when he arrived. It was like *sniff* “Oh, Bob’s here.”

      Our maintenance manager, who is a bit earthy, was making fun of him behind his back one day and said in a mocking voice, “Hi, I’m Bob and I stink like a French wh0re!” I’m still laughing.

      1. Brett*

        I never understood wearing cologne or perfume when not on a night out or special occasion. But to each their own.

        I’m a bit sensitive to perfume, though I’ve never had a problem with it in the office. That said, I’ve wondered if I was going to survive a few flights with a heavy-scent wearer seated nearby…

        1. Reeya*

          I wear it every day, but that’s just because I like the way it smells personally (and mine is a pretty mild citrus-y perfume, so hopefully not overbearing). But, I just do one spray, I don’t empty half the bottle on myself every day. And if it turned out someone was bothered by the smell and told me to stop, I’d gladly do so.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          Not much of a perfume wearer here either, although I used to douse myself in Coty’s Wild Musk as a teenager. (I would wear that one if I could find it again.) Yardley’s English Lavender soap is the most you’ll get from me on a weekday.

          1. Jamie*

            I still wear the same scent I wore as a teenager.

            I don’t wear it often – but I still love it and it is one of the few which doesn’t give me a headache.

            What can I say – I’m ridiculously loyal to things unless they change the formula and make me look elsewhere (yes L’Oreal Voluminous mascara – I’m talking to you…bring back the old formula or I will start an internet campaign.)

            1. Job seeker*

              Yes, I like L’Oreal Voluminous mascara too. Try Rimmel mascaras Jamie, they are great too.

  13. Jenny*

    #1 – I used to be a paralegal and I put my billable requirements and whether I surpassed them on my resume. It was definitely something that helped me get a job on one occasion.

  14. Amanda*

    Number 4: Is this really that unusual? What ever happened to young, spouseless, houseless, childless people striking out on their own and following the opportunities? Do employers really think that young people have so little independence that they will turn tail and run back to their hometown at the slightest hint of homesickness? In my parents generation TONS of people relocated for jobs (seriously every one of their siblings have moved cross-country at least once) and they are baffled that I’m having such a hard time with that.

    I am in OP 4’s position. I actually have the ability to be flexible geographically and I have the willingness and eagerness to move to a new city. Why is that a bad thing?

    1. Jamie*

      I don’t think moving toward something is a bad thing, at all. Like you, I know a lot of people who moved for jobs after college and it’s a lot easier to do that before you buy a house and put down adult roots somewhere.

      So if the OP for #4 had said she was weighing job offers in Boston and San Diego that would make perfect sense to me. But absent job offers and the desire to move to “either coast” would give me pause. Because there is a sense of “anywhere but here” which feels like she’s less moving toward something as moving away from something. That can end with dissatisfaction wherever you go.

      I am from the Midwest and have lived on both coasts (Marin Co. in California and ‘burbs of DC, Philly, and semi-rural Mass). I was a Navy wife so I’ve experienced a lot of this country and yes, I would be worried that someone who just wanted to move to one of the coasts, without a reason or a rock solid plan, might very well get there and have culture and more importantly sticker shock. When we first moved to California I called my parents every night detailing how much everything was. This was years ago, but I was so shocked by paying $2.75 for a gallon of milk I think I told everyone I knew. And we were in military housing so I didn’t even have to deal with housing and utilities.

      That said – there is nothing wrong with wanting to find opportunities in places you’ve always wanted to live. People should live where they will be happy – but absent a standard reason for wanting to move there an employer will want some solid reassurance that this isn’t a matter of moving as far from home as possible for the sake of it, which could make for a very temporary employee.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        See, I’m reading that as there are more career-making opportunities in that area. The Midwest, even in the bigger cities (maybe with the exception of Chicago) can be pretty stark in that area. Most of the high-end stuff is either on the eastern seaboard or in California. But yes, the OP does need to pick something and be specific about why that is the particular place she wants to be.

        1. KarenT*

          Yes–that’s what I was thinking too. I could see why a pastry chef would want to move to New York or California to work in a really high end restaurant.

        2. Cody*

          OP #4 here. This is it exactly. While the city I live in has a lot more opportunity for my career path than most others in the area, pastry jobs still only come up once every few months. I spent well over a year applying for jobs, including things like simply working the counter at a cupcake shop just to get into the field after getting my baking and pastry certificate. Even then, the crew at my job has remained unchanged for nearly 10 years, and they’ve only recently had the money/workload to take on a new assistant (me.)

    2. The IT Manager*

      I just think #4 needs to define what she’s looking for better. (Any maybe she knows and it just got edited down for the letter.)

      I interpret move to “either coast” to mean something like “move to one of the big cities on the coast”. And that could be worrisome for an employer when an applicant from a town in the midwest says I am so excited to move to the big city to experience big city life without being prepared for the change or having a safety net of family and friends.

      Frankly being so general – on “either coast” – really makes it sound like a flighty and flakey decision because there is such a vast difference from Orlando, Beaufort (SC), New York City, Los Angeles, or Aberdeen (OR). Even if your desire is to live on the ocean, these areas all offer a very different kind of coastal experieince.

      Figure out what you’re really looking for, what areas of the country offer it, prepare for the move, and then you’ll be able to tell employers specifically why you want to move to their city and how you’re prepared for it.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        By the way, re: editing letters, since this has been asked a couple times before and I always mean to address it — I almost never edit letters for anything other than grammar/punctuation/spelling. Sometimes I’ll edit something for clarity, but the only time I’ve actually removed information is once or twice when someone has included a phrase that I thought was unintentionally inflammatory (and when I thought it didn’t reflect what they actually intended to say and didn’t want the conversation to get focused on that rather than what they really meant).

      2. Amanda*

        There seems to be an assumption (not just here but in general) that Midwesterners are all podunk country folks who dream of the glitter of the big city, but when they actually get there, end up completely overwhelmed and jump of the first plane back to the green fields of home. In actuality, a lot of us Midwesterners have been born and raised in cities (Chicago can compete with NYC and Detroit, Milwaukee, Columbus, Louisville, Minneapolis, etc aren’t small towns) and know the benefits and pitfalls of city life. Even those from small towns or rural areas often are well-traveled and likely to have spent a period studying or living in cities on the coasts or even abroad.

        So yeah, us Midwesterners? We’re a damn worldly, sophisticated and cosmopolitan group. And while I guess it’s just the realities of people’s stereotypes (not directed at you, IT Manager, but in general) I do find it patronizing that HM might be assuming that I haven’t actually considered the realities of relocation and living far from my family. I have considered that and eliminated the areas I know I wouldn’t be happy in, but that’s LOTS of places in this country that have much to offer and I can honestly say I would be happy in any number of places. But it seems that the irony of this job market is that you have to limit your options in order to be competitive.

        1. A Teacher*

          I went to college in Iowa and when I would go home (just outside the Chicago suburbs) a lot of my friends thought EVERYONE in Iowa farmed…a lot do, but not all. I live in a Midwestern mid-size town (100,00+) that offers most of the amenities of Chicago without the traffic. Did the Chicago thing, don’t miss it. Love to visit, don’t want to live there.

        2. Lulu*

          “it seems that the irony of this job market is that you have to limit your options in order to be competitive.”
          So true – I wish my parents (!) would stop telling me I might need to move to “where the jobs are”. So many rebuttals to that, hard to know where to start, but they include the fact that telling an employer you’re willing to move anywhere to do whatever, even though you don’t already live there or necessarily want to be there… Not exactly a selling point. Even (more realistically) telling a local employer you’re open to multiple opportunities, no longer the door-opener it might once have been. Hard to be a flexible generalist these days!

        3. Laura L*

          This! Thank you. I was going to post this, but I was hoping someone would beat me to it.

          As someone from the Chicago area, I find Midwestern stereotypes hilarious. The Chicago metro area is the 3rd largest in the country, which means unless you’re from the NYC or LA areas, I am from a much larger metro area than you are.

          Plus, people forget that the coasts don’t solely consist of cities. I mean, the Boston to DC corridor seems like one large city, but there are plenty of small towns and rural, less accessible areas on both coasts, even in the Northeast.

          It’s like saying everyone who lives in the south is backwards and racist. Or that everyone from the Northeast is open-minded. They aren’t.

  15. KellyK*

    For #3, definitely leave religion out, unless you’re applying with a religious organization. If it’s a secular organization, not only will it seem really out of place, but you’re giving them information about protected class status that they probably don’t want.

    If you’re applying to work for, say, the American Friends Service Committee (a Quaker organization that I googled just now), you can certainly talk about how your religious beliefs motivate you to work there. Even then, that should take a backseat to what you can do for them (Alison’s comment about skill trumping passion).

    On the other hand, if you’re applying with, say, Catholic Charities or the Salvation Army, I don’t think it’d be out of place to mention religion vaguely and briefly, maybe replacing “personal ethics and worldview” with “personal ethics and religious convictions.”

    Going into more detail is probably hit or miss, because you might get a hiring manager with positive associations about your religion or who thinks it’s awesome that you’re religious at all, but you could just as easily get someone who views it as a negative for whatever reason. (They’re a strict adherent to their own denomination and don’t think Quakers are real Christians, their brother is in the military and they don’t like pacifists, they have Quakers confused with some other sect*, whatever.)

    And, at the same time, even with a religious organization, if they’re hiring for a non-religious position, they have to follow the same rules regarding protected classes as secular groups do. So if it’s not a religious position, you may be giving them information they don’t want.

    So, I’d leave it off entirely for secular organizations, consider a brief and generic mention for specifically religious organizations, and possibly be specific for Quaker organizations, especially if the position seems at all religious in nature.

    *I wish I could remember the context, but I know that I have uttered the phrase, “No, you’re thinking of the Amish,” when someone asked me a really off-the-wall question about Quakerism. (My husband & my in-laws are Friends, and we got married under the care of two Quaker meetings. Explaining some of the traditions was…interesting.)

    1. Anonicorn*

      I second this advice. Leave it out, even if it says “Holy Hope Funds” or something. Leave it out.

      In trying to fill a position in the religiously-affiliated healthcare system I work for, we have received several cover letters mentioning how much someone loves church, how they care for an autistic child at home, etc. These types of cover letters only make you seem a bit strange and prove that you don’t even know what the job is (we are in corporate), especially considering your religion does not necessarily make you any more qualified.

      1. Jamie*

        I was guilty of this once – in my probably not as subtle as I thought I was way.

        Years ago, very beginning of my career, I applied for an admin position at a Polish newspaper. I only go by my married name, but for that cover letter and resume I hyphenated so I signed it Maidennameski-Marriednameski. I thought a does of extra Polish would help.

        It didn’t. Maybe they would have hired me, but they knew their application wouldn’t 18 letters and a hyphen in the surname field. :)

        I understand the impulse – but I wouldn’t reference religion either unless it was for a position with a religious component.

          1. Jamie*

            Ha – yeah – just what I told myself to lessen the sting of rejection. I was new to the job hunting thing at the time and I think “bilingual strongly preferred” meant more than the ability to order perogis.

        1. Anonicorn*

          Hehe, that’s definitely not as bad as the cover letters some of these people send. I suppose it’s a consequence of being in “the South” but people do crazy things everywhere.

  16. Lisa*

    #2 – Do you feel like HR will tell this woman to stop again in a manner like AAM says (not an option, language)? If she doesn’t stop even with strongly worded 2nd , 3rd, 4th warnings, I would gather the employees that complained to set a meeting with HR again and ask them for permission to leave the building / floor when this happens. If they give you permission that is great, cause then you can start documenting how many times a day you leave your work to get fresh air. Create a spreadsheet and eventually you can show that productivity is down based on this person not abiding by an HR decision.

    For me, this woman won’t stop and thinks its a game and she will continue to ignore HR and put even more perfume on with every warning. I come from a cynical point of view where HR / managers only acts in a decisive manner when the bottom line is concerned. You don’t know what the conversation was like between her and old HR boss, and that HR boss could have been like “people are complaining about your perfume, try to wear less” and conveyed like the HR boss didn’t really care at all but was forced to say something, which could have led the woman to be spiteful with more perfume. Hopefully, the HR coordinator will take the view that it is in fact a 2nd warning and you can ask if the first warning was verbal or if it was put in writing ; basically set the tone that you want the trail of HR paperwork to show that Ms. Smelly was given warnings. The last thing you need is if for it to become a firing / sent home situation but then have HR back down cause nobody kept track that she was given any warnings prior to an action.

    1. perrik*

      This, this, 100x this. From the original post:
      “Our former HR director, who has now left, spoke with her about this issue, but she only started wearing her scent more heavily.”

      HR spoke to the walking scent-bomb, who responded by wearing MORE scent. This isn’t a matter of overcoming an old habit or age dulling her sense of smell. This indicates a deliberate flaunting of an odoriferous sense of entitlement. “I’ll do what I want, and no one can stop me!”

      I bet she also drives on the exit lane and then cuts back into traffic; if a cop gives her a warning about it, she’ll respond by driving on the shoulder. People like that should be rammed with a large vehicle, repeatedly.

      Not that I’m advocating vehicular violence against the over-scented coworker. But a Ford F-450 would be ideal.

      1. Lisa*

        And to your point, people like this take advantage of knowing that nothing has been documented. HR needs to insist that she recognize warnings with a signature so that when she is fired / sent home, there is documentation otherwise she will just stall any HR action by claiming she wasn’t warned at all. So then if she is good at her job, wasn’t fired for cause or part of lay offs, and is part of a protected class then the company ends up backing down and paying for not documenting anything. I have a feeling that the 1st warning was verbal and since that HR person is gone, the warning basically didn’t happen.

  17. Elizabeth West*


    A couple of weeks ago I had an interview and halfway through, realized I would not accept it (no healthcare, lowball salary and too far a drive to justify that). I indicated that the lack of healthcare was a deal-breaker, and the interviewer offered her opinion that I “interview very well.” It was nice to hear that. I pretty much know when I’ve blown it, LOL! But after this long of a job search, it was starting to bug me.

    #6- need vs. want

    Jamie hit it on the head earlier, when she said needing a job can be a great motivator for slogging through the crap times. Even your dream job will have stuff that sucks. I would love to be a best-selling novelist. And I’m sure there are parts of that job I would find tedious or annoying. Many times I’ve stuck it out in a job where I wasn’t thrilled to be there, because I needed the paycheck.

  18. skylark*

    Hi Allison:

    #1: I receive a raise and a bonus every year. What is considered, percentage-wise, a significant enough of a raise or bonus to warrant mention in a cover letter? Is it also ok to mention these on your resume?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Hard to give a hard and fast rule — the idea is that it should be unusual in size and timing, like how the OP received it before she’d even been there a year. Maybe anything over 6% if it was received within X months of starting (when X is less than a year)? I could totally see a resume bullet like:
      * Received 9% raise after six months of work

      1. Anon for now*

        What if there wasn’t one big raise, but a series of raises? My salary increased over 25% in the course of 2 years (and 2 positions at one company), but I received 3 or 4 individual raises (both merit and normal adjustments). (this was at my first company, so a 25% raise = not that much actual $).

        Would this work:
        *Promoted to senior associate after 6 months
        * Received 25% raise over the course of 2 years

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yes! I might even do it this way:
          Promoted to senior associate after 6 months
          * Received 25% raise over the course of 2 years, for outstanding performance

          (assuming that’s true)

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Oh, I should add — if this is normal at your company, then you wouldn’t mention it. Only mention it if it was given in recognition of unusually outstanding performance. That’s why it’s relevant.

          1. skylark*

            I’m not sure if everyone gets one and how much and now I don’t want to know that way I can pretend that it’s a big deal with a clear conscience.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Hmmm. I probably wouldn’t do this, if it wasn’t presented to you as being for unusually good performance. If you put it on your resume as a big thing and then a reference checker finds out that it didn’t reflect anything unusual, it’ll look bad.

      2. AlsoAnon*

        I began my current job at the low end of the salary range they were offering, with the understanding that we would revisit my salary after 6 months of proving myself. After those 6 months, and a review where my boss actually said that there was nothing he could think of that I could improve on, I asked for and received a raise to the high end of the initial range, which was about a 28% raise. Is that something I could work into my resume?

  19. Nyxalinth*

    #6 I’m no longer that passionate about customer service on the phones (getting screamed at all day takes a toll) but I try to find reasons I’m still passionate about it and convey them in my cover letter and the interview, should it get that far. I tried to find other jobs related to other skills I have but it isn’t happening and I need a job like last week.

    The companies hiring agents that I’m super passionate about are all in California, and I could never afford to live there unless I was a room mate with five or six other people.

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