fast answer Friday — 7 short answers to 7 short questions

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

1. Alerting other employers that I turned down a job offer

Yesterday I received a job offer. After thinking it over for the past day, I have decided not to accept because I don’t believe it’s the right fit for me (just a gut feeling). Shortly after receiving the offer, I contacted several organizations that had interviewed me over the past few weeks to notify them of the offer, reiterate my interest in working for them, and seeing if there was any way to expedite the process. I would rather work for these organizations than the one that extended the offer.

One company wrote back immediately, thanking me for my continued interest and letting me know that they would try to give me a decision in the next two days. Today I received a follow up note from this business, indicating that interviewing for the position had not yet concluded and accordingly, they were unable to extend an offer at this time. Would it be appropriate for me to send a reply letting them know that I declined the other offer and wish to remain under active consideration for the position? If so, what would be the best way to word that message? My inclination is to thank them for their response and their consideration of my time constraint, but communicate to them that after further review of the offer, the position is not the best fit for me and since I have declined, I would still like to be considered for the opportunity at their organization.

Absolutely. Don’t get into too many details, but that’s completely appropriate to do.

2. Husband’s boss is pressuring me to apply for jobs I don’t want

I’ve been looking for a new job for awhile with no luck but recently have started getting more interviews. My industry has very specific times for hiring, so it is not unusual for there to be very few job postings for certain periods. Thanks to your blog, I have improved my resume, cover letters, and interview abilities.

Recently, my husband’s boss found out I was job searching and offered to help. Normally this would be a great networking opportunity, but he wants to help me get one of two jobs: one at my husband’s store, or another at a sister store as a cashier. Right now, I’m not desperate enough to accept either one. I worked as a cashier in high school and hated it. Plus, I am a state-certified teacher and am working towards a masters degree so I can move into higher education. Accepting the other job would be strange because my husband has a high position within the store and no matter where I was assigned, he would be my boss. I think we could keep it professional but I’d rather avoid the situation. Combining my work and personal life has not typically worked out in the past.

Every couple of days, my husband’s boss asks about when I am going to come talk to him or apply for these jobs. I have other opportunities and I’m not interested in adding irrelevant experience to my job history. In the past week I’ve had three interviews and the timeline given to me by the hiring managers has not yet expired. How do I (or my husband) politely handle this situation so we don’t offend my husband’s boss? My husband has tried to explain that I have other opportunities and interests but the his boss keeps bringing it up.

Be direct: “I really appreciate it, but I’m focusing on teaching jobs.” Or you could go with, “We’ve talked it over and decided we’re more comfortable not both working for the same company. But thank you.” If he keeps pressing, you can keep responding with, “That’s so kind of you. It’s not quite right for me right now, but thank you.”

3. Mentioning published poetry on your resume

A poem of mine was published in my college’s literary journal in the fall of 2007. The literary journal in question has won several national literary awards both before and after my poem was published; in fact, the writing department at my college is well respected. The poem is the only thing I have had published. I am proud of it but at the same time it’s a 6-line poem (I’m not known as a writer among friends and former colleagues, though I do have a good writing skill) and to my chagrin, there’s a word at the end of one line that is misplaced that the editors neglected to remove. The poem has no bearing on what I want to do in my career. I’m in the middle of a job hunt right now, would it be helpful to put my publication down on my resume or a forum like LinkedIn to portray that I can write successfully?

In addition, I have submitted an article that is currently being reviewed for possible publication in a journal (also has nothing to do with my career, but in this case, I was asked by someone who I respect to submit my prior research done in college on a topic that has little background). If the article does indeed end up being published, I will most likely add that to my resume (as the article has more beef than a 6-line poem), as well as the poem for “padding.” Do you have any advice?

Don’t mention the poem. Six lines of poetry doesn’t demonstrate writing skills. It might demonstrate poetry-writing skills, but those are far, far, FAR removed from the type of writing that most employers are looking for, and you don’t want to come across as if you don’t understand that.

If the article is published, you can include that. No poem or other “padding” necessary.

4. Do I need to throw out my experience and start over when moving into nonprofits?

I’m currently working in procurement in Corporate America, and am looking to move into the nonprofit world, ideally in corporate partnerships. I realize that with no experience, I may need to throw out my 7 years of work experience and accept an entry level job with the entry level salary. How do I address this in my cover letter? Do I address it, or is simply applying to the position proof that I’m willing to do it?

You don’t need to throw out your experience and start at the bottom. Nonprofits aren’t a different planet; your experience counts, even though it’s in a different sector. Think about what skills are transferrable, and handle it just like you would any other job application.

5. University wants letters, not phone calls, from references

I have been offered an interview with a university (it is a “split position” — partially with the university and partially with a hospital). I am still working out the date/details of the interview but they have already contacted my 3 references by email to ask for a letter of recommendation (to be written and downloaded to their website). One of my references (a manager from a couple of jobs ago) has let me know that he thinks it is strange. He said he willing to “talk with them or help in any other way,” so I am assuming the letter is probably not going to happen. I am sure that my other two references probably feel the same way and just haven’t said anything yet (all this happened this afternoon). I have 12 years of experience, yet none with a university so a letter vs. a phone call is pretty new to me.

I wrote back to him and said that when I finalized details of the interview, I could ask if he could be contacted for a phone reference instead. Will this seem too pushy? And could I request it for my other references as well? I really feel bad for them to have to take so much more time to write something as compared to a phone interview. I am now worried both about having this reflect poorly on my candidacy (that it emphasizes my lack of university experience) but also about burdening my references (this is the third reference in the past 6 months that I have requested from all of them).

Ah, universities, with their own strange ways of doing things. This is indeed common in academia, although I’m not sure how common it is with non-teaching positions (not common, I hope). If it’s a position where they’re used to hiring candidates from outside of academia, they should be used to people’s references balking at the time commitment of writing a letter, but who knows. My hunch is that if they ask for letters, they’re going to want letters. (Anyone with university hiring experience want to weigh in?) One option is for you to offer to draft the letter yourself, for your reference to then modify and finalize on his own — that’s actually pretty frequently done, although not ideal.

Read an update to this letter here.

6. Coming out on your resume

I have a question about jobs that reveal personal information: I am the manager of a resource centre for queer students at my university. I am also graduating and starting to look for jobs. My experiences have been valuable and I don’t want to exclude them from my resume, but for obvious reasons I also don’t want my resume to reveal or drop hints about my sexual orientation.

So far I have been fairly vague about my job on my resume, taking the program name out of my job title and replacing it with “Program Coordinator” (while still being descriptive about my duties). I also dance around it on my cover letters. Will employers look at this with suspicion? In an interview, if asked, should I disclose the name of the program I worked for?

I think it’s fine to do it the way you’re doing it, but I also think it’s worth considering just being open about it — it’s one of the best ways to ensure that you’ll end up in a workplace that doesn’t make you feel you need to hide who you are.

7. Explaining cultural differences when applying for jobs

I moved from Europe to the USA a few years ago. I have not been working in the USA so far, as I’ve been raising our kids, but now I want/need to get back into the work force. I wonder if I should address cultural differences in my cover letter? I already mention that I am now a U.S. citizen so employers know there won’t be any work authorisation issues, but I mean other things. My main concern is that most of my jobs in Europe lasted 9 months to 2 years; this is totally normal there, where medium-term contracts are normal, and due to outsourcing to India which happened to my call center jobs twice. Other concerns are my accent (I speak fluent English, but there is an accent), and somewhat different spelling.

I’m interested to get other people’s opinions on this, but I don’t think there’s any real way to raise the shorter-term jobs thing in a cover letter, but it’s something you could bring up in an interview. You definitely shouldn’t preemptively address your accent in your cover letter; assuming that your accent doesn’t get in the way of communicating at work, it’s going to be unnecessary to mention with most employers and will make some of them feel uncomfortable (because discriminating based on national origin is illegal). The spelling though — that I’d work on changing, because many employers will expect you to use standard American spelling once on the job.

{ 158 comments… read them below }

  1. Academic*

    #5: Yes, the university wants letters, but I could just about guarantee that they expect him to sign off on something you wrote. It’s just how everything is done.

    #7: I think the short-term jobs are an awkward thing to put in a cover letter, but if I saw a resume with a ton of short stints like that, I would think she was a job-hopper or getting fired a lot. Perhaps she could find a way to put it on the resume, like XYZ Company, August 2009 – August 2010 (1-year contract). It’s super-weird, but I think it’s better than the assumptions that will be made if she doesn’t mention it at all.

      1. BW*

        Yes – find some way to make it clear on your resume these were short term/contract jobs. I actually don’t think doing something like XYZ Company, August 2009 – August 2010 (1-year contract) is weird at all. Temp and contract workers are common in my field, so I see this type of thing on resumes, especially when looking at resumes for contract positions, since the people applying for those positions are more likely to have been contract workers previously.

    1. Mike C.*

      Why does the university want letters? I had this happen to me a few years back and I just couldn’t understand why they expected my references to work so hard just so the university could have a few pieces of paper.

      1. Ann*

        Because that’s how they operate. Think about applying to grad school, they want letters of recommendation for that too, so how is actually working for them any different?

        1. Mike C.*

          No, “because that’s how they operate” is not an answer to my question nor is it a justification of their policy.

          Letters of recommendation aren’t useful in the modern world that has things like phones and the internet. As a hiring manager you can’t follow up on items brought up in the letters, nor do you know under what conditions of duress the letters were written under.

          Furthermore, it is completely unreasonable to expect that an applicant’s references should have the time and energy to spend the time writing a letter when a short phone call later in the process would do.

          It’s also stupid for graduate school for the very same reasons.

          1. Academic*

            They want letters because lots of people (LOTS) weigh in on hiring decisions. So while a phone call is nice, only the people on the call get to hear it while a letter can be read by all of the various people in on the call. In addition, it’s a tangible and traceable document. Various colleges/universities have struggled with unfair hiring practices and having tangible documentation of hiring decisions helps refute those worries.

            When I served on a search committee, there were about 6 of us making the decision on who to hire. Wouldn’t it be dreadful to have to have a conference call phone reference check!

            So, I do find it to be helpful in the sense that each member of the committee has the same information in front of them to make decisions. Now, whether this is good information is a different thing :)

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              You could just have a good reference-checker send notes on the call to everyone, though — which is what other fields do when more than one person is involved.

              1. Academic*

                Well, yes… but who is that good reference checker? The reality is that most people who do hiring in academia are not that good at it – but are also leery of the institution trying to make hiring decisions for their local groups. So deciding that one professor is good at reference checking etc is not an easy choice (and quite possibly there’s no one who would be good at this).

                In this case, however, I think it’s more likely that whoever prepared this posting just defaulted to an faculty posting.

                Letters are also good in cases of death – when your super famous super fabulous adviser dies – you can still use him/her as a reference! You can have one letter just slightly altered for multiple positions etc. There are reasons that academics keep using them.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Still, though, a reference letter is going to tell you very, very little, unless they really only care about who it’s from. Reference letter content is rarely helpful. So it seems like going through the motions and causing a huge inconvenience to candidates and their references for very little pay-off.

                2. Joey*

                  Look, lots of hiring managers out there don’t know what they’re doing, but they either learn or get help from HR or another manager. Thats sort of ironic isnt it? Letters of reference nearly always suck. Don’t believe me? Have you ever seen one that said anything remotely critical? Ever wonder why? It’s because people are only going to give you what puts them in the best light. And died, c’mon? Sure people die, but I can probably count on one finger in more than 15 yrs the times a candidate told me I couldn’t contact a former manager because he died.

                3. fposte*

                  As far as seeing letters of reference that are remotely critical–academic letters of reference can be very clear in their lack of support.

                  (I don’t actually know if we do letters of reference for faculty hires, but it’s a pretty concentrated field and we’ve usually seen them at conferences and read their work before they apply anyway.)

            2. Lee*

              At my last interview they actually did conference call reference checks. The position was an ongoing/permanent one with the department of education. In the Australian state I live in ongoing positions are a pretty big deal. Unless you commit some sort of crime or really screw up the position is yours pretty much for life so it’s a big call. My reference said it was pretty nerve wracking knowing they were all listening! I guess one person could have taken notes for the others but that’s not how they chose to do it. I’d never heard of that before.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I think the question, though, is why they want them. Not “can I challenge this?” but really why they find them useful, as opposed to using phone calls to references like the rest of the world.

          1. Mike C.*

            Yes, this! Do they even realize what a candidate would be asking their network to sit down and write a letter?

            1. Oxford Comma*

              Most people in academia (and this can include people in support staff positions) have references who are also in academia. I am working on a letter for a former employee right now as a matter of fact. You expect that you will have to do this the moment you agree to be someone’s reference.

              1. fposte*

                Exactly. It’s sort of like somebody saying to a non-academic “Do they even realize that they’re asking somebody to be tethered to their phone to answer a random call?” Yes, they do, because that’s the deal they agreed to.

            2. Rana*

              Of course. But, as Oxford Comma and fposte noted, that’s the norm in academia. I’ve written lots of reference letters, and requested many for myself, and everyone knows the drill, and it’s not a big deal; there are even services you can sign up with that will manage your references’ letters, maintain anonymity, and handle the mailing of them. Having to field a phone call about one of my references, on the other hand, would be awkward and weird.

              And, yes, it’s quite possible to be negative in one of these things, though it’s rare because most references who are ethical warn would-be referees when they can’t write a glowingly positive letter. In fact, if you’re a literal-minded sort, it can be challenging to write a properly enthusiastic letter, because if there’s any sense of hesitancy about it, the readers on the other end will assume that you don’t actually like the candidate. Call it grade inflation for letters, I suppose.

              It’s worth noting that for faculty candidates, there are many other concrete ways of determining the quality of their work – publications, service on committees, presentations, teaching evaluations, etc. – so letters are more about whether they’re good colleagues to work with. For staff candidates, I think a phone reference would make more sense.

          2. Academic*

            I don’t know what kind of position the OP is applying for.

            When applying to a faculty position, the reference letters are used as a sorting factor MUCH earlier in the process than a reference check would be in a corporate setting. Typically, who they come from is critical…if you come from a school that is not top tier, you better have letters from someone who does to even make it past the first round.

              1. Academic*

                This is weird, someone else just started using the same username, so there are two of us replying under the same name.

                ANYWAY…in short, yes. I mean, they obviously have to write a decent letter about you and so on, but for a faculty position, you are trying to demonstrate standing in your field, and reference letters are one way to do that.

                Think of it this way: if they want to know if you are a good researcher, they look at your research. If they want to know if you are a good teacher, they look at your teaching evaluations. There’s not really a ton of stuff, content-wise, that a reference could say, that isn’t better represented by other parts of your application.

                I’m being a little pithy, here, as obviously it’s not totally cut and dry, but yes, this is one big reason.

                1. fposte*

                  Not really. It’s more like an impact contest. If you’re too early in your career for the publication metrics to be telling about your own impact, the assessment of somebody who has had a high impact matters.

          3. fposte*

            As another academic, I don’t think it is that they actually find letters more useful with staffing hires, I think it’s just that they have a single model for recommendations and nobody’s pushed back enough to make them change it where it doesn’t make sense.

            It’s easier to buffalo a candidate into getting letters than an entrenched bureaucracy into changing its policy.

            1. PEBCAK*

              For my adjunct position, they just asked for names and phone numbers, but AFAIK, they never called them.

            2. businesslady*

              I’ve worked in university administration for almost six years–& have been involved in several staff searches–& while letters of reference are indeed very common for faculty/instructor positions, I’ve never heard of them being part of a “regular” employee’s application.

              I feel like, in the OP’s case, this requirement was a professor applying an academic standard to a job where it’s not applicable.

              1. DataMonkey*

                I also have worked in university admin for a while and I have seen certain institutions ask for reference letters for their staff positions. I thought it was extremely odd though…

                1. Jenn X*

                  I used to work for a university whose entire IT department had to get letters of reference every year from people they had worked with that year for their annual evaluations. I worked with them A LOT, and ended up writing letters for at least two people a year (some were repeats from previous years).

                  In that case, it was nice to get to praise some people who were usually not appreciated as much as they should have been–IT gets noticed when things go wrong, but not when they go right. I was quite effusive. Sometimes I wondered if I had gotten a reputation for writing these things, and that’s why I got so many requests. :-)

            3. Rana*

              And then there’s the flip side, when you apply for a faculty job and are confronted with a computer form that wants to know when you graduated high school and every job you held since that time. One of these silly things had a drop-down menu for “highest degree attained” and it only went up to a Masters!

          4. Oxford Comma*

            My experience is with faculty positions. At my institution, there is a certain amount of flexibility and it’s usually up to the search committee chair. We have leeway as to what we ask for. We can do phone calls; we can ask for letters; we can send out an emailed list of questions. We can ask for any of these at any point in the process. I personally prefer phone calls because you get a lot more from tone of voice and people will say things they will not write down. However, since you need at least 2 people (where I work anyhow) plus the reference on the phone, it is sometimes easier to ask for letters than to try and schedule phone calls. There are reasons why academic searches take so long. Good academic references will go into much more detail than your standard “Ms. Smith is an outstanding professor blah blah blah and you should hire her.” They will address the position specifically and will talk about the impact of the person’s research/experience.

            The market is flooded right now so a lot of institutions are asking for letters because, well, they can and it’s a way of winnowing the pool. They sometimes use these upfront and then may still want to speak with the reference after.

    2. Sam*

      One nice thing about academic letters of rec is that you can reuse them. Of course, it looks better to have a recent letter that is tailored for a specific position/program, but this isn’t always possible. Professors die, move, take sabbaticals, and do field work. They aren’t always available to give a phone reference.

      Please note, I agree with many of the previous comments about LORs being outdated. I’m just pointing out a couple advantages.

  2. Spreadsheet Monkey*

    #7 – I wonder if there’s a way to address it in the cover letter along with the international experience. Something along the lines of, “As you can see from my resume, most jobs in [country of origin] are contracted as shorter-term (less than 2 years). While I’ve learned a lot about XX from this, I’m really looking forward to staying with one company for longer and better utilizing my skills in XYZ.”

    1. JohnQPublic*

      Yeah, spin it in your cover letter “Europe’s proclivity towards contracts has allowed me to experience a variety of workplace cultures, but I’m eager to spend some quality time with a single company and really expand my skills in X” while adding on your résumé the info on which jobs were contract.

      1. MB*

        Ooh, I like that idea! I couldn’t think of anything myself, but that seems to be a good way to address it.

      2. Penguin*

        #7 Op here- thanks for this suggestion, I like it, makes the issue a strength rather than weakness. I already have “reason for leaving” on each of my relevant job postings of the resume, but felt I needed to add something, and this fits!

  3. Michael Barnes*

    #6 I agree with AAM, I would list it and give the position the detail and attention it deserves. The only thing worse than applying and being rejected by a workplace that would have a negative reaction is working and feeling stuck in that workplace when you inevitably become uncomfortable due to their uncomfortableness with you. This is definitely a situation where organizational culture would have to be a fit for me. Also, I don’t know what industry you are in or what types of positions you are applying for, but quite a number of larger companies of LGBTQUIIA employee resource groups and your past experience might actually do you a favor in the hiring process.

    The only thing that I would say is that I would address it in the résumé and cover letter as to how it applies to your skillset rather than writing it as though you feel you need to come out, because while there are many places that certainly don’t consider lgbtquiia to be a protected class there are also some that do, and in that sense it might make the hiring manager uneasy.

    1. Jamie*

      #6 – I agree with considering just listing it as you’d list anything else.

      Obviously there may be sides of this I can’t see from my perspective, but I have an ethnic last name. It’s not been an issue, but if it were and there were people who wouldn’t want to hire me because of this I wouldn’t want to change my name or drop the suffix to sanitize my resume to remove signs of a significant part of who I am.

      And like sexuality, this part of me would be totally irrelevant at work and no indication of whether or not I’d be a good employee …but if there are people out there who have a problem with who I am as a person – even if it’s a null factor at work? I don’t want to work for or with them – hiding it would just make that more likely.

      Again, it’s a bad hypothetical example – but it’s worth considering that leaving it in there would screen out employers where you’d be miserable.

      And from a practical standpoint, if I were screening your resume vague or cryptic associations would make me nervous because I’d wonder what was so bad that you were hiding it. Maybe you were president of a Kitten Murderers, Inc. or something. Where what you’re talking about I wouldn’t raise an eyebrow.

      1. Eric*

        I hate to say it, but I think this depends on where she’s applying for jobs. New York City? No problem. Rural Texas? Might be an issue.

        1. Michael Barnes*

          I guess for me, it really depends on how bad the job is needed now. Personally, I would rather wait and find something that is a better cultural fit where I would be happy in the long term. The thing is that coming out is an everyday process, you are constantly coming out… And not because one expects everyone to know their sexuality but by simply talking about their significant other or what they did last weekend. The reality is, that the topic can make many individuals uncomfortable maybe because of their beliefs, often because they don’t feel they know the right terminology to use, and i would want to know going into a job if I am potentially going to be as concerned about changing pronouns in conversation as I am getting my job. And considering that it is perfectly legal to terminate an individuals employment because of their gender identity, it is something that can cause a great deal of stress on an employee. While personal stuff shouldn’t have an impact on your job, people do talk about what they did over the holidays, the other parent of their child, etc and if you aren’t able to participate in those conversations because you aren’t comfortable then people make assumptions about you and you might feel further alienation.

          And I say all of this as somebody who is from middle of nowhere Oklahoma and living in a major northeast city now.

          1. Michael Barnes*

            Oops, that should have said able to terminate over their sexual identity not gender identity, but the same still applies to transgender identity as well.

            1. Ornery PR*

              Acutally, last year in April, the EEOC ruled that gender identity, change of sex and transgender status is covered under “sex” as a protected category.

              1. Michael Barnes*

                I guess for me that isn’t a solid enough ruling. Yes, that means that as it stands today, transgender individuals have the protections afforded to them, but it hasn’t gone through the courts so it could be altered through that, or if the legislature decides to alter the language at any point. In practice, the laboe department has still awarded contracts to companies who do not have non-discrimination policies. Also, there has not been a clear executive order, so it is only an assumption thay govenment contractors with less than 15 individuals will have the law applied to them the same way that the EEOC applies it in practice. The reality is that while there has been progress, the water is still murkey without passage of EDNA.

            1. Michael Barnes*

              I believe that Oklahoma City has a local ordinance relating to non-discrimination, yes. But on the state-wide level, there is not any protection.

        1. Joey*

          Let’s be honest here. Most people would assume. I know some co workers who own it and are consulted on our diversity and recruitment efforts. Just sayin, there are lots of companies out there who value connections to the LGBT community.

        2. Jamie*

          I wouldn’t care – but I would assume the likelihood that someone in that position was.

          Just the same way I would assume the head of the Polish Student Group was probably of Polish descent. The odds just lean that way.

          But to your point, it’s not always the case. Kind of like I don’t get offended when people who haven’t met me assume I’m male since < 9% of people in my position are woman and it's only slightly higher for woman in any kind of upper management position in my industry and my unisex name doesn't help. So if you have to make a call whether it's Ms. or Mr. I can fault someone for going with the likeliest possibility.

        3. Michelle*

          I was coming down here to say that I have worked for queer organizations (as an extension of working in sexual health), and also for a local magazine predominantly publishes queer content, and I don’t identify as queer. I never questioned including those experiences (they are valuable!) but I live in a very liberal environment.

          1. Joey*

            Slightly off topic, but i can never get a straight(no pun intended) answer from my friends. is the term queer politically correct in the business world? I’ve always shied away from it out of ignorance.

            1. Michael Barnes*

              That is a very hard question to answer… Mostly because it really depends on who you are talking to and the context of the situation. The reason it is usually a phrase that many find offensive is because historically the word has had a lot of hate and vitriol behind it. There has been an effort to reclaim the word, and is now used as an identity, separate from being gay, bisexual, transgender. As an identity, it usually refers to an individual who feels that they don’t like or may not fit into the socially defined perimeters of other identities. Unless an individual tells you personally how they self-identify (straight or lgbtquiia) I wouldn’t label them. Because while I am gay, I am not queer. I would be irritated and offended that you made that assumption not because it is an offensive label, but because you assumed something about me.

              I guess my only other question would be why? I mean if it is because as a business we are making an attempt at recruiting from the particular community, are we targeting ads directed at them? Or is it in a conversational sense when speaking to co-workers? I have never spoken about a coworker as being straight, but we seem to talk about coworkers being lgbtquiia, i am just ad guilty, and it isn’t really necessary or important. We can talk about an individuals family and significant other without the need to label am individual.

              1. Joey*

                For me its mostly for recruitment so I’m talking about targeting the community as a whole. It just sounds like some people use queer, lgbt, and other terms interchangeably. I’m just not sure which ones are pc.

            2. Michelle*

              I think you should just follow the lead of the person who is describing themselves- I have a lot of friends who say queer, but others feel more comfortable identifying differently. In my age cohort the stigma attached to queer has largely dissipated, and a lot of people prefer it because it is a broader label that is more about identity than just sexual orientation or gender expression, but again, if someone describes themselves as a lesbian, I’ll follow their lead and not describe them as queer.

              1. Min*

                I completely agree with Michelle. I’d just like to add, FFS, also don’t correct whatever nomenclature a person uses to define themselves. I know that sounds rediculously obvious, but as a woman who has more than once been told, “No, you’re not gay. You’re a lesbian,” I cannot begin to express how irritating that is.

                Personally, I don’t use the word queer (probably because of the fact that it was an insult in my youth), but I’m not offended by those who do. It’s certainly a more simple umbrella term than LGBTetc, and more inclusive, too.

            3. Anonymous*

              (I’m OP #6) Queer is just fine. I use it as an umbrella term since the acronym LGBTQQAI… etc annoys me. If you know someone’s preferred label, go with that. People should just politely correct you, unless what you said was actually offensive (like “faggot”). Don’t stress over it. :)

        4. Anon*

          Maybe it’s because I also live in a very liberal area (Seattle) but I would never make an assumption on someone’s sexual orientation based on their community engagement. I know tonssss of people who have been a part of these type of clubs and activities who do not personally identify with the community.

        5. JessBee*

          I was coming to make the same comment — I wouldn’t assume anything about the applicant’s personal sexual preferences based on this job. I am a straight woman who has been involved in lots of LGBTQ organizations, even in leadership roles.

          Having said that, I would make assumptions (inferences, really) about the applicant’s attitude toward the LGBTQ community. It would be a neutral or plus for me, but obviously not for everyone. At which point, I think, we’re back to basically Alison’s response: if you have the luxury of choice, do you really want to work somewhere that you have to keep even your support a secret?

    2. Holly*

      A good chunk of my college job experience involved being a president of LGBTQIA club on campus. At first I thought I was in trouble when it became time to find a job, but finally I just owned the experience. In my first post-grad interview I laid it right out on the table that I had done a massive marketing campaign for this club, and that the club’s mission was to help LGBTQIA students. I carefully watched their reactions to see if it was negative – because for me, their negative reaction would mean more than whether or not I would get an offer.

      In my next turn at job searching a year later, I did the same thing. I don’t explicitly say “I’m bisexual,” but I’m upfront about the club’s purpose because if they aren’t okay with that, I don’t want to join. I’m lucky that I can do that, in that I’m not desperate for a job – so keep that in mind. But yeah, definitely highlight what you did for the center, as that should be the most important thing.

      1. Michelle*

        This is a good point- any hiring manager or workplace with such awful values as to think that experience with a queer org/group is negative by virtue of who is serves is not going to be a comfortable working environment for you at all.

        And OP #6, you shouldn’t feel like you have to disclose your sexuality when talking about the job duties, because they shouldn’t ask.

      1. Michael Barnes*

        +1 Agreed. Luckily my phone auto-corrects to that… It can’t manage to know what I meant to say for anything else, but I can count on it to be culturally sensitive…

  4. C.*

    Yes #7! I am a US citizen about to move back to the US after living most of my professional/adult life in Europe and I have the exact same problem. To even have a job where I am right now (26% unemployment, 38% in my region) is impressive, let alone have the same one for several years. I like the comments on specifying short-term contracts, as that was the case for many of my jobs. Any more advice for when that’s not the case? I was let go once, not because the nonprofit wanted to (in fact, they said they were extremely happy with my work), but because they were highly dependent on state funding, which has been drastically reduced (by more than half). This also lead me to work in a not-related field- not because I wanted to, but because I had to. I’m really worried about how it’s all going to look on a resume and know that highlighting those shortcomings in a cover letter in an effort to explain them is probably not the way to go. Any more ideas?

    1. Anonymous*

      If you’re applying for not-profits here, they understand how funding works and how the loss means letting employees go. It isn’t seen as a negative. Like with the example above, you can spin it in your cover letter, how you want more experience in X which you did at the not-profit, but was unable to continue in that position due to funding being reduced.

  5. Oxford Comma*

    #5: The University wants a letter. They don’t want a phone call. If they wanted a phone call, they would have asked for one. It’s not really negotiable. Things are different in Academia. The good news for you is that they are asking for the letters now when you have an interview and not at the beginning of the process, which is becoming more common. Doing as AAM suggests sounds like a reasonable workaround, but I wouldn’t offer to do that for more than the one reference that’s balking. What kind of position is this? Teaching? Academic support?

    1. fposte*

      The description doesn’t sound like teaching, though.

      I’m in agreement that if they want a letter a letter is what’s needed. I cringe at Academic’s statement about a self-written letter, but I know it’s true in a lot of places, so that is certainly a possible workaround. I’ll note that my university actually don’t require letters for staff positions (though an individual department or boss could get a wild hair, I suppose)–the policy is just getting names of references and contacting them.

      1. Oxford Comma*

        That’s why I wondered if it was some kind of academic support. Or working in a research area (the OP mentioned the position entailed half the time in a hospital). If it’s something medical it’s possible the search committee/HR/whoever is hiring is going with letters because it’s harder to get clinical medical folks around to do scheduled phone calls. This might be a case where it’s wise to have a generic letter of reference on file somewhere that you can pull out as needed. In my experience though, it’s better when the letters are tailored to the posting.

        1. Michelle*

          I work in an academic/research context (a major university research centre partnered with a health organization) and I wasn’t asked to provide letters. My understanding is that letters are only for very long processes with tons of candidates (ie, graduate admissions!) where no one would have the time or capacity to call a lot of references.

          That said, it is very common to provide a draft letter for your reference to approve or fill in. Ask if that would save him time. I would be annoyed that the reference letter requirement had not been listed on the job posting.

    2. Mike C.*

      The university is being completely unreasonable in their request, and hurting their job search at the same time.

      1. Oxford Comma*

        Academia is different. You have to follow their rules if you want to work there. In this job market, they are not exactly hurting for applicants.

          1. Oxford Comma*

            Ok, trying to think how to explain this. In a business setting, from what I’ve read on this blog, the rules are a little more flexible. People get interviews based on things like who they know. Maybe you don’t have 100% of the qualifications they want, but they might be willing to take a chance on you. People get hired by different sorts of entities–someone in HR for instance. In academia–at least at public institutions–there is typically more of a rigid structure. There is a charging party. There is a search committee. We have less leeway. If we have a posting saying you need “2 years experience in X or Y,” and that you need a cover letter, a resume, and 3 reference letters, and you don’t have that and you don’t submit those, we can and will boot you out of the pool. Right then and there.

      2. sab*

        It’s not unreasonable — it’s just how it is. That may not be a good enough reason for you, but Academia’s slow job process is unlikely to change. If someone doesn’t like it, then they don’t have to apply for academic jobs.

        1. Mike C.*

          It is unreasonable because there is a faster, more effective, less costly ways of performing a reference check.

          Furthermore, telling me that “it’s not unreasonable because that’s how it is” is a logical fallacy.

          1. fposte*

            I can see faster, I can maybe see more effective, but how is it less costly to file an e-document than to make a phone call?

          2. Rana*

            I think the problem here is that you’re assuming that the function of an academic reference letter is the same thing as that of a reference phone call. I don’t think they are.

            Most reference letters are pretty short; in some ways, they are similar to cover letters, only they’re written for the candidate, rather than by the candidate. They typically explain, briefly, why the reference thinks the candidate would be a good fit for the position, with a personal endorsement.

            That’s it.

            Keep in mind that, as noted above, there is a lot of additional documentation that helps search committees decide whether to hire a candidate: teaching evaluations, examples of syllabi and course assignments, statements of teaching philosophy, samples of written work, lists of publications and presentations (most available online these days), examples of committee work, transcripts, and so on.

            Keep in mind, too, that most references are not, strictly speaking, faculty candidates’ supervisors in the same way they are in a corporate setting. About the primary interaction I had with my various chairs was negotiating which courses I would teach in a given semester, and discussing problem students, for example, but it is expected that your chair will be one of your references. A senior colleague can also serve as a reference, hopefully because they know your work well, but sometimes it’s more about Important Senior Person saying “This person is easy to get along with and has the basic intellectual chops needed for the job.”

            So if you called them, that’s basically what you’d get, only in a less organized and more incoherent fashion, assuming that the person you were trying to reach was actually in their office at the time, and not teaching, researching, or in committee.

            The question of whether the candidate is qualified can be addressed by looking at their actual work. The question of whether they “fit” with the department hiring them is answered through a combination of actually meeting them in person (during all-day interviews, typically) and using reference letters to confirm that they’re good colleagues even when they’re not on their best interview behavior.

            I don’t think reference letters would be appropriate for hiring staff, as the documentation of prior performance isn’t part of the application, but they do actually work in a faculty hire context.

  6. Jamie*

    #4 – I know a couple of people who have successfully moved from corporate to the non-profit sector and it was based on their prior experience. And FWIW these two people are much happier – anecdotal, I know.

    I’ve often wondered how different the cultures are between the for profit and the non-profit worlds. Alison has mentioned many times that some non-profits pay competitively to attract the talent they need – but I still imagine them a less money driven (for individuals) and kinder place to work. It seems like mission driven non-profits would be more cohesive since everyone has their heart in the same place when it comes to that issue.

    Or maybe not – I mean we’re all on the same page in the for profit sector – we all want our companies to do well and make money so we have job security and rewards…so maybe the only difference is the altruism.

    1. Victoria Nonprofit*

      Having never worked in the corporate sector, I have. Lathing to compare my nonprofit jobs to… But I’d guess that it’s basically the same: some nonprofits are kinder and friendlier and some are serious and stressful. Some are metric-driven. Some are project-driven. Some are relaxed and essentially unmanaged. Some are carefully and thoughtfully managed. The one constant I’ve noticed is hours: you work as long as it takes to get the job done, and you’re supposed to do it happily because you believe so much in the mission.

    2. BW*

      I worked for one non-profit company. They were more profit driven than any of the profit companies I have ever worked for. It was all about bringing in contracts and twisting in contortions to keep those contracts. I didn’t get the sense that the people running the show were invested in the mission on a level other than to make money. It was a depressing and stressful place to work for people who were there because they were invested in the mission.

      I think it really depends on the non-profit. Like in the for-profit corporate world, some are going to be great and some are not-so-great. There are also for-profit business that are mission driven and actively give back to the community and encourage their employees to do the same with lots of opportunities for volunteerism and partnering with non-profits and local public institutions.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Yep, there’s huge variation. The key is finding one that has the culture you want. There are absolutely well-managed nonprofits out there, but there are also poorly managed ones (just like with for-profit businesses) — you’ve got to make sure that you know which type you’re dealing with.

    3. Xay*

      Also, remember that “non-profit” is a just a tax designation. Not every non-profit mission is altruistic. For example, the NFL is a non-profit organization.

  7. Nameless*

    7. Explaining cultural differences when applying for jobs

    You don’t have to mention you are a U.S. citizen, after all Obama has a foreign name but is the president of U.S. So many people here have foreign names but were actually born here.

    1. Victoria Nonprofit*

      If your experience is all in other countries, you definitely want to make it clear that you’re a citizen.

      1. VictoriaHR*

        As an interviewer, I never ask if someone is a US Citizen, because we don’t discriminate against non-citizens. I can ask if they are able to work in the United States without sponsorship.

        1. JessBee*

          This is a good point – the real issue is that you want to make it clear you have work authorization. Having said that, I think stating you are a citizen (if true) is the easiest/clearest way to reassure employers that they don’t have to worry about your visa status.

    2. The IT Manager*

      But her work history shows that she’s never worked in America before so its not her name giving that away. And it’s probably best to assure companies that they don’t need to to worry about getting a work Visa for her in this competitive job market. She doesn’t need even a little niggle of doubt to cause them to skip over her.

    3. Penguin*

      #7 Op here- my name is actually “American”, thanks to an American husband. I know legally an employer cannot ask about citizenship status other than for some very specific roles, but I don’t want them to wonder about my status and skip asking me to interview because of it. Plus, I paid a lot of money and went through a lot of paperwork for it :P

      1. Malissa*

        Oh the paperwork! I’m thinking your international experience is something you can actually leverage to give you an advantage, if you are looking at going into the corporate world. I’d include a brief paragraph in your cover letter about the countries you’ve worked in and include your citizenship. Something along the lines of I’ve lived and worked in country X, country Y, and Country Z. Since moving to the United States I’ve gone through immigration and am now a citizen. This diverse background allows me to…..(something relevant about the position).
        Heck just mentioning that you’ve persevered through the immigration process may catch some ones attention.

  8. Jamie*

    #2 – Is it just me or is the OP’s husband’s boss really bizarre.

    I can see if you were a Chocolate Teapot Payload Specialist and experts in your field were super scarce and they’ve been looking to fill that very role for a long time. I wouldn’t agree with the hard sell, but it would at least be a logic based wooing.

    This is just weird to me – it’s not your field and unless your husband is hitting up the boss to float him some lunch money because he’s so broke I don’t know why the boss would even care if you’re working, much less where or doing what.

    I can’t possibly imagine what his agenda could be – but it’s so weird.

    1. Jen in RO*

      I’ve met people who acted like this. The boss probably wants to act as a savior and feel good about himself… even against OP’s will.

    2. AnotherAlison*

      OTOH, my sister has been trying to get a teaching job for 2 years and has decided not to renew her licenses. With a M.Ed. she has decided to look at high school diploma-only jobs in corporate, just to try to get in SOMEWHERE. She’s certified in secondary ed. – biology, chemistry, and physics. Maybe the boss knows how difficult the teaching job market can be and genuinely thinks he’s helping.

      1. Jamie*

        Not to go off topic – but your sister is a perfect example of how credentials that look like they aren’t really related would help. When I read that I first thought if I were looking for anyone in QA I’d love to see the sciences…because she’d come with an understanding of control groups, sampling techniques, analyzing and presenting data.

        So just using her as an example those are points to hit in a cover letter to tie in how you could use what looks like unrelated skills to excel at that position.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          Thanks for the input! I will mention that to her. She’s all over the map. I thought she had a good background for croporate training (she’s got experience teaching medical office courses for adults), but she never got any nibbles on those applications. Maybe quality would be a possibility.

          I passed on her resume for some non-engineer/construction jobs in at my company, but without even some general business courses, it’s hard to make a case for the jobs that require a degree or equivalent experience, and her degrees are a turn-off for admin work, too, even though her job experience all through college and after has been as a medical office admin assistant.

          I have a few engineering contacts in manufacturing, so maybe I’ll ask them to let me know if they hear of any jobs.

          1. Jamie*

            If people are looking for QC/QA jobs (not trying to lure your sister into the exciting and dangerous world of quality sampling) but indeed. com isn’t just for tech – it’s one of the best places to go for the engineering and QC/QA jobs also.

    3. anon attorney*

      Or it could be that the boss hasn’t given any real thought to what the poster actually does and assumes that as a woman any entry level job will do. An ex boss of my partner once wanted to recruit me as an office manager, to persuade my partner to relocate and join his new company. I have a JD and PhD and ten years’ professional experience in my field. No disrespect to the essential work done by office managers, we would be screwed without them, but he made no effort to find out anything about me or my skills – he just wanted to sweeten the deal for my other half. It still annoys me fifteen years on!!!

    4. Not So NewReader*

      Jamie- not so weird in the retail sector or service sector. Employers will sometimes see a job hunter that has skills/personality/reputation that is appropriate for their work place. The employer will directly ask the job hunter for her consideration.

      I have seen this many times in the retail sector- where a manager would ask a person “Are you sure, you don’t want an application?” And I have seen it in the service/repair sector when a person is known for their outstanding skills. If you can hand pick a known, it is better than guessing at an unknown.

      It is a little strange that the boss keeps asking her. That could be because she gave him a “weak no” or was totally unclear in her answer.
      It could be the boss is desperate for a trustworthy person and this is “the easy” answer.
      Initially, I had a creepy feeling about the whole situation because it looks like the boss could be going after someone elses wife. Lacking any evidence that other weird things are going on, I just have to assume the boss is just interested in filling a slot with a known and trustworthy person.

      To OP- retailers and other customer service people are used to hearing a candid “no, thank you.” It is okay to say “No, thanks.”
      If you wish to hold the door open for something in the future, just in case you cannot find what you are looking for, then it would be okay to say so. Either way, be personable and stand your ground.

      You might want to check with your husband- make sure he is giving the boss the same message that you are. Hopefully, your husband is not in some way (innocently) encouraging the boss to keep asking.

  9. Sarah*

    #5 – It’s very common for universities to ask for letters. I am working in an art museum affiliated with a university and had to submit 3 letters. I also drafted one of those letters and gave talking points to the other two (along with the job description). Mind you – this was after I was sent and accepted a written offer. Most of this is formality. So I would recommend that you draft 3 letters that you can have your references edit anything they feel like. Good luck!

  10. Sharon*

    Re: #7, I disagree with Alison about the spelling. If you’re talking about your name, leave it as is. It’s YOUR name. I have a major pet peeve about people being pressured to change their names to suit U.S. citizens (speaking as a caucasian U.S. citizen). I think it’s zenophobic. I used to know a Chinese lady who used the American name “Susy”, and overheard someone once ask her about it. She said that her American high school teacher told her that her Chinese name was too hard for Americans to pronounce so she should change it. Her Chinese name? Ying. ohhhh yeahh, that’s SO hard to pronounce! It was especially silly since they let her keep her family name which was Zhao, genuinely hard for many Americans to pronounce that zh sound.

    1. Jamie*

      I read that differently. I don’t think Alison was advising her to change the spelling of her name – but English spellings are different in Europe than they are here for some words.

      Color – colour
      flavor – flavour

      Our -er words are often -re overseas:
      meter – metre
      center – centre

      Wikipedia has a good entry on this.

      And I agree in not changing the spelling of a name – I do think one should use the proper spelling conventions of the country in which they are working.

      1. The IT Manager*

        What Jamie said. I never assumed the LW was speaking about changing the spelling of her name. Frankly unusual names and spelling of names is not a give-away of foreigness any longer because there’s a lot of American-born kids being given unusual and ethnic names.

        But the LW should make sure all the words on her resume and cover letter are spelled the American way. She doesn’t want it to be mistaken for a typo or even invite doubt that she won’t fit into the culture.

      2. Eric*

        Yes, I agree with this. I’m an American, but I studied (and worked) in England for a year, with and for local organizations. I changed my spelling. And with spellcheck and international dictionaries, it’s easy to do.

      3. Omne*

        For some odd reason when I was a kid in 2nd-3rd grade I picked up the habit of using “our” in words like colour. I’ve been doing it ever since. Probably got it from what I was reading at the time. I never picked up the “tre” though.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I picked up crossing my Zs and 7s from my voice teacher in college (she was German). Sometimes I run into people who do that and they freak out over it, “Oh you do that too!” Apparently it’s not all that common in the US.

          1. The IT Manager*

            I picked it up from my American, Chemistry teacher in my freshman year of college who advocated it so that the letters and numbers in formulas would be clearer. I still retain the habit.

      4. Algae*

        We have a software program we use that was created in Ireland. We’re in the US. When I write procedures for the thing, I’m constantly having to check my spelling. If I’m referring to words on the screen, I need to spell them their way (e.g. Authorise), but elsewhere I’ll write it the US way (e.g. Authorize). It confuses my poor spell checker.

      5. Malissa*

        This is something I struggle with daily! Learning my first words in English and French has forever screwed up my spelling abilities. Check really should be spelled cheque. Theatre/theater is another one. I almost had control on it until we got some Canadian based software. On one hand I followed along with-out the words giving me trouble, but my spelling has reverted.

      1. AnotherAlison*

        I also would never suggest someone change their name – that’s up to them – but I have a few Chinese-born friends who use American first names instead of their birth names. It seems to be very common for people of certain nationalities to do that. Two of them have American last names by marriage, too, but their schooling history and language skills on their resumes probably tip off where they’re from anyway.

        1. Anonymous*

          I suspect it has to do with the archetypal “white person”‘s ability to pronounce the names of certain nationalities. .. It is a real barrier when people can’t pronounce your name and thus might be more reluctant to call you for, say, an interview.

      2. M-C*

        #7 I totally agree with needing to get the resume as perfectly-spelled as possible. An accent isn’t necessarily tragic, if it’s possible to understand you. But bad spelling is just reprehensible. If you know your spelling is awkward, just fix it!

        Also, I wouldn’t say anything about the job length unless the topic came up in an interview. I suffered some of the same problem when I moved from the West Coast (average: 1.5 years) to the East Coast (average: 3 years). If you know your figures and can simply say that in fact you’ve been staying in jobs at least as long as is average in your area, you’ve solved the problem neatly.

        And I often mention that I have a dual citizenship. It’s unrealistic to expect an employer to love you so much that they’re willing to embark on a complicated visa process for you. But at a time when many businesses are looking to expand abroad, it doesn’t hurt to let them know you could be an asset in that area. I’d slip it into the cover letter rather than the resume though.

  11. Joey*

    #7. I don’t even think mentioning that you’re a citizen is necessary. In fact it can make HR types queasy because it insinuates that you view it as some advantage vs. non-citizens who are also authorized to work in the US. I think addressing the cultural differences is akin to explaining why you left you jobs. To me, it would be hard not to view an explanation as an excuse.

    In general I think your focus really needs to be on strengths you’ll bring instead of trying to address all of the percieved negatives.

    1. Purple*

      I agree- as someone who moved here 8 years ago (I’m Asian), employers figure out my work history was based overseas, but I made a point to put emphasis on my exposure to international business and knowledge of how different markets work. Only on interviews they would ask if I need any visa support from them and would only bring up that I am a US citizen/ or would not need any work visa support from them in the future.

  12. AB*

    OP #7: I’m a foreigner living in the U.S. who learned English as an adult and have an accent that makes people ask from time to time where I’m from (it’s not obvious from the accent). I’m often complimented by Americans on how nice I sound, and asked to speak at company events and to facilitate meetings, which tells me my accent is not an impediment to communicating well.

    This is just to say that having an accent is not going to be a problem, assuming, as AAM pointed out, it doesn’t get in the way of communicating at work. As a matter of fact, recently an American asked me to explain to him what a colleague (also American but from the South and someone who speaks very fast) was saying on a conference call. So communication problems may happen even among native speakers. If you are not constantly asked to repeat what you just said, just ignore your accent. Sometimes people may comment on it out of curiosity about your origin, and it’s typically a great conversation starter.

    1. Joey*

      Yep. I’ve worked with some folks that can be hard to understand until you listen for a little while or get used to it. But it’s really nice to hear different accents in the office and learn about cultural differences. And that’s just the guy from New Jersey. :-)

    2. Elizabeth West*

      A lot of Americans love accents because our own speech is so homogenous. Unless we have some kind of local accent, like a Southern one, most of us sound pretty much the same.

  13. Dr. Speakeasy*

    EEO offices in universities are notoriously strict (particularly publics) and bureaucratic. In our department if we’d asked for letters from candidates we wouldn’t be able to consider a different format – unless we switched the format for ALL of the candidates. Because letters are the standard for faculty hires they probably just defaulted for that for a staff hire.

  14. fposte*

    On #3–you didn’t ask but here’s a freebie: if your article is accepted for publication, you can add it before it’s out and just put “expected publication September 2013” (or whatever the date) instead of the publication date (if they didn’t give you a date, go with “publication forthcoming”). It’s okay if it ends up coming out a different month.

    1. JessBee*

      In academia, it’s fairly common to put it on even before it’s accepted — “Under Submission” or “Under Review.” Although here, where the article is in an unrelated field, that’s probably overkill. :)

  15. Your Mileage May Vary*

    #7 — re: the spelling.

    I feel for you. If I had to reboot my brain to learn to type new spellings, I’d go crazy. So maybe there’s a work-around.

    Some computer programs, like Microsoft Word, allow you to save spell-corrected versions. So if someone usually mis-types it one way (I frequently type “taht” instead of “that”, for instance, so I’ve pre-told my computer to expect that from me), the program just changes it as you go. You could go into it and set up all the words you know that have a specific American English spelling and you’re good to go as long as you are typing on the same computer at work.

    Also, make sure your computer is set up to spell-check for American English.

  16. AcademicApplicant*

    I had an interview yesterday for an academic position. They required 3 letters of reference with the application that specifically addressed my qualifications for the position. I sent my references the job description, my current resume and pointed out specific projects that we had worked on related to the qualifications. I also politely said that I’d like to submit my application in 2 weeks to give them a “due date”. I also asked 4 references, just to be sure I ended up with 3 letters. You have to be serious about applying for these jobs, but I guess that might weed out some competition.
    Also have to be very patient with academic search committees, I applied for that position in early October and just now was interviewed. Maybe that’s why they want letters…just in case your references pass away in the century it takes them to hire =)

    1. Jamie*

      Just out of curiosity – I’m assuming they follow up on these letters with actual verbal confirmation?

      Because I’m pretty sure I could mock up letterhead from some very impressive organizations, a little google to get names, and bingo…really awesome letters of recommendation from people who have never heard of me.

      That would be wrong and I would never do that – but some people definitely would. They have to check, right?

      1. Anonymous*

        I’m applying to grad school right now, and the people who wrote my letters of recommendation are good friends with the people I sent them to. There are often calls to follow up, but the usual modus operandi seems to be casually mentioning someone’s name over drinks. It would be technically possible to fake a letter, but the falsified document would stick around *forever* and probably be discovered in weeks.

      2. Academic*

        Back in the day, mine were all sent directly from the reference, and they were expected to sign across the seal of the envelop.

        These days, most are done electronically, so the candidate puts in the e-mail addresses of the appropriate people, and then they get an e-mail directing them to a secure site where they enter the letter. In most systems, the e-mail addresses MUST be an academic or company domain.

      3. Cassie*

        They may or they may not. If you get a glowing letter from some well-known prof in your field, chances are someone on the hiring committee may already know him/her. And they might make a quick phone call or send an email to follow up on the reference letter. But if your letters are all letter from East Podunk Community College, the hiring committee might just toss your application back into the pile and move on. That doesn’t mean that you have to have rock-star references, but if you really are a great candidate, you’d probably be wise to make some rock-star friends quickly.

  17. OP #5*

    Thanks everyone for the additional information regarding letter vs phone call! After I asked the question to AAM I started doubting about asking for a phone call so it’s nice to know that there is maybe a better option for my references (and me). I will probably provide the 2 references who didn’t balk with my CV and some bullet points. And I will probably offer to write a draft for the reference who thought it was strange. In case it helps, it is with a College of Medicine and it requires working with students as well as maintaining a practice at a hospital. Thanks for helping me see it from the university standpoint- it is probably a lot easier for the university to just read a letter instead of try to track down a busy physician! I am so glad I have found this forum! Thanks everyone!

  18. Helene*

    #7: I’m from Europe and moved to Canada a few years ago. I never mentioned anything about citizenship / visas in letters or resume. I just answered any questions in the interview.
    As for the shorter contracts, I never really had to explain it. I like the above suggestion of framing it as a strength. I usually mention something like: ‘I have a lot of experience doing X from job A and B where I achieved Z”
    I guess it also depends where you apply, but a lot of employers will realize that thing might be a bit different in Europe.
    I also mentioned a few times in cover letters how much I want to work in this particular area, in order to reassure them that I do indeed intend to stay / can stay.
    As for the spelling issue, I learned English from England and later lived in Scotland. But I had to get used to the North American accent!
    And no need to worry about the accent. As Alison said, as long as communication is not an issue. it’s all good.
    Good luck!

  19. AG*

    Regarding #3: I have to come across as bitchy, but saying you have “a good writing skill” makes me think that you actually *don’t* have “good writing skills.” Or at least that you don’t proofread what you write, or English is not your native language. If any of these are true, please have a friend read over your cover letters and such before submitting!

    1. OP #3*

      I actually do know how to write. I was born in America and English is my native language. Writing is a skill, singular. I was referring to ONE skill. One skill that is all encompassing of grammer, spelling, and structure. It can be done you know. I went to a college that emphasized writing above all else. I actually wrote a 75-page research paper as one of on my requirements for graduating.

      …And, yes I do have people to proof my resume and my cover letters. You will most certainly not be one of them.

      Thank you for your ‘bitchy’ and unhelpful commentary. I’m sure you will not ignore my blatant disregard for proper form in using “…And” for the beginning of a sentence.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Hey. This is much more harsh than the original comment. AG is right that that phrasing did come across a little oddly, and I’m sure she has no other agenda than just wanting to make sure you put your best foot forward.

        (And it’s fine to start a sentence with “and”!)

        1. ThursdaysGeek*

          Is it fine to both start and end a sentence with “and”? Because I’m totally stealing that. :) It’s not quite as good as the buffalo sentence, but I still want it in my collection.

      2. Rana*

        I have to agree with AG. Although writing is a skill, the usual phrasing is more properly “I have good writing skills” (plural) – because, as you note, writing encompasses a number of different skills, and you don’t want people wondering which one you mean.

        “I have a good business skill”; “I have a good math skill”; “I have a good administrative skill” – same thing. All will sound awkward and unusual.

        (Keep in mind that “writing” in “Writing is a skill” and “writing” in “good writing skills” are serving different functions; the first is a noun acting as a subject, while the second is acting as a modifier. Thus what works for one doesn’t necessarily work for the other. But that’s one of the things that makes language fun, right?)

        1. Rana*

          I would also add that, while it’s good to be confident in your skills, right now you’re (probably unintentionally!) coming across as inappropriately overconfident. For example, a six-line poem is not that impressive to someone who has published several chapbooks, nor a 75-page paper to someone who has written a 375-page book (or several of them), and the length of a paper tells us nothing about the quality of the writing and thought inside.

          Your writing is certainly something you should be proud of – I know the work that goes into such things! – but it’s not that unusual an accomplishment in the writing and publishing world, and acting as if it is can unintentionally offend or come across as naive to people with greater experience in those areas.

          I offer this in the spirit of kindly advice, by the way, not nit-picking for nit-picking’s sake.

      3. SE*

        I think you may be overconfident in your writing skills. In addition to what others have pointed out, you use single quotation marks for “bitchy” when double is standard for American English. And you use the word “get’s” in your earlier comment “Thanks for the freebie! Hopefully it get’s accepted, I should hear by Tuesday.” “Get’s” is not a word, and misuse of apostrophes indicates a basic misunderstanding of English. Any resumes I receive with issues like that go to the bottom of the pile.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Actually, quotes in this context would be inappropriate, as they should only be used for a direct quotation. :)

          Plenty of native English speakers need some help with their writing. My job that I was specifically hired to do is editing the reports of people who were born and raised speaking American English. First thing to go was the inappropriate quotation marks.

            1. SE*

              No, I got it.

              I used to edit for some ESL speakers, and although they loved the extraneous quotation marks, their favorite thing was random capitalization.

  20. The B*

    Well, I much prefer the letter references than the hell I had to go through with e-mail references. I had to get three references for a university and they said they could be e-mail references…as long as the e-mail was not a Google, Hotmail, etc, e-mail. It had to be a company e-mail.

    Well, guess what? My top reference was from someone who had just retired, so of course they no longer had a company e-mail. So I had to go the route of sealed envelope with signature outside. Which was a pain.

  21. Jen M.*

    I would not include single poems or even single articles in a resume. I would include only bodies of work or projects that were ongoing. I list these things under “other projects.”

    1. fposte*

      It sounds like it’s a research article in a peer-reviewed publication in the OP’s field. That’s a pretty significant deal (academics will have whole sections of their CVs devoted to these), and I’d be really interested in it when I was hiring. Even if it’s not peer-reviewed, so long as it’s not some kind of vanity publication I’d still likely be interested, especially if it was paid work, because it would demonstrate the ability to produce for a deadline and pursue a project through the editing process and into publication.

  22. Anonymous*

    I’m OP #6.

    Thanks for all of your comments! I live in a fairly conservative area, but I’m looking for jobs in a more liberal area of the country. I’m a lesbian entering a male-dominated technology related field. I wouldn’t worry about it if I was doing something people-oriented like nursing or teaching, but “nerd culture” is somewhat hostile to women as it is. I’m just being a bit paranoid that the queer thing could work against me in a subtle way, since people will assume that I’m gay (and well, I am!).

    I agree that you don’t talk about personal matters at work, but I don’t want this to hinder the hiring process. I see both sides of the argument, but if straight people say “just be open”, well, do you really understand the anxiety? Then, we will never make progress if we aren’t open and unapologetic about it.

    I think I will change that part of my resume based on the place I’m applying to. Maybe with a few places I’ll take a leap of faith.

    1. Jamie*

      No, work isn’t for personal matters and I don’t go around talking about my sex life, but my husband has come up in conversation and he’s picked me up – my co-workers have met him. They would be safe in presuming I’m straight, if they cared.

      A lesbian co-worker should feel just as comfortable mentioning her partner (if applicable) and have her pick her up and meet people from work.

      I can intellectually understand the anxiety because there are still people out there for whom it’s an issue. I really don’t understand why, but there are. I just think its sad that people have to hide who they are (I can’t imagine how stressful to remember to change pronouns) either by lying or omission just to earn a living. So if you do have the freedom to choose having it on your résumé could help the bigots self select out and you could get into a place where you don’t have to worry about it.

      We’ve made some progress. When I was in highschool I didn’t know anyone who was out. When my daughter graduated a few years ago there were gay couples who went to prom and had a great time (one couple went in the group with my daughter and her date). So like I said, there is progress being made but the wheels turn too slowly.

      On another note, I would caution you about developing preconcieved notions about a hostility to women in tech. That has not been my experience, nor has it been the experience of many other women I know who wouldn’t trade tech careers for anything. There are always some jerks in everything, but get out there and test the water before you paint with that brush. I’ve yet to encounter any hostility related to being a woman in IT.

      1. Anonymous*

        That’s interesting. Thanks for your perspective. As a new graduate, I’m not saying I have a complete grasp over the situation in tech, but when I talk to or read articles written by women in the industry, they generally say “Yeah, it’s hard, but we need more women anyway”. For example, at DEFCON, harassment has generally been a problem, and this year they created a sort of soccer-card system to try and control the rape jokes. To me, that’s a red flag that the hostility was probably pretty widespread enough that it was seen as an issue. I could be wrong, but I’m trying to be astute and aware of clues and other things to be cautious about.

        1. AnonforThis*

          IIRC, that soccer-card system story ended with someone taping a bunch of the red cards to the wall in the shape of a naked woman (if not there, then it was one of the other recent conferences). So, yeah. Definitely don’t make up your mind until you’re out there and have been a part of the industry yourself, but it makes sense to be aware of the (potential) issue.

        2. Elizabeth West*

          Yeah, it’s bad in the gaming community too. I have a friend who works in it, and another two who write professionally about it. There’s a lot of hostility toward women, gay or straight. It’s ridiculous.

      2. The IT Manager*

        I agree with that other note. My geeky (science, sf, computer, gaming) friends in college were more open to the queer lifestyle than any other groups I encountered since.

  23. Cassie*

    #5: As someone who works in academia, but not as an academic, I would really prefer submitting letters of references. I work a lot with faculty – they are used to writing letters. They can (theoretically) write them at their leisure. I can draft something up (if needed) to help them write their letter.

    As for academic positions, I have to say that the strongest candidates are the ones that come recommended by others in the field (either within our org or from outside). We do have a lot of applicants, but honestly, many of them have absolutely no chance. Reference letters don’t make much of a difference. They are necessary because that’s the policy, and I have seen memos to the Chancellor’s office (who approves offers before they can be made) mention reference letters from “top tier” schools and such. The letter writers are supposed to be anonymous, to some extent, though.

    And in my position, I have to draft a lot of reference and recommendation letters for my boss. (Good luck trying to get him on the phone long enough for a reference check). This is for both faculty positions and for students applying for internships/jobs/grad school. Some letters are very basic – this student took my XYZ course in Fall 2010, he got a grade of A. The ones that are more in-depth are the ones that my boss is really supporting. The length and content of a letter can really tell you a lot.

  24. OP 2*

    Thank you for all of the good advice. :)
    I’ve spoken with my husband about it and he swears that he has been giving his boss a firm no from the beginning. Just in terms of financial stability I don’t “need” a job because my husband’s income is more than enough for us to live on. I want a job because I feel completely useless without one and I would like to earn money. There is a certain level of independence that comes from knowing that you could support yourself if it became necessary.
    Honestly, I’m not sure what is going on with my husband’s boss. He has always come across as a kind, helpful man so I hope there is nothing more nefarious lurking beneath the surface!

Comments are closed.