tiny answer Tuesday — 7 short answers to 7 short questions

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

1. How to let clients know that coworker and I are married

I am a senior member of the leadership team in a small-ish firm. In about 3 months, I will be marrying another member of the leadership team, and I’m curious about “best practice” ways to handle the union. Our boss knows that we’re dating; we had lunch with him and the other leadership team member, after we had been dating and working together (on the same project) for quite a while. We did that to prove that we could work together professionally without letting our personal relationship become a distraction. We will probably let our boss know we are getting married — I envision either telling him just before or just after the wedding. My question is how to handle our clients once we are married.

As we are a small-ish firm, my partner and I are always involved in proposals for new clients and routinely participate in the client pitch meetings. When should we let potential clients know that two of the leads for their projects are a married couple?

Talk to your boss and ask him how he’d like this handled with clients, if at all. And stop waiting to tell him — it’s such big news that it’ll come across as awfully strange to wait until after the wedding to mention it, or even just to wait months after your engagement, especially in a small firm.

2. Can employer make me pay them back for a training if I leave soon afterwards?

I’m currently in the middle of an active job search that my employer is unaware of (for obvious reasons). In the meantime, I still plan to do my job as expected until something comes up. My company is currently in the process of switching our computer infrastructure and they want to pay to send me for some one-day training sessions that could be beneficial to this new system and, to be quite honest, any future employer. My concern is that an opportunity might come up soon after attending these training sessions, and should I accept, my company will have pretty much wasted its time and money with me. I’ve been with this organization for nearly seven years, I’m not under any contract, nor do I have a non-compete agreement hanging over my head. In the event that my company tries to make me pay back the cost of training, would they have any legal means to enforce me to do so or am I able to walk away knowing that they have to assume the risk that employees eventually leave?

They can’t make you pay back the cost of training, not unless you sign an agreement to that effect — which you haven’t done. Employees leave — it’s a normal cost of doing business. Employers can’t demand that you compensate them for expenses that they incurred in the normal course of doing business and having employees.

3. How to deal with a coworker who complained about me

I recently made the mistake of joking around with a coworker who I do not know well. I was wrong on a policy issue (I was given incorrect information when I trained, as were most people, I suppose, as most of the office makes the same mistake I did) and she must have taken my joking about the policy as malicious rather than what I had assumed was casual banter. At the time, I had no idea that was how she felt about the conversation. Afterward, she went over my head (by about three management levels) and complained about me, including twisting my words as if I was personally insulting one of our bosses (the person she brought it to). I had a sit-down with this boss, and I think all is cleared up. Boss seems to understand there was absolutely nothing malicious on my part and that the policy issue was an honest mistake.

My main concern now is what to do with this coworker. I’m bothered by her not coming to me first, as well as jumping chain of command and of course her misrepresentation of the interaction. Is this a case where I should just keep my distance at all costs, or is any kind of a direct conversation warranted? I do not currently have much interaction with her, but that has a good chance of changing in the future.

For what it’s worth, she also vented (gossiped) to various other coworkers, and was purportedly told what she was describing sounded nothing like me and she must have misunderstood. She was told that before going to Boss, which leads me to believe it was not merely a good-faith misunderstanding.

You could certainly approach her, say there’s been a misunderstanding, and try to clear it up. That’s what you’d do with normal people, after all, and in general it makes sense to treat people as if they’re normal and reasonable. But if you have reason to believe that this would make the situation worse, then it’s perfectly legitimate to just keep your distance from her going forward.

4. Asking for more information before covering your own interview travel expenses

I am finding myself in a position that requires travelling for interviews. As you can imagine, the expenses can add up. I have gone to several (after an initial Skype or phone interview) only to find that they have called in 10 or more people to interview – most of them locals. Is it unreasonable for me to ask if I am in the top three candidates in order to discern their seriousness regarding me as a candidate?

I wouldn’t necessarily demand to know if you’re in their top three candidates, but it’s completely reasonable to say something like, “I’m extremely interested in this job and happy to pay my own way out there if you think I’m likely to be a strong match. However, given the expense, could you give me an idea of how strong a candidate you think I am and how many people you’ll be interviewing overall?”

5. Following up about an unlisted job opening

A colleague of mine went to an education career fair and found out that a nearby district will have three openings in my field of interest next year. Knowing that this is my field of interest, she passed the names of the people she spoke with onto me. I went to apply for the jobs online only to find that they have not yet been publicly listed.

Realizing that this early notice could give me a definite edge, I found the email address of the individual my colleague spoke with from the company’s website and I sent this individual a very polite email explaining how I got his contact information and my interest in learning more about the soon-to-be opening positions. Based on what my colleague told me, the company is very eager to talk now with potential candidates. I gave them some basic information about my related qualities to help indicate both my related experience and my interest in the position, but I didn’t force my resume on them unasked for. Basically, I let them know how I received the information in the first place, gave them a bit about myself and my experience (to hopefully interest them), and expressed an interesting in learning more about the position and how the new planned changes will impact the business.

What is my next step here? How long should I wait without hearing anything before I take another step and get in touch again? I guess it’s a bit tricky because the jobs aren’t officially listed yet, but I know the exist — this was told directly from the director of HR to my colleague. I guess what I’m saying is that under normal circumstances, there would be some expected timeline of response, but this time, there is no official posting and I have no real guarantee that this person will even open my email.

You’ve expressed interest, and now the ball is in their court. I suppose you could follow up one time if you haven’t heard back in, say, two weeks … but I probably wouldn’t even do that. If they’re as eager to talk to candidates as you say, and if you’re a good match, you can assume they’ll reach out if they’re interested. And if that stuff isn’t true, then following up isn’t likely to change that.

They have your materials and your expression of interest. Now it’s up to them.

6. Sending an addendum to a cover letter

I recently sent a résumé, cover letter, and required writing sample into a great company for a position I’m extremely interested in. However, I’m a little worried my cover letter didn’t convey my passion for health, which was one of the requirements. The hiring manager emailed me to let me know they received my résumé and will contact potential candidates by next week. Would it be obnoxious to send her a quick email with a brief explanation of my passion for health? There’s nothing in her email or the job posting that says applicants shouldn’t contact the company, but I realize this may also come off as presumptuous. I know that I could speak to my passion during an interview, but I’m worried they may not even contact me without having described it in the cover letter.

You could certainly do that, yeah, but really that stuff belongs in the cover letter. You’d be sort of sending a second cover letter, which is mildly annoying. Not a deal-breaker, but annoying.

I realize that this doesn’t answer the question of whether you should or not, and that’s because I don’t know. It’s hard to say for sure without knowing what the original letter and your proposed email say. I guess I’m going to come down on the side of sending it, but … don’t make a habit of this.

7. Should I use a visual resume?

I’m looking for a new job in marketing. I updated my resume and prepared some paragraphs for the cover letter. Another thing I did was a visual resume. I have made a PowerPoint version of my resume with nice fonts and quality pictures on the background. I decided that this can help me to stand out among other candidates. So usually at the end of my cover letter, I add this paragraph: “You can find my resume in attachment. In case you would like to see its visual version please visit ____.”

The thing is that I’m not sure if this presentation will really bring me some points. I’m also afraid that it can prevent me and recruiter will not consider me as a serious candidate.

Yeah, that’s not how you stand out. You stand out by being well qualified for the job, having a track record of achievement that shows that, and writing an awesome cover letter. You don’t stand out — at least not in a good way — by suggesting that a busy hiring manager read your resume in two different forms.

{ 108 comments… read them below }

  1. Eric

    Re #5 (Applying for a job that is not yet posted)-
    I’m guessing you realize this, but I would also encourage you to keep an eye on their job site. If it does get posted before you hear anything back, you should feel free to apply there. It is possible your e-mail would get lost in the shuffle, where an application through their system would be tracked and evaluated.

    1. Melody

      Yes, I will still be monitoring the school website to see if the job posting comes up there. :) I had just hoped to be able to speak with someone regarding the positions before those positions opened up to the general public!

      1. SDHR

        I work in HR for a school district, and there are a million variables that can affect contact with candidates. Depending on your certification area, there could be a ton of applications on file already, which could lead to a lag in processing. This is prime budget time for schools, so they may be holding off to see if there is money or enrollment to necessitate filling the vacancies. There’s also a lot of “pending” vacancies–where a teacher has made it clear that they’re going to retire at the end of the year, but they haven’t submitted a letter yet (which drives me crazy!)

        I would definitely send in a resume now, as well as any other standard application materials so that you have a “complete file.” I would also keep watch on the website and send a follow-up email if/when the job is posted. If it gets to be late April/May and nothing’s been posted, you can usually call the District HR to inquire about their hiring timelines for next year. Heck, you could probably do that now.

        1. Melody

          I actually ended up hearing from the contact in the district today. Even though the position is not officially listed yet, he asked that I fill out the generic application through their application hosting site and then let him know I’ve done so. So, that’s some good news!

    2. Josh S

      If a situation like this arises in the future, I’d attach my resume. It’s not ‘forcing’ your resume on them — you’re applying for the position before it’s posted publicly because you got a heads up that the position exists.

      Sadly, I think that in trying to not be pushy you’ve fallen into the trap of being this guy: https://www.askamanager.org/2013/02/stop-applying-without-your-resume.html , and trying to entice an employer without giving them the actual information they need to see if there’s interest. (This may not be true, depending on what you’ve put in your email, but I suspect it is…)

      Next time, add your resume. That way, the hiring manager can actually treat your email as an ahead-of-the-curve application rather than an odd solicitation.

      1. Melody

        Well, the information that I provided was much more specific: For example, my graduate degree specializations are in X or I completed a field experience at X. This way, what I offered was a few pieces of information tailored to their opening which could give them a better idea of my experience without giving them the whole resume if they weren’t interested. But nothing was anywhere near that generic!

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          The thing is, it’s not an imposition to attach a resume. They can scan it quickly and get all the info they want, rather than having to take the time to ask for one. It makes it too easy for them to just delete in annoyance that there’s no resume, too. Attach the resume up-front in the future!

          1. Melody

            In future, I will do that. In the meantime, the contact has asked that I contact him once I’ve filled out the generic application. What’s the best way to smooth over this unintentionally faux pas when I touch bases with him again? Should I even mention it?

  2. PEBCAK

    #6: I think I’d agree with AAM. It’s not ideal, but I can’t imagine it pushing someone from the “yes” pile to the “no” pile, only from the “borderline” to the “let’s give her a shot” pile. I would be EXTREMELY brief in this message, though.

    1. Jim

      I would certainly push from the “yes” pile to the “no” pile if I received an addendum to a cover letter. It comes across as timid, unprepared, and strange when you should be projecting a confident and together image. My advice to the OP is to save it for the interviews or add it to the lessons learned list.

      1. PEBCAK

        Well, that’s why I thought it should be very brief. An actual addendum, or an admission that the OP forgot something would be weird. Something like the following would not be, IMO:

        Hiring Manager: I got your resume, I’m hoping to set up interviews by the end of the week.
        Candidate: Thank you for the update. I’m really looking forward to hearing from you; I’ve had a real passion for chocolate teapot making ever since my teapot internship of 2011 and I’m very excited about this role.

        The key is to make it look like a normal thing you’d say in response to the HM’s email, not like you forgot something the first time.

        1. fposte

          That one depends on getting a personal email from the hiring manager, though. If she does, then I agree, that would be a great moment to reiterate. If she doesn’t, she’s still left with the choice of leaving it out or chasing after her application.

      2. fposte

        I’m going with “It depends.” The problem for me is that if there was nothing health-related on their resume, this looks careless and expedient; if there is health-related history, it’s superfluous.

        Some of it depends on what job it is, too.

  3. HR Pufnstuff

    #3- I vote no on follow-up at this point. She’s clearly formed a strong opinion of you that will be difficult to shake, anything further may likely be taken poorly as well. Shrug it off as it sounds like others already have and keep the relationship on task and professional.

    1. PEBCAK

      Okay, I’m reading a lot into this, I know, but I read it as OP: man, boss who the coworker complained to: man, and the policy is something about sexual harassment. All of which is to say: I agree, let sleeping dogs lie.

      1. OP #3

        Yes, you definitely read into it. I am a female, and the policy is a fairly innocuous staffing/timekeeping issue.

        Thank you both (and especially AAM) for the input however. I greatly appreciate people taking the time to help me.

        1. ConstructionHR

          I guess it would depend on how much you’ll have to interact with her going forward. I’d probably approach her privately & say, “Look, there was a misunderstanding on what I said to you, I apologize for offending you. I won’t happen again.” After that, just ‘Joe Friday’ her.

          1. Josh S

            “‘Joe Friday’ her.”

            Just the facts, ma’am. I like this way of dealing with people. I need to start taking this tack with the (rather overreactive) president of my condo association. :)

        2. majigail

          Really? Complaining 3 levels up over timing keeping? I’d steer far away your coworker, it sounds like she is looking for things to get you in trouble for.
          I’ll admit with how high up she took the complaint, I thought it was something more like harassment too.

          1. S

            Some organizations (mine is one) REALLY, REALLY CARE about timekeeping. This is because all hours we work are billed back to the customer (mostly get government),and if we don’t do that accurately, we can lose the ability to get government contracts and all be fired.

            I have actually escalated timekeeping issues up through 3+ layers of management (with the full support of my immediate manager) when I was told to record my time incorrectly. It was the right thing to do in that situation, and the person who told me to record incorrectly got in trouble over it.

            That said, I certainly didn’t make up anything or twist words around when reporting the problem. So I’d vote for staying professional and limiting contact in the situation here.

            1. Jamie

              I get that. I really care about time keeping, too, actually…because without accurate time keeping not only is payroll affected for hourly personnel, but job costing and the labor to billing ratios are worthless if people aren’t clocked into the correct segment the dollars won’t hit the right buckets.

              And I absolutely agree with what you did. If anyone were telling people here to deliberately misreport their time I would want to know immediately – that’s pretty huge in my world.

              She was making a joke about the policy though. I can’t imagine getting offended over that. I know there are some people who mock my policies since not every appreciates the fine qualities of being a stickler…I don’t care – as long as they follow them they can think what they like.

              I’ve proven I’m always happy for feedback on policies – and if there is a more efficient or better way to get the same result and maintain standards I want people to bring it to my attention. I love when things can be simplified. I also want people to understand why certain rules are in place and so my door is always open for questions. So if it’s nothing they want to discuss with me and just do an eyeroll about doing X because Jamie said so – then fine…as long as it’s done. I think it’s weird to be offended by something so impersonal as a policy…and I write mine.

        3. Jamie

          I’m trying really hard to envision being personally offended by anything in the timekeeping realm.

          Just out of curiosity, is she friendly with the person she went to on this? It doesn’t change the result for you, but it would make more sense to me that this was complaining about you that came up in casual conversation – because deliberately seeking out someone three levels up to complain about your what…lack of respect for a policy…just seems so odd to me.

          1. OP #3

            Reply is to both Jamie and Majigirl – That is why I was so completely dumbfounded by the whole thing. I was honestly in shock when I was brought in by Boss (this occured within an hour of our conversation, and after she had already vented to other coworkers, so no, I absolutely do not think it was a casual type of conversation thing unfortunately).

            My workplace can be a bit petty and negative at times, but that is a minority of people, and I like the job a lot otherwise. I will just have to assume she is one of the few who thrives on the negativity and keep a safe, professional distance from her from now on I think.

            1. Sharon

              Agree, avoid her like the plague. It also sounds to me like you have weak management. If they don’t quickly stomp down on troublemakers like her, that’s a management issue. Letting the petty few poison the office atmosphere with escalated complaints and gossip is a toxic office.

            2. Dennis

              I would go directly to the coworker who complained. It gets it out in the open and provides a chance to clear the air. If it doesn’t, it’s on her….but make the effort to communicate first. You might both feel better about the situation. What’s the worst that can happen by giving it a chance?

              1. Jamie

                Worst case scenario is that the co-worker misinterprets the exchange again (either deliberately or because she sees things differently) and complains about how she feels she’s being made uncomfortable when she had every right to go to management (in her opinion.)

                And to management this could look like a petty squabble where both the OP and the co-worker are painted with the same brush.

                You are right that it could clear the air if the co-worker was reasonable – but from what we know from the letter she’s either drama prone or has an agenda against the OP and this could backfire.

                I personally would keep my distance, but be professional and polite – even friendly if you can manage it – when dealing with her on work related matters.

              2. OP #3

                That is how I would handle things with a normal, reasonable person, much like AAM mentioned in her answer. Then again, that is also how I would have expected her to have approached the situation rather than immediately go way over my head.

                I worry that if she is actually as petty and/or negative as her actions so far seem to make her, anything else I say may be misconstrued in the same way my original joking conversation with her was. Who knows if apologizing/clearing things up might turn into a me confronting her, in the same way a non-specific joking statement turned into me insulting my boss. I certainly would prefer to clear it up like adults, but if we’re not playing by the same rules, I suppose I’d rather stay where I am than risk further damage.

                1. AMG

                  Exactly. She’s not rational and has already proven that she will misrepresent the facts and escalate unnecessarily.

                2. EM

                  I was in a very similar situation and tried to clear the air with my co-worker. She told me she would not accept my apology (for a misunderstanding on her end) and has continued to talk about me to co-workers as well as tattle on me to my boss for various nonissues e.g. not saying goodbye to her. My co-worker is unstable and yours’ sounds like she is too. I wish I had never spoken to her about the situation and I recommend you don’t. Someone who has proven herself to be dishonest and manipulative gets power and enjoyment from attempting to sabotage other people. Don’t give her another opportunity to do so. I currently maintain a “radio silence” policy with her and plan to do so until one of us no longer works here.

                3. OP #3

                  EM – Yuck. I’m sorry you had to go through that. If I can ask, do you coworkers and managers seem to understand this is her issue and not yours? I hope that this unstable person is only managing to ruin her own reputation and isn’t succeeding in taking you down with her. I also hope the same would go for me (it seems to be going that way so far luckily)

                4. EM

                  Thank you, OP #3. It has been unpleasant.
                  My manager is fairly ineffective. She has told me that she lets the co-worker “vent” about me, but doesn’t take anything she says seriously. It’s not an ideal situation, but hopefully I won’t be here much longer.

            3. Anonymous

              She could have said, “Actually, the policy is ABC because XYZ.” Instead she tattled on you. Stay away.

  4. Elizabeth

    Re #5 – it sounds like actually the OP didn’t send in a resume. At least, that’s how I interpreted “I gave them some basic information about my related qualities… but I didn’t force my resume on them unasked for.” I probably would have gone ahead and attached my resume in such a case, since then they’d have it and could gauge their interest better.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Oh! Yes, if the resume wasn’t attached originally, it should have been. (And in general, whenever you’re asking someone to consider you for a job, it makes sense to attach your resume. They can’t assess your candidacy otherwise.)

      1. Melody

        That’s correct. My resume was not attached. I got the impression from my research on cold emailing that sending your resume unasked for when asking about a position comes across as presumptuous and annoying. Rather, the recommendation was given that I provide them with some “teaser” information about myself and my qualities as relating to the job and then offer the full resume when asked.

        Granted, my email signature does have a link to my full professional website (which includes an online version of my resume), so if they click on that link they’ve actually been provided with more information than would be on my resume alone. If I don’t hear anything from them, I suppose my next step would be to follow up and this time include my resume. Thoughts?

        1. LK

          Alison’s advice about following up is perfect, although I’d include your resume on that follow-up email. I don’t want to have to work to find out your qualifications – your website is lovely but if I’m at the start of the hiring process I just want a resume I can scan quickly.

          Also, I saw you’re in NJ? I work in a NJ K-12 district and it’s not a very good time for hiring right now because everyone is working on budgets for next school year, so that may be why the job hasn’t been posted yet. And there is a large amount of red tape sometimes. We’ve had a job open for a month now but we haven’t been able to officially post it because the current employee hasn’t officially been let go yet. Good luck :)

          1. Melody

            Thank you! I was actually contacted back this morning. I was asked to submit a generic application (since the official posting isn’t up yet) and then tell the supervisor I had done so. I’ll take that as a positive step!

        2. the gold digger

          I am completely inexpert at job hunting, but suggesting that someone “tease” a potential employer with information doesn’t sound like a good idea. If someone sent me teaser information and not complete information, I would find that a bit annoying. After all, it’s not a secret that we’re looking for a job! Plus in a buyers’ market, as it appears to be with employment these days, why do anything to make it harder for the employer to know how great you are?

          1. Melody

            I guess the idea that is you were almost providing a summary of your resume. By only providing the best key points that relate most directly to their opening, you could give them an idea of whether or not they were even interested in seeing the rest of your resume. (Does that make sense? Because, if they’re not interested, why waste their time with a full resume? The “tease” would give them just enough to help them decide if they were even interested.)

            1. fposte

              It takes less time to chuck a resume that you’re not interested in than it does to ask for a resume from somebody who didn’t send one. Just attach the resume. If they’re not interested, they won’t read it.

        3. Josh S

          A) You’re not ‘cold emailing’. You’re responding to direct information you received that there was a position open and that “Jane” was the person to contact about it.

          B) Even if you *are* ‘cold emailing,’ you still want to provide them with the basic information relevant to your candidacy (aka “Resume”) so they can evaluate you. Anyone can write an email saying, “Because I have skill A and experience B, I’d be a great fit,” (and that’s kind of what a cover letter is), but it takes the resume to actually demonstrate that there is a basis for those claims in reality.

          C) Wherever you got that advice, you may not want to get advice there anymore. :/ ‘Teasers’ are great for movies, but lousy when applying for a job that you actually want to, you know, get.

          1. Melody

            I guess I found it “cold emailing” in the sense that the job was not officially listed nor had I been told directly about it by the school. I did provide them with my information as it relates to experience in X, but based on information I had read about this type of situation, the general idea was “Don’t waste their time with a whole resume when you don’t know they’re interested. Give them some solid points relating to X and then let them decide if they’re interested enough in you as a candidate to WANT to view your complete resume.”

            1. COT

              I would suggest a quick summary in the body of the email, as you did, AND attaching a resume. That way they don’t have to open the attachment if they’re not interested, but they don’t have to follow up with you to get more information if they are interested.

        4. EngineerGirl

          Just an FYI – A résumé *is* teaser information, There is no way you can put all of your accomplishments on one or two pages. The resume should tease the interviewer into wanting to know more and bring you in for an interview. It’s like giving someone potato chips – they want more.

          1. Melody

            I DO love potato chips… :) I think the idea of this advice was not to overwhelm someone with your whole resume when they might not necessarily be interested in you as a candidate or when the job search was not yet “official” and hence they might not be at a stage when they were accepting and saving resumes.

            1. fposte

              It’s a resume, not a neodymium magnet–your recipient isn’t going to be drawn helplessly toward it just because you send it. I’d be a little annoyed if somebody asked me about a job and thought I might find them a good candidate but didn’t include the actual document that I’d use to determine that.

        5. Ask a Manager Post author

          Rather, the recommendation was given that I provide them with some “teaser” information about myself and my qualities as relating to the job and then offer the full resume when asked.

          Wherever you read this, stop using them as a source of advice. Employers don’t want to be teased; they want the info they need in an efficient fashion. If it’s not there, you risk them just deleting. Attach the resume from the start; it’s not annoying. Teasing is what’s annoying; this isn’t a burlesque show.

          1. Josh S

            The Burlesque Show has now entered the vocabulary of the “job hunting-as-dating” metaphor. Well done.

            You do not want to find your next date at a burlesque show. Nor does your next employer. :)

  5. Jamie

    #2 – I really can’t see some one day training programs being something one should lose sleep over. You’re not getting over on them, and it will benefit them for as long as you’re there.

    I am a firm believer, however, in companies insisting on paperwork before tuition assistance stating that there will be reimbursement if the employee leaves before a certain period of time. I’ve worked at two companies where the tuition assistance was a serious benefit and it’s only fair that if you’re going to go back to school and get a degree for which the employer picked up the lions share of costs that they see some return on that.

    But a couple of training sessions? I can’t see that being an issue.

    1. Mike C.

      Why do you say this for education and not other benefits such as healthcare or a simple bonus?

      The reason I point this out is because I know folks who are under agreements like the one you mention, and generally speaking, the “pay the employer back” clause happens even if you are laid off.

      A particularly vindictive employer could keep a “running total” of “training costs”, force all employees to sign an agreement as a condition of employment, and then hit employees who try to leave with a huge bill on their way out the door.

      That feels sketchy as all heck to me.

      1. Jamie

        I should have been more specific. What I was talking about was limited only to tuition assistance which people were using to either complete their degrees or go to grad school. The repayment contract wasn’t such that if I was using their tuition benefit for 3 years, got my degree, and left right after I graduated that I would have to pay it back. I would have had to pay back all classes I had taken in the previous 12 months.

        In these cases the companies were both extremely generous with paying tuition upfront (not reimbursement) but also allowing some time from work when needed, accommodating classes in scheduling, etc.

        Paying the employer back if you are laid off is crazy to me – in both cases of which I’m speaking payback was only if you left of your own volition.

        I also think it would be sketchy, to put it mildly, to put training costs on employees – I don’t care if they leave the next day. That’s part of the cost of doing business – and I personally wouldn’t sign anything to that effect.

        I don’t see a parallel between tuition and healthcare or bonuses, though. Bonuses are (imo) reward for work performed – any use of them as incentive to stay is on the employer and creates zero obligation on the employees end. Health care is a contemporaneous benefit that ends when employments ends (well, the employers portion ends if you opt for COBRA).

        I’m also talking about being very clear upfront – before tuition assistance was given the contract was read and signed. There were no surprises. It’s a benefit that was worth tens of thousands of dollars and if people wanted it they needed to agree to the stipulations. And I just don’t think a year is that long of a commitment – especially since you’d only be on the hook to pay back classes from the last 12 months and not the whole time.

        1. Jamie

          Oh, and definitely not all companies do this. My current employer is also very generous with tuition assistance, and there is no payback policy. However, they do only provide it in cases where the classes or major is relevant to the company. I couldn’t go get a masters in French Literature on their dime – but they are paying for several people to get their degrees in mechanical engineering. The companies that required the paybacks had the tuition assistance as a perk available to all employees and it covered any area of study.

        2. Josh S

          Once upon a time, Home Depot offered a tuition reimbursement plan to all of its employees. 50% reimbursement of all college-related expenses, up to a cap of $5000/year for full time and $2500/year for part time employees.

          After a time, they outsourced their benefits administration to a 3rd party company. This (eventually) included the tuition reimbursement program. (Which, incidentally, was the first tuition reimbursement program administered by the 3rd party company.) They had no information whatsoever about the number of people who used the program, the amount of money they paid out for the program, or anything else — things had been basically handled at the store level, and store managers/HR managers had discretion to do things as they pleased within some general guidelines (eg. some stores required that tuition be part of a 4-year degree program that was related to construction/interior design/etc, others approved for any college class including underwater basket-weaving at non-degree community college programs).

          Home Depot was trying to use tuition reimbursement to keep good employees and to encourage their employees to improve (smarter workforce at retail must be good, right?).

          When the 3rd party administrator took the program over, they were overwhelmed by the number of people who applied. One of the folks who supervised the tuition reimbursement program for the 3rd party company (namely Josh S) started to keep track of the numbers — sending them back to Home Depot and helping them track the actual impact on retention.

          It turned out that the vast majority of people who were applying for tuition reimbursement were VERY part time employees who were essentially working at Home Depot as a college job. To the point where some people were getting paid $500 in wages over a few months, but collecting a $2500 tuition reimbursement.

          And more often than not, as soon as they got the big check, the PT folks would quit.

          Needless to say, after about a year of seeing this data, they radically revamped the tuition reimbursement program. It stayed mostly the same for FT people (for which it seemed to generally work as desired as a retention tool/benefit), but was drastically reduced and restricted for PT employees.

          Moral of the story — know your numbers. (Amazingly, they had been running this program to the tune of millions of dollars for years without ever knowing how much they were spending on it or the impacts it was having on retention. The mind … it boggles.

          1. AL Lo

            Starbucks offers tuition reimbursement at the same level as its other benefits (average of 20 hours/week), but I believe it’s only $500/semester. I don’t think it has to be college or accredited classes, either. I think there was a manager who took something like an art history class through the city’s arts and culture programs.

            Part of my brain is niggling that there had to be a demonstrable connection to working at Starbucks, but that could be almost anything, as long as you could defend it — for instance, I had a co-worker who had her psych classes considered eligible, because understanding human behaviour was beneficial in a customer service role; another who had a Spanish class covered, since it would help communicate better with some customers.

            Obviously, those two anecdotes don’t support each other, but they took place in different countries (I worked at Starbucks in both Canada and the U.S.), so it could be that standards were different in each country, or my memory is failing me, or the co-workers’ stories about their classes were incomplete.

            In any case, I do know that the tuition reimbursement was a) not just for managers and upper-level employees, but b) not for your weekend-only part-time employee, and c) not nearly as much covered as Josh S.’s example. It was a nice perk for employees who worked at least a solid part-time schedule (which did include a lot of college/grad school students, in my experience), and even if they left right after graduating, it was still an investment in them that encouraged them to stay through their schooling.

            1. Josh S

              In the Home Depot example, individual store managers had discretion to say what was “work-related” or not. Some were sticklers, other were really lax.

              When it came to the company I worked for, the tuition reimbursement form states the requirements to qualify, among which was a “Must be work related”, and the employees had to sign the bottom.

              We basically took them at their word. So if they signed the (required) form, we never disqualified them based on the coursework not being work-related, because you can just about always find some way that the class relates to work (like you describe above). It was actually something of a game on the tuition reimbursement team to try to come up with a class or course of study that we would not be able to ‘justify’ as being work-related. I don’t think we ever found something that would have been DQ’d.

      2. KellyK

        Paying the employer back if *they* decide to end the relationship is extremely sketchy, and it’s extremely crappy of an employer to lay you off and then ask for money. I don’t know how common that is overall. My employer does require you to pay back tuition, but only if you leave voluntarily.

        I think the difference between tuition assistance and other benefits is that the employer isn’t doing it primarily for your benefit, but so that you will be more valuable to them. It’s ore of an investment than anything else. This is especially true in the government contracting world, where your degree affects the positions you can be bid for. So they don’t want to pay for your degree just to have you leave a month later.

        1. Mike C.

          The best part is that the guy in question also had relocation costs that had to be paid back if the company laid him off, so he never took advantage of the education program. It’s indentured servitude.

      3. Anne

        I get the impression that this is a bit more widely done here in the UK – although maybe I just think that because I’ve come across it myself?

        I’m studying for an accountancy qualification in the evenings. This is paid for by my employer because they need someone on staff with these skills. I’m still on the basic (read: cheap) classes, so no one has bothered yet, but it has been discussed that when I advance, my employer will give me a “clawback contract”, so that if I leave very soon after completing the course, they can reclaim some of the cost of the course from me.

        This is different from healthcare benefits or a bonus because getting training actually makes me more LIKELY to leave. Once I finish, I will have very marketable skills, and it would be reasonably easy for me to get a job at a higher pay rate which was more suited to those skills. But if I did that, my employer would lose my skills, and the investment they put towards them. So they use the clawback to discourage it and give themselves a way to get back some of their investment if they lose me.

        1. Julie K

          I ran into something like this with a previous employer. It was a training company, and they paid for classes, study time, and the exam fee for me to get two technical certifications. I had to sign a contract stating that I would work for them at least one year after I was certified. I think it’s for the same reason that Anne mentioned – I would be more likely to leave once I had the certifications. However, I learned a lot from teaching the classes that I had taken to prepare for the certification exams, and I didn’t have any problem continuing to work at the company for at least two more years (plus, they paid a premium rate any time a trainer taught the Microsoft Official Curriculum courses).

      4. Lora

        Yeah, an old colleague just informed me that my former employer is doing just that–a few years ago they encouraged many people to sign up for an expensive, lengthy Ph.D. program they sponsored at $pendy U. The past couple of years they have been having layoffs, including people who were in this program. The layoff terms for the whole company included a generous severance (minimum 6 months, but it was calculated on pay grade and years of service so that old-timers could get two or three years in severance), unless you had been in this Ph.D. program, in which case they did a clawback and then some, such that people were told not only were they laid off but they owed money.

        Some folks said, “good luck collecting on that, you can take me to court for it,” others simply forfeited their severance altogether including medical benefits to cover it, and everyone who was not laid off promptly dropped out of the program altogether.

        It happens, sadly. The depressing part is, people had to get nominated for it and have a committee of seven senior managers write this huge recommendation, it’s not like people were doing this on a whim. “We all think you are brilliant! Just, you know, not brilliant enough to keep employing.”

        1. koppejackie

          WTF?! That’s awful. When my previous org did layoffs, they made it very clear that if you were taking part of the tuition reimbursement program, you could finish the semester/quarter on the company dime. You didn’t have to pay anything back, either.

          It boggles my mind how orgs can get away with this kind of crap.

    2. OP #2

      I was more curious than anything. We have a very low turnover in my organization. If you leave for reasons other than relocating or a terminal illness, upper management, including the owner, takes it personally. My search comes at a bad time because of this project we’re currently undertaking and it’s only recently they decided to pay to pay to let me go on a few one-day skill building classes which I wished they let me do years ago. I can’t justify putting my search on hold until this project is complete and refusal to go to these classes may raise some questions from management. My best course of action is to learn all I can and take my new skills with me when the time comes.

      1. Anne

        If they take it personally, I guess that does make it more likely they’d go after this kind of thing. But you don’t have to pay back for your training unless you sign something specifically stating that you will. (Clawback contract I mentioned up the page slightly.) So be sure to check for this in anything you are asked to sign (or have signed already).

      2. Jess

        One thing that might help is if you can be ready to communicate or pass on some of your training if you do end up leaving (or even if you don’t)- for instance, if you can save training materials, or write a brief synopsis of what you learned, or even just be prepared to train someone else in the organization. This way if you leave, the knowledge is still there with the company. Obviously it depends on what exactly the training is on…

    3. ThursdaysGeek

      Years and years ago, a friend went to work for Ross Perot’s company, EDS, and told me this story: They provided a lot of training, but you had to pay the money back if you left within a year of taking the training. They also required this expensive training at least annually. So pretty much at all times, you couldn’t leave without having to pay back at least one class.

      I don’t know if she was misunderstanding or not, but indentured servitude did seem like a pretty good retention strategy.

      1. FreeThinkerTX

        At my first sales job, back in the 90’s, all new hires were required to sign a contract that said if you quit within one year, you had to pay the company $1500 for the cost of hiring you. (In my case, the costs were running an ad in the local paper and a personality test. I don’t know how they could possibly justify $1500 for that). I didn’t find out about the contract until my 2nd day on the job, so I told them I’d need to have a lawyer look at it. I just kept putting them off and eventually they gave up on it. When I quit 9 months later, they were royally peeved that they couldn’t withhold my final paycheck. (This place was sucky in lots of other ways, too. I was in Sales, and they insisted they wouldn’t pay a high-performing newbie more than a hugely under-performing long-timer because of seniority, commissions be-damned. They lost a lot of good people that way, myself included. And this was the place where I had a cube-mate who was a Class A Perverted Creep. My manager and HR told me I had to work it out myself because they’d paid a lot to recruit him away from a competitor.)

        1. Runon

          This is a really horrible idea and I think it was extremely smart to put it off.

          But I will say hiring is expensive. (The best way to recoup those costs is by making good hiring choices and then retaining people, not what your company did, obv.) We had a group of new hires. To them the expense may have been zero because we placed the ad on our own website for one day. What really went into it was the hiring manager and supervisors time, then hrs time, and a dozen back and forths, then the time to review the hundreds if resumes, do the interviews, call backs etc. Then once they were on we had a team of three trainers full time doing nothing but working with them, with plenty if ot. I’m sure we spent several thousand on each easily. Which is why again so important to make good choices and work hard to keep the best people, and keep them happy, not keep them because they feel like they can’t leave because they’d owe, that’d just create a bitter unproductive work force.

  6. Jamie

    #1 – I’m curious – why are you waiting to tell your boss? Alison is right – marriage is a very big deal and it will make them wonder why you didn’t mention it sooner.

    Why would you need to announce to clients that you’re married? I work in a family business (although not my family) and there are all kinds of familial relationships. If it comes up in conversation with outside parties they answer (sometimes people will ask when they notice shared last names) but it’s not something anyone feels obligated to disclose.

    Also – what is a leadership team?

    1. Anon#1

      no salacious reason, I’m just a very private person and it’s not in my nature to tell my co-workers my business. I don’t know that we would *need* to tell any of our clients, but when it comes to particular skill sets we are often asked by clients if we vouch for another team member’s skills, and I would not want someone to later find out we’re married and think that we are playing favorites. we make every effort to keep our personal and professional lives as separate as possible, but sometimes the crossover is inevitable.

    2. KGB

      I work with my husband in my father-in-law’s business. We do a lot of sales events together, and people will sometimes ask (just in general conversation) what our relationship is to each other (same last name). With the same last names, it is totally weird when they assume we’re bro-sis. :)

      It’s never been an issue – I think a lot of our customers (not general public; mostly operators and engineers) like it and we actually build stronger connections that way. For your customers and telling them, I think it depends on what kind of relationships you have with them in general. If you work pretty closely with one person there on projects consistently, I think it’d be odd if you totally avoid/ignore it, and then people find out from somewhere else. But don’t make a big deal about it, because it’s not and shouldn’t be.

      We completely embrace it as part of the family business. Good luck working with your husband! I’ve heard a lot of bad stories, but we’ve been happy at it for about four years now.

  7. Jamie

    I have gone to several (after an initial Skype or phone interview) only to find that they have called in 10 or more people to interview – most of them locals.

    #4 – Did they encourage you to travel in, or was it more of a if you’re in town we can see you kind of thing? I’m curious, because I would think they would want to check out the local candidate pool before dealing with people coming in from out of town.

    When interviewing candidates from out of town (which is rare for us – but it’s happened a handful of times) we pay all travel/hotel expenses so it’s a pretty safe bet that if you’ve made it that far you’re one of the top contenders.

    1. AG

      I agree, I think most decent-sized companies would pay for your expenses, or at least not ask you to fly out unless you are a top choice.

    2. Aaron

      Unfortunately, this is for a public school managment position, so they either don’t have the funds or aren’t compelled to offer reimbursement for travel. Moreover, due to the lack of website management and disclosure (legal or otherwise) you may be travelling to interview for a position that isn’t even open to you due to gender necessities – need a female on the management team to handle female matters for example – but they must interview men nonetheless.

      On one hand, I know you can’t get a job you never interview for, but on the other, when you are unemployed dropping several thousand dollars for interview opportunities is a strenuous financial proposition.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        you may be travelling to interview for a position that isn’t even open to you due to gender necessities – need a female on the management team to handle female matters for example

        Wait, what? I’ve never heard of a gender-based need for a management position.

        1. Aaron

          Well, in your public schools, wouldn’t you prefer a female handle certain needs (psychological/biological) of your daughters? In certain matters of discipline would it not be prudent to have a female involved when it comes to female students? It is a matter of good policy and minimizing legal liabilities. Unfortunately, they can’t just say, “We are hiring a female only, don’t waste your time.”

          1. Jamie

            They should be able to say that, if that’s the case.

            I went to boarding school and each dorm had dorm parents. The primary dorm parent lived in an apartment in the dorm so of course they had to be of the same gender as the kids. If they were advertising for a teacher/dorm parent I would assume they would be able to specify the gender needed in the ad. Otherwise, it would be a colossal waste of time for the people who never had a shot due to the wrong chromosome combo.

          2. Ask a Manager Post author

            If it’s a bona fide requirement of the job, they should be able to say it openly. If they can’t, that’s a sign they’re doing something on the wrong side of the law.

            1. Aaron

              There are obviously administrative teams that are all same gender and the argument can be made that when handled ethically and appropriately uni-sex management shouldn’t have problems, but often times mixed gender teams are most desirable. It just isn’t spoken aloud or so plainly. However, with schools, most have web-sites and you can find out post facto who got the job and put pieces of the puzzle together. Othertimes, I’ve had inside connections who filled me after the fact. However, on one occasion, I was asked to drive 4 hours one way – they dug in and got a lot of great ideas from me and then decided to use an interim. I was from the big city and this was a tiny mountain town. I can handle rejection – just don’t like wasting my time and money.

  8. Sara

    #3, that sucks! She sounds like a nightmare of a coworker and not to be a conspiracy theorist, but……out to get you? Given how several people explained that you’re not like that and she must have misunderstood and she still went ahead and complained anyway. That’s extremely bizarre but I’m glad it worked out for you.

    There are some people that you can speak to and all is well, and then there’s others with whom every single thing you say/do has potential drama for them.

  9. Meg

    #7: I’d say include the link to your visual, assuming it’s online as a website and not a download link. As long as it doesn’t replace your resume, and doesn’t regurgitate your resume (as it, it shows other stuff in addition to your resume), that is. You don’t need to send 45878 versions of your resume, hoping one will stick.

    For marketing, as example, if you say you created advertisements that resulted in a 20% increase in sales on your resume, I would include those advertisements in the supplement powerpoint, or whatever visual form. I wouldn’t have a slide that says “20% increase in sales due to new advertisement design” because you’ve already said it.

    1. Elizabeth

      To me, that sounds more like linking to an online portfolio rather than a visual version of a resume. Portfolios can be useful when applying for certain kinds of jobs (advertising, as you said, or graphic design or teaching), but they’re different from a resume.

    2. EngineerGirl

      That sort of achievements belongs in the resume. Here’s something people don’t understand – marketing is of little use if the product isn’t up to par. But a great product markets itself – all you have to do is point out the features. The same is true for job candidates. No amount of marketing gimmicks will get you to a job. But being a strong candidate by have great “features” will sell.

      If you want to do a visual résumé you should treat it as something in your portfolio. It should also bring forward information in such a way as to enhance an already interesting resume, not replace it.

  10. Wilton Businessman

    #2: I have a lot of experience in this topic; both as an employee and as an employer.

    A long, long time ago, the company I worked for had a standard policy of giving everybody two weeks of training. One week was local and another week could be with travel. Sometimes people left shortly after their training, but most of the time the company saw a good ROI with their training dollars.

    One year we purchased a massive new computer system and negotiated an “unlimited” training voucher for one of our System Admins. Basically he could take up to 12 one-week courses in 12 months time. This guy was a real go-getter and took his two weeks of training in October and November, took two weeks of vacation in December (which I later found out he went to two classes), and used the next year’s education weeks in January and March. In February, he also took a week’s vacation (to go to another class, I found out later).

    This same guy gave notice in April of that year.

    After that, we instituted a policy that said if you left within 6 months of your training, you paid back those training dollars. It was essentially a rolling window of 6 months. If you took a two week training class, you were on the hook for 6 months after that. If you took a class every 6 months, you were always on the hook.

    In the end, I think it hurt the training program because people that were living paycheck to paycheck didn’t want to be on the hook in case their “dream job” came along.

    When I left that company, I had taken training about 4 months prior. I negotiated as part of my new package that I get a sign-on bonus that would pay off what I owed for training.

    So in short, if they don’t make you sign anything, you’re free and clear.

    1. Mike C.

      I think the big thing here is that training is, for the most part, a great way to retain employees and improve the skills you have as a business. Yes, occasionally someone will bail right after, but you’ll have way more people (and often your best people) bailing for lack of advancement opportunities.

  11. Anon

    #1-Why haven’t you told them you are getting married? Just playing devil’s advocate here but what if they have a problem with it and want one of you to leave? I’d say they would be more amenable to giving time, good references and such if they knew ahead of time. Maybe they don’t want you two working on projects together anymore. If you tell them after that fact, they might not take to kindly to the deception. And yes, I’d see it as deception. It seems fairly odd that you’d be up front that you are dating but not that you are getting married.

    1. Anon#1

      no salacious reason, I’m just a very private person and it’s not in my nature to tell my co-workers my business. I highly doubt they would want one of us to leave, as we are a small group and our efforts at trying to grow would be severely affected if one of us left. we have wondered if our boss would not want us on the same projects, but again, we are too small a group to be able to split us up. we dated for a year before we told our boss, for the reason I stated in my email.

      1. fposte

        I’m a private person too, but I think you’re running a risk of prioritizing your wish for privacy over your organization’s need to know significant, ethically relevant things about their employees. They get to care about this, and they may care differently about a marriage than dating.

        If you have benefits via the job, you also don’t want them to find out via your changing your status in those. Tell your boss. Drop him a polite email if you don’t want a long discussion.

        1. Anon#1

          we always intended to tell our boss, we were just undecided on when. the question I had was about our clients.

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            Right, but the point is that you should tell him now, because waiting is going to make it very weird. And then you can ask him how to handle it with clients, because that gets to be his call.

      2. EM

        Won’t you need to change your tax filing status through your employer?
        If so, I would tell the boss as soon as possible. It’s going to seem very odd if you wait until you are already married to do so.

      3. Judy

        We have quite a few husband/wife, sibling, father/son/daughter, and one family with 3 cousins working here in a large location (1000+ people). Depending on your reporting relationships, one of you might need to be rearranged once you are married. Our policy is no close family relationships under the same supervisor, and certainly no one can have a reporting relationship. I’ve seen a couple fired who were in the same group and the first their boss knew was the HR benefit update when their addresses became the same. Of course, I also heard at least one (and I’d heard about plenty more) denials to direct questions about “are you dating?” because they were seen acting like a couple in public. Just because neither wanted to move from the group, I’d assume.

        Whether your co-workers know is one thing. Whether your boss knows is another.

      4. Anon

        telling your coworkers and telling your boss are two very different things. Much like telling your boss that you are pregnant. At some point, it’ll probably be obvious and being blindsided even if there are no repercussions never make bosses happy.

    2. Anonymous

      Yeah, I feel like the longer you wait to tell them you are engaged the weirder this situation will get. If you wait until after you are married I also believe it will come off as deception.

  12. Chocolate Teapot

    And of course, there’s always the We-both-need-time-off-at-once-to-go-on-honeymoon issue.

    Obviously, this is speculation on my part, but if it is a small company and both halves of the couple are away at the same time, I would imagine that the Management Team might be more sympathetic to granting a request if it’s for a wedding/honeymoon since it isn’t one of those activities which can be undertaken as a solo traveller.

  13. nuri

    Re: #4

    Would it be ok to reply with a similar message even it was a local interview? i.e. if you are in a situation where it would mean missing out on a days or several hours worth of pay to interview, would it be ok to reply to a potential job invite with:

    “I’m extremely interested in this job and happy to to come in to interview if you think I’m likely to be a strong match. However, given the expense of missing out on a day’s pay at my current position, could you give me an idea of how strong a candidate you think I am and how many people you’ll be interviewing overall?”

    Or would I be shooting myself in the foot with this one?

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