mini answer Monday — 7 short answers to 7 short questions

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

1. Am I getting a reasonable response rate to my job applications?

I’ve never had such a hard time finding a job. I’ve been looking for well over a year now and can’t seem to find anything that would be remotely interesting or worth my while. Over the course of the past year, I’ve sent out about 30 applications, which has produced 3 interviews. In all 3 instances, I was eventually rejected at the last stage because they had found someone more qualified. However, my feelings aren’t all that hurt because I’m only in my mid-twenties and I know that there are more qualified candidates out there.

What really bothers me is the poor response-to-application ratio. In the past, I’ve never had any difficulties getting an interview for every 5 applications sent. I don’t know what changed this time around. Do you think 3 interviews for 30 applications is a reasonable ratio?

Yes, thats a reasonable response rate, especially without a ton of experience. What changed this time around is the job market — there are now far, far more job seekers than there are openings, so you have a ton of competition. That said, I’d take a look at your resume and cover letter, since nearly every time people tell they’re concerned by the response they’re getting, the problem is their resume and cover letter.

(By the way, for whatever it’s worth, 30 applications in a year of actively job searching is pretty low. That’s barely more than one every two weeks.)

2. Was I unreasonable to refuse to drive 35 miles in my own car?

I don’t have a company vehicle. My director has asked me to drive 35 miles down the motorway to another office to meet with him to accompany him to a meeting. I don’t get paid to use my own vehicle for work, and although they will reimburse me for fuel, it’s not in my terms and conditions of employment to drive to other offices within our company. Do you think it was unreasonable of me to decline? And what if I did not drive?

The director drives around himself in a luxury company car, and he originally said he would pick me up but then had a re-think, I believe because he lives around 20 miles from our office.

It’s very normal to occasionally need people to drive to a different office for meetings, etc. If you didn’t drive, you would have raised that and they would have found some other solution, but since you do drive and do have a car, yes, it was unreasonable for you to refuse. The fact that your director drives a luxury company car has no bearing on this.

3. Did declining a same-day phone interview blow my chances with this job?

I have been working with a management consulting company that also has a recruiting component. I have had a couple of interviews and good leads from them. Two days ago, they contacted me about an urgent request for a great job and asked me to tweak my resume to reflect my qualifications that match the job description. I did. Then yesterday, they asked me for a same-day phone interview with the owner of the recruiting company (not the client company), with two available interview times. I was unable to do it and asked to push it to the next business day. My reason was that my kids are off school and I would be with them all day. I left a voicemail and didn’t hear back.

My husband is concerned that I blew my chance for this job, and that not being available for the same-day phone interview is a red flag. I can understand that they might have moved on without me due to the urgency of the request, but do you feel that not being available was a red flag and/or raised concerns about my reliability/availability to do the job? Should I have arranged child are for this interview? Money is tight, and if I wait a day, they are back in school, when I am free to speak uninterrupted without the additional expense.

No, it’s not unreasonable or a red flag to be unavailable for a phone interview on the same day it’s requested. It’s normal.

Ideally you wouldn’t have mentioned that it was because of a child care situation, because that potentially raises questions in their minds about whether child care will interfere with your availability once on the job — it would have been better to simply say, “I’m unavailable today but free later int he week.” But simply declining a same-day interview isn’t alarming and in fact is pretty common.

4. Why doesn’t my boss fire my awful coworker?

We have a member of staff who is consistently late and does not do her fair share of the work. We work at a day program for adults with dementia. On Friday, she had a disagreement with the coordinator of our program and so she grabbed her purse and coat, said “F*** y’all” and stormed out at 2 pm (our workday ends at 4 pm).

This is not the first time she has done something like this. Why is our boss not firing her and hiring a more responsible person?

Because your boss is a terrible manager.

5. Manager believes it’s illegal to give references

I work at a newspaper in Ohio. We had a reporter resign, and today was his last day. He hasn’t been the best employee (actually, he’s been a nightmare), so I asked my general manager, jokingly, if he was going to give him a good reference. My general manager then told me that it was illegal to give him any reference at all. He said he was only allowed to confirm the dates he was employed.

I found this odd. I asked him if he would give him a reference had he been a good employee? He still said no. He would still only confirm the dates of employment.

I’m planning to apply for other jobs at some point in the future, and by all accounts, I’ve been an excellent employee, earning much praise from the general manager and my editor. It bothers me that when I do decide to leave, he will potentially not volunteer that information to my prospective employers. Is this correct? If so, how often do you come by it and what are your thoughts about the practice?

Your manager is 100% wrong. It is not in any way illegal to give a reference, including a negative reference, as long as the content of the reference is accurate. Certainly some companies have decided to implement policies that they won’t provide references (although in reality their managers generally still do, at least for good employees), but that’s not the law — that’s an internal company policy. And a bad one at that.

You should tell your boss that you’re concerned by his practice because whenever you move on, you’ll need a good reference from him, and (presumably) have earned one. Show him this post. And this one.

6. Do applications when you’re under-qualified hinder you in the future?

I will be graduating with my master’s degree in a few months and am beginning to apply for jobs. I’ve read your post about how to get hired if you’re under-qualified, but is there any chance that applying for a position that requires at least five years of experience when I only have three years of part-time experience will reflect poorly on me or hinder a possible future relationship with this large and well-respected organization?

Probably not … although three years of part-time experience is pretty different from five years of full-time experience. If it were three years of full-time, I’d say to go for it, but you might be pretty significantly under-qualified for what they’re looking for. It shouldn’t hurt your future chances though, unless your application materials contain those awful statements that some people use like “I’m the most-qualified candidate you’ll find for this job.” Which you should never use anyway, but especially not in this situation, since it will make you look like you don’t appreciate how your experience differs from what they’re seeking.

7. I told someone he was getting promoted, but now he’s not

I’m a middle manager who was “promoted” without any warning a few years ago (didn’t really want the promotion but wasn’t given an option other than leavimg). So I have been in this position for several years now with little to no real training. Seems I keep making mistakes with my subordinates, but this may be the worst one yet. My supervisor wants to promote one of the people who works for me. My employee had somehow overheard part of the conversation and instead of telling him I knew nothing, I discussed the plans as I knew them, although not in great detail. Now it appears he won’t be getting the promotion. Yep, hindsight is 20/20. Not only am I likely in hot water for talking about the promotion, but what do I tell him? Do I wait until I know for certain that he won’t be promoted or do I talk to him now?

You need to walk this back with the employee. Without knowing more details, like how certain it is that the promotion won’t be happening, I can’t tell you exactly what to say, but at a minimum you need to tell him that plans aren’t finalized, that many things could change, and that it won’t necessarily go in that direction, and apologize if you implied otherwise. And if it’s certain that it won’t happen, you need to tell him that.  All this needs to be now, ASAP, before he spends more time thinking this is certain. The longer you wait, the worse it will be.

However, before you talk to him, I’d ask your own boss for advice about how to handle this, because this is messy and it seems like your instincts aren’t serving you well here — get someone else in the loop to help you. And yes, that may get you in trouble with your boss, but it happened and you need to come clean. And at this point, treating your employee right is the higher priority than keeping you out of trouble.

I’d also take a hard look at whether you want to stay in a management role. If it’s not for you — and you sound like you don’t think it is — you might be making things pretty bad for the people working for you. It would be worth looking for a different job if that’s the case.

{ 110 comments… read them below }

  1. SJ

    My interview rate has been 16%. That’s having applied to almost 40 jobs in just three months, though, and all out of state.

  2. Laura

    #1- Job application response rate-
    I don’t know your level, but I think 30 in a year is so low that I am shocked! As a new grad, for my job search, I sent out 80+ resumes in the three months after graduation. Each included a custom resume (one paragraph altered). MOST were jobs I would be really happy with. Some were “well, i need to pay the bills, and this is a good/corporate job.” Of the 80+, I got 10 interviews, and 3 offers. Job search is a full time job. This took approximately 5 hours of full time search every single day (including informational interviews, tracking all applications sent on excel, etc). I am happy to say, I am in a dream job at a dream salary.

    1. The IT Manager

      I agree I was shocked when I first read 30 applications in a year, but them I thought that perhaps #1 is still employeed, can afford to be picky and can’t really treat job searching like a full time job because she already has one.

      1. Anonymous

        Good points. Also, the OP may be in a niche field with very few openings. Or they may be stuck in a certain geographic area, which can also severely limit the number of job openings.

        It’s one thing if there were 100s of relevant job openings, and the OP only applied to 30. It’s quite another thing if there were 30 job openings and the OP applied to every one.

        1. ExceptionToTheRule

          +1. There wouldn’t be 80 openings in my field in any given year. That’s the downside to working in a specialty/niche job.

      2. EM

        That’s approximately how many jobs I applied to, over a similar period of time. I was employed in a decent job, but was looking because the manager was awful, and the workload was too light. In light of that, I was being very picky as to what I would be working on, and assessing for fit. I’m also a scientist working in a specific industry, and sometimes I would look for job postings, and there would be literally nothing; not even something I wasn’t qualified for or not willing to do.

    2. Coelura

      I assume a 10 to 1 rule – for every 10 applications, I can expect 1 interview; for every 10 interviews, I can expect 1 offer that I would accept.

      I don’t know where the OP came up with the idea that 3 interviews for 30 applications was a terrible ratio.

      1. Lora

        Depends so much on field and location and experience level, how well known you are locally, it is hard to say.

        First job out of college, economy was not great: 100+ applications for 1 offer. All applications had to be out of town because my college town had 25% unemployment and only blue collar and nursing jobs available anyway, not my field.
        Second job out of college, economy had perked up a little and I had moved to a major metro area: 10 applications for 2 offers.
        Third job out of college, economy doing well: 5 applications, 2 offers.
        (grad school interlude)
        Upon leaving grad school in a great economy, 2 job applications, 5 offers. Yes, you read that correctly, some people just knew me and said, “oh yeah, since you’re looking, we’d be happy to create something for you.”
        Now I’m back to the old 5 applications: 2 offers ratio. So the economy is still crummy for job seekers. I happen to be fairly well networked in an area that is great for my field though.

  3. Jamie

    #2 – I’m not sure if you just didn’t want to go to the meeting, didn’t want to drive, or resent someone else having a company car but this reads as all kinds of disgruntled to me.

    If it were me I’d find some way of apologizing to the director – because I can’t imagine that his perception of you isn’t damaged by your refusal.

    1. fposte

      Yes, it’s one thing if they’re not reimbursing for fuel, but since they are, this doesn’t make sense to me.

      However, “motorway” and “terms of employment” suggest that this isn’t the U.S., so I’ll allow for the possibility there’s a custom here (and a level of specificity in “terms of employment”) I’m not familiar with. I still think refusing is a bad idea, but it might not be quite so egregious someplace else.

      1. Jamie

        I didn’t pick up on the fact that it does sound like it’s outside of the US. In which case I have no idea if this is an odd request or not.

      2. Min

        Based on “motorway” and the distances, I had assumed the OP was in the UK, but I could easily be wrong.

    2. jesicka309

      In Australia, you can claim back money for petrol for using your car for work related driving – driving to a meeting would certainly fall under that. I don’t think the OP is in Australia (we don’t use motorway) but I’d assume there are similar tax breaks for work related expenses in other countries.

      In which case, it sounds like OP#2 was looking for a free ride, didn’t get it, and thought that by having a sook and refusing to go they’d back down. They didn’t. Reputation permanently damaged.

    3. Anonymous

      Petty was the term that crossed my mind. I just can’t imagine balking at this request, especially if the company will pay for your gas. It’s a half-hour drive, for goodness sake, not a cross-country tour.

  4. FormerManager

    #5 When we had our company-wide meeting a month ago, the no-reference policy was reiterated. My previous company, in a separate industry, had the same policy. Is there a perception that people are getting sued for giving bad references? I’m a hard data person, so I’m curious if this fear is grounded in fact, or (more likely) an urban legend? (“My sister’s friend’s boss got sued because he gave a bad reference, so he doesn’t give references” kind of thing).

    I just feel like I’m hearing more companies becoming more strict about this.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Urban legend. It rarely, rarely happens, but corporate lawyers don’t want to deal with frivolous lawsuits, even though the risk is incredibly low. That said, the reality is that most managers will give references for good employees anyway, regardless of the policy.

      1. FormerManager

        I thought so. If only Snopes could do something on it, then it could go up there with the poodle in the microwave story….

      2. Diane

        FWIW, my SO works for a large tech company that will only confirm dates of employment and has fired managers and colleagues of job-seekers who give more detailed and useful references (as in they have fired people he knows at his work site, not that he heard it via his former colleague’s sister-in-law). Apparently management also has a habit of firing people who are found out to looking elsewhere. No wonder their stock tanked.

      3. AG

        Yeah at my previous company, HR’s policy was only to confirm dates of employment…but as long as you contacted a manager directly about a reference they would be fine giving one.

      4. Runon

        This is something I have concerns about when I leave this job. The org has a firm policy about no references. I know my boss will hem and haw for a minute on the phone and then decide on sticking with policy. I know that indecision will sound like trying to decide to say bad things or not but he has been thrilled with my work and by all measures I’m excellent. Other than prepping him as best I can when I need it other suggestions about people who won’t break from that policy. Because policy is policy for a policy so we always stick to policy.

        Policy.

        1. Cathy

          You need to stay in touch with anyone who leaves before you do. Former employees are not bound by their old employer’s policy on reference checks.

          You can explain to your prospective employer that your current manager will only be able to confirm your employment dates because of company policy, but here are the names of a former manager (or a manager from another department you worked with) and a co-worker or two whom they can contact.

      5. Mike C.

        I have friends in the pharma industry, and managers are being canned for giving out references. So while the reasoning is dumb, don’t assume that managers will do it anyway, and that managers who refuse are refusing based on the candidate.

    2. SarahP

      Actually, there was a case where a couple of school districts were sued for giving a good reference for a former employee. the employee was dismissed from these districts for inappropriate activities… not quite criminal, but definitly in the worryingly-friendly-with-students category. He was eventually caught behaving inappropriately with a student, and the school that he worked for at the time sued the school districts that had provided the good references, because they had knowingly and intentionally misrepresented him during the reference check. The school that sued won. (It’s been a few years since I read the case, but that’s the gist.) That case is used in business law classes as a reason why companies don’t like to give out any information aside frm dates of employment.

      1. K

        That sounds like an entirely different situation, though. A “we don’t give references” policy is way, way overexpansive to deal with the problem of “people not mentioning known dangers to children when talking about someone working in a position with other children.”

        I mean, I’m not saying they don’t teach that in business law classes, but they shouldn’t.

      2. FormerManager

        But couldn’t they have gotten sued if they’d given a neutral reference anyway, the argument being “you should have told us he was overly friendly with students.”

      3. Laura L

        Ugh. People should not keep quiet about stuff like this happening to children. I agree with the school that sued his former employers and I’m glad the court did as well.

    3. Kristi

      Thanks for answering my question, Alison. To FormerManager, when I questioned my GM about this, he actually said the company could be sued for providing references. “That’s how it is in America today,” he said. He’s not the brightest bulb and I’m not surprised he is wrong.

      1. Natalie

        Well, he’s very technically correct – the company could be sued for providing references. They could also be sued for not providing references. With relatively few limitations, anyone can be sued for anything.

        The issue is whether or not said lawsuit would actually get anywhere beyond the initial stages.

        1. Kristi

          I know he’s right about that. I guess I should have clarified that I’m not surprised he’s wrong about it being illegal.

          1. money lade

            There was a case quite a while ago where someone sued because his old job was giving bad references and he couldn’t get a job. He sued on the grounds that they were keeping him from being employed. Not urban legend. This is why many companies will only give confirmations of title, time and wages.

  5. Michael Hoffman

    Re: 2. Was I unreasonable to refuse to drive 35 miles in my own car?

    The way this was written (“motorway,” “terms and conditions of employment”) leads me to believe it is about a job in the UK. When I worked there my employer sent out periodic reminders that regular personal car insurance policies would not cover the use of the car for business purposes and that we should not use our own cars to go to meetings or the airport for work travel. As an American I found this rather odd, but you should check that your insurance will actually cover this use before doing it.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      If that’s the case, the proper response still wouldn’t be to refuse — it would be, “My insurance won’t cover my car for business use; is there some other way we can do this?”

      1. Michael Hoffman

        Oh, I agree. If I had an employee who acted in the way above, I would think they were a jobsworth and worry that if they were treating lower-level employees or clients in an even worse way.

        “Jobsworth” is another delightful UK-specific term.

        http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Jobsworth

    2. Construction HR

      How is this different from driving to work each day. “For business purposes” probably means making deliveries, having clients in the car, making regular business calls, etc; not meeting the boss somewhere.

      1. UK HR Bod

        If it is UK, then it is different. A standard insurance (I think it’s the fabulously named Social, Domestic & Pleasure – may have work or not) covers you for your general running around and commuting to one fixed place of work. If however you need to go to multiple places, then you need business cover – however a one-off trip to another place (say for training) may be covered. Since insurance companies here at least seem to make a virtue of noticing anything that can stop them paying out (although in my experience they don’t need a reason to try!) it’s worth checking with your insurer if you are in the UK. Most insurance companies charge remarkably little to add business, although when I’ve worked places where we’ve needed people to use their own cars we have offered reimbursement if necessary.

        1. Lynne

          Sounded UK to me too (with the miles reference, it’s not Canada.) I have my car insured for business use for my job in Canada, and that’s mostly just for attending/presenting at occasional training events. Or (even more occasional) meetings offsite. We do have a company vehicle people can use if their own car isn’t insured for business use though. I don’t know how much work-related travel might be covered by standard insurance here, but I have the impression it’s not much. I take it that it’s different in the U.S.

        2. Your Mileage May Vary

          Social, Domestic & Pleasure

          Oh my! I completely love this name. Please tell me it gets brought up a lot in comedy clubs as references to things other than car insurance.

  6. tangoecho5

    OP#2: so did you just skip the meeting? Now if this was a constant request, I could see you choosing to refuse to drive to less important meetings. But once in a blue moon, I think it is unreasonable to say no because you did not want to use your own car.
    I also think it’s unreasonable to ask your director to pick you up and drive you to a meeting that is fairly close. Now if you lived on the way to the meeting and no detour was necessary, and HE volunteered, I can maybe see catching a ride. But I would never ask my boss to backtrack ten or so miles to pick me up if I had my own car to drive.

    Likewise, you aren’t entitled to company car even if it traveling to other offices was a constant request. Your company might feel a mileage and fuel reimbursement is adequate. It’s what you negotiate.

    1. Vicki

      The impression I got when reading the letter was that the actual meeting was at a third location.

      That is, employee at location A was asked to drive 35 miles to office B to pick boss up to go to meeting at location C.

  7. Lily in NYC

    #6 – PLEASE do not apply for positions if you are not qualified for them. I’m screening resumes right now for a non-entry level job that requires 2-3 years of management consulting and an advanced degree. Our requirements are made very clear in the posting but we still get a ridiculous number of resumes from people that aren’t graduating until May/June 2013. We’ve gotten 200 resumes and about 50% are from upcoming grads or from people that obviously just apply to everything they see posted. Such a waste of my time.

    1. Jamie

      I have been there and it’s SO frustrating.

      I think the rule of thumb should be if you meet the majority of the main requirements it doesn’t hurt – because a lot of companies confuse requirements with a wish list. But the person screening should be able to at least understand why you logically took a shot. If your resume is so far off base that wtf is the only possible response you need to modify your targets.

      1. Lily in NYC

        Hi Jamie – you are correct as usual! Most of the resumes I can at least get an idea of why they applied – people see Project Manager and assume that IT Project Management or construction engineering is the same as strategic project management. That makes some sense. It’s the cashiers at the local drug store or marketing people applying that makes me scratch my head. But we are starting to make offers and I am so happy to be done with this.

      2. A Bug!

        Yeah, I can see applying for a job which asks for something you don’t strictly have, if you know your skills are equivalent. Most postings will say “or equivalent experience” but some won’t, so unless it’s explicit that applicants without this particular education won’t be considered, it shouldn’t hurt to try.

        A lot of tech postings will list a whole ton of those “proprietary” certifications, but unless you’ve already got an employer paying for those it costs a ton of money to keep current in certifications when the same knowledge can be picked up through independent study and experience.

        What I don’t like is gauging experience by years spent in the field, although I recognize that it’s not easy to quantify in a lot of cases. But people pick things up at vastly different rates, and different offices offer different experience as well. A quick learner with a lot of initiative working in a fast-paced, demanding office stands to gain a lot more than a “do-the-minimum” type in a job with low expectations of its employees.

        1. Anonymous

          I agree. Though I’m sure I’ll sound naive saying this, my very expensive education has made me a lot more knowledgeable about design work than a large number of people who went to smaller schools or got associates degrees and have been working for the past couple of years. I wondered for a bit if I was just being elitist and grumpy because of not landing a job yet, but I look at a lot of “professional” work out there and say wow, that’s not even up to the level of a 2nd year from my school..

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            Whoa. Most hiring managers are going to disagree with you that your education — expensive or not — makes you better qualified than people who have been working in the field for a few years. Sure, you may see crappy work out there — there’s crappy work in every field. But I’d check the attitude about your school; it’s going to come across as pretty naive.

            1. Anonymous

              I don’t say those things to potential employers or even hold it in my day-to-day thinking, I merely mean to illustrate that number of years of experience isn’t necessarily the best indicator of skill set. I’m lucky enough to be in a field that utilizes a portfolio so that potential employers can see differences so I’ve had decent results, myself, but I wonder what effect that kind of thinking is having on other fields. Is it true that having more experience raises the probability that you have the required knowledge? Yes, of course! But I really think that other skill-screening practices should become more common.

              1. Ask a Manager Post author

                Employers are screening hundreds of candidates for every job. They’re going to initially narrow down the field with the things that do that most effectively. They can’t look at a portfolio of work from every candidate. And in general, in most fields, work experience does trump skills.

                Statements like “my very expensive education has made me a lot more knowledgeable about design work than a large number of people who went to smaller schools or got associates degrees and have been working for the past couple of years” are really not going to help you. With anyone.

      3. T

        Jamie and Lily in NYC – I’m having that exact problem now!! So many “WTF” resumes for a contracts administration position. The last resume was from a guy who’s taught taekwondo for the past 10 years …. and lives four states over …. how taekwondo=construction contracts I don’t even. Sigh

      4. Heatherbrarian

        This is making me think of when we were hiring for a professional-level (master’s required) reference librarian and received an application from someone who had had, and retired from, a decades-long career in the postal service. Couldn’t even explain that one with “maybe they’re applying to stay on unemployment?”.

    2. Lily in NYC

      Ugh, I should have clarified that the OP’s situation is different than what I complained about above. 3 years instead of 5 years of experience doesn’t seem like a big deal to me.

    3. Zahra

      I’m in a position where I would be one of those upcoming grads. However, 95% of the job openings I’ve seen so far in my field or related ask for 2 years of experience, minimum. I’ve got 6 months of full-time experience. What’s a girl to do? Apply to one job every 3 months or so? Or keep applying to jobs that require 2-3 years of experience that I fill all other requirements for?

      1. Anonymous

        As long as you’re not applying to something completely crazy, off the wall, not related at all position— I don’t think it hurts to take a shot if you match up to most things they are looking for.

      2. Anonymous

        I would look for internships specifically meant for new graduates, which are common in many fields, while applying to those jobs that ask for two years’ experience. Employers might use the two-year mark, especially if new grads have the specific skills, as a signal that applicants should be familiar with professional norms and have one related job under their belts.

        1. TL

          If you need a job (especially for money reasons!) than an internship probably isn’t an acceptable alternative.

          1. Zahra

            Well, I know there are paid internships out there. However, I haven’t been able to find a single one in my province (Quebec). Since I’ve just send my Master’s thesis to my committee, I’ve sent an email to my teachers telling them to keep me in mind if a job opportunity comes up. Many grads in my program got their job that way, so we’ll see how that pans out. It’s not my only job searching strategy, but I’ve been looking for 6 months now, and had only one nibble (I am in the interview process right now). My success rate is much, much lower than 10%.

    4. Anonymous

      Juxtapose this with the question about the unemployment office requiring 3 applications/week.

    5. Lulula

      Although I’m far from new grad, I feel like I may be taking this to the extreme (based on how many apps people seem to think should be going out regularly) – I do have a hard time finding things to apply for because there will be skills requirements listed that I know I don’t meet. I don’t consider myself Advanced at anything, nor do I have much specialized software experience. If nothing else, I feel like there will be some karmic retribution for sending in “frivolous” applications, and I don’t want to be part of the reason some employers cite for including more and more impossible requirements!

    6. jesicka309

      My boyfriend has spent the last 3 weeks trying to convince me to apply for a job WAY beyond my scope of experience.
      “It says you need to be confident at media releases. You can do that!”
      “Yeah, I did it, AT UNI. Not in real life.”
      “It also says you need finance and accounting experience, you have that too! And communications! And public relations!”
      “Yeah, but I’m currently in commercials. I did that stuff at uni, and I’ve never used those skills in real life. I’m barely above entry level.”
      “AND IT PAYS 80K a year! YOU MUST GO FOR IT!”
      I tried, but I couldn’t even begin to write a cover letter about how I knew how to do all this stuff at uni, but I’d never applied it to the real world, and that I’d still like 80 grand for it please.
      My mother still forwards me jobs that have ‘manager’ in the heading as the job description matched what I’d learnt at uni. But managing? Really Mum? I’m 2.5 years out of uni!
      I suspect that this is how so many people apply for jobs way beyond their scope. They see a listing that reads like a description of their college degree, apply, and don’t realise that the awesome wage is because they want someone with 10+ years doing the requirements to do the job.

      1. Lulula

        Yes, I totally avoid anything with Manager in the title, since I have zero experience at officially managing anyone. And I’ve also found that while I can generally transfer some experience, much like your uni comparison, there are things I’ve done on a very small & informal scale that I don’t feel would really equate with “manage projects of $500k or above”, as much as I might want them to! Perhaps some people just don’t understand that while there’s a similar skill set involved, there’s a vast difference in experience that makes one different from the other – although sometimes it can be hard to tell the difference between undervaluing and overestimating.

  8. Anonymous

    #2: At least you get reimbursed for fuel. That’s more than the law requires in the United States. I don’t think it’s unreasonable to be asked to use your personal car for business-related driving on a rare or even occasional basis. (And any unreimbursed costs may be tax deductible. If they are reimbursing for fuel only, which is less than the federal mileage reimbursement value, you may be able to claim the difference.)

    If driving your own car for business-use happens regularly, however, you may want to talk to your boss. As other commenters mentioned previously, auto insurance is a consideration here. Most personal policies cover “occasional” business use, but not “regular” business use. Business-use coverage on a personal vehicle can be expensive and it should be compensated by your employer in some way. If you’re in this situation, be sure to talk to your insurance agent about whether you need business-use coverage or not.

    1. Anonymous

      *Advice is for the US. Other countries may have different policies for mileage reimbursement and insurance coverage.

      1. Michael

        In the US if they don’t reimburse you then you can claim it on your taxes. It’s more of a “when” than “if” thing here.

        1. Judy

          But I thought it was a tax deduction, not a credit, so you still are paying for 70% of it. And I thought the deduction for reimbursed job expenses was anything over some percentage of your income (2%, 5%, 7%?).

          1. Laura L

            You’re right. It is a deduction and not a credit, so you don’t get a 100% reimbursement, you just get a slightly lower tax bill.

            AND this only works if you itemize your deductions. If work driving expenses are the only itemized deduction you have, you are probably better off taking the standard deduction, so it won’t help you at all.

            Generally, itemized deductions like this don’t help you unless you own a home and are taking deductions for that or are very wealthy and spend a lot of money on those things.

            As far as what percent of your income it has to be… I’m not sure on that.

            1. Jamie

              It’s really worth seeing a tax accountant at least once to see if it’s worth itemizing.

              I always did my own taxes until I remarried – he’s an itemizer and so it was worth it to go to the accountant.

              We do have a house and are definitely not wealthy – but as long as we need to do it for the house and kids’ tuition might as well get all the little legitimate deductions as well.

              FYI – if you work remotely from home even if you don’t own your own business you may be able to deduct part of your internet bill. Little stuff like that can add up, depending on your circumstances, so it’s worth checking it out every so often.

              1. Laura L

                Oh, I agree that you don’t need to be wealthy to itemize your deductions-lots of middle class people do that.

                It is worth checking, but it can be hard for itemized deductions to be larger than the standard deduction if you don’t have a mortgage or other large expenses.

        2. Anonymous

          The “if” comes in because you can only claim deductions that are more than 2 percent of your adjusted gross income. And even then, only the amount over 2% counts.

        3. De Minimis

          I think my response rate might have been something like 6-7% when I was job searching in earnest, although that could probably be tweaked if I adjusted for contacts where they weren’t hiring or jobs where I knew I probably did not have a chance.

          The percentage of jobs where I was a finalist or otherwise had a good shot at the position was more like 1-2%.

          1. De Minimis

            Sorry, I thought I was responding to the part about response rates.

            The previous anon is correct about the limitation on unreimbursed job expenses—few people are able to take that deduction for that reason.

      1. Jamie

        Every place I’ve worked goes off the same IRS table for reimbursement – because it’s easier. Definitely a lot more than you’d pay for gas.

        1. Lulula

          Yes, I used to be the one to do expense reports, and we always referred to the IRS table. And it was only reimbursement for the distance exceeding the person’s normal commute. As others have stated (& I have found) you’re generally better off expensing things rather than counting on tax deductions unless you’re spending a HUGE amount, as not only do job expenses and medical expenses have to meet x% of AGI before you can deduct, you can only deduct the portion above that %.

          1. Jamie

            And sometimes it’s just not worth the trouble. A while back a co-worker was taking a class for work and needed to be picked up from the train twice a week.

            Asked why I didn’t expense it and it was because I didn’t think 1.5 miles round trip was worth the typing it would require and pushing $1.53 per check through payroll seemed a little silly.

            Every so often my boss would tell me to fill my car up on her – so it more than evened out.

            But in the OPs case if s/he is in the US and if they use the IRS rate they’d be netting $39.20 for less than $8 in gas? Not bad.

            1. KarenT

              True, but I believe the rate is accounting for more than gas. It is probably accounting for “wear and tear” on your car. If you are driving your car more frequently, you’ll have to replace your tires sooner, have your oil changed more frequently, etc.

              1. Cassie

                Yes, the IRS rate accounts for wear and tear.

                I’ve had people who don’t even want to bother with mileage reimbursement, even though they are getting reimbursed for other travel stuff. Makes me wonder if they think it’s complicated? It’s not – it’s just another line on the expense report.

              2. Jamie

                Oh I know it accounts for more than gas – but one 60 mile round trip isn’t putting a whole lot of wear and tear on the car – but the logic is sound because if you are regularly driving it for work you will wear out faster.

  9. Fuzzy_Math

    AAM, I think you meant 30 applications over a year’s time breaks down to slightly MORE than one application every two weeks not less than one every two weeks. A year has 52 wks.

  10. AG

    Can someone point me to the post referenced above about getting hired when you’re underqualified?

  11. Toxqan

    Re #1: Thought I would add my job search stats to the database:
    *93 days of job search
    *65 applications
    *8 phone interviews
    *6 in person interviews (2 second round)
    *1 rejected job offer
    *9.23% of applications have landed me an in person interview, about the same percentage as the OP. I am glad to see my numbers are within a normal range. It’s too bad its so hard to find these types of numbers. They give a good impression of what you’re up against in this job market.

    1. Just a Reader

      this is interesting. When I was job hunting last year, I sent out 60 resumes, got 4 interviews and 2 offers plus a bunch of other nibbles that didn’t turn into anything. Seems low reading these other stats!

      1. Lulula

        I think it’s tough to use numbers as a universal reference point – so many variables to consider: industry, position, experience, location… and all of them relative to one another. That’s in addition to the more subjective resume & cover letter elements. At least, I’m holding onto this rather than the idea that I just deserve not to be employed ever again because I’m that terrible ;)

        1. Toxqan

          I agree that its difficult to use numbers when experience, industry and job types are are all factored in. That said, I never see any type of job search statistics published and it always makes me wonder about myself and my own job search strategy/effectiveness. I like the idea of getting a rough idea of what others are going through and getting a grassroots view of the job search. Everything I read is from the 30,000 ft level and can be hard to relate to concretely.

      2. fposte

        I think there are too many variables to really say based on just the stats people are offering. Not only are there differences from field to field, there are also vastly different approaches to the decision to apply–some people are very optimistic, while others are very cautious. If you think the places you got interview offers and job offers from were strong possibilities, it sounds like your process was working, especially if you took one of those offers and it worked out–then all you need is one.

    2. Blinx

      10% return is pretty good. I’m getting just above half that.
      125 applications in 15 months with 7 in-person interviews. I was well- or over-qualified for most of them. I would have loved to work at most of the companies (some were terrible commutes). I do admit that for the first 6 months, I was in no mood to get back into the workforce, and didn’t apply to many jobs then.

      The OP in #1 did state that they “I can’t seem to find anything that would be remotely interesting or worth my while.” Not sure if they are being too picky, or there just isn’t anything in there field of work or physical location.

    3. Anonymous

      This made me curious about my job search last year – about 6 months long, while employed, looking for an administrative type job. I send out around 90 resumes, which comes to a few per week. That resulted in:

      – 5 phone interviews
      – 5 in-person interviews (1 of those after a phone interview)
      – 3 interview offers that I didn’t accept for whatever reason
      – 1 job offer I accepted

      While not getting more interviews was of course frustrating, I also considered the response rate pretty average.

      1. Elizabeth West

        Now I’m all motivated to go home and quantify my job search. I’m curious as to how it compares to everybody’s stats.

        1. Jamie

          I’m such a stats geek I wish this was quantifiable.

          Whats so hard is you can’t control across people for the scope of the jobs for which they are applying.

          When I was on the market in 2008 I sent out over 100 resumes and didn’t get one response. I can’t tell you how many times I checked the phone/email info on my resume to make sure I didn’t typo – because literally no one. I was applying for more entry level and admin jobs, because that was where I had started at my previous company and moved up so I thought it worked once, why not this time? I also had the same generic cover letter I sent out with every one. It was grammatically correct and no spelling errors – but that’s the best you could say about it.

          I was so frustrated as temping was not what it was the last time I was doing it. Previously I worked constantly and could pick and choose – that time I was lucky to get a couple of assignments a month and they were pretty bottom of the barrel. I finally got fed up and on a temp assignment (where my job was to answer the phone (which rang once) and watch the front desk (no visitors) and type two letters on a typewriter (took a while to relearn that skill) and I was told to feel free to surf the internet, just no porn.

          Well, since porn was out of the question (and if you have to say that….ew) I hit the job boards and in a fit of anger and frustration applied to jobs I knew I could do (and I knew my old boss would hire me for) but was sure they would laugh at my resume. Literally my intent was to be rejected and ignored by a different set of jobs – I had little hope.

          So as kind of a game I took some obscure thing I was really good at (creating reports and analyzing data for efficiency and optimization percentiles in production) and sent my resume out to five jobs where that seemed relevant. I also, even before AAM, changed my cover letter approach on these where I stressed that skill and the value I could bring in that area. I also customized the cover letters to each company.

          Also, previously I had applied to jobs where I met 100% + of the requirements. These five jobs – maybe 70% on paper – but I knew other things were transferable.

          Within 24 hours I got three calls for interviews – went on two and canceled the third because I had accepted one of the first two.

          So in all my rambling there is a point – sometimes you just need to look at things differently. What worked before didn’t work the second time because circumstances had changed and my resume had changed…so I needed to change my approach.

  12. Not An American

    I’ve been applying to jobs I’m under qualified for, at least for the requested experience. Every job posting seems to have a minimum of two years required experience and, as a recent graduate, I just don’t have that. I’m outside the US and paid internships are extremely rare here. There are some graduate schemes but as there are so few they are ridiculously competitive plus they tend to be in specific fields like finance or PR which are not my areas. Even unpaid internships are cut throat, I applied to one that had over 400 applicants for one spot and they didn’t even reimburse expenses so it would have cost me if I’d taken it (I got to final interview stage so I was seriously considering it)!

    Anyhow, I’ve been applying to jobs I meet all the criteria for except the 2 years experience bar and have had a high hit-rate for interviews to application ratio (about 50% of applications have resulted in a first round interview – all have been in person, phone interviews are unusual here). However, I’ve found that the feedback I’ve gotten is that I interviewed well but they’ve gone with another candidate with more experience. That’s obviously the downside to applying without the minimum requested experience as in this job market there are bound to be candidates with it. I’ve gotten good interview practice, though, some helpful feedback, and recently had one interviewing department chief personally call me to say I hadn’t gotten the job (more experienced candidate etc.) but she was impressed with my interview and would like my permission to pass my resume around to other departments.

    Since I have the time to apply to those jobs and there aren’t exactly a ton of other options around I don’t think it’s hurting anyone. Of course I jump on any entry level job posting I do find but those are so few and far between I’d be applying to way less than 1 job every two weeks if I waited only for those!

  13. maisie

    I really relate to #1 and #6. I’m having a really hard time right not with jobs because I really don’t know what I’m ‘qualified’ for. I’ve just graduated with an MA and have a few years of work experience but in totally different fields. Both of them were ‘real’ jobs (offices, lots of responsibility, negotiating with clients, doing HR/admin work, advertising), but paid hourly. I’m ready to make the jump to a salaried position, and I know that I have the right education and experience, but I feel like I’m only finding admin/assistant jobs (which are fine and I’d take, but I’ve been told by a recruiter that I’m overqualified for), or they require way more specialized experience than I have. I’m having trouble making the jump from ‘general’ work to specialized – the work I did was not super industry specific and is very transferrable, but I don’t have any specific qualifications or advanced experience for the industries I’d like to get into. I’d be happy to take an office manager job or something, but it doesn’t solve my dilemma.

    I have applied for 56 jobs in about 6 weeks and have had ZERO in person interviews. I’ve had outright rejections from about 15 jobs, and the rest…nothing. I’ve had one phone screen that didn’t go further, and then one recruiter who contacted me about a job and then disappeared????

    Most of these jobs are either highly, highly competitive (publishing) and I’ve given up on, or very entry level (admin). I don’t know if my terrible ratio reflects the job market, my experience, or if I’m applying for the wrong level of jobs. I get scared away from applying from high level jobs because I don’t meet all of the qualifications. I hate to sound out of touch because I’m well aware of how many great people are unemployed, but with several years of entry level/retail type work, and two years of professional experience (including a ‘manager’ role), am I really only qualified for admin work? Should I be taking a chance with higher level roles that I ‘feel’ under qualified for?

    1. Elizabeth West

      Keep trying–I was in the exact place you are, and six weeks really isn’t very long in this economy.

      I would break out what skills / experience you have and see how many of these apply to the higher level roles. It was really hard for me to figure out what transferable skills I had until I actually listed them. I could be wrong, but Alison, isn’t there a kind of a how-to like this in your book? Anyway, I know there is a lot of good advice around here and in the interview guide on how to talk about your skills, so that may help with the list-making process.

    2. Lynn

      If you objectively have 80-90% of their “requirements”, I’d say go ahead and apply. A lot of places tend to get a bit over-exuberant and list things that they would desire or prefer as “requirements”.

      1. maisie

        Thanks :) I think I’m starting to head in this direction. I really don’t mean to sound bratty at all, but I feel like given my experience, I SHOULD be able to land a decent job that isn’t paid hourly (again, nothing wrong…I just feel like I’ve paid my dues. But then again, this could be super obnoxious?), but I get scared away from those jobs!

        There’s a great job I have my eye on and I’m really wondering how suited I am for it. It’s in recruitment and admissions for a university. Now, I don’t have the “main” qualification – I’ve never formally worked in this area! But I have pretty much ALL other qualifications: training and developing staff, working with international clients, experience working within a higher education environment, developing marketing initiatives, experiencing with english language teaching, etc. The rest of the qualifications are all ‘soft’ (set objectives, good communication, interpersonal skills, use initiatve, be creative, etc), so I’m not totally clear on what is absolutely required for this role.

        I am 95% confident I could do this job justice (obviously, from reading AAM, I know that you don’t REALLY know what a job is like until you’re there), but it’s like…if I have TONS of experience and a good portion of which is highly applicable, do I need to have had “admissions and recruitment” experience directly? Or is it worth applying anyway?

        And Elizabeth – thanks for the encouragement. I get worried when I read posts like today and people have been searching for a year.

          1. maisie

            True! I think I’m suffering from that whole imposter syndrome thing…I look at my prior accomplishments (I’m unemployed now b/c I moved abroad in January) and work history and I think “Wow, pretty good!” but then I read these fancy job descriptions and think “Definitely not qualified”. I think it doesn’t help that I’m pretty young so I automatically assume there’s tons of people out there who have heaps more experience and are older, etc. So I think “even if I write a great cover letter, etc and I have great experience, WHY would they hire me if I don’t have that ‘key piece’?”

            Wah wah wah, woe is me :P Sorry for hijacking, AAM!

          1. Lulula

            Agreed – as much as I would prefer salary over hourly, as the latter just makes me feel like they think they need to babysit me and I don’t want to work tremendous quantities of OT, whether it’s one or the other isn’t always indicative of the experience required and often you can make more with the OT option.

            1. Lindsay

              I am currently paid hourly and while I was a little miffed at taking an hourly position at first I have found that I am actually better off.

              My hourly payrate translates to three or so dollars an hour over what my managers make, because I am based on a 40 hour work-week and they are based on a 55 hour work week. I do not work more than 40 hours generally because they don’t want to pay me overtime, while they get worked into the ground because it does not cost the company any more to have them working 70 hours a week vs 40 or 55.

              The next couple weeks constitute our busy season and I stand to make triple the amount I usually make because I will be making lots of OT.

              The only thing I am jealous of anymore is their benefits package.

              So to me, being paid hourly seemed like I was not getting reimbursed my full worth at first, but after 6 months at my job I have found that I am actually better off being hourly than salaried.

              1. Jamie

                A lot of people end up losing money when they first cross the line from hourly to salary.

                I’ve never understood the desire some people have to go salary – because believe me I’d go hourly in a minute if it was offered (and treated as non-exempt)…and I’d be driving a much nicer car!

                I know for some people it’s a status thing – but I don’t get that. I know some highly technical hourly people who make serious money. The big benefit of being salaried is if you’re out during part of a pay period they have to pay the usual salary – but for someone like me who always has time on the books that’s irrelevant.

                Seriously – every so often I figure out what I would me making if I were hourly and putting in the same kind of time and it’s the catalyst for a good cry.

    3. fposte

      As Elizabeth said, that’s a comparatively short time. Since you’re not getting results with your cover letters and resume, it’s also worth taking a cold hard look at those and asking somebody you trust to give you some feedback.

  14. db

    Thanks for responding to my question (#7 I told someone he was getting promoted, but now he’s not); my instincts seem to be correct in that I felt I needed to talk to him; I spoke to my manager and she had suggested I just wait. That’s why I posted my question. My gut said I needed to talk to him, not wait. I plan to talk to my supervisor again tomorrow morning and then speak to my subordinate. I will post again once this is resolved.
    I work for a good company; we have decent wages and benefits. But upper management seems to fill middle management positions without much thought. I want to do a good job and help the people who work for me. Since the company isn’t providing me with the training I think I need, I will do it on my own. I plan to buy your book.

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