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. What to wear for a Skype interview

I had my first Skype interview on Saturday. I got an email on Friday saying the position I applied for was a “hot” position and they wanted to know if I could interview on Saturday morning. I’d never done it before, but said yes. I set it up and did makeup and hair and put on a nice blouse (yoga pants on the bottom) and did the interview from my dining room table in a very quiet environment. The interviewer was in an office and in a suit. It went okay, but it was a bit awkward for me, mostly because it was my first time using Skype. Also, the job is in fundraising for a nonprofit (fairly casual unless dealing with donors in person, more casual than not). Are you expected to be in full-on interview attire for a last-minute Skype interview, especially on a Saturday morning? It felt like a test (more so than most interviews are), but maybe I am being paranoid.

Well, all interviews are tests, by definition — but yes, generally you should wear full-on interview attire for a Skype interview, regardless of when it takes place. Basically, if you agree to interview, you agree to the full interview enchilada, even if it’s on a Saturday morning, unless they tell you otherwise in advance.

Not wearing a suit jacket isn’t likely to be a deal-breaker though.

2. Employee calls out sick due to self-inflicted sickness

We have an employee who has a diagnosed chronic illness which is manageable by diet, lifestyle, and medication. However, the employee misses work being out sick to the point where they are being docked pay. The real issue is when the employee shares any “stories” from their weekend (and then missing half a day the following Monday for sickness), it is evident that they are making diet and lifestyle choices that are leading directly to them missing work, as well as not taking any medication (or improperly taking it) to alleviate the symptoms. I know it sounds harsh and no one doubts the existence of the illness, but it seems the real problem is the employee’s attitude towards their well-being. Any suggestions?

Stop judging her reasons for being out as either legitimate or self-inflicted. It’s irrelevant, and it’s not really your place to judge. Your employee’s attitude toward her own well-being isn’t your business. What you need to do instead is to focus on whether the employee is sufficiently reliable and at work enough of the time. She could have the most sympathetic reasons in the world or the least sympathetic, but ultimately the question is whether she’s there reliably or not.

Respond to is the overall picture — she’s there enough or she’s not; she’s reliable enough or she’s not — and don’t get hung up on the reasons.

3. Can my employer make me train a new employee?

I am a front desk representative at a hotel. I’ve been working here for about 7 months. I was told to start training a new front desk representative. I have no experience on training, and quite frankly, it’s stressful. Is it legal to get an employee to train new employees rather than a manager doing this? Or are we at least in the right to get some type of bonus from doing this?

It’s perfectly legal. Employers can assign employees any tasks they want, with the exception of work that’s government regulated, like performing surgery on someone or writing a prescription. And not only is it legal, it’s pretty common to be asked to train coworkers. You don’t typically get paid extra for it; it’s part of the job.

4. Manager sleeps on the job and gave me a bad review

I have been in the corporate world for 12 years — 5 with my current employer — and have always received solid, if not stellar, reviews. This past week, in my annual review, I was given a “partially meets” review and was stunned as it does not reflect the work I’ve done. My manager even said that as he was giving the review! HR has changed requirements so that everyone on a team can’t receive “meets” or “exceeds” even if they do. I understand that, but I am having a really hard time with this especially as I had been told all year what a good job I was doing.

Compounding the problem is the fact that my manager sleeps at his desk every single day! I am always answering the emails and phone calls I get when employees can’t reach him, in addition to my work. It’s a running joke on our team (his boss doesn’t know he does this) but it’s very hard for me to not be resentful of this review in light of the fact that he is literally asleep on the job. (No, he does not have a medical condition.) How do I act professionally and not let this review ruin my career? Right now I am angry, sad, etc. because I know I do good work. And do I report his sleeping to any higher-ups? I don’t want it to look like revenge for my review, but I also have been tired of it for a while and feel like this was the last straw.

You have a manager who sleeps on the job every day and an HR department that directs your manager to give you misleading feedback on your performance review. You’ve been there 5 years, more than enough time to put it before it’ll look like you left too quickly. Rather than trying to find a way to feel good about the situation, why don’t you look for a job somewhere better managed?

5. Where on your resume should you include references?

I graduated from college almost a year ago. My career advisor told me to keep my resume to one page (which I saw you also recommend to recent grads). She said I can put references on a second page, which I’ve done. Is that acceptable, or should the references be included on one page? If a second page with references is okay, can I submit the two together (they’re in the same document), or should I keep them as separate files?

Keep your references on a separate page from your resume. Your resume shouldn’t include references at all; they should be provided only when an employer specifically requests them. That’s partly because you want to know when your references are going to be contacted so you can give them a heads-up, and partly because it can look a little naive to send them along with your resume if they weren’t requested.

6. Company asked me for an interview but then never responded again

Almost exactly a month ago, I applied for a position and received an email back from the hiring manager expressing an interest in having me come into the office and meet her and the rest of her team for an interview. She emailed me on a Thursday afternoon, asking me for my availability for the following week. I politely and enthusiastically responded (without being obsequious) giving her a few dates and times I was available in the following week.

Then I never heard back from her. At all. Not a peep. I sent her a follow-up email about a week later, reiterating my interest in the position and giving her a few more potential dates/times in the week following. Nothing in response then, either.

WHAT GIVES?! Well, no, that’s a silly question that you’ve covered ad nauseam on your website: sometimes people are just unfathomably rude/sometimes people just get super busy/sometimes people are disorganized. Or any combination of, or all three. That said, I’m wondering if it wouldn’t be worthwhile to follow up one more time before officially writing this position (and company) off. If so, how do I word my email? I don’t want to come across as grovel-y and desperate, but I also don’t want to seem snotty or demanding, either (not matter how irritated I am about them vanishing without a word). What do you think?

Well, you’ve got nothing to lose by trying one more time, as long as you’re not going to be devastated if you once again don’t hear back. You could certainly say something like, “You reached out to me about interviewing for the X position on February X. I’d still love to talk with you if you’re still interviewing. I’m attaching my materials again for you reference, and hope to hear from you.”

7. Explaining why I’m leaving my job over pay

I have been with my company since 2009, starting out as HR assistant and subsequently promoted in 2011 to HR director. I knew at the time of my promotion that I was accepting a low-end salary for the position because I was still completing my degree and had only two years of HR experience (I later discovered through an archived company email that I was getting paid $10,000 less than the low end of the pay scale — that was depressing). Because of these shortfalls, I accepted the salary in 2011 and have since received two “exceptional” evaluations in the position with consistent good feedback from my boss. However, as I am coming across student loans and some other personal expenses that were not present a few years ago, I am barely making ends meet with my salary. Even though my pay did increase slightly with the completion of the degree, it does not even cover half the cost of my monthly student loans.

Aside from the pay issue, I am happy in my position, but I am beginning to apply to jobs in the hopes of a better financial future. Unfortunately, my company is experiencing tight budget constraints, so I am sure they could not match any reasonable offers out there. What should I say to potential employers during the interview when asked why I am leaving my current job? I do not want to come across as just looking for a fatter paycheck (it’s just necessary to pay the bills now!). I am not sure how to frame my reasoning for leaving that sounds positive to employers.

“My company is facing a difficult budget situation right now, so I want to explore other options.” Don’t get into any of the other details.

{ 196 comments… read them below }

  1. AG

    Why oh why are so many AAM questions worded “is this legal” when the question should be “is this normal/fair/common?” In this instance it’s actually totally normal to train new people, but even if it weren’t, it’s very common for crappy management/hiring/HR practices to just be sucky but perfectly legal.

    That said, OP, can you ask your supervisors for some guidance on training if you’re not comfortable with it? Maybe there needs to be a manual or more materials, or maybe they can have you observe someone being trained first?

    1. Brooke

      “Why oh why are so many AAM questions worded “is this legal”… THANK YOU! That is driving me crazy! I’ve only been reading this blog for a few months and I learned very quickly that if you ask if something is legal, Alison’s response is going to be “If it is not a protected class, it is legal.” I love your suggestion of, instead, asking if the practices are normal/fair/common!

    2. Jubilance

      I was just going to say this. I asked in the open thread about this too – I don’t understand why so many people default to “I don’t like this so it must be illegal!” I guess most people don’t have a passing knowledge of how laws work?

      AAM, can we get an all “Is it legal?” set of short questions & answers one day? I bet that would be interesting…

      1. Sascha

        Reading Donna Ballman’s blog Screw You Guys, I’m Going Home, has been very illuminating in the area of employment law.

      2. Mike C.

        That’s the thing, it’s not like we teach people the law in school. Sure, everyone knows what a speed limit is or not to steal but for anything more tricky than that it feels like you need a lawyer.

      3. RG

        People assume/act like legality is the standard about how to act, rather than the minimum of what is expected. For many people, legality has replaced civility, politeness, and morality as the basis for deciding how to do things. It’s the new secular religion.

    3. some1

      You don’t know how many smart, professional capable people (with advanced degrees) I have met over the years who think it’s illegal for a former employer to give a reference, or a bad reference.

      Just because your company has an internal policy about giving no references, even if it came from your legal dept, doesn’t make it “illegal”.

      1. Mike C.

        Why would an advanced degree in math or business mean that someone is well versed in the law?

          1. Anonymous

            People also assume most manager/employers know employment law. I don’t think it would be a huge stretch of the imagination to think that’s not necessarily the case. They may know basic stuff (what protected classes are) but otherwise may not be too fluent in it.

    4. Kelly O

      It’s good to know I’m not the only one who feels this way.

      There is a difference between “illegal” and “not really smart” – and I guess I thought it was more, well, general knowledge.

      To the letter-writer’s point, how were you trained? If you weren’t, how would you have preferred to be trained? Talk with your supervisor about any specific things they would like to see the new person learn early on.

  2. Anonymous

    #4 – so you work your ass off all year, given good feedback throughout and then only get a partially meets because HR only has so many to dole out???? What a pile of poop! I see red when I hear these stories. If this were me, I would stand up for myself and ask for examples of where you only partially met expecations. I would even go so far as to refuse to sign the evaluation. Make HR accountable for their crappy policies, then polish up the resume and get the hell out of what sounds like a toxic ridiculous work enviroment and into one where you are actually appreciated.

    1. Josh S

      Yeah, this is the crappy part of performance reviews in large companies. There’s really two things that they’re measuring, but the two are often rolled into a single measure.

      What *should* (in my opinion) be measured are A) an objective measure of whether you’ve exceeded the expectations of your position, met them, or failed to meet them (however you want to measure that), independently of anyone else’s performance, and B) a relative measure of how you stack up compared to others in your department or company.

      The objective measure is really, purely a factor of “did you do the job you were supposed to do”, while the relative measure is “Yeah, you did the job, but Wakeen over there has been stellar this year.” There should never be limits on how many people can get a top rating in the objective measure, but it’s entirely reasonable to put a cap on the number of people who can get the top rating compared to everyone else.

      That might mean that 50% of the employees deserve and get an “Exceeds Expectations” on the objective measure, even if only 20% can be rated as “Top Performers”.

      Two metrics, measuring different things. Too often they get rolled into one measure and it pisses people off because they can be exceeding all that was expected of them but still end up with only a “meets expectations” (or worse!) because of silly company policies that fail to understand the distinction.

      1. K

        I have to say, I somewhat question the usefulness of even giving everyone the relative measure. There’s something said for the transparency of “you’re getting a 5% raise but he’s getting a 10% raise,” I suppose. But on another level, if you have good people who are doing good jobs, the odds are they also have individual skills that are hard to compare against each other. And when management makes the comparison of what they’re worth to the company and thus what their raise should be, they’re going to be factoring in things like what their position is worth to the company and what it’s worth to the market, not just their skills. So the whole thing is a bit artificial and giving people a ranking of how they stand relative to their co-workers, instead of how they’re performing on their own, ultimately seems like a way to breed discontentment and resentment for no particular benefit in return.

        1. Jamie

          I think this is especially true in smaller businesses or departments. It’s easy to compare 10 employees who have the same job function and same basic skills – think call center teams or manufacturing operators where the objectives are the same for each person and roles are clearly defined. You can easily compare efficiency and productivity for the measurable and then add in the softer skills which can be more variable.

          But in smaller companies it can be much harder. Who is more important – the head of IT or engineering? Without the head of engineering prototypes wouldn’t be churned out so smoothly and without prototypes sales has nothing by which to lock in business. IT doesn’t have nearly as direct a correlation with sales…however if the network isn’t operating properly with 100% uptime engineering isn’t getting customer files and other business processes screech to a halt.

          Engineering has back-up in the building, there are other people who can fill in if he’s indisposed capable of designing in SolidWorks. IT is non-fungible in the company, however is easier to replace (not easy, just easier) than someone with experience in engineering in a niche industry.

          Who is more important? My personal bias aside (because yes, since I’m the IT in this little story I would side with me) if you had to make a call how do you evaluate two people at basically similar levels of responsibility who both report to the same person – but have radically different functions and skills? Is that where you just go with your gut and when you imagine either one of them giving notice whomever gives you the biggest “oh shit!” moment at the news is the winner of this little contest? You’re human so you have to make sure you’re differentiating whom you like more from who brings more value to the company.

          If the raise/bonus pie is only so big you have two options. Either split it evenly and piss off both of them or make someone happy, someone less happy and hope the less happy person doesn’t ever learn what the numbers really were. That’s why transparency causes issues for some places.

          1. Josh S

            This is all perfectly fair — it’s really hard to compare apples to oranges (Jack Welch’s GE management system be da**ed). My point was that, whatever basis you use for divvying up raises, performance bonuses, or whatever, you shouldn’t confuse or combine or conflate the absolute measure of performance (eg did the person meet, exceed, or fail to meet what was expected of them) with the relative measure of performance (eg how well does this person stack up against others).

            1. Jamie

              I agree – just saying it’s harder to compare in some cases than in others.

              And I know there is controversy surrounding Jack Welch’s philosophy, escpecially the lowest 10% up or out part (which isn’t always advisable – in a small company with good hiring you can easily have even your lowest 10% more than meet expectations and they are still adding the value the company requires to it’s not always worth the cost of turnover.

              But I like his views that leaders are defined by their subordinates, I like his professed zero tolerance for management bullying, and I am fully aligned with the spirit of his view that you aren’t doing poor performers (those who consistently under perform after training, coaching, etc.) If you have employees that are trying hard but cannot meet the bar you aren’t helping them by allowing them to coast in a bad fit for their whole careers – never achieving success and being resented by co-workers. If the most one hopes to accomplish is to not be fired that’s not a bar which provides any professional accomplishment or personal satisfaction.

              I don’t agree with everything he’s ever said, nor do I think you can apply the GE numbers to companies regardless of size – but I think the guy has a lot of good ideas.

        2. QQ

          Even if it’s not useful to determine raises, it might be very useful if the company has to make a decision about who to promote or who to lay off.

      2. Jamie

        Josh broke down the problem perfectly – they are conflating two completely different measurements which can’t be conflated.

        I’m much happier when dealing with empirical measurement. Like math tests in school. Answers are either right or wrong, but the subjective comments written in the margins of essays? Drove me crazy. Even if the grade was an A, if I didn’t agree with the comments it would get under my skin. That said some of those comments improved my writing – but I’m still generally more irked by subjective measures.

        And tbh if I were in a job where I was objectively exceeding expectations, but a lower box was checked because they had a quota for that? I’d be looking for another job – because the bad logic loop would get stuck in my head and probably end up killing me.

        1. K

          There’s a difference between subjective and comparative, though. I’m sure there are some jobs where you can be 100% objective in your evaluation, but most are going to have subjective components (maybe all, to be honest). But you can give people honest feedback on subjective stuff (some of which they may disagree with and that’s okay) without docking their evaluation improperly because you’re conflating a measure of their performance with a comparison to their peers.

          1. Jamie

            I agree it’s a mixture of both and nothing is entirely comparative. It would just make things easier if it were – but you’re right…real life is always a combination of both.

      3. Jubilance

        Its not all large companies, but unfortunately, a lot of them either copy each other or rules from Company A gets adopted at Company B when executives move around.

        My first job was at a Fortune 50 company who decided to institute the “10% of the people don’t get a raise” thing that they got from an executive that previously worked at an even bigger company who did that. Problem was, it was only my division of the company who had that rule. And then HR found arbitrary ways to apply it – like deciding that the guy who had been out due to cancer treatments deserved no raise even tho he did stellar work.

        1. ThatHRGirl

          Ooh yikes… they’d better have an actual written policy around that or it could be construed as retaliation for filing a leave.

          The whole “not everyone can have a “meets” or “exceeds” thing, or “rating on a curve” makes no flippin’ sense. If there are only so many dollars to go around, then distribute bonuses/raises proportionately… but don’t dictate that a certain number or percentage can’t have a certain rating.

    2. UK HR Bod

      Speaking from the other side, managers are known to use this as an excuse. We tell our people that broadly, X% of people would be in this bracket, X% in that – but that’s just standard distribution, and the fact that if there are people above average, there have to be people below too. However, they are guides. It’s absolutely right that we challenge when someone rates all their people exceptional (really – and how did you make a loss this year then?), but it’s the manager’s call in the end. If they are making a poor call, then it’s up to their manager to deal with it.

      I’m not saying that the HR team here aren’t wrong – if it’s exactly as the OP describes, they are – but it can be a convenient screen for managers to hide behind.

      1. Judy

        I’ve not been at a company that these were guides. I’ve only been at companies that say “You have 20 employees in that group. You can give 1 Outstanding, 2 Exceeds, 2 Needs Improvement and 1 Needs Strong Improvement. Everyone else is a Meets Expectations.” And it’s written in the HR policies the percents allowed per rank. And one place did it in each group that was at least 5 people, if there were fewer than 5 in a group, they combined two groups. So each 5 person group had ONE PERSON IN EACH RANK, which forced a PIP on 2 people.

        We all know that broadly the statistics show those rankings. But can anyone say a group of 5 or even 20 follows those rankings?

        1. Josh S

          See, that’s completely the wrong way to do it. If you must divvy up the money for raises or promotions, that’s fine. But if you’re a good manager who screens well to find the right people for your team, and then coaches them well to be high performers, it makes no sense to treat x% of them as if they’re below expectations. Hence the need for two evaluations — one that hits on that actual, non-relative performance, and one that puts everyone in relation to everyone else.

          The system you describe is stupid, doesn’t match with reality, kills morale among employees, and simply defeats its intended purpose.

    3. Piper

      My husband’s company totally does this. No one is allowed to receive “exceeds goals,” even if they do (and there’s hard proof of it, like exceeding sales goals). My husband, who is in sales, completely blew his goals out of the water and still got “meets goals.” The worst part is, the difference in a pay raise between meets and exceeds is 1 and 4 percent respectively. Total crap.

  3. jesicka309

    Hang on, I have a question about student loans – I don’t understand why people can’t afford to pay them..this is probably a cultural thing, but in Australia you don’t have to start paying back your fees until you earn over a certain threshold (something close to 50k) and then it comes off as an extra tax ‘expense’ that is based on your earnings, so a person making 80 k pays theirs off quicker than a person making 60 k ….how does the US deal with student loans? Surely you don’t have to pay them before you’re earning enough money to afford them…right??
    It’s just that I see all these questions where people can’t pay their loans and I cant tell whether I should sympathise, as in Aus if you can afford to pay your fees you’re doing pretty darn well for yourself, and deserve little sympathy.

    1. Peaches

      you get charged whether you can afford it or not. they don’t care how much you’re making with your degree. there are a few very small exception areas where you can skip a few payments or something, but in general, nope. It’s like a mortgage/credit card payment. You took it on; they don’t care what you’re making.

      1. jesicka309

        Wow. That sucks big time. In Australia you could get up to 100k worth of free education and never pay it back….as long as you never earn over the 50 k tax threshhold. It means people who decide to eventually become stay at home parents, or become disabled, or decide to just work flipping burgers the rest of their lives aren’t living in debt as well.

        Weird how America is so forward thinking on so many issues, yet so backward when it comes to others (the health system also comes to mind).

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Could we skip the U.S. bashing here? Many people don’t agree that the taxpayers should shoulder the cost of other people’s post-secondary education. (Because what you described is not “free.” Someone is paying for it.)

          Thank you.

          1. jesicka309

            Sure, I didn’t think I was US bashing, it’s just interesting to compare the different attitudes to education. In Aus there’s a lot of institutions like TAFE that are government funded that are generally geared more vocationally and are very cheap – almost everyone here does some sort of post-secondary education, regardless of interest or finances. So I guess most people pay it back in kind eventually.

            It will be interesting to see if the attitude towards post-secondary education changes, Alison, considering that the BA is the new high school diploma, and no one begrudges anyone their secondary education being tax-payer funded.

            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              Calling a country “backward-thinking” equals bashing in my book! Plus it assumes a widespread level of agreement on a point that there isn’t actually widespread agreement on, at least not here. I don’t say that to berate you, believe me, but to point out something that I think is sometimes lost on people, particularly when they’re not from here. The U.S. has values that might not be the same as your culture’s (like the value of personal responsibility and not expecting others to shoulder the cost of your choices in life), but they’re no less legitimate.

              Anyway, we’re off-topic and I don’t want to open up a debate on this, but thanks for obliging!

              1. Anonymous

                “The U.S. has values that might not be the same as your culture’s”

                We’re trained to think they’re “values,” but regarding the ones related to education financing they’re largely the result of outreach/policies by people and institutions in power. That is to say, it’s not an inherently American “value” but rather something marketed to the public.

                I’m not even convinced that the value (like “the value of personal responsibility and not expecting others to shoulder the cost of your choices in life”) are particularly widespread – there is a bunch of recent research on political opinions in the US showing politicians and the media assume Americans are much more conservative (“personal responsibility”) on many topics than they actually are.

              2. Anonymous

                Also, I know this is your blog, but it doesn’t seem right to say “no politics” and then make political statements about so-called American values. It’s either OK to have politics, or else you should be explicit and recognize/admit that you can talk a little politics but others can’t (which is your prerogative).

                1. Sarah G

                  Alison is making a point about cultural differences in values and priorities, which do have consequences in policies and politics, but she ‘s not arguing politics per se. Her point is that the differences are “no less legitimate,” not that they are right or wrong.
                  On top of which, it is your prerogative to get awesome free job advice elsewhere, but this is Alison’s blog and we are all guests here. It’s analogous to being a guest in someone’s home — you don’t get to to tell her what she should or shouldn’t do here.

                2. Ask a Manager Post author

                  I haven’t said “no politics here.” I said this was off-topic and asked for an off-topic thread not to continue, as I have on plenty of less contentious topics, but yeah, I do indeed feel it’s my prerogative to respond to a statement that offends me first.

              3. Anon

                I agree that this is an American blog written by an American, so when commenting it is rude to bash the US.

                However, if you want an international (and therefore larger) audience to read and support the blog it would make sense not to slam people quite so harshly for expressing how their culture is different, and how the US is viewed from outside. A more polite, “This isn’t the place to discuss politics. Yes, the US does student loans and healthcare differently from a lot of other places, and people have differing opinions on that, but let’s not debate it here.” would actually leave politics out of it.

                1. Anon

                  I don’t see a reply button under your reply so I’ve clicked reply under my comment instead.

                  Your first response to jesicka309 was perfectly friendly and, as I said, made a reasonable request. It was the second response that read as harsh to me, especially as she didn’t call the US “backward thinking” as a whole, she pointed out that, in her view, the country is very forward thinking on some things and backwards on others.

                  That’s just my interpretation though, and, of course, everyone reads things differently.

              4. Elizabeth West

                “like the value of personal responsibility and not expecting others to shoulder the cost of your choices in life”

                Sorry, Alison, but that made me laugh really hard, thinking of various smelly, annoying coworkers profiled here. Too bad they don’t subscribe to this value!

          2. Lena

            Wow, defensive much? I love your blog, but I left the US in part because of attitudes like yours. Commenting on things that are legitimately huge problems in the US isn’t “bashing.”

            1. Anonymous

              Would you go to someone else’s house in a foreign country and tell them that their country was backwards on an issue and insist on your right to say it after they suggested you stick to the topic at hand? This is AAM’s house. You’re reading a blog written by an American and that blogger has said that she writes for an American audience.

              I’ll stop here and respect that AAM has asked for the thread to come back on-topic.

              1. Lena

                I’m American too. Please stop and think before making assumptions–some Americans actually do believe that things work better elsewhere, and act accordingly.

                Agreed, let’s leave it here…this blog absolutely shines when it comes to discussing office etiquette, and I recommend it to friends in the US all the time. Global politics, apparently not so much.

                1. Lena

                  Though, “wow, defensive much” was unnecessary on my part. Was just honestly shocked to see such comments from a blog that I normally hold in quite high regard. But should have been nicer, and apologize for the wording.

          3. Victoria Nonprofit

            Yikes, this seems a little harsh. I didn’t get a “U.S.-bashing” vibe from Jessika at all.

            There’s often talk on here about how U.S. labor laws differ (and are less employee-friendly) from other countries. I don’t see Jessika’s thread as different from any of those?

            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              And I’ve asked people not to U.S.-bash on those threads as well.

              It didn’t sound harsh to me, and still doesn’t. But yeah, I’m sick of the U.S. criticism when this stuff comes up.

      2. Sunshine DC

        U.S. Student Loans now are repaid per rates based on percentage of income, FYI. You have to pay something, but it’s less if you make less. Meanwhile, if you work in certain fields, you can get loans forgiven or capped after 20 years if not repaid.

        1. Ali_R

          Exactly. We do have basically the same situation. It is called Income Based Repayment. Currently student loan repayment is capped at 15% of your discretionary income, July of 2014 it will be capped at 10%.

          If you make your payments consistently it is forgiven at 20 years. If you work for public service it is forgiven at 10 years. When your loan is forgiven you will be responsible for the taxes on that though. There are a lot of “boutique” loan repayment programs for teachers or medical professionals or ?? blue biologists? in areas needing that profession (I see it often in Alaska).

          My sister was starting to feel very trapped and very depressed and ready to divorce the only person in the world that can keep her going, just to protect him. I was thankful to find this information out. The loan people calling my sister (and not being very friendly either) didn’t volunteer any of this, which is sad. They knew how little they live off of and how expensive their place is to heat. I ran her numbers and her repayment with her husband’s income and their two children is $0 here in Alaska.

          http://studentaid.ed.gov/repay-loans/understand/plans/income-based/calculator

        2. Natalie

          That only applies to loans taking out through the Department of Education.

          The vast majority of student loans are through private lenders and do not qualify for programs like Income Based Repayment or loan forgiveness for certain industries. You can’t even use an Americorps education award on a private student loan.

          1. Anonymous

            And only loans from like 2014 on, I graduated in 2002, I am screwed for the next 30 years. I still owe 30k.

            1. Kimberlee, Esq.

              You can still get the Income Based Repayment if the loans are stafford/perkins/etc! I graduated in 2008 and am on an IBR. It’s a PITA – you essentially get to fill out more FAFSA forms every year for a decade or two – but I was able to get on a manageable payment schedule.

            2. Elizabeth West

              I’m even more screwed. With interest, low income, and periods of unemployment, I’m nearly at $90K now. Trying like hell to get caught up on more immediate things (like plumbing issues) so I can start making bigger payments.

            3. Katniss

              Same here. I’m amazed by how much of the stress and depression in my life has been caused by thinking about my student loan debt, and what a huge mistake I made by staying in school while taking out those loans. I would rather have never graduated college honestly.

              I’ve found that reading up on the Strike Debt movement/Occupy Student Loans/Rolling Jubilee has helped me feel immensely better about my debt though. I’ve moved from feeling guilty when Wells Fargo calls to basically accepting that they are not my friends, they’re my enemies.

      3. Kit M.

        This is not really accurate. There are options for deferring payment, and there are income-based repayment plans.

        1. Erica B

          this is true, but often times many don’t qualify based on income guidelines and such, yet still can’t to pay the payment once it kicks in.

      4. Sunday's Child

        It’s not completely accurate to say that all student loans in the U.S. are the same and require being paid back regardless of salary. It will depend on what institution provided the student loan and on their policies/requirements. (Private institutions are much more unforgiving.) My son started out as a substitute teacher and was not required to pay anything toward his loan while he was making wages that were below some salary threshold. He ended up having to relocate across the country to a place where teachers were paid better and had full-time openings and now he is paying on his loans.

    2. Josh S

      In the US, paying back your student loans is not dependent on income. You do not need to start paying back your loan until 6 months after your completion of full time school. But at that point, the bills start rolling in, regardless of whether you have a job, how much it pays, or anything else.

      Also, you cannot discharge or negotiate your student debt through bankruptcy. So even if you declare bankruptcy and sell every last belonging, you’re still on the hook for the full amount of the loans you took out. This makes such loans pretty attractive to banks, and the artificially low interest rates (due to government subsidies) makes the loans pretty attractive to students (and their parents). Which is why the amount of student debt in the US has surpassed the amount of consumer (credit card) debt.

      It’s a problem, and there’s no good way to fix it.

      1. Anon

        It’s a terrible problem. Too many people are so burdened with student loans that they’re delaying or foregoing things like marriage, children, buying a home, or starting a business. The latter two happen to be very good for the economy, and the first two are still considered things society tends to want people to do.

        When the economy was better, some young people would be ‘forced’ to take a higher-paying job just to pay their student loans, when they might have preferred something more oriented towards public service. (I never pursued joining the Peace Corps because I opted to start working and pay off my student loans, rather than let interest accumulate.)

        It would be fantastic if we could have somehow some kind of student loan jubilee, where all existing loans are forgiven, and at the same time, current tuition rates are ratcheted back down to sane levels.

        1. badger_doc

          If they are so burdened with loans, it migh tmake sense to re-evaluate what you went to school for and where you went to school. For example, I chose to go to a state school over a private school due to the ridiculous amount of tuition at the private school. My parents couldn’t help me at all with expenses, so I knew I had to shoulder that burdon on my own. I also worked through high school to save up for my first year or two of college and applied for as many scholarships as I could. During college I worked a few part time jobs and I TA’d during graduate school to get free tuition and a stipend for rent. After 6 years, I was only $20,000 in debt as opposed to my friends being over $40k in debt because they did not work. I would argue that it is up to the individual to take a good look at expenses, future job market and school choice and find an optimal solution so they do not feel like they deserve a “student loan jubilee” at the expense of my tax dollars.

          1. Lisa

            you can’t re-evaluate a past education decision though. I can’t undo going to a private college, but I can force my kids to get the cheapest degree possible even if it means going to a state school in alaska (i live in mass) cause its cheaper (assuming). I never knew that nobody cares where you go in the grand scheme of things, I wish I went to Umass. I am 32, we were stupid kids back then, believing the dream / our parents that college = 50k to start for a job. I worked at home depot with PhDs, engineers, and mathematicians for 2 years. Yes, I do make more than my non-degree coutnerparts now, but it took me 7 years before I was at 50k, when it was assumed we would all be making that when we graduated. Even the engineering grads were only making 40k. Lesson learned, my kids will become engineers.

            1. K

              I don’t know that engineering grads with no aptitude for engineering do any better than non-engineering grads, to be honest.

          2. Erica B

            I agree with all of this, however there are jobs that require lots of education, not option to TA, and yield incomes that aren’t all that fabulous. These jobs also require more education to maintain the job. I’m talking jobs such as teaching. My husband is a teacher. We went to state school and he received what he could in financial aid, worked full time, etc… but he still has a ton of student loan debt, because compared to other careers where similar amounts of education are required, the salaries are much less. Teachers are required to get Master’s degrees within 5 years of receiving the initial license (In MA) and must continue to take courses/prefessional development for maintain their teaching license for as long as they are teaching.

            1. Xay

              Exactly. My field is getting to the point where an advanced degree is a requirement to move up at all and an MD or PhD already is a requirement to be in leadership – but most jobs pay $30-40K.

              I’d really like people to start acknowledging that there are professional, worthwhile, growing fields that require education and don’t pay well. Not even every STEM grad is working in their field and making big money. So the children of those people who have professional jobs don’t deserve a college education? And by the way, those public colleges everyone loves to tout over private institutions are increasing tuition, while cutting programs and grant aid so yes, we are getting to the point where there are fewer options besides loans for a high school student who wants to attend college as a minimum wage, straight out of high school job will barely cover a class, let alone room and board.

            2. Sunday's Child

              Yes! The continuing education requirements in some states are very extensive and can take a big chunk of disposable income on a teacher’s salary.

          3. Elizabeth West

            I don’t remember my school (private) providing much guidance. And not everyone’s family does either. If high schools taught personal finance management as a core requirement, people would make much better decisions when they finally get to college.

          4. Kou

            I went to a cheap state school, majored in a science, interned and worked as a student, and still wasn’t able to even consider making my minimum monthly payment for nearly two years after I graduated. Even today it’s a huge burden.

            People make a whole lot of assumptions when this comes up, the fact is that in the last ten years tuition costs have gone up exponentially and wages have not. It’s not the same now as it was even just a few years ago, so “I did it, why can’t you” isn’t a constructive comparison.

        2. The IT Manager

          Wow! I understand there’s a problem but in my opinion not quite the one you’re thinking of. Young people were never “forced” to take the loans in the first place. They chose to. The problem is people taking out loans they can’t afford to pay back. Now, there’s a lot of bad information and guidance out there that may have misled college students into thinking it was a good idea when it was not, but it was still their choice. The misinformation and bad advice is a problem that needs to be corrected.

          Personally I think it’s a good thing that people pay back the loans they have taken out. I place value on people taking responsibility for their decisions and paying off their debts – credit cards, home, car, and college loans. I do agree, though, that there’s no good reason for college loans to live on past bankruptcy when other loans do not. That makes banks more likely offer loans to people who will have a difficult time paying it back, but that also makes it easier for college kids to get loans so it is something of a catch-22.

          1. K

            The problem is that you can apply the “personal responsibility” argument to individuals to a point. But the bigger question is what kind of society do you want to live in, and there, an individual’s personal responsibility in paying or not paying loans isn’t really relevant. What’s relevant is: do you want to live in a society where anyone has a realistic chance to get the education that their grades and accomplishments have admitted them to? Or do you want to live in a society where education is apportioned mainly based on parental wealth (and merit to a tiny extent comparatively), but the general populace doesn’t subsidize education and thus pays less in taxes? It’s a policy choice that isn’t really about personal responsibility.

            1. Esra

              Here here! I think it’s important not to lose track of what a slippery slope it is, when you start saying people from poorer families etc shouldn’t go on to a post-secondary education because the cost is so prohibitive.

            2. Anonymous

              I want to live in a society where people borrowing money and promising to pay it back are expected to keep their word, so that the rest of society doesn’t have to pay it for them.

              We don’t live in a society that has decided we want to pay for everyone to go to college. If you want that then start a movement to convince your fellow citizens to go along with it. But taking out a loan to pay your college tuition & then resenting that you are expected to pay that money back is naive. And yeah I get that society hasn’t done a good job of educating students about the debt burden they’re taking on. We need to do a better job at that. But I’m not for excusing debt because someone didn’t understand it or regretted it later.

              1. Esra

                But wouldn’t you also like to live in a society that allows for people to become doctors or lawyers or social workers or optometrists even if their parents aren’t wealthy?

                Maybe this is a cultural thing coming up again, but I think it’s very important that even if someone comes from a lower or middle class family, that they are still able to get a post-secondary education without being shackled to debt for life.

                Please note, while I think free post-secondary education is a fantastic idea, I’m not advocating people back out on debts they’ve already accrued. What I’m saying is that a system of interest and payment deferrment, or better tying income to debt repayment serves EVERYONE. That’s right! Not just people who now have a manageable student debt load, but everyone. When you have a well-educated populace that can still afford to buy homes, get married, and save for retirement, everyone is better off.

          2. Natalie

            There’s actually a logic behind not allowing education debt to be discharged in bankruptcy, although I think the issue could be addressed another way. Education lenders were concerned that students would take on a lot of debt and file for bankruptcy the minute they graduated. The average 22 or 23 year old has no assets and isn’t likely to buy a house or what have you for the next 7 years anyway, so there wouldn’t be much incentive *not* to file.

            IMO it would be ideal to split the difference. Set a time limit, say 10 or 15 years from the promissory note date, and allow student loans to be discharged after that point.

            1. A Bug!

              I agree. When you go into debt to buy a house, the bank can get the house back if you can’t pay your mortgage. The asset you’re “buying” on student loans isn’t one that can be taken away from you to help satisfy your outstanding debt. And in theory, the asset you’re buying makes you able to earn an income sufficient to service that debt, because it would otherwise be a very poor financial risk for the lending institution. Practical realities aside, of course.

              In Canada student loans can be discharged in bankruptcy starting seven years after the completion of education. I think that is a happy medium, because if you’re not in a financial position to pay your student loans seven years after entering the workforce with your education, then it’s fairly apparent that your education isn’t the valuable asset you thought it would be.

              1. Elizabeth West

                And in theory, the asset you’re buying makes you able to earn an income sufficient to service that debt, because it would otherwise be a very poor financial risk for the lending institution.

                DING DING DING!!

                There’s the rub–these days, it doesn’t. Even people with so-called desireable degrees can’t find decent jobs where there aren’t any.

                And what is up with requiring a bachelor’s degree to answer the phone? Please.

                1. A Bug!

                  Yeah. It’s a hugely complicated issue and although I have Thoughts on it in a generalized, hypothetical sense, the only practical solution I can come up with is to scrap the human race and start again.

                2. Laura L

                  “the only practical solution I can come up with is to scrap the human race and start again.”

                  Ha! This probably the only practical solution to a lot of things. :-)

            2. Anna

              That’s the system we changed over to in 2007. So, while there are a lot of people with earlier student loans under the old system, we’ve done a pretty good job of fixing the problem, at least on the borrower side, going forward. The problem now is going to be controlling costs on the school’s side now that students know they can pay as much tuition as their dream school wants to charge and not be saddled with ridiculous monthly payments. Schools will raise tuition and fees, and they have no incentive not to raise them sky-high. And there’s no mechanism for limiting them.

          3. Kelly O

            The challenging part is that the Bachelor’s Degree is becoming “required” more and more – we see that on other threads.

            I’ll say this as an adult looking at going back to finish a Bachelor’s Degree – it is truly a difficult decision to look at the cost of college, the knowledge that a lot of the financial aid is geared at younger people, and the debt I will inevitably have when I’m done, and think about the actual return I’ll see on the investment.

            Yes, you can argue there are things more important than money, but my housing, transportation, food, utilities, daycare, etc. don’t really care about how rewarding things are, so long as they’re paid up. And none of those things will change when I start getting student loan bills. So, do I take on more debt to try to eventually get out of debt?

            So, are you “forced” into debt? No, not technically. But the marketplace is making that less and less a decision, and more a “how do I make my debt as small as possible?” thing.

            1. RG

              Eh – required for office jobs, maybe. But trade and technical jobs, no way. Maybe you need some techinical training from a 2 year college, but you don’t need a full on BA/BS to get a job as a welder, plumber, or mechanic. Which are all in demand professions.

              The American public is definitely being sold on the idea that you HAVE to have a college education to make it, and that really isn’t true. If you need a college education in order to practice a career that suits your skills is one thing, but it’s not the only thing and that message is definitely getting lost.

              1. Jamie

                I’d add CNC Programmers to this list. We’ve got people who are in school now for a 2 year degree making more than a lot of new grads with BA/BS.

                It’s a lucrative field and a lot of community colleges off the courses. We’re always going there to scout new talent. In manufacturing after you put in a few years you can easily be making in the 60K range without a bachelors. And it’s so in demand a lot of employers will pay for you to finish school.

                1. AnotherAlison

                  And how much does the guy with 15-20 years experience make?

                  Not to dispute what your saying, but my experience, with a spouse in in the trades, previously in manufacturing, and working in the construction industry myself, is that technical trades tend to have a flatter pay trajectory unless the person moves to management. (and sometimes those guys see the skill-less “manager” with a BS in bs get the supervisory roles instead of the experienced technical people with certificates/associates degrees)

                2. Jamie

                  Truth? I’ve seen guys with no degree at all make just over six figures. Yes – managing other people but not big picture management stuff. Typical is probably 70-80 for the guys with that kind of time.

                  I’m only speaking for my part of the industry – but I know people who are comfortable plateauing at that level and don’t aspire to management with more money/more hassle. There are people out there happy to make 70-80 and go home at the end of the day and not think about it till morning. It’s an option.

                3. AnotherAlison

                  So I guess we’re more or less in agreement. I know plenty of blue collar guys with no degree running their own businesses making multiples of what I make, too, but I think they’re probably the exception more than the rule.

                  The reason I bring it up is that I see our local votech program enticing 14 year old kids with “make $60K when you’re 19” talk, but few kids really know the trade-offs among different career paths. I’m sure just as I can blabber on about how an engineering degree is so flexible, someone else can give me examples of machinists who got promoted to SVP of major corporations. I don’t know the real data on how much flexibility trades careers have, but bottom line is I want my own son to think about what he wants over the next 20 years, not what he wants just right now.

      2. Anonymous

        My boyfriend is disabled. He is on a fixed income. They are STILL coming after him, and there is nothing he can do. They won’t work with him, and the payment plans they’ve offered are too high!

        It’s a disgrace!

    3. jesicka309

      Eeesh sorry AAM, didn’t mean to start a long off-topic thread. :( I only had a question and let my opinions get in the way, and it spawned off into another dimensino whiel I was sleeping. My apologies.

  4. Peaches

    #3: This isn’t in direct correlation to your question but I thought it might be handy anyways. My advise as somebody who recently went through some training for a position, since it looks like you’re going to have to do it either way, is to be patient and not assume things that seem really obvious to you are to somebody who is brand new. I know you haven’t been there for *years*, but you’d be amazed how quickly somebody can just get used to the lingo and routine of their job and leave out really important explanations of simple but important things. Even really intelligent people, if you leave out key pieces of info, might miss a crucial point.

    Maybe before they start their training, you could make checklists as you go about your morning, or encourage them to write down exactly what you do, step-by-step, as they watch you do and slow down a bit the first few times so they can follow along.

    It might sound obvious, but some people are *horrible* trainers and it really doesn’t benefit anybody, especially the one who doesn’t want to train because you end up picking up the slack for a poorly trained employee in the long run.

      1. Carrie in Scotland

        I am not the OP but last week was in the same position (it’s year end/annual leave/sickness) which left me and a manager to help train the ‘new’ and I have only been there 5 months! But it’s amazing how much you realise you kniw already. Thanks for the advice :-)

    1. Erica B

      for #3 I was going to say that, maybe they should think of this positively, as in your manager thinks you do a good enough job that you ARE able to train someone to do it properly.

      in my previous job (10+ yrs ago), I was there only a short-ish time when I asked to train someone new. I didn’t think twice about it really and was happy think I was good enough at my job to do something like this.

  5. Josh S

    #2: Excessively Sick Employee

    It really doesn’t matter why this employee is getting sick. (At least not to the business…it’s certainly something of personal concern when a person doesn’t manage their health well and doesn’t seem to care. But that’s not your place to determine/intervene as a boss.) What matters is whether A) the person has used up the allotted time off provided by the company, B) whether the person is eligible for FMLA leave (even unpaid, or intermittent, etc), and most importantly, C) whether their frequent absence beyond A and B is causing them to be unable to do their job at the level expected of them.

    If the person has, for instance, Crohn’s disease (a digestive issue that needs significant diet restrictions) and eats lots of things that cause inflammations every weekend — that doesn’t matter. It’s irrelevant whether the person “did this to herself” or if she just happened to have an unforeseeable flare-up. What matters is whether you can reliably count on her to be in the office when necessary to get the work done. Make the decision based on that.

    Oh, and be up front with her about it. Tell her that her ongoing absences are hurting her performance, and give examples. Tell her that you understand that her health has to take precedence in her life, but that the needs of the business are your responsibility. You can help her transition out if the demands of the position are too much for her condition, but there’s a bar, she’s gotta meet it, and if not then she’s going to be out of a job.

    Yeah, this is tough. But that’s what being a manager is about sometimes. :/

    1. Julie K

      I agree! I managed an employee who had a great reason for missing work: her father was very sick, and she took care of him. However, she didn’t use FMLA, and she was out so much, she had used up all of her PTO, and was taking unpaid time off. The biggest issue was that she would call in sick at the last minute, and I would have to rearrange the schedule so the rest of the team could cover her appointments. Another time we had an employee who was in the middle of a custody battle. I was very sympathetic, but we had to let her go when she stood up a client in order to meet with her attorney.

      1. fposte

        Just checking–you mean she wasn’t eligible for FMLA, right? Because it’s not her call to take it if she was.

        1. ThatHRGirl

          You’re right that it’s not her call, but in my experience sometimes people with a (seemingly) legitimate reason to use FMLA do not submit documentation to support their leave, miss deadlines, or just flat out decide it’s too much of a PITA and they’d rather just call off. In that case, I’d hope there would be a Leave policy in place that outlines discipline for not following through with the leave process when there is a necessity to take FMLA, but not all businesses have that in place.

    2. Kou

      This. You have to separate “I don’t think she NEEDS to be out” from “we need her to be here and it’s causing problems.”

  6. TL

    No advice for OP #6, just my sympathies! I had a very similar situation: received an e-mail asking for my availability for a specific day, I responded, and…crickets. I sent a follow-up before the scheduled date, and still, nothing. I ended up withdrawing my application (no response to that, either!), since I was so irritated by the complete and total lack of response.

  7. Sarah G

    #6 – About scheduling the interview, this is a relatively minor point, but it jumped out at me so I’ll just put it out there. I noticed that the OP said, “I politely and enthusiastically responded (without being obsequious) giving her a few dates and times I was available in the following week.”
    First of all, did the OP provide blocks of time or specific time slots? If an interviewer asked my availability, I would answer something to the effect of, “Monday morning or any time Tues,” as opposed to, “Monday at 9am or 12pm, or Tues at at 11am.” As an interviewer, I’d find the latter approach slightly off-putting — not a deal breaker and by no means justification not to respond — but nonetheless a little odd coming from the interviewee.
    Also, the OP said she responded, “politely and enthusiastically (without being obsequious).” This language came off to me as a little over the top, and I wonder if OP’s response wasn’t a little overly enthusiastic or flowery after all. My interpretation could be off here, but just something to look at. I’d be curious to see the actual wording of the OP’s emails.

    1. OP #6

      OP #6 here – I gave her blocks of time and tried to keep my response concise (as opposed to gushing and grovel-y, which I have encountered in the past as a hiring mgr myself – I suppose that’s what I meant when I said “not obsequious”). Looking back at my email, I told her “Great to hear from you. I am available to come in Tuesday afternoon and anytime Wednesday or Thursday – let me know which works best for you and your team. Thanks and looking forward to speaking with you further.” I don’t think that would have been off-putting, but maybe I’m wrong? It seems pretty straightforward to me.

    2. OP #6

      As for my follow-up the next week, I emailed on Wednesday saying “Hi [hiring mgr], I wanted to follow up regarding coming in to meet with you. I am still available all day tomorrow, or if next week is more convenient I have availability Monday afternoon or all day Tuesday.” And then the usual “Thanks! Best Regards, [me]” Again, if there’s something off-putting about my tone/wording I’d love to hear feedback.

      1. SC in SC

        There is absolutely nothing wrong with the way you responded. Unfortunately, you may have to write-off this one. I agree that you might as well give it one more shot but I wouldn’t count on hearing from them again. If this is an example of how they do business then you’re better off without them.

        1. OP #6

          Well, that’s a relief! Good to know I’m not sending off weird vibes in my email communication.

          I’m thinking I’ll try Alison’s wording for one last follow-up and then let it go. It was (is?) an interesting job with an interesting company, but it’s sort of tangential to my career path thus far (not the industry I’ve worked in the past six years), so I won’t be heartbroken or anything if I’m met with more silence. I applied on a whim and was pleasantly surprised to have been contacted, but now this vanishing act has given me some reservations about the company. So…we’ll see, but I’m not going to get my hopes up. Back to the search…

          1. CK

            For #6 – one of the things that jumped out at me with this one is that the specific hiring manager was your only contact point. There may have been several things that went awry on their side that led to you not receiving a reply, such as:
            – extended illness / vacation / parental leave
            – left the company
            – your replies accidentally getting filtered by an overzealous corporate spam filter (being on the side receiving these emails, I’ve had this happen where I incorrectly thought a candidate had dropped out)

            If you have contact information of anybody else there, it may be worth trying to reach out a different way (send from a different email address less likely to be filtered out, etc) – if they reached out to you, it’s very possible the reason they’re not responding afterwards is that your reply isn’t getting through.

        2. Allison

          Agreed, they sound disorganized at best and downright rude at worst, either way probably not someone you wanna work for.

      2. Anonymous

        Maybe the hiring manager was annoyed that you capitalized regards in “Best Regards.” This is a pet peeve of mine.

        1. OP #6

          o_O Didn’t know this was a thing! When I type out a cover letter in Word it auto-corrects and capitalizes the “regards” (I just double-checked to make sure because I’m curious), so I’ve always assumed that that was correct. Hm. Well, if that’s what did me in, good riddance I suppose.

      3. B

        Unfortunately, I have run into this a couple of times as well. Be it via a phone call or email, it is frustrating and a bit infuriating. I have had to just write them off but I do remember the companies for next time.

      4. Ob C. Quious

        Srsly, *they* contacted *you* to schedule an interview. Even if your reply was “Oh my gosh! This is the best thing that has happened to me ALL YEAR! I’m so happy to be coming in to interview at the Chocolate Teapot Factory, which is the BEST COMPANY EVER! I’m available any time you want me to come in, really. Any. Time.” (or, conversely, “I suppose I could make some time at 9:32 on Wednesday or 4:29 on Friday, if I must”) they should have at least responded to your email.

        If it weren’t for all the posts I’ve seen here about this exact situation, I’d wonder if your email went astray.

        1. OP #6

          Yeah, in the back of my mind I keep wondering if maybe my email got directed to a spam folder that the hiring manager doesn’t check. Oh well, it is what it is.

          1. Anon

            No they just didn’t respond. I don’t like the “blame the OP” with this one. We’ve read lots of posts here on this blog about this exact problem – a company reaching out to someone, the person responding and then crickets. Why are we questioning this at all? Some companies are rude and do this. It’s enough of a problem where the person responding is more than likely NOT at fault.

            1. Anon 2

              Eh. While your point is important and worth bringing up, I think there’s a difference between Blame The OP (a game we should avoid whenever possible) and looking at things that the OP may have had control over. That’s why the OP (the royal OP, not any OP in particular) is here-to find out if he or she could have done something differently. In this case, the comment cleared up the question of whether the OP’s e-mails were to blame for the behavior of How Rude Inc., so asking the question was useful.

    3. Victoria Nonprofit

      … but what if she’s available Monday at 9 or 12 or Tuesday at 11 (and not “Any time Monday” or whatever)?

      1. Anonymous

        Yeah, I’ve definitely been that candidate – especially when searching while employed! I would hope that as long as I’m able to provide several options at a variety of times, the specificity wouldn’t be held against me.

  8. maisie

    I think the references thing might vary depending on where you are? As I’ve posted before, I just moved back to the UK and it seems here that you definitely DO listed your references and their contact details on your resume. I don’t like doing it, but I also don’t want to stand out when I *think* (from talking to others) that it’s the cultural norm here. Anyone else in the UK, is this right? Would it be weird not to? I know for sure that when you fill out online applications, you put in all reference details there too.

    1. Carrie in Scotland

      I have nothing on my cv for references (but then cv’s are different) and the time I was job hunting – last year – it was all online/application forms anyway.

    2. Marmite

      I agree with the other comments in reply to this. You do not need to list references on your CV, and it probably comes across as a little naive to do so. Online applications will often ask for references’ details, but there is usually a box to tick indicating whether or not you are happy for references to be contacted prior to interview or, sometimes, prior to an offer being made. Even when I’ve indicated that it is okay I have yet to have anyone do reference checks prior to interview, with the exception of a US based fellowship I applied to, which required written references as part of the application.

    3. Anonymous

      No, you don’t. They will ask you for them if they want them.

      When you are filling out online applications IS different however – they ask for everything and anything. Then you do put them in at that point. They usually won’t contact them until after interview anyway, they are just ‘simplifying’ the data collection by asking upfront.

  9. Jen

    I’m from the UK and I would never put my references on my CV! If I am filling out an online application and I get asked for them then sure, no problem. Generally references are only checked after an interview so I don’t think hiring managers or HR expect to see them up front. Besides, that CV is precious space! I would rather use one line to say maybe ‘references available on request’ rather than use up a few lines giving out the details, especially ad my references probably don’t want their phones numbers and emails sent out to every single job I apply for. That’s just what I have been taught in the UK anyway!

    1. UK HR Bod

      If you’re short of space, you can even leave that line off. We assume that you’ll have potential referees and will ask you for them when we need them.

  10. OP #5

    Thank you so much for your advice about references! I originally put them, as I mentioned, at the advice of a career adviser. She said hiring managers are busy people who don’t want to have to take time to ask for references. I’m separating them now! I’m from the U.S.

    1. Zed

      What field are you in, OP? Because in my field, what you say is true. If you don’t send your references with your resume and cover letter, no one is going to take the time to contact you for them…

      1. Josh S

        Zed, this is backwards. You don’t send out your references unsolicited because it’s premature. The hiring company isn’t going to check references until (at minimum) after a round or two of interviews, because contacting references is time-consuming and not something you can do for all of the dozens or hundreds of people who apply. At that early point in the process, it’s akin to including your high school transcripts — simply information that isn’t remotely relevant (at least at that point in time).

        It’s completely normal to not get a standalone request for references. So of course no one is going to take the time to contact you for them. Most likely, that will happen during one of your interviews. Bring your references to the interview so you can provide them to your interviewer if asked.

        1. Zed

          Actually, for my current job, my references were checked before the initial interview!

          I will say that I was not referring to unsolicited references. I was job hunting recently, and ALL job ads in my field ask for cover letter, resume/CV, and the names/contact info of (generally three) references. If a job advertisement didn’t ask for those three things, I would still assume that they wanted them. But of course this is academia, so sometimes they want letters of recommendation instead…

            1. Erica B

              I mentioned this “rule of thumb” to my husband when he was involved in the hiring for a new principal at his school, and he seemed stunned. He said if references weren’t included with the resume it wasn’t even considered, AT ALL! silly academia rules…

            2. anony

              This explains so much!! Last fall I when I was job searching for research technician positions EVERY job advertisement asked for references to be included with the resume and cover letter. (One time this did end up resulting in my references getting contacted before they even asked me to interview.) I had begun to assume that this was a new hiring trend…good to know it’s just academia.

              1. ThursdaysGeek

                It’s not just acadamia — I applied at a utility and they did a background check and checked references before the interview. I asked about it and the HR person seemed to think it was more efficient that way! I’m guessing they only do that for people they’re planning to interview. And it is probably just an outlier, but it does exist.

                1. ThatHRGirl

                  Oooh no. In most states (feel free to chime in, attorneys!) it’s my understanding that pre-offer background checks are a no-no. My org just doesn’t do them, period, unless it’s post-offer.

                2. Ask a Manager Post author

                  I don’t know of any state where it’s illegal to conduct a background check before a job offer is made (there it’s certainly possible that there are some weird ones where it is). Are you sure that isn’t just your company’s policy?

                  (It’s actually smarter to do them before you make an offer, since if you make an offer contingent on the check, you’re leaving your candidates in limbo — not quite able to quit their current job with confidence yet. Plus, if something comes up in the check that makes you withdraw the offer — like a bad reference — they’ll know exactly why, which can cause problems for references.)

  11. Sandrine

    3 – OP, I understand how stressful you might think it is, but let’s try to shift it another way: you might be asked to train someone because you’re good at what you do.

    For me, when asked to “train” new hires, be it for one hour, one day or one week, it’s a “blessing” so to speak. Because it makes me feel better about a job I have a love/hate relationship with. Helping new hires makes me so happy it looks cheesy and ridiculous when I talk about it :P .

    1. Jamie

      I think this is a good point for managers to look at, also.

      Not all trainers are created equal. If I had the choice between someone like Sandrine or someone like me – I’d pick her to guide the new hires every time since she clearly loves doing it and that would have to have a positive impact on the new people.

      Me? I’m not mean or anything – but I’d be deliberately working to hide the fact that I’d rather be doing anything else …ever…than training. The vibe would be better with someone who loves it.

      That said Alison is absolutely right and it’s part of the job – it’s a totally normal thing to be asked to do and no one gets extra pay for what’s an inherent part of the job. If I got extra pay for the parts of my job that I hate I’d be a very wealthy woman.

      1. Sascha

        Training someone can also be a good way to learn the job yourself. I was told to train a new hire after I had been at my current job for one month, in conjunction with the more senior team member, who trained me. I was able to learn my job better by training the new person on a lot of the smaller, routine tasks, while the senior person handled more of the complicated stuff, and trained both of us at the same time. It worked out nicely because the senior person was able to spend more time on her normal tasks, and then more time on higher-level training, whereas I was reinforcing what I just learned by training the new hire on routine tasks.

        1. Chinook

          Also, training someone can help you do your job better by ensuring the trainee knows what they should be doing and not leaving a message for you to clean up on another shift. If you think about it, a poorly trained staffer makes more work for everyone. Don’t think if it as “ugh…training” but as a chance to help form the ideal coworker.

      2. Sandrine

        Heh, I did training for a week starting Feb 11th… the new hires are on the “afternoon” shift, I used to be mornings… I switched to “afternoons” last week to correct some of the issues mentioned in my comments in other threads, and it makes me pretty darn happy to be with the team I helped coach.

        Funny enough, first time it ever happened I went “Sweeeeeeeeet, free breaks for me, yeeehawww!” . Then it went to “Darn. That’s cool.” to “Best.Day.EVER.” to “I want to do this forever, weeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeeee!” .

        (Told you it could seem cheesy XD)

    2. LPBB

      One other thing to think about in terms of training coworkers, is you can make sure that they are being trained correctly. When I was still working retail, most of my big frustrations came from co-workers not doing their job properly. Even if training people was occasionally tedious and pushed me out of my comfort zone, I held onto the knowledge that at least they were being *taught* to do things properly.

      And you never know where it might lead. I was given a decent cash bonus from the manager of our other location because she was grateful that my remedial training sessions helped clean up some problems she had been dealing with!

      1. JamieG

        That’s a good point. I’m not a huge fan of training people in general (and I was even less a fan the first time I did it, since I’d only done the job for two months) but at least when I train them, I know that they’re learning the right way to do things! The people I -didn’t- train are the ones I have to spend half an hour cleaning up after when I get back from a break. I kind of want to beg my manager to let me train everyone who does my job before letting them behind my desk, just so there stops being a massive mess every time I leave!

  12. Your Mileage May Vary

    #1 – Skype interview: Just as a precaution for future interviews — dress appropriately on your bottom half, too. You never know when you might have to get up from the computer to get something or plug something in. Even if you think you’ve planned ahead for everything, you just never know.

    There’s a thread around here that talks about preparing for Skype interviews but I can’t find it. It was really, really helpful; it mentioned a lot of stuff that most people wouldn’t ordinarily think of when preparing for one.

    1. V

      Agreed. I was actually surprised that Alison didn’t metion it. If you did have to get up for some reason, and the interviewer saw that you were wearing only half a suit, it could give the impression that you only do the minimum that you needed to get by. An overly crictical impression, perhaps, but why risk it?

      1. College Career Counselor

        I also inform students that they might want to consider their background (in addition to their attire) when skyping. That includes a variety of issues, from risque posters/art to visible drug paraphernalia. Sometimes it’s more mundane than that. Make sure that the background doesn’t clash/cause video problems with what you’re wearing. I had a recruiter tell me once that the shirt a candidate wore was completely pixilated against the background. Is that a deal-breaker? No, but it is distracting, and you don’t want your surroundings or your wardrobe to detract from the rest of your interview performance.

        And for crying out loud, definitely wear pants. I heard from another recruiter that a candidate (not a student, mind you) was dressed only in boxer shorts below the waist, and the entire search committee realized this when the audio failed on skype and the candidate got up to answer their call on his cell phone.

    1. Jamie

      Doesn’t surprise me – in an SMB for example it’s likely it was a title change to reflect increased responsibility and not that they leapfrogged over a ton of people to get there.

      I.e. HR Manager could have done payroll, prelim hire screenings, paperwork, etc. Then if you expand that over time to dealing with benefit vendors, handling UI cases, crafting policy with employment lawyers, more autonomy over hiring, more policy authority a change to director makes sense.

      When I went from IT Manager to Director of IT it was in a short period of time and I didn’t beat out a bunch of invisible co-workers for it (in my department of 1) but it was just a way to reflect that it was more than managing and I had an active role in the direction of technology in the company, a budget under my control, and more authority to create, implement, and enforce policy with little or no involvement from my boss.

      1. Mimi

        I can understand IT Manager to IT Director…….but HR Asst to HR Director in 2 years is a pretty steep trajectory. Just never heard of that, is all.

        1. Anonymous

          Agreed, esp. when the OP said at the time she was HR Assistant, she did not have a degree. Newly earned degree and 2 years of experience=Director sounds a little like title inflation to me.

          I realize position titles can vary by industry, company size, job function, etc., but I’m betting SHRM has some guidelines that would require a little more experience than the OP’s for Director. Tough to say as an outsider to the HR field, but I imagine that an “HR Director” at a place like my company with 25,000 employees is a little different than “HR Director” at a small biz, even if your scope of work is the same.

          (FWIW, I checked a few postings and the “Director” positions in HR that I saw were 10+ yr experience jobs.)

          1. some1

            FWIW, in my company the admin assistants all have tasks/responsibilities that an Administrator, Coordinator and/or Office Manager would have at other places.

          2. Jamie

            I imagine that an “HR Director” at a place like my company with 25,000 employees is a little different than “HR Director” at a small biz, even if your scope of work is the same.

            Oh totally and that’s with anything. I work for an SMB of 100+ employees. I’m technically the CIO (which I’m in the process of arguing to go back to Director of IT – long story) but believe me as much as I like my job* I don’t for one second confuse it for the same title at another company. My dad was upper level management in IT at a huge international insurance company and I’ll never in my life make the salary at which he retired in the mid-80s.

            I have a lot of responsibilities outside of my scope of IT which I wouldn’t have at a larger company…but at the same time I still have to install printer drivers on occasion and the only thing impressive about my car is the HK license plate holder. And floor mats.

            It’s a preference – I like what I do* and where I do it* – but I don’t kid myself for one second that I’d be in the running for the same title in a larger company – and I don’t think it’s title inflation as much as you just need to consider titles in the context of the company.

            I have the same level of scope as anyone at this level in any company – but in a smaller company the scope is less.

        2. OP # 7

          I’m the OP to #7 – from HR Assistant to HR Director it is literally just one step up, although the title infers much more.

          My former boss when I was HR Assistant was out consistently, so even after a year of HR Assistant I was getting comfortable with the HR Director role until she left and I moved up.

          1. Mimi

            I’m wondering if that will end up hurting you, should you decide to look for an HR Director job elsewhere – since they are typically senior roles that require 8-10 yrs of experience.

          2. CJ

            Thanks for clarifying. I work in a huuuuuuuge org, where there are ten different HR titles across the departments. The gap between HR Assistant and HR Director here is like 8 titles and 20 years experience.

            From one HR pro to another, hope you get what you’re looking for at a new organization!

        3. Jamie

          You know I read assistant but in my head it translated to manager. I’m not drinking nearly enough coffee…so yeah. Sorry!

  13. some1

    Allison’s correct about the HR person who wants a higher salary; leave the student loans out of it. Companies don’t give raises based on financial need. If you have a child, take on the care of an elderly parent, or take on loans, it makes sense for you to seek a more competitive salary, but those debts are not your employer’s problem.

    1. Jamie

      Agreed – but the OP was not suggesting making it the employer’s problem. Of course you don’t ask for a raise based on financial need, but if you need more money than you’re bringing in that’s a perfectly valid reason to look elsewhere. She was just asking how to explain why she’s looking – not how to get her employer to give her more money.

      1. some1

        I took the LW’s issue as the fact that she needs a higher salary because of her student loans, and wants to know how to spin that. All I said was that I agree with Allison not to bring up the loans at all, and told her why. It’s perfectly reasonable for the LW to seek out better money, but employers don’t want to hear about her debts.

        1. OP # 7

          I certainly do not expect my employer to burden my student loans, I never mentioned brining up my student loans to the employer. I stated that my employer had a tight budget because I wanted Alison to know that my company could not match a competitive salary (in which I would stay with the company).

  14. Anonymous

    #6 happened to me too, I thought it was because I stupidly sent a “corrected” cover letter and drew attention to a mistake that caused them to lose interest. But hearing that it’s happened to someone else, maybe that wasn’t the only reason. It is super rude to reach out and offer an interview and then ignore the person when they respond. Even if you change your mind, you should say something. That’s like, I dunno, job search blue balls.

  15. Dexter

    Just another example how “arbitrary” performance reviews can
    cause an immense amount of harm in the work place.

    I once worked for a large non-profit that deal with a specific medical issue. The job essentially entailed being a phone counselor, although for legal purposes we were never referred to as that. We talked to people over the phone about their issues, sent them information, and transferred them to their local office and so on.

    Twice a month a supervisor would listen in on our conversations and then later review what they heard with us and then rate us. These reviews would then total in to our annual work review ratings. I tried hard to take into account what was said about my phone calls and improve.

    One day I took a phone call from one of our agents in an office in St. Paul, MN. She was wondering who to contact to get permission to have one of our health pamphlets translated into Swahili. They already had someone lined up to translate it for free.

    It was an unusual request so it took me a while to find the info. The agent was chit chatting with me while I looked. She mentioned that they had sizeable groups of immigrants from different areas living there, and they already had pamphlets in Spanish, Russian, Vietnamese, Mandarin, etc… I replied with a “wow, I never realized St. Paul was such a melting pot.”

    You guessed it that call was monitored and I was dinged on my review because I used the word “melting pot.”

    And that ladies and gentleman was when I stopped giving a crap. I was talking this over with an employee who had been there longer than I had and that is when she explained to me that upper management had determined that only X amount of people would get a great review, Y amount a good review, and so on.
    “And that is why” she told me “most people leave here after two years.”

    Sure enough, after two years there only about five people were left from when I started. I left shortly after myself.

    1. Jamie

      I don’t know if this would be workable in a larger company – but I think my boss does pretty much the perfect performance review system.

      Once a year he takes each of us to lunch individually and we kind of hit the highlights of the last year, talk about what worked and what didn’t…talk about the general direction of our careers and make sure we’re on the same page with where we’re headed. For me I get my operational budget approved for the year. He tells us where we rock and we discuss OFI (opportunities for improvement in ISO speak) for areas we don’t rock so much – and there are no surprises.

      I seriously cannot imagine my boss being unhappy with my work and not hearing about it until the performance review. That would freak me out because I’d be all kind of paranoid.

      And it’s your chance to bring up any training you want (we’re big on training here), anything you’d like to get involved in that he might not know about – and any changes in compensation.

      That’s where the almost perfect comes in. I would love it if this were completely divorced from the whole raise discussion – because it really is super productive and a very useful lunch…but the whole “do I negotiate or just say thank you and kick myself later” aspect of the raise thing puts a damper on it for me. I’d love it if that were done a few days later.

      By email. Or conducted by my agent who I would hire to negotiate for me.

  16. Tara

    Thank you for the answer about what to wear for a Skype interview. I have not had one yet, but I was a bit curious. I did notice that you left out the need for bottom bits but your readers covered that. For many of us, the rules have changed since we needed to search for, or interview for a job.

    1. Jamie

      Yeah – I absolutely think we should keep the rule about always wearing clothing on our bottom half to job interviews.

      It’s one of those timeless traditions I’d really hate to see pass. :)

  17. MizK

    #2 – Did anyone else realize that the question-asker left the employee’s gender ambiguous, and the response assumes the person is female?

    1. Jamie

      It’s a style choice Alison has explained before. Because she’s a woman she uses feminine pronouns when the gender isn’t specified. I’ve totally stolen adopted this as well.

      And what’s awesome is that she does it whether the person in question is a saint or an asshat – it’s not like she saves the feminizing for when only when it makes us look good.

  18. jennie

    Question #3 makes me feel sad. I see a lot of these questions asking if it’s legal or fair for the boss to ask someone to take on extra work. This kind of thinking is so backwards and it’s going to harm your career so much! You’re being given an opportunity to expand your skillset and show your boss you can take on extra responsibility. Grumbling about it or disputing the boss’s right to ask probably the worst thing you can do for your image at work. Take it as a compliment that your boss feels you can handle it and as an accomplishment you can now add to your resume.

    And I’d much rather be trained by someone who is familiar with the day to day job than a boss who oversees things but doesn’t know every detail.

    1. Cassie

      I would see it as a compliment myself. I also read somewhere (in Working World magazine?) that you retain like 90% of what you teach others so it’s a chance to reinforce what you know). But if the OP is not good at teaching/training someone else, or perhaps doesn’t know everything that he/she should know – it might not be a good idea for the OP to be training a newbie.

      That said, I assume management feels the OP is familiar with everything and thus qualified to train someone new.

  19. Job seeker

    #6. I hope Alison reads this post. I also hope you try to contact them again like Alison suggests. My problem is I applied for a position last week and the hiring manager called me yesterday afternoon. He left a voicemail and wants me to call him back. My problems is I am sick, I can hardly talk. I have lost most of my voice with a bad cold and coughing and my whole family is sick too. I need to return the call but do I mention why my voice sounds so weak. This is so embarrassing.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Yes, it’s totally fine — just say, “Please excuse my voice, I’m getting over a cold and have lost some of my voice.” Totally normal to say. Don’t be embarrassed.

      1. Job seeker

        Alison, thank you. I returned his call ( voice sounding horse) and have an interview this Thursday.

  20. Elizabeth West

    #1- Skype interview
    I linked to a video on my blog about this–basically, you really should wear the whole outfit. If you wear sweats or yoga pants, what happens if you have to get up? The interviewer will see them.

    Off-topic, but the reporter in the video talked with a very distinct vocal fry technique that sounded awful. To quote Alison–Aack, don’t do that!

    #4 – sleeping manager, jerk reviews
    Time to move on.

    #6 – no response
    Ditto.

  21. Kou

    #2 I gotta get on my chronic illness soapbox again. Without going on a tirade, people need to understand that managing pretty much any chronic condition is a massive give and take. You can’t live in your bubble being sick all the time, it’s crushing. Sometimes you have to do things that make you feel bad physically because otherwise you just spiral downward mentally, and that will make you physically sick at some point as well. Sometimes you’re not managing it with medication like you’re supposed to because you can’t afford to fill all of your extremely expensive prescriptions this month, or because you just don’t want to deal with the side effects for a little while. You never feel normal, not even on all your meds, and sometimes the meds fix your symptoms but make you sick in other ways. Sometimes you do things you’re not supposed to because god damn it, why can’t you just have that one thing like everyone else gets?

    There is also the distinct possibility that she is lying. Few people, especially my coworkers, will ever hear me admit that I’m just sick all the time. I exaggerate what I do in my free time so I look normal, since in my experience you can only mention your illness a few times before people get a bad attitude about it and judge you. There isn’t a way for you to feel and act normal, but everyone believes there is, so when you can’t make that happen they get angry at *you* as if you do it on purpose.

    1. Rana

      Yes. It’s not as if healthy people are 100% responsible all the time themselves – people get drunk sometimes, eat an extra serving more than they should, drive above the speed limit, etc. Expecting perfection from people who are already carrying the extra burden of their illness isn’t simply unreasonable; it is cruel.

  22. Yuu

    #7 Job searches can take a while. Even if your company can’t be completely competitive, why not ask for a raise in addition to your work? Don’t mention the student loans, just lay out the achievements you’ve done and why you deserve a raise. It might even help you prepare for interviews.

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