mini answer Monday — 6 short answers to 6 short questions

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

1. Organization where I volunteer won’t bother to reject me for a job I interviewed for

I was rejected, apparently, for a job for a nonprofit I’m actively volunteering for. I’m not only volunteering, I’m developing and leading a public tour for their development department. This is the department where I applied for a job.

After a two-hour interview, they have not even sent me an email that I didn’t get the job. I heard it through the volunteer grapevine that they hired someone else. Even a polite email from me asking about the job was ignored. I understand that there may have been more qualified candidates. But doesn’t a high-profile volunteer deserve the courtesy of a return email?

I know I should forge on and be brave. I believe in the work they do, and in the work I’m doing for them. Advice on how to do this would be much appreciated. I’m feeling pretty much like a doormat right now.

Talk to whoever you report to as a volunteer, and explain that you’ve never heard anything back from the person you interviewed with, despite emailing and directly asking for an update. Say that you certainly understand if you didn’t get the job, but you’d hope they’d respond to anyone who put in time to interview, let alone someone who volunteers huge amounts of time to the organization. Ask them to look into what happened. Once you get a response, decide if you’re interested in continuing to volunteer — and if you decide you’re not, make sure you let them know why. This kind of behavior is incredibly rude when it’s done to regular candidates; it reaches a whole new level of insult when done to a volunteer.

2. When you don’t want to work with someone your company might hire

My supervisors are interviewing to fill a position on my team at work. The other day, I noticed a resume from a man I know from a little while back who they have interviewed. Someone I am close to was discriminated in their workplace, lost their job, and then won the lawsuit against the employer. I realized that the candidate for the job at my work is the son of one of the defendants of the lawsuit. Because of this, I do not want to work with this man, but I am not making the hiring decision even through I will be his coworker and will be training/working closely with him for the next few months if he gets the job. Should I tell something to my boss about a conflict with his family? I’m concerned this will affect our ability to work with one another.

What?! Do you want to be denied jobs or treated badly by potential coworkers because of something a relative may have done? What you’re proposing is incredibly unfair, as well as poorly thought-out. This guy didn’t do anything to you or anyone you know. Stay out of it, and if he’s hired, treat him as you would anyone else.

3. Employer won’t reimburse mileage or cell phone costs

I’ve just started working for a nonprofit and am realizing that they are expecting us to use our personal property for the job. This was not mentioned in the interview process. For example, they want me to use my car to transport supplies to another center. I’ve done it twice but I don’t want to make it a habit since they are not reimbursing for gas, mileage, etc. When my coworker asked for reimbursement for using her personal cell phone to call clients, our manager said that in this industry employees are expected to use their personal property without reimbursement. I would like to be seen as a team player so I don’t know how to proceed. I thought of saying that my car is not a reliable one and I can only use it to go to and from work….what do you think?

People are sometimes expected to use their personal car or cell phone for work purposes, but they’re generally reimbursed for doing so (mileage or gas, the portion of the phone bill that’s over and above what it would have normally been with non-work use, etc.). Your manager is wrong that nonprofit employees are expected to incur costs without reimbursement — use the property, yes, sometimes (as in any sector), but go without reimbursement? No.

As for what to do … perhaps you and your coworkers can show your employer policies from other nonprofits on this, many of which are available online, or suggest they get guidance from the Center for Nonprofit Advancement or a similar group.

4. Writing a cover letter to a previous employer

I have looked elsewhere on the internet and there is very little (almost non-existent) information on how to write a cover letter to a previous employer. How should I approach this? Also, it’s a retail company. I am applying for a different position than what I did last time though they are both hourly.

Approach it the same way you normally would, but more informally (if you’re writing to someone you know), and let your previous time at the company inform what you write.

5. Performance review accused me of something I never did

After 5 years of working for a nonprofit and constantly receiving good reviews, I have received an unexpected poor review. The only reason given for requiring improvement was one I was not previously made aware of or given the option to explain or contest.

At the end of last year, while we were moving from our long-time location to a new space, a long-time volunteer who I had worked closely with asked me what the new location would mean for my commute. I told her that it would not be any more difficult to get to through transit but that I would non longer be able to bicycle everyday.

This volunteer, upset about how the move would affect her volunteer experience, wrote a letter to management to complain. In this letter she mentioned that the change of location would negatively affect me (in addition to many volunteers) due to not being able to bicycle any longer. Management concluded that I had a bad attitude regarding the move (which I did not) and that I was sharing my negative opinions with volunteers (which I was not). The fact that this letter even existed was only mentioned to me once casually and I was unaware that it was causing me to be perceived negatively. I was never solicited for my version or events, nor were other volunteers contacted regarding their experience with my attitude towards the move. I did not once discuss my feelings towards the move with volunteers in a negative manner and instead worked with them to ensure them their volunteer roles would not be negatively affected. The only time I mentioned the change in commute was when specifically asked if I could still bike.

It has also been brought to my attention that my two immediate supervisors over the year do not agree with my negative appraisal. I am unsure how to proceed be do not feel this appraisal was fair or adequate. I have been given two days to sign and return the assessment but do not feel I can sign it. Any advice would be greatly appreciated.

Well, first, signing doesn’t indicate agreement; it indicates you received it. It’s fine to write, “signing to acknowledge receipt only.” Meanwhile, though, talk to your manager and tell her that the content of the review is factually inaccurate and that you want her help in getting it changed.

(By the way, if this single incident caused the entire review to be negative, someone at your company is out of their gourd.)

6. Should I apply only for positions I’m fully qualified for?

After 4 years at my current company and over 2 years in my current position, I think that it is time to move on. I am a corporate trainer and am looking for another training position. Due to lack of experience (this is my first position as a trainer) and lack of formal education (I don’t have a college degree and my education in Adult Learning is all independent study), I don’t feel as comfortable at interviewing as I have in the past. I know I can train, I just don’t know how to “market” myself in an interview.

Basically, should I only apply for positions I feel qualified for, or should I apply for positions that I may not have enough experience for just so I can interview more? (As a side note: it normally takes me a week to apply for a job once I see it because I take the time to research and make sure I have a good resume and cover letter.)

Apply for positions you’re qualified for, but don’t feel that you have to be a perfect match. If you have 80% of the qualifications they’re looking for, go ahead and apply.

But don’t spend a week researching and preparing to apply. Given how many jobs most people have to apply for in this economy just to get an interview, if you spend that much time on it, you’ll either be spending every waking hour doing this or only applying to a job per week, which isn’t going to be enough. Aim to spend a maximum of an hour per application (including research time and writing the cover letter; ideally you’d have a basic cover letter that you could customize for each position — but not start from scratch for each, at least not most of the time). If you get called for an interview, at that point you can do more research and preparation — but the initial resume and cover letter shouldn’t take more than an hour, tops.

{ 108 comments… read them below }

  1. EngineerGirl

    #2 – Please, oh please don’t judge someone by their relatives! One of the best examples I know of is Butch O’Hare (a Medal of Honor winner). O’Hare airport is named after him. His dad worked for Al Capone. Yes, the mob boss. Would you really judge someone by their father?

    #5 – Oh, I had something similar happen to me. I wrote in my performance appraisal that I was surprised by it (because I was). I then started pushing for clarification. By asking for clarification, I found out some very incorrect assumptions had been made about a supposed incident that wasn’t. My manager said he would go to his boss and push back. It still makes one a little nervous though as there is now a loss of trust – as I explained to my manager – “I’m having a hard time trusting in you since you didn’t trust me”

    In your case, you need to put in your performance review that you believe that some incorrect assumptions were made based in misinterpreted facts. Definitely talk to your managers and see if they would push back. In your case it will be difficult as it seems as though the negative assessment came down from on high. Could you schedule some time with your high level boss to clear the air?

    1. Jessa

      Is it me or are we all seeing a whole lot of review negatives that come so far out of left field. Where the worker had no clue, and when they finally dig in and get an explanation it’s all about something that never happened? Is this a new trend where management just hands out reviews will they nil they?

      1. EngineerGirl

        Everyone is under schedule pressure these days. So sometimes things are not investigated as they should be and hearsay is utilized too much.

        1. Kelly L.

          I also think this may be related to the “you must give everyone a review, but you can’t give out any really high scores” phenomenon we’ve talked about on here. People are required to write reviews indicating there’s something wrong with the employee, but they can’t actually think of any real problems, so they slap on something they vaguely remember or heard about secondhand. >:(

          1. Cruciatus

            Ha, very true! The former director of my department always had to have 1 negative thing. Last year he said that most of us could “get too loud.” I should note I worked in a library and just talking in a normal voice (which sometimes had to be done) is “too loud.”

          2. Liz in a Library

            Yep. That is a pretty terrible trend, but I’ve seen or heard of it in many different companies…

          3. Joey

            Kind of, but there’s usually more to it. Usually the idea behind downgrading an evaluation is more a result of trying to align expectations organizationally. In other words its trying to get Wakeens performance as an analyst in finance to match Joe Quinn, also an analyst, with similar performance in say marketing. Both perform similarly, but because managers are holding them to different standards. Or it can be because from an organizational perspective someone else performed better, or their work was deemed of higher value.

            I know it can feel unfair because you’re only looking at your expectations and performance, but the higher ups are usually focusing on aligning evaluations from an organizational perspective. Now if they would just tell you that your performance will be compared across the organization maybe you won’t feel so cheated.

            1. Kelly L.

              What am I feeling cheated about now? I think this may be threaded with the wrong comment. I didn’t even talk about anything personal to me.

            2. EngineerGirl

              Spurious dings on performace have nothing to do with aligning cross group. If you were aligning cross group would would – Ahead Of Time – let employees know about the new standards. Then you would get with them occasionally to give them feedback so the performace review is not a surprise.
              But random zingers on performace reviews are unethical and bad managent.

      2. Anonymous

        Totally irrelevant, but I’m curious, is will they nil they a real expression? I’ve never heard it and am wondering if it’s an autocorrect of willy nilly or a different phrase?

        1. Kelly L.

          I think it’s somewhat closer to the original phrase, and likely a conscious archaism. I think the original phrase was “will he nill he.”

          1. Jessa

            It is (and I think my prior response got eaten,) will he nill he though does not mean haphazardly it means whether one wants to or not, which is why I went to the archaic form. Basically in this case I think modern corporate culture in some places really believes that you’re just supposed to hit people with a review and not actually work with them during the year. And will they nill they the bosses (even good ones who were taught how to manage,) become part of that corporate culture and start doing like everyone else. IE dumping a review on someone without prior discussion.

            So yes, it’s archaic, it’s a slightly different meaning than the modern use, and it’s deliberate on my part because I meant the original archaic meaning.

            1. Lynne

              Huh, I have never thought of that construction as archaic…not overly common*, but I’ve run into it before, and I may have used it myself without really thinking about it.

              *but no more rare, in my experience, than “willy nilly,” which I don’t hear very much either.

              (However, upon further consideration, this phrase probably only struck me as normal because I’ve run into it in print, not in oral conversation. Although it totally could’ve come up in conversation, given my friends.)

              Anyway, at least one person didn’t trip over your phrasing and knew what you meant, Jessa. :)

          1. FiveNine

            I had to stop at “will they nil they” and figure out what the poster meant, and I took it that the poster actually meant willy-nilly. (Then I temporarily doubted myself — even though all these years I’ve KNOWN willy-nilly is a real phrase, because between the two it looks like it would be the funny, incorrect phonetic way someone might write the phrase! — and had to Google to make sure willy-nilly is correct.)

        2. Jessa

          It’s deliberate not auto correct –

          http://www.phrases.org.uk/bulletin_board/42/messages/21.html

          but it actually means whether you want to or not. Not so much haphazardly which is what the corruption willy nilly means.

          As in this case where whether the manager has prior training about how to give reviews the corporate culture changes their perceptions “whether they want it to be that way or not,” so they give bad (method not content,) reviews. Whether they wanted to originally or not. Will they nill they.

      3. College Career Counselor

        Some places are under pressure (including higher education and presumably some non-profits) to have something negative in the review to keep the overall evaluation “down.” I’ve had evaluations kicked back to me by the division head because “they’re too high.” This stopped short (barely) of forced ranking, but it was an awful time for morale.

        I had legitimately high-performing employees who were very knowledgeable and extremely competent at their jobs. Generally speaking, at least one of them did something above and beyond the scope of their duties in terms of a project or achieved a very significant result in their work. But, no. The culture of that institution was “we expect high performance” (nothing wrong with that), but that high performance was supposed to be coded merely as “meets expectations.”

        So, everyone spent a fair amount of time doing their self-evaluations, which I had to then adjust DOWNward according to the caprice of the division head. (Later, we were told “don’t spend a lot of time on evaluations”–which sent a signal that they didn’t really matter to the administration.) You can imagine the effect this had on the morale of people who were doing a good job and desperate for acknowledgement of their efforts from those above me.

        Now, couple that with the fact that in private higher education, evaluations are generally completely de-coupled from bonuses/raises, etc. and the whole things becomes an absurd exercise. (Generally, everyone gets the same % raise, no matter how well you perform–with the possible exception that if you’re a low-performing employee, you might get less).

        So, if you want to reward a high-performing employee, you have to take money AWAY from another high performing employee. Everyone knew that the increase for the division was 2% or 1% or whatever, so if you got less than that (despite what your evaluations said), you would feel like you “failed.”

        Theoretically, there was a small pool of additional funds available to draw from to award a greater percentage increase for the exceptional employee. But, of course, managers in my division were never able to advocate for that because of the pressure to keep the evaluations down to “meets expectations” level.

        1. Another Evil HR Director

          I’ve been in HR for about 25 years. I can honestly say I’ve never worked for an organization that pressured managers to keep evaluation scores within a certain range, and am not personally aware of any that have. I’m sure there are some that do, but I’ve not seen it.

          Having said that, I do have continual issues with supervisors and managers who are reluctant to note deficient performance in evaluations. They don’t want to be “confrontational”. Unfortunately, when you don’t let an employee know he/she is not performing to expectations, you’ll never see improvement.

          1. Judy

            Not to be confrontational, but you’ve never heard of Jack Welch and forced ranking, that he used at GE?

            I’ve worked at 3 F100 companies in the past 17 years, and they’ve all used some form of forced rankings, and as GE has gone away from it, other companies are using it more stringently than they had.

            1. Another Evil HR Director

              Sorry. Yes, I’m certainly aware of the methods (forced ranking, etc.). What I was trying to say is that I’ve never experienced an atmosphere where management says “never give anyone more than a meets standards”, or something similar, outside of a formal ranking system. My impression of some of the comments was that they were not referring to such formal systems.

              1. Hate My Company

                I used to work at such a place. My supervisors supervisor had an expectation of everone doing exceptional, so that was the baseline 3. Nobody gets a 5 because there is always room for improvement, and nobody gets a 1 because they should have been fired. So we could give a 2 for someone who met realistic expectations, a 3 for the person who was excetional and for the rare person who was NEVER sick and always early to the office, well he got a 4 because he could have been there an hour early rather than half an hour.

                1. Joey

                  I hope your example isn’t a real one. I’ve seen people that worked 60 hours a week and didn’t get squat done.

          2. the gold digger

            My former employer, a Fortune 500 company, would not permit anyone in the legal dept to get more than a “meets expectations.” They said that by definition, a staff group could not exceed.

            My husband’s company has forced rankings. He got an exceeds two years ago and meets last year – his boss told him he had to rotate the exceeds ratings.

        2. Lisa

          We have 2 directors, and one complains constantly about his team while my director is always happy about us and never complains. Apparently, my director isn’t managing properly because he has nothing bad to say about us like the other director does about his team. Its becoming obvious that our boss doesn’t believe our director and is starting to not trust his judgement cause apparently having a happy team that no one has tried to leave in a year means that its all fake and we are not worked hard enough. Meanwhile the other director has no idea that 4 of his 8 person team are actively looking for jobs because he drives them so hard, is critical over the smallest things, and has worn down his staff so much that they don’t bother to put it any effort. How does complaining in person /reviews or saying negative things make him a better manager in the eyes of the boss? Who knows, but that is apparently how he gets raises and more respect for being tough on his team vs. the director that has happy people that consistently get praise from clients is treated like less of a manager that isn’t working us hard enough. The other director’s team could put a paperclip on a report and be praised, but our team gets ‘did you do anything or was it dumb luck that made the client get the best results in 4 years?’

      4. Ethan

        It’s not just you. It’s a way for corporations to justify only small raises, or no raises at all.

      5. Chinook

        I think part of the negative reviews based on inaccurate information may also be a product of bullies who realize that their behavior is unacceptable but, because of their place in the company, they know that their word still carries power. What better way to sandbags someone than to mention they are concerned about a coworkers attitude?

        In this example, though, I think it is a case of someone knowing a group opinion is more powerful than an individuals without realizing the negative impact it could have on someone else.

      6. Aimee

        I had this happen to me in my first job out of college (almost 15 years ago, so not such a new phenomenon). It was a retail job, and I was accused of just dumping a set of items (on one of those hangers that hangs off the edge of a shelf) in the wrong department instead of returning it to where it actually belonged (all because I had been returning one hanger full of that item and asked in that department where it belonged. I was pointed to the right location, put the items there, and someone dumped another hanger of them in the department where I asked for help. The people there just assumed it was me, even though they didn’t see it happen, and it was put on my review. And I was told I had no recourse).

        1. EngineerGirl

          It depends. If something is stated as fact and it is false then the company would be committing defamation and libel. They would want to fix that. If it is someone’s opinion you are stuck.

          And that is how you would raise the issue – having factually untrue things in a performance rating places the company at risk. And since you care about the company you want to raise the issue…

      7. Vicki

        My “favorite” from 20 years ago(!) was a manager who put something in my review that never happened. When I called him on it he said “Oh, there needs to be _something_ in the “needs improvement section. And no one ever reads these, really.”

      1. EngineerGirl

        Yup and he became a hit because of it. Most people think he testified because he saw the noose tightening and wanted to negotiate a way out. Make no mistake – “Easy Eddie” set up many of Capone’s legal schemes.

    2. Anonymous

      Hey, my grandfather (allegedly) worked for Capone.

      As Grandpa would’ve said, “Youse guys gotta problem with dat?”

  2. Marmite

    #6 – If it’s a job that allows applying with a CV and cover letter then an hour or two should be enough for most people. Although, people’s writing speeds vary greatly. I can knock out a reasonable cover letter in 20-30 minutes, less if I’ve got a template from previous letters. My brother takes much longer, he’s not a fast writer, and he struggles with the selling yourself concept of cover letters.

    Many jobs these days seem to have their own long, convoluted application forms to tackle too, which take much longer than just writing a cover letter. Still, I agree that a week is too long for one job application, especially in the current competitive job market, and I’m guessing the OP’s research is taking up a lot of that time.

      1. JustTheIntern

        And what was your major in high school?
        Are you including every job you have had over the past 20 years?
        I hate those forms.

        1. Christine

          And what was your major in high school?

          I’ve seen similar questions on job applications…glad to know I’m not losing my mind thinking that’s just a little odd! Perhaps that might apply to those who attend Voc Tech instead of, or in conjunction with, high school. I usually just put “general”.

      2. Mike C.

        Look, your high school gpa and extra-curricular activities are a really important indicator of who good of an employer you’ll be 20 years later. I know, because I just made it up!

        *Scurries off to write the next best selling business book.

      3. College Career Counselor

        Agreed about the horrible one-size-fits-all online applications. I know why they exist, but some of them are incredibly time-consuming. And, there’s a lot of junk that doesn’t actually contribute to the ability to assess the candidate.

        In higher education admisisons, so many institutions ask similar (or the outright SAME) stuff, there is now a common form that is used. This form is called the Common Application or “Common App” and prospective students fill it out and USE IT wherever they apply. Then, all they need to do is complete the supplemental form for the various institutions.

        I have to think this is a great time-saver, and I think there’s a market for a sort of “common application” for job candidates as well. I type quickly, and I’ve spent over an hour per 4-8 page HR application, even with cut and paste (which doesn’t always play nice with some HR electronic forms). Yes, I know HR has to collect its data for compliance and other purposes, but it seems to me that some sort of one-time form that could be used repeatedly would eliminate a lot of hassle and time for applicants.

        But, then again, maybe the time-consuming HR forms are another gatekeeping method designed to weed out frivolous applicants?

                1. Anonymous

                  Soooooooooooo if you’re un-employed or hard strapped for money I guess you’re out of luck. I pay taxes, why do I have to pay the states just to apply…smh

        1. Another Evil HR Director

          When we began using an online application, I was so excited! Until we started getting applications that left out important information — like their name, address and phone number. Seriously. We had to start making fields required simply to get the information we really needed.

          1. Scott M

            As a someone who works in I.T., I’m surprised that they weren’t already required. You never assume that people will enter the information you need unless it is required. Even I will rely upon a form to kick back an error message if I left out something important.

              1. Anonymous

                I would have thought that people who are looking for a job would at least let you know their name and contact info; the basic stuff.

          2. Rana

            If you use the required fields, please, for the love all that is good, if they require a specific format, tell us what it is!

            My poor husband had one online form he kept getting rejected because he’d entered the phone number in a way the computer didn’t like – he tried it with dashes, with spaces, with parentheses… I think we finally figured out it was no spaces allowed. And each time it was rejected, all the program did was flag the box as “entered incorrectly” with no clue as to what the correct form was.

            Then he had to go through the whole process again with the boxes that asked for dates…

            So, please please please if the computer can only handle one way of entering the data, tell people what it is!

        2. T

          The Common App was a GODSEND for undergraduate applications!!!!!!! Why can’t they have one for graduate school ? /rant/

        3. Marmite

          Ugh, the ones that don’t play well with cut and paste are the worst. I’ve done application forms that have taken 3-4 hours to fill out because I’ve had to type my entire CV in there.

          Then there’s the ones that use psychometric testing, that can eat up an hour or two. I once applied for a job that required numeracy and verbal reasoning tests as part of the application. Theoretically not a big deal, 20 mins per test, but the catch was they required Internet Explorer. Being a Mac user I had to go to the library and hang about waiting for a computer to use there!

          1. Elise

            You can get around the apps that won’t cut and paste from Word by pasting into Notepad, re-copying the info, then doing Ctrl-V in the app.

          2. ThursdaysGeek

            I like the ones that take a couple of hours to enter in the data, and then time out on you because you took too long. And of course, nothing is saved.

        4. Jane Doe

          “But, then again, maybe the time-consuming HR forms are another gatekeeping method designed to weed out frivolous applicants?”

          What’s funny about this, if your guess is right, is that the most qualified/skilled/experienced applicants (and certainly the ones who are employed) aren’t going to waste time filling out applications that ask things like their high school GPA or their college classes.

    1. op#6

      “and I’m guessing the OP’s research is taking up a lot of that time.”

      Yes, this is a big part of it. I found AAM by looking up how to note on a resume time doing temp work. I am writing my cover letter and resume to be geared towards training, so I don’t have a standard I can tweak yet. Even so, between researching writing the resume and researching the company, I am spending an hour or so a night.

    2. OP#6

      Since online forms have been brought up, I just came across something completely new. What happens if there is nowhere to upload your cover letter? There was a place for the resume, but not the cover letter. Should I email it to the HR department?

  3. Jennifer

    #2 – Huh? It sounds like you don’t even know the defendant of the harassment case, let alone the son who applied. Quite honestly, if you go to your boss with this, you’re going to look naive at best, ridiculous and entitled at worst. Unless I’m missing something major here, like the son was somehow involved in the issue, or you have actual experience with him that gives you doubts about his ability to do his job well, you need to give this guy a fair shake.

  4. Anonymous

    #1. That type of behavior is so annoying. I almost wanted to say screw them and bounce BUT if their service is helping people, and your service is aiding that, I’d say stay and continue to help. Just keep an eye on them.

    1. Marmite

      Unless it’s a niche service there are likely other non-profits providing the same, or similar, services. If the OP feels strongly enough about this to stop volunteering there she could likely find another place to volunteer without too much difficulty. Of course, she won’t have built up the relationship that she has here, but if she feels that relationship is soured by this experience it might be worth the move.

      1. Anonymous

        True. I was just saying don’t let their bad behavior sour LW’s mission. Maybe it would be a wake up call to them if LW left. Might see how valuable LW’s work was.

  5. Anony1234

    #1
    I’ve volunteered with a few different organizations over the last almost 15 years. Usually there is a air of different treatment when it comes to volunteers. And I’m not saying that to say one size fits all, but from the few different ones I had volunteered with all had issues when it came to handling volunteers.

  6. VictoriaHR

    #6 – I’d say that 4 years of experience performing the role at one employer is excellent experience and you’re not “inexperienced.” If you’re insecure about your amount of experience, it could be coming across in your resume/interviews.

  7. Steph

    #2 – There has got to be a paragraph missing that the OP forgot to include in her letter to AAM. I’m missing some critical part of the story as to why the OP is concerned about working with the son of the scorned father. [Working with the father would be a separate scenario…]

    #6 – As a former trainer for 4 years of my 15 year career, I want to comment on the component, “how do I market myself?” component to your question. I have a college degree but in a completely unrelated topic – not in adult learning – but I still get recruiter calls for being a trainer and I haven’t been in the role for 5 years. My background for the last 15 years: a Big 5 consulting firm and 2 Fortune 100 companies. I was good at what I was doing and kept telling people that I was interested in training…1 year later, I was leading a training effort.

    The fact that you don’t have a degree in adult learning is actually perceived to be a plus by many, many organizations and many, many people. (Or maybe even a degree, period, although it will be more difficult for you to move into this type of position in another organization without one. However, with 2 years of good experience, all bets are off!)

    Here’s why I say that…There’s an awful lot of theory out there (aka, book smart), and an awful lot of bad trainers who “stick to the book” since they can’t apply business knowledge to their training. There’s also some that can’t make a transition between “what this book says that I should do” and “what my organization needs” — i.e., insisting on extensive processes that don’t deliver the value. These trainers are not the ones that people ask for to be part of their implementation teams when training is required. In this business climate, there’s not a lot of extra $$ for extensive “by the book” training — it has to be the cheapest, most effective, how do you transfer the knowledge in the most effective way.

    [Note: Conversely, there are also A LOT of great trainers with adult learning degrees who combine both theory and practical knowledge to be completely awesome at their job. This is not a blanket statement that is condemning anyone with adult learning degrees].

    Here’s my advice: position your cover letters and resume to focus on your ability to blend business knowledge with a practical training methodology (re: earlier statement on time with a consulting firm :-) ). Highlight any software that you use that’s specific to training – PPT, Word, Publisher, Captivate, etc. Highlight project management skills.

    Weave in how you go about learning or digesting/applying the knowledge that you have to transfer. If it’s software…how did you learn it and why/how the user community uses it? If it’s a process…did you work with SMEs learning what you needed to train? How did you make sure that you were knowledgeable enough to train to the objectives of the course?

    Explain / clearly define how you entered into the training role — in your cover letter or your resume. Make it clear how you transitioned between your former role(s) and into training, “After 2 years as a Mad Teapot maker, I was asked to join training team due to XYZ experience and YUX mad skills.”

    Highlight specific training examples that you led, created, and delivered, the number of people that you trained, and focus on results that you achieved (e.g., the user could now use MS Word to create and save a file!) and money that you saved the company using your Amazing Methodology.

    Focus on things like your skills in training materials development and presentation skills. Talk about the styles of training that you’ve done – workshop, classroom, self-study dev, materials creation. Use appropriate key words – objectives, learner, train the trainer, instructional design, quick reference guides, assessment, etc. I would: look for entry level trainer or training coordinator positions, look for positions that have a travel component (assuming that you’re willing to do some travel), and look in industries where “working your way up” is an accepted practice. My advice is to look at manufacturing, store operations, distribution, call centers, and transportation.

    Depending on how your search goes, this may be one of those circumstances where you may be better off in taking a lower level HR coordinator (etc.) position and telling everyone who will listen that you’re interested in training roles….and then building those relationships so that you can move into a training role. It’s easier to discount someone who doesn’t fit the roleon paper– it’s more likely that the now nameless-faceless Hiring Manager will try to fit you into the training role once you’re getting great reviews.

    Hope that helps.

    1. OP#6

      Thank you so much for the information! This has helped so much and I even have a couple ideas on how to personalize my cover letter while highlighting my awesome training skills.
      Thank you again! :D

  8. Eric

    #6, re: time spent on applications

    Any thoughts on how long you should spend preparing for a phone interview. Let’s assume it is with a company that you hadn’t heard of until you applied for a job. 2 hours sounds about right to me, though I could imagine running out of things to learn about them after 1 hour.

  9. Kay

    I actually find it’s best to leave 2 hours for a job application, if the company has a really complicated web form that will require you to fill in all of your information (again, even if you uploaded your resume) and do a questionnaire and, like some very badly programmed ones I’ve encountered, lose data when you move between pages in the order they didn’t intend. Writing the cover letter, on top of all the forms (which about 60% of the 70 jobs I’ve applied for this year require), can take a lot longer than you think. Even if you’re a quick writer.

    1. Marina

      But you should have the basics of your cover letter ready to go. Presumably you’re applying to jobs that are relatively similar, in the same industry, etc, in which case your cover letter should include similar points about how your background prepares you for the position. Update it for the individual position and organization, of course, but you shouldn’t need to write a cover letter from scratch every time.

      1. Kay

        In my case there’s some career-jumping involved. (My last full-time position was a very rare one and, having lost it, I pretty much need to leverage the skills I learned there into a different field if I ever want to work full-time again.) So every letter takes a bit more work to explain how I’m relevant. But I realize that’s atypical.

  10. Shelley

    #1- How annoying! I am going through the same thing right now (though not a volunteer). I have been applying for jobs for 4 months now and I have had 2 interviews (one more coming this week), and BOTH companies have not even bothered contacting me to reject me. And I followed up politely to both places and still not even a response to my follow-up. This is such a new standard of rude. One of the companies is also a HUGE international and well respected non-profit. I’ve started to come to expect that if I don’t hear by the timeline the hiring manager or HR person gives me, I probably won’t hear anything at all. Job searching is already such a discouraging and stressful endeavor and this just makes it even worse. My confidence has never been in such an awful state.
    I’m sorry this has happened to you, and I know it makes it even more disdainful that you volunteer for the place. I honestly wonder what they think rejected candidates are going to do? Reach through their computer and wring their necks? It’s honestly so weird, and a polite rejection email would only take 2 minutes!

    1. Anonymous

      Sorry to hear about your disdain. I know people are super busy but a pre built form letter saying they are going in a different direction with the hiring would put an end to the rudeness. You know, the shoes could end up on the other feet, previous hiring managers our looking for work. They sure wouldn’t like to be ignored. Do unto others as you would do unto yourself.

    2. FiveNine

      I don’t think companies are aware of just how much this can sour people to the company forever after — people who, before, had been at least enthusiastic enough to want to work there. Since 2008 I have had friends who have interviewed at companies of all types and not received any kind of acknowledgement that the job has been filled. And universally, they are all turned off to the company afterward. I’ve seen entire threads on Facebook, for example, where, once a person admits this has happened to them in their long search for a job in this market, so many more join in and name the company and describe their ordeals.

      1. Dixter

        And when it’s a non-profit that depends on donations and volunteers it’s even more mystifying why they would alienate people by not responding.

  11. Anonymous

    #1 – I think we’re missing critical information to be able to give advice. What is the timeline?

    #2 – If the company is hiring someone you do not want to work with, then find another job. Though I consider your reasoning to be lacking, at the end of the day if you don’t want to work with someone, then don’t. However, it’s on your end to make that happen -not your employer.

    1. Eric

      #2 really depends on your reason for not wanting to work with them. If they are a former co-worker who you know to be a bad employee, then I think you can (and should) tell your employer about it, and encourage them not to hire that person.
      I don’t think this example rises to that level, but I wouldn’t generalize the situation like that.

  12. Chaucer

    #1: Wow, it is beyond pathetic that an organization that you volunteer for couldn’t even give you the time of day to reject you following an interview. Yes, I would talk to somebody about that, and possibly reflect on whether or not you want to continue volunteering for them. I certainly would not want to devote any more of my free labor to a company who won’t respect me.

  13. Jill

    #1 – Ignoring your email is rude, BUT don’t assume anything based on the grapevine. Maybe they haven’t made the offer or the offer hasn’t been accepted, so there is a delay in notifying the other applicants that the job is filled. How long has it been since your interview? and your email?

    1. Doormat

      I was given the name of the new hire by another volunteer, who heard it at a staff meeting. The interview was over three weeks ago. The short, polite email was sent a week ago. The position is definitely filled.

  14. A Bug!

    #2 – Here’s a funny thing, Writer. What you propose – telling HR that you don’t like Bob’s dad and therefore HR should consider not hiring Bob – is something that, if it was acted upon, is grounds itself for a discrimination complaint in British Columbia (maybe the rest of Canada, too).

    It’s called ‘discrimination based on family status’.

    I’m sure you don’t live in an area where such a law exists. I share not because it’s directly applicable to you but because I thought it might provide a new perspective for you.

    1. Anonymous

      I don’t know how it’s defined in BC, but in Ontario, discrimination based on family status is defined as, to quote:

      “Under the Ontario Human Rights Code, persons in a parent-child relationship have a right to equal treatment in the workplace. This means that employers cannot discriminate in hiring, promotion, training, benefits, workplace conditions, or termination of employment because a person is caring for a child or parent.”

      I’m not quite sure if this situation falls under that case.

  15. Gene

    Since no one has poked at #3, I’ll pass on what I’d do, at least for a while.

    I’d ride transit to work; or if that’s not an option, drive to within a couple of miles, park at a P&R and bicycle or walk the rest of the way. My cell phone would be on silent and in a purse/pocket at all times unless I was sure I was alone (i.e.: in a one-holer).

    In my workplace we’ve been issued a directive that says we are not allowed to use personal phones for business pruposes and that any POV use must be preapproved (and that is only if a City-owned vehicle is not available) and mileage logged for reimbursement. The phone thing is for records retention.

    INAL, but I’d imagine if you were in a traffic accident while deilvering supplies from one place to another (what, UPS/FEDEX/USPS) don’t go there?) the employer is on the hook where liability is concerned. You might check your current insurance; you may not even be covered if you are driving your car for business purposes. Heck stuff your car into a telephone pole and make work buy you a new one. JK! :-)

  16. Rose

    #5! This happened to me twice at the same organization. It was quite a while back when I was just starting out my career. I remember sitting in my annual review being speechless as the HR Manager proceeded to berate my about something that 1) I didnt do, it was someone else who worked there as I remembered the incident clearly & 2) Had never been brought to my attention before! If my employee did something to make me angry, why not talk to them at that moment in time instead of waiting a whole year? It was pretty evident from my conversation with him that he had been carrying that info around with him all year and I am sure it contributed to his overall crabby attitude towards me. Anyway, I guess my point is that I feel your pain. Hopefully your situation will turn out better than mine did. I attempted to clear my name and was accused of being defensive, which guess what? Was put on my review for the following year! LOL sometimes you just cannot win. Of course as soon as I finished college I left that company as fast as I could.

  17. Anonymous

    #2–I’m going to play devil’s advocate here, something I debated doing in the political assistant post for the same reasons. I can see why the LW would have some concerns about working with this person. True, people aren’t responsible for their parents’ choices. But assuming the parent really did discriminate against someone (sometimes employers lose these cases unfairly), it’s the kind of thing where there’s a legitimate concern that the applicant might share the same attitudes about, say, women or minorities as his parents. Say the dad sexually harassed or refused to promote a woman (or both). It’s not out of the realm of possibility that he was the type of person who made the kind of daily misogynistic comments that make up our largely misogynistic culture. The son could have absorbed that. When you grow up hearing comments like “Slow as a n-word” or “Dumb broad,” it’s hard to break out of that mindset unless someone else you admire goes way in the other direction.

    If the father had been convicted of embezzlement or something, I wouldn’t say there was likely to be much of a problem. I doubt the dad came home bragging about it and teaching the applicant how to cook the books. And if the position has no potential for discrimination, then I guess there’s little chance it’ll turn out badly. But what if down the road someone accused the applicant of sexual harassment and it was discovered that the company knew he was related to this man? That’s the kind of thing that can turn into a PR nightmare.

    Since the LW isn’t involved in the hiring, she could easily not allow herself to get involved. I’m just saying I understand her concern. There were a lot of commenters in the student loan post saying that no matter how many legitimate reasons there are to have bad credit or bankruptcies, there are plenty of applicants without that risk to choose from, so sorry. This has a heck of a lot more potential to blow up in the company’s face than hiring someone who declared bankruptcy after a messy divorce.

    1. Another Emily

      Even if the concern is legit, I still can’t think of a way for the LW to approach the hiring manager about this that wouldn’t make him/her look petty. I think it’s best for the LW to stay out of it.

    2. Anonymous

      No. I will not accept this.

      My father is a racist, sexist, raging alcoholic.

      My mother is a racist, sexist, raging alcoholic.

      I am not any of those things. I hated every minute of the 17 years that I lived with them. I recognize their appalling behavior for exactly what it is, precisely because I lived with it daily for years. They were abusive and downright crazy.

      And now you would come along and condemn me. You would condemn someone who was an abused, mistreated child. Someone who was told she would be shot if she ever brought a black boy home. Someone who was told, loudly and often, that the only way she would ever amount to anything would be to marry a rich guy. You would dare to condemn me.

      Condemn my parents! Condemn them loudly! Goodness knows that no one did for the 17 years they were beating me. Where were you and your self-righteous pronouncements then? Condemn the people who deserve it, those who earn it through bad behavior. Do not dare condemn me, though. I lived through hell, and while I don’t want your pity, I have done nothing to earn your scorn. I am not some second-class citizen by birth.

      1. Anonymous 3

        I’m not sure I understand how you feel the situation is the same. You hated your parents because they were cruel to you, so you hated their racist and bigoted views. If they’d been kind and nurturing parents who just happened to have terrible attitudes about certain groups of people that didn’t affect you, you would have much less reason to care. You’d probably be more than likely to share the attitude because these are people you love.

        You’re saying that random anonymous posters on a blog who may well live on the other side of the country should have known you were being abused and helped you and aren’t allowed to ever judge anyone again because they didn’t. If your situation was anything like mine, since I certainly wasn’t talking about what happened to me, it would have required alot of assumptions and potentially false accusations. But you’re not ok with someone making those assumptions about you or this accused person’s child, just your parents?

        Please don’t use abuse as a way to shut down an argument that has nothing to do with it. I wasn’t even in agreement with the OP before, and your emotionally manipulative diatribe actually made me furious enough to see why they have a point.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Really? The commenter’s point seemed completely clear and well said to me: You can be raised by racist parents and not be racist yourself, and it’s terrible to assume that someone holds certain beliefs just because their parents do, to the point of wanting to deny them a job. That’s pretty clear-cut.

      2. Lora

        Thank you. And virtual hugs from one child of nutty parents to another.

        LW#2, I really hope nobody judges me by my family. My cousin is a fairly notorious athlete who was busted for steroid use; another was a famous art forger; another was a baseball commissioner who presided over some pretty nasty scandals. We’ve got plenty of great scientists, engineers, actors, teachers, musicians, artists, ministers, Congresscritters, doctors, etc. in the family tree too–as does pretty much everyone when you have a look. All families have their share of black sheep.

    3. EngineerGirl

      If the father had been convicted of embezzlement or something, I wouldn’t say there was likely to be much of a problem.

      As if the pattern of dishonesty wouldn’t have been modeled at home.

      It is reasonable to investigate. But #2 goes way beyond that. The person, using unsubstantiated hearsay information, has already decided that they don’t want to work with the person. Worse – they are ready to act on it! I find this kind of attitude pretty scary. In #5 above we are were talking about people getting dinged based on untrue assumptions. What OP #2 is doing is the exact same thing.

  18. opquestion5

    Original poster for question 5 here. I was actually advised during my review meeting that all final assessments would be the equivalent of the lowest grade due to cost cutting. So, although I was rated as fully performing on 3 of 4 variables (my company will not rate higher then fully performing, ever), my final assessment will be needs improvement due to the one area.

    I actually met with another senior manager today (so I’ve now met with 3 of 5) who also agrees that my assessment was unfair. Unfortunately the consensus is that nothing can be done. Sounds like one of the higher ups is refusing to budge, possibly because they had to diffuse the situation with the disgruntled volunteer.
    The worst part is I am confident this volunteer would quit if she knew her letter had resulted in this.

    I’ve been given to the end of the week to sign and hand in my assessment instead of the original 2 days. I think I’ll include several emails from volunteers from over the year about that a great job I do, as well as emails from two supervisors that specifically state they do not agree with the review and continue my job hunt!

    1. bob

      I was bushwacked in a review way back when and you have a very good plan to include positive comments and the emails from the other managers. The end result may not be quite as satisfying because you may have to move on to another job knowing you were wronged and they don’t have enough guts to admit it.

      In my case I actually got an apology a few months later from the person who led the bushwacking but it didn’t change the fact that it happened and I won’t ever forget who was involved. I work in a pretty small industry and I won’t ever work with a couple of people ever again due to crap like you’re going through.

  19. Elizabeth West

    2. When you don’t want to work with someone your company might hire

    This was my nightmare when I was unemployed last year. We had a manager at OldJob who was a lazy jerk and a bully. I heard he got canned , and I was terrified I would get offered a job at his new company (whatever that is now; I have no idea one way or another). I wasn’t a direct report to him but I did not want to work with him or around him again.

  20. AG

    #3 is awful, and ludicrous. I worked for a nonprofit and our mileage was reimbursed (not as much as it should have been, but it helped). Any job that required a cell phone was either company-provided or you got part of your personal cell bill paid for. And people who worked in the field (akin to sales reps, who have offices at home) got part of their Internet bill paid for.

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