contacting employers through Facebook, getting a raise after 8 years, and more

It’s terse answer Thursday — seven short answers to seven short questions. Here we go…

1. Contacting an HR director through Facebook

Is it rude to contact the HR director through Facebook? I’ve been job hunting for months with not one single interview in sight, so I’m getting pretty frustrated. I thought about changing my tactics and doing a little bit of self promo without being invasive, so I researched hiring managers and HR directors.

There is this amazing company that has a job I think I’ll be perfect for, but I don’t want to fall into the pile of garbage again. I found who the HR director is, and I was able to find his Facebook page. I was thinking of sending him a message there telling him that I know they are hiring and I’d love to provide him with my resume if he’ll allow me, but would he be insulted by that or would he consider this approach a “go-getter” asset?

Don’t do that. Facebook isn’t a professional network; it’s a personal one that most people don’t use for work, and many people are annoyed to get job-related emails there. You could certainly try contacting him via LinkedIn since that actually IS a professional network, but a better strategy would be to forget that altogether and instead work on putting together a better resume and cover letter, since those are the usual culprits when someone isn’t getting interviews. For help with that, read this.

2. I’m not getting any direction in my new job

I just started a new job as a product manager for a start-up internet company. Since I’ve started, I have had no real assignments or tasks. On several occasions, I’ve taken it upon myself to come up with my own projects (research and document findings, map out a workflow, and develop mockup drawings) and have sent them to my manager. Each time this happens, she thanks me for sending, and tells me that it’s helpful in a polite “you’re new” kind of way. After that, I don’t get any further direction, feedback, or follow up from these mini-projects, nor am I given direction to do anything else. It’s been three weeks of simply sitting at my desk, mostly surfing the internet, and it’s killing me! Is there a way for me to ask for something to do without sounding like I need her to hand hold me? She’s an entrepreneur type, and has mentioned to me that she doesn’t like to micromanage.

Ask for broad goals. Ask her what a successful three months / six months / year would look like in the position. What should you achieve in the next quarter? If she won’t or can’t tell you that, there are bigger problems there.

3. When should I follow up on this promising communication?

I have had two in-person interviews with a consulting company. I have been told by HR that I “killed” on them. I had a third phone interview with a senior VP on May 10th and it went great. Last Friday, I had not yet heard anything, so I called my HR contact to see if they needed anything else from me, and she told me, “You must be clairvoyant, I’ve been emailing about you all morning.” She said it was all good things and they are “finalizing things with the client” and an HR VP “will call you next week.” As of today, I have yet to receive a call. I am just curious as to what may be going on. Should I follow up at all, and if so, when?

She said someone would contact you this week, so wait for this week to be fully over before you follow up again. Otherwise, you’re being pushy — the timeline she gave you hasn’t passed yet. If you don’t hear anything this week, it’s fine to check back with her next week — but even then, I’d give them a bit of a buffer and contact her Tuesday or Wednesday, not Monday. And remember, if they want to hire you, they’re not going to forget to — it’s not like you need to remind them that you exist.

4. Is it legal to fire me for not meeting all the job’s qualifications, when they knew that when they hired me?

If a company hires you, knowing full well that you don’t meet every requirement for the position (your license is different than the one required), can they then come back and fire you for not meeting all of the requirements?

I was hired by a company that doesn’t accept a barber’s license. I have worked there over a year, but now they may fire me because I don’t have a cosmetology license. They recruited me, recieved a copy of my barber’s license, and hired me. Now a separate employee problem with a different employee has them putting me on admin leave (I’m a manager) with the threat that they may have to fire me because of the requirement of a cosmetology liscence. Is this legal? They knew about and verified the barber’s license.

Yes, it’s legal. it’s unfair, certainly, and you could and should try pushing back — pointing out that they knew about it when they hired you and that you’ve done an excellent job for them for more than a year, with excellent reviews (which is hopefully true). But if they ultimately won’t budge, that’s their prerogative.

5. How can I get a raise from a company that hasn’t given me one in eight years?

I have worked for a Fortune 500 corporation for 8 years. Due to the economic downturn, I accepted a lower starting wage, believing that as the economy improved, so would my wages. But I am still at the same ranking and wage as when I started, despite acquiring a company certification (3-year process) and advancing to my current position, 2 ranks above. I work long hours and do the work of my superiors, who shirk their duties but somehow manage to get promoted. Twice I have been strung along by managers that have jumped ship before coming through on the promises made as they increased my duties. Now is the time of year when decisions for promotion are made, and I currently have no manager to represent me in the executive meeting where promotions are decided. I am my family’s sole source of income and insurance and need my job, but how can I get the proper compensation without risking everything?

You can certainly make the case for a raise to whoever you’re reporting to, but ultimately, you’ll need to believe what the company is telling you through their actions — if they’re not promoting you and increasing your salary after eight years, there’s not much reason to believe they’ll do it anytime soon. Why not look for another job rather than putting all your eggs in this basket?

6. Who should I send my resignation to?

I’m unsure about whether to send my written notice to my manager’s email, or my company’s email. Which one should I do?

Neither. Talk to your manager in person. You should never let the first news of your resignation be a formal resignation letter; you talk in person with your boss first. (And even then, you often don’t need a resignation letter; you only need one if the company requests one.)

7. Following up with a company that I might not be interested in

How do I handle following up with a company I may not be interested in? I met several potential employers at a career fair at my university that was only open to alumni/students. I met some great people and companies and am excited for a career change this summer. I met a software company that does training for local governments such as police/fire/EMTs, etc. Having worked in public sector for 10+ years (including with police/fire), as well as having experience in facilitating, I thought it may be a good match. The recruiter asked for my resume and I happily gave it to her. We discussed the position some more and it was revealed that the position requires travel about 80% of the time around the country to do training for cities. I didn’t realize this when I handed over my resume and wasn’t going to ask for it back. I just received a phone call today about a possible interview with the person I met at the career fair.

I will return the call, as that is my professional nature. I am just unsure how to proceed. Do I at least go to an interview to learn more and then during the interview process reveal I am not interested in traveling that much? I am all about being open-minded and hearing what an employer has to offer. But I do know that my family and I truly value our dinners at home with small children. I know many people do this on a regular basis. I guess I was just caught off guard by this. Traveling once a month or so is fine. But Monday-Thursday every week really doesn’t appeal to me. Advice on how to proceed or handle?

Return the call, and when they ask you to come in for an interview, say, “I’d love to talk about working with you, but when I spoke with Jane, she mentioned that the position is 80% travel. I’m not able to travel that much. Is it a requirement of the position?” If they say yes, then you can explain that this probably isn’t the right fit but that you’d love to be kept in mind for future openings.

What you don’t want to do is go to the interview and then mention this — because since you were told earlier, they’re likely to be annoyed that you wasted their time if this was already a deal-breaker for you.

{ 56 comments… read them below }

  1. Jane

    Alison, I’m curious about #6. Should you still tell your manager in person even if that same person is the reason you are leaving?

    1. PEBCAK

      Why would it make a difference? You never tell someone that your manager is the reason you are leaving. You make up something vague about new opportunities or whatever.

      1. Dang

        Yes.

        I did this and it was the difference between very harsh words (in the experience of two other coworkers who left) and a “no hard feelings” approach. Although I avoided the ” it’s your fault” speech too, because we’d already been down that road so why slam the door?

        1. Chocolate Teapot

          The last time I switched jobs, I wanted to speak to my boss in person, but he was out of the office and would only be back after the date on which I gave my notice. (It is a legal requirement based on how long you have worked for the company)

          And since the HR team were all out too, I ended up simply sending them a letter.

          1. Min

            When I quit my last job in the US to move to the UK I emailed my manager because he was on vacation and then I was having a long weekend when he got back.

            I explained in the email that, while I would have preferred to speak to him in person, I wanted to allow as much notice as possible (I knew he always checked his work emails even when he was off) and it would have cut a week off the time if I’d waited until we were both in the office.

            I ended up regretting it because when I came back from my long weekend I discovered he’d held a big meeting in my absence to inform everyone I’d resigned. I know he had every right to do that, but it felt oddly violating for him to discuss it with everyone else without even replying to my email much less speaking to me.

        1. Anonymous

          But fair or not, expressing that the reason you want to leave is because of your current manager is more likely to burn a bridge with the company than to keep things civil enough for a reference. Unless one is a master at diplomatic but honest relations!

    2. Just a Reader

      I did. I certainly did not tell him to his face that he was what drove me out. I thanked him for the opportunity, handed over a transition plan and survived a very awkward 2-week notice period.

    3. Elle-p

      Yes, if at all possible. And I wouldn’t disclose that as the reason either unless you are comfortable with not getting a reference from them. I’m not sure if other companies operate in the same fashion, but typically our HR will provide the relevant manager with any feedback given in the exit interview so that they can learn from it. If you disclosed to them that issues with the manager were the reason for your departure that information would almost certainly make its way back to the manager in some fashion.

    4. Greg

      First of all, the preferred media for resignation letters is cake: http://www.businessinsider.com/resignation-letter-written-on-a-cake-2013-4

      Second, assuming you don’t possess the talent that guy does, Alison’s advice is fine as far as it goes, but the fact is, as long as you deliver the news in a professional manner, no one will care or even remember how you communicated it. Doing it in person is better because that’s how most people communicate major announcements, but if you have to do it over email because your boss is out of the office, that’s fine, too. Really, it’s not that important.

  2. PEBCAK

    #1: Your message is most likely going to go to the hidden in-box that nobody sees, anyway, so then you won’t even know if you’ve really made contace.

    1. Ash

      Why does everyone try to pretend that the Other box is “hidden” or “mysterious”? If you click on Messages, you have two choices on the left, Inbox and Other. If you have anything in your Other folder, the title is bolded and there is a number next to it telling you how many messages there are in that folder. It’s not hidden or or secretive, people just don’t look.

      1. Natalie

        Probably because the Other mailbox doesn’t give the user an alert when they get a message. Most people I know don’t check their Facebook inbox unless they have an alert.

      2. Ask a Manager Post author

        Many people don’t know to look, because they don’t know that it even exists. I didn’t know until I read a Slate article about a while ago. And then looked and discovered messages that were more than a year old that I’d never known about.

        1. Liz in the City

          I didn’t know I had an “Other” mailbox until just now and I’m a daily FB user. And I too have messages older than anything.

        2. Samantha Jane Bolin

          Ha! Interesting. I use FB multiple times a day and this is the first I’ve heard. 25 messages dating back to 2009.

      3. Rana

        The last time I looked in the “Other” box, it was full of stuff from pages I follow – junk, in other words. I wouldn’t expect a message from an actual person in there, so I rarely look at it, if ever.

  3. Jessa

    Regarding the licence thing, I would not be surprised if the issue with the other employee might have to do with their licence and during the discussions they punched back with but OP also has that kind of licence. At which point things blew up in your face for their problems.

    How hard is it to upgrade what you have to what they want? And would they maybe be willing to help you DO that since you say you’ve been doing good there.

  4. Jeff

    The other piece of number 4 is that you should be eligible for unemployment in this situation.

  5. shellbell

    Contacting someone you don’t know on Facebook to pester them about a job *is* invasive.

    1. KarenT

      Absolutely agree. I would be annoyed. It’s mildly stalkerish, and shows you not respecting their work/life balance.

    2. Another Emily

      The only good that would come of it is the guy will lock down his privacy settings. There’s no good in this for you OP.

  6. 7

    #1.

    I agree with Alison, please don’t contact them on FB. That is their personal space. Successful job searching isn’t about clever tactics, go-getter activities or doing things to make you stand out. A well written resume with proven accomplishments and tangible skill sets often leads to employer interest.

    There are so many people out there looking for jobs, now is not the time to have a weak resume. +1 on the well written (customized for each job opening) cover letter. Amazed by how many people still don’t find those necessary to write.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Successful job searching isn’t about clever tactics, go-getter activities or doing things to make you stand out.

      This, a thousand times this.

  7. anon-2

    #4 – sounds like they are trying to terminate you for cause so they can weasel out of paying your unemployment claim. It looks like they’re going through the termination motions now.

    #5 – it may be too late – eight years – if they haven’t given you a raise in that time frame, start looking for another job. The only thing they’re going to understand, and react to, is your resignation. If they react at all — but, places that treat people like that have a tendency to counter-offer, especially if you’re doing an exceptional job.

    On the other hand – you may be extremely important to the company and the group or groups you work in, but if your management has “dead ended” you – even if they’ve been dead wrong – they won’t correct their sins of the past toward you. They would have to openly admit that they erred.

  8. Just a Reader

    #1 I would label the applicant a stalker and throw his/her resume in the circular file

    #2 If LW isn’t getting direction for the boss, colleagues can help to get the lay of the land. I suggest meetings or coffees to dig in to their responsibilities, how they align with the business, any historical info that helps with decision making and planning, the company’s top objectives, etc. Coworkers are a wealth of information, especially when the boss isn’t forthcoming.

  9. Anonymouse

    I was in the same situation as #2 for almost a year. I was hired on a year-long contract specifically to work on a certain project that, due to issues with contractors, started six months after it was supposed to. In the meantime I got very few other projects or assignments from my supervisor. When I tried communicating my concerns with her, she would brush them off with vague comment like, “Oh, you’ll see, it’ll pick up very fast next week/next month/whatever.” I asked colleagues in my team if they had any projects I could help them with, and they all told me that my supervisor (who was theirs as well) had instructed them NOT to assign me any work because she wanted me to be completely free for what she needed me to do… which was nothing, apparently.

    I have no helpful advice or insight – just wanted to commiserate. It’s so soul-killing to have to go to work day in and day out and then sit there and do nothing productive when you WANT to work!

    1. Vicki

      More commiseration plus a warning. I also had a manager like this. I found things to do, but never from my manager.

      A year later I was transferred to a different manager and sometime after that I was laid off (along with 30-40 other people.

      When I was job hunting, I used the nn-directional manager as a reference (I thought we got along all right aside from his inability to provide any sort of direction.) I was wrong.

      As a reference, he told the company I had applied to that I “needed direction”. The difference is subtle but it blew my candidacy.

      Beware.

      (When I did get a job, I relayed this story to my new co-workers who responded “You need what? You? Huh???) So I felt better.

      To us, “Some direction please?” means “Can you give me at least an outline and some goals?” But to some others, “needs direction” means “needs handholding and can’t do anything careful oversight”.

  10. Jane Doe

    #2 – If they can’t give you the information Alison suggests you ask or are really vague about it, it’s possible they hired you without knowing what they actually wanted, just that they “need a product manager.” I’ve been in interviews where it was obvious that they didn’t know what they wanted the new hire to do and they should probably hire someone who had experience as a marketing consultant, designing strategy, or who had built a department from the ground up, and not someone who just had experience doing general marketing things.

    It would probably also be helpful to talk to the people who design/develop whatever the company sells.

    1. Vicki

      This.

      I think this is what happened to me. “We need an internal tech writer documenter” turned into “I don’t know how to assign projects and I don;t know what we need (and I don;t know how to manage).”

  11. B.

    #2 – I’m in the same boat but only been here for about half a year. I have been barely scraping by and we have to do timesheets! The thing with start-ups is that they don’t really know what they need and are often really focused on getting the product out or the business going. Obviously as an employee you’re thinking “Um…I am bored!” But I think once they get a more clear vision, you will have way more to do than you care to :)

    That said, I would follow Alison’s advice – which I will be doing myself. It’s really about taking initiative in this environment (as I learned from this awesome blog) and maybe even take on some other duties they don’t have time for. Because you are so new and they may still be hiring people, they may not have a clear three or six year goal but maybe can give you insight into the next month. Mind you, this is wishful thinking but hopefully you, Anonymouse and I can find some meaningful work to do soon!

  12. some1

    #1: At a previous job, I sent out a form letter to dozens of clients letting them know about a remaindered merch sale. The letter explicitly stated which salesperson to contact and how to do so, even though the letter was signed by me.

    One of the clients (who I had never met or had contact with) lost the letter. It happens, I don’t take issue with that. Instead of googling the company to get our main office number and asking for me, he searched for me on Facebook and sent me a message. I was beyond creeped out!

  13. MovingRightAlong

    I have something of a follow up question relating to #6. What if you’re in a position where you don’t often seen your manager? I ask because I’m hoping to leave my retail job some day soon and when I do get a job offer, I’ll want to give my notice as soon as possible. However, it’s a big store with a large management staff. I’ve occasionally gone a week without working at the same time as my own manager and I don’t have access to her schedule. Would I give my notice to another manager? It seems inappropriate, but my other option would be to write a letter and leave it in her mailbox.

    1. J

      Don’t write a letter and leave it in her box. If you can’t get some face time with your manager when you’re prepared to give your notice, go to her manager. If you can’t find him/her then go to HR.

      1. J

        Correction: Given that your manager might be on a different schedule and not necessarily out of town or on vacation, would it be possible to email her to request a quick meeting? I think it’s important to make an effort to let your direct supervisor be the first one to know of your departure if it’s reasonable.

        1. MovingRightAlong

          It might be possible to obtain her e-mail address, but I know from past experience that manager contact info is rather closely guarded. When my original manager broke her wrist, the only way to send a get well note was to give it to the office (I wanted to send an e-card). I could probably make something up next time I see my current manager about wanting a way to contact her directly for a more innocuous purpose, but we’re usually encouraged to use the physical mailboxes or leave a note with another manager.

          As for your other suggestions, my manager’s manager is the store executive. Like I said, this is a BIG STORE. The only situation I can even think of to take directly to her is a customer complaint on the rare occasion when she’s covering the executive hotline. HR, on the other hand, simply isn’t involved in the day to day operations of the store. They’re actually just a hotline. There are very clear guidelines about what should be taken to HR and giving notice is not one of them.

          Besides leaving a letter, my other thought is to simply ask another manager if they knew the next time she’d be in. A hit-or-miss solution, but my best chance at finding out her hours.

    2. A-a-a-nonymous

      When I worked retail, I just turned in my notice to the most senior management person who happened to be there on the day I was ready to turn it in. They passed the message on. Retail has such high turnover (at least my store did), I think they were just excited I gave notice at all!

  14. Chriama

    #1: It is hard to navigate social media, but this one is a definite NO. Just because you can find their profile on Facebook doesn’t mean you should contact them. Seriously, it’s like looking up their address in the phonebook and then dropping your resume off in their mailbox. Not cool.

  15. Liz in the City

    #5 I wasn’t in the exact same position as you (by the time I left, I was in a two-income household), but I was strung along for four years, waiting for the “hiring and wage freeze” the company had put into place to be lifted. It took me handing in my resignation for another job before anyone said, “Is it the money? Because we can give you more if you want.” (Don’t worry, I still left.)

    Play the field! Get your resume out there! The worst that happens is nothing. The best that happens is getting a better job for better pay and telling these people that you’re not going to stay another 8 years waiting for them to get on the ball.

    1. Lynn

      I was also in the same position, and I agree with Liz. As long as you’re reasonably stealthy about your job search, you’re not risking anything. You’re probably being paid well below market by now. Go see what’s out there.

      I also agree with everyone who’s said that once they’ve mentally marked you as “not promotion/raise material”, you’ll never change their minds.

  16. Elizabeth

    I just wanted to say I like the new title format you’ve adopted for the short answer posts! They’re more descriptive than just “Tiny Answer Tuesday,” etc.

  17. Ed

    #5 – What “economic downturn” was happening 8 years ago when you accepted the low starting wage? There was the brief dot com crash in 2001 but then the economy was pretty good until the recession of 2007 unless it was something specific to only your industry.

    I work for a large company that recently acquired a company where the employees hadn’t gotten raises for about 10 years. Of course, they all want 30-40% raises now to catch up which will never happen. Budgets typically get tighter when your company is acquired, not looser. We need to show an immediate profit to the shareholders and that happens by cutting costs and eliminating redundant positions.

    Anyway, I was in the meetings where these requests were discussed and, while they sympathized with the employees, most of the comments were along the lines of “who in the hell stays in a job for 10 years without a raise?” The answer is someone who has already demonstrated they will not quit now if they don’t get a gigantic raise. FYI, the end result was since our standard raises are 2-4%, we “might” be able to make a case to give them 6-7% based on their salary history. But we felt there was a good chance we would only get approval to give that to the top performers we couldn’t afford to lose.

    1. Sniper

      I was thinking the exact same thing. I think all Fortune 500 companies were doing well in 2005, and if they weren’t, they are no longer in business now.

      I hate to say it, but the OP for this is being taken advantage of. It’s time to get your resume together and look for another job if you are looking for a raise.

      I give a massive +1 to what Ed said. Well said!

  18. Greg

    No. 2: Whatever you do, be proactive about your situation. The longer you wait to speak up, the harder it becomes to admit that you’ve been collecting a paycheck to surf the Internet. Also, I suspect an employer is less likely to fire an employee after a month (since that would be admitting they made a mistake) than they would after 3-4 months (since then they could blame it on changing circumstances or the employee not living up to expectations).

    If beating around the bush doesn’t seem to be working, be more direct about the fact that you don’t have enough to do. However — and this is a key point — present it to your boss as something you’re taking it upon yourself to solve rather than a problem you’re dumping in her lap. Also, if there are coworkers you trust, take them out to lunch and get their read on the situation, your boss, etc. There may be bigger things going on that you’re unaware of, and the more info you have, the more likely you’ll be able to present a solution your boss will find acceptable.

  19. Kelly

    #2 seems really common in retail. I work for a regional department store and have for over 2 years. Last year, there was some restructuring at most stores due to a change in corporate. New CEO didn’t think that the majority of stores didn’t need more than 2 salaried employees. At a fair number of stores, that opened up management positions for on the floor associates who were younger and newer employees. That didn’t happen at my store. Corporate cancelled that job announcement. It was down to me and another individual who had been with the store for over five years. I thought she would have been a poor choice for management because she’s not the best person for her potential direct reports to model their behavior after – she frequently leaves her area unattended (a big fat no in retail), more inconsistent than average with getting credit cards (most of us are, but retail is a cyclical business), and created some conflict with her co-workers due to her mood swings. She caused one person whom I was close to leave due to her pattern of creating conflict. Her direct supervisor left to take a salaried position with a local hospital a month ago. They didn’t even advertise that a supervisor position was open, they gave it to the person ill-suited for a supervisory role, IMO. I know store management is complacent, but I thought it would have been a wiser choice to ask the person who left this earlier this spring to come back as the department supervisor. She has better people skills and has better behaviors to emulate with both co-workers and customers.

    I’m leaving in a couple weeks to move out of state for an academic position. If I wasn’t leaving, I would have said something about how I was told that I wasn’t ready for a supervisory role a year ago, same as the other person, but she gets it now.

    To be honest, this past year has been frustrating for me at this job. First, having my hours cut, so the full time person can keep their hours was tough. Secondly, I got no recognition for being the full time person in our department while the FT person was out for two months on a medical leave and being the only person in our store to be recognized by corporate for being a top seller in stores our size in 2012. That last part was just nasty IMO because I was told they didn’t want to publicly say anything because it would hurt the older, full timers’ feelings. I don’t think the management wanted to admit that someone in their 20s can outsell and do most of the work that’s part of the job that the older FT people don’t want to do. I know it’s going to be a big loss once I leave because it is myself and my supervisor who are the ones that keep our area looking presentable and I’ve been told by customers how helpful and friendly I am. I know some do appreciate how I don’t harass them with asking about email and credit when they have zero interest in both. I have co-workers who are too persistent about those and I think it turns customers off. I know that behavior turns me off as a customer, so I can see it from the customer’s POV.

  20. Chris Hogg

    #1. I’m late to the party on this one, but anyway….

    While having an effective resume and cover letter is important (vital) when responding to an advertised job, even then, once the job is advertised, the competition is usually fierce and the applicant is fighting an uphill battle.

    OP mentioned researching hiring and HR managers. That is a step in the right direction. Continue on by contacting the hiring manager directly, and avoiding HR at all costs.

    Even for this position, it may not be too late to find and contact the hiring manager. After all, it’s likely that OP’s application / resume never made it past the HR screen.

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