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. When should I mention IBS to a job interviewer?

When is the best time to mention that I have a sometimes problematic health issue? For most all of my life, I have suffered from IBS (Irritable Bowel Syndrome). Most of the time it has not been a major issue, but when I am under stress (like a new job) it is sometimes worse. And if it is flaring up, it is usually in the morning.

I am not a person that likes to be late anywhere or anytime, so for the most part, I have just tried to work afternoons part-time. But my husband is about to be laid off and I am looking at a new 8-5 job. I am on medication and try to manage it the best I can, but sometimes I just have “bathroom days.” If I am working a job where I am mobile, it is not so noticeable to my employer, but if I am at a reception desk, sometimes it can be a problem.

When is the best time to mention this, if at all? I have an interview on Thursday for a good full-time receptionist position with an accounting firm. The less stress the better, but worrying about this IBS causes stress in and of itself.

Wait to mention it until you have an offer, because you don’t want it to be a reason that you don’t get the offer at all. At that point, you can discuss whether they’re able to provide reasonable accommodation. But keep in mind that reasonable accommodation might not be possible with a receptionist position, where an essential duty of the job is being at the desk the vast majority of the time. If you know that you can’t reliably commit to that, it might make sense to avoid receptionist positions (just like you’d need to avoid, say, trucker positions if you couldn’t always drive reliably).

2. Is this an exception to the “don’t take a counteroffer” rule?

I know and agree with your opinion on accepting counteroffers (don’t do it), but I’m wondering if I may be headed towards a situation that may be an exception to the rule, or if I’m deluding myself.

There is an opportunity at my current employer that would be the logical next step in my career. I have told the person in charge of this hiring decision that I am very interested, and asked what I can do to position myself for a role like the one that is available. I was encouraged to apply, but told that it may be “a stretch” for me at this time. I am not unhappy at my job, and would like to have a long career here, assuming that career continues to progress.

I was recently contacted about a recruiter about a job that would be equivalent to the open position at my current company, and that I seem to be well positioned for in a number of ways. It is still very early in the exploration phase of this opportunity, but for the sake of argument, let’s say things go very well and I find myself with an offer. My instinct would be to go to the decision maker for the position at my current employer and let them know the situation — that I was approached about a job out of the blue, and that I had an offer and it represents a good move onto the next stage of my career. I would explain that, given my ambitions, I would have a hard time turning down this type of offer, but I’d prefer not to leave.

Would this be the wrong approach, given that counteroffers are rarely a good idea? And I were to receive a counteroffer in the above scenario, would it be a bad idea to take it?

Unless you’re at a very small company, this isn’t quite a counteroffer. The hiring manager you’d be approaching doesn’t have the same incentive to keep you as your current manager; in fact, your current manager would be losing you in this deal. Counteroffers are really about retaining an employee you don’t want to lose, but in this case the manager you’d be approaching wouldn’t be faced with whether to keep or lose you; she’d be faced with whether to hire you over other candidates who it sounds like she thinks are more qualified. The fact that you’ve been offered a job somewhere else isn’t likely to suddenly make her think you’re more qualified than she thought you were a few days ago (and if it does, you’d need to seriously question her judgment — which would bring you right back to it not being a good idea to take such an offer).

3. How can I convince my boss to let me work out my notice period?

I work in an HR-related role at a for-profit career college. In the past year, since my “new” president started with us, there has been a ton of turnover, both voluntary and involuntary. I’ve been heavily involved in each incident, and with the exception of one situation very early on, he has never allowed anyone to work out their notice. He indicated that we should discuss this with him if one of our employees quits, but in 99.99% of cases, he says there’s no reason to allow them to work their notice. I actually don’t disagree, since most of the staff that quits absolutely hates him, and allowing them to hang around only riles up the employees still stuck here.

I’ve been with the company for over six years, which is longer than all but two other employees. There are many functions I take care of on a daily basis that no one else knows how to do. We do have a corporate office that could swoop in to train a replacement, but I know it will be a huge burden on my employees if I were to disappear. I am expecting a job offer soon, and I’m wondering if you have any advice about how I can convince him I belong in the 0.01% of people who should be allowed to work their notice. It’s important to me to train those who will be left with my work. I have been tying up loose ends as much as possible over the weeks I’ve been interviewing, and I’ve prepared as many instruction manuals as possible, but if I actually start training people on some of my functions before I leave, my boss will catch wind and fire me. I’ve had an overall wonderful experience at this company, and I want it to end gracefully, not with a disappearing act.

You can’t control whether he lets you work out your notice period or not, and since it sounds like he’s highly likely not to let you, I would start working from the assumption that he won’t. When you resign, you can certainly tell him that you’ve put together a transition plan for training people in your functions before you leave, but it’s up to him whether or not he accepts that offer. And if he doesn’t, that’s really not your responsibility to handle — yes, it will be a burden on your coworkers, but that’s not your fault and there’s nothing you can do about it. Your coworkers will survive, just as others have.

That said, if he doesn’t let you work out your notice period, that doesn’t mean you have to end your work there with a disappearing act. There’s no reason you can’t say goodbye to people you’ve worked with and let them know where you’re going next, even if you have to do that from home after you’re gone.

4. Should I mention tuition benefits in my cover letter?

I am applying for a position at a university, and am doing so for three reasons — first, I love the school and the environment; second, the job sounds like a great fit and I am excited about the position; and third, I am applying to one of their advanced degree programs. One of the perks of working at a university is that you get tuition remission, so I could essentially get paid to earn a degree. Given that fact, I’ve been debating whether or not to mention in my cover letter that I plan to pursue a degree at the institution. On the one hand, I think it shows that I have an interest in staying for a while and am committed to the field (the degree and position are related), but on the other I worry that they might think that I am only applying for the benefit. I am completely qualified for the position, but I don’t want to shoot myself in the foot. I also worry about not mentioning it, and then having trouble getting the okay to take classes down the road. What do you suggest?

I think it’s fine to mention it in passing, but I wouldn’t mention it as one of your reasons for being interested in the job, as they want to hire people who are enthusiastic about the work for its own sake, not because of a tuition benefit.

5. Does it reflect badly on me that I’ve had five managers in the same job?

I have been at my present job for five and half years. This was my first full-time job after I graduated from college, and there have been more downs than up since I have been here, but I have still stuck around. Recently, my supervisor quit after being in the position for five months. So now I am about to be on my fifth immediate supervisor. When I am applying for other positions, does this reflect badly on me as an employee?

It’s very unlikely that prospective employers will know how many managers you’ve had in this position. It’s pretty rare for an interviewer to even think to ask that, so it wouldn’t come up unless you mention it yourself.

6. Interviewing for a job where there’s been a harassment claim

I recently interviewed for a job assisting a department head at an Ivy League school. I have not met the person I would be assisting yet, but did talk to the person who would be my direct manager, who seemed very nice and down to earth. The interview seemed to go extremely well. If I get a second interview, it will be with the department head.

I googled the department head after my interview and noticed that he had a sexual harassment claim against him a few years ago that was settled out of court. It was a very high profile and sensational case. What he was accused of was really disgusting, and allegedly went on for years.

Obviously, this is a really big concern for me in considering this position (I am female, and the person who claimed harassment is also female). I did ask the manager in my follow-up email what it was like to work for the department head, and whether there were any challenges involved. I actually just forgot to ask this in the interview and hadn’t looked into his past yet. I am hoping that he will address the sexual harassment issue if he replies, but I don’t know that he will.

I’m sort of stumped about what to do, and whether it’s appropriate to just ask the department head and/or the manager about it in the interview, or after I’ve received an offer. I don’t even know what to ask though! It is possible that the claim was false but there’s no way to know since it didn’t go to court. I would very much like to work for this university and I could always transfer if working for this guy is intolerable, but I would not like to work in the kind of environment that the claim describes even for a short time.

Well, first, asking about it in an email isn’t likely to get you useful information. People don’t generally talk about this sort of thing in writing; this is something you want to ask about face to face if you want an honest answer.

By the way, it’s worth considering that someone who has been through a high-profile legal battle might be highly unlikely to behave inappropriately again, since it’s extremely unlikely that they’d keep their job after a second credible allegation. (That’s not a guarantee, of course, but you should factor it into your thinking — this is someone who’s now under scrutiny from his employer and the public and who has probably been seriously reprimanded.) That’s not to say that you shouldn’t ask about it and really do some due diligence about the culture there; you should — but factor this in too.

7. Do I really have to keep my job search hidden from my manager?

I know it might be ill advised to tell my manager that I’m looking for a job in general, but I’m a recent college grad. Would it still be a bad idea to tell them and ask for their reference? I just figured they have to know I’m leaving a minimum wage job for something that could actually pay down my student loans. Am I being paranoid or should I not tell my managers about my job search?

I don’t know. What’s their track record of dealing with other people who mention they’re looking for another position? If they’ve shown that they handle it well, then it’s reasonable to assume they’ll handle it well with you too. But if you don’t know, then assume that you should follow the typical convention of not openly seeking to leave unless you have some sort of strong indication that it won’t jeopardize your job. (If you’re in retail or food service rather than an office job, it might be entirely normal to be open about this — although you should still take your cues from how others have handled it.)

{ 81 comments… read them below }

  1. Chocolate Teapot

    For Question 5, isn’t it the company or the supervisors who would be in a bad light rather than the OP? The only example I can think of is “Oh Marzipan Consulting. Don’t they have a really high staff turnover?”

    My local business newspaper does a regular feature with new appointments and there are a couple of serial job hoppers who seem to pop up every few months.

    1. dejavu2

      I once had a job for 18 months, during which time I had four different supervisors. It never occurred to me that reflected poorly on me, as it had nothing to do with me. Two of them were fired, one was an interim to replace one of the fired people, then the interim left and there was no interim so I got shuffled to a random manager, then a new top dog got hired and I got shuffled to a different random manager. The work environment was highly dysfunctional, but that wasn’t my fault.

      1. ThursdaysGeek

        My first boss has worked for 5 or 6 companies and never changed his phone number or office. The company keeps getting bought out, his email address changes, and he’s still there.

    2. Josh S

      There are two ways I can see this hurting OP#5’s candidacy:
      -References: If you’ve had that many managers in that short of a time period, there may not be sufficient track record/familiarity with your work for any one of them to give you a great reference. 5 months is hardly time to get your feet under you as a manager, let alone to get a good understanding of the specific strengths/weaknesses/quality-of-work of your underlings. So once you get to the point where they’re asking for references, you might want to give a heads up that, “While I’ve been at Chocolate Teapots Inc for 5 years, I’ve not had the same manager for more than 14 months. You are welcome to contact Jane or Mary, two of my former bosses there, but they may not be able to give you a great view of my experience. You may want to be sure to talk to George, who I’ve worked with in _____ capacity for 4 years.”

      -If you were the reason those managers quit. I don’t mean this in a flippant way, but in the sense of “you’re the boss’s relative so they can’t fire you, and you’re also a total slacker who comes to work at 10, takes a 2 hour lunch, and leaves at 3:30 every day, while playing World of Warcraft on your work computer.” The kind of unfireable employee who knows it and takes advantage of it. I doubt this is the case, but hey, it’s not unheard of.

      1. Jessa

        Regrettably if the OP was the cousin (probably not the cousin would probably not have the sense to write AAM,) they probably don’t KNOW it’s them if that’s the case. People who are like that are pretty oblivious to the fact.

  2. Cat

    Unfortunately, if we’re talking a tenured professor, I’m not sure he is highly likely to lose his job after another incident, and, if he’s in the kind of school where that’s the case, he’s also likely to know it. It’s not uncommon to have professors with a history of this, and a suit against them every few years once they decide just enough time has passed.

    That said, of course not everyone is like this. This could have been an isolated incident. But if it’s not, I wouldn’t assume, as a worker, that the university is likely to hold their professors accountable and I would make my decision about the job on that assumption.

    1. dejavu2

      +1

      I went to an undergrad comparable to the Ivy League, and the tenured professors could basically do whatever they wanted. For some of them, there was an unwritten rule with female students not to be alone with them in an office with the door closed… I remember when the Harold Bloom/Naomi Wolf thing broke, it wasn’t exactly a shock in the Yale community, but they’ll never get rid of him.

    2. patchinko

      This was my question, and the person in question is a big, big deal at his school, beyond just being a tenured professor. He is a department chair, and he has facilities named after him. It is actually a very similar situation to the Harold Bloom one that dejavu2 mentioned. He’s a similarly high-profile and valued employee at this school, which from what I have heard operates very similarly to Yale.

      My main question was whether it would be feasible to ask about this at the second interview, if I get it. I am thinking that’s probably not a good idea. I don’t know that it would yield a useful answer, and it could very well hurt me. Then again, do I want the job? I’m not sure. Even if I wasn’t sexually harassed, if he’s doing it to other women around me that would be just as bad if not worse in some ways.

      1. patchinko

        Oh and just in case anyone is wondering if I’m being tricky, it’s not a job assisting Harold Bloom, haha!

      2. Anonymous

        Even if it was appropriate to ask: What kind of question would you ask? What would be an acceptable answer? If they say “it was completely unfounded,” will you actually believe them (after all, almost anyone accused is going to claim they didn’t do it)?

        What is an acceptable enough answer to the question of how they like working with him, since they certainly won’t mention the claim?

        I think these are questions you need to have answers to. For me, I know there is no way of guaranteeing the truth unless I have both people involved under veritaserum. So the possibility that it is true (and I’d personally be inclined to believe it is) would be enough to make me not take the job. I don’t want to work with that kind of person and I don’t want to work with the kind of institution who handles it that way.

      3. -X-

        99.99% of the time means the exceptions are 1 in 10,000. How many people will work for this guy over the course of his career? 500? 1,000? 99.99% of the time is functionally always.

              1. Cat

                Ah, sorry, I thought that some estimate of how likely the guy was to re-sexually offend had been brought up that I wasn’t understanding or something like that.

      4. fposte

        I’m with Anonymous that you’re not going to get an answer to this the way you want. You have to be somebody with serious clout, value, and trust before they’d tell you anything but the party line (even if they knew), and that’s not what a job applicant is. I think you’re going to have to make your decision without having this information.

        And I think asking would count against you if only because of that naïveté. You can ask about the previous holders of the job and what made them successful and what challenges they faced (as long as you don’t look like you’re saying “hint, hint”) and see whether that takes you anywhere, and you can do your private research on the reporting chain for offenses. But you’re not going to get an assurance–and if you think about it, you never do anywhere, and at least in this case you have some notice to be alert and awareness that it’s not likely to be all in your mind if it’s subtle. Only you can decide if that will be enough to make the job an acceptable prospect.

        1. patchinko

          I actually asked about previous people in the position and what made them excel in the first interview, but I worded it kind of oddly because i wasn’t sure if the people I was interviewing with had actually worked with those people. They looked at each other oddly when I first asked about past assistants and now I wonder if it was because of this case.

          I also asked one of the interviewers (who seemed extremely nice, honest, and laid back) in a foll0w-up e-mail about the challenges of working with this guy, before i knew about the sexual harassment thing. So we’ll see if/how he answers that. I will definitely ask the same question if I get the second interview.

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            For what it’s worth, I wouldn’t ask questions like that in email, even aside from the harassment issue. People aren’t likely to put a candid opinion on that in writing, and they may question you using email to ask them to!

            1. patchinko

              Good point, that didn’t occur to me!

              I sort of half hope I don’t get this job, so I don’t have to make this decision! But meeting the guy and seeing if I get a creepazoid vibe from him might help solidify things.

              1. Ruffingit

                The case was settled out of court, which could mean a number of things, not all of which point to this guy’s guilt. It’s quite possible that rather than continue to spend a lot of money on lawyers’ fees, go through the hassle of a trial, etc. he was able to make it go away by offering the woman some cash.

                Now, this is not to say that he DIDN’T do it either. But, I tend to err on the side of caution with these things because so many people assume settlement means guilt.

                I’d say don’t ask about this situation at all. As others have pointed out, you’re not going to get a straight or possibly even honest answer and it will cast you in a bad light for bringing it up. Unfair, but true. If you get the job, do as you said you will – see how you feel about this guy, what vibe you get, etc. You’ll know soon enough if this is place you want to be.

                All of this is to say make no assumptions about guilt/innocence, etc. Just see how YOU feel in the job if you get it and go from there.

                1. Jessa

                  Yes, there is a point in which a good lawyer will tell a corporate client to settle. Particularly if the lawyer is part of their insurance group.

                  Insurance lawyers ESPECIALLY are cost accountants at the base of things. So if they can get a “we are not admitting, here’s money, here’s a gag order,” they will TAKE it. Guilt or innocence aside. There comes a time when “we don’t really care if he’s innocent, but it’s going to cost us $50k to go to court, $500k in bad will. Pay the half a mil to the plaintiff already.”

                  And that robs us. That robs us of a fair hearing for BOTH sides. That robs the guy of proving his innocence, that robs the victim of proving his guilt.

                  The gag order is probably one of the most DANGEROUS things in society. It allows criminal doctors, assaulters, lawyers, companies that make dangerous products, that lie to people, to get away with sometimes murder. Someday someone will have the courage to make the gag order illegal unless a minor is involved or classified information. But the fact that x was charged with y, and settled, should be public knowledge just like if they were found guilty or innocent of it.

                2. fposte

                  I think that’s conflating the civil and the criminal, though, and I think that’s a problem in its own right.

          2. Anonymous

            Ask HR directly about the situation. HR works differently in academia (usually), as they really are there for the employee because they don’t have business concerns that might hinder them doing what’s best for the employees. HR may not tell you the details of the previous case, but if you’re hired they will probably tell you how they are dealing with the situation going forward. And it may very well be as mentioned up-thread, that there is effectively nothing they can do if it happens again because this person is tenured faculty. But having another harassment complaint is not going to look good to their big alumni donors, which could mean the president, vice-president, or even those in his own department would try to force him out even if he isn’t fired.

            1. fposte

              In this case it sounds like HR is involved, but that degree of involvement is by no means a given at a university–at mine they’d have no idea about the issue.

              1. Anonymous

                I have a sexist a*hole tenured faculty member in my department and no one has complained to HR. Considering what he has said to female grad students, I can’t believe something hasn’t slipped out while he teaches undergrads. And everyone including faculty has/had to go through sexual harassment training, and one the things discussed is the very thing he’s doing. Of course it doesn’t help HR never made clear HOW to complain, and they don’t have a way to make an anonymous report, or I’d report they guy.

  3. OP2

    Point of clarification: The new opportunity at my current employer is on the same team I’m currently on, reporting to my manager’s manager. In fact, the job would be my manager’s position, as it is now open, and until that position is filled, I am reporting to the hiring manager. So, it would be a matter of retaining me.

    1. Cathy

      Assuming you get an offer, the options for your current employer are:
      1 – do nothing and let you go to the new company
      2 – counter-offer to keep you in your current job
      3 – promote you to the higher level job

      If there are no other more qualified candidates, then they might do 3, but 2 is more likely, and 1 is definitely possible.

      1. Colette

        I think it depends on whether you’re being seriously considered for the other position, regardless of the new potential offer. If they think it’s too much of a stretch, it won’t make a difference. If you impress them during the application process & interview and they believe you could be a good fit, they may try to accommodate you by speeding up their timeline for a decision.

      2. Jessa

        I still don’t think the other offer has anything to do with this. Any more than it would if you were just out in the world interviewing. Make your case for the new job. If you get it you can decide to take it or the other job. Make your salary negotiation about the JOB not about the other job.

        This is not the same as we want to keep you in the same job you’re doing. Treat it like a regular job interview, I think.

      3. Lynn

        3 happened to me. I’d made it abundantly clear for years that I wanted more responsibility, worked on all the skills and so forth that they told me to work on in order to be ready, and… nada. I gave up and found what I was looking for elsewhere. THEN they counter-offered by making me the lead on a project. Too little, too late, guys. If you thought I was ready all along, where was this a week ago? If you don’t, aren’t you setting me up to fail?

  4. College Career Counselor

    For #4, I would be careful in how I mentioned the tuition benefit, even in passing. I think the employer potentially could feel as if you were more interested in the degree than the position. It has the potential of looking like you’re interested in what they can do for you, rather than what you can do for them. Some universities also have a “vesting” period before you’re eligible to take advantage of certain benefits, ie matching on the TIAA-CREF, various tuition remission programs, etc., so it could be viewed as premature on your part to mention that particular benefit, especially in a cover letter. Generally speaking you also need the permission of your supervisor to exercise that benefit. Depending on your job, the supervisor may or may not be okay with your being away from your desk 3-5 twice a week.

    My suggestion is to consider saving that conversation until you have an on-campus interview/conversation with HR.

    1. Brandy

      Agree. I worked at a university and got a grad degree.
      We didn’t have a vesting/qualification period before tuition remission kicked in, but you did need management approval (even if they were night classes and you worked 9-5).

      You should also look carefully at the tax implications of the tuition policy. At my university, the first ~$5k of tuition credit was tax free, but for grad programs, the tuition remission appeared as salary, was taxed like salary, etc. So for the year where I did $30,000 worth of school, I had to pay taxes on $25,000 of income that I never saw b/c it was tuition. I knew ahead of time, but many didn’t and got burned. Many would have been better off working at a higher paid job elsewhere and/or doing the grad program full time and possibly on scholarship. Just more to consider….

      1. fposte

        That’s not even university, that’s federal. It’s really hard on students with employment-based waivers that they do it with that threshold rather than withholding regularly, too.

        1. Brandy

          True, the tax issue is federal but some universities have different rules for the threshold amount (ie less than $5k) and some have different rules on undergrad vs. grad tuition.

          Nonetheless, it behooves OP to understand exactly the benefit limits, tax implications, etc. and weigh that against the lower salary that university jobs often offer.

          1. Beth

            Oh, I remarked on this below, and didn’t see that you had mentioned it. It’s another thing to think about. I think the federal threshold for tax purposes is something like $5,250, but I worked at one institution with a $2500 annual limit. That’s doesn’t go very far towards many degree programs.

            This is one of the reasons I think it’s likely pointless to mention the issue in a cover letter. It’s even possible that mentioning the tuition remission program in a way which suggests the OP has unrealistic expectations (say, thinks it will cover 100% of a degree program when really it will cover a tiny fraction) might make the HR person worry. And unless we’re talking about an institution with a near-100% acceptance rate, rolling admissions, and quick turnover of applications, the OP’s interest in a degree program is just that… an interest, which may or may not actually turn into anything. It doesn’t say anything bad about the OP (obviously) but it doesn’t say anything unusually positive. The OP is no different from plenty of people interested in programs, including applicants who haven’t mentioned it when applying for jobs. Until the OP has applied for the degree program and been accepted, the interest in it doesn’t really have any bearing on anything. I worked at Harvard and maybe I wanted to go to Harvard Medical School, but an expression of interest in that would be kind of meaningless since it would be far from a sure thing. Okay, so I want to “better myself,” nice, but at universities, most people are interested in education, so this interest doesn’t set an applicant apart. That’s why I think that using it as a marketing tactic – mentioning it in a cover letter – makes no sense.

            1. Anonymous

              There is a loophole in the law. If the classes could be counted as training for your current job, then those classes don’t count as a fringe benefit anymore, because they also benefit your employer. So basically if you’re taking classes in the same field you’re already in, then you wouldn’t have to pay the tax. If you’re doing something like working as a janitor taking classes to work in IT then you would have to pay the tax. You could still be audited tho, and have to defend your position.

              1. fposte

                It looks like that may be true if your employer *pays* for the classes but not if there’s a waiver–however, this whole thing is such a labyrinth and so prone to error that I’m going with a “see a qualified tax professional” at this point :-).

                1. 4:44 anon

                  Yes, but make sure they have some knowledge about scholarships, grants, and student loans, not one of the ‘get some training prepare taxes’ sort of person/company.

                  My employer has it worked out on the financial side (also in a way they makes them look good too), and tells employees how to fill out the paperwork for HR so they can avoid the tax when they apply to use the tuition benefit.

      2. Steph

        Hi – I’m the OP for #4. Thanks for your comments on this. The tax issue hadn’t even crossed my mind, thank you for mentioning that. I have looked into the tuition policy, and it covers up to 12 credit hours per academic year and is available on your first day of employment. I’ll have to look into the taxes, but at my previous institution I took a couple of classes that were paid for by my employer without any payroll issues.

        I know it isn’t a done deal that I would get into the program, but I took a class there this past semester and have strong support from my instructor and met with the program chair to discuss my candidacy. It’s also a small program that doesn’t get a huge number of applications, so the odds are mostly in my favor.

        Mainly I don’t want the hiring manager to think that I’m interested only because of this benefit. Having taken a class there, I’ve fallen in love with the environment and the position is something I think I would be really good at. Being able to pursue a degree in my field of choice is an added bonus!

    2. Nikki

      I didn’t mention it in my cover letter, didn’t occur to me (it was also the only good one I’ve ever written, so it may have ruined it).

      I believe I mentioned my application to a program in the interview, it either came up as a question or it was relevant in some way in an answer.

      I did not, however, mention the tuition remission.

    3. Kristi

      This is a variation of #4 if anyone has feedback. I am also looking at jobs at various local universities/colleges. I have plenty of experience but have not finished my undergrad. One school in particular also has an attractive online program meant specifically for adult/returning students. Some of the jobs at this school I would apply for may require a degree or combination of education/experience. I’m tempted to include in my cover letter that I would look at finish my undergrad in their online program. My thought is if they were impressed with me otherwise (on paper) it may warrant a discussion if I made past the first interview. I’m not set on finishing but once I’m employed I would be more open to it then.

      Ultimately if I find I’m not getting call backs, I may have to start addressing this more directly in all cover letters.

      1. Schuyler Pierson

        I wouldn’t address this in the cover letter at all. If my department were hiring, that would be a kind of big concern for me – whether the employee would be more concerned with being a student v. employee. That excuse only works for my work study students! The rest of the letter would be overshadowed by the idea that the applicant only wants the job for tuition benefits, not to start a career. And, as mentioned above, there are plenty of supervisors who wouldn’t approve you taking classes (it may be different if you’re doing an online class that doesn’t infringe on work time).

        Also, be aware that colleges and universities consider having a degree a pretty major prerequisite for the position – so much so that my boss had to lobby to keep the entry level positions from requiring a degree so that those staff without one wouldn’t be in jeopardy, and there are three of them who, even though they’ve been in higher ed for 4-15 years, will never advance due to the lack of a BA/BS. I don’t say this to be discouraging, but to keep in mind a degree is often non-negotiable unless it specifically says “high school diploma or equivalent” or a diploma/assoc. degree + experience.

  5. Beth

    #4 – I agree 100% with College Career Counselor, above, as someone who has spent most of her career at universities. Don’t mention it even in passing. Why would you? I would say there’s pretty much zero chance that it would strengthen your candidacy, and some chance that it would jeopardize it.

    In addition to the details CCC mentions, some universities (perhaps most) do not allow employees to actually get degrees from the university using the tuition remission program. Many have generous tuition assistance programs which pay a certain amount for work-related (and sometimes non-work-related) degrees elsewhere. They may also have very reduced rates for individual classes (space-permitting) at their own institution, and may even provide paid “release time” during the day to allow employees to attend a class. But, you may never be granted a degree, or you may only be able to get a degree from the open enrollment arm of the university rather than any of the faculties with competitive admission (for example, at Harvard, Harvard Extension School.)

    And of course, even if the university does allow employees to use the benefit to earn a degree, any good university is going to require you to go through the same competitive application process through which all other applicants must go. (And some degree programs do not have part-time options, yadda yadda yadda.) Being an employee is not a back-door way around the admissions process.

    If you get the job, everything might work out the way you’re hoping it will, but it might not. I wouldn’t get ahead of yourself by mentioning it.

    1. Brandy

      Where I worked, you could get at degree at the university–you just had to apply like everyone else. It works that way at many many universities.

      1. Beth

        Okay, but it’s not a sure thing and we’re talking about two totally different and separate processes. What I meant to indicate although looking back I worded it poorly is that you can’t just use the tuition remission to take classes, one by one, ultimately getting enough credits for the degree. If you are separately a student, having gone through the same application process all the other students have, then you may or may not be able to use the TR benefit to pay for your tuition. In my experience this is less common at very prestigious and expensive universities like Harvard. TR is also usually capped at a certain level by the university, and always is capped at a certain level, for tax purposes. (Beyond that it’s taxable income. At an expensive university, even if there is no cap on TR, you will be paying a lot in taxes for the benefit.)

        One of my points, though, is that it’s all up in the air. Presumably the OP has not yet applied and been accepted to a program. I don’t think that wanting to pursue the program indicates anything about the candidate’s potential longevity in the particular position, either, and in fact may point to the candidate leaving a few years down the road once he/she has gotten an advanced credential. To address a comment below, if we’re talking about a candidate who already has an undergraduate degree, and an institution in which almost everyone has an undergraduate degree and many have advanced degrees, I’m not sure that mentioning an interest in pursuing an advanced degree will really set the candidate apart in any way.

        I don’t think there’s anything wrong with saying, at some point, “wow, this is really a generous benefit, I’d love to take advantage of it.” I just wouldn’t mention it at all in the cover letter, or go into any detail in the interview, unless asked about educational plans.

        1. Beth

          (I wish we could edit our comments!) My overarching point is that as far as we know the OP has not yet applied to the program, and although I don’t know what university this is, at any good university, an offer of admission is far from certain. And, employees don’t have a leg up in the process. Unless the OP has an inside source, at the point of applying for the position he/she probably does not know the ins and outs of the TR program. So, I think that mentioning it in the cover letter (which means using it as some sort of personal marketing point) is at best somewhat pointless and at worst could be a turn-off.

          1. Steph

            Hi – I’m the OP =) You make some good points, and I know its risky to say anything considering that it’s all up in the air – which I why I wrote in for advice! I have a few colleagues at the institution who are in the degree program I am interested in, and employees pursuing degrees is common and from what I can tell encouraged. I believe the hiring manager for the position I’m interested in is actually in the program I want to pursue. Working there would by no means have a bearing on whether or not I was admitted. My reason for pursuing both employment and admission to this program is a love for the environment and wish to both work and learn at this institution, and my basis for even considering saying something was to show that. I took a class there this past semester and loved every minute of it. I plan to continue studying there, but if I were able to work there too, it would be an added bonus.

            Having read all these comments, I’m leaning toward saying something if it comes up in an interview (should I get one) rather than potentially turning them off before they even meet me and/or coming off as presumptuous.

  6. Beth

    #4, P.S., mentioning it or not mentioning it before you get an offer should have zero bearing on getting the okay to take classes down the line. Some people wouldn’t even initially realize this was a benefit, or might have no interest in it initially, and then become interested later on. It’s not like they would be turned down for not having mentioned it earlier.

  7. patchinko

    As I mentioned below, I asked question #6. What I really wanted to know was whether I should bring this up in the interview, with whom (the manager or the big boss), and what to ask.

    Also something else just occurred to me. I have made a contact in the HR department after I was a very close second for a position there. She has been crazy helpful, talking me up to the hiring managers and even contacting me to let me know when suitable job offers come up.

    Would a phone call to her be in order to ask her opinion of this guy? I guess what I really want to know is how the school community and the people who work with him view him, and most importantly whether the harassment claim is true. I know there’s probably no way to find out the latter for sure.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I think it’s worth asking because you may hear something that will either set you at ease or convince you that it’s not for you.

      That said, there’s a good chance that they’re restricted in what they can say about the harassment claim by their lawyers, so keep that in mind when you evaluate their response.

    2. TR

      does he have grad students? Ask them if you can. And if he has a large lab and no females, that’s not a good sign.

      1. R

        In addition, if all the women students end with a masters and only men students get PhDs that is also a bad sign.

    3. fposte

      Yup, I’d ask. She might actually not know, but I think that this is the only person mentioned so far that you can ask, and I think that just being able to explicitly pose the question is going to help you clarify how much it matters to you.

    4. Anonymous

      Ask HR, I posted on another thread for this post. I should have read the all the comments

  8. Trixie

    #1, you have my sympathies! I also have IBS, and it is just the worst feeling to have a “bathroom day” and have to be at work like that. I agree with Alison; wait until you have an offer, and then mention it. At my old employer, I told my boss months after I started working there and wish I had told him sooner. I recently started a new job, and was having a lot of “good days”, but the stress of a new job definitely takes its toll! I haven’t told my new boss yet, but I’m very lucky to have flexible working arrangements, like the ability to work from home some days. I don’t know if that’s possible in your situation if you’re working at a reception desk, but it doesn’t hurt to ask! Also, make sure to tell them that it’s usually just in the mornings, so maybe you could negotiate flexible hours. Hope you find a good solution!

    1. JamieG

      I don’t know, I actually do think that asking about working from home as a receptionist could hurt; being physically present is generally a pretty big part of the job, and if you ask about working from home it could make you seem like you don’t understand that.

  9. Chinook

    #1 – being a receptionist at an accounting firm may not be the best fit for you. I have done that job and, while I had an OM and a few friends among the AAs that I could call if I needed a bathroom break, I don’t think it would have worked well if I had many moments of “I have to go NOW.” Maybe this place you are applying at will be different, but be aware that part of the requirements of being a receptionist is seat time.

    Receptionist – the only adult who has random people asak “do you need to go to the bathroom” and appreciates it!

    1. Chinook

      Another thought, #1 – If stress is going to cause you to have bad days, then the month before the tax deadline is going to be horrible every year if you are a receptionist at an accounting firm. There is something abotu the constant ringing of phones that will rattle even the calmest of nerves.

  10. Julie

    #5: I think it only matters inasmuch as you might be asked for a reference. If you had a good relationship with one or two of your managers, try to keep track of them so you can use them as references. Otherwise, I don’t think you need to be worried.

    (For the record, I’m about to have my 4th manager in two and a half years: one retired, one was fired, and the most recent one is an interim manager who decided not to renew his contract.)

    1. patchinko

      Yeah, I’d actually see going through numerous managers as a bonus because you get to pick and choose your reference! Of course it might come out that none of them worked with you very long, so their references might not count for as much, but I don’t see how something that is beyond your control like that would be held against you.

  11. perrik

    #3 – The fate of your soon-to-be-former employees is up to the organization. It chose to hire this toxic person as president, so it’s up to it to deal with the consequences. You can make life easier on your employees by documenting your processes, both official (“this is how to handle a FMLA request”) and unofficial (“if you have an issue with our payroll management, talk to Wakeem because he’s really good at untangling problems”). It’s a best practice to document your processes anyway, which is also a handy rationale should your boss find out you’re doing it.

    If the boss has a history of escorting resigning employees out immediately, make sure you’ve collected all your personal things before meeting with him!

    1. OP3

      I’ve actually been slowly bringing home all six years of buildup, only leaving key decorative items so that my boss doesn’t catch on.

  12. Kim

    Re: #5 – I was interviewing for a job and the person doing the interview knew my current company that has a terrible reputation and very high turnover. She actually asked me: “You worked there for five years!?! Why would you stay there that long? Don’t you have any self respect?” She expected me to answer that. I responded that while there were plenty of issues with the leadership, I enjoyed the work for the most part and I enjoyed the team I worked with. She liked my answer and eventually offered me the job, but I decided I didn’t want to work for such a rude person and found an even better position elsewhere.

    1. Jane

      That’s awful! I hate it when interviewers do that. I’ve been through something similar. While my company doesn’t have that sort of reputation adn while I’ve had mostly good experiences interviewing but on a couple of occasions, I have had interviewers ask questions that belittled my work or asked me why a certain decision was made regarding my work as though it was a crazy thing to do (I’m not that high up in the hierarchy so I don’t make major decisions like that and I’m taken aback when people ask about it in a negative way). Even if I were the decision-maker, I would find the assumption embedded in the question to be quite rude.

        1. Anonymous

          The interviewer was perhaps trying to trick you into badmouthing your employer, apparently a no-no in HR circles. And had to taken the bait, your folly would’ve put the kibosh on you getting a job offer from this prospective employer.

          1. Kim

            She was a very eccentric heiress known in my area for her loony and blunt comments and she was trying to start a non-profit out of her home. I’m pretty sure it was just her personality.

  13. Anon

    #4, I agree with the other posters – I’d be very careful about mentioning it.

    I do think it could work in your benefit IF the degree is directly applicable to your field, it wouldn’t interfere with the job duties, and you are certain that the university (even better, that particular office) is supportive of their employees pursuing degrees using TR.

    As a hiring manager at a university who has also gotten her degree there using TR, I actually do like to see candidates mention their plans to get a degree at our university because it shows they are planning to build their skills and advance professionally, and they will become even more connected to the university community (it’s very helpful in my particular office, which focuses on student recruitment, to have had a student experience there).

    However, if the candidate is planning on getting a degree that’s somewhat unrelated to our work (in which case it seems like they’re just taking advantage of the benefit and will leave as soon as they’re done), or a program I know would require a lot of accommodation (daytime classes, practicum/internship requirements) it would definitely be a mark against them. Some offices at my university, such as undergraduate admissions, completely discourage or don’t allow some employees to earn degrees using TR because the amount of travel required for their work means they would need special accommodations no matter what time of day their classes are held. Some managers dislike employees using TR even if all classes are night classes because they have had employees use their program as the reason for taking time off unexpectedly (big paper due tonight!) or have done homework during the workday.

    So, I don’t think mentioning it is a terrible idea – but I would do some research on the office’s general culture/attitude toward using TR, think about the usefulness of that degree to your work there, and look closely at whether being in the program could impact your ability to carry out your work responsibilities.

    Good luck!

    1. Steph

      Thank you! I’m the OP. The office works directly with students and the degree is directly applicable. The earliest courses in the program begin at 4:30PM as nearly all of the students in the program are working full-time either at the institution or in the area. I have some colleagues who work there and are in my program of choice, and their departments are very supportive and encourage them to pursue advanced studies. From what I’ve been able to piece together, it also seems that the manager of this position is a student in the program I plan to pursue, so theoretically they should be supportive (but I can also see that backfiring – i.e., we can’t both be doing this!). I’m leaning toward bringing it up in an interview, should I get one, though, just to prevent turning them off before even meeting me.

  14. Cary

    Question 1 – have you tried helpforibs.com? Their diet plan means I don’t ever have bathroom days – even on my bad days I can come to work because I know that I’ll bounce back more quickly.

    1. Another Emily

      I have IBS as well, though not as severely, so I feel for you OP1. In my own experience I’ve found certain situations around food set the condition off. Inexplicably, eating a meal when I’m really hungry can set this off (inexplicably because a bowel is not a stomach). Also very rich foods can be triggers for me. Anyway I’m going to check out that resource Cary, thanks.

      I think you might want to avoid this job until you’re more confidant that you won’t have a “bathroom day” at work; after all the stress of worrying about whether or not that could occur could make the IBS worse. I hope that your IBS improves, it can go down in frequency and severity.

  15. Jessa

    I would not treat the countre-offer thing like that at all. Treat it as a separate job interview with a “separate” company so to speak. Don’t mention the other job offer at all and evaluate it the same way you would as if you were interviewing with a “stranger” company.

  16. Lamington

    for #1 I’ve horrible IBS for years, probiotics specially VSL3 help a lot, you can get it at the pharmacy with no prescription, and switching to yogurt qnd Yakult so yout GI doesn’t get used to it. Eat more fiber littke by little, avoid greasy and spicy food and possibly dairy. I drink soy milk and it makes a difference.

  17. Elise

    #1 – If you aren’t doing so already, see a dietitian. It’s actually included under most insurance plans as long as it is a real dietitian (RD or RN or similar — not just someone who calls themselves one).

    My dietitian took me off wheat, soy, corn, and dairy and put me on some different enzymes and probiotics and it has made a huge difference. The only time I deal with IBS symptoms now is if one of those ingredients sneaks in somehow (soy and corn are very difficult to avoid).

  18. Anonymous

    I am op #1 and I appreciate the input . I have my reservations about an accounting firm, but I thought I would go on the interview. I knew there had to be other people in the same situation……

  19. Cassie

    #6: try to find out if the dept head is a rotating position. In my dept, the dept chair is a 3 year term (with possible extensions of 1 to 2 years). Other depts, with fewer faculty members, seem to have 1 chair for a longer term.

    Not that it makes harassment okay, of course, but it could be a factor when you consider everything else.

    That issue aside, it might be worth finding out anyway (if you haven’t already) – if your job is assisting the position and not the person in that position, it would be good to know since professors usually vary widely in personality/temperament/management styles/etc.

    1. patchinko

      I am pretty sure this is not a rotating position. This guy has been in the position since 2001.

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