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. I was interviewing for a job when suddenly they started talking about an internship instead

I am going in for a third (and final) interview for a customer service position at a large corporation and have several years of experience in the field. This position would have significantly better benefits and pay as outlined in my initial interview (and posted position). I just received an email stating that my third interview is for a customer service “intern.” I never applied for this, never discussed it, and frankly have no interest. As an intern there are no benefits, and the pay is 40% less than discussed. What are my options, and how are they getting away with this assumption that intern is an acceptable level for someone more qualified?

Well, they’re not “getting away” with anything (it takes two to interview and put someone in a job, you know; it’s not something they can “do to you”), but more importantly, you haven’t spoken up about it! For all you know, it could be a mistake or miscommunication — why didn’t you immediately write back and say, “Your email says that this is for an internship, rather than the staff position we’ve been discussing. Can you please clarify?” If they respond that they think you’d be a better candidate for the internship, then you can let them know that that’s not a path you’re interested in.

2. Asking for an informational interview with a related office

I’m a new paralegal with ABA certification and I’m interning at the county trial court (mostly doing administrative work for a judge’s court clerk). I’m wondering about the best way to request an informational interview with the prosecutor’s office (in the same building) and the public defender’s office (down the street). I’d like to introduce myself and get my resume into the hands of the hiring managers.

It’s a plus that I’m interning because I see assistant prosecutors and public defenders daily in court, and a referral from a judge would go a long way. But I’m not sure about the initial contact with these offices. Should I call, email, mail, or walk my resume in? I do have a contact who works at the prosecutor’s office, but she is in a very junior position and extremely flaky (to be generous). Not sure whether it’s even a plus to mention a connection to her.

Email. Always, always email unless your contact there specifically instructs you to do otherwise. Email allows them to respond when it’s convenient for them (unlike calling or showing up in person), and it allows them to review your materials before doing so.

However, are you sure what you want is an informational interview? Those are not to get jobs; those are to learn about a field. If you ask for one and it turns out you’re hoping they’ll think about hiring you, they’ll (a) not agree to the meeting if they figure it out beforehand, or (b) be really irritated if they figure it out afterwards. If what you want is a job interview, that’s what you need to say.

3. Did my company secretly have this recruiter call me?

I work for a large corporation and was recently told by my manager that I could be promoted this year pending the HR process. About four weeks after that conversation, I got a call from a recruiter saying they saw my profile on Linkedin and had a position I might be interested in.

My company is experiencing a lot of turnover lately. Is it possible HR had this recruiter call me? This recruiter was working very hard to pull information out of me and I got nervous and when that person asked for me to send a resume, I said I would (even though I had no intentions of doing so; I just wanted to end the call). Instead I sent the recruiter an email later that night saying I am happy with my current employer and am not interested in another job.

I mean, it’s possible that HR had a recruiter call you, but it’s very, very unlikely. Close to paranoid levels of unlikely. That’s not how these things normally work. And when a recruiter calls, they normally do try to pull a lot of information out of you, so that isn’t a signal of anything nefarious.

4. Can my resume be as short as half a page?

I’m an average college student. I’ve had a couple internships, and am active in few campus organizations. I strive to keep my resume concise and objective, which makes it roughly half of a page. Is there anything wrong with that? I’m not sure. My college’s career center said yes, and constructed a version that “solved” the problem by being verbose. They also had me include work experience from high school. Perhaps having a half ‘o’ page resumé is an issue, but there’s a better way to fix it.

Yeah, you really want to have enough to say about your qualifications that it fills a page — otherwise, you’re basically conceding that you have so few qualifications that no reasonable employer should consider hiring you … which is the opposite of the normal goal of a resume. That doesn’t mean you should be superfluously wordy, but with a couple of internships and the high school jobs (assuming they were within the last 5-ish years), you should be able to fill a full page if you think about what you did in those jobs.

5. Can I decline an exit interview?

I’m resigning as soon as I get a written offer for another position and formally accept. But I always dread exit interviews. I’m not going to say anything negative because I don’t want to risk hurting a future reference from my current managers, so I’m just going to be super positive and say how great everything is at my current job. There’s nothing horrible going on like harassment or anything that I would feel obligated to report, but there is plenty that needs to be addressed and those things certainly are the reason I’m leaving. With this in mind, how would it be viewed by HR if I just politely declined the exit interview? If it matters, this is a Fortune 500 company, I have a professional position and have been there about two years.

I would much, much rather you simply decline the exit interview than be falsely positive in it. If it’s a form to fill out, just don’t fill it out. If it’s an actual meeting and HR makes it hard for you to avoid it, it would be better to simply be carefully neutral than to take positivity that you don’t feel. But try to just avoid it if you can — say you have a ton to do before you leave or something like that.

6. Online application systems that won’t accept design portfolios

I’m a designer, so I often check design-specific job boards for postings. As expected, to apply for a design position, these postings always ask you submit your resume and portfolio/samples. But large corporations usually don’t give out email addresses; they instead direct you to their career center website. The problem I’m running into is these are never set up to accept portfolios. The past three jobs I’ve applied to… One allowed you to upload a max of 500KB, which is pretty much my resume and nothing else, and my resume is nothing fancy. One just wouldn’t upload my portfolio, no error message, no size limit given (it was 5MB, which I consider reasonable); no matter how many times I hit upload, nothing happened. And one just didn’t even give me the option; there was space to cut and paste my resume and that’s it, no option to upload anything.

So given these difficulties, I’ve just been putting a link to my online portfolio in my cover letter and resume. Short of maybe stalking people on LinkedIn to get a contact, which seems insane, I can’t think of another way to get my work in front of them. But the posting specifically asks to send work samples (and then provides no way of doing so!), and I hate feeling like I’m wasting my time creating targeted resumes, cover letters, and portfolios that they will never see because of there system. Is this reasonable to expect them to click on the link I send? Or am I just wasting my time even applying?

Your solution of including a link to your portfolio in your cover letter and in your resume is exactly right. It’s perfectly reasonable to expect that if your cover letter and resume interest them, they’ll follow the link to see your work. Keep doing that, and don’t stress about it.

7. Should I keep following up for feedback from the job that rejected me?

I interviewed for a job, and didn’t get it. They asked me to ring them, which I did, where they then said I didn’t get it, and asked if I had any questions for them. Note that when they told me, it was exactly when they promised they’d get back to everyone.

I asked for feedback, and the manager said she’d get back to me in the next few days. When a week had elapsed with no response, I sent an email to follow up, saying I was fine with written feedback if she was too busy to phone. She responded by email, saying, “No it’ll be fine, ring me tomorrow.” I did, and she said she was snowed under and could she ring me back in 45 minutes. That never happened, and that was last Friday. Fridays and Mondays are generally busy, so I didn’t bother following up yesterday. Now that it’s Tuesday, should I, or move on? Have I persisted enough in getting feedback?

Yes, move on. You’ve requested her feedback three times now — and while she’s actively encouraged you to do that, if she really was motivated to give you feedback, she would have done it by now.

{ 58 comments… read them below }

  1. Jessa*

    I agree with Alison about a half page resume. I wouldn’t be unnecessarily verbose about things, but there must be more things you’ve done that you can include. I get the opinion however, that the people giving you advice are just adding padding language instead of walking you through finding more relevant information to put in.

    I don’t know what Alison would recommend but it might not be bad to include at least the last of the HS jobs if it shows things like being a shift lead or other special responsibilities.

    1. Marmite*

      Might also be worth including the campus organizations, particularly if they involve any volunteer, community, or job relevant experience.

    2. College Career Counselor*

      Depending on how far along in college the OP is, high school experience is not out of bounds, especially if relevant to the positions s/he is seeking. The OP could potentially include some volunteer work, or if appropriate, relevant coursework.

      But I agree with not adding words for the sake of words. Sometimes with early college students, I’ll see something like “Assistant, Joe’s Ice Cream Shoppe,” and “opened and closed store.” In that case, I might dig a little deeper for the scoop. (Sorry..)

      Were you in the back office, assisting with bookeeping? Were you dealing with customers? Did you handle money? Did you train or supervise other workers? How busy was this place/how much customer traffic did you handle? Typically, I find two issues with college student resume content. First, they often don’t have the language to talk about their accomplishments and they wind up selling themselves short (the micro-resume). The other challenge is when they go the other direction and document every club, sport, activity, service, award, class, and twitch they ever had since the 9th grade. If you’re a first-year student, you don’t need (or really want, despite what you may think) a four page resume. Because nobody but a career counselor is ever going to read the thing.

    3. KellyK*

      Totally agree. The way to fill it out is *not* to add fluff or to say in 15 words what you could say in 3, it’s to talk more about what you’ve accomplished in each job, internship, and school organization.

      Since you’re currently in college, if you have any impressive academic awards or honors organizations, I’d add those too (assuming there’s room after you’ve fleshed out the work stuff). I’d stick them at the bottom so you don’t look like you think they’re more important than your work experience, but I would include them.

    4. KayDay*

      I agree with the above comments. Don’t add fluff, but sure you are including all the relevant experience you can. If you are a rising junior or younger, definitely include work experience from high school. If you are older, it’s still okay to include high school experience if it’s relevant and/or impressive. And it’s fine if you include things like working as a cashier at the grocery store–at this level any work experience can help.

      Also, don’t be afraid to add some white space to stretch your experience over a page. Some white space makes your resume easy to read, so things like skipping a line between jobs is fine.

      Finally, have a lot of people read over your resume, and listen to all of their advice while also taking it all with a big grain of salt. The “rules” for still-in-college resumes are much less well defined than they are for people who’ve been working for 5 years, so it will take a lot of trial and error to find the right mix of experience to include.

    5. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      What others have said, and make sure your resume is well formatted and of sufficient font size. I honestly cannot imagine how you could have two internships, a section for education, and a section for extra-curriculars and still only be at half a page. Do you have any bullet points under the internships or extra curriculars? Do you have your name in a big font at the top, contact info, links to your LinkedIn, etc?

      As someone else mentioned, make sure to get some white space in there, make it easy to read. Never, never never dip below a 10 point font either. You can peruse the Interwebz for templates that you like, that have roughly the same amount of raw info that you have, while still making it take up a page. Being “verbose” isn’t good, but you do need to paint a picture for the employer as to what exactly you did, why you were awesome at it, and why that experience will translate to other positions.

  2. Jane*

    OP #7: Sounds like she really means well but getting back to you is not a priority. It doesn’t mean feedback isn’t important and at least she responded in the first instance. I’ve been guilty of not getting back to people with various non-work requests when I get swamped at work and after some time has passed I usually decide that too much time has passed and the person probably doesn’t want to hear from me at that point because the moment has passed for whatever they need.

    1. 7*

      Her most urgent priority is sourcing talent and dealing with internal employees. Sometimes, when they agree to offer feedback, it’s just to end the call/contact as politely as possible. I know a manger that use to do that, hoping that the candidate wouldn’t take up their offer of feedback.

      Take solace in the fact that they actually got back to you as promised rather than letting you hang on. It’s time to move on. You may find yourself wanting to apply with them again; don’t want to annoy them.

  3. Kay @ Travel Bug Diary blog*

    #1 – seems to be more common than I thought. I just spend a few month interviewing for a director position. I just got the offer – for a manager job. I was annoyed, this was a really involved interview process. If you have other options, just decline it.

    1. 7*

      I wonder why employers just don’t say, “It seems as though you are more qualified for X position rather than the one we have been discussing.” Why spend time interviewing for a higher position only to offer something else? Seems like a waste of time on both ends.

      Maybe employers are assuming you’re extra grateful and you’ll take it (b/c of the job market). I think you must be qualified for the initial position but they offered the manager spot…so they would be getting more for less (a director level employee in a management position).

      1. fposte*

        Sometimes they do say that, actually, as previous AAM columns have noted. But in general this is stuff that happens after the interview as a result of it going well–I don’t think it’s quite as nefarious as you make it sound. It’s not so much that the candidate obviously is a better fit for Unapplied-for Job right from the get-go; it’s that after interviewing, they realize they would prefer Candidate B in Applied-for Job but they really like you too, and if you’d be interested in Unapplied-for Job it’s a win-win for them, so why not ask if you’d accept Unapplied-for Job?

        1. Jamie*

          I agree. This usually happens because they do like you and think you might be a good addition to the company, but maybe not a perfect fit for the original role.

          And remember, titles means different things at different companies. A director position at one might easily be a manager position at a larger companies (at least in IT). You have to look at the whole picture – responsibilities, challenges, compensation, etc. to see if it’s a good fit or not.

          1. Judy*

            Comparing two F50 companies I’ve been at in engineering functions:
            #1 – “lead” leads a team of up to 20, “manager” has 3-8 leads working so, up to 160 individuals, “director” has 3-8 managers working for them, maybe even 1000 people working for them.

            #2 – “lead” is highest individual contributor, leads projects, maybe mentors some new grads, “manager” has a team of up to 20, “director” has 3-8 managers working for them.

            A complete scale shift in the titles between the two.

            1. fposte*

              Right. And even within the company there are likely to be people whose credentials could put them at the high rung of one position or the low rung over another. Throw in the fact that plenty of people are willing to consider jobs (and are even applying to jobs) that are seemingly steps down, and I don’t see any reason for an organization to avoid tendering a lower-level offer or to be insulted if you get one.

              1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

                I agree with this totally. Not to mention that, in my experience, it’s fairly rare for me to see people applying for jobs they are dramatically overqualified for… and on the other hand, it’s very very common for people to be applying for a job that they’re wildly underqualified for. It’s really remarkable. So to some degree, especially in a bad economy, it’s about being realistic about what is really a step down (being “qualified” for a job, after all, doesn’t make you the most qualified for it, and it doesn’t mean that you’re over-qualified for the next job “down”).

  4. LG*


    It is not correct to say you are a “paralegal with ABA certification.” The ABA does not certify paralegals. It does, however, “approve” paralegal programs/schools as meeting their guidelines or specifications for a paralegal education. Therefore, if your paralegal certificate is from an ABA-approved paralegal program it is more correct to state that you hold a certificate [or degree if that is the case] from an ABA-approved program.

    One is not a certified paralegal unless one has taken an extensive test, passed and received the certified designation from one of the paralegal associations that provide such a certification. The ABA does not do this. If you merely hold a paralegal certificate without having tested for and received the certified designation, you are a “certificated paralegal.”

    It is clunky and most paralegals in my experience don’t refer to themselves as “certificated paralegals.”

    Some people can be really picky about this and especially for new paralegals, see it as a sign of a lack of awareness if one incorrectly refers to themselves as being “certified” (if they are, in fact, not certified by a certifying body) or as “ABA certified” (since the ABA does not certify a person or a program/school).

    1. Ruffingit*

      Very good points. It’s like calling yourself an attorney when you haven’t passed the bar. If you have the J.D., you have the degree, but that doesn’t mean you are a lawyer.

      1. Kelly O*

        So I can’t tell people I’m a lawyer because I watched a lot of Matlock with my Grandma?

            1. Jamie*

              Thank you – I now have Steve Miller in my head and he won’t leave. I suppose space cowboy would be more professional than gangster of love.

              1. AJ*

                OP here: Thank you kindly for the clarification LG! I hold a certificate from an ABA-approved program (and won’t make that mistake again). Alison’s blog is a tremendous resource for just this sort of thing, especially for those beginning second careers or just starting out.

                In response to some of the sarcasm (Kelly O in particular), I will say that while I have not gone to law school or passed any state bar, I have spent 6 months, thousands of dollars and hundreds of class hours (with some top notch professors) to begin to learn about a field I’ve been interested in for a long time. All this at considerable cost to my husband and two small children (time, etc.). My point is that it’s been quite an effort, which I’m so glad is beginning to pay off. I am LOVING my internship in one of the busiest criminal courts in the country, and excited about getting to work! The “watching Matlock with my Grandma” analogy just doesn’t cut it!

                I think it’s so important to support one another these days. I know you all wish me well in my new career ☺.

                1. fposte*

                  I’m glad you’re enjoying what you’re doing but I think you misread the comments. Kelly O. didn’t offer that as an analogy to your situation; she was responding humorously to another poster’s comment about necessary credentials. No sarcasm about you involved.

              2. Windchime*

                Now I’m going to spend the afternoon trying to get my Pandora to queue up some Steve Miller Band!

    2. Anonymously Anonymous*

      Agreeing because I thought she was saying she is a paralegal with certification in ABA (applied behavior analysis) perhaps bcba or bcaba level certified through the bacb…. which isn’t the case and would have been kind of weird in context.

  5. -X-*

    #4 Being verbose is almost never good.

    I don’t do hiring for jobs (just some internships) but in any case, jobs from high school seem fine to me – they show responsibility at a young age. And that wasn’t so long ago either for you.

  6. OliviaNOPE*

    Exit interviews are the worst. I agree, try to be as neutral as possible if you have absolutely have to do it.
    I’m curious, are HR folks reading the reviews of their companies on places like Glassdoor and Indeed? The anonymous reviews there of my company are SPOT ON, highlighting all of the ways that the culture is flawed. I figure if you really want to know how people feel, go read the reviews available online.

    1. Ruffingit*

      I often wonder why people bother with exit interviews as well. In general, I know very few people who will give an honest assessment. Once a person has another job to go to, they are often just happy to be out of a toxic environment so they don’t want to bother with parting comments.

    2. Ed*

      I would agree that Glassdoor reviews have been very accurate in all of the places I’ve worked. As with any review site, sometimes a reviewer clearly has a vendetta (and sometimes I can identify them by their comments) but if you combine them all together it usually paints a decent picture.

      I don’t know if this makes me a bad person but I could care less if my exit interview would help the company fix problems. I’m very loyal to my company but I technically don’t work there any more after giving my notice. They should have interviewed me while I worked if they really cared what I thought.

      And I’ve been tight with enough managers to know that there is zero confidentiality, even if promised. Every word you say will most likely be shown to your previous manager so you can kiss your future references and chances of ever being rehired goodbye. My manager and director were huddled together last week discussing the exit interview of one of my team members. I could hear them say “this is great, there’s not a single negative comment”. He made a lateral move to an identical job with a longer commute for the same money, yet gave a glowing exit interview. Sounds legit to me.

      1. OliviaNOPE*

        This made me snort with laughter! I agree, if your company cared about improving, they’d ask their current employees for feedback. ALSO, I believe my company knows 99% of the stuff that people hate about working here, yet they do nothing to change.

        1. K Too*

          If it’s a toxic work environment, don’t bother. What will change?

          When I left a toxic job last year, I left “No Comment” on every single question.

          @Ed – Interesting to know. I always wondered if that happened!

  7. Blinx*

    #6-Portfolio problem… I do the same thing – links in my letter and resume. My portfolio site (Coroflot) gives me statistics to track how many times my portfolio was viewed that day, so I have some inkling if it’s been looked at.

    Sometimes I will have problems with the application site in general, and it might be because I’m using a Mac/Safari. If possible, try a PC or another browser. I usually don’t upload PDF of samples unless they are required. Sometimes it’s a total of 5MB for all of your uploads (letter + resume + portfolio), other times it’s per document.

  8. -X-*

    #6 If your resume is close to 500KB and it’s a PDF, you’re doing something wrong. I’ve got a two-page PDF resume, with embedded fonts, that’s 44KB. You should check the settings you’re using to create the PDF.

    If you’re embedding non-standard fonts in a resume in MS Word, yes it can very big, which suggests you should either use default fonts (no embedding) or submit a PDF if that is allowed.

    1. JW*

      X, the problem #6 is writing about is not that her resume file is too large, but that she cannot upload a resume AND a portfolio file when the limit is 500 KB.
      I don’t think she meant that her resume alone is 500 KB.

      1. -X-*

        JW – what does this mean: “a max of 500KB, which is pretty much my resume and nothing else”?

        Sure, that limit is too low for the portfolio, but my point is that if the OP’s resume is 500K (which is what I believe that phrase means) the resume is not set up right.

        Esra, yes, a little bigger. But if a designer can’t make branding that works at small file size, they’re probably not doing it right. Logos and branding/decorative built from lines and type can be very very small in file size, even if quite intricate, if the files are set up right and the designer learns about settings in their software . An exception might be photographs or scanned hand drawings, but even the latter can be digitally worked on to reduce file size.

        In this day and age, even if the designer is primarily working in high-end printing with huge files, they should have the skills to produce outputs (as PDFs) at reasonable sizes that look good for sharing online. It’s fundamental.

        Some don’t bother to do this, and sometimes it bites them back.

      2. Kristi*

        JW, I think is is. “One allowed you to upload a max of 500KB, which is pretty much my resume and nothing else, and my resume is nothing fancy.” Even with some branding, she should be able to reduce that somewhat.

    2. Esra*

      Bear in mind, graphic designers need to include branding on the resume as well, so it can be a bit bigger.

  9. Kay*

    #6 is part of why I’m beyond annoyed with online application systems, after six months of job-hunting. “Please include cover letter and at least 3 clips, only we won’t give you anyplace to enter text for any of those or anyplace to link to anything either.” So frustrating. Poor design.

    My favorite was one that asked for three long-ish writing samples, and then limited the text field entry box to 100 characters. I had to go to a bitly-shortnened link just to be able to say, “please see my site at [link].” I think I’m just as glad I never heard back from that one.

    1. Ruffingit*

      AMEN! The online application process is often completely ridiculous for the reasons you mentioned. I hate having to submit a resume in those tiny text boxes.

      I also love it when you get questions that are completely irrelevant such as high school being a required entry when the job description clearly states a higher level degree is required. Clearly, I attended high school or at least got a GED if I also have a M.A. or Ph.D. no? It’s just stupid sometimes.

      1. Chinook*

        What would they do if you didn’t have your high school diploma but still had further education? Supposedly one of my dad’s friends dropped out of high school and then went to vocational college years later and then on to university to become an engineer. Technically, he never graduated high school but he most definitely has his other educational credentials.

  10. Yup*

    #5 – Is there something in particular that you’re worried about discussing? I’m curious because exit interviews seem like a fairly benign check-the-box HR activity. Unless it’s a particularly crazy place or I’m asked really weird questions, I just answer honestly in a constructive way. “Why are you leaving?” “I was offered a position with greater responsibility.” So I’m curious, is there a topic that you’re especially worried about, or is it just the whole sit-down-with-HR experience?

    1. Ruffingit*

      I can’t answer for the OP, but I can say that exit interviews are often difficult if you do have a lot of complaints and/or the environment was toxic. They are difficult because you don’t want to burn bridges so when asked pointed questions about why you’re leaving, did you have issues with such and such, etc. then you either have to lie outright or come up with a nuanced way of telling the truth so you don’t burn that bridge.

      It’s very stressful and unnecessary since, in my experience, most toxic businesses don’t care anyway what you feel or think and nothing is going to change the situation so why bother with the exit interview?

      1. Anon for this*

        Agreed. At my former employer, two of my co-workers showed the their exit interview form (they offered) where they discussed toxic behavior from senior management, and nothing changed.

        When I was laid off, I was “encouraged” to fill out the same form but declined.

      2. Yup*

        We might be saying the same thing here, but it seems like the tone of the workplace dictates the tone of the exit interview. If it’s an awful toxic broken place overall, then of course my exit comments aren’t going to fix that. In which case, I’ll use the exit as my time to ask any & all questions about the timing of my last check, how to roll over my 401k, where to turn in my key, etc, and respond politely but without emotional engagement to questions. Some places require an exit interview by policy because they have to notify the employee about benefit changes etc on their last day. So I can patiently go along with that in the knowledge that this nonsense aint’ my problem anymore.

        Whereas if it’s a halfway sane workplace, I can treat the exit as a chance to offer some constructive feedback. (Which is very different than airing all the grievances I’ve stored up over X years.) “The hours here are pretty intense, so I was pleased to be offered a position that hopefully will allow me to work 45 hrs a week instead of 60 and get more of a work-life balance.” “Boss and I didn’t always see eye to eye, but I certainly respect her knowledge and wish her continued success here.” “My career goal is to reach a managerial position, and as I wasn’t successful applying internally, I expanded my search to outside.” “I was disappointed when the company discontinued its great healthcare coverage last year, that was a big part of compensation for me.”

        Not that these comments are going to radically change the way a place runs, but you can still present feedback in professional way that keeps the relationship intact. I look at it almost like giving the organization as a performance review: just like what my boss says in my review shouldn’t come as a surprise because we’ve been discussing all along, it shouldn’t be a big shock to the organization what I say when I leave, because I’ve been telling *you* all along. I think it sometimes goes awry when people want emotional closure from the exit interview, with mea culpas from the company or bad boss. Which is moot, because you’re leaving anyway — you’ve already escaped! :)

  11. Hello Vino*

    #5 – Ugh, exit interviews are the worst! I would politely decline if you can. When I resigned from a job a few years ago, both the exit survey and exit interview were mandatory. This was the most dysfunctional place I had ever worked in, and I didn’t want to be falsely positive.

    I tried to decline the interview, but HR insisted that we review and discuss my survey (which I kept fairly neutral). It was an awful experience. I choose my words carefully, but HR got defensive and even adversarial. Every issue that was brought up, HR dismissed it as being invalid or turned it around, blaming it on me. I get that HR is there for the company, but it felt like an interrogation, as if I had been fired.

    #6 – Yep, including a link to your portfolio in your cover letter and resume is standard practice.

    On a side note… for jobs where you’re applying via email, I recommend getting your file down to around 2MB. That’s the magic number that’s frequently mentioned in design job postings. I’ve even seen postings that say if you don’t know how to do that, don’t bother applying. Having been on the other side of the application process, I’ve definitely learned to appreciate that 2MB rule.

    1. Jamie*

      ITA with politely declining. I’m curious as to how common these are. I haven’t worked anywhere that’s done exit interviews – but that’s a small sampling to be sure.

      1. Ed*

        Every place I’ve worked has done them but I’m typically on contract so I don’t get asked. I’m always shocked that no department managers have ever done an informal exit interview to look for ways to improve. I’d be happy to give my opinion about ways to improve meetings, assign work, etc. but I think most people only want criticism if it is positive.

    2. Eric*

      I don’t really understand a “mandatory” exit interview. You’re leaving for a new job, what are they going to do to you?

  12. Josh S*


    It’s definitely not an informational interview if you’re hoping to give them your resume and suggest a job for you. So don’t call it that, or ask for one of those, because AAM is right and it’ll annoy people.

    But it’s not necessarily quite as formal as a “job interview”–particularly if you’re not applying for something in particular. The thing to ask for is to email something like, “Hi [Person who I know professionally], we’ve run into each other a few times as I’ve interned at the County Court. My internship is drawing to a close, and I’m interested in working in the [Prosecutor’s/Public Defender’s] office once I’m finished. Would you be willing to talk with me for 30 minutes so I can find out more about the sorts of roles that might be appropriate for someone at my level, and talk about if there are any positions that might be coming open in the next few months that I could apply for?” etc etc.

    It’s not a formal cover letter or anything–it’s a networking introduction based on your professional interaction through your current position. Treat it as that professional, yet informal, sort of thing and you should do all right.

    1. AJ*

      Original Poster here. Thanks so much Josh! That sounds like the perfect approach to this.

  13. Josh S*

    #3: Recruiters on LinkedIn

    Recruiters scan through LinkedIn all the time looking for people to contact/poach/recruit/whatever to fill their databases or to hire for specific roles. My experience has been generally negative-to-middling with such approaches, but the recruiters have, for the most part, been legit about the kinds of positions available.

    There is almost ZERO chance that your own company was getting a 3rd party recruiter to try to test your loyalty–that’s crazy on so many levels. Treat the requests on face value.

    Also, take your phone number off LinkedIn, unless you like getting calls from random recruiters at inconvenient times. They can reach out to you via email or the LinkedIn messaging system, and it’s just as effective for their purposes (and much easier for you to ignore if you don’t want to get involved).

    1. Judy*

      The recruiters still can call the main switchboard and have the call transferred to you. I get calls at work all the time.

      But they want me to look at an opportunity far away from here. I like my house. My husband likes his job. The kids are in a great school. We like that the grandparents are here. New job, maybe. Move? Not very likely.

  14. Alan Wexelblat*

    I’m also a designer with an online resume and have a word of warning for the designer in #6.

    I agree that it is important to include the link as Allison stated; however, these systems often are set up to strip out links – presumably as a security measure. So it’s possible that an included link won’t make it through the machine to the human – this happened to me several times before I got the clue.

    Since then what I do is double up: I link some text, usually the phrase “my online portfolio” and then I include the URL as text as well. E.G. … see my online portfolio (www.alanwexelblat.com) This way if the link gets stripped the text form will get through.

  15. Juni*

    While it’s unlikely that LW3’s employer arranged that recruiter call, it’s always nice to CYA and make friends with recruiters, even ones who are not offering you anything you want. I have a separate resume for recruiters, which includes my current position and “Not presently seeking new employment” italicized within the bulleted list under my job duties. I also have my LinkedIn page in the footer, and my LinkedIn page also indicates that I am not looking. I always send the resume PDF, so it can’t get messed with except by a very determined dishonest person.

    When I talk to recruiters, I am upfront about my current job, that I’m happy there, and that there’s nothing they can offer to entice me to leave… but that I’m very well connected, and if they tell me about the position and I know people in my field who would be a good fit, I’ll pass along the information. Most recruiters take me up on it.

    I always, always thank the recruiter for contacting me, and let them know that even though I’m not looking right now, it is always flattering to be contacted.

  16. Penny*

    #4- if you’ve had jobs and internships and been in school orgs, you should have enough for a 1 page resume. even if your jobs don’t seem like they relate to the professional world, it might show me your customer service skills, willingness to do entry level work, experience with office equipment, responsibility and involvement may show your interest in your field, if you fit the company culture, or dedication.

    #6- I feel your pain, those are so annoying. I’m not even in a creative field so I have a simple 1 page resume and I submit in pdf format and it was still too big sometimes! What I would do is mention it in the section most companies provide for a cover letter or remarks that you attempted to submit your portfolio several times with no luck and no explanation why but you would gladly email the file or link to the online portfolio.

  17. Liz*

    A followup question on exit interviews…. I just gave my 2 weeks’ notice and was sent an exit interview form. I’m not concerned with being honest, since my negative reviews are about the firm that I”m a subcontractor with, and my sub company will be reading the review and will use that to help them make decisions about sending their contractors to that company in the future.

    But, there are some questions I don’t particularly like on this form. They ask me what the pay and benefits package are for my new job, for instance. I get that they want to be competitive, but it makes me uneasy. Thoughts from the group – is it rude to skip those questions, or am I the only one uncomfortable answering them?

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