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. The person who I replaced 15 months ago now wants her job back

I applied for an internal lateral move 15 months ago and got the job. The vacancy was there because another worker bid on a higher job and got it. Soon after she started her new job, she asked if we could go back to our old jobs because she hated her new one. I agreed to, just so she wouldn’t be miserable. HR told me not to worry, I didn’t have to go back, and they would get her some help with her new job. Now 15 months later, they tell me she is coming back to her old job, booting me out, and I can’t go back to my old job, I must take the only job currently open, which is not a desirable position.

Shouldn’t there be a time limit on her being able to get her previous position back? Shouldn’t they allow me my old position back if they are so willing to make provisions for her? There is nothing at all in our handbook about job bidding or placement or anything like that, and we are non-union, so I feel very mistreated and have no one to back me up since we don’t have a written policy.

There are three standpoints to look at this from: what’s fair, what’s legal, and what’s good management. It’s clearly not fair — you accepted a position she had vacated, and it’s ridiculous that 15 months later she can reclaim it just because she wants to. It is, however, legal; employers can shuffle employees around any way they want to, fair or not (as long as it’s not based on race, gender, or other protected categories). Whether or not it’s good management isn’t entirely black and white — on the surface it obviously seems like it’s bad management, but if they feel that she’ll do a significantly better job in the role that you have been, and they’re not especially worried about retaining you in the long-term, it’s not as bad of a decision as if they were doing it simply because she asked them to … although even if that’s the case, they should care how it will look to other employees. Because it will look pretty bad to anyone who hears about it.

2. I don’t like my campus career center’s resume recommendations

While my college career center liked my resume, nobody else did. It started with an objective, education, work experience, and other or relevant experience, which the career center suggested. I think that this left the most relevant information, my skills and experience, where it is least likely to be read, and left the irrelevant information, my BA in a subject unrelated to the jobs I’m applying for, where it is most likely to be read. This did not make sense to me. And like I said, nobody outside of the career center was particularly happy with it.

Now I have removed the objective and changed the order of the sections of my resume. The order is: skills, relevant experience, work experience, and education. I think that the new structure shows people what they are looking for, possibly in the order that they’re looking for it, with as little junk as possible getting in the way. What do you think? Should I go back to the earlier structure or make any other changes to it?

Yep, your changes are absolutely right for most fields and what I would have suggested. (The only exception would be where the specifics of your education truly are the most important qualification for recent semi-recent grads), but those fields are very, very few.)

The fact that campus career centers are still telling students to use objectives — let alone telling them to bury their most relevant qualifications beyond less relevant ones — makes me want to spend the next month calling up every career center in the country and screaming at them.

3. Are these scheduling habits rude?

I have begun doing freelance work for someone, which requires occasional in-person meetings. This client is aware I have limited availability due to my full-time job as well as other freelance projects I am involved on. I make an effort to schedule our meetings with enough notice for both parties to plan adequately.

Almost two weeks ago, we set a tentative plan to meet this Saturday (time TBD), agreeing he would follow up closer to the date to confirm. On Thursday, having not heard back, I emailed a polite, informal “just want to see if Saturday still works, and if so what time?” He responded Friday morning saying, “still on tomorrow, details to come.” It is now 4pm on Friday and he hasn’t followed up yet.

I can be accommodating to this client so I’m not going to create an issue where there isn’t one, but my question is whether this is bad form or just par for the course for busy people? I am 4 years out of college, and he is an independent film producer who has been in the industry for some time. Is this just the way people work? Is it fair that in our roles I should be the one who has to be accommodating to his schedule? (I feel like it is, but perhaps I am being a pushover here.) And, to that end, what are the etiquette rules for giving people enough time to prepare for a meeting?

It is indeed bad form, and it’s also the way some people work. You can often head this off, however, by structuring your plans with them differently. For instance, this might have gone differently with this guy if during the original plan-making you’d said, “Let’s plan to confirm details by Thursday” — and then if you hadn’t heard from him by late Thursday, followed up with him, saying, “I may not be accessible tomorrow so hoped to confirm these details now.” In other words, being explicit with them about when you want things solidified by, and then following up to make that happen.

As for whether you should be the one to accommodate his schedule, maybe. It depends on the relative power of your position versus his. Do you need him more than he needs you? If so, yes, be prepared to accommodate — but you can still use the tactics above to make it easier when you do.

4. Is it okay to Google your interviewer?

What is the protocol on googling and doing LinkedIn searches on potential interviewers or organizations? I assume they are doing the same about me. I work in a field (communications, PR, marketing and advocacy) where I am expected to be up on technology and especially with advocacy and politics to have some awareness. Is it ok to admit this and if not, in this day and age why would it be creepy? 

It’s fine to Google your interviewer, and it’s pretty much assumed you’ll do so for the organization itself. It’s only creepy if you mention things to your interviewer that have nothing to do with her job — like the recipes she has on her Pinterest or the award she won in high school.

5. When job applications ask for your Social Security number

On several job applications recently, I’ve been asked for my Social Security number, and I’m not thrilled about having to put it there (two were online, one was a paper application). Is this legal (I’ve heard differing things)? And are there ways that I could go around applying without putting my SSN on there?

It’s legal in most states, although a few prohibit it. It’t ridiculous that they ask for it at this stage though, since they don’t need it until they’re paying you or doing a background check, and most people these days know that it’s not the greatest idea to give it out willy-nilly. If the form requires it and won’t let you proceed without entering something, one option is to put all zeros — which should signal that you’re declining to provide it at this stage.

6. My first paycheck is short

I was hired as a nurse for $30 a hour in writing. When I received my first paycheck, they had paid me $10 an hour short without any communication and shorted me 2 hours. Can they decrease my pay? I have the official letter stating my offer. My co workers are getting $30 and more a hour with less education and experience. What can I do?

What your coworkers are getting isn’t relevant to this; what IS relevant is that you were paid less than your agreed-upon rate and you were shorted two hours. You say that they haven’t communicated with you about it, but have you communicated with them? The first step is to go to them and point out the discrepancy; it may be a simple error that they fix on the spot. If not, you have a wage claim; they’re legally obligated to pay you the agreed-upon rate (and can’t change it retroactively, although they can change it going forward) and to pay you for all hours worked if you’re non-exempt.

7. Negotiating a 4-day-per-week schedule

I am in the process of negotiating a job offer that will require me to move to a relatively nearby city. Unfortunately, this company of a couple hundred people and nearly two dozen locations has a nepotism rule, so my spouse (who also works in my field) will not be able to work with this company. We’re not keen on the idea of contracting from two incomes to one. The job description stated that the job carries office hours of 8-5, but I’m wondering whether it would be appropriate to ask during the negotiations whether working 10 hours\day from Monday-Thursday would be an option so that I could be “back home” with my spouse Friday-Sunday?

You can ask that, but I wouldn’t do it until you have an offer, and I’d be prepared to hear no. Some companies allow flexible schedules like that and some don’t. (Some, for instance, consider it an inconvenience not to have employees around of Fridays for meetings, ad hoc questions, etc.) Also be prepared for the fact that they may be wary of hiring someone who will continue to consider “home” to be in a different location — that’s often interpreted as a risk factor for not staying around long.

{ 115 comments… read them below }

  1. CoffeeLover*

    #6 This is a very common mistake. I’ve started new jobs and not been paid at all because someone forgot to check/enter/submit something. I’ve been underpaid and overpaid (the worse of the two by far). It’s always been a mistake that was easily fixed by bringing it up with management. A lot goes into hiring someone and things like this can easily fall through the cracks. I don’t think I’ve had one job where I’ve been paid correctly every pay check for the duration of my employment. Always check your pay if you’re starting a new job, switching positions, getting a raise or taking time off. If you don’t catch the mistake, it’s unlikely others will.

    1. Jessa*

      This, it’s very easy for someone to key in the wrong numbers. I’d probably go with it that way “you know? They paid me at $20 instead of $30…oops?” Treating it as if you’re sure it’s just a clerical error rather than any kind of malice.

      1. Jamie*

        This sounds clerical to me as well – just bring it to their attention with the assumption that they will apologize and fix it. Probably just an entry error.

    2. A Bug!*

      Just further to this, when something like this happens and one possibility is benign (an administrative mistake) and the other is not (they just decided to pay you less after getting your offer in writing), and you have no specific reason to believe it’s the latter and not the former, it’s good for your first steps to be predicated on the assumption that it’s the benign one.

      The reason for this being that someone whose motives are good will likely be put off by an implication of foul play and it’ll harm your relationship going forward.

      Assume the best (publicly), prepare for the worst (privately).

      1. fposte*

        Additionally, people whose motives aren’t good are often happy to embrace a narrative that makes them better than they are.

      2. CoffeeLover*

        +1 Ya, I found it really strange that OP jumped to the most radical of conclusions, when in all likelihood it was a data-entry mistake.

  2. Another Emily*

    #5 It seems extremely shady to ask for your SSN when it’s not needed. I’m Canadian and it’s worth noting that you do not give our your Social Insurance Number on a job application ever ever ever.

    I’m always suspicious of people asking for private, secure information that they don’t need. Is it an option for you to put “available upon hiring” or leave it blank? Or is it okay to give our your SSN like this (though odd)?

    1. Kat*

      I was the one who asked about SSN, and I don’t know if it’s an option to leave blank on the online forums if it would have let me through (both jobs were through government jobs, one city, one a state job), and the paper application said it was required.

      1. Anon*

        Sometimes it depends on the employer and whether they are required to do screening checks on applicants. Government employers may have to do so, hence requiring the SS number at application. If you’re concerned, use AAM’s suggestion of putting all zeros initially. If they’re interested in your application, they’ll ask you about it upon contacting you for an interview.

        1. Jessa*

          If you are going to use the SSN to pre screen applications at that level, then you need to say this when you are asking for it. If you have a legitimate reason for asking for the number, disclose it. People shouldn’t actually be doing that kind of screening without applicant permission anyway.

      2. V*

        For a government (or government contracting) job, I would say that they’re much more likely to disqualify an application if you didn’t fill in the SSN as directed on the paperwork.

        Those jobs tend to love properly filled in paperwork in all its various forms, and failing to fill it out could easily get you disqualified.

        For some government / government contracting jobs (mostly in defense), they may actually be required to either verify your information before having you in to interview, or keep a log of all visitors, including some unique identifying information (generally the SSN is the only option for this). So putting in all zeros could send up red flags that you’re not a legitimate applicant.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          All zeros is so clearly not a fake number that it’s generally understood to mean “ask me about this; I don’t want to enter it here (generally for legitimate reasons, like privacy concerns).”

          1. V*

            I’d agree with you that a smart person would notice that. But an automated system will just process the data and go “That doesn’t match any SSN on record”, and a not-so-smart person (or a person who is just clicking through 200 of these a day) could easily do the same thing.

            I guess it comes down to how worried you are about a potential data compromise, and how much you want to risk an automated or not-so-smart person processing your application.

        2. -X-*

          “keep a log of all visitors, including some unique identifying information (generally the SSN is the only option for this).”

          I find this hard to believe.

          1. Chinook*

            When I had to enter my DH’s secure work environment, they got around logging all visitors withuniqe informationby asking for photo id (driver’s licence or bus pass (the ones for that city had photos)) and keeping it there until you checked out and returned their visitor pass. They actually had a sign stating they would not accept your SIN or health cards as id.

            If you didn’t have photo id, I think you could have whomever was signing you in vouch for you if they were of a high enough rank.

          2. Anonymous*

            It really depends. I had one job interview where they had to verify my citizenship and run a background check before they invited me to the interview . . . and for my current company, all visitors have to be pre-authorized, signed in / out, and escorted by an employee at all times.

      3. RaeLyn*

        I’ve ran across some job applications like this, ended up being nothing more than solicitation for insurance!!!

    2. Chinook*

      Another Emily, when I have applied for jobs in Canada for a US based company, they have asked for my SIN/SSN. Since I know that this information only goes to payroll via a specific tax form, I always leave it blank. But, I have been asked to provide other confidential government information, like my provincial health care number/card, even though the government departments explicitly state that the only people who are legally allowed to ask for them are healthcare providers. I have had to explain to potential employers that this is a breach of the Privacy Act and used another piece of government id to prove my identity. Luckily, I still have my military spouse card (when DH retired, no one thought to ask for it back) but other times have been asked for my passport as a 2nd piece of identification.

    3. Elizabeth West*

      This is something that used to be quite common, but with the digital age and the prevalence of identity theft, it isn’t really a good idea anymore. In a lot of online application software, there isn’t an option to leave the field blank and sometimes it won’t even accept zeros. When I find something like that, it’s a deal breaker for me. The only time I willingly give it up is for government applications.

  3. Y*

    #7: I suppose you have thought this through, but does one company not hiring your husband really necessarily mean that your husband will not be able to work in that city?

    1. WM*

      This was my question too – maybe it’s in the subtext and I missed. Why is your husband not being able to work for the same company as you requiring you to work a four-day week? Is he not moving with you? (I assume that’s the case from what I am reading.)

      Is it not possible for him to move with you and get a job in this new city? If he works in a field that doesn’t have openings in the new city – is your opportunity enough for him to ask to telecommute? He might have more leverage as a current employee than you might as a potential employee. Just an idea! Best of luck to you!

      1. Jamie*

        I didn’t understand this either. I just assumed the husband would move with her but since they weren’t working together anymore she needed more time at home with him. Kind of like a Jim and Pam thing. Not moving with her makes more sense, but unless she has a place to stay it’s crazy expensive to maintain two households so this would be a really high level job in order for that to be even feasible.

        I hope the OP chimes in with more info because I’m totally lost.

        1. Piper*

          I’m totally lost as well and found this question really confusing. Why can’t the husband get a job with a different company?

    2. The Other Dawn*

      I found #7 to be really confusing. I’m not sure how the husband not working at the same company would mean OP has to work four days a week. I assumed when she said she had to move to a nearby city that she meant her household, not just her. Confused.

    3. Your Mileage May Vary*

      Perhaps OP means that this is the only company in the new city that hires people who do what she and her husband do. So if she gets hired, there will be no place available in the city to hire him.

    4. OP for #7*

      No, it doesn’t necessarily mean that my spouse can’t work anywhere in that city but without getting into specifics, it’s a specialized field so there aren’t a lot of options outside of this field.

      My question about working 4 days\week would be so that I could be “back home” for the other 3 days\week to be with my spouse because otherwise, I would be working 5 days\week & traveling home on weekends. I’m not asking for this to be a requirement of accepting the position. I’m simply wondering whether I could accomplish what needs to be done in this job over the course of 10 hours\day for 4 days\week versus 8 hours\day for 5 days\week.

      Does that help clear it up?

  4. Anonymous*

    #1: I feel your pain. I took a job once where it turned out the previous employee had been fired for incompetence. It was a union position so he grieved his termination and won. (He truly was incompetent, but the company was so keen to get rid of him, they made mistakes in building the case for termination). Suddenly I was called into my boss’s office and informed that I was being switched to a miserable schedule and losing my seniority in the department. All for an employee who brought less than nothing to the job, and now was unmanageable since all of management was scared of additional lawsuits. The management clearly did not care one bit about me and made no attempt to ease the transition for me, and I left the company before the year was out.

    1. Sourire*

      Ugh – that’s awful. Don’t get me wrong, I love the benefits and security that my union provides, but stories like this are far too common. Unfortunately, unions protect everyone, including the incompetent and otherwise awful employees, sadly at the expense of the good employees.

      1. LisaLyn*

        Sometimes true about unions, but Anon did state that the company made mistakes in the termination process, FWIW, in this case. That’s on them, not the union.

        Anon, that really and truly sucks. Sorry that happened to you.

        1. Joey*

          Yes. Its hugely important to remember that unions are obligated to represent the absolute worst employees just as much as the best ones. Why they continue to advocate for “equal” treatment regardless of performance is beyond me.

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          It’s only on them if you feel that an employer should be hamstrung by what are often long and onerous process steps to fire someone in unionized environments. This guy clearly should have been fired, whether they dotted every t and crossed every i or not.

          1. Cat*

            But regardless of whether it’s the best system in the abstract, once you’ve committed to do something, you should do it correctly and be held accountable if you don’t. I do think the Company’s biggest violation was not explaining to their new hire that their predecessor’s termination was being contested so they could take the job on that understanding. That, by itself, isn’t usually confidential information.

          2. GeekChic*

            If management didn’t like the discipline process that was proposed during contract negotiations they shouldn’t have agreed to it. If managers aren’t prepared to do what it takes to follow the discipline process that there negotiating team agreed to perhaps they shouldn’t be managers.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Or we can just recognize that unionized environments often tie the hands of managers and make it extremely difficult to get rid of bad employees and difficult/impossible to reward people for merit and otherwise distinguish between employees based on things like merit.

              1. Mike C.*

                It’s not difficult or impossible in the slightest to do any of those things in a unionized environment. I work in one (though I’m unrepresented) and it’s perfectly possible to do so.

                Why do you keep saying things like this? The only limits are with the creativity of the lawyers drafting the contract.

                1. Sourire*

                  I disagree, at least in regard to my particular union (and probably most govt/civil service unions). Yes, it is possible (albeit tedious) to discipline and/or get rid of bad employees, but it’s nearly impossible to reward employees based on merit. Raises/vacation time/etc are purely based on time with the organization, promotions are based on exam scores (yay civil service, where a test that has nothing to do with your job decides your future), and all other “perks” are based on seniority. An employee of the month award, personal satisfaction and the respect of my peers for a job well done is great, but it would be nice for a more tangible reward for a job well done sometimes.

                2. Mike C.*

                  That’s not a function of unions in general, that’s a function of your particular contract or bargaining team.

                  Additionally, you should read up on historical tactics for union busting. There’s a history of employers trying to break unions by favoring particular groups over each other in a “divide and conquer” approach. I’ve personally seen this used in particularly diverse environments where folks speak different languages and have differing citizenship statuses.

                  Then again in the early days they would just arrest people or shoot strikers, but that sort of thing isn’t much covered in high school US History courses anymore.

                3. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  I keep saying this because in my experience and that of most of the people I talk with, it’s true. I don’t object to unions on principle. I object to the way they often function in our current era.

                4. Joey*

                  Actually it is a function of unions in general because that’s generally what they advocate for- rewards based on seniority instead of performance. What exactly is wrong with favoring high performers? Discriminating against low performers isn’t a bad thing is it?

                5. Sourire*

                  MikeC, While it may not be a necessary component to how unions function, it is indeed how many do, particularly public-sector unions. It is not as simple as employees vs employee; we also have to ultimately answer to local/state government and the taxpayers, which greatly complicates things.

                  And I am perfectly content with my education that did indeed cover such topics, thank you.

                6. Joey*

                  If you believe its not difficult or cumbersome to fire someone in a union environment you lack perspective.

                7. Anonymous*

                  I work in a unionized environment and the management are terrified to do anything to reward high performers because every time they do someone goes and whines to the union that it isn’t fair and then if management does want to fight it, it takes a huge amount of time and effort to do so. Even if they win it is now potentially years later and the person they wanted to give a raise to is long gone because no one wants to be the focus of that. Heavily unionized environments with people who are very willing to turn to the union process for every single change in process or every single promotion become stagnant very quickly.

                  Unions have done great things at some point. And they are doing great things in some industries. But in some all they are doing is encouraging everyone to fall to the lowest level of performance.

                8. Coco*

                  I generally support the idea of unions. However, I think modern unions are dysfunctional. Specifically, I’m thinking of teachers unions. In this country everyone is talking about improving education but one of the largest hindrances is the inability of school districts to make significant changes due to the contrary efforts of teachers unions. It seems like it’s the teacher’s job vs the child’s education. Look up what Michelle Rhee tried to do with the schools in DC, offering good teachers$100k salaries and how the union shut her down. All she wanted in return was the ability to fire low performing teachers.

                  Unions seems to ignore the idea that there are low performers among their ranks.

                9. Forrest*

                  Michelle Rhee is probably the worst example you could of offered. And I don’t think its accurate to boil her down to “she wanted to pay awesome salaries but those darn unions are more interested in protecting its employees over students.”

                  A lot of things teacher unions fight for are for the betterment of students.

              2. PEBCAK*

                Well, yes, that’s the point of a union: to prevent managers from doing whatever they want at the expense of the people who work for them.

                1. Jamie*

                  There are many less altruistic points to a union.

                  My husband is in one – I am not. I personally would fight to keep my right and ability to be judged and paid on my own merit without regards to the merits or pay of others in my job classification over greater job security in a union environment any day of the week.

                  I like to think if I’m ever over worked and underpaid it’s due to my own poor negotiation skills and not that of my “representation” because my own shortcomings I can address…having my situation in the control of other people who are representing all – even the lowest performers – would make me too twitchy to work.

                  I’m not arguing there was a time when they served a purpose, but I think they do more harm than good in most cases. I don’t understand why people would prefer to hand over control of their raises, promotions, etc. to an intermediary.

                  Same as grading on a curve and just as unfair to the top performers.

                2. Academic*

                  Here’s the problem: high performers who are well-rewarded look around and think “oh, the non-union system is working well for me.” But surely any regular reader knows that there are tons and tons of managers who don’t promote/reward/retain employees based on performance.

                  The average workplace is not a meritocracy. We can eliminate union control of promotions and raises as soon as we eliminate nepotism, racism, sexism, classism, the halo effect, etc., and measure workers only on their value to the company.

                3. Jamie*

                  I actually see the non-union system working well for others, every day.

                  I am in manufacturing and every week the managers go over the performance profiles of the operators. Those who are consistently high performing are rewarded for that in the form of bonuses and raises. And we are talking about a high but absolutely attainable standard.

                  If instead of being able to give Jane a raise of $2 per hour because she’s excelling her managers hands were tied because her raise was negotiated with the raise of Bob who can’t ever make rate and has write ups for attendance problems and John who is extremely adequate and Mary who is struggling but has potential and will someday be pretty awesome.

                  It doesn’t just hurt Jane – but it hurts Mary since she’s putting in a lot of effort to improve in an environment where her paycheck has the same outcome as if she got up to average and stopped.

                  And if Jane was also a great trainer in a non-union environment she has a shot at supervisor when she’s ready and can be groomed for that. In a seniority based place she could easily end up working for slacker Bob or Mediocre John because they have more time on the job.

                  Those are deadly morale killers for high performers.

                4. Mike C.*

                  I don’t know how many times I need to repeat myself, but folks here how are union represented have their raises based largely on performance reviews.

                  I’m really, really tired about hearing how “unions block this” and “unions ban that” when it’s clearly not the case. I see it with my own two eyes, and I’m tired of being called a liar or worse.

                5. Mike C.*

                  I like to think if I’m ever over worked and underpaid it’s due to my own poor negotiation skills and not that of my “representation” because my own shortcomings I can address…having my situation in the control of other people who are representing all – even the lowest performers – would make me too twitchy to work.

                  Ah, so it’s your own shortcoming if your boss pays women less than men, or decides to sexually harass you? Or maybe just doesn’t feel that women are suited for more advanced, better paying roles? It’s on you to overcome those hurdles?

                6. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Ah, so it’s your own shortcoming if your boss pays women less than men, or decides to sexually harass you? Or maybe just doesn’t feel that women are suited for more advanced, better paying roles? It’s on you to overcome those hurdles?

                  Union contracts that make it hard/impossible to reward merit / fire low performers (and there are many, even if you can find some examples that function well) are way too big of a sledgehammer to address that with, when there are other avenues of redress there.

                7. Jamie*

                  Ah, so it’s your own shortcoming if your boss pays women less than men, or decides to sexually harass you? Or maybe just doesn’t feel that women are suited for more advanced, better paying roles? It’s on you to overcome those hurdles?

                  It sucks that inequities exist and they do in some places…so do jag off managers. But that doesn’t mean I think the answer is in collective bargaining. And yes, I’d rather overcome my own hurdles than trust a collective agency to do it for me.

                  You’ve seen them work, others such as myself have seen them not work and reward time over merit. I am glad for the people you work with that you have the former…but for many union employees the only news of a raise they will get is that everyone in X position will get Y% over Z years

                8. Mike C.*

                  I’m making a new post at the bottom so we can continue this discussion with formatting intact.

              3. Jessa*

                Or we can just agree to disagree on unionised environments especially since all the work they fought and died for is becoming undone anyway. If government has their say we’re about to permanently lose the 40 hour work week here. People DIED to give us that.

                If that means some companies need to pay attention to get rid of some people, then they knew that when they signed the contract, and that contract was probably written that way because sometime in the past they DIDN’T and the fired competent people for no cause except maybe they’d been there awhile and cost too much.

                MOST companies who have unions are pretty well up on what you have to do to get rid of people and are pretty good at doing it.

                If they want merit raises in the contract, they can put them there. With objective and not subjective qualifications too, because I’m sure the reason that’s not in the contract is again “In the past…yadda yadda.”

                Sorry, union kid all the way.

                1. Joey*

                  If you believe there’s no room for subjectivity in the workplace then you also believe theres no need for real managers. When it comes right down to it someone has to decide how much needs to get done and/or how good it has to be. I don’t care how much objective info you base it on subjectivity will always be a large component.

                  What I almost always find is that the people who complain just don’t want to accept that they’re not high performers. They don’t want to raise the bar, they always want the bar lowered.

              4. ThursdaysGeek*

                Unions can be good (and in the past did a lot of good), but there are always the stories of the unions that reward the slackers. The stories I hear are from my 3 brother and sister-in-laws who work for a local school district, two of them in the union. It sounds like management has completely given up and doesn’t even try to get some people to work, people are only rewarded on seniority, incompetence is rampant, and the only reward for doing good work is being given more work.

                I’m glad not all unions are like that, just as I’m glad not all management is like some of the horror stories we read here. And yes, the union horror stories I hear are partly the fault of the managment that no longer fights for something better.

            2. Cat*

              Yeah, it’s a freely bargained for contract. The difference with any other employment contract is that employees actually have some bargaining power. Unionized employers could limit the protections on terminations if they were willing to make other concessions. They often aren’t, and there’re business reasons for that. I have no doubt it’s frustrating to their managers, but those managers should take it up with the bargaining team. Frankly, most of the union members I work with* would be perfectly happy to trade those job protections in order to continue to get salary raises, and to have decent training, and to not have their pensions gutted, and to not be expected to do the work of three different positions as their workforce continually shrinks in size. But companies aren’t agreeing to those things.

              * As a lawyer who doesn’t practice labor law, but does interact with unionized workforces.

              1. Joey*

                Its not really a freely bargained contract when you consider the frequent use of good faith bargaining lawsuits.

              2. Academic*

                I was recently involved in my graduate employees’ union contract bargaining, and you know what management made into a sticking point? A “no sexual harassment” clause. They didn’t want to agree that professors can’t harass their TA’s. Never had the need for a union been more clear to me.

                1. Jamie*

                  They can’t write into the contract the ability to disregard local and federal employment laws so giving themselves a pass on sexual harassment wouldn’t remove their liability.

                  And plenty of workplaces have a zero tolerance on harassment without union involvement.

                2. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Yeah, this is confusing to me, because the law already makes workplace sexual harassment illegal, so whether it’s in their contract or not would make no difference.

                3. Mike C.*

                  Are you kidding me Allison? How many times do we have someone write in talking about how they are the subject of a clearly illegal practice where you hem and haw about “taking action could ruin your chances at the job” and “how you need to see if the battle is worth fighting”? By having these issues dealt with in the contract, it outlines exactly how investigations are performed, findings are made and so on. These issues aren’t defined in the law.

                  By putting it in the contract, it serves a few purposes –

                  1. It means that those under the contract can have greater protections against retaliation for reporting sexual harassment. This is a huge thing for safety and anti-harassment and I’m really shocked that this isn’t evident!

                  2. It means the employees don’t have to get a lawyer and go to court to resolve the issue. It also means that employees don’t have to directly notify their bosses about the harassment, which is great, because there’s a good chance that the person who is supposed to be notified is connected to the person who is harassing you.

                  And advocating for zero-tolerance policies? Really? Sure, let’s see how that one works out when the person doing the harassing is a star employee.

            3. Sourire*

              Agreeing to a contract and liking what is in that agreement is not the same thing. All sides have to make A LOT of concessions. A contract would simply never be passed if if you had to like every single thing proposed in it; It’s just not practical (or even possible).

          3. Mike C.*

            Yes, heaven forbid a company take responsibility for a contract they signed and for documenting poor behavior. Somehow it’s manageable everywhere else, but here in the US that’s a bridge too far.

            1. Anonymous*

              Yes and heaven forbid a good employee be rewarded for doing a good job and a bad employee be fired because that wouldn’t be “fair”.

              1. Joey*

                I always wonder if union advocates and supporters truly believe in the stances they take or if its really just a tactic to shore up as many paying members as possible. Sort of like the NRA strong arming gun range customers to be members.

                1. Anonymous*

                  I know that some unions do really critical work but at some point they spend more energy keeping the union alive than striving to make changes to improve the general quality of life for the workers. And that point when they spend their time making the squeakiest wheel happy so they continue to pay dues is generally the point when the unions are much less valuable.

                2. Mike C.*

                  It’s one thing to disagree with me, but it’s quite another to call me a liar.

              2. Mike C.*

                I work in a huge, largely union represented company, and THERE ARE MERIT RAISES. AND MERIT BONUSES. These can be at the whim of the manager, based off of safety records or company/division/etc performance.

                Quit telling me they don’t exist when they clearly do!

  5. Anonymous*

    #1 similar thing happened to my stepmom. She had to work a crap job which was also part time(instead of her original full time position) so she wouldn’t lose the family’s health insurance. It happens and it sucks.

  6. Anon*

    #1-Why, if you applied and wanted this position, w0uld you so quickly offer to go back just because this other person was unhappy? I’m sorry but that makes no sense to me.

    1. Anonymous*

      If they’re making her go back after 15 months, I highly doubt they would have listened if she refused at the fact.

    2. The Other Dawn*

      I agree. There’s no way I would do that. I don’t care how unhappy the other person was. If I applied and got the position, it’s mine.

      1. fposte*

        Agreed. However, I’m not sure that’s really a factor here, since the offer to switch back happened 15 months ago. If it *is* a factor here, OP, I’d state firmly “My offer was to do it immediately, not after I’d established myself in the job for over a year.”

        But yeah, don’t do that any more.

    3. AMG*

      Perhaps they are operating under the impression that you are still ok with switching. Also, does your boss want to keep you? Maybe that would help.

    4. dejavu2*

      I don’t think it’s fair to jump all over the OP for this. It was a lateral move, and she agreed to go back to her old job. She didn’t agree to be demoted! They’re changing the bargain, this isn’t what she agreed to.

      1. Anon*

        I don’t think we are jumping on the OP but even in those first days after her job change, I don’t know why you’d ever agree to go back to the old job since you applied for a new one.

        I think the company is handling this really badly.

    5. Jessa*

      I think the issue here is the offering to go back part. That was probably not well done, and probably lead management to believe that the OP was not happy or did not feel comfortable or skilled in the new job. Not that the OP was being “nice,” because in business that’s an inappropriate reason to be “nice.”

      They’re now moving the OP back because the other person clearly wants a job that the OP has made monumentally clear by offering to step aside at some point, that they don’t really care about.

      Mind you I don’t BELIEVE that myself, but I know what the company is thinking about it.

      1. fposte*

        I think you may be right about the thought process, but I think that enough time has elapsed since the statement that the OP could outright say “Hey, I’m not offering to step aside any more” even if her old job still existed. An offer like that isn’t binding for 15 months.

  7. bearing*

    “The fact that campus career centers are still telling students to use objectives…makes me want to spend the next month calling up every career center in the country and screaming at them.”

    This may be an odd question, but are there any publications, journals, or trade magazines that are widely read in the “industry” (or academic niche, whatever) that is campus career counseling? Or do they stay in touch with general higher education publications? Maybe you should start shopping yourself out as a columnist or try selling some opinion pieces/guest commentary.

    1. Career Advisor*

      Many campus career centers have membership with an association like NACE (National Association of Colleges and Employers) and hire staff who have recruiting or industry experience. The good ones also make sure they are staying updated on hiring trends in a variety of industries so that the advice they provide to students is relevant and give students opportunities to connect with alumni and employers.

      1. Career Advisor*

        Sorry, I typed this quickly. The second sentence should read: “The good ones also make sure they are staying updated on hiring trends in a variety of industries so that the advice they provide to students is relevant, and they give students…”

  8. College Career Counselor*

    #2: Sorry to hear about your resume woes with the Career Center. Alison is correct–they gave you out-dated one-size-fits-nobody recommendations. Bottom line, this resume is YOUR document, and you have to feel comfortable with both the format and content while making sure both are appropriate for the field/job to which you’re applying. Good luck in your job search!

    1. Anonymous*

      I don’t know that feeling comfortable with it is something that should really be important. (I think this OP here has good instincts and was right on the nose.) I feel uncomfortable telling people HI I AM AWESOME LET ME TELL YOU HOW. Which is what a resume is at heart. But that doesn’t mean my discomfort should give me a pass to say, hey other people do good things let me tell you about them, which is what I’d be comfortable with. I guess I could, but it wouldn’t be very effective at getting me a job.

  9. B*

    For non-government jobs I do not supply my SSN. I’ll do the 000 or 111 or just leave it blank. If someone asks why it is is blank I let them know I prefer to fill that in should I be hired. Or if they use it for filing I will do *last four digits.

    I have less of an issue with government jobs asking for it. Many times they need it to run a quick background check before they bring you in. So for that I do supply it.

  10. Tiff*

    #1 – The next time someone essentially says to you, “Hey, I don’t like my job, can I do yours?” tell them no.

  11. Rob Aught*

    Here’s a response from a middle manager –

    #4 – You can Google whatever you want, just remember that if you look up someone on LinkedIn they might notice. Never bothers me unless they want to talk about my experience outside of the company. You can ask questions to find out what kind of boss I am, but I really don’t have to give a career breakdown in YOUR interview.

    #5 – Absolutely avoid giving out your SSN. When I was out of work once my wife applied at a grocery store and she filled out an application. The next week she started having identity theft issues. Even though we could easily make the connection, there wasn’t much the police either could or was willing to do about it.

    #6 – I get payroll registers a week in advance of payday. I check mine, many managers don’t. Even then, it is just a notice of who on my teams are getting paid. I don’t see the final check. The employee is ultimately responsible for making sure their paycheck is accurate. I wouldn’t waste anytime pointing out to payroll they made a mistake, and being new is no reason not to speak up.

    1. bob*

      I think you’re somewhat wrong about not wanting to discuss your background with a prospective employee during an interview. As a candidate in a highly technical field I don’t need a copy of your resume but I definitely want to know that YOU know the subject matter we’re interviewing about.

      I really don’t want to interview with someone who knows next to nothing about the field and can’t really converse about the technical aspects of doing the job which is kind of important. To me anyway.

  12. books*

    I was interviewing someone once who flat out said “I googled you and saw your degree was in x.” That’s fine, and I 100% expect you to google me if you’ve been told who you’re interviewing with, but that question could be phrased better…

    1. the gold digger*

      When I was interviewing for the job I have now, I told the director that I had seen on his LinkedIn profile that he had been in the navy. I mentioned my dad had been career military and we had a nice little military conversation. He didn’t seem bothered at all.

      You don’t want to mention to someone, though, that you can look up property tax records to see how much he paid for his house.

        1. the gold digger*

          Divorce records are also available. Not that I would check to see how long that quicky marriage lasted for that hunky exercise instructor on whom I had a crush years ago.

  13. fposte*

    On #2–Alison, do you recommend skills first on a resume? I’ve never seen it used well–it always includes things like “motivated self-starter” or “Microsoft Word,” but I could see it for more technical positions, like when you want to list the languages you code in. Can you expand on what that section should and shouldn’t have if it’s up front?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yeah, the key is that it has to be done well, and it so often isn’t! Often it’s really generic stuff that isn’t different from what anyone else applying in that field would have there, or is silly subjective stuff (exactly like “motivated self-starter”) that no one will pay any attention to. But done well (specific, non-vague, truly conveying what you’re all about as a professional), it can be pretty compelling.

    2. Anonicorn*

      In my field, #1 important factor–to me–is if they know the specific software. With my particular job title, some people do the visible work using the software and some people do the stuff before that, and I need to know which type of person this is. I would be thrilled if I saw skills listed first…or even at all. :|

  14. Anon*

    #3-My husband is in indie film, and they have a very laid back culture on this type of thing. You learn really early in your first film or two to set boundaries. If you aren’t clear about what you need, flexibility is assumed. It’s a field where it’s reeeaaallly common for ego to outmatch experience (“don’t you know who I think I am?!?”), so you may have to train your clients to observe professional norms more often than you would if you were working with a different group. People in “the business” operate on their own timelines unless they see a reason to do otherwise, and people from outside the field usually aren’t getting paid enough to be cooperative with vague deadlines. My SO is pretty laid back and egotastic himself (not obnoxiously so, thank goodness), but he’s learned that contracts and hard deadlines are his friends anytime he collaborates with anyone.

  15. Anonymous*

    Allison, doesn’t this contradict your advice from yesterday:
    “The best way to apply for a job is the way the company has told you to do it.”

    By not putting their SSN, isn’t an applicant saying that either (1) they know better than the hiring manager, or (2) the candidate can’t follow directions?

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      No, two different things. You’re not obligated to disclose any and all information they request of you, particularly if it runs counter to commonly understood information about how to avoid identify theft. That’s different from saying, “I don’t want to apply online so I’ll pop by in person instead.”

      (Of course, they can decide to discard you for not disclosing your SSN / weight / family secrets / whatever, but it’s still perfectly reasonable to decline to disclose it.)

  16. Mike C.*

    Union contracts that make it hard/impossible to reward merit / fire low performers (and there are many, even if you can find some examples that function well) are way too big of a sledgehammer to address [sexual harassment] with, when there are other avenues of redress there.

    The only avenue here are hiring a lawyer and filing a case. You’re a realist, and you know what this means. The individual’s job is most likely gone, there’s the issue of “professional reputation”, lawyers cost a shit ton of money and of course the ever present victim blaming at goes on in these cases. Who knows how the company is going to investigate the claim, and if the accuser is a top performer, then “the correct business decision” is to retaliate against the accuser. This is a trivial exercise, from simply not scheduling them work hours to firing for no reason at all.

    Best case scenario, you get some back pay and a neutral (maybe) review, and then you still have to find a new job. If there’s one around. Sure, it might mean moving the kids out of school or separating from your spouse to make ends meet, but that’s better than a yucky ol’ union, right?

    The point still stands if you’re talking about safety issues, immigration abuse or misclassification of employees. I’ve personally witnessed the first two to an extreme degree, and having union protection would have taken care of all that. There’s a comfort in knowing that there’s something to back you up if you don’t want to do dangerous work without the proper equipment or training. Sure, OHSA exists, but like most of our other regulatory agencies, funding is always gutted and inspections are few and far between.

    You continually claim that having a union, that is, a contract for work is this ball and chain that prevents businesses from being their best, and yet I have to ask, what about the rest of the developed world? Look at the strongest member state of the European Union – Germany. They don’t have minimum wages laws because their unions are so strong. Union representatives sit on the board of directors and work together with every other part of the company to ensure that things are successful. If unions were so binding, why is Germany doing so well? How about Australia? Sweden? Everyone talks about how Finland has the best public school system in the world, and yet all of those teachers are unionized as well!

    There are certainly flaws with any large group of people. But for every union you point to that “makes it difficult to fire bad people”, I can point out several non-unionized businesses that refuse to do the same all on their own. For every union that doesn’t allow merit pay, I can not only point to one that does, I’ll point to several other businesses that refuse to increase salaries and benefits to match company productivity and success.

    I still remember that signed Dali print that was hung a few feet from my cubicle just after hearing benefits would be slashed at my last job. The one where all the lab equipment was terrible and they kept the H1-B visa holders working 6-7 days a week and 10 hour days for fear of being deported. “Sure, just find a new job!” you always say, but when the risk of not being hired anytime soon is being deported to the kind of place that makes people disappear, that’s not a realistic option. A union would have protected all of us, but those folks most of all.

    A heavy hammer? Not heavy enough.

    1. KarenT*

      Absolutely agree that unions are very helpful for sexual harassment protection. I would also say they are helpful with recourse for any discrimination incident and for safety protection.

  17. Mike C.*

    It sucks that inequities exist and they do in some places…so do jag off managers. But that doesn’t mean I think the answer is in collective bargaining. And yes, I’d rather overcome my own hurdles than trust a collective agency to do it for me.

    They don’t “do it for you”, they provide appropriate protection so that you can have a fighting chance to begin with. You aren’t fighting against a single person, you’re fighting against a larger, better funded and more experienced legal entity. If you’ve been legally wronged, I just don’t see the shame in getting help.

    But really, it comes down to this: what is your answer?

    Wages in this nation have been stagnating for decades in comparison to productivity, and yet profits are at record highs and so are the stock markets. We haven’t seen wealth inequality as high as it is now (Gini index is how this is typically measured) since the Gilded Age. Unions ensure that their members know their legal rights, help provide access to those rights and ensure that employees are paid well. Is every union great? No, in fact I’ll say right now that police and prison unions can jump off cliff with what their protectionist lobbying does for society as a whole.

    But given the incredibly weak labor laws we have compared to the rest of the developed world, and the tiny safety net we offer to those down on their luck, what is your alternative?

    1. Jamie*

      I think this is a case where we don’t disagree on the end result – I am also strongly in favor of fair treatment and fair pay for everyone as well as merit raises and accountability. What we disagree on is how you get there and I think it comes down to personal experience.

      You’ve worked in a crappy place which treated people poorly and have conversely seen things run well and fairly in a union environment. I’ve seen unions drag their feet so my husband was working 3+ years out of contract and then negotiate AWAY the retro when they finally got their raise. I’ve seen unions spend excessive time and more money than I care to add up running campaigns to keep their contract rather than taking care of the needs of people they allegedly represent. A lot of shop stewards will tell you that the political mess of dealing with the union is an uglier fight than management.

      I have seen union reps in another environment actively play the us vs them card before they’ve spoken to one worker.

      Yes, at one time they were needed, but the whole concept of collective bargaining is abhorrent to me because IMO it inherently diminishes the ability of the individual to chart their own course. It ties management hands and it forces the unionized workers into certain constructs which, IME, protect all performers at the expense of the high performing employees. True, maybe not in your case, but others have different experiences and I have to say of the many people I’ve known in life who have been union employees lack of merit in favor of seniority has been a theme across many industries and fields.

      I have seen unions make things unnecessarily adversarial and not every place requires this. For the last 5 years our health premiums have gone up and not one dime was passed to employees. The company just ate the additional cost. I’ve seen fair assessments and increases, I see people being treated as individuals whether that means rewards, coaching, or firing. Perfect? No, but if I’m a high performing operator I’d absolutely rather work here than the union shops …because ill make more money and my chances of moving up are tied to no one but me.

      I applaud your sentiment for a safe and air workplace and I absolutely share it – I just don’t think a union can or will accomplish that.

      1. Mike C.*

        So what would you then do? Increase the safety net so that employees in a bad place can more easily leave? Take Friedman and Hayak’s idea of a guaranteed minimum income*? Something else entirely?

        You’ve obviously put a good deal of thought into this issue, so I’m curious to hear what you would do.

        *I can expand on this in greater detail if you’re curious, it’s an absolutely fascinating idea that had some interesting results when tested.

        1. Jamie*

          This is an interesting discussion and I want to respond when I have time to give it more thought than a quick throwaway comment.

          And I agree that the guaranteed minimum income is a fascinating idea – but one that at first glance I think is better in theory and not workable in practice. However, I haven’t studied this and I want to do more reading on this before I opine – because otherwise I’m guilty of the knee jerk reactions that make me twitchy.

          I have my google subject for tonight. :)

      2. GeekChic*

        I have seen unions work well (last job and current job) and I’ve seen unions work poorly (teaching in multiple places). What I find infuriating is that people who are anti-union take their own singular experiences (negative with unions) and then generalize against all unions and union situations and presume that positive and productive union workplaces can’t possibly exist (or that positive government / legislative intervention can’t possibly exist).

        However, when people like Mike C. and others (or myself) talk about multiple experiences with horrendous managers and awful workplaces we’re chastised that “not all workplaces / managers are like that”. My response? Enough are to make it a problem! And the fact that some don’t think so means they have either lived a very privileged existence or just don’t care.

  18. JI*

    Regarding #2 – The Objective section is definitely out-of-date, but many people use a Summary instead these days. The objective says what you want from a company, the summary says what your skills are in a short few sentences. I think summaries are good to use, and when the average resume is looked at for only a few seconds, a summary can present you and your skills in a quick blurb.

  19. #2*

    Thank you all for the response and the comments here. I’ll think about all of this advice when going over my resume again. The career center at my school is only trying to help, but I think my resume was seen by someone who hasn’t hired anybody or been hired in a while… It’s so good to get advice from people with more recent experience.

  20. Valery*

    #2 – That is unfortunate to hear! I’m glad you trusted your instincts and changed your resume to better share your experience.

    On a tangent, Alison, in lieu of calling every career office and straining your voice, have you ever thought of presenting/keynoting at a conference for Career Counselors? (there’s definitely a few out there) I think your experiences, examples and upfront honesty would be of so much benefit in our field – especially because, while I hope this example is rare, I do think our field needs to hear more of type of insights you share.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I should probably pitch something like that, but I am a wait-to-be-invited type (largely out of laziness), and they do not invite me!

Comments are closed.