my company told me to pick my own punishment, resumes with jokes, and more

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

1. I have to pick my own punishment

I was going to be 15 minutes late to work and another employee clocked me in on time. My boss was told and she told corporate. Corporate said I need to pick how I should be punished for having another employee clock me in. What should my punishment be?

What?! They want you to pick your own “punishment”? Who the hell is running things over there? Adults don’t need to be punished; rather, consequences for wrongdoing at work are generally along the lines of serious warning conversations; having the problem reflected in your performance evaluation, raises, references, and growth opportunities; being given less trust and flexibility; or being let go.

Honestly, falsifying a timecard should be a fireable offense — even for something like 15 minutes, because it goes to fundamental issues of trust and integrity — but I doubt you want to tell them to fire you.

2. Can I use prepaid travel arrangements that my company made for me before I was fired?

Let’s say a company prepaid a business trip for you – nonrefundable airfare, and hotel accommodation. Then you’re fired. They’re not getting any money back – the money paid is nonrefundable. If they fail to cancel the tickets/hotels (all in your name), is it illegal to take said trip?

I can’t think of any laws that it would break. But it doesn’t feel right, that’s for sure, because those tickets aren’t really yours. Can anyone think of a law that would be in play here that I’m not thinking of?

(By the way, I bet your hotel reservation actually is refundable; they typically are if they’re canceled far enough in advance.)

3. Should candidates know they should always submit a cover letter, even if it’s not explicitly requested?

My office is hiring a new staff member and a few of us are working on the recruiting and screening process. We are really small and don’t have any HR staff, so the task falls to the rest of us.

I posted the job description online and asked that applications be emailed to a member of our team. We are getting some emails with just a resume and a 2-3 sentence note from the applicant. I say that prospects should know that “application” means cover letter and resume and that if they can’t figure that out, they don’t have the standards for professionalism and common sense that we highly value at our office. However, my coworker insists job searching is a stressful process, we were unclear with the directions, and that it is fine to email them back and ask for a cover letter. Can you help us settle this discussion?

Actually, lots of people think that “application” just means a resume. I’d go back and change your ads to say “please submit a resume and cover letter” so that it’s clear. Anyone who doesn’t send a cover letter after seeing those directions can be written off — but as for the group that’s already applied, for anyone with a strong resume, I’d send a quick note back requesting a cover letter rather than rejecting them outright.

4. Employer asked me to interview with one day’s notice, but I’m not local

I’m currently job searching for a job in another city (NYC) but I live 3 hours away and work in my hometown. I read on your site that if you have the ability to use a local address when applying to jobs, do so. I am fortunate enough to have family in NYC and used a family members address. Immediately after changing the address on my resume I got an e-mail from an interested company I applied too. Only thing is, they wanted to meet me the very next day. I also took your advice and tried to give them a reason why I wasn’t in NYC at the moment but they stated they needed someone immediately and didn’t seem interested in meeting me anymore.

Is there a more professional way to let employers out of state know you are interested in their open position but aren’t available that day/the next to meet?

First, just to be clear, I haven’t said to make up a reason for not being there at the moment — what I’ve said is be prepared to explain the real situation if invited for an immediate interview. For instance: “I haven’t yet moved but plan to be there by X, but I could be there for an interview as soon as next week.”

You do need to be prepared to fly out with very little notice (not as in one day, but definitely as in one week) if you’re job-searching long-distance, unless your skills are very hard-to-find and in-demand (because otherwise they’ll just turn to local candidates).

5. What does this email from an employer mean?

I had a phone interview and was later called for a second in-person interview. The second interview, I think, went pretty well (but you can never be sure). I sent the committee a thank-you email the following day. Surprisingly, I got an email from them saying, “It was a pleasure to visit with you yesterday and learn more about your background and what you would bring to the position.” Does that mean I didn’t get the job? The email is so vague that I can’t tell. It doesn’t say “ yes, you got the job,” but it also doesn’t say “you got the job!” Am I reading into it too much?

Yes. It means exactly what it says, no more and no less. They enjoyed meeting you. That’s all. There’s no decision being conveyed in this email in either direction.

6. Can you include a joke on your resume?

My daughter, a college student, is preparing her first resume to apply for an internship with a small web design firm. Trying to be funny, she asked: “Would it be wrong to write that I have the same number of Oscars as Leonardo DiCaprio in the ‘other accomplishments’ section of my resume?”

I replied: “A little humor down at the bottom isn’t necessarily bad, especially if it helps reflect who you are.” Did my years of reading Ask A Manager guide me properly? Or did I misdirect my daughter?

I am sorry to say that you misdirected her! She should not put something on her resume that isn’t true, even as a joke, and particularly not this. It will annoy too many hiring managers, and it will seem a little off. A resume is for her accomplishments and background, period. She can add some humor into the cover letter, though — just not a fake accomplishment (even obviously fake) on the resume.

7. Does it look bad if I don’t remind my manager to do performance evaluations?

I started a new job about two years ago, and it is company policy that managers should arrange appraisal meetings for employees on a yearly basis. For some reason, I have never had an appraisal (I suspect my manager has a calendar reminder that she hasn’t set or something).

I don’t mind or particularly want one — I’m satisfied my work is getting noticed, etc. — but am I likely to be seen in a bad light for not having reminded my manager about this or mentioned it to her?

No. Your manager is likely to be seen in a bad light if someone eventually notices that she hasn’t been doing this, but it’s going to reflect on her, not on you.

That said, you might ask for one anyway — you might be glad you have something documenting your performance if, for instance, a new manager replaces her at some point.

{ 326 comments… read them below }

  1. Tuesday

    “She should not put something on her resume that isn’t true, even as a joke, and particularly not this.”

    I think the joke is that the statement IS true. She and Leo both have exactly zero Oscars to their name.

      1. Rana

        Yeah, I didn’t get it either. So it wouldn’t even work as a joke; it would just be weird.

      2. Another Day, Another Dollar

        Maybe the reply shouldn’t indicate she was writing something that isn’t true though. The problem is the joke, right?

    1. The IT Manager

      But joke’s are supposed to be funny. This isn’t even after the overly complicated part about having to know that LD has not won any Oscar’s is explained. * I cannot imagine that can be considered “common knowledge.”

      Or is the joke that someone who’s been reading AAM for years thought this was a good idea, because, wow! I didn;t think Alison would be supportive of this.

      1. fposte

        I actually did think it was funny, but I still wouldn’t suggest including it on a resume. It’s one of those painting-the-living-room-purple-when-you’re-selling-the-house things–the odds of you finding somebody who loves the house *because* you did it are much less than the odds of people being put off by it.

        Additionally, she’s young enough that she doesn’t have much professional history to balance something like this out to make her look professional, so it risks looking like she’s not going to be aware of professional demands and standards.

      2. Forrest

        I thought the joke was funny and in some fields would be considered common knowledge. Also, Leo’s an A-List actor and has been referred to as our generation’s Peter O’Toole. So its not too crazy that even people outside the field of movies would know this. Just because some people don’t doesn’t mean the jokes not funny – its just not funny to them.

        Jokes vary in funny – my boyfriend works in IT and tells computer related jokes. I have no clue what he’s talking about but I wouldn’t say “Jokes are supposed to be funny and yours is too overly complicated” just because I know nothing about computers. The daughter’s problem isn’t that she told an “unfunny joke,” her problem is that she didn’t tailor the joke to the audience.

        Also, I think the mom may of been thinking of this: https://www.askamanager.org/2011/09/great-cover-letter.html. The author does use a humorous tone to convey her experience and AAM did endorse it. The mom just applied the advice incorrectly – approving a joke in a resume when AAM is saying a light tone in a cover letter works.

        1. Kelly L.

          I didn’t know it off the top of my head, but my first thought when I read the OP was “Oh! He must have zero, and that’s the joke!”

        2. Jamie

          Yeah – whenever I start to tell a joke my kids ask if it’s about computers…I always say no because otherwise they’ll walk away…

          How many Sys Admins does it take to change a light bulb?

          One, if you can prove it was her system that caused the light bulb failure…she will check the logs and once verified that this indeed a system and not environmental problem she will get back to you with a ticket number and an estimated time of repair.

          Three kids – not one of them thought it was funny. Not sure they’re mine.

          1. KellyK

            My husband’s a computer programmer. I bought him a t-shirt that says “How many programmers does it take to change a lightbulb? None. It’s a hardware problem.”

          2. Natalie

            Actually, that confirms they’re yours – kids are supposed to roll their eyes at their parents’ jokes. :)

          3. Jen M.

            My boyfriend has a line of Linux T-shirts on Skreened.com. Some of them are funny to me, because I understand them. LOL!

          4. Joe

            I thought that was pretty funny. What kind of a sysadmin actually gets back to you with an estimated time of repair??

      3. Kou

        I found it pretty funny actually, and I only know he has none because I’ve heard people talking about how he got robbed over and over and over since the Oscars despite my very best attempts to not ever hear any celebrity news ever. Maybe not SUPER common knowledge but I’d say it’s far from esoteric.

    2. Sascha

      I thought it meant she had Oscars as in fish – those giant fish that you can only keep one or two at a time. I honestly have no idea how many Oscars Leo has.

    3. Jen M.

      It’s not even appropriate if she’s trying to become a comic: That’s a whole different process.

      I agree with AAM: Save the humor for AFTER you get to know your coworkers! (Generic “you”.)

  2. Confused

    6. “same number of Oscars as Leonardo DiCaprio”
    Alison, technically that is true. The OP’s daughter and DiCaprio have the same number of Oscars. Zero.
    http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0000138/awards
    :D
    Jokes don’t really belong in your resume tho…even actor/comedian headshot/resumes don’t usually have anything “jokey” on them.

    1. CG

      Exactly, nothing to do with fake accomplishments, as Leo has never won!
      I agree that this might be OK on the cover letter depending on the culture of the place and the industry, but I wouldn’t put it on the CV.

      1. Anonymous

        The industry is huge. Is she applying in the film industry? Is this her acting resume? In the former, it miiiiiight be clever as part of a cover letter (assuming it’s not with, say, Leonardo DiCaprio’s agency or something!) And there might be some directors who would find it charming on an acting resume, but they’d be few and far between. Either way, jokes like this should be very carefully chosen and selected, even if she is in an industry that would certainly “get” the joke.

        And it has zero place in the cover letter or resume of any other industry.

        1. Liz T

          Even if this were film industry, and even if jokes are okay on a résumé (I think they’re not), this is a SNARKY joke, and I think it’s best to avoid negativity when presenting oneself to perspective employers.

          1. Confused

            The OP said “preparing her first resume to apply for an internship with a small web design firm” so it’s not in the entertainment industry. Even if it was, “show business” is still a business and your resume needs to be taken seriously. Save the jokes for your twitter or spec script. Agree with Liz T re: snarky.

  3. V

    #1 — I’m curious as to whether the OP asked the coworker to clock her in, or if the coworker thought she was doing the OP a favor by clocking in for her.

    If she didn’t ask the coworker to clock her in, I don’t think the OP should be “punished” at all.

    1. CoffeeLover

      #1 When I was working customer service type jobs in highschool and early university, this was a pretty common thing to do among close coworkers. I’ve clocked people in, people have clocked me in. Is it right? No. Is it common? Yes. I understand there’s a lot of other implications and morality surrounding this behaviour, but in the 3 years I worked at one place, I got my coworker to clock me in about 5 times because I was either grabbing coffee for us or I was going to be 5 minutes late and we had strict late policies. Not exactly a material amount of time. I think this dishonest behaviour is a result of bad management decisions. Namely, enforcing unnecessarily strict scheduling (there’s a time and place for that). Not all places are like this though. Sometimes people think being 15 minutes late is a big deal when in reality the boss just wants to know you’ll be late.

      I’m not really surprised she didn’t get fired. You’d have to fire 2 people in that situation and that might lead to a short staffing situation the manager (who appears like she doesn’t know what she’s doing) probably doesn’t want to deal with.

      1. CoffeeLover

        Oh and as for the punishment, just say something like: “I thought about what happened, and I realize now I should have just called in to let everyone know I would be late. I can see how my behavior was inappropriate and I won’t do this again.” Don’t even mention the punishment because I doubt she’ll bring it up. If your manager does then I would say: “I think we should just follow the companies policies in handling and documenting this.”

      2. V

        Late policies in customer service are a joke. I was in between jobs and worked at a large retailer (hint – they host a Thanksgiving parade every year), and they had a 9 minute grace period. Someone could come in 9 minutes late every single day without penalty, but someone who came in 10 minutes late once lost “attendance points”.

        I never saw anyone clock anyone else in, but I’m sure it happens often in those positions. I do think that they should discipline properly and the coworker who agreed to clock the OP in is also to blame. If it is something the OP didn’t ask for/ not something they have a history of doing, the OP shouldn’t get in trouble for it.

        1. Lindsay J

          The 9 minutes is supposed to be a grace period in case you run into traffic or trouble finding a parking space, etc. If I were the manager there and I saw somebody abusing the grace period by clocking in 9 minutes late on a daily basis I would be having a conversation with them about it even if it didn’t technically count as poor attendance.

          However, you have to draw the line somewhere, and it seems arbitrary to not be punished for 9 minutes but be punished for 10 minutes but that line is going to seem arbitrary wherever it is drawn. 9:00 okay but 9:01 not okay, 15 minutes fine but 16 minutes a violation, 29 minutes okay but 30 minutes not okay all seem pretty silly in a vacuum but when you realize that at some point you have to draw the time it makes more sense.

          Stricter attendance policies are also important in retail and other similar positions such as a receptionist where having someone in the chair or at the register ready to serve customers is more important than the work produced.

          1. Mimi

            I think sometimes it depends on the timecard system used. We use KRONOS, and with the way it is set-up, you can arrive anytime between 8:00am – 8:11am, and you’re still considered to have arrived “on time”. At 8:12am, however, the system now reads you as having arrived “late”.

            1. RubyJackson

              My previous employer had a hand-scanner which served as the time clock. There was no way anyone could punch in for you because it was biometric based.

              1. Felicia

                My previous employer had something like that too…I think it had to do with your finger print, because you just put one finger on it. (though it sucked when it wouldn’t work for like 5 minutes sometimes, so it was like you got there 5 minutes later). It didn’t matter what time you showed up though, you just got paid for however long you were there. My manager would show up 30 minutes later than she said she would most of the time.

              2. dangitmegan

                Yeah, when I worked at the famous fabric store we had to scan our finger prints every time we entered and left the main part of the floor. There were a million problems with it including it being unable to read my finger print ever. If I arrived on time I’d end up fighting with the machine to take my print for 15 minutes and ending up very late. Other people I know just snuck in and would pretend the machine hadn’t worked when they were really late. Stupid and creepy system.

              3. Marie

                That’s what we curently use for the plant staff… no chance they can punch for each others. That used to be a big problem before.

            2. Kou

              My org has it split by 7’s, so if you get there at 8:07 it clocks you in at 8 but if you’re there at 8:08 it clocks you at 8:15. The real time is displayed on your sheets, but for hours purposes it flips to the closest 15 when it calculates anything. So you wouldn’t be on time at 8:07 and late at 8:08, both would be late, but you can track your hours really easily and give/take 5 minutes here or there without messing anything up. I find I lose/gain those five minutes in pretty even proportions.

          2. Kimberlee, Esq.

            At a discount retailer I worked for, we had a 2 minute grace period in either direction… and it counted the even hour as minute 1. So if you were supposed to clock in at 5, you had until the end of 5:01 to clock in before you would need a manager override in order to clock.

            It seems a bit draconion looking back, but honestly there were rarely problems. People showed up on time and ready to go. (This same place also kept a giant posterboard where each person’s difference on their tills each shift was written. I think the allowed difference without any kind of trouble as 2 cents.)

          3. V

            Oh I agree, that the line should be drawn somewhere, but I do think the focus should be a trend.

            A good manager would be able to identify it, but in those positions you might not see your manager for weeks, depending on which shifts you have, so they could easily miss it. I think this was a corporate policy because I had a friend who worked there for the holidays in a different state and their stores worked the same way.

            They also double penalized for being absent two or more days in a row, so if you were legitimately sick and had to be out for a week, your job could be gone by the time you got better.

        2. Lindsay J

          Forgot to add to my above comment that I agree that the person who clocked the OP in should be in trouble, and the OP should as well if she asked/knew that the other employe was going to clock her in without being there.

        3. I wish I could say

          I worked for the same umm..large retailer back in the 80’s and 90’s and was denied a raise because in one year’s time, I had clocked in a total of 8 minutes late. I wish they had the 9 min. late per shift day when I was working there!
          (Commuting 30 miles one way in all kinds of weather and road conditions and through 2 pregnancies! And I worked many, many, MANY dbl shifts one their “special” sale days . . .)

          1. I wish I could say

            And that totally missed the mark as a reply to whom I thought it was going to be under . . . sorry!

            1. V

              Wow, that is awful! That being said, at least they used to give raises. I lasted about 6 months before my other temp job became permanent, and I was out of there, so I have no clue how the review process works. I heard from people who had been there for a long time that they hadn’t seen a raise in years.

      3. Lindsay J

        But sometimes enforcing strict scheduling is important.

        If I have 5 registers I need to have open when the store opens, and one or two of the openers are “only” 15 minutes late because they are grabbing coffee then that is affecting the store and the customers shopping in those departments. It is also unfair to the workers conscientious enough to leave their house on time so they can be at work on time every day to have to pick up the slack for others who can’t be bothered to do that.

        Obviously some places take this to extremes and 5 times over three years doesn’t sound like you were abusing the policy.

        However, I wouldn’t call expecting people to be on time and enforcing that expectation to be a poor management decision when you are talking about retail, customer service, and receptionist positions where it is necessary to have someone on the phone, at a register, or in a chair for specific timeframes each day in order to serve their customers.

        1. Cassie

          This. I went to a fried chicken fast food place the other day right when they opened (10:30am) – placed my order but the girl said the side orders would take 20 minutes. Fine, I waited. I didn’t get my food until about 25 minutes after ordering.

          I don’t know if other side orders were available and I just happened to choose ones that weren’t, or what, but I thought it was poor management. Maybe the cook was late, maybe they didn’t turn on the oven on time, who knows. I’ve never worked in fast food, but I would assume you should have a batch of food ready to go (or close to ready) when you open. This wasn’t one of those “we don’t make it til you order it” places.

      4. Jamie

        I have to disagree. If being 5 minutes late is an issue for the employer than its a material amount of time to them, as much as you and I may find that draconian.

        Not liking the time attendance policy doesn’t mean you can disregard it, the same as if I think something is overpriced I can’t just pay what I think is fair and take it.

        I think it should be a fireable offense. Since the OPs company clearly has no idea how to handle disciplinary procedures I like your suggestion to throw it back to them…follow policy. If they don’t have one they should work on that rather than expecting employees to send themselves to bed without supper.

        1. Chinook

          I agree that showing up late when you have been explicitly been told that you need to be on time (and in retail Iw as always told that “ontime” meant not clocking in and then taking off your jacket but clocking in and starting the actual tasks immediately), then this is a big deal. After all, it is part of the job expectations and, as someone else already pointed out, it also directly affects your colleagues who make the effort to show up on time.

          On the other hand, the OP was unclear about whether or not they asked the coworker to clock them in (either explicitly or implied). If the coworker did this of their volition, then the coworker is at fault for the false time sheet and the OP only for beign late. If the coworker was asked to clock the OP in early, then they both should be punished equally.

      5. Katie the Fed

        “I got my coworker to clock me in about 5 times because I was either grabbing coffee for us or I was going to be 5 minutes late and we had strict late policies. Not exactly a material amount of time. I think this dishonest behaviour is a result of bad management decisions. Namely, enforcing unnecessarily strict scheduling (there’s a time and place for that). ”

        Wow. Bad management decisions are how you rationalize timecard fraud?

        When you falsify a timecard, you’re stealing money. Period. It doesn’t matter what you think of the policies behind it. It’s theft.

      6. the gold digger

        Wow. No. I refused to clock my co-workers in when I worked at Macy’s. I also refused to particapte in discount fraud. Macy’s (at the time) would give discount coupons to employees for a one-time use. You couldn’t ring up your own transaction, so had to have another clerk do it for you. A clerk asked me to do hers one day. She gave me the discount certificate so I could scan it. I scanned it, put it in the cash drawer, and closed the drawer. She looked stunned. “I wanted that back,” she said.

        I knew she’d wanted it back. I just played dumb and said, “But I thought they were only to be used once!”

        She never asked me to do another transaction for her.

        I am not saying this to be sanctimonious or holier than thou. But it is stealing to clock someone in or to cheat when ringing up a purchase.

        I’m not disputing that some policies are crazy, but at the same time, if the person on the shift ahead of you can’t leave until you show up, now you’re messing with that person’s life when you are late. There are reasons that employers want people to show up on time.

        1. CoffeeLover

          I think the main thing in those situations is no one really cared about losing their job. There was a huge labour shortage at the time. Management would rarely fire because it was hard to find replacements and employees could find a similar job in days. I’m not using this to say the behaviour was right, but gold digger mentions she wouldn’t want to risk losing her job over this and there really was no serious risk at the time.

          Anyways, I did mention that there could be situations and positions where showing up 5 minutes late would actually matter. I however, worked in places where this was not the case. Most retailers in fact do not have this as a serious issue. I have a friend who currently works for a large, high class retailer and has flexibility in his schedule. He still shows up early or on time and has only been late the odd time. This retailer is renowned for its customer service. My point here is that people don’t need this extreme hand-holding from an employer and that it leads to unintended consequences like time card “fraud”. The employer is better off providing some flexibility and managing employees properly (like what Lindsey J mentions above). Time cards are just lazy management IMO.

          Some of you are very black and white in your assessment of situations, but I think there are levels of wrong and levels of right.

          1. Josh S

            “Time cards are just lazy management IMO.”

            I disagree. Time cards are an effective and efficient way to track employee hours worked and get that time entered to payroll quickly and seamlessly so there aren’t any errors with your paycheck.

            Using time cards (and the time clocked in/out) as a proxy for dealing with performance issues, on the other hand, could be a ‘lazy management’ problem depending on the environment. If you have a retail location with multiple employees clocking in/out at different times, going to different parts of the store, etc, you really need some sort of strict way to monitor when exactly they get to the store. If it’s an office environment where you’re not required to be ‘on’ for a particular task at a particular time, using a time card for strict control is silly.

            That said, having someone else punch your time card when you aren’t present is simply not ethical. It might be “just a few minutes, rarely,” but it’s still a lie. You weren’t there when you’re representing that you were there. It calls into question your integrity (would you be willing to steal “only” $0.50 from the register to buy a coke from the vending machine?).

            If you had a problem with a non-sensically strict tardiness policy, you should have addressed it with your manager. Being less than 5 minutes late on 5 total occasions over a 3 year period doesn’t strike me as an attendance problem, and a good manager should address that as warranted (with a “hey–don’t be late” conversation).

            But avoiding that confrontation by having a friend swipe your time card is fraudulent (you lied about being there), a theft of wages (you got paid for time you weren’t there), and regardless of how ‘more’ or ‘less’ a degree of wrong it might be, it’s still wrong, and calls into question your integrity.

          2. Chinook

            “Time cards are just lazy management IMO”

            Really? If someone is willing to have someone else punch them in, what is to stop them from lying on a timesheet filled in manually? There are many jobs that do not have flexible hours because a person’s attendance affects the work of others. Also, if you are paid hourly and not on salary, that means you are paid for the time your actually there and not for the work accomplished. As well, the company is legally responsible to pay you for the time you are working and not just for what they scheduled you to work (i.e. if you work through your scheduled break they have to pay you whether they want to or not). The only way they can be held accountable is if you properly clock in and out (which is why I was able to prove I was never given a break on one shift – I didn’t have to rely on the word of a manager who never saw me).

            A good time card system is for the benefit of both the employee and employer.

          3. the gold digger

            CoffeeLover, you have identified two different issues: how lateness should be managed and whether you should clock someone else in.

            The first is debatable. The second is b&w: clocking someone else in is wrong.

          4. Katie the Fed

            “My point here is that people don’t need this extreme hand-holding from an employer and that it leads to unintended consequences like time card “fraud”. The employer is better off providing some flexibility and managing employees properly (like what Lindsey J mentions above). Time cards are just lazy management IMO. ”

            Not your call to make. If the company says you fill out a timecard, then you fill out a timecard. If you can’t follow the rules set by your employer then you should find a different job, not break the rules and the law.

          5. Jamie

            There was a huge labour shortage at the time.

            I understand that you aren’t saying it was right – but this mindset is no different than the one everyone rails against now about how because it’s an employers market some employers are taking advantage of that fact by being less than ethical with their employees – and that they would behave better if they thought their people had options to go.

            No one is indispensable – no one knows that better than I – but some people are more of a PITA to replace than others. Some people, if they fill a certain niche within the company and provide enough value could get away with more shenanigans than others. It’s not right – but it is true in many places.

            It’s still incumbent on those people not to take advantage of that because it’s wrong – and stuff that’s wrong still is even when no one is watching.

            There are levels of wrong and right – I will agree with you there. I think it is far more wrong to kill someone than to have a co-worker clock you in. And it isn’t about that 10 minutes or whatever the cost is. It is black and white regarding integrity. If one’s personal ethics allow for them to steal (which it is) and create fraudulent records then it should be no surprise that an employer would distrust and be suspicious of that person. It takes a lot more time to micromanage someone who you cannot trust because you are babysitting their behavior than it does to manage an employee you can trust…because then it’s about the work.

            Time cards being lazy management is a sweeping statement – in plenty of environments rigid time tracking is necessary. In my environment if Jane who is working on assembly today shows up a half hour late but gets paid as if she was there on time who gets hurt? It won’t bankrupt the company…it’s not going to affect me sitting in the IT office…but the other workers who got there on time and are having to hustle harder because the truck is due at one and they had X number to box before then…because that’s what the production schedule says because the forecast was based on 10 employees working a full shift and not 9.

            Had she called in labor could have been moved around so the high priority job wouldn’t be short an operator and the production managers wouldn’t be panicking at meeting ship schedule.

            In shift environments it matters a lot – and it matters most to the people who are picking up the slack for others who are getting paid but aren’t there.

            In some jobs it doesn’t matter – if the jobs are autonomous enough that it’s about the work and you are in charge of your own schedule. I wouldn’t even know what 5 min late would be for me since I don’t have a start time – but I do know that if I have to be here at 5:30 am some days I will be and if I have to stay until 10:30 pm other days I will…because my responsibilities aren’t tied to a shift and emergencies happen.

            Shift work though – you’re screwing your fellow workers and it’s a bad manager that would allow that to go unchecked.

        2. Cassie

          I was a TA for PE class in middle school – when my classmates had to run laps, I was in charge of punching holes in the index cards. A couple of kids asked me to punch an extra hole for them. It was tempting (I had a crush on one of the guys), but a) it was wrong, b) I didn’t want to get in trouble and c) I asked myself “where would it end?” I probably couldn’t just do it one time – it would have to be a recurring thing.

      7. Kimberlee, Esq.

        I dunno. I’ve worked a few service jobs myself, and it was almost completely unheard of to clock someone else in under any circumstances at any of them. I did it one time, and it was because the person was THERE, he’d just already washed his hands and just asked me to push the buttons for him.

        One of our experiences must be anomalous! I’d be interested in hearing more views.

    2. Pamela G

      Exactly. That’s what I thought when I read the letter – the OP obviously notified her co-worker that she was running 15 mins late, but it’s not clear whether the OP asked her co-worker to sign her in on time or whether the co-worker decided to do it as a ‘favour’.

    3. Jazzy Red

      When my mother died, I needed to take bereavement leave which was 3 days. The problem was, I needed to take 2 days to make arrangements, skip a day (go to work), then take the last day for the funeral (Tues & Wed off, work Thurs, Friday funeral). Our HR person was adamant that they must be 3 consecutive days. My manager told me to not clock in on the Thursday (3rd day of leave) and to leave my card with her and she would clock me in for Friday. Her mother had died the year before, and she knew what I was going through. Since she offered, I agreed to it. We *could* have both been fired, but we simply didn’t say anything to anyone.

      I’m pretty sure she wouldn’t have done that if I wanted to stop for coffee before coming to work.

      1. Chinook

        Your manager, though, was knowingly breaking a rule for compassionate reasons and, upon weighign the consequences, decided this is what she thought was the best course of action. If reprimanded, my guess is that she proudly would have argued that punching you in on a day you weren’t here and approving you to work without punching in was the correct thing to do and point out that the company did not lose any paid time from you.

    4. Kimberlee, Esq.

      Actually, given that clocking in usually involves punching a number in, I’d be shocked if the other employee happened to know OP’s number, and then clocked her in, without her having given the number.

      1. TheBurg

        I don’t know, most of my jobs have had actual paper time cards that you stick in the… clock-punching-thingy(??). So I don’t think we can assume she needed the OP’s number to clock her in early.

      2. Elizabeth West

        I’ve had paper time cards you shove in the clock, a plastic time card you swipe, and now I have to log in to the company intranet, log in again, and click a button. It’s all different.

        The log-in means no one can clock me in, because only I know my network password. That woudn’t be practical for, say, manufacturing / shop personnel who aren’t using a computer all day.

  4. Anon

    Speaking of annual reviews… My company just told everyone to write their own reviews & send them to our managers and they will “tweak” them & send them to corporate. This doesn’t seem right & seems a little lazy on the part of management, since these aren’t supposed to be self evaluations, but ones completed by our supervisors & are to be the basis for raises. What do you guys think?

    1. Lindsay J

      Yeah, this seems like laziness on the part of management. I can see asking the employees to write their own review as part of the evaluation process – it can be helpful to see if the worker has a realistic view of their contributions to the company and can be a way to open up a conversation if the person’s perception and reality are wildly different. However, saying “hey just write your own and we’ll send it to corporate as long as we don’t disagree too much” is just them avoiding the process for the most part and depriving you of potentially valuable feedback from doing them properly.

    2. The Snarky B

      I agree with you but have certainly heard of that being done before. Although I’ve heard it more in places where you just circle a number from 1-5, not actually writing paragraph style about yourself.

    3. Foam chick

      My company just did this for the first time. We had to rate ourselves in several categories and write a quick sentence about it. It made me feel really awkward. I had a big write up this year, so I was unsure on whether it sounded right and if I rated myself correctly for the categories I was written up in.

    4. kf

      I would take that over my current (painful) 5 part yearly review process. We have to write our goals (at least 3), competencies (was 4 items now 3) and development plan for the year. Then we have to write comments mid-year and so does our boss and we have to have a mid-year review. At the end of the year we have to write comments and overall statements about our progress. Our boss adds comments. We have a meeting again and 6 to 8 weeks later we find out what our final score and merit increase is.

      The company committee reviews all employee scores and makes the bosses justify any “exceeds expectation” scores and you can lose points if the boss does not advocate for your score. Since my boss does not like confrontation or defending herself or her team (she is coasting to retirement) none of my coworkers ever receive an “exceeds expectation” score.

      1. kf

        “none of my coworkers or myself”

        I never receive an exceeds expectations either. My boss still wonders why she cannot retain young workers…

        1. EngineerGirl

          You have to earn that rating by doing over the top work. Meets expectations is normal for most people. I’ve noticed a lot of younger workers don’t understand that.

          1. Mike C.

            Yeah, younger workers, am I right?

            It wouldn’t have anything to do with widely used metrics systems where the number of good ratings are arbitrarily capped regardless of company or personal achievement. Or being held to goals aren’t even based off of measurable metrics to begin with.

            Those silly kids!

            1. Jamie

              Arbitrary caps make me twitchy. Everyone is an individual and if you have a totally lousy under performing team that doesn’t make the best of the worst a good performer and if you have worked to craft a team of top notch people and everyone is on their game then the records should reflect exactly that.

              At a former job where they had formal grade type reviews I got an over all 9.8. One of the top two scores company wide. The reason one part was knocked down was “we can’t give you a ten – not allowed.” Then don’t have the range include 10.

              And I am not saying I was perfect, by any means, and there were certainly OFI which I would have totally accepted as legitimate if that was the reason…but telling me I would have gotten a 10 if they had been able to so he had to find some inconsequential category to knock me off a couple tenths of a point made me crazy.

              It was 6 years ago and I’m still pissed.

              I’ll take a fair and reasoned 8 over a bs 9.8 any day of the week.

              And teachers need to stop grading on a curve.

              1. A teacher

                In my district we are supposed to give 50% credit for 100% effort. Bet you see the problems with that and bet you can guess what teacher doesn’t grade on a curve or follow that policy. If you leave one answer blank or give me a BS answer, that’s not 100% effort.

                1. Heather

                  My mind is officially blown. Putting aside the question of how you figure out what 100% effort is, does this mean that if a kid busts their ass to prepare for a test, the highest they can get is 50%? What if they don’t need to study that much, but they still get all the answers right – do they only get 25%?

                  I am so confused.

            2. Meganly

              I am reminded of the time when a past manager told me, “You going above and beyond is my expectation, so you only get ‘meets expectations.'”

              1. Omne

                That happened to me once too. I asked if that meant that if I had been a slug and accomplished the same goals I would have received a better review. He looked me in the eye and said “yes”. A real morale builder there….

              2. Chris80

                Yep, I’ve gotten this too. Specifically, the supervisor said her standards were too high for anyone to ever exceed them. No one ever scored higher than “meets standards” from her.

            3. EngineerGirl

              That’s an unfair assessment. As Katie stated below, a lot of younger workers are used to inflated grades. So of you say “great job” they expect exceeds expectations on the review. But if you are at a great company, you are working with the best of the best. That bar is going to be Olympics level high, and 1 inch is the difference between 1rst and 5th place.

              1. Tinker

                I’m sympathetic to this issue to a degree, but I’ve also been reading about kids these days and their grade inflation since I had the cognitive development to grasp what was being said. Seems to me that there’s some point when the way things have been done for at least 20 years and maybe even twice that is no longer called “inflated” but rather “the current standard”.

              2. Mike C.

                My problem is you categorizing an huge group of people in large brush strokes, especially when that group of people is widely the target of derision within the business world.

                Additionally, if they think that a “good job” merits above average ratings, maybe you need to better define what above average work actually looks like.

          2. kf

            I have always gone above and beyond my work for all of my jobs and have always been rated high in other companies.
            I did over the top work here and was rated as “meets expectations.” Her answer was that the company had capped the employees that could be rated as “exceed expectations.” No incentive to go above and beyond for my boss at all.

          3. Katie the Fed

            I explain to young workers when they start that they’re coming from an academic environment where they’re used to As and Bs being pretty standard, and a C is for a bad performance. I explain that “meets expectations” is not equivalent to a C, and not a sign that they’re doing something wrong. They’re expected to do good work – that’s why we hired them. Doing good work = meets expectations. And then I lay out exactly what an “exceeds expectations” entails.

            They’re coming from academic environments rife with grade inflation, so they have to change how they think about these scores.

            1. kf

              I work full time, do over and above what is needed and still attend school part time and made the Dean’s List last quarter and will again this quarter.
              I am always the one who wrecks the grade inflation so I earn my A’s.
              My boss just doesn’t want to be hassled with justifying a higher score so she doesn’t award them.
              I don’t like C’s and I never have. I have gotten them when I earned them by doing the bare minimum work but that is in classes I did not like.
              When I say young workers I mean below 50. My boss and the rest of the department are 55-64 years old and I am early 40’s so I am not fresh from school. :)

          4. Heather

            Not at my company, or in my department anyway. For the past few years, nobody has gotten “leading” performance status. My manager actually told me that I deserved it, but she wasn’t allowed to give it.

            Anyone with sense would look into leaving a place where you literally cannot work hard enough to get the highest rating. It has nothing to do with age.

          5. Cassie

            But it begs the question – expectations of that position? Expectations of that employee? Because my expectations of a superstar are going to be pretty high. My expectations of a mediocre employee will be low. It doesn’t seem very fair to the superstar.

        2. Anonymous

          We used to get them, and then this year they decided to stop giving them out because our new HR director convinced her it “isn’t possible – being exceptional is just part of your job.” My boss didn’t understand why it would bother me that, on paper, it looks like my performance went in the toilet. I’ve also stopped staying late or coming in on my days off unless it’s absolutely mission essential. It seems so insignificant to her, but it’s making me look for a new job because it was such a morale blow for me that it’s hard to keep going above and behind when I’ll be “meeting expectations” as long as I’m not on a PIP. I know it’s impacting my performance, and I want out before things get too bad. I loved my job partially because I felt appreciated and like my contributions were important…I guess not.

          1. SerfinUSA

            +100

            Similar situation in my workplace. Supervisors didn’t like the usual 1-5 rating system, so they spent years making up some unofficial “matrix” based thing that basically reformulates all of us that were previously doing above expectation work down to meets expectations. Anything above that involves levels of work that aren’t permitted to most of us (state workers, no overtime, no money for training, politics control who gets projects with room to shine, etc.).

            So the bottom line is that most of my department has throttled back effort to “meet expectations”. FAIL.

            1. kf

              You know that is exactly my situation. I don’t work in government, but a regulated industry that performs the same way. We are under the “matrix” and there is no rewards for any extra effort.

      2. Jazzy Red

        Still better than being ranked on a bell curve, which was my former employer’s policy. Managers who had really good teams HATED this policy, and so did all of us.

        1. Chinook

          I have never understood forcing a bell curve. They should come out naturally when you rank 100 or more people and, if they don’t, that is a sign of a poor ratings system. Anything under 100 and the statistical chances of it naturally happenning is rare. Bell curves are useful only in judging the standards being tested, not the people.

      3. justme

        Been there. We get reviewed 1 to 5. If you are rated a 1 (very poor)) or 5 (excellent) on any field the supervisor has to write a narrative. A few years ago his boss sent back every one multiple times to rewrite the narratives. It took my boss 2 months to get them accepted. Next year every one was rated between 2 and 4 for everything. Lesson learned. Thankfully the reviews had nothing to do with raises.

        1. Chinook

          Actually, I like the idea of having to justify a 1 or a 5 because they should not be the norm. In the case, I would view the method as good but the managers as lazy.

    5. Laufey

      My mother’s company used to do this all the time, and it worked at least adequately for them. Just make certain you see what gets sent on to corporate – before it gets sent on. You don’t want anything that has your signature/approval – whether explicit or implied – saying anything you don’t agree with.

    6. ThursdaysGeek

      One problem is with a so-so worker who doesn’t even realize they aren’t great and a really good worker who knows how much they could still improve. The so-so worker will probably rate herself much higher than the great worker. And if the manager isn’t all that great (and having you do your own reviews implies that to a degree), they won’t correct that.

      I’ve had to do self reviews, and I think that has hurt me a lot. I didn’t rate myself as high on a lot of technologies, because I knew how much there was still to learn. Others, either thinking they know way more than they do, or realizing the political implications of the self rating system, rated themselves higher. When layoff time came during a time of turmoil and temporary managers who didn’t actually know our work — guess who was laid off? Everyone who worked with me was in shock, and many of the very good people have since left. They knew that if I wasn’t safe, no-one was safe. (The above is only part of the reason for my layoff, but it was part.)

      So, it not only hurt me, it hurt the company.

  5. Rob Aught

    #3 – Regarding Cover Letters

    I’m going to blow people away when I tell them that most jobs I’ve gotten no cover letter was submitted. Actually, I’m trying to think of ANY job I’ve ever gotten where I also submitted a cover letter.

    If you didn’t explicitly state it, you shouldn’t penalize them for it.

    That said, are cover letters obsolete? I typically get resumes without them. Granted, this is entirely within the technology industry. The last two cover letters I saw were both for director level (middle management) positions. I did actually read them, but can’t say they spoke to me as much as the resume.

    I think cover letters are great by way of introduction but necessary to land a job? Hardly. Your mileage may vary of course.

    If the instructions are to write one, then write one. I know a previous post from Alison someone was stressing that an automated system did not allow them to attach a cover letter. It is possible they were not reading them or did not want them.

    I feel very mixed on the whole issue. I’m starting to think this may be more regional and/or industry specific. I know I’d rather see a strong resume and no cover letter than a well worded cover letter and a weak resume.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      They’re far from obsolete, but they’re definitely less ubiquitous in tech hiring. I agree that they won’t make up for a weak resume, but when there are tons of candidates with good resumes, a well-written and engaging cover letter can make a huge difference.

    2. RLS

      This. I handle this concept all the time and try to explain to my co-workers the same idea regarding our subordinates. If we think they “should” know something coming in to the work environment, then they don’t know it, and we should remind them. I always follow exact instructions, and if they don’t explicitly state to do X, then I don’t do X.

      (of course, that can backfire, and come across very condescendingly if done incorrectly, but I work mostly with teenagers, who really don’t know a darn thing yet, so…)

      I had this happen the other day. I have been applying to city jobs, and they all have a very particular application system that I’m used to. However, I came across one where the HR rep stated to email the resume directly, but the default app software also said to submit an application. I did have to email to clarify…they only wanted the cover letter and resume (!!) and that made me super happy. /ramble

    3. V

      I definitely think it depends on the specific job you are applying for… I did manage to land my first FT job out of college partially because of my cover letter.

      If writing is one of the main functions of the position, absolutely you need a cover letter. If it’s something like IT or engineering, the cover letter would be irrelevant and most hiring managers wouldn’t/shouldn’t care.

      1. Jen in RO

        I just got an offer for a writing job without a cover letter, actually. (But I’m in a different county, in a new field with very few experienced candidates.) [I was involved in hiring at my current job and I think we got one cover letter in a batch of 10-15 resumes, so I guess it’s just not as common here.]

        1. CatB

          Nope, not common. Maybe 10 to 15% tops. And, from the cover letters that do come in, 99.9% are run-of-the-mill, completed-form type. At least that’s my experience from the consulting days.

          1. Ask a Manager Post author

            CatB, you’re in Romania too, right?

            In the U.S., they’re common in lots of fields (not just writing jobs), and even in those where they aren’t, they can still help you stand out in a major way if they’re done well. You’ll definitely find hiring managers and recruiters who say they don’t care about them, just as you’ll find personal preference throughout the hiring process, but in general they can be a real boost (both to candidate and resume screener).

            1. CatB

              Oh, I know a good cover letter sometimes makes the difference between job and no-job. I even had two or three posts about it on my blog (yes, inspired by the discussions here!). I was just stating the situation in my country at this time.

              (By the way, when selling my services to training firms – I’m a freelancer and working as a sub-contractor is a huge part of my living – I used a cover-letter-type presentation, customized and all. I got some veeery interesting responses, in the positive sense. That’s how I know a good cover letter works as intended).

    4. CJX

      Ron Aught +1. I pretty much agree with all of the advice on this blog, but I can’t seem to get on board with the whole mandatory cover letter thing. If a job posting specifically asks for one, I will either write one, or not reply, but otherwise I won’t bother. I think deep down I equate a good cover letter with the type of personality that is all talk and no game; the type of people that talk their way into something and then after awhile you realize they just knew how to sell themselves but don’t actually live up to their own hype. I think this may have been deeply ingrained in me through school. The kids that got the good grades were the ones that individually spoke with the teacher the most. You work in a group with them and they don’t bring much to the table, but somehow they always get things to go their way. Obviously, this is my own misguided judgment, but it is there nonetheless.

      1. OP

        And additionally, in order to be successful in my office, you have to be really good at being able to read our director’s mind and give her want she wants. So lack of clarity in directions is pretty common. Again, for me it’s whether the person DOES take that extra step or not. That kind of mindset is really valuable here and I contend this is an easy way to weed out those who take the easy route of just submitting a resume.

        1. Tinker

          I think you’re not going down a particularly good path here, unfortunately.

          One of the rules I have when I’m looking for a job is “if they’re like that in the interview, they’re like that on the job” — so if the interviewer takes against me for not wearing the leg coverings that shall not be named, or in this case if the application process turns out to be a game of Guess My Specific Yet Unstated Requirement On A Point Where Reasonable People Sometimes Differ, then they’re going to continue along those lines in the job and it’s just as well for us both that we don’t get to that point. In this case, you’re pretty much outright saying that this is in fact true, so in a certain sense I’d almost say “continue doing what you’re doing”.

          The trouble is that I don’t know that the trap you’re setting here is a particularly good way of sorting people who are good at walking on eggshells generally.

          For instance, my default approach in applying by email is to write the body of the email in cover letter form, partly because I like having some sort of structure to address people I don’t know. However, being in a situation when I’m aware that I’m being held strictly to a standard that I do not know and cannot determine works very, very badly for me (as in, I go nuts). So I’d be an extraordinarily poor fit for your company.

          Conversely, it’s not too hard to imagine a person who is generally good at picking up unspoken requirements when they know the parties involved, but when all they know is what is stated in a job ad they default to sending precisely what seems to be asked for (e.g. on the grounds that sending something extra is discourteous), and they read “application” as “resume”. So they didn’t send a cover letter, and yet in general they would be a good fit for the trait you’re actually looking for.

          I’m not an interviewer type person by any means, but it seems to me that you’d be better served by putting explicit instructions in your job ads, and then being very, very up-front about your corporate culture in the interview.

          1. Rob Aught

            Agreed. I’ve walked away from interviews where they play games, give vague requirements, or ding me about something that they thought I should have done but don’t tell me about until they want to bring up I haven’t done it.

            If they can’t get their act together in an interview, what is working there going to be like?

            1. OP

              Yes, it’s not a very fun place to work. :)

              So while yes, I want people to screen US out because we are too vague for them, I also want to screen people out who can’t read between the lines a little.

              I’m not saying this is healthy, it is what it is…

              1. Ask a Manager Post author

                OP, you asked the question and seemed open to being told you were wrong, but now seem to be digging in and defending your position. I’m just curious, did you just ask looking for confirmation of your position? This is a genuine question; this behavior confuses me.

                1. BCW

                  I got that same feeling. Its like she wanted an expert to justify her side, she wasn’t really looking to hear any opposing views.

                2. OP

                  It’s a great question… I thought I was open and I do think all of the advice is really really really great and helpful for a normal, well functioning office. I think it’s just making me realize how difficult it really is to work where I do. Like this whole unclear expectations and needing to read minds is just part of what I have to do on a daily basis. So I was just asking questions/giving more information to share that perspective and see if it caused anyone’s opinion to change.

                3. Ask a Manager Post author

                  Got it. So given that the new info hasn’t changed anyone’s advice and people have told you there are better ways to screen for what you want, are you reconsidering your plan?

                4. OP

                  So again, it wasn’t really a deliberate plan to be confusing. It was more about whether we would just cut candidates who didn’t take the step to send the cover letter. To be honest, our first wave of candidates is pretty crappy in general and almost everyone has sent a cover letter, so it hasn’t really been an issue. But no, we aren’t going to cut anyone who is a good fit just because they didn’t send a cover letter.

                5. OP

                  Another note- I really just found it so shocking that in my industry (non profit) anyone would ever consider applying for a job without a cover letter!

        2. Anonymous

          I get what you’re trying to do, but I don’t think this is a great way of determining whether a candidate will be successful in your office. Here’s the thing: candidates are just seeing your online posting and while it may be very specific and may include lots of info about your company, it’s not the same as actually being in the environment. There’s a huge difference between actually being in that environment where you can pick up on nuances that give you clues as to what the director wants and just reading what’s actually included in a job posting. Plus, as others have mentioned, it seems to be kind of a guessing game for candidates to determine what employers actually want when they say “application.” I’ve always taken that to me “resume and cover letter” but when I was job searching last, I got plenty of feedback from companies I interviewed with that many candidates don’t. Obviously, you can filter your search however you want, but you may be missing out on great candidates who would excel in your office with this approach.

      2. Ask a Manager Post author

        CJX, I get constant mail from people who weren’t getting interviews, then started writing cover letters the way I recommend here (customized, engaging, not just summarizing the resume) and suddenly started getting calls for interviews. You’re shooting yourself in the foot by opposing them on principle.

        1. Liz T

          It’s so bizarre to me that anyone would pooh-pooh the opportunity to show MORE of yourself. Writing cover letters is, okay, the blurst, but I’m SO glad I get the chance to show people that I’m intelligent, articulate, and interested in This Specific Job.

          My goal with any application is, “Make them want to meet me.” (“Get the job” being my goal for the interview.) When you know they’re getting HUNDREDS of bad/absent cover letters, why sneer at the chance to stand out?

      3. Rob Aught

        As Alison noted, it may vary by industry, which is why I asked.

        If your experience has been like mine and you don’t have any problems landing interviews, then probably no big deal.

        I certainly don’t want people to stop writing cover letters if it is a standard for their field though. The last thing I want is for people to make their job search harder!

      4. Chinook

        “The kids that got the good grades were the ones that individually spoke with the teacher the most. ”

        Is it possible that the reason that the kids that spoke to the teachers the most are the ones that got the good grades is because they were asking for information/clarification from the teacher in a one-on-one setting? In other words, that they got good grades due to their ability to speak up when they didn’t know something and not because they kissed butt? After all, learning is best done with active participation and not passive.

    5. OP

      Yes, I don’t really think the cover letter CONTENT makes a difference. But it’s definitely a sign of whether or not the applicant choose to “go above and beyond” (as is expected in our office) or takes the easy route.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Wait, no, that’s just going to be bad hiring. You do need to care about the content, and if you don’t, there’s no point in asking for one. Content can be a huge differentiator, and it’s not reasonable to just ask applicants to jump through hoops you won’t even be paying attention to.

      2. Jamie

        I think content makes a huge difference. In fact I a cover letter which is clearly a form letter and has no relevance to the job at hand hurts you. It doesn’t have to be prose, but it’s more than just throwing anything in there to meet the requirement. It needs to show the applicant has given thought to the position as advertized and how it fits with their skills.

        And proof it. I’ve gotten cover letters referencing jobs at other companies – as in Dear Hiring Manager at Jamie’s Company’s Competitor – here’s why I want to be your XYZ when you’re applying for a job here doing ABC.

        It can happen – you send the wrong thing – but it happens enough, that along with spelling and grammar you need to proof it’s going to the right place.

        And ftr – I assume people are applying different places, it’s not that they applied for another position elsewhere (I’m not crazy) it’s the lack of attention to detail that sinks you.

      3. Heather

        This is backwards – if your ad only says “submit application”, there are probably people who were trying to follow instructions by not including a cover letter, even though they normally would. So you might lose out on good people there. Then on top of that, by counting all cover letters equally regardless of quality, you’re giving the same amount of credit for “going above and beyond” to the person who customized a letter for the job and to the one who copied and pasted one they found on about.com.

      4. JuliB

        Go above and beyond? I would think that strictly adhering to the requirements would be a plus. Personally, I would think someone going above and beyond could/would be a time waster in their job.

        Or maybe not, but see how your thinking comes across? You mentioned that one has to read the director’s mind, but aren’t you expecting the same?

        Not meaning to attack you – FWIW, I share your disdain for the talkers rather than the doers….

        1. OP

          Yes, I am expecting to take a vague instruction (“application”) and decide to be safe rather than sorry by including a cover letter in addition to the resume.

          Of course we will also reject people who have poorly written cover letters or aren’t a good fit for the job, but in this case, I’m evaluating them on whether or not they are erring on the side of caution by including a cover letter, even if it is in the body of the email.

          1. GeekChic

            If “going above a beyond” for you really means “mind reading” then you should keep doing what you’re doing. You’ll get the employees you deserve.

            Hint: It won’t be the good ones.

          2. Esra

            Ouch, I’m sorry, but this sounds a bit awful. I think your expectations are unrealistic.

            I think it would be better to address some of the job issues in the posting or interview, rather than look for mind readers.

        2. Heather

          I bet the director is like the manager in Meganly’s post in the review/ranking discussion above. No one can exceed expectations for going above and beyond because her expectations are that everyone will go above and beyond.

      5. Elizabeth West

        Well, actually, it makes a HUGE difference. Didn’t Alison have a post with bad cover letters? If not, I’m sure you can google them and find a few that will make your flesh crawl.

    6. Victoria Nonprofit

      Whoa, that’s so different from my industry. Back when I was hiring, whenever I received an application without a cover letter, I would automatically reject the it. My job postings did say “submit cover letter and resume,” but even if they hadn’t? It’s standard in my industry, writing is key to the job, and – especially given that I was hiring entry-level folks – resumes told me very little that could distinguish one candidate from another.

    7. Jubilance

      I never wrote cover letters until I started reading AAM. Each job I’ve gotten, I applied without a cover letter. I do them now, but my experience has been that they aren’t necessary, but of course YMMV.

      1. FormerManager

        I think it’s definitely industry-specific. I worked for a startup and sent a resume and what I considered a well-written cover letter. Eight months later the manager who hired me admitted he never reads cover letters.

        (And I had thought my cover letter had led to the initial interview.)

    8. Ed

      I think it depends on the industry and job. I’m in tech and have never included a cover letter and have been offered every job I’ve applied for except one. Either way, IT jobs are plentiful so I’m not writing a customized cover letter, handwritten thank you letters or spending an hour creating an online profile for the privilege of applying for a job. At least where I am, it is a candidate’s market. Good positions are staying open sometimes for months. When IT team members leave my company, we barely even get any candidates applying.

      I don’t have any “dream jobs”. I want a certain salary doing a certain type of work and I can very easily find that combination. If a company excludes me because I didn’t include a cover letter, I won’t lose an ounce of sleep over it.

    9. Anonymous

      I have been told on several occasions that I was asked to interview specifically because of my cover letter. These are for non-tech jobs.

      1. Elizabeth West

        I’m pretty sure it was my cover letter (and a little tweak or two on my resume) that got me the interview for this job. It was FABULOUS. A whole year of reading AAM–blog and book–did the trick. :)

  6. Anon because FRAUD

    RE: #1…

    …seriously, committing time card fraud is not only a fireable offense but is actually illegal pretty much everywhere.

    I was going to type out this huge long spiel, but let me just say this: as an intern, I came across major payroll fraud. We didn’t catch the person until later in the game, when we finally had rock-hard evidence she did what she did…

    …to the tune of $960,000.

    She just “punched people in” for others…it was a few dozen of them. There were a few that she was submitting payroll for full time when they weren’t even working. (She was also responsible for getting our personnel action forms to HR…that clearly didn’t happen).

    The final amount of money she stole ended up being much smaller (but still a healthy salary’s worth) and they just had to investigate that much, but let’s just say authorities were involved.

    (Of course, don’t get me started on the dept head that didn’t listen to me or my co-worker when we told him there was shady stuff going on…he got the weekly budget reports and never checked up on her work, ever).

    1. -X-

      So someone punching someone else in once, 15 minutes off is fireable and illegal pretty much everywhere?

      I did not know that.

      I guess that answers the OP’s question: she should say that someone should be fired and the company or one of the two workers fined (or in jail?? — probably just fined) by the government.

      1. Katie the Fed

        It’s THEFT! It’s not signing someone else in at homeroom. You’re stealing money from the company and they CAN press charges.

        1. Cat

          If they only know it happened once and it was 15 minutes, maybe, maybe, maybe they can charge OP with a misdemeanor. Even if the OP is getting paid $40/hr (which strikes me as unlikely, but conceivable if she’s in a skilled trade job), that’s $10. That’s not going to meet the threshold at which a prosecutor is going to be particularly concerned. If OP is in a service industry job, we’re probably talking the theft of more like $2.

          That doesn’t mean what she did is right; but on a practical level, the company’s opportunities to seek criminal sanctions are going to be pretty limited.

          1. Laufey

            That doesn’t make it okay – and how does the company know it was only one 15 minute period? Now that they know for a fact it happened in this instance, they’ve got to be wondering how often it happened before. Does it happen every day? $2 x 5= $10 a week, $40 a month – it adds up.

            1. Cat

              I specifically said it didn’t make it okay; all I said was that in the specific case above, it was unlikely, as a practical matter, to ever be treated as a criminal issue. There are plenty of not-okay things that you’re not likely to be prosecuted for.

            2. Cat

              And *wondering* if it happened more than once doesn’t actually give the state grounds to prosecute that employee for more than one instance.

          2. Katie the Fed

            Yeah it might get thrown out. But it could be a misdemeanor. Either way, not something I’d want to mess with. I’m in federal government and you can believe there’s a world of hurt involved when we discover timecard fraud.

            1. Cat

              I agree. It’s both unethical and a terrible idea regardless of how likely you are to be thrown in prison for it.

        2. Jamie

          Exactly – it’s theft. If just one time an employee forgot lunch money would be it okay to help themselves to petty cash? Just once? Nope – fire-able offense.

          And putting on my auditors hat, once I know someone is okay with fraudulent record keeping the professional relationship is broken.

          Almost everyone in the world will be late at one time or another and companies should have policies to deal with that because it will happen. Even excellent conscientious employees aren’t immune to the occasional flat tire.

          But being okay with theft and fraudulent record keeping? That’s by no means a universal given that employers need to allow for. That’s unconscionable – no excuse.

    2. Chris

      Time card fraud is the first thing we learn after being assigned our badge numbers. If for any reason you punch in anyone else’s number, you are fired- even if they are standing right behind you and hand you their card.
      I thought this policy was across the board everywhere. Seems weird that a company doesn’t have it covered in procedure.

      1. Anonymous

        (I work in fast food). We are not allowed to clock each other in/out, and if we did something like #1, we would either be fired or given a final warning (it would probably depend on the staff member in question. Like if this was the first time they had ever done something like this, or if they had had any previous warnings for anything).

        However, even though it is technically not allowed, it is not uncommon to punch each other’s numbers in for each other when we are actually there, and we don’t get in trouble for this. The most common time this happens is when we are leaving late at night (store closes at 11pm but we clean and then probs leave around 1-2am). Often the shift manager will just ask us our numbers and clock us all out one after the other as we leave (there is usually about 6 of us).

        Also, I was recently clocked out by the store manager when I became really sick during my shift and had to go home. I came down with some sort of flu, and it was considered a bad idea for me to go back through the kitchen to clock myself out. The store manager said “what’s you employee number?” and clocked out for me. I don’t see anything wrong with this (at least not from any ethical point of view), as I am being clocked in and out at the correct times, it was just not my finger on the button.

        On lateness, because it is an automatic system, we are recorded late even if it is 1 second over out shift start time. However, as a general rule we clock in and start 10 minutes before our scheduled time (and managers clock in and start work 20 minutes before) so even if I am running ‘late’ I will still actually be a few mins early.

        1. Chris

          I agree with your examples- the ones with managers involved. I work in retail, and yes, if something goes awry with the time clock (or we forget to punch/get stopped by customer), the management staff will often ask what the card number is and fix our punches. But they are management and that is part of their responsibility. Letting anyone else do it is a huge no-no, and shouldn’t be allowed.

          I suspect at some point we will all punch the clock like our cashiers staff- they punch in with their fingerprints at the register. No way to fudge that.

        2. Jessa

          I think this is a bit different than what the OP did. This is A: with full knowledge of management, and B: mostly for convenience, or when you got ill and could not LEAVE yourself. A manager has a different right regarding this than an employee I’d think, as a manager can submit changes anyway. If you forgot to clock, or the clock was broken, the manager would be responsible for reporting hours. This is NOT an attempt to defraud by clocking when the person is not actually there.

      2. RJ

        Part of my work environment is a call center, and we hold a strict attendance policy. We record time in 15 minute increments so that effectively gives 7 minutes as a grace period (i.e., for a 9 am shift, you can clock in anywhere between 8:53 and 9:07). Non-exempt associates clock in on their computers, but there’s also a badge swipe necessary to get onto the floor. We’re also very strict about swiping your own badge on every entry – no “piggybacking” behind another employee. Management can and will compare the time punches on the computer with the badge swipes and when there are discrepancies such as a time punch on the computer without a badge entry onto the floor, they’ll investigate and people do get fired. Seeing this doesn’t seem to deter other people from doing it though. It’s sad that people think it’s worth risking a firing offense just to not “get into trouble for being late.”

        1. A Bug!

          We’re also very strict about swiping your own badge on every entry – no “piggybacking” behind another employee.

          They should be. Piggybacking is such a security risk as to render a badge system next-to-useless. You might as well just go with a single-coded keypad if you’re going to let piggybacking slide.

  7. Gene

    re: #4: Maybe it’s an East coast thing, but I, who grew up in rural South Dakota and Arizona, don’t see 3 hours as all that far away. I live north of Seattle now and if I were job hunting and had to be in Portland for an interview tomorrow, I’d just fill up and hit the road. Admittedly, out here the counties are the size of some of your states, but it’s only 3 hours away!

    Last season I got a call from the producers of Portlandia and they wanted me there as an extra the next morning (I guess I have a look they wanted). If I hadn’t had unbreakable plans at work I might have been on TV!

    1. Rana

      Agreed. A three-hour drive doesn’t seem that big a deal to me, unless the interview is scheduled for 8 am or something.

    2. Lindsay J

      Yeah, I’m from the East Coast (possibly from the same area as the OP given her driving time to NYC) and if I had applied I would have driven the three hours the next day provided I didn’t have other commitments.

      However, the OP doesn’t say and she may be currently employed or have other issues (maybe no car/not a good car) preventing her from making a next day interview. I

      1. Erin

        I am the submitter of the question. I guess what I didn’t make clear is that I am currently employed. At 5 PM (after I was already off work) the hiring manager asked me to come in the next day. I was unable at that time take off for the next days work but tried to convey to the hiring manager in NYC that I would be available as soon as Friday. They told me they were seeing another candidate tomorrow and if it did not work out they would call me to set up something next week.

        1. MJ

          That’s tough, and what you asked for wasn’t unreasonable. There are plenty of companies out there who wouldn’t expect you to come in with less than a day’s notice, especially if they didn’t contact you until after business hours the night before. Flexibility is definitely key for an out of town job search, but calling after business hours and asking you to come in the next day would be unreasonable for most candidates since there is little opportunity to rearrange any prior obligations.

          Regarding what to say when put in these situations – I don’t think you need to allude to the travel being the issue. As The IT Manager states below, plenty of local candidates wouldn’t be able to come in with less than a day’s notice. I had a 3-4 hour travel time for interviews during my last job search, and if I couldn’t make I just told the truth – I was unable to make it in with such short notice since I’m currently employed, but that I’d be happy to come in later in the week/early the following week if that worked with their schedule and timeline. That said, be prepared to discuss the situation honestly when you go in for the interview – they may already be aware your current workplace is 3 hours away and ask you about the address discrepancy, or it may become apparent during the interview.

        2. Heather

          Maybe I’m overly demanding (although I don’t think so!), but even if you WERE in the city at that very moment, asking you at 5 pm to come in the next day would still be ridiculous.

          Personally, I would consider it a bullet dodged if you don’t get the job, if only because they don’t seem to place a very high value on being considerate of others.

        3. Felicia

          I think in that case, even if you weren’t out of town, it still wouldn’t be fair to expect you to come the next day. So in that situation you could just say that you have a commitment that day (which you do), and I think that would be an issue for someone even if they lived 15 minutes away or something.

        4. Rana

          Ah, that makes more sense. Yeah, asking you to come in with no chance to explain to your current employer why you’re taking the next day off is bad form.

    3. The IT Manager

      I totally agree. A three hour drive (I assume that 3 hours is a drive or maybe a train and subway ride) is nothing although that does make slipping out of the current job’s office unnoticed for the interview impossible.

      A lot of local people would be unable to interview on a day’s notice as well. Employers and interviewers understand or should understand it. If they refuse to understand that they are not being reasonable. But it is an employers market, and it can be reasonable for them to choose this if they really do have an urgent need to get someone on the job. Maybe the best person for them is currently unemployed so they can interview on one day’s notice and start the very next day or week. You would not be able to accommidate that so it may not be the job for you.

      * However you never should have tried to lie if that’s what you did. … tried to give them a reason why I wasn’t in NYC at the moment sure sounds like you didn’t tell them the truth that you lived out of town because that would have been easy to do. Catching you in a lie or at least some possible dishonesty could also be a reason they lost interest too. And that is in no way unreasonable.

      1. Erin

        As I said above, I am the one who asked the posted question and was unable to take off work in such a short amount of notice. No, 3 hours isn’t far for me and I am able to book a train/bus ticket. I was able to get there as early as Friday but the manager told me they were interviewing a candidate tomorrow and if it did not work out they would call me.

        I also didn’t lie to them, I explained where I was, what I did as work and that I was able to relocate ASAP. I think she didn’t understand completely because I had used my family members address on my resume.

        1. The IT Manager

          Unfortunately then it is a case of “it sucks for you.” I don’t think you did anything wrong. The employer is not being as fair as they could be, but they don’t have to be and it can still work out okay for them. It’s only an unreasonable practice if it doesn’t work out for them, but if they act like you’re being unreasonable for not dropping everything, they’re wrong.

        2. Chinook

          I agree with others that it it is no longer an issue of being out of town so much as an issue of the interviewer giving insufficient notice for any reasonable applicant to be available. One business day’s notice should be given as a minimum.

    4. Anon

      I’m from Minnesota and I agree with you as well. Fill up and hit the road! We have a culture of long commutes here. 3 hours would not be a daily drive, but for an interview it seems like a non-issue.

    5. khilde

      Gene! Hooray – a fellow South Dakotan. Do you mind saying where? No prob if you don’t. I’m in Pierre and it’s exactly three hours to anything decent. Most people in SD don’t think anything of taking a day trip to Sioux Falls or Rapid City for shopping and eating and driving a full 6 hours round trip.

      1. Gene

        I grew up just outside Rapid City, Nameless Cave Road off the Rimrock Highway. Lots of family scattered around the state and NB, still have some in Pierre (if you get into the Harley dealer, say “Hi!” to Bill for me.) I don’t think we ever made it from Rapid to Pierre in 3 hours, Wall Drug is worth at least an hour delay. :-)

        Mom worked for one of the local tourist “amenities” (traps) and we regularly loaded all the kids and cases of adverts into the station wagon and drove aroud to other tourist amenities stocking the racks. The area we covered was from Yellowstone to Des Moines.

        1. khilde

          I’m from Black Hawk! I miss the Hills but do really enjoy Pierre with the river and rolling plains. This is as far east as I ever want to go.
          I used to work at Reptile Gardens when I was in high school and our tourist culture in SD is just fun. Sounds like some good memories made with Mom traveling all over!

          1. Collarbone High

            Khilde, I’m from Black Hawk too! I can’t believe there are two people on AAM who’ve even heard of Black Hawk, much less grew up there.

            I loved Reptile Gardens as a kid, until a snake dropped out of a tree onto my head in the dome. I fled, and haven’t been back since.

          2. Gene

            Yep, Reptile Gardens was where she worked. :) Started when they were in the old, flat buildings and was there when they moved into what I consider the “new” site with the dome (even though it’s close to 50 years old…) Dad helped the Brockelsbys move to the new site in (I think) winter of ’64/’65 and got bitten by an alligator in the process. Imagine the insurance fun getting paid for an alligator bite – in South Dakota – in the middle of winter.

            After being dragged to Phoenix when I was 13 I imagined I’d move back there when I could. Then when I was 19 I spent a winter in Idaho Falls while was in the Navy and after 5 years in AZ decided my blood had thinned and they could keep that snow and cold. I have a friend from the Navy who just moved south to Pringle, near Hot Springs; I need to get out there and visit.

      2. Heather

        Maybe we should adjust the saying “An American thinks a hundred years is a long time and a Brit thinks a hundred miles is a long way” to “A West Coaster thinks a hundred years is a long time and an East Coaster thinks a hundred miles is a long way” :)

        Jersey girl here and I cannot imagine driving 6 hours round trip to go shopping for the day!

        1. khilde

          Yes, it’s all relative, isn’t it? That’s what I think is so cool about our country – how incredibly different living experiences are.

          I always think of our driving out here as compared to the rest of the country. That’s why the electric car thing mystifys me – that’s great for people that only travel short distances. But what about those of us that would have to drive for hours or hundreds of miles (not on a daily basis, certainly) and the electric cars crap out before that? We have such variety in this country that some of those solutions do not appeal to those of us way out here.

          But yes, I’m strangely proud to tell people that we have to drive that far to do some “big city” shopping (and I”m talking a Target – no joke). It’s like a strange badge of honor to me :)

          1. LPBB

            It’s funny how relative things are. I’ve spent most of my life in the Baltimore/DC area, so I’m used to drives of relatively short distances taking twice or even three times as long as they should because of traffic, especially during rush hour.

            When I moved out to rural MN, my boss (who had moved to that area from the Twin Cities) was telling me the closest big box stores were a little more than an hour away, so I should be careful about making lists so I could buy everything I needed. That drive was a breeze and probably one of the most enjoyable drives I’ve ever done on a regular basis because it was all country driving with little to no traffic. I never understood her making such a point about the drive when it was so easy to do.

            I would gladly take a long country drive over a “short” ridiculously congested drive any day.

            1. khilde

              Oh agreed, 100%. Right after college I lived in SLC, Utah and had a much higher tolerance for lots of people. But the closer I got to home, my comfort level with lots of people just dropped drastically. So yes – give me miles and miles of nothing. It’s easy to get around and you don’t have to deal with lots of other people! I want people to think we’re in a horrible, desolate, and frigid world up here so we can keep it nice and small. :)

            2. RLS

              Also hailing from MN…and having lived both in the Cities and in rural parts…chances are your boss was keeping winter in mind. I’m sure you’ve learned that any area with less than 50,000 people in it doesn’t get snow plowed until the storm passes :) I LOVE running errands in summer; I hate shopping in winter. Yay Megamall!

              1. LPBB

                That’s a really good point! By the time winter hit I had actually moved away from that small town to a slightly larger one that was right on a major road, so my experience was a little skewed.

                I don’t live in MN anymore, but I absolutely loved it and would move back in a heartbeat if I could find anyone to employ me!

                1. RLS

                  I love MN and I’ll always be proud to be from there…but I am So Sick of winter. Hightailin’ it to the West Coast, yes please!

                  One time I did an internship in New Jersey…and the first week, one of my managers was asking me about certain skills, and asked me if I knew how to do X. My reply rolled off my tongue without hesitation: “Oh ya, sure, ya betcha!”

                  …I never lived it down. My name was Wisconsin the rest of the summer (MN girl, UW student :)

          2. Heather

            To each her own, that’s for sure!

            On the electric car thing, I think it would be more feasible once gas stations all have charging stations for them. (Unless the only gas station is next to the Target, then you’re still screwed :) )

            1. khilde

              LOL!!! Definitely – it’ll just be interesting to see how all that progresses and changes in the future.

        2. Cait

          Heather, I’m from Central Jersey and was absolutely shocked when I went to college in South Jersey and found that there was only one mall within a half-hour radius. Granted, there were three Targets and a Walmart well within that distance, but still. Just one mall! My 17-year-old self was horrified.

          That said, my normal commute to my (unpaid–I know, I know) internship usually takes up to two hours each way, and that’s without any major accidents or construction.

      3. ali

        Lots of South Dakotans here! I’m from Vermillion. We day-tripped to SF all the time.

    6. HR Pufnstuf

      North of Seattle and “the look they wanted” for Portlandia.
      I’m guessing you hang in Fairhaven?

    7. Chinook

      I think it might be a location thing. Where I come from, it was nothing to drive 3 hours for a Big Mac (because sometimes you really are craving those fries!)

  8. Rana

    #2 – It’s still their ticket, intended for business use by one of their employees. Even if it technically can’t be used by anyone but the OP (due to TSA and name-on-ticket issues) it’s not really the OP’s ticket any longer, no more than the desk they worked at, or the parking spot they parked in, is.

    Interpreted narrowly, using it could constitute a form of theft, in that the OP no longer has permission to use company property, let alone for non-company purposes.

    1. Peggy K

      I agree – it would be blatantly unethical to use ‘property’ bought by a company you are no longer employed by. Have no clue about the technical legalities involved – but, in my mind, it would be theft, pure and simple.

    2. tcookson

      I agree — It’s the company’s ticket, not the OPs. Where I work, if we have something like that happen, our travel agent will do a ticket change on the airfare. It costs a $150 ticket change fee, and we have one year from the date of purchase to change the ticket to anyone else’s name. My boss and several of the professors go to various conferences, and we bring in guest blectures and guest critics with enough frequency that it’s likely that someone can use the ticket in one year’s time

      1. Lynn

        The OP could ask their former employer what they want them to do with the ticket. Then they’d be clean for sure.

  9. Katie

    #7 – just to add another perspective (albeit a strange one!), at my organization, both the manager and the employee would be viewed negatively, although it would be worse for the manager. Unless the employee feigns ignorance that the review was supposed to happen, which would have its own issues for not knowing about company policies and procedures, it would be noticed that you knew about it and never said anything, even though it was your manager who needed to be corrected.

    1. tcookson

      Same here . . . my boss would be viewed badly for not doing it, and I would be viewed as a bad assistant for letting him forget to do it. That could be the boss/assistant relationship, though. Most employees who aren’t their boss’s assistant wouldn’t be held accountable for the boss not doing something

    1. Parfait

      Ha. I was going to suggest one cane stroke for each minute. That’s probably what they’d do in Singapore.

  10. Henning Makholm

    #3 — I know this is the old cultural disconnect at work, but over here the “cover letter” IS the application, and the resume/CV is an enclosure. If someone sent only the enclosure and no application for it to go with, one would think they’d mispacked the envelope. (Or hit the wrong key while sending the email, or whatever).

  11. straws

    #2 – Why not just contact them and ask? The worst they’ll say is no, and if you don’t feel comfortable asking then you probably shouldn’t feel comfortable using the tickets/accommodations either.

    1. OmarF

      That would work for me. If you can’t do it with their knowledge up front, it’s clearly wrong. Maybe even offer to pay for part of it so they get something back from their loss, and you get a cheaper than normal trip. But if you try to hide it, quite likely you will expect a bill at the end.

      Be prepared for the business to put the full value of the trip on your taxable income as its clearly a taxable benefit at that point. I don’t know the tax rules, but I’ve understood the taxable benefit could be the posted normal rate for the trip, not the amount the business actually paid. I’ve heard of cases where the tax paid was as high as shopping for a best rate and paying for the trip yourself.

    2. KellyK

      Totally agree with that. Honestly, I think that even if you have no intention of using them, you should point them out to the appropriate person so they have the chance of trying to get them refunded.

  12. Anonymously Anonymous

    #3 It’s best to be specific about what you want. Applying for jobs is stressful–and I don’t apply that often. We can’t read your mind. Do you want salary requirements, copy of degrees and certifications as part of the application as well? And has anyone emailed your colleague and asked for the link to the application site or asked to be mailed out the application packet.
    I can tell you the places that explicitly say what want get exactly what they want from most candidates–and not what they consider half submitted information. Sorry if this sounds snarky but candidates have enough to deal with that unclear instructions should be one. And crafting a cover letter takes time and if I respond to two job advertisement and one says apply to an email and the other says send cover letter and resume to email –guess which one will get the well thought out cover letter. It’s a time and numbers game for most applicants. And for me seeing just simply ‘apply’ to… is like taking a wild stab in the dark as to what you mean by apply. So I send a resume and hope it hits something.

    1. OP

      My director has the mindset that people should REALLY want to work here. So isn’t this a good way for me to screen for who wants to take the time to do a cover letter AND resume, even if we are giving a vague instruction?

      As I mentioned before, dealing with vague instructions and unclear expectations is a huge part of what it takes to be successful at this job. And yes, that’s not for everyone. So I think this is a good way to get a sense of whether people truly are okay with that or not.

      1. Tinker

        I guess I’ll ask the unfortunate question: What sort of person do you think would actively want to work for your company? At all, I mean, much less “REALLY”?

        If there’s some incredible upside to working for your company, it seems like the thing to do would be to sit down with the candidate and honestly describe the work environment, and see if you think they believe you and really do value making a million dollars a month or personally rescuing cute babies from sentient wood chippers enough to make working in what sounds more and more like a toxic workplace worth it.

        If there isn’t an upside, then frankly it might be best to accept that what you want doesn’t exist.

        Either way, I’m not seeing how playing games with the application process benefits anyone, including you.

        1. Ruffingit

          +1 million! If you want a cover letter and resume, ask for it. The whole “but the worthwhile candidates will intuit it and that is a desirable skill” thing is ridiculous. Application materials can mean anything from cover letter and resume to just a resume to just an application if that is available on the company’s site. As has been demonstrated here, different people think it means different things so it’s not a screening tool for you to see who picks up on what YOU mean it to be.

          Don’t play games with people. Ask for what you want.

      2. Anonymously Anonymous

        Umm. No. Vague instructions and unclear expectations sounds like whomever is *lucky*( and I use lucky loosely) enough to get this job will get brow beaten when it comes to what’s intended and end results. They will be your fall guy and escape goat. However since you have mastered the art of reading your director’s mind you will be saved from such downfall.

      3. EngineerGirl

        It’s pathetic. If you turn your application process into a hazing ceremony you’ll only get frat boys.

        And you don’t seem to recognize the difference between unclear expectations and an unclear path forward. I do first-ever work All The Time. I may have to way find on a solution, but my management is VERY clear on expectations.

        And BTW – unclear requirements are the largest source of expensive mistakes in engineering.

      4. Observer

        No, it’s actually a very POOR way to do this. You see, in many cases, companies penalize people who send “extra” stuff. Especially when you are submitting a resume on line or as an attachment to an email, there is no real way to know that apply really means “with a cover letter”. In fact, it often means the reverse, so it could wind up being perceived as not following instructions or being burdensome.

        You are going way beyond “vague expectations” to “mind reading”. If you really expect that from your employees, it’s hard to see how you survive as an organization. In any case, all you are doing with this kind of arbitrary type of filtering is to insure that no really good candidate “REALLY WANTS” to work for you. Why should they?

  13. Anonymously Anonymous

    #1 Your boss dealt with that by contacting corporate. I get payroll theft but I song understand how the boss nor corporate could come up with a punishment? How about you pay them back the 15min and be put on unpaid leave (that’s reflected in your performance evaluation) for a couple of days. As well as having some concrete plan of action (termination) if it happens again.

    1. The IT Manager

      How about you pay them back the 15min I think that may be illegal since the employee works 15 unpaid during the current pay period.

      and be put on unpaid leave (that’s reflected in your performance evaluation) for a couple of days. As well as having some concrete plan of action (termination) if it happens again.

      This is actually a good idea as long as the employee views the lost hours and pay as punishment. Some might see it was extra vacation even unpaid. And since they’re clocking in, I’m betting they’re hourly and only paid for the hours that they worked anyway.

      1. Mike C.

        At my company, unpaid leave as a punishment can only be taken Tuesday, Wednesday or Thursday – taking care of the vacation issue.

      2. Anonymously Anonymous

        No I wouldn’t make them work unpaid just pay back the 15min in exchange for not pressing charges.

  14. hamster

    #7. Yes, IMO it does look bad. I worked for an American company who had this statement in the employee handbook. If you manager doesn’t give you (monthly in the first 3 months , than yearly) appraisals, that’s certainly a sign of bad management. But if you don’t go ask for it, it’s even worse for the employee as it demonstrates a lack of ownership in one’s career. Ownership was a thing very valued there, and i kept that in mind

  15. JD

    Hi,

    Thanks for answering my question! (#7).

    Glad to know I’m not sinking deeper and deeper into some mire by not having mentioned it up to this point. Good point about a change of manager – I didn’t think of that. I’ll give my manager a gentle reminder when I next see her!

    1. The IT Manager

      I wouldn’t hold it against you but ask your manager. Don’t harrass him about it, but remind him and then its up to him to do it.

      Personally I wouldn’t be so sure about “forgot to set a reminder.” I suspect many people hate giving formal feedback as getting it. Lots and lots of people seem uncomfortable about giving positive and negative feedback. I bet your manager remembers he’s supposed to do it at least in the back of his mind but is putting at the very bottom of his to do list.

      1. hamster

        I definitely get that. Actually i feel uncomfortable getting formal feedback too. I mean, you told me i am a super star last time i did that X great thing. Why block 30 minutes with a 1-to-1 to tell me some corporate blurb about “a great resource/team player” whatever. But it is better to have this stuff documented. Plus , the discussion can be interesting. What can be improved, what is one role in the team , where to go onward, etc.

      2. Chris80

        I agree that it’s something many managers hate to do, both because giving formal feedback is uncomfortable and because managers often have so many other priorities. It might be worth deciding how much the appraisal really matters to you, though, OP. I made the mistake of asking for my performance appraisal once when I was overdue by two years. I was consequently sent on a guilt trip for the next month as my manager constantly reminded staff that she would be working early/late again because she had to do appraisals. She’s otherwise a good manager, but I learned from that mistake…I’m not asking for my appraisal ever again!

    2. Judy

      A recent experience I saw from a colleague is a warning for this situation. A team leader “forgot” one staff member for their reviews, and EVEN “forgot” them during the department calibration. Guess who was the one who got laid off during the next RIF?

      I still don’t understand how HR didn’t say “Hey, don’t you have 6 people in your group, not 5?” From what I saw, the team leader really didn’t like this person, but the person was very effective in their job. In past years, the person had received very good reviews from previous team leaders.

      1. Mike C.

        That’s a pretty blatant case of workplace bullying, how terrible for your colleague!

  16. The IT Manager

    As for LW#1, I’m missing way too many details to have an answer. It’s not even clear if the LW asked the co-worker to clock her in or not. The question is worded to sound like she didn’t, but that could be her distancing and not admitting wrong doing as people tend to do.

    Frankly I expect that no matter what you do you will get a bad review, miss your next scheduled pay raises and growth opportunity, won’t get a great reference unless you excel there for a long time so that memory of you lying about the hours you worked and collecting pay you didn’t earn is very distant. You won’t be trusted again unless you earn that back over a long period of time by being scrupulously honest. I don’t see that as punishment. I see that as consequences.

    I suspect many of the “suitable” punishments like extra work or docked pay are actually illegal under wage laws. Maybe if you are not at minimum wage already, you can be dropped down to a lower hourly rate and have to work your way back up. Not knowing the nature of the work place, I can’t really speculate but maybe if there’s some scut work that is normally shared among all of the employees (or even assigned to the most junior employee) that you and the person who clocked you in do it all for the next day or week or whatever.

    Honestly the best response for the LW is probably whatever the official policy is as others have mentioned. I’m betting that they don’t have one or they wouldn’t have asked her.

  17. Anonymous

    #3. You know what happens when you assume. If you want a cover letter AND a resume, ask for them. I don’t know why you’re making this difficult.

    1. Anonymous

      This. People come at things with varying context; a different cultural or work background, age differences, regional differences, etc. In order to maximize your chances of receiving the highest quality applicant, ask for exactly what you want: “Please email a resume, cover letter, and salary requirements by August 15 at 5 pm” and see how many people can’t even meet that benchmark. But to assume that everyone reads into ‘application’ assumes that everyone in the world shares the exact context as yourself. Not wise, IMHO.

      1. OP

        But aren’t we looking for someone who fits in with our office and does share similar context? Unfortunately, our director is usually pretty vague with directions and we all are successful because we quickly learned to read her mind, figure out what she wants, and go above and beyond. I don’t really care about the actual cover letter, but I want to see candidates who take that extra step instead of just the easy route of a resume. I feel like it tells me a lot about them as a person.

        1. Cat

          Except it is not actually reasonable to expect people to read your mind. Just last week we had a poster say she threw out any resume that kind with an unsolicited cover letter because it showed candidates couldn’t follow directions. Not sending a cover letter may not be a sign of laziness or inability to go the extra step; it may just be someone who has been given a confusing set of mixed messages and weird expectations.

          If your director is vague with her directions and then expects one specific thing that you have no way of figuring out from those vague directions, that’s a problem with your director. If instead you’re actually looking for people who take “the extra step” figure out how to assess that in a work related context instead of planting traps for them.

          I mean, don’t get me wrong, I think it’s good practice to send a cover letter with a resume despite what our poster last week said even if it’s not specifically stated. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t specifically state it if you want it. Job hunting is obscure; people have different conventions; and you can’t assume that everyone is operating from the same set of unwritten rules.

          1. Anonymous

            Yes, exactly. The way to get people to go ‘above and beyond’ is to set clear expectations, and then see who meets them and provides something extra. But to give someone an incomplete set of directions and then assume they are only able to go above and beyond when they guess correctly how to meet the complete set? You are asking people to expend energy and time in a way that prevents them from actually going above and beyond, because they spend all their time trying to figure out what they need to do their job. This goes on in my office – no one helps anyone and there is a culture of ‘figure it out’ – so the learning curve is pretty steep. Sure, people eventually figure it out but they are anxious and never feel like they are doing the best job they can. Your manager is preventing your department from actually being as great as she thinks is forcing them to be. A savvy candidate will asses your culture in the interview. Frankly, we see a lot of posts on here that complain that candidates to too much – they send extra material that is unwarranted, call to follow up, email too many times, etc. So some employers would look poorly on a candidate that sends a cover letter when they just asked for an application. Be clear.

        2. A Teacher

          Maybe I’m coming at this from a high school teacher perspective but “above and beyond” in your case would be a stellar resume. If you want more than that, you have to set clear expectations. Your definition of above and beyond is really “please be able to read my mind without knowing anything about me.”

          It would be like telling my students I want a 1-2 page paper with a clear rubric/expectations but really only giving a high “A” to students that write more than 2 pages and add on detail that is way beyond the scope of most high school students. If you want people to take your application process seriously you don’t penelize them for doing exactly as you asked or for trying to follow vague directions. Either define what your “application” (resume or resume + cover letter) or accept that you will get resume only from many candidates.

          1. ThursdaysGeek

            Plus, you can read your manager’s mind because you’ve been working for her, but it’s unfair to ask candidates who haven’t even met any of you to read your mind and guess your expectations.

        3. Ask a Manager Post author

          OP, you can screen in the interview for people who can be successful in that type of work environment, but setting traps like this isn’t the way to do it. You’re going to miss out on strong candidates for no reason.

        4. Kathryn T.

          I feel like you could be on shaky ground here. If you’re making sharing a similar cultural background a de-facto condition of successful employment, that could be problematic in a lot of ways.

        5. Anonymous

          If you don’t care about the cover letter, why are you requiring one secretly? Above and beyond would be a great resume, a great interview, and references to back all of it up.
          I think you consider changing your requirements.

        6. Tinker

          Not to beat on you too much, but if you see that picking up on your unstated requirements is significantly dependent on shared context and fit, why is it that you then go on to cast aspersions on the character of people who don’t hit on the right answer? If you need mind reading, then by all means screen for mind-reading — but it seems kind of petty and mean to then say “takes the easy route” about them as if there’s something wrong with them as a person.

          Truthfully, when I see someone doing that… well, I feel like it tells me a lot about them as a person.

          1. Jamie

            I agree that people shouldn’t ascribe motives to strangers – and that’s a good reminder.

            But there is a cynicism that creeps in when you place and ad and you get resume bombed with 100+ resumes and some of them you have NO idea what they were thinking. It’s a mig welder position – I have a resume from someone who is in school studying accounting and previous experience in fast food only. No manufacturing – certainly no welding.

            Subject header has the job ad title in it so not sent by mistake, otherwise I’d assume they meant to send it somewhere else. And this happens ALL the time so unfortunately sometimes the resumes which come in without a cover letter or any introductory email can be viewed as taking the easy way because who knows who really evaluated the ad and thought they were a good fit so submitted and who is resume bombing every ad no matter how unsuitable to remain eligible for UI.

            A cover letter doesn’t have to be a big major event – and shouldn’t be actually – but if you want a job why just send a bulleted list of facts with out introducing yourself and making a case for why your resume should be considered.

            The fact is a cover letter takes you from a collection of facts into a person who was thoughtful and considered when applying. And it is easier to just send a resume to 100 different ads and call it a day by lunch.

              1. Heather

                Yes!!! “If you want me to wear 35 pieces of flair, why not just make the minimum 35 pieces of flair!?!”

              2. OP

                You guys, it is. I tell people all the time that it’s a mix between Devil Wears Prada and Michael Scott from the office… This is my own fault for asking for getting advice from people used to deal with logic and rationality! We don’t have that here.

        7. Parfait

          It’s one thing to be expected to read the Director’s mind once you have the job, know who he/she is, what the corporate culture is, and what general expectations he/she may or may not have. It’s a whole other thing to expect people to read your mind when they’ve never even met you. You’re rewarding the people who just happened to have guessed right. That doesn’t mean anything about their mind-reading capability in general.

        8. Elizabeth West

          Maybe YOU can read your manager’s mind, but how do you expect applicants to do it? Every listing is different, and they are usually following directions. If they go above and beyond at your company, that might be impressive, but it might tick the next employer off. It’s safer to just do what the ad says.

        9. Anonymously Anonymous

          Disastrous combination = director who gives vague instruction+people who think they have learned to read her mind.

        10. Observer

          The fact that your director expects you to “read her mind” is pretty toxic by itself. But at least you had a chance to learn what she means when she says something and what her particular expectations are. You have taken this to an even higher level. You are actually expecting people to read your mind with absolutely NO clues about you / your director, the company culture etc. There are very, very few fields in which cover letter / no cover letter is part of the context that a reasonably well prepared applicant should have about a company.

      2. Joey

        I don’t specifically ask for a résumé or cover letter in my job postings or as part of my online application, but they can attach them if they want. Can you guess who I look at first?

        1. Jamie

          Same here. And for more entry level jobs you wouldn’t believe how rare they are – at least for us – so a well written one will get hand carried and passed around the hiring managers like it’s a rare and wondrous artifact.

          Personal anecdote – when I applied for the job I have now no way would my resume have gotten me in the door. It was my cover letter where I explained how skills XYZ from my resume were transferable to what was in their ad and blah blah blah.

          I actually had zero expectation of hearing anything from them – I was so frustrated at hearing nothing from the lower level jobs to which I had been applying in a fit of desperation I wanted to start being rejected for better jobs I actually wanted.

          It was my cover letter because previously there had been issues with technical people not having the requisite communication skills and I write a pretty good letter. I was asked in my interview if I had help with it, which shows how skeptical they were of a technical person being able to write a cogent and conversational email.

          Don’t skip the cover letter people!

          1. Joey

            Because I shouldn’t have to tell you how to present yourself in the best possible light

            1. Anonymously Anonymous

              This goes both ways.A vague ad doesn’t put the company in the best light either. And now it seems to imply something about the culture there.

            1. Kathryn T.

              Does this mean that you don’t actually tell your employees what you expect them to accomplish, you just let them find their own way and punish / fire them if they fail?

              1. Joey

                Nope. It just means I give direction and let employees decide the best possible way to get there. For applicants I don’t only look at resumes and cover letters, I’ll look at any attachments. I tell them what I absolutely need (job description/requirements/online app) and let them be as creative as they want with anything else they want to present. Some do only what’s absolutely required while others take the initiative to present themselves in the best possible light.

                1. LPBB

                  I’m not trying to pick a fight, but you’re still expecting job applicants to read your mind.*

                  If I work for you, I presumably already know what your expectations are. That means I have a baseline that I can work from so I can try to exceed your expectations.

                  If I’m applying for a job, then I *don’t* know you. I don’t know if you’ll read any additional attachments or if you’re going to be annoyed that I sent in something unsolicited and be thinking “What is wrong with her? Why did she send that? Doesn’t she know I have 200 other resumes to look at? Etc.” as you look at my application.

                  Now, I always send a cover letter, even if it’s not specifically requested, but I’m also going to err on the side of cautiousness with anything else. Because I *don’t* know you and I don’t know what kind of arbitrary and capricious disqualifiers you (general you, not you specifically) are using.

                  *This is all assuming that I’m not misunderstanding your comment. If you specifically state something along the lines that applicants should attach anything they feel will strengthen their candidacy, then this comment may not apply.

                2. Joey

                  I see it as anticipating how to best do the job. Its not mind reading because I’m not looking for specific documents. I look at the totality of what’s submitted. As I said I require my requirements and make that known. But my application also allows people to attach whatever they want. And I look at those attachments to see if they add value.

                3. Joey

                  And just to be clear I don’t have some sort of secret résumé or cover letter requirement because I don’t want them if they suck. And if you’re good enough I’ll hire you even if you don’t submit them. To me a requirement is just that a requirement. Its not a requirement if I’ll hire you without it. At that point its optional. And its not even preferred, because if it sucks its definitely not preferred. I just want my basic requirements and how well of a job you do presenting yourself after that is up to you.

                4. Joey

                  LPBB,
                  No I don’t specifically state to feel free to add things that add value. If I have to tell you to include things that add value you’re not what I’m looking for. Just like I don’t say “feel free to find a way to inject things that add value during the interview.”

                  I’ve had people give me some pretty unconventional things that definitely added value and I loved the thoughtfulness, foresight and strategic view. For example one lady in interviewed for a highly analytical job not only talked about her attention to detail in her work, but further backed it by discussing and providing a copy of her DISC assessment during the interview process. Now did I ask for it? No. She took the initiative to figure out how to best get the job done on her own. That’s exactly what I need.

            2. Elizabeth West

              That works for employees. It doesn’t always work for job seekers. Each employer has different requirements–some don’t want to read cover letters, some prefer applicants use their Taleo app, some want an email addressed to a specific person, etc. Vague directions and assumptions on the part of the employer are NOT helpful.

              1. Joey

                Let me tell you, it works on applicants too. But yes, I know lots of people can’t or are afraid to work with basic guidelines and general direction. I don’t want those people. To me there’s no one right way to apply. Its personal- you take advantage of the tools you have. And nobody know what tools you have better than you. And if you don’t know you’d better get someone to teach you or teach yourself.

          2. Jamie

            I just think it should go without saying, honestly.

            I wouldn’t put in a job ad to show up clean and in proper interview attire. It’s assumed people will do so and not doing so will hurt your candidacy.

            With the exception of retail, food service, and some other application only jobs – if it requires a resume it should have a cover letter. It’s just incomplete otherwise.

            That said – it’s not always 100% deal breaker. If the resume is a perfect fit and it’s a hard to fill job (or very entry level where most don’t have cover letters either) you can still get a call but you’re making it harder on yourself than it needs to be.

            1. Cat

              I generally agree; the problem is there are people (and we had one of them post on this blog last week!) who try to spring the opposite trap, and reject anyone who sends materials, even a cover letter, not specifically asked for. Not many, and I would never advise someone to not send a cover letter on the off-chance they encountered them. But if your candidate happens to, particularly if they’re young and inexperienced, they might be understandably gunshy the other way and I’d rather not penalize them for it. The problem is there’s so much bad advice floating around about how to apply to things that it’s hard to know that potentially great candidates are starting from the same underlying assumptions you are.

              If you just don’t think to put “cover letter” in the ad; that’s normal. But it’s such a minor added line of text, I feel like it makes sense to specify it. If you don’t get one, it may be a sign that the candidate is lazy or disregards conventions; or it may just be that the candidate encountered some really bad hiring managers in the past. I feel like there are better tests of the former than whether they provide a cover letter.

              1. A Teacher

                I agree. I’ve applied for past jobs where cover letters weren’t required, it just seemed weird not to send one. I saved cover letter and resume in one PDF document and sent it.

                @ Joey, again, maybe I’m coming at this from a teaching perspective but you can’t expect people to read your mind when you give vague directions. If you WANT a cover letter or that’s your expectation then you need to specify that. A silent expectation isn’t fair to anyone–lesson 101 in the teaching world, where we are preparing your future job candidates. “Going above and beyond” as is discussed in this specific thread is actually a pretty vague construct in that my definition of it isn’t probably the exact same as yours. While I tell the students in my career classes that cover letters are standard there are cases where as Cat pointed out they aren’t wanted so do you want candidates that can follow directions–and once they know your work culture can expand from that–or do you want candidates that are supposed to define above and beyond without ever having met you? Just my thoughts.

                1. OP

                  Where I work, for the manager I work for, that exactly what I need people to be able to do to be successful here.

                2. Heather

                  OP, out of curiosity, does your organization have crazy-high turnover? Because that sounds like a recipe for madness.

                3. Joey

                  Teach,
                  This is the problem lots of people have-they wait and expect to be told exactly what to do. For mindless work-fine, but for jobs that require judgement, no way. I need people to be able to see a problem/task/project and at least attempt to figure out how to best do it. I’ll give them the minimum expectations and the vision or direction, but I can’t have them not taking action because no one specifically told them to. If they screw up in a smart way fine we’ll fix it, but they have to make smart decisions about their job on their own. There are very few jobs this doesn’t apply to.

            2. Meg

              Even then, it depends on the industry. What is normal for one industry may not be normal for another. At my job, it’s perfectly acceptable to show up for an interview wearing jeans and a T-shirt. For another industry, you wouldn’t even be let in the building.

              That being said, my job didn’t require a cover letter, or traditional resume. The recruiter asked for work samples, I sent my website, which has my portfolio, some facts about me, and my resume. I do have my traditional resume available for download on my site though.

              If the job posting was in my industry (web design/dev), and it just said attach an application, without specifically saying WHAT they wanted, I’d probably just email a few short sentences and the link with some contact information, and in most cases, it would have been acceptable.

              I don’t know what industry the OP works in, but it does help to tell people what you want for an application if there’s no room for creativity.

            3. ThursdaysGeek

              But we’re looking at it from two different views.

              For the person applying, yes, we want to include a cover letter always, that is a basic standard, unless they say differently.

              For the employer looking for someone, specify what you want to see. If you get so many applicants that you never look at a cover letter anyway, specify that you just want a resume. If you expect the basics of a cover letter and resume, say so. If you want the basics and above and beyond too, let the applicants know. They’ve never met you, they can’t read your mind yet, and they don’t know what excellent or above and beyond looks like to you. Give the few excellent applicants the chance to go above and beyond by letting them know what your basic requirements are, at least!

        2. GeekChic

          I actually have no idea. As has been seen in the comments on this blog, cover letters are the convention in some industries but not all – even some employers but not all.

          If you want people who can read minds, search for candidates at an ESP convention.

          Then again, this type of behaviour at least would tell me what types of places and people I wouldn’t want to work with.

  18. rw

    #2
    When my uncle’s company (software industry) faced layoffs, many of the employees had company-paid travel plans and tickets a month or two out for a big convention. They approached the company with a simple offer: instead of you losing money by canceling the plans, let us use them and we’ll repay you.

    Both parties won. The company recouped its money and the laid-off employees attended a convention jam-packed with potential employers.

    1. ThursdaysGeek

      Great idea!

      The only difference here is the OP mentioned that they were fired. That’s a lot different from being laid off, and would definitely affect how your company wants to deal with you.

  19. Legal Eagle

    Agreed. One of my biggest pet peeves is someone who knows precisely what he wants, fails to say what he wants, and then penalizes others for not doing something they were never asked to do.

      1. Jamie

        I have a hard enough time trying to get someone to do something with clear instructions and my delightful help…who has the time for these games.

        Besides, the second people learn how to read my mind I’m so fired anyway.

  20. B

    #2 – If you are a big corporation and booked it through your companies travel agency then it actually is in a sense refundable. What happens many times is a credit is issued to be used within 1 year for anyone else flying that airline. So yes, while technically nonrefundable the company does have a way to cancel and get it back.

    The same goes if it was purchased with a company credit credit card. I have gotten numerous credits, refunds, etc through it.

    But in any event, you were fired. You are no longer a part of the company and no longer entitled to any perks that may have gone along with it.

    1. Ann O'Nemity

      I’d agree. In my experience, business travel is usually refundable in full or at least for credits.

      I wouldn’t give the company any more reason to give you a bad recommendation, and certainly not for a free vacation.

    2. KayDay

      This is what I was going to say. Also, most tickets can be changed for a fee, so they might still want to send someone else on the trip, even if they have to pay an extra $100.

  21. Erin

    I am the original submitter of question #4. Thanks for the advice! I think I got flustered for a second because it was my first communication with an out of town company since I changed the address on my resume. I explained that I worked out of state but I think in this instance they were really pressed on time to find a candidate to fill the position. Unfortunately, the job is a semi entry level position, so finding a local candidate who is in NYC right now is going to be a better match for them. They explained that they were interviewing a candidate immediately but if it did not work out they would call me. If they do happen to call me, I will make it my best effort to be there by the time they request the meeting (like other comments mentions up thread, 3 hours isn’t too bad, especially when I have great train and bus services available).

    Moving forward I will make sure to clearly convey my current situation to the hiring manager and that I plan to relocate by x amount of time. Thankfully my current employers are great people who know I’ve been job hunting and are willing to give me time off, I just need to give them the proper notice (in this case also, it was a little too late).

    1. Meg

      I would have simply said that I couldn’t arrange to have time off so soon, and propose a new date and time.

      1. Felicia

        That’s what I’d do too. I would imagine even local candidates had that problem.

  22. Cruella Da Boss

    #1 Time card fraud is both illegal and dishonest.

    And then there is this….
    My company had to take a hard line on this subject many years ago when an employee was acused of murder! The only evidence that was in the employee’s favor was that they were “on the clock” at the time. Because of the type of job they perform, this person worked independently, and had little interaction with other employees. The sketchy part was that no one could specifically remember seeing them before clock out time, including the time they would have been clocking in. Doesn’t mean they weren’t there, but doesn’t mean they were either. There was a theory that someone else had clocked this person in and they were free to commit murder, then slip in sometime during the shift. This employee was eventually cleared of all charges, but worked under a cloud of suspicion for years after.

    Obviously, we underwent some changes in light of this situation, including moving the time clocks all to one central location, upgrading security to include a camera in the time clock area, and developing team leaders who access the progress of each team member daily.

    Also, the employee handbook specifically spells out that clocking in somenone other than oneself is an immediate firing offense.

    I can not imagine why an employer would let an employee pick their own punishment, unless they just don’t care.

    1. Jamie

      I would punish myself with a big raise. Because of those old saying more money more problems…so I would gladly incur more problems by taking more money.

      That’ll teach me!

          1. Esra

            See, that’s why I want to work for myself. I think my manager would be pretty cool, I could read her mind, and I’m already well-acquainted with her flaws.

  23. Anon

    Two thoughts…

    #1-Unless your coworker clocked you in against your will, this is time card fraud. Theft. I had to fire someone last year who was supposed to work until 8pm each night but started leaving around 7 or ever 6:45. (Personally, I think it was the bad influence of another coworker who was also fired. Talk about bad apple spoiling the basket. She didn’t report to me. Anyway.) The fraud was reported and then we caught her in the act. Fired next day. Not the same situation but time card fraud is a serious thing.

    #7. I’m int he same situation. I did all my annual evals for my staff and turned them in before deadline. Has my AVP done mine yet? Nope. They were due at the end of April. He asked for an extension and it was granted. I’m not saying anything at this point. He’s a horrible manager and I’m going to let him dig his own grave. My numbers are awesome so everyone knows that my team is pulling our weight….and I’m looking for a new job with a less toxic culture.

  24. Windchime

    Years ago, we had two people fired for #1–the employee who was late, and the co-worker who clocked in for her so it looked like she was on time. As Alison states, it was a fireable offense at the time ( probably still is). It’s weird that the company is having this employee pick her own punishment, though–seems like the consequences should be clearly spelled out in the handbook.

  25. ali

    #3 – When I was hiring, I specifically asked for a cover letter and often only got 2-3 sentences from people. That is not a cover letter! Drove me crazy. While I still looked at their resumes, none of those people got interviews. I didn’t even look at the resumes of the people who didn’t submit a cover letter at all – if they can’t follow simple directions, I don’t want to hire them!

    1. TheBurg

      So then how long does a cover letter need to be to really be a cover letter? Asking for real.

      1. ali

        I want to see a paragraph of why you’re interested in the job, and a paragraph about why you think you’d be a good fit. Minimally. This was academia, and a job that would require some writing, so I expected to see at least a few well-written paragraphs.

  26. Wilton Businessman

    #1: WTF? “I think my punishment should be that I work every Saturday for overtime for the next four months”.

    #2. Whether it’s legal or not, it’s most definitely unethical.

    #3. The only time I’m not sending a cover letter is when the ad specifically says not to. What a missed opportunity, IMHO.

    #4. If you want it to appear that you are local, you have to appear to be local. That means if you’ve got to drive 3 hours at night to get there the next morning, you’ve got to do it. However, in this case, it seems like they wanted somebody to start tomorrow.

    #5. It means “thank you for coming in, we haven’t decided yet and we’re being polite in responding to you”. Sit tight.

    #6. No. No! NO! Don’t do that.

    #7. While annual reviews are a milestone, a good manager is giving you feedback on a constant basis. If you’re getting feedback and she’s not giving you a formal review, I wouldn’t worry about it. If you never get ANY feedback, I would worry about not having an annual review.

    1. Cat

      I think that’s a little unfair to the second commenter. She is probably wrong that the company can’t get any money back on the trip (or at least vouchers for future travel), but it sounds like she honestly believes that, in which case there’d be no reason not to take the trip and the company might even expect that. I didn’t get the vibe she was trying to defraud them, just mistaken about how things work.

      1. Katie the Fed

        Then it’s a question to be posed to the company. And she probably hasn’t because she has a hunch what the answer will be…

        1. Cat

          Well, or she didn’t want to call the company that just fired her to ask if the answer is a straight “no,” which, in fact, it basically is. This blog just saved her an unpleasant and awkward conversation.

          I mean, I don’t know what’s in her head; we only had like two lines of text. I just don’t think that’s enough to jump to the assumption that she’s an unethical person by whom we should be disturbed.

  27. Ummm....

    Re #3, I work for a state employment office, and we teach our clients the following job search definitions:

    Application = the job application form, either online or paper
    Resume = a resume, i.e. a brief account of skills, experience, abilities, education, credentials, etc., as they relate to the job you are seeking
    Cover letter = a letter sent with a resume providing additional narrative on the resume’s relevant skills, etc., and other information explaining how you are suited for job. Point being that the resume is brief and the cover letter can be longer and more expansive.

    I would never assume that the definition of “application” = resume = cover letter unless the employer spelled it out that way. The assistant was correct in her assessment that the instructions were unclear.

    1. Ummm....

      ^oops ^ I would never assume that the definition of “application” = resume+cover letter.

      1. ThursdaysGeek

        Yeah, application is either the paper or online form that you fill out, or the online form that takes your uploaded resume and autoincorrectly fills in the fields.

      2. Chinook

        Me neither. If I saw an add asking to submit an application, I would check out their website for said application and, if I couldn’t find it and I really wanted the job, I would contact them. In my mind, an application is that peice of paper with tiny boxes that you fill out for a retail job.

        1. Rana

          And in academia, an “application” implies cover letter, C.V., and potentially a whole host of other documents, from sample syllabi, research plans, statement of teaching philosophy, examples of student evaluations of your work, writing sample, transcript…

          Ask for what you want, people!

    2. Liz T

      Well, the OP seems to have admitted that the instructions were unclear–PURPOSEFULLY unclear, to weed out non-mind-readers who want a healthy work environment.

      1. OP

        No, it wasn’t purposefully unclear. When I realized some people were just sending resumes and others were sending cover letters, I thought it might be a good way to screen out the ones who just defaulted to resume instead of sending both. This brought up the discussion with my coworker about whether or not to do so. And we decided not to, but I’m not totally convinced it wouldn’t have been a good idea.

        Yes, lots of turnover. Yes, not a healthy work environment. It is what it is!

  28. Coffee Bean

    All the discussion around punching in other people reminds me of something that happens every so often where I work – it’s a big retail chain and the time clocks are apparently all one giant system. You punch in by tapping your employee number into the keypad, so if you accidentally hit the wrong number it’s possible to punch in some random other employee that doesn’t even work in your store.

    It’s not a big deal, the store admins know it happens so if they see one lone punch-in from their employee at some other store, they just fix it.

    Obviously you should never commit time card fraud, but I do think some companies create a situation where it’s a difficult choice to make, because they do things like fire people for being 1 minute late or being late because their train broke down, on the first offense.

  29. Ed

    For #4, I can say as someone who recently relocated that candidates like us are a pain in the butt. It used to make me mad that nobody would give me a shot but I empathize now that I’ve gone through the process myself. We are much more likely to back out at the last minute, we or our spouse can get homesick and quit soon after being hired, we can’t interview with short notice, the move itself is often unpredictable which makes setting a start date difficult, the move is often dependent on our spouse’s job or selling the house first, etc. And what makes all of those things worse is we’re less likely to be honest about any of those things because we can’t afford to relocate without a job. After going through this experience, I would be more hesitant to hire a candidate that was relocating.

  30. BCW

    #3 I have to go with the consensus here. In job applications, say what you want, and thats what I’ll send. If you ask for a resume, I’ll send a resume. If you ask for resume+cover letter, thats what you’ll get. If you ask for resume+cover letter+writing sample+salary requirements, you get that. I don’t see why you can’t just say what you want. At what point is someone just sending you extra clutter that you may also disqualify them for.

    Many people, myself included, follow the directions given and do what we are asked. Its not to say I can’t do more once I know what the task is, but to expect me to know right off the bat is just ridiculous. I’m like this in relationships too. If you just drop hints, no matter how obvious you think you are, I probably won’t pick up on those hints. I, and I think most guys, think its stupid for a woman to get mad that we don’t “know” what she wants, when she won’t just come out and say it. Now some people aren’t like that, but for those of us who are, its frustrating to have someone mad at you or take you out of the running for something because you weren’t clear in what it is you wanted.

  31. Rosalita

    #6: I agree with most of what’s been said already about leaving jokes off the resume. Humor can sometimes work in a cover letter. I had an applicant reference a joke from “Office Space” in her cover letter. It was done in an inconspicuous way so that if the reader didn’t catch the joke, it didn’t detract from the letter. Being a huge fan of that movie, I found it clever and funny and told her so when I interviewed her. We ended up hiring her, but it wasn’t that joke that prompted me to interview her – it was a great resume and a great cover letter overall.

  32. Anonymous

    #3: Mind reading is not ‘going above and beyond’. Mind reading is learning to pick up on emotional cues and managers’ personal preferences, nothing more. Going ‘above and beyond’ job duties requires clear parameters and set goals, and tools to get there. Employees then can focus on the task at hand and begin to think strategically on how to improve processes and the company’s bottom line. You are training people to do the exact opposite of what your company needs: You are training them to be reactive and not proactive – because if you can’t read somone’s mind properly you will be trained on not to take risks in the work, only in trying to anticipate your manager’s needs.

  33. TheBurg

    Re: #3 – A few thoughts,

    1. In my experience (and it may just be the field I’m in), “application” literally means “we want you to come and fill out an actual application,” not resume + cover letter (although I always give my resume as well).

    2. I get the feeling that different people mean different things when they talk about cover letters. My cover letters have usually been a short paragraph or two in the body of the email, but I’m gathering from this discussion that many people think of them as another attached document? And others think you don’t need them at all? I’m even more confused now.

    3. To the OP — coming from a creative-writing-and-trying-to-get-published background I always try to follow the application instructions to a T. If a lit agent wants a synopsis or first 10 pages in addition to the query, that’s what you send, but only when it’s asked for. I’ve always assumed it was the same when applying for jobs and that if the employer is expecting something specific, they’ll ask for it. You might be expecting applicants to just know they need a cover letter, but by the same token another company may be annoyed by applicants who don’t follow guidelines/take it upon themselves to guess what else the employer wants.

    1. ali

      I think a cover letter in the body of the email is fine – but make sure it does include the things a cover letter should (see Alison’s advice about that). I want to see a paragraph about why you’re interested in the position and another one on why you think you’d be a good fit. Other people probably want to see other things.

  34. Elizabeth West

    #1–what do they want the OP to do, write lines or something? Sheesh. Corporate should have a policy for this, with clear penalties.

    #2 sounds like something that would end up on Judge Judy–“Your Honor, we paid the bill and she took the trip even though she didn’t work for us anymore.”

    You don’t know that they’re not planning to send someone else on that trip. Unless you paid for it, just don’t. If you were fired, it’s neither your responsibility nor your privilege anymore.

    #3–I almost always send a cover letter, unless it’s an online application that won’t let me, or it is specified that I don’t (not everyone wants to read them). If there are specific directions, I follow them–but if a company doesn’t give any and what I do annoys them, I figure I probably won’t like working for them anyway. I’m NOT a mind-reader, and I don’t work for the OP’s manager, so how the hell would I know what kind of enclosures to submit unless the listing tells me?

  35. Britta

    Hi all,

    I’m the college student in question #6. Weirdly enough, I was 100% making a joke about putting the thing about Leonardo DiCaprio’s Oscars in my resume in the first place. Unfortunately, when I was encouraged by professionals and parents, I actually put it in there, right at the end (more eloquently worded, of course). It’s too late to fix it this time around; I already sent it off. So that’s awkward, and now I’m panicking. Anyway, I still appreciate all your comments and advice and I’ll be sure to take it out for next time.

    In the meantime, it’s definitely common knowledge that Leo DiCaprio has been awarded no Oscars. Seriously, coming from someone who knows very very little about pop culture. Seems that some of you are a bit behind the times. :)

    Thanks!

    1. Liz T

      If you’d asked me, “HOW MANY OSCARS HAS DICAPRIO WON????” I’d say whoa, calm down, and then I’d really have to think about it. From your joke, though, I’d say, “Hmm, I’m guessing he hasn’t won any, since she’s phrasing it this way, cuz if she herself had won any she’d probably just say that.”

      But it’s a little snooty to inform us that it’s common knowledge, when you now know from these comments that it’s not.

      Also, eff the Oscars.

    2. Elise

      Don’t panic too much. It may actually work out in your favor. Not that I am recommending the practice in the future. But you said it was a “small web design firm” and that can mean a culture that would appreciate the creativity. If it was one of those oh-so-common-but-they-think-they-are-unique ads that talked about their fun, casual culture and looks for “rockstars” or “wizards” or other such nonsense, then you are probably okay.

    3. Jessica

      Yeah, given that the original post said it was supposed to be a joke, I could figure out that the number was zero, but
      a) it’s not that funny,
      b) it’s not really common knowledge, and
      c) it says nothing about you as a job candidate.
      I don’t really see anything positive about including it. If you could work in some humor that had to do with you personally or had to do with the job, then maybe it would be OK.

    4. Diana

      I have to agree with you about the common knowledge part (especially for a “small web design firm” where people are probably up to date on social media), also just the wording makes it clear the number is 0. I honestly don’t think it was a bad idea, but I work in the creative side of Advertising and enjoy seeing that sort of thing on a resume. Maybe it’s just my experience, but I would think it’s fine because of where you’re applying (I doubt that a small web design firm is going to be full of stiff suits who drool over traditional resumes). Good luck!

  36. Anonymously Anonymous

    So wait from the original letter #3 co-worker has expressed concern about the unclear application process. There may be a light in the tunnel. Now which one of them read the director’s mind clearly when posting the ad.

  37. Kelly

    #6

    When I was right out of college I put a “fun facts” section on my resume near the bottom, out of the way in case people didn’t care, but it was always a huge hit at interviews, people would ask me about them, to the point where a few times I was told it made my resume “stand out” against all the others. They were all true and random facts, like I can solve a rubiks cube, I have extensive knowledge in chicken breeds, etc.

    It may have been a professional faux pas, but it seemed to work for me! By the way I’m in the creative/marketing industry, so that probably helped my case.

    1. Jessica

      I like this — this is a much better alternative to the tactic #6 proposed. I think what I didn’t like about that joke was that it was so out of the blue. If you can tell me interesting things about yourself, that’s cool. Obviously the bulk of your resume should be about your qualifications for the job, but including a tiny bit on your outside interests is fine and fun.

  38. AngieB

    4) I am a recruiter and this happens all of the time. I would imagine that most other recruiters are very understanding and would work with your situation. How I normally handle this is I ask the applicant when they could be available to interview in the near future and then I go back to the hiring manager and figure out what we could do to work with the candidate. However, in my industry we are very used to hiring out of state employees so this situation is very common. I would just suggest going back to the employer and telling them about your situation honestly and see what they could do to try and accommodate. Maybe they would even offer up a phone or virtual interview first. You never know until you ask. Good luck!

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