surprise interviewers, missing commissions, and more

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

1. Talking to an employee who wasn’t at work when she should have been — but who thought I wouldn’t know

I came to work on Saturday at 1 p.m. to work on a deadline, and found that my Tuesday-Saturday salaried employee had already left for the day. I did not receive an email or a text message either. Everyone I hire is clear that this job is a 40-hour week, and expected to work over, if necessary, though it very seldom happens. What’s the best way to discuss the situation with her and how can I be assured this will not happen again?

Talk with her on her next day in the office and say something like, “I came in at 1 p.m. on Saturday and you were gone for the day. What happened?”

If she has a perfectly good reason (got sick, family emergency, had already worked 50 hours that week, or whatever), then just clarify with her what you’d like her to do in that situation — whether it’s alerting you that she’s leaving early or something else.

And if you suspect that this was anything less than legitimate, I’d watch her a little more carefully to make sure that she really is working when you assume she should be — it’s possible that this wasn’t a one-time thing but rather just the time she got caught. So you might monitor her a little more closely for a while.

2. I’m not getting paid the commission I was promised in writing

I’ve been with my current company for a year now. Initially, I was mostly part-time, hourly, but was told I would receive commission on some sales, with details outlined in writing via an email from my first boss. Fast forward a few months, and when I asked about getting the due commission, I was told “sales aren’t up enough,” which did not seem to be one of the written conditions.

A few more months went by, my old manager was let go, and a new one was hired. When I approached him about it, I was told we would “wipe the slate clean and start fresh” — basically, let go of any past commission I was due, and would start receiving it at that time instead. Yet, still no commission came.

Another few months and that manager was let go and my new manager became our GM, who is the final word on everything in our company. I was given a new title, made full time, salaried, and promised a different commission structure, which I also have in writing. It’s been several months now and I’m still not getting any commission. I’ve contacted our payroll person, thinking it was just a mistake, but that’s been several weeks past with emails and phone calls and nothing has happened. I want to approach my manager with this, but our relationship is rocky at best, and I’m worried that he will tell me that I haven’t earned it in some way (there were no selling conditions on this structure). Am I owed this money, or should I just let it all slide and play out on its own?

If you have it in writing and there aren’t any conditions in there that haven’t been met, then yes, you’re owed this money just as much as you’re owed your regular paycheck. Talk to your manager and say, “It’s been a year now that I’ve been trying to get my commission payments, unsuccessfully. We have an agreement in writing, and I’ve fulfilled all the terms of the agreement. What can we do to get this resolved in the next week?”

Ultimately, if the company just won’t pay, then you’ll have to decide (a) if you want to file a wage claim with your state labor agency and (b) if you want to continue to work for a company that behaves so unethically (and illegally).

3. Is it rude to add in a surprise interviewer?

Before my interview, I was told I would be meeting with Ms. X, then Dr. Y, and finally Dr. Z. I also studied the job description until I knew the requirements and responsibilities by heart.

My meeting with Ms. X from HR went smoothly, but she did not know the specifics of the position. I then met with Dr. Y, who said, “This lab does a lot of work involving UNIX. Do you have any experience with UNIX or computer programming?” I do not, and if computer programming had been mentioned in the original post I would not have applied. I non-answered, saying I was open to learning and asking if UNIX was difficult to pick up. At the end of our talk, Dr. Y said, “If hired, you would be doing a lot of the programming with Mr. W. I will take you down to meet him.” I then had a very awkward interview with Mr. W, whom I had not expected to meet, about a subject I know nothing about.

I wanted to Disapparate by the time I met with Dr. Z, who also asked me about my experience with programming. While I know that programming should have been mentioned in the post – that would have saved everyone’s time — I still feel embarrassed.

Is a surprise fourth interviewer inconsiderate, or should candidates be ready to answer to anyone at the workplace? And would asking why such an important aspect of the job was left out of the description be rude?

Having a job candidate meeting with someone additional on the spur of the moment isn’t terribly unusual. Sometimes it happens because someone ends up being available who they earlier thought wouldn’t be, or simply because they realize it would be helpful for you to talk to someone else. It’s not particularly rude to do that.

Leaving out a major part of the job responsibilities is bad practice though, since it makes it far more likely that they’ll end up wasting their own time and candidates’ time, if it means they’re talking with people who ultimately don’t fit what they need.

4. Leaving a job due to a change in managers

At my previous institution, I lacked a lot of managerial support and professional development. My boss was gone the majority of the time and I felt as though I was doing their job as well as my own. This past year, when I decided to leave, I was adamant that in my next role I needed the support and leadership from a manager that I did not previously receive. I was offered the job at my current institution and was skeptical at first, but the hiring manager told me about their management style, their expectations and their willingness to provide the stability that I lacked in my previous job. I accepted the job based on that information and now, less than a month later, my manager is transitioning into a new position and I am left once again with the instability and concerns regarding who will be taking on that role.

As this position is a contract position, and I know that I would like to move to a full-time permanent position in another department of student affairs in the near future, I am seriously contemplating the idea of searching for and applying for those jobs now, rather than when my contract is up in hopes of avoiding another year of turmoil, upheaval and insecurity. However, given my field is small and many people in the area at other Ontario institutions know each other, am I risking my reputation, current position or burning my bridges by doing this? If I find a job and accept it, does that mean that I am letting my current team down? I am currently conflicted between personal and professional security vs. respect for my current employer. Thoughts?

I’d wait and see who your new manager ends up being, if for no other reason than that it will look premature to others in your small field to leave before you have that information (if in fact you make it clear that you’re leaving because of the unanticipated change).

5. Asking a new contact through my job to connect me to a hiring manager

I recently moved across country to the Pacific Northwest, and haven’t yet been able to land a position in my field (environmental planning). In the meantime, I’ve been working in a related industry while continuing to search for a more permanent position. One of the firms I’ve been keeping an eye on just opened a position in my field; although it’s a bit lower-level than my ideal, it would be a chance to get my foot in the door in my field in this new location. Coincidentally, this firm just became new clients of mine at my current profession, though only over the past two weeks and on a very small scale.

Would it be inappropriate to ask my (very) new contact at this firm to give my contact info to the hiring manager for the position? I have a couple of questions regarding the role and (not-posted) pay range of the position that would affect whether or not I would be at all interested in the position, and there appears to be no way to ask those during the application process (resume submission and a few short supplemental questions). If it would be appropriate to approach them, how would you recommend that I do so?

It feels a little inappropriate, because (a) they really don’t know you yet, and (b) they’re currently working with your current employer (who you just started working for recently), and there’s potential for awkwardness there. I’d simply go ahead and apply rather than asking for anything special through your very new contact.

6. Will it hurt or help to mention that I’ve applied with an organization previously?

I’ve been trying to work at the same organization for two rounds of applications and have been rejected from a total of 3 different positions within the same company over the course of a year. This has been my dream place to work for so long, so I keep trying. Will it help or hurt my application if I mention that I have previously applied and been rejected but continue to apply anyway because of my passion for the organization’s work?

It shouldn’t hurt. It might help, or it might be a neutral. However, the key is to make sure that you’re applying for positions there that you’re truly qualified for. If you’re taking a scattershot approach and applying for a wide range of positions, they’ll think you’re unrealistic about what you’re qualified to do. But if the jobs you’ve gone after are similar, it’s fine to say that you’re continuing to apply because you’d love to work there.

7. How can I reach out to a contact about a job without being awkward?

I’m a soon-to-be recent grad (finishing my Master’s degree in a scientific field). As I’m anticipating graduating in August or September, I’ve begun the job searching process and have picked up so, so many tips from you. My question is about non-awkward networking/ job seeking.

To provide some context, my field of study is broad and highly transferable. However, my specific area of research is very small and everybody knows everybody. While I’d be open to working in other areas and have plenty of marketable skills, I love the topic I currently study. Furthermore, I think I may want to pursue a PhD in this area (eventually). Thus, I’d like to further my expertise in this particular field, and stay connected to the current research. My supervisor has suggested that it may be worthwhile to email one of these big names and see if they have any research assistant openings or connections (and when I say “big names,” the one she specified is one of the biggest).

Now, this wouldn’t be a blind connection. I’ve met the researcher in question and they provided some valuable advice in the early stages of my master’s project. But I still have no idea how to send an email that won’t be totally out of the blue, and completely awkward. The idea of asking essentially “do you maybe have a job for me?” makes me cringe and seems inappropriate, but I don’t want to be insincere about my reasons for making contact, so I’m kind of lost.

Don’t feel weird about this; it’s normal to do. Open your email with something like, “Jane Smith, who I currently work for doing X, suggested that I contact you about possible work you may have for a research assistant, or to see if you might know of someone who could use a person with my background.” Then talk a little about your background and what you’re looking for (briefly, like a paragraph or two), and attach your resume. That’s it.

{ 65 comments… read them below }

  1. Josh S*

    #4– Alison, you’ve often talked about the length of time it takes to find a new job in the current market. Given that, wouldn’t it make sense to start looking/applying now, even though it’s possible (even likely?) that the OP will end up with a fine manager?

    Essentially, wouldn’t it be better to have a X-month head start on the job hunt? I don’t see much downside (unless things are so tight-knit in the OP’s industry that it would come back to the current employer so quickly), and a good way to keep options open.


    1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      Actually, the main reason I think he should wait is simply that they’re on a contract… to me, even if contractor agreements don’t have a legal obligation to stay, it still is a written agreement about working until a certain day, and I have to think it would reflect badly on OP if they broke that agreement.

      Since the contract is for a year, I get that that’s a long time to stick it out, but really not too long, even if the new boss ends up being terrible.

      1. Josh S*

        A lot of contract-jobs (not all) have a clause that gives either party the rights to back out with 2 weeks notice. And even some are “contract” jobs only in the sense that they have a fixed end date–there’s not even a real contract there (with terms of employment, etc).

        So it’s entirely possible that the employee was hired for a job with a set end date, but no “commitment” beyond the regular implicit commitment we make when we take a job with any employer.

        I don’t know the situation of the OP’s position, so it’s at least worth exploring.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      My answer was based in part on the fact that she’s worried that in her small field it will look bad for her to be looking so soon — so I do think it makes sense to at least see what the new manager is like before starting to look.

    3. Forrest*

      The OP can’t keep leaving jobs just because their manager leaves or gets promoted. Not only is it irrational, it could easily impact their future opportunities (look like a job hooper, be known as someone who bails quickly.)

      The OP should let their past experience define their future. For all they know, a new manager could provide them with all the things they wanted.

  2. Jessa*

    Honestly the commission thing, I would be looking for work, and would have been FAR sooner than the OP. This does not bode well. They keep putting things in writing and not following through.

    1. Flynn*

      Yeah. And the “clean slate” phrase is EXACTLY what my management used when they were trying to not pay us stuff that was in our contracts (i.e. pretend they didn’t exist and start acting as if we were hired for the hours and pay they wanted). Let’s just say, we got a lot of mileage out of our union membership.

    2. Kara*

      Exactly. The “let’s wipe the slate clean” thing is a clear sign that they’re not going to pay you what you’re owed. I’d file the wage claim AND start aggressively job-hunting.

    3. #2 OP*

      I started seriously looking for a new job in January, once I realized that the 2-month-manager was the way he was (I was looking a little in November/ December, but was hopeful the new manager would be better, and had less time since I graduated in December).

      I was also hopeful that the commission thing via boss #3 was just a mix up; when they initial made my position salaried, my first paycheck didn’t reflect it, but it turns out it was just a mix up with payroll.

  3. Dan*


    AAM, I’d actually ask if the employee is classified properly. Salaried employees get to go home early when the work is finished. They don’t get paid extra for staying later when the work isn’t finished.

    I’m finding it difficult to imagine a situation where an employee works non-traditional hours, “has to be there,” and is properly classified as an exempt employee.

    1. Construction HR*

      “Salaried employees get to go home early when the work is finished. ”

      Ah, no.

      1. FreeThinkerTX*

        Exactly. It’s more like, “Salaried employees get to stay late for no extra pay.”

    2. B*

      ” Salaried employees get to go home early when the work is finished.”

      If only that were true…. Salaried employees must work the hours they are told to work. These might be non-traditional hours to you but they are a requirement of the job and were known when signing on.

      1. Jamie*

        All of the exempt jobs I’ve had and the vast majority of those I’ve seen there is no “finished” though. Sure you can be done with your to do list for that day or finish a project, but there is no “done” in the sense that there is nothing for you to do until the next day.

        I’m not opposed to flexible hours or even work from home but if you’re expected to put in a full week – as determined by your office – that’s the deal.

        1. Brittany T.*

          +1 to this.

          Technically, my work day is 9:30 to 6, but that is flexible so long as the work is complete. Joke’s on me though–there is ALWAYS something to do. Besides, unless there’s a good reason to leave early or switch up your hours every so often, not being there when you’re supposed to be does not reflect well on you.

          And what if something came up that your manager expected you to be in the office to deal with? I’ve been called back to office during a 10 minute trip out to grab lunch.

    3. Jen*

      This seems to vary from job to job. At my previous salaried job – everyone traveled extensively and working remotely was common so if you didn’t have to be physically in the office, you were OK going home at like 2 p.m. one day if you were available to work at home if needed. That being said, you were never really “off the clock” – with my current job, it seems to go manager to manager. I do a lot of work on the weekends so my boss has been OK with me leaving at 3 p.m. one day. But as he says “It evens out”

      But two jobs ago you were expected to be there in the office from 8:30 to 4:30 every single day whether you were hourly or salaried.

    4. Ask a Manager* Post author

      As others have said here, you can be exempt and still be required to work particular hours and not be allowed to go home if you’re done early. (And can certainly be required to tell someone if you’re leaving early, which this person didn’t do.)

      1. Ruffingit*

        Just the fact that the employee didn’t say anything, didn’t e-mail/call/text/something to let the employer know they were leaving leads me to believe they are skipping out on work hours and thought they wouldn’t be caught. If that isn’t the motivation, then usually you let your employer know you’re leaving for whatever reason.

      2. Dan*

        Well sure. But since these are *Saturday* hours, this reduces the likelihood that we’re talking about a professional (aka exempt) gig. When I think Saturday, I think food service, retail, etc. I think non-exempt. If I think office job, I think administrative assistant, which is still a non-exempt job. Again, I’m having a really hard time visioning an exempt position in this situation.

        You’re really good at pointing out the “gotchas” in the questions that you’re given, I’m just really surprised you didn’t ask the OP if she’s sure the employee is properly classified.

        1. fposte*

          But the OP didn’t say the employee was exempt, just that she was salaried. You can pay non-exempt employees on salary. I’ve been one.

          I’m also familiar with workplaces that run a Saturday staff–I think it’s possibly more common in service and arts nonprofits.

          1. Dan*

            You pay a non-exempt employee a salary if they only work 40 hours a week. The OP says that “it is clear that this is a 40 hour a week job, but employees are expected to work over if necessary.” Salary + “work over if necessary” = non-exempt, no? Otherwise, if those employees are non-exempt, then the OP is in violation of the FLSA by not paying 1.5x for all hours worked beyond 40 in a week.

            Again, the situation is odd enough where it simply begs the question. I’m not alledging that the OP is in violation of the law, just that I think it’s a question that should be asked.

            1. De Minimis*

              They’ve had lawsuits regarding the accounting firms and unpaid overtime–believe the courts have ultimately ruled in favor of the firms, but only after an appeal. The employees get no overtime but many are required to work 70+ hour weeks during busy season.

              I think they really should have to pay overtime to employees that are below senior level [for the first couple of years you are basically just doing data entry/office drone work and not exercising any kind of professional judgment, at least not in tax], but the courts see it differently.

            2. fposte*

              You’re definitely right on the 40+ thing, which I missed, but the rest of it doesn’t seem particularly odd to me–as I said, I’m familiar with plenty of workplaces where Saturday is a regular workday for people of various statuses.

        2. B*

          You also need to think of those who work at museums, customer service call centers, travel agents, hospitals, etc. These are all positions where professionals need to be in the building and working. Just because you do not see them does not mean they are not there.

        3. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I’m just not seeing how it’s relevant to the question. The employee could be non-exempt and working Tues-Saturday, 40 hours a week. Or could be non-exempt and working overtime that they get paid for. Or could be exempt. Either way, the answer is the same.

        4. jennie*

          Administrative or IT support in any industry that has sites open Saturdays (retail, medical, transport, basically any service industry) is just one example that could apply here. Just because you consider the hours unusual doesn’t mean they’re uncommon.

  4. Marmite*

    #1 – It’s hard to tell from the OP’s letter whether or not the employee needs to be there on Saturday afternoons (to answer phones or perform some other necessary task) or whether the OP expects the employee to be there only because she is scheduled Tues-Sat. It could be that the employee has worked the 40 hours the OP mentions already, or simply that they’ve finished all the work for the week.

    I have a friend who works Tues-Sat because a medical condition requires her to attend a clinic on a weekday. Her employer is small and were happy to offer her this option. They opened it up to other employees too and there are four of them that chose that schedule. My friend often goes in at 7am on Saturdays and works until 1 or 2pm. She says that because there are fewer people (and therefore distractions) on a Saturday work gets done more quickly.

    1. Seal*

      But it all of those cases, it’s up to the employee to let the boss know that they’ll be leaving early or changing their schedule. I also have employees who work weekends and non-traditional schedules; if they need/want to change their schedules or take time off, they are expected to clear it with me first.

      I agree with AMM that a simple “I was here, where were you” is the best approach, followed by a clarification of what to do when you want/need time off. But be prepared to do another random drop-in or 2 down the line, just in case.

      1. Marmite*

        In the case of my friend, it is not required for her to check with her manager to leave earlier on a Saturday. She is expected to get her work for the week done, but as the office isn’t open to the public on Saturdays there’s no requirement for anyone to be there at set hours.

        I can’t tell from the OP’s letter whether he expects the employee to be there because the employee is scheduled to work set hours, or because he thinks she should have enough work to still be there doing it at the time he came in. If it’s the latter it may be that the employee worked more hours during the rest of the week, came in early, or simply doesn’t have enough work to do.

        I agree OP should speak to the employee, but depending on the specific circumstances maybe not go into the conversation thinking he’s caught her doing something she shouldn’t be doing.

        1. fposte*

          It sounds like the OP’s the employee’s supervisor, though. If so, OP will know whether the employee was supposed to have been there or not, and would therefore go into the conversation knowing this already. As Alison notes, it’s possible that something came up, and it’s also possible that there was a misunderstanding of workplace polices. But it sounds like the OP is actually the one who gets to say if it was okay for this employee to be out of the office and didn’t say that.

        2. Not so NewReader*

          My favorite thing to say in the situations is something along the lines of “Were you okay on Saturday?”

          The acknowledges that I don’t know the whole story, yet also gives the person the heads up that I know something was amiss.

          What I like about it is that it seems to be a respectful/non-threatening way of starting the conversation.

          1. KarenT*

            I really like this response. It gives the person the opportunity to come clean or to lie. Either would be very telling!

  5. jesicka309*

    #1 Is the employee the only one in the office? And do they have adequate work to do?
    I once worked Saturdays when the rest of the office had the day off – it was hell. I was a dual on the road/office worker, and the time in the office went slowly. My manager would leave perhaps an hours worth of work for me to do – once I’d completed that, I’d scrounge around for something to do, but being as junior as I was, I couldn’t do anything substantial without approval. I often read magazines at my desk, or left early. Shifts during the week were fine, but they underestimated how much work to set me for a weekend.
    It might be worth checking in with this employee and see how they’re going workloadwise. You could be under scheduling them without realizing it.

  6. Elizabeth West*

    #3–extra interviewer/undisclosed job requirement

    The extra interviewer isn’t a problem; if it’s going well and someone is available, they might pull them in to chat with a candidate for a few minutes. What bothers me about this letter is the company not even mentioning that programming is an essential part of the job. I ran into this with the accounting thing when I was looking, and it was absolutely infuriating. Why waste people’s time like that?
    +1 to the OP for using “disapparate.” :)

    1. Felicia*

      I loved the Harry Potter reference too! And not mentioning the program was annoying, and I experienced something like that in a recent interview. It was a program i’d never even heard of, but it wasn’t in the job description at all. Job descriptions that leave out something important or are really vague end up a waste of everyone’s time at the interview stage.

    2. FD*

      Yeah, I mean it’s not like not mentioning a fairly common skill (i.e. can you operate MS Word). Most people can’t pick up programming in a weekend, and it’s not a skill the majority of people can be expected to have.

      1. OP #3*

        Haha, the job description said, “Must be comfortable using computers and Microsoft Office.”

        Is “must be comfortable using computers” code for “must be comfortable with UNIX and programming”?

        1. Marmite*

          I find job descriptions are often far too vague when it comes to IT skills, using phrases like “confident with computers” or “familiar with the internet”. I went to a job interview recently where “familiar with the internet” turned out to mean “SEO whizz with website building skills”.

    3. Jamie*

      I also loved disparate. :)

      ITA that the extra interviewer isn’t the issue, but whipping out a heretofore unmentioned requirement was crappy. That’s a specific enough skill that it should have been in the mix from the beginning so people could self select out.

    4. ChristineSW*

      Pretty much what I was going to say re: the surprise interview. It’s pretty common, at least it was for me when I used to interview for administrative/clerical positions. The only thing I would NOT appreciate is expecting to meet Jane, but meeting with Bob instead without a good explanation.

      P.S. Thanks for explaining the “disapparate” reference…I was like huh? (I confess to being one of the few humans who wasn’t into Harry Potter. lol.)

      1. Anonymous*

        Spontaneous interviewed added at the last minute: not uncommon.

        I never did get why some major job requirements never are worked into the job listing. Overall it’s a waste of both employer and candidate’s time interviewing people who may or may not have those skills. The only acceptable reason I could see behind this is if the job description was reevaluated last minute and the new requirement was added and it was just tossed to the interviewers that day.

        1. OP #3*

          From what I understood, the current research assistant does mostly benchwork, but the lab is going to shift to working with computers. So the replacement needs to be comfortable with programming, and the description was outdated.

          1. Anonymous*

            Some uni’s also have a stock description for general lab tech, and a lot of faculty just use that, because they don’t know how to write a job description.

          2. Felicia*

            I’ve certainly had interviewers that have made me want to disapparate before:) Too bad i couldn’t Obliviate anyone into forgetting what happened

    5. OP #3*

      I realize that the surprise interviewer wasn’t what threw me off – the programming requirement was. I’m sure had I met anyone else in the lab, like the current research assistant, I would have been okay. But perhaps if Mr. W had been listed, I could have looked him up on the company website and learned what he does. :P

      I am so glad there are Harry Potter fans here! Yay!

    6. AG*

      I agree. Sometimes you actually get to meet someone great when they throw a surprise at you last-minute. When I interviewed for my current job, I was set up to meet with the hiring manager and three other people. One of those ended up being on vacation so I met his boss. This guy actually was very new to the company and wasn’t prepared to interview me at all, but it ended up being great because it was a very informal, casual interview and I really liked his personality and enthusiasm. His subordinate ended up being really awful and lazy and was let go recently, and I always wonder if I would have been as enthused about the job if I had been interviewed by him.

  7. AB*

    #4: Leaving a job due to a change in managers

    The first thing the OP should ask herself is what evidence she has that there will be no management changes in the other department she is thinking of applying for. Even if she went from contractor to a full time position, I don’t see how it would eliminate the risk of changes in management and the same level of uncertainty she is experiencing now.

    In my experience, this is a risk you have in all jobs. The manager who hires you may be let go (or resign) a month later. Waiting out to see who the replacement is, like AAM said, would be the wisest choice right now.

    1. Kara*

      The guy who hired me left two months after I started. We’re getting a new manager in a couple of weeks (it’s been five months), an external hire. I didn’t love the old manager but I do miss having a manager, so I’m cautiously optimistic about the new one. If it doesn’t work out, I’ll just deal with it (and that could mean any number of things). But it’s a wait and see time, for sure.

      1. AB*

        Kara, I’ve been where you are and the lack of leadership and direction is not fun.

        But I see it happen so many times in all sorts of organizations that when someone says they want to change jobs to pursue stability or ensure they “have a manager”, I always wonder if that’s such a good idea, because there is no guarantee that things will stay the same in the new company / department as well. Unless, of course, the change is to move away from a company with a chronic problem of management turnover, which is typically a good idea.

        1. Kara*

          Agreed. It’s a “better the devil you know” question (except in cases of high management turnover, as you say, or if a company changes in such a way that you no longer have a manager, won’t get one, and you know you need one).

    2. Lindsay J*

      Yeah, I was a little disappointed in my new job because the guy who hired me was a very inspiring, natural leader type person. A month-and-a-half after I was hired he was transferred to a new store opening up, leaving me with a manager who had never run a store by herself.

      However, it has actually opened up opportunities for me in this company sooner than I would have gotten them otherwise. And the new manager isn’t a bad person, or a bad manager, she’s just not as experienced or as inspiring as the previous one.

  8. RubyJackson*

    #2- Oh, the irony!

    OP didn’t ask, “Is this legal?” when in fact it isn’t! And, Alison said so!

    1. AG*

      Haha I agree! So many people ask “is this legal” when what they should ask is “is this normal/fair/okay?” but this is one instance where it’s clearly illegal as well as unethical.

  9. OP #6*

    #6. Thank you for responding to my question so rapidly after my email! Unfortunately, I have already sent in my application and decided not to mention that I applied previously – with the hopes that they’d look at my application with fresh eyes. I was really on the fence about it and whether mentioning my previous application and rejection would show persistence and how much I’ve grown with my current job or just make them remember why I wasn’t qualified before. My previous applications were for three separate departments with three different hiring managers (one of which is the current department/same position I am applying to), so I’m not sure whether the department where my current application is going even knows what other jobs I have applied for within the overall company. I guess I will keep my fingers crossed that my current qualifications are more impressive than in the past and that that will be enough. Thanks for the help!

  10. Anonymous*

    #6 Recent STEM grads do this all the time, even with people they have never meet or worked with. It’s an extra plus you’ve already had some interaction with this senior researcher. However what may turn this person off is that you have no clear decision on what your long term objective is. If you’re going to go on and get a PhD you need to be clear about that now, because that will change what kinds of responsibilities you will want now and how long your tenure will be with that person (don’t forget funding too). Also, you need to ask yourself if a PhD will really help in your field. Your field may be different but in my field the only jobs in STEM that require a PhD are tenure-track faculty and managers of projects in big pharma. Most other jobs will take a masters + experience, even if they explicitly state PhD only, because of the mindset PhD = more knowledge, however once they see someone knows the field, then they’re OK with just a masters.

  11. anonz*

    #1 — I actually had a job years ago where my predecessor was let go for this very behavior. The position was as an in-store merchandiser and sales rep (setting up displays, inventorying products, etc). The position required communicating with the home office and supervisor about where you’d be and when and sometimes there would be a surprise visit to check that your work was done…well, it turns out prior person had been lying about doing her work for some time, and got caught when boss showed up at a store and employee…didn’t. Some investigation via sign in logs at other locations showed no visits on days she had claimed to be working. Boss set the trap by asking “how’d everything go at Store X last week?” and she said “oh fine, fine, it’s all good”. Yeah, oops.

  12. Brton3*

    About surprise interviewers….I once had an interview that I knew would involve short one-on-ones with a bunch of people, but I didn’t know the details. The last person I interviewed with turned out to have been added to the schedule at the last second. She was at a higher level than anyone else who I had talked to, and presumably would have had a lot of say in the decision or at least big sway in the conversation about me.

    So this woman walks in and is clearly having a busy day and didn’t think she would be doing this. She hadn’t seen any of my materials and asked me a bunch of time wasting questions (tell me about yourself, etc) and was visibly unimpressed by my answers. She was also somewhat rude, cutting me off if she thought I might be going down a tangent, etc.

    It was super discouraging. Although I remained polite and enthusiastic, I knew something had gone wrong. I didn’t get the job, and I really think a big part of it was that this woman was totally not in the right frame of mind and after the interview she probably told the rest of the people “eh he’s not that special.” (I imagine her saying this over her shoulder while walking away from them quickly to go to her next important thing.)

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