discussing mistakes in a cover letter, why companies hire slowly, and more

It’s six short answers to six short questions. Here we go…

1. Talking about mistakes in a cover letter

I’m wondering what your take is on mentioning learning progress and past mistakes in a cover letter. Granted, my cover letter is for theatre stage management, but I want to mention that I am still learning how to be a stage manager, inasmuch as actually managing people goes. I’m all right at it, but it’s not my strongest suit. I also mention a mistake I made during my last production as evidence of my ability to accept criticism and own up to mistakes immediately; this is really the only way to begin fixing them. Knowing how to deal with them is obviously key, especially in a field that depends so much on continuously moving forward. A fellow stage manager friend of mine thinks I should leave these out, though, since I will invariably be asked about them in any interview I get and removing them would help me pare down to a single page. What do you think?

I agree with your friend. A cover letter is the place to explain why you’re interested in the job and why you’d excel at it, not a place to raise doubts about your fit. What you’re talking about — learning from mistakes and taking criticism — is a great topic for an interview, and will often come up there in various forms … but leave it off your cover letter.

2. Do companies understand the ramifications of slow hiring processes?

Do companies that take a long time to complete the hiring process understand that they have the potential to lose good candidates that just move on? Or is it that they just don’t care?

It depends on the company. Some find that they’re able to get excellent candidates despite lengthy hiring processes, so there’s no issue for them there. Others realize that they might lose good candidates, but have made the strategic decision that their reasons for moving slowly trump that concern (and sometimes that’s perfectly legitimate — such as if they need to iron out a budget issue or wait until the new manager of the position is hired or work through questions about their top candidates). And yes, still others are clueless about the impact of their slow hiring process, and don’t realize they’re losing good people because of it (or aren’t savvy enough to care).

3. Listing coursework for a degree you started but didn’t finish

How should you list courses you took for a degree you started, but never finished? I took some grad history courses last year, but have since switched to pursuing a degree in library science. I want to include them, because they are relevant to jobs I would be pursuing and show a clear progression (I spent the spring before taking the history classes volunteering at a historical archive). I’m not sure how, though – I can’t say “M.A. History” because I didn’t finish the degree, and “M.A. History coursework” looks awkward and unclear.

You could say: “Additional coursework in X, Y, and Z.” In general, I’m not a fan of listing coursework on a resume, largely because it’s your work experience than employers care most about, but you have a logical reason for doing it.

4. Is it better to intern for multiple employers rather than just one?

I’ll probably do an internship through my school next semester. There is an archive I worked at in undergrad that I could probably get an internship at, and in some ways it would be nice to be back because I know (and like) the people there, and I feel like I could get some really good recommendations from them. At the same time, I wonder if I should branch out and go somewhere different. Do you think that working in multiple settings would be better in terms of finding a job later, or that it wouldn’t matter? (I would have very different duties as a student intern, obviously.)

Multiple settings are good because they expand your network (giving you more references, contacts, etc.) and expose you to different workplaces cultures, ways of doing things, and personalities, but they’re not an imperative. Doing substantive work in your field would trump doing trivial work outside your field any day.

5. How can I stay in touch with my boss after leaving my job?

What is a good way to keep in touch with a boss after I’ve left my job? My one-year contract at my current position is about to end and I’m going to be starting a new position afterwards. Although our working relationship was fine, I didn’t get along well with my director, who was my only real supervisor at this job. We never had any conflicts or issues, of course, but our personalities didn’t really match up and let’s just say that it will not be a sad goodbye on my final day of work.

I would like to keep the option of using her as a reference in the future, as I did good work at this job with some tight deadlines, difficult projects, and an under-staffed department. What is a good way to do this? I can’t find her on LinkedIn, and I don’t want to add her on Facebook. I’ll also be moving to a new city and working in a different field, so it wouldn’t really work to chat about work stuff. What would be an appropriate way to keep in touch with this director in a professional way? How long is too long to reach out after a job has ended to ask for a reference or try to reconnect with someone?

It’s easier to reach out if you’ve stayed in touch all along — which doesn’t mean monthly coffees or anything like that, but an email once or twice a year goes a surprisingly long way. Those emails can just update her on what you’re doing, and ask how things are going with her. If you can find a way to mention that you’re using something you learned while working for her, even better (but not necessary).

6. Interviewer wanted different hours than what the job ad said

If a job is advertised on the website as part time 7am to 11pm, Monday to Friday, can it be changed at the interview to flexible hours and 7 days a week? My daughter recently applied for a job and the position on the website was advised as the above hours. She went for an interview and got on well with the other staff, and was then interviewed by the branch manager, who said that she may have to stay longer and would sometimes be needed to work at the weekends. She applied for the job as she already works part-time in a restaurant and on Sundays for a couple of hours in a tack shop; she only applied as it would have fit in with her other commitments. When she told the manager this, she got very snappy with her. Is this legal?

She has now received an email advising that she was not successful. I think they should have advised to her in a call or letter and not in an email.

Yes, it’s legal for them to decide they need a different schedule (not only during the interview, but even after she’s already been hired). It’s also very normal to be notified of a job rejection by email — in fact, most job seekers prefer that to a letter (which takes longer and is unnecessarily formal) or a call.

I’d use this experience to help your daughter learn that stuff like this happens in job hunting, and that rather than jumping to outrage and thinking something must be illegal, she should use it as signals that give her valuable information about the employer. She’ll have much easier job searches in her future if you help her understand that.

{ 102 comments… read them below }

  1. MissM

    #6 – It doesn’t even sound to me like the interviewer was completely changing the hours. It sounds like the normal hours would be as stated, but occasionally the employee would have to work late or come in on a weekend. It’s not that unusual for a job with regular hours to occasionally require workers to stay late, depending on the work load. Rather than get angry that the ad didn’t say this, I would give the hiring manager credit for fully explaining this in the interview, so that candidates would have a full understanding before committing to the job. It sounds like the LW’s daughter got huffy with the interviewer over the wording of the ad (which probably was written by HR, not the manager anyway). Not surprised she got a rejection.

    1. Anonymous

      I would like to point out that the interviewer got huffy with my dsaughter, when she advised her that she may sometimes not be able to stay longer than 11am if she had to be at work at 12am. I’ve rechecked the website and it still says the same and hasn’t been amended.

      1. ExceptionToTheRule

        Regardless of who got huffy, they aren’t going to amend the ad posting and this isn’t uncommon. My part-time employees have base schedules of about 20-25 hours a week and are frequently called upon to work extra hours in the form of extra days or extended shifts. The place where that gets explained is in the interview because the ad posting isn’t the place to discuss the complexities of the department’s scheduling needs.

        Be glad the interviewer was up front from the beginning and accept that this job wasn’t going to be a good fit for your daughter.

        1. Michele

          I agree with you exception. At my last position HR only mentioned office hours during the screening interviews. Once candidates made it to me I made it a point to be as up front as possible about what the hours truly were in my department.
          The truth of the matter is you have no idea what really happened in the interview. You only have your daughters version. There are 2 sides to every story and somewhere in the middle lies the truth.

          1. Jessa

            Agreed, as long as they mention it before you take the job offer. It’s definitely okay and Kosher. I’d be furious however, if this was not mentioned until I’d left another job and started at the new one.

            1. Felicia

              I think it’s good before you take the job offer to totally clarify the hours so the person knows what they’re getting into . I know drastically changing someone’s hours after they accept and start a job is legal, but it’s also wrong.

      2. straws

        I’m glad it was the interviewer & not your daughter that got huffy, and thanks for clarifying that. The rest of MissM’s post is still valid though (prior to the last 2 sentences). Job postings are there to give the basic requirements though, with the interview going into the major details so that both sides can make an informed decision. If this schedule adjustment is more than very occasional, it would be nice if that were reflected in the posting, but maybe it’s not or perhaps they’re just not that great at job postings. A lot of companies fall short in this area (and recruiting in general, it seems), and going into a job hunt with high expectations is going to result in a lot of disappointment.

        1. nyxalinth

          **If this schedule adjustment is more than very occasional, it would be nice if that were reflected in the posting, but maybe it’s not or perhaps they’re just not that great at job postings. A lot of companies fall short in this area (and recruiting in general, it seems), and going into a job hunt with high expectations is going to result in a lot of disappointment.**

          This. My last two interviews involved responding to poorly written job ads. The first left out a specific background (construction that they actually considered critical to the position, then seemed surprised and annoyed that I even applied, much less came to interview.

          The second ad had hours listed which heavily implied (not just to me, I ran it past my room mate and others after the fact) that the position was part time. It turned out to be full time. I was told “Well, we’ll see what we can do for you” but I decided to not go with it because in previous experience, such things haven’t ended well.

          1. Not So NewReader

            I am echoing here…. very seldom does a retail or restaurant job show the correct hours in the ad.

            I have grown to figure that 75% of the ads out there state the wrong hours. I took a non-retail job at one point. The boss said my hours were from 8-4. And he said we get paid for a 40 hour week. This meant a paid lunch. I figured that could not be correct. On the first day of work at 4pm I did not budge. I just kept working. Sure enough, my coworkers did not leave until 4:30.

            OP, your daughter will have an easier time of it if she assumes the hours are wrong in the ad and asks during the interview. However, the interviewer should not have been huffy with her about this, most people do not have ESP.

          1. Anonymous

            Actually, it isn’t obvious. The original letter references 11 pm and the OP’s followup references 11 am and 12 am. I reread the post several times because I found it very difficult to follow the timing issue.

        1. Elise

          Those sort of hours listed just means that it is shift work and your schedule will vary. One day you might work 7 to noon, while another day you might work 5 to 11 pm. Lots of part time jobs are like this, which is why it is so difficult to find one that works with your schedule.

    2. Felicia

      This! It’s happened to me where in the interview , job ad, and written job offer it said the hours were 10-6, then on the first day they told me from now on I should come 9-5…ok i guess. Then the second day they told me staying late would be required quite regularly, when in the interview i’d asked about that, and they said it would be required maybe twice a month (more like 3 times a week was what they told me on the second day). So it’s far better to be told in the interview, or at least before you’ve accepted the job. I had assumed that employers would want you to know what you were getting into, because changing something like hours might make employees resentful and might have made them reject the job. Although totally legal, IMO drastically changing someone’s hours after they accept a job is a jerky thing to do….if it was phrased as a request, maybe, but nice people will tell you during the interview what you’re getting into so you have all the information when deciding to accept or reject the job

      1. Ruffingit

        This is another area where I think employers need to be upfront to save time for both themselves and potential employees. Sure, hours can change and may need to be cut or extended after hire and we all get that. But to advertise it/tell you in an interview that it’s going to be X and then change it drastically on day 2 of the job or to say in the interview that staying late is required a couple of times a month, but then after you’re hired, it’s 3 times a week? Come on now. That just screams of lying to the employees in the interview process. Sure, sure it’s possible they didn’t realize what they’d need at the time, but two times a month versus 3 times a week is a major shift and to state it on Day 2 or 3? No, they knew it before and just didn’t want to be honest about it is my thought.

        1. nyxalinth

          I never understand the being deliberately misleading, when it does happen. Come on, the economy blows rocks still and so does the job market. I they feel they have to lie, I think their problems as a workplace go much deeper than that.

        2. SevenSixOne

          Yeah, situations like this often feel like a bait and switch to me. The schedule is a dealbreaker for almost everyone– who has a totally wide-open schedule?

          I’d much rather have the initial phone screener start by telling me, “I see you applied for the position when it was listed with THAT schedule. The position now has THIS schedule; does this still work for you?” than make it through in-person interview(s) and hiring and then discover “… oh, did we say 20-30 hours a week? We actually need you to work as close to full-time as possible, but we’ll schedule you for juuuuust under 40 hours a week so we don’t have to pay any benefits!” or “We need you to be available any time we’re open, but you’ll probably only work two or three days a week. Which ones? Hell if we know. You don’t need to plan ahead for stuff or have a life outside of work, right?”

          NOT THAT THAT’S HAPPENED TO ME OR ANYTHING

          1. Not So NewReader

            “You will work 15 hours per week except for those weeks that you work 45 hours. No, no one ever gets scheduled for overtime, unless of course, we schedule them for overtime. Which you should turn down and leave. But never leave your coworker alone in the building. And before you leave make sure that your work is caught up and the work left over from the previous shift is finished, too. ”

            HMMMM.

            1. VintageLydia

              This entire exchange right here is reason number 256 I won’t be returning to retail unless the other option is starve in the streets.

          2. The gold digger

            we’ll schedule you for juuuuust under 40 hours a week so we don’t have to pay any benefits

            And of course now, it would be just under 30 hours a week so they don’t have to pay benefits.

  2. Yup

    #3 – I’m picturing it on your resume like this:

    M.S. Library Science, Teapot University – expected graduation June 2014
    Coursework completed in Collection Management, Cataloging, and Programming
    Additional coursework completed in Early American History, Pre-Revolutionary Economics

    That way you can spotlight the most important LS coursework you’ve already completed, and also give a flavor of the history background that’s relevant. I use a format like this on my resume because my grad degree has a weird name that confuses people:

    M.S. in Public Sector Caffeine Semiotics, Teapot University
    Coursework in: Making Tea, Pouring It, and Keeping It Warm

  3. NonProfiter

    Re: #3

    The problem with “coursework” when it didn’t lead to a degree is it doesn’t sound impressive, it sounds like you quit or didn’t know what you wanted to do. For me, that was the case! I started a post-bac premed program and decided after a semester that it wasn’t for me so I switched my coursework to chocolate teapot making.

    Now I turn that year to an advantage by listing it as “Post-baccalaureate studies in Chocolate Teapotry,” and I mention it in my cover letter because I studied under a prominent chocolate teapot maker. Employers have always been impressed by this education over and above my BA. I strongly suggest you try that instead of listing your coursework. Just stating the field and elaborating on the relevance of your studies briefly in the cover letter/interview should work. And no one will ever think you’re flaky.

    1. Avy S.

      I would just add that it’s good to make clear that this is not just any ole “additional coursework” beyond a BA but is, in fact, *graduate* level (that is, *post-graduate* level, for those outside the U.S.) work. Taking a graduate level science class (for example) clearly should impart not only a much higher level of skills, knowledge BUT ALSO demonstrate that you have conducted your own extensive and intensive research (as opposed to if it was a class at a community college or 1oo-400 level undergrad course.)

    2. Sidonie

      (LW here.)

      Hmm. I mean, I guess on some level, I did quit, but I don’t really see it like that? I knew when I started the degree that I wouldn’t necessarily finish it – my major goal was to get a little more background in areas of history that I hadn’t covered in undergrad, and I took classes based specifically on what sorts of specialized archives I might want to work in, if I decided to go through with a library science degree after working a bit.

      Your suggestion is good – I’ll definitely keep what you and Allison said in mind. (And Avy S. as well!)

      1. Nutella Nutterson

        “I took classes based specifically on what sorts of specialized archives I might want to work in,” This is cover letter gold!

    3. themmases

      I also left a post-grad program (like the OP, it was a history MA; unlike the OP, I left for a combination of health issues and lack of relevance to the job I got in the meantime). I avoid mentioning it like the plague because I agree that it can sound flaky.

      My compromise is that I of course mention it in application systems that tell you you must mention *everything* and yes they will be checking. But I don’t mention it on my resume, the type of systems that are just having you restate your resume, or pretty much anywhere else unless I’m asked directly. I do mention one-time courses and seminars in my field under an “additional coursework” heading.

  4. HR Lady

    #1 – In addition to what AAM said, keeping that cover letter to just one page seems very important.

  5. Chuchundra

    I first read the last sentence of the first paragraph of OP#6’s letter as asking if it was legal for the branch manager to get snappy with her daughter. I think we could all agree that some strong, federal, anti-snappiness legislation would come in handy in many situations.

    Sadly, I’ve been given to understand that the expectation of full-time availability for part-time hours is a thing now, making it difficult to take multiple part-time jobs to make ends meets or to schedule a part-time job around school or child care availability.

    1. Felicia

      I’ve noticed it’s much easier to get a part time job if you have full time availability – or even more, totally open availability. Meaning people get jobs at 20 hours a week, but they can basically be scheduled to work at any time and their hours change every week. Especially in fast food and retail, if you have limited availability, and are not a highschool or university student, you’re going to have a hard time finding a job, and that’s why most people can’t do 2 part time retail jobs.

      1. Audiophile

        This is so true. I’ve tried, unsuccessfully for years now to get a part-time job. But because I’m not in college, have a full-time job and my availability is limited, it’s been impossible.
        I’ve applied for numerous part-time jobs at the start of the holiday rush and was interviewed last year for a major retailer, only to be rejected the next day. I knew the writing was on the wall, because I couldn’t work before 4:30pm and occasionally worked weekends at my full-time job. I’ve applied to every retailer I can think of, including places I worked previously. Nothing has panned out.

    2. Ruffingit

      Starting a change.org position for anti-snappiness legislation. Everyone sign it. ;)

      Agreed on the PT work actually being FT in a lot of places. That does happen fairly frequently it seems.

    3. Broke Philosopher

      My first job after college was like that–I was led to believe that it would be around 36 hrs/week. Turns out that I had to be available 36 hours, but I would often be scheduled for 20 or less. And the times were totally unpredictable. I talked to my manager about this a couple times and she was sympathetic but said she couldn’t do anything…and then was shocked when I quit.

  6. Dang

    #2: I was just thinking this very same thing. I has three interviews for a job in early July. They admitted the process was slow but told me to keep in touch with the recruiter. Recruiter says (2 months later) that I’ve done very well and they like me but they’re still interviewing other candidates. 2 months later!! They are obviously looking for Jesus. Its pretty obvious that it will be a rejction and i will probably never hear from thek again, but if I were offered the job I might be reluctant to take it because this is a huge turnoff and I wonder whether it reflects on other areas within the company . Not that I can be too picky, being unemployed and all.

      1. Ruffingit

        Me too just for the whole turning water into wine thing. Now that’s a resume worthy skill right there!

        1. The gold digger

          I would want to actually see him walk on water, though.

          And I would also want to know if that loaves and fishes expansion applied to chocolate, donuts, and other office goodies.

          1. Ruffingit

            Yeah, we may have to work with him on workplace culture issues. No flipping the accountants’ tables and no collecting a posse of 12 from throughout the building to hang out with.

                1. Flynn

                  Huh? He’s a middle eastern guy from over two thousand years ago. English and computers weren’t even invented, and while the hygiene thing was slightly hyperbolic, ideas of health and cleanliness were rather different.

                  Oh, that reminds me. He’d probably have the whole racism issue to deal with as well
                  http://www.shortpacked.com/index.php?id=1605

    1. Ruffingit

      Jesus is under the couch, tell them to look there. He’s holding the loose change that falls beneath the cushions.

      Seriously though, I get what you’re saying and I’m with you. Companies can take as long as they want to, but in the end they are losing some great candidates with that. I remember someone here recently posted about being contacted a full YEAR after an interview and the interviewer was surprised that the person had another job, had basically moved on. That is where it gets egregious. Really, you’re surprised that someone wasn’t sitting by the phone with bated breath just waiting for your call for a YEAR? Get over yourself. No one I know has the time or money to wait that long for a job.

      1. nyxalinth

        A year?!

        Back in July, maybe August, I was contacted by an employer to whom I’d sent my resume two months prior. I do admit that that’s nothing compared to a whole year. Still, whenever I get contacted a month, two months down the line, I wonder if I was there last choice.

          1. Tina

            It’s still frustrating from the job-seeker point of view, but in the scheme of a job search, 2 months doesn’t actually seem all that long to me. There are usually many things going on in a company at any given time, not just hiring for a position.

            I work in a college office, and it’s not unusual for it to be close to 2 months to contact even our first choice candidates. Depending on the candidate pool, we like to collect a bunch of applications for comparison. Then, trying to schedule mutual times for the search committee to review and choose interview candidates. And if we’re fully into the swing of the semester, trying to schedule interviews around student appointments, workshops, class presentations, etc becomes a nightmare. It’s totally a catch 22 – we’re short-staffed, so everyone is crazy, but if we don’t make time for the hiring process and interviewing candidates and get the position filled, we continue to be crazy, and so on.

            It’s still totally frustrating for the candidates, and also for us. We don’t deliberately prolong the process, but we do have competing priorities.

            1. Cat

              Yeah, especially during the summer – there were people in my office I didn’t overlap with for over a month due to vacation schedules this summer. If I and another one needed to talk about candidates for a job, that’s going to account for at least a month of the delay.

            2. Audiophile

              I wish I had known this. Applied for three jobs at a college campus – one in March, and two in April. I didn’t get called for any of them until July. I had interviews in July and August. That’s the longest time frame I can think of in recent memory.

              But then I’ve also seen the opposite. Applied to a different college campus, was contacted to schedule an interview within a week. And this seems to be moving the quickest.

      2. AdminAnon

        I was first contacted to interview for my current job 6 months after applying. It turns out the sequestration had significantly impacted the hiring process/funding for my position. It was definitely frustrating, but ultimately worth the wait!

  7. Reix

    Regular lurker, never posted before.

    Re 2#. There are could be many things going on behind the scenes that make the hiring process slow and long. For instance: I work for a very small, very niche-specific engineering company.

    We have a project starting this month, for which we need a project manager. The director of operations and the country manager had different opinions about the profile we were looking for. So they each interviewed a different set of people. Of course the director of operations opinion has stronger weight than the country manager, but if the country manager had found a stronger candidate, it would have been almost certain that the country manager opinion would have won.

    And then the customer kept changing the start date and scope of the project. So, we were unable to have a fixed starting date.

    We are aware we can lose good candidates. We are aware we have candidates waiting for us and it is stressful for them. But we really cannot afford to make a final decision until everything else is final.

    We take long because we need to, not because we enjoy mistreating the people we interview.

    What if we hire a person, then the customer decides to cancel the project (they took months to sign the contract) and we cannot afford to keep the person because we are a very small company. I think that would be worse if the candidate had left another job to join us, don’t you?

    1. Ruffingit

      Taking a long time because you need to or the elements of the hiring are out of your control is fine. Everyone can understand that. Taking a long time because you’re disorganized and can’t get your act together is the problem. And, I think it would help as a general rule to keep in touch with the candidates that you’ve interviewed, let them know the process is ongoing, let them know you’re still interested in them, etc. It’s just basic courtesy to do so for those you’ve brought in for an interview.

      1. Reix

        Totally agree.

        I am not in charge of hiring the project manager. But I am un charge of hiring some junior engineers.

        We have this guy who worked for us on a fixed-time contract in a previous project . I told him we had an opening and I updated him regularly that the start date kept changing. I also told him he could call me whenever he needed, because sometimes I am just too busy and he knows it.

        He told me he was interviewing elsewhere and asked for me to be a reference, which I accepted. He actually got the other job before I could make hin a 100% sure offer and I am glad for him, as he was currently jobless.

    2. WWWONKA

      The above is fully understandable but when everything is in place and the company has the green light to hire they will lose the good candidates. A smart candidate does not wait and moves on immediately to the next job possibility.

      1. Julie

        This happened at my company several years ago, and it was very frustrating. I was ready to hire a corporate trainer – I had made the offer, and he had accepted, and then we waited and waited. I don’t know why it took so long, but it was at least a month after the offer was made (this was around 2003, when the job market was much better for job seekers) before they said they were still doing whatever they were doing. The person we wanted to hire was good, and he couldn’t wait, so he ended up getting another job. The next time I hired someone, the process was much faster. I guess they realized the process needed to be changed and figured out how to streamline it.

  8. Sydney Bristow

    #6, I have to ask, if it were illegal what is it that you’d like to happen? For her to be hired for the hours specified in the ad? That would likely be an extremely uncomfortable environment to work in. Money to make up for not getting the job with the advertised hours? It’s possible she wouldn’t have been hired anyway.

    It’s easy to jump to the hope or assumption that something is illegal but it is worth thinking through exactly what you’d like the outcome to be.

    1. Ruffingit

      An excellent point. This is something people need to consider and it’s why in contract law, specific performance is generally not available as a remedy for employment situations. Specific performance meaning that the person must do what they said they would do in the contract. In the cases where someone said they would work for you, if you have to sue them to do so, your remedy is not going to be specific performance because now they’re bitter and so are you. Not exactly the underpining of a good working relationship.

  9. O

    #3 i just graduated with a MLIS and one of my professor’s was good enough to cover resumes & cover letters in the class which was a huge help. Personally what I’ve noticed after applying to various jobs in the last few months, you really shouldn’t list your coursework and this was what I was told, and it really does make your resume look more professional when you don’t. The only time when I think it would be okay is if you don’t have that much experience, and some job ads will ask you to list relevant coursework, like archival jobs. I think it would be more appropriate in the cover letter, especially if you are applying for positions in the archives field.

    1. Sidonie

      (LW.)

      I actually wasn’t listing out my MLS coursework at all – that’s a full degree, and I have my concentration (which I’ll include), and that’s that. The cover letter is absolutely the place to elaborate.

      I was asking about graduate level history coursework that I’d taken, because I wasn’t sure how to list an uncompleted degree, but it looks like I have a sizable gap in my resume without it included, and it does tie in nicely with my other degrees. I wouldn’t list out all the coursework I did there, either – I was just wondering how to include it. :)

      1. Zed

        From your question and comments here, I can’t figure out if you were taking a few history courses on your own or if you were formally accepted into a graduate degree program (MA in History). The distinction matters, and you should be careful to frame this as “graduate-level history courses in relevant areas X, Y, and Z.” In some ways, I think this is done more easily in a cover letter than a resume. Personally, I would leave the history coursework off a resume in order to avoid any negative connotations of not finishing a degree.

        To me it sounds like you pursued a history degree for a year (or less?) before enrolling in a MLIS program. If that’s true, I don’t think that leaving these courses off would cause a “sizable gap” in your resume. I don’t the gap would be noticeable at ALL, actually, since (a) in this economy a lot of people are unemployed for months or even years, (b) library employers are going to focus more on what you did AFTER your MLIS, and (c) anyone looking at your resume may assume the gap corresponds to you starting the MLIS program, even if that happened later. (Since you wouldn’t list the date you began the program, just the date you finished.)

        1. fposte

          I agree with you as far as the gap issue–if the OP was just worried about filling in a gap and not applying to a relevant job, I wouldn’t put coursework on there, as it would look like packing peanuts.

          However, it sounds like she’s looking for work in historical archives, so I think this is an excellent example of tailoring a resume. The cover letter is even more important for contextualizing the value of the work, but it’s useful to include it in the resume as well in this particular case.

          1. Sidonie

            Yeah, if it was just the gap it wouldn’t make a big difference to me, but looking for work in a historical archive is what really makes me feel like I should include it in the resume as well.

            (Oh, also – I was formally accepted into the program – I wasn’t just taking classes.)

          2. Ellie H.

            I would also say that there’s a difference between switching from one graduate program to a different graduate program in a related field when both have applications for the kind of work one wants to do, vs. kind of flailing around and being a professional student for a while.

        2. Sidonie

          Oh, something else I should probably mention –

          I’m sure that employers are going to focus more on what I do after my MLIS, too, which is something I’m certainly going to keep in mind in future job searches. However, right now, there is nothing “after” my MLIS, and I do still need to find my first job (or I will, once I finish the degree). :)

  10. Sixth Time Poster

    It’s MUCH better that they share the requirement for extra hours during the interview rather than after hiring!! I was hired for a 20-hr/week PT job…no benefits. I was fine with that–it’s what I wanted, and the trade-off of no bennies was worth it to be done working by noon. After a couple weeks into the job, I found that there’s no way the work can be done in 20 hours, and I regularly have to put in 30 hours or more. I turned down another great PT job that was offered at the same time which had some good benefits because I preferred being done working at noon (and the benefitted job would tie me up until late afternoon). Since I’m now tied up until mid-to-late afternoon most days, anyway, it stinks that I wasn’t made aware of the workload requirements when I could’ve made an informed decision about which job would be better for me. Who knows–I might’ve still chosen my current job, but I felt like this was a bit of a bait-and-switch, and I should’ve at least been allowed an informed decision. Not cool.

  11. Lizzie B

    Why on earth would it be illegal for a manager to change the hours needed and advise their job candidates? And how on earth could anyone legislate who got huffy with whom?

    I sometimes think people view laws as a first grade teacher they can tattle to when someone looks at them cross-eyed.

    1. nyxalinth

      I think the new subtitle here should be “Just because you don’t like it doesn’t make it illegal”.

    2. Lacey

      Agree with this comment, I always wonder if the OPs are thinking it through properly – what if the ad had a typo and did (for example) say the hours are 7am – 11pm. If it were illegal to change this does it mean they have to employ people for 16 hour shifts? Obviously not, but it kind of illustrates how crazy it would be to hold people to what they put in a job ad.

  12. EM

    #6 — Sounds like the poor daughter needs to find a different job-hunting mentor than Mom. Mom doesn’t seem to understand the professional world herself.

    1. Lacey

      Harsh but true – she doesn’t seem to realise that letters are rarely used anymore for much in business, and that email has taken over not only the letter but the phone call. It would be hard to offer advice when you are so far out of the hiring process though, at least the OP is actively looking for another source of advice for her daughter. Hopefully she directs her to AAM.

      1. Anon Accountant

        Yes, this. Phone calls for a job rejection are so awkward. At least with an email or even a letter you can process it and not have to react immediately as with a phone call. When you have your hopes up that the call is to offer you a job and they turn you down, it’s very awkward to thank them for their time.

  13. Danielle

    For #3, I see people talking about post grad degrees but what if you haven’t finished your under grad and don’t plan to? Is it better to have something on there or just not have an education section at all? I completed highschool obviously but I know that usually should he left off. Maybe this is the downfall in my job search!

    1. Ruffingit

      If you haven’t completed college and don’t plan to, putting the coursework on there is not a good idea in my opinion. It makes you look like you abandoned the project, like you don’t have the discipline to see it through. Not saying that is at all true, just the impression I would get from some college coursework completed with no date in mind to finish the degree. Probably you’re better off not including an educational section IMO, but I’d love to hear others thoughts on this.

      1. Anon

        There are so many reasons for leaving – not just getting bored, flunking out, or deciding college isn’t for you.

        What about (for example) serious illness, or running out of student loan money? I feel like there are some pretty legitimate reasons for a willing student being unable to finish their degree.

        1. Ruffingit

          There are many legitimate reasons, certainly. However, the question is whether or not you put the coursework on your resume and I say no because a lot of employers are not going to give you the benefit of the doubt and think it was an illness or what have you. They will see you didn’t finish and they will move on.

          1. Julie

            I don’t know if Alison will think this is OK, but I’ve seen a few resumes that said “in progress” for the BA in the education section, even when the person had no immediate plans to go back to school. One friend has “in progress” on her resume, and she took the classes years ago. But I guess she could still decide to finish school and get her degree at any time. I wonder if having this on a resume without an expected finish date might be a problem.

            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              Interesting. I could see that being a good solution — but you’d need to be prepared to be asked for details in an interview, and if it came out that you hadn’t taken classes in three years and didn’t have plans to go back in the near future, that wouldn’t look great. On the other hand, at that point you’ve gotten the interview and can hopefully be persuasive about why your lack of degree is irrelevant.

              1. Ruffingit

                It depends on the employer certainly, but I’d be a little peeved to receive a resume with “in progress” thinking the employee is currently working on the degree and then have them argue that they actually aren’t, but that’s no problem because it’s not relevant since they have this/that experience. It would make me (and again, this is me others may feel differently) feel like “I asked for a degree in the ad, you told me yours is in progress, now I find out it’s not AND you want to tell me why it’s OK you don’t have one?”

                1. Ask a Manager Post author

                  Yeah, I didn’t mean a direct argument that the degree is irrelevant, but rather demonstrating through your track record of achievement and general awesomeness that it’s a non-issue.

              2. Ruffingit

                Even with a track record of general awesomeness, I’d still feel lied to because the person has told me the degree is in progress when in fact, it’s not. Whether the candidate was kick-ass awesome or not, at that point I’d toss them in the NO pile just for lying. It wouldn’t sit well with me for them to then try to be persuasive about why the lack of degree is irrelevant. I would be thinking “So, you lied on your application and now you want to tell me what that’s OK?”

                Maybe it’s just me, but I would not be OK with that at all. I’d love to hear from some other posters about their take on this. It may be that I’m unnecessarily stringent on it, I’m open to that.

                1. Cat

                  I’d more or less feel that way too – “in progress” implies actively in the process of completion to me. I don’t know that it’d be an automatic no; it’d depend on whether I thought the person was actively trying to deceive me, possibly, but it’d be a red flag.

  14. MJ of the West

    Regarding #2…

    I’m a hiring manager for a large company which is actually somewhat infamous in our industry for its long hiring process. Although we’ve been making improvements (and I try to speed things up too, if I know the candidate is time-constrained), I’m not sure what most people expect.

    So, fellow AAM readers, perhaps you can help educate me. What would you consider reasonable for start-to-finish time for a job application? Note that I’m not asking about preferred time (1 day might be nice but probably isn’t reasonable) nor about your worst (year-long) horror stories. Just what you think is fair. And mention your field/industry if you think it relevant.

    1. Dang

      Hmmm, not sure about application to hire, but I think after the final interview an offer within a few weeks is reasonable. If not, at least keeping in touch with top candidates and rejecting the definite nos so they can move on. And try your beet to give a timeline and communicate when it’s changed.

      Job seekers should understand that hiring is not always top priority and that hiring managers and teams have limitations sometimes, but employers also need to understand how frustrating this process is for applicants, especially when it happens time and again.

      In research field (academia is noted for its glacial hiring speed but I’ve gotten interviews and offers within weeks of applications as well. My worst experiences are with companies that heavily rely on internal recruiters)

      1. Julie

        I think it’s really important to keep people up to date and not just drop all communications When I was hiring, I told people I interviewed that it would take a long time and that I would get back to them either way because I didn’t feel comfortable leaving people hanging. In my experience, rude behavior from hiring managers/HR departments has been going on for a long time, and I wanted people to have a different (better) experience with us. I couldn’t do anything about how long it took, but I could at least keep people up to date as much as possible. I emailed those who were still in the running every two weeks or so, even if it was to say that the process was still ongoing. After we hired the top candidate and the job was accepted, I emailed everyone else to let them know and to thank them for taking the time and effort to apply with us. For most of these communications, I used email templates, so it didn’t take long.

    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      I’d say 6-ish weeks is ideal for most junior positions (from application to job offer), but 2 or even close to 3 months isn’t crazy, and senior positions will nearly always take longer.

      1. Ruffingit

        I’d agree that six weeks to two months is a fair timeline, but I also strongly reiterate what the others have said about keeping in touch with those you interview and letting them know about the timeline. I think most people will be understanding of a long timeline if they hear something while it’s dragging on versus hearing nothing at all and then getting a phone call 3 and 4 months down the line.

        1. Felicia

          I think 6 weeks to two months is fair and about average. One thing I hate is interviewers saying they’ll get back to you either way in two weeks and then you never hear from them again. Try not to commit to a timeline that’s not going to happen (or inform people on that timeline a decision has yet to be made), and more importantly, don’t tell people you’ll get back to them either way if you don’t intend to do it.

    3. themmases

      I’m fairly early in my career (in medical research in the Midwest, although I’m also looking at other nonprofit and association work). I’ve been really impressed with– and grateful to– the places that got back to me within a week or two, even if it was with a rejection.

      In general at each step of the process, I’d be thrilled to hear about the next step in a couple of weeks, I wouldn’t assume I was out of the running until I hadn’t heard back for a month, and I’d think it was odd but still be open to continuing the process if I heard about the next step within two months.

      In my department recently, I was in second interviews for a new assistant in mid-November (not sure when they did their first interviews, but it had been at least a month before and they applied even before that) and the person we chose didn’t finally start until early January. And in our case that was definitely an indication of what it is like to work here, because my reviews are so late they’re impromptu every year, manager has regularly scheduled meetings with us but cancels at least 1/3 of them, etc.

  15. Chocolate Teapot

    For question 5, I would also suggest sending a greetings* card at the end of the year. My company has electronic versions, and I send them to former colleagues with a note offering best wishes for the coming year.

    *I know some companies may send Christmas cards, but in this context, I prefer to err on the neutral side.

    1. Julie

      This is a great idea! My company always has an electronic holiday card that we can send out, but I’ve never used it because my clients are the people I work with every day. I hadn’t thought of sending it to contacts I don’t keep in touch with regularly, but that’s a perfect use for it.

  16. glennis

    For #1 – I agree with Alison that you shouldn’t mention a mistake you made in your cover letter, but I am curious – why do you think you will be asked about the mistake in your interview. Was the occasion a subject of conversation in your local theatrical community? Or are you referring to just being asked about mistakes in general?

    Stage management isn’t exactly managing people; it’s more like managing events and coordinating different work efforts. A mistake made in a production could be as clear cut as making a mistake in timing, or failing to anticipate something happening – in which case “learning” and correcting are all about experience, discipline, preparation, double-checking things, etc. Everyone makes these mistakes at the beginning of their career, and learn from them.

    Other mistakes as a stage manager might have to do with personal issues, like relationships between stage management and crew, directors, or artistic staff. Or work ethic, like promptness. Or the ability to understand one’s role within the organization.

    If your mistake was something like missing a cue, you certainly aren’t the first stage manager to do it, and you will move on from there – you’ll always double-check whatever it was that made you miss it, for the rest of your career. I don’t think anyone’s going to say in an interview, “So tell us what happened at the Saturday matinee when the curtain came in too soon.”

    But if your mistake was more about your ability to work with people in the company, then that’s something that can follow someone around, and the theatre is a small community.

    But take heart – if you’ve had a personal negative experience with a company, or director or actor, or artist – you may not be the only one. You may find prospective employers sympathizing with you rather than grilling you, when they see some names on your resume!!!

    Be positive about the work you’ve done, don’t bring up past mistakes unless you’re asked, and then move forward from it! Good luck.

    1. Julie

      you’ll always double-check whatever it was that made you miss it, for the rest of your career

      Isn’t that the truth! :)

      And it applies to so many things!

    2. Liz T

      I think the OP meant that s/he would be asked about learning from mistakes generally–that’s a pretty common tack in interviews.

  17. Perchance

    #1 – Hello, fellow stage manager! I also think the mistake bit should stay off your cover letter, but it’s good to have in mind for possible interview answers. A question I’ve heard a lot when interviewing for stage management jobs is some better-worded iteration of “What do you do when you make a mistake?” or “How are you at accepting criticism?”

    As for mentioning that you’re still in the learning process – depending upon what your resume looks like and what kind of job you’re looking for, whoever is doing the hiring will know that you are learning. If you’re applying for an internship or apprenticeship or if you’ve only got a little professional experience, and if your general approach is open and flexible to new or different ways of doing something, they’ll see that you are pursuing more knowledge. Saying that you’re still learning could reiterate that, but it also could make you seem not confident in yourself. (As for that, I’ve personally been following the “Fake It ’til You Make It” confidence training program.)

    Related, as far as stage management goes, very few young professional stage managers I’ve known feel as though they are done learning. You’re always looking to anticipate better, to help facilitate communication better, to make tech less stressful, or even to make your paperwork neater. Stage management can be that interesting mix of making it up on the fly and using whatever experience seems valid at the time.

    Best of luck!

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