meetings scheduled at 10 p.m., when to call references, and more

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

1. I’ve been ordered to draft an email praising myself

I recently started a position (it’s been a little over a month) as a facilities coordinator on contract for 3 months and was thrown into the deep end of it all! That’s fine; I put on my game face and got a project that was lagging for almost 9 months completed in 3 weeks. Everyone is quite impressed by me and they keep telling me that I’ve done a wonderful job, and I’ve graciously thanked them for the support and compliments.

Recently, one of the heads approached me and asked me to draft an email that he would like to send to the director praising my efforts on the project. I’m completely baffled — I’ve never had to do that and I don’t even know where to begin. The head is a pretty straightforward gentleman. He isn’t fond of being over the top or flowery and his instructions were the same — don’t make it too flowery and emotional.

I’ve tried to back out of it, saying that it is unncessary for him to do this (again very graciously) but he’s quite insistent. Any ideas on how to either a) ask him to not ask me to do this; b) ask him to not do it at all; or c) provide him with a simple draft email that he can customize?

That’s pretty bizarre — it’s not uncommon to be asked to draft your own recommendation letter, but a simple internal email praising you? But in any case, you already tried to beg off and he was insistent, so you should go ahead and do it or you could end up turning a nice thing (he wants to praise you) into a problematic thing (you won’t do what he’s told you repeatedly he wants from you).

I’d just keep it very factual, just reporting the facts of what you did: Project X had lagged for nine months, you did A, B, and C to complete it in three weeks, and the results of that work will be ___. Let him add in any specific praise he wants beyond that.

2. When should I call references?

I am a relatively new manager working at a public agency and am now looking to hire a new person to assist me. My question is about hiring practices and how to avoid opening your agency up to liability while also getting the information you need to make a good choice. Specifically, when is the right time to call references? Can this be done when you still have a large pool of applicants or does this have to wait until after you have narrowed the field and held interviews? If you call one person’s references, do you have to call every person’s references? What if they list a company they worked for and you know someone there that is not listed as a reference, is it ok to call your contact and ask their impression of the applicant?

Wait to call references until you’ve finished your interview process. At that point, you should have one or two candidates you think you’d like to hire, and that’s when you call references. You can call them just for your one top finalist, or if you have a couple of people you’re having trouble deciding among then you can call references for each of them to help you make your decision. But there’s no point in calling references before that point — it would be a waste of your time, and a waste of the references’ time (and thus rude to your candidates, who are having their references called prematurely).

And it’s fine to call people they’ve worked with who aren’t on their official reference list, but you should never do that if the contact is at their current employer, since that could jeopardize their current job.

3. Bolding job titles in your cover letter

My co-worker recently told me about a trend in cover letters that a career counselor told her about: bolded job titles throughout your cover letter. I think the reasoning behind this is to draw attention to your qualifications and work experience so they don’t get lost in the letter’s paragraphs. Do you recommended this or should this be avoided?

There’s nothing wrong with judicious use of bolding in a cover letter, but I have a different concern with this advice: If the idea is to bold your job titles, then you’re probably doing too much summarizing of your job history in your cover letter, and that’s not what your cover letter is for. It shouldn’t summarize your resume — there’s no point in that because the hiring manager will also be receiving your resume and doesn’t need a summary of it. The cover letter should be focused on information that isn’t on your resume, and I have a hunch that this “career counselor” (something anyone can call themselves, by the way) is way off-base on what she considers effective cover letters in general.

4. Paying internal hires less than external hires

I am a hiring manager who has recently had a bit of trouble with our HR department about the compensation rate for a role. I think the role should be compensated at the rate that we compensate other in roles of the same responsibility / experience.

The going rate for this role is higher than the internal rate. If I promote someone internally, HR will want to compensate the person at the internal rate, but they seem to be fine with paying an external person more — a lot more for the same experience. In my mind, I think that is a disservice to my staff. Is this a normal practice or is it fair that I bring it up and push for the market rate for this person?

It’s not uncommon at all, but it’s a horrible practice and you should push back against it as strongly as you can. Point out that this practice will only encourage your best staff — the ones who are getting promoted — to leave the organization in order to earn a fair market rate for their work, and that’s exactly the opposite of what you want to achieve. If you want to retain your best people, you can’t offer them salaries that penalize them for already working for you.

5. I’m being required to attend a 10 p.m. meeting

I am working a part-time job at a hockey store while I am in graduate school. I am a sales associate there making minimum wage. What I am curious about is if it is acceptable for an employer to expect its employees to come into a meeting at 10 p.m. on a Monday night? I feel like it is a ridiculous request to ask part-time employees to attend a meeting late at night when some of them have other jobs and are either working all day at another job/school and some working another job at that time. The manager has made this meeting mandatory and is threatening to write up anyone who doesn’t show.

Yes, that’s ridiculous. Not illegal, but ridiculous and inconsiderate. Have you tried explaining that while you’re glad to attend any meetings at work, you’re normally in bed by 10 p.m. (whether or not you really are) and it will be difficult to attend something so late at night? That may or may not work — but I’d certainly try that before getting angry.

6. Should I leave my Bible major and church experience off my resume?

I have a B.S. with two majors, one of which is a Bible major. I will also soon have a second graduate degree, with one in business and one in theology. If I’m interested in working in a secular environment in the near-term, should I leave information about my Bible/theology degrees off of my resume? Similarly, I have leadership experience in the church, but is that appropriate to mention when applying for a secular job? The education and experience says valuable things about me in terms of achievement, growth, and leadership experience, but I’m not sure if they also could hurt my chances at getting an interview for jobs outside of ministry. What are your thoughts on this?

There’s no reason to leave any of that off your resume. You want to make sure that you’re demonstrating that you’re not someone who will inappropriately inject religion into the workplace, of course, but simply having those two things on your resume are unlikely to cause those sorts of worries in an employer. (The sorts of things that would cause those worries would be any sign of proselytizing in professional contexts or showing that you don’t have a boundary between religion and professional things — for instance, if you had a religious email signature. But your education and leadership experience don’t indicate those things.)

7. Finding time to interview while temping

I am currently living in a new city after having graduated from college in May. To make ends meet in this new city, I have been doing temporary work. Assignments can last between one day and a month. However, I have also been seeking full-time employment. My question is about what to do if I am asked to interview for a position while working on a temp assignment. I would of course turn down a day-long assignment if I had a pre-scheduled interview that day, but if I had previously accepted a long term or even shorter term assignment and then was offered an interview, what should I do?

It’s hard to take time off for a position where you are filling in for someone’s time off, and I’m not a situation where I can turn down longer-term work, but I also need to interview in order to find a full time position. Should I explain the situation for the hiring manager and ask to interview outside of normal business hours? Or hope that the place I am temping at understands? Any advice would be greatly appreciated!

Start by asking for an interview outside of normal business hours. If you can’t get that, then talk to your temp company about how they want you to handle this.

{ 88 comments… read them below }

  1. Julie*

    I was catching up on today’s postings and comments, and I noticed it was 12:05 A.M., so I refreshed the browser window, and I got “tomorrow’s” post!

    I wanted to support AAM’s answer to “4. Paying internal hires less than external hires.” When I was offered a managerial position at my company, my boss, my boss’s boss, and I agreed on a salary (I know it was exactly what the previous manager had been earning because she told me). After I had been doing the job for about a month, my company finally got around to changing my status in their payroll system (that was separate issue – they would take a long time to update the payroll, so folks were doing a higher level of work without the pay increase for weeks/months). Anyway, after everyone had agreed on my salary, HR decided that it was too much of a jump from what I had been making before. When my boss told me, at first I was confused and thought he was talking about someone else because – who does this?! Then I got really angry. In order to save a few bucks, the company has guaranteed that I will never trust them. I have had some great managers and co-workers here, but I would not rely on anything promised by upper management or HR. In the end, my boss worked it out for me. He increase my salary by as much as he was allowed, and then when it came time for raises about six months later, he gave me the max on that, as well. So I ended up making more than I would have if they had just paid me what was agreed to.

    1. Jessa*

      Still, I bet if you find something decent you’ll be gone, because even if it ended up okay, it’s still a HORRID way to treat someone.

    2. EngineerGirl*

      Our horrible HR pulled this stunt about 15 years ago. Then the economy got better and we bled engineers. Some of my friends left with 50K a year pay increases (yes, it was that bad).

      Good people have options. Some may stay because they love the business, but others leave. And the cost of training a new person far exceeds the money “saved” by keeping salaries below market rate.

      1. anon-2*

        Happened all the time in the IS/IT world, in normal times.

        Many enterprises dare you to find a better salary elsewhere, then match the offer, but they view paying fair market value to existing employees as “bidding against yourself.”

        Go figure.

      2. Andrea*

        Yep, this happened to my husband, too. He’s an IT consultant who specializes in storage and virtualization. The last time his former employer promoted him, they hesitated to increase salary much at all, saying that it was “too big” of an increase. Um, WHAT? He saved them a lot of money on a couple of high-profile projects with important clients not long before that, too, and had a good record of doing that. Anyway, he started looking and very quickly found a better job with different firm—with a salary of $48k per year more, plus bonuses. I mean, I guess the former employer did him (and me!) a favor, really. But it’s a ridiculous way to do business and a terrible way to treat employees. I’m curious what they thought would happen: They were really upset with him when he gave his notice, so it definitely seemed like they didn’t expect it and didn’t realize how many options he had.

        1. Ruffingit*

          That is not uncommon. They frequently do not realize that people not only have options, but that they will exercise them in the face of crappy behavior. Don’t know why more companies don’t get that, but there it is.

    3. LisaLyn*

      The company I work for does that. They did it to a woman we hired in my department from another. They wouldn’t let us give her the agreed upon salary because it was too big of a jump. Now, a friend of mine at the same organization almost had that happen to him, but his manager told HR he would have my friend quit and come back in three months and hire him and they relented. After hearing that, I sort of wished my manager had been more forceful for my coworker.

      But yeah, I’m not sure what these companies are thinking. Most companies whine about people not being loyalty and here these dummies are actually penalizing people for being loyal.

      1. AdAgencyChick*

        They’re thinking that if they have to hire one or two external candidates at higher rates, that doesn’t change the company’s overall bottom line much — but if salaries have to increase for EVERYONE all at once, that does cause costs to go way up. Plus, longer-tenured employees often have extra benefits that would cause them to cost more than new employees if their salaries were the same. (Would you, as a bean counter, rather have a new-hire $100K-salaried employee who gets two weeks of vacation and no 401k match, or a $100K-salaried veteran who has four weeks of vacation and is fully vested in 401k match?)

        Not saying that it’s fair to the individual who finds out she’s being paid substantially less than her counterpart who just joined the organization, and if you find out you’re being underpaid, it’s absolutely rational to go to management and ask for more, walk, or both. But companies need to take calculated risks — if they strike a good balance between accrued benefits and other non-monetary compensation for staying vs salaries, they won’t hemorrhage workers, whereas companies that think they can get away with large disparities between what they pay long-termers and what the market rate is will end up having to hire a bunch of outsiders at the higher price.

    4. Anonymous*

      Yeah I had a friend at a company like this. He worked it out with his boss this way. Friend was “fired” from his current position. Collected unemployment for a month. Was rehired at the new position at the rate they had agreed upon which was not acceptable with HR. But hiring an external candidate was totally ok at that rate.

  2. Anonymous*

    Just out of curiosity, why is it common to be asked to write your own recommendation letter?

    I once asked for a recommendation letter from a place that I’d spent a ton of time volunteering at for over two years. I was told to write it myself and print it out so it could be signed. I was pretty insulted at the time.

    1. Anonymous*

      Because writing them are the worst and they are a huge time suck. So generally if you can push them off to the person who needs them, at least a draft, you do…

      1. Audiophile*

        Had a supervisor at my current job ask me to do this, as I was applying to a job that required recommendation letters as part of the application. I also struggled with not being too ostentacious, and found a happy medium I think. Writing it myself was no picnic, though others tried to make me see the upside.

    2. Cat*

      I remember my ethics professor in law school had a serious problem with this practice. He apparently went to the dean and had him tell the faculty at large needed to write their own letters of recommendations. I’ve never been sure he was right that it’s an unethical practice, but I do think it’s a pretty fricking annoying one and I appreciated what he did.

      1. Mike C.*

        Yeah, anytime I’ve heard of this practice, it’s always screamed “SERIOUS CONFLICT OF INTEREST” to me.

        I understand that they’re a time suck, but to be honest I wish we could get rid of them all together. I hate this idea that I have to burden friends and colleagues of mine with writing these things when a simple phone call would do the same job. Record the phone call if needed (after receiving the proper permission of course) but the amount of time spent dealing with these is insane!

          1. Cat*

            Well, in the law school context, which is where I’ve run into this, it makes sense because what they’re talking about is letters of recommendation for clerkships with judges. Applications for these are so scattershot (students apply to around 100 judges and judges receive hundreds of applicants) and the time frame is so compressed (you might get a call for an interview; fly out the next day; and accept an offer a day later; judges are trying to get the jump on their competition for the best students), that phone calls really aren’t practical. Nobody said it’s a good system, but it’s the one we got, and imposing outside hiring rules on federal judges is just not a workable solution.

      2. Poe*

        I worked as an Exec Asst in a post-secondary setting, and one thing I did was write reference letters. My boss would print the email requesting a reference letter, then jot some notes on things to include at the bottom. I was fine with doing this because I had access to student files, so could verify grades, grad dates, etc, and my boss knew the students enough to flag relevant info for me.

    3. Anonymous*

      When I worked in the nonprofit world and we had to get letters of support it was extremely common for us to draft them and then the org who was supporting to alter it and print it on their letterhead and send it back. (Not exactly the same but in the same vein.)

      When I’ve been asked to write recommendation letters sometimes people come to me with prewritten examples and I usually edit those but having a place to start from does make it easier.

      1. ChristineSW*

        I was once asked to write a Letter of Support for a federal grant. Well…they essentially wrote it and forwarded it to me to edit as I wished. And I’m considering pursuit of a PhD with this institution?? Am I nuts??! lol.

        1. Anonymous*

          It is extremely common. I can only think of one time someone didn’t draft or have me draft. The person/group requesting the letter of support usually drafts something. I always thought that it gave the supporter a place to start from, and an idea of what the supportee was asking for from the grantor. As long as they didn’t tell you not to edit it (that I would say is very bad practice and I’d be wary of).

          1. Xay*

            I’ve had the same experience with Letters of Support and having participated in state grant reviews and observing federal, it is understood that the group requesting the letter assists with drafting that letter.

            1. books*

              Yeah, drafting LoS for grants helps the proposal writers with a lot of things – like not wasting time on back and forth with supporters. Shouldn’t be tied to your pursuit of a degree there at all!

        2. Ellie H.*

          I think that this tends to be the case more for formal or official applications to grants, foundations, awards, faculty positions etc., indeed so that the letter writer can have an idea of exactly what is being asked for because it may vary and the person who needs the recommendation is already familiar with what it should entail.

          With things like recommendations for grad school where it comes from the professor, I think there is more of a tendency to write it yourself because it is typically confidential i.e. you are generally preferred to waive your right to see the letter. But, I have a professor who liked me to edit her recommendation because English isn’t her first language.

          I’m also reminded of on Mad Men when Alison asked Don for a letter of recommendation for a new job, he told her to write it herself and she threw something at him. I thought she was justified in that because she was basically asking him to take ten minutes to express his appreciation of her in a professional context after he had treated their professional context so poorly.

          1. Julie*

            It generally takes much more than 10 minutes. If I agree to give a recommendation for someone, I want it to be good and to reflect my experience with that person, so I’m going to want to take some time with it. A former employee asked me to write her a recommendation, and she didn’t realize that it’s very common to be asked to write it yourself, so she was offended when I asked her to do that. I’m glad she told me that she was upset, so I could explain that it is common and that I had been asked to write my own recommendation letters many times. I just didn’t have the time to spend on it, and I didn’t want to say no to her. During that job search, I also ended up speaking with two or three hiring managers on her behalf, and I was glad to do it. I agree with folks in this thread that it’s so much easier to give a recommendation over the phone than in writing.

            1. Ellie H.*

              Oh I know it takes longer than ten minutes – I was just talking about the fictional scenario on Mad Men. Both my parents are professors so I am more than familiar with how much time and energy writing thoughtful and detailed recommendations occupies. I think Alison just wanted him to bang out “Alison is a dedicated and reliable employee who would be an asset to your workplace.”

    4. BCW*

      I don’t mind it at all. I haven’t had that done since college. But the reality is there are many times where people do a lot of things their bosses don’t necessarily notice. Now, most people I’ve seen don’t just sign them without reading it, so I’m guessing if they found it to be wildly inaccurate they wouldn’t sign it. But why be insulted. They are giving you the chance to toot your own horn. And as opposed to an interview, you have lots of time to edit it and make sure you sound as good as you want it to. Would you rather have a glowing recommendation that you wrote or an ok one that someone else squeezed in the time to write in between 2 appointments?

      Having written them though, it isn’t fun to do. Its just one other task that you have to do, and its never as big of a priority for the one writing it as for the person asking. Even if you really want to endorse the person, finding the time to sit down and do this on top of all of your other tasks you have to do, plus things you want to do, just isn’t fun

      1. Not So NewReader*

        I agree. Bosses very seldom know all the ins and outs of what their subordinates do. As Alison said, stick to the facts “I did A, B, C and D.” The A and C will probably be news to the boss. If the boss wants to he can remove B from the endorsement. It is up to him to finalize before he signs.

        I do wonder though- does a boss ever ask the employee to write an endorsement when the boss does NOT like the employee’s work? I tend to think these situations come up when there is a certain level of trust involved. And trust is earned- it is not a given. So, OP, think of it as a subtle compliment. You were placed in a position of trust to 1) complete the project and then again in 2) to write about your own efforts in finishing the project.
        OP, clearly, it is your habit for finishing assignments in a timely manner. Not everyone has this habit. You take it for granted. But your boss realizes that he cannot take it for granted that people will do what they are supposed to do. Two different perspectives on the same matter.

    5. AdAgencyChick*

      Some people really, really hate to write.

      I’ve been asked to draft emails to clients (that are then sent out by my account executives) all the time. It’s one of the perils of being a copywriter.

      I wouldn’t be insulted — I bet the person who wanted to recommend you thought highly of you, but not of his/her own writing abilities.

    6. Anonymous*

      The applicant knows the message they most want to send with their recommendation letter. Even when I have had faculty and managers who wrote the letter themselves, the good ones always ask what hole you need the letter to fill or what skill/experience you need to emphasize. It’s easier when I can draft the letter myself since it will focus on exactly what I want it to.

      Not that that is necessarily the point of recommendation letters! But there are benefits to the person being recommended.

  3. Rayner*

    Regarding late night meeting:

    That is a terrible policy full stop. What the hell is that manager thinking? Nothing can be that important that it must a) be said at ten o’clock at night in person to part time/student workers who do not work at that time and b) be made mandatory at risk of severe disciplinary action.

    Seriously. I would push back and say,”I have another job/last bus/I have class early the next morning, and can’t afford to get in at midnight”. And maybe, if it goes ahead, send a letter to a big boss or something and just clarify is this really the practise or is the manager getting too big for their boots?

    1. Sarah*

      This is a super, super common practice in retail. What you are suggesting would be a total overreaction to a completely normal store meeting. Also, pretty much everyone who works retail is a part-time worker, so if you want to talk to the staff, store close is often the best time to get everyone together without the customers around. When I worked retail, the only non part-time people were our three managers. We had about 50 people on the floor at the store total though.

      1. Chinook*

        I found that having meetings when the store was closed was both common and annoying. My favourite move was when I worked in a place with no Sunday shopping (so employees could have a day of rest). My retail manager would then call meetings for Sunday morning at 9 am and then, because she was required to payu us for a 4 hour shift, would have us stock and clean the store. This defeated the purpose of the law completely.

        Too top it off, when I said I would be late because I was at church, she said she would give me a break this time but not to make a habit of it. That was when I decided to start slinging coffee instead.

      2. De Minimis*

        I agree, it’s common, although in my experience the meeting was in the early morning, around 7 or so. Everyone had to be there, I don’t think they even gave an exception for the many students who worked there.

        In our case, the big store meeting was only once a year, kind of a pep talk/preparation for the holiday season. Having to do it on a regular basis would be a real problem. Our manager did a good job at making it seem more like a party with free food and drinks, and gave out performance awards. It was a bookstore, so he also gave us access to the stash of advance reader copies.
        It was definitely a good example of how to do that type of mandatory meeting.

      3. Rayner*

        Maybe it’s just me. I worked Saturdays and Sundays but sweet jesus, if my manager had called me in on a Wednesday night for a 10pm meeting, I wouldn’t have come. I had so much reading, and essay writing to do, I couldn’t have done that.

        I didn”t get paid that kind of money to turn up not on my day off/beyond my shift by /hours/.

        Nothing I did ever had that much impact as a student worker to ever require me to do that. If there was important information, there were staggered briefings during my shift for the whole store – and we had maybe… between forty and sixty workers at any one time?

        I just think it’s so impractical to do this for everybody else, if not the managers. Pulling everybody in, paying them for only a short while, and then sending them home again when there are other ways to do it… nah.

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I think the staggered briefings are the way to go. How long a meeting could it be, anyway? At the deli in CA, that’s how my boss handled it on midday shifts; we took turns watching the front while the rest of the crew had the meeting. Short and sweet, and we were still available for customers. For the morning people, we just did a quick meeting before the store opened.

      4. BCW*

        I agree. Thing is a lot of retail stores have more or less 2 shifts, a morning/open and a evening/close. So if you want the whole staff to be there, you are either going to have to do it before the store opens, or after it closes. Its going to be super inconvenient for some group of people. I don’t know that you can really argue thought that a 7am meeting is really any more ridiculous that an 10pm meeting, its just a preference.

        1. LPBB*

          I am so not a morning person, so a 7am meeting would be torture for me, while a 10pm meeting would be much better.

          When I worked at a coffee shop, we had a number of different shifts, a number of employees that worked only one or two days, and a number of on-call employees who picked up shifts as they came open.

          The coffee shop also opened at 7am and openers were expected to be there at 6am. The only feasible time to have a staff-wide meeting was Sundays after closing, which IIRC was 7 or 8pm.

          It sucks, but sometimes that’s just the best option. And like Kelly says below, there’s a lot to be said for consistently communicating the information to all staff.

      5. Anonicorn*

        I remember similar situations from my retail days. It might not be quite as bad if EVERYONE (including the people who might be opening the store bright and early the next morning) were not required to attend.

    2. kelly*

      At my last job working retail, we had around 2 store meetings that covered anything from customer service training, summary of yearly sales results and customer feedback results, and protocol for holiday scheduling for my first year or so. They were usually scheduled in the morning before the store opened or in late afternoon before the evening people came in. After my first year, they went down to one a quarter through the end of 2012 and we had none in the first 6 months of 2013. I think the reason they eliminated them was because corporate decided to cut them to save money on payroll. I left in June and any store-wide training happened at morning meetings that maybe a quarter of the staff were present at.

      I’m not sure how much money they saved but I don’t think it was worth it losing the training and information sessions. For example, we went from free shipping for all in store orders to a minimum amount required for free shipping. I think that having an all store meeting about the new policy would have been very informative and the best way to explain the new policy and answer any questions that we would have had. The new loss preventions protocols were also confusing because we never had a full training session on how to implement those. I don’t think that either customers or employees were well served by the piecemeal and word of mouth flow of information that often led to more confusion on what to do.

    3. Anonymous*

      I agree that this is super common and is often set up so that everyone can attend.

      I can imagine an employee writing in: My boss makes 3 of us work during the all staff meeting. Is this fair?

      1. Chinook*

        “I can imagine an employee writing in: My boss makes 3 of us work during the all staff meeting. Is this fair?”

        Heck, when I worked in a coffee shop, three of us were required to man the business while everyone else got to go to the catered (okay, it was Chinese food, but still) Christmas party. Were we bitter – you bet. But, I still preferred that to being told to come in for Sunday morning staff meetings.

    4. Not So NewReader*

      I am agreeing with everyone that said this is pretty much SOP for retail.
      However, one store I worked at we convinced the boss to have the meeting on a day when the store closed earlier. In this case that meant Sunday at 6 pm.
      Another store had “mandatory” meetings and NO one showed up! Sometimes the boss would even forget to show up. No one ever got written up for it, but there were always threats of write ups. People still did not attend.

      If you do have a previous commitment- such as a class that runs to 9pm and a 45 minute drive between school and work then definitely speak up. I would not write a letter to the higher ups. They will just laugh. Your best bet is to have a convo with the immediate boss and start out low key: “Hey, boss, I am kind of concerned about this late night meeting.”
      You might find out that the boss hates it as much as you do but his hands are tied. Or you may find out that he is arguing about it with his boss and he feels the meeting time will change in the near future. I have approached several different bosses on this topic, using a low key approach and gotten helpful insights.

  4. EngineerGirl*

    Late night meetings – there are plenty of times a late night meeting is needed. Late night meetings are expected if you are working with others living in different parts of the world, have an emergency in a 24/7 operation, etc. You do what you gotta do in a global economy.

    That said, the only reason I can think of a 10 pm meeting for a retailer is that he wants to get everyone in the same room, and the 10 pm start is after close of business. Too bad it can’t be at 6 am on a Saturday.

    Make sure you get paid. Sometimes employers try to claim they don’t need to pay you because it is isn’t normal business hours.

    1. Rayner*

      I really am struggling to think of a reason that is SO important that a meeting has to be held so late at night when people are not working in retail, for student/floor level people who work part time. When I worked retail, there were important meetings and information but they were filtered down through our shifts rather than forced, additional meetings after hours.

      1. KellyK*

        Yeah, I have a hard time seeing where it would be necessary, too. Doing it once at open and once at close (even on different days) would be more reasonable. I guess maybe if the manager is too busy to do both?

        I also think that one of the trade-offs of hiring part-time workers is that you can’t reasonably expect 100% availability (unless you made that a specific requirement when hiring and weeded out applicants accordingly). It sounds like *most* of the employees at OP #5’s employer have school or other jobs. If you need people to be available at random hours that bear no resemblance to their normal shift, you probably need to give them enough hours that your job can be their only job.

      2. Mike C.*

        This is what I keep thinking.

        Even for *really important* issues like a safety stand down after a serious injury or death, the information is done on a shift to shift basis rather than calling a single meeting at once.

        1. Anonymous*

          That works in a place that actually has standard shifts, where one group works 8-4 and another works 4-12 for example. It’s not so easy with more variable schedules where some people work from 8am to noon, some work 8am-4pm , and others work 10am-6pm ,4-8pm , 5pm to midnight, etc and a person might work from 10am-6pm on Monday and from 4pm- 11pm Tuesday. You’ll end up practically having an individual meeeting with each person, which is fine if it’s five minutes worth of information but not so fine if there is either more inforamtion than that or if you want to ensure that everyone gets the same information.

          1. KellyK*

            Even with 2 or 3 meetings, though, you can still avoid major conflicts (like having someone still there at 11 when they’re supposed to open the store at 6 the next morning).

            1. Anonymous*

              You can solve major conflicts like the one you mentioned with 2 or 3 meetings (or you can excuse those one or two people just as those on vacation would be excused) , but you won’t solve the issue of people having to show up just for the meeting. Let’s say I decide to have 2 meetings, one before opening on Tuesday and one after closing on Sunday. When do I get the people who work later in the day on Tuesday or earlier in the day on Sunday? Or the ones who work MWF only ? That’s already four or five meetings.

    2. Rayner*

      Though I do second the point about making sure that the OP is paid. Maybe even paid extra depending on their store thing works.

    3. doreen*

      I can can understand the OP disliking a 10 pm meeting, but the 8 am Sunday meetings at my son’s retail job are just as inconvenient for the people who normally start work at 4pm or who don’t normally work Sundays. I’m sure the idea is to get everyone in the same room when the store is closed , and there just isn’t going to be a time that satisfies everyone. In my son’s case, the meetings are about 2 hours long ( there are only 2 or 3 a year) ,and it’s not going to be practical to run four or five of them to get everyone immediately before or after their shift.

      1. Elle D*

        I worked for a major mall retailer and we had the 8am Sunday team meetings as well. The meetings were mandated by corporate and not by the store manager. Some stores did them 8am Sundays, others did them at 10pm at night after the store closed, but they had to be conducted and the majority of staff needed to be there. That said, if someone had a conflict I don’t remember them facing disciplinary action. I think they just had to review whatever training materials we went over during a shift.

        My managers were great and tried to make it as painless as possible – they brought coffee and bagels for everyone, got right down to the point and didn’t waste time, and of course we got paid for attending the meetings. Sometimes they’d do little raffles or give away small prizes for answering questions right ($5.00 Starbucks giftcard type things). I really appreciated that they recognized the inconvenience of this corporate policy and tried to make the best of it.

    4. S.A.*

      When I was in retail, our all staff meetings were conducted after the store closed so that we could all be in the same place at the same time in an area of the store large enough to hold us. Granted, our store meetings were always held on Sunday nights, when the store closed early, so it wasn’t 10 PM, but honestly, it makes perfect sense for me to have a store meeting then. And if you’re working in retail, you have to be prepared for weird shifts/requests- the lack of a consistent schedule was one of the reasons I got out of the business.

      1. Sarah*

        Yeah, this is completely normal for retail work. Happened to me when I worked retail, happened to my friends when they worked retail. Although for all of us it was not a weekly occurrence, but an occasional one. I see how it would get super annoying if it were regular, but just plan for it like you’d plan for any shift, you know? I don’t know any retail places that really give you more than a week’s heads up for what your shifts will be.

      2. Sophia*

        This is what my employer did when I worked retail – after store closing, but on a day they closed early. That seems to be a good compromise

      3. Hous*

        If this is a new development, I’m not surprised that OP is upset. It’s certainly common practice in some retail places, but not all. I had a job where I had worked for a year and a half, during which time we never had a required after-hours meeting. When, after that time, they announced we were going to have one with about a week’s notice, a lot of people were upset. We generally had set schedules (no weekly variation like a lot of places) and this was a huge departure from the norm. It wasn’t very late, but it was completely unexpected, and many people already had plans.

      4. Ellie H.*

        Yeah, we occasionally had staff meetings at 9:30 after the store closed, or at 8:00 before it opened. Neither of those ever seemed unreasonable to me at all. The schedule began at 8:30 and ended at 9:30, with operating hours 9 – 9. Not everyone, but 80% of the employees would weekly or semi-regularly work shifts that started or ended that early or late. So the meeting times were not wildly divergent from a typical workday for the significant majority of employees. You were reasonably expected to attend, but if you were unable to, there were no negative consequences.

    5. Chinook*

      “Late night meetings are expected if you are working with others living in different parts of the world, have an emergency in a 24/7 operation, etc. You do what you gotta do in a global economy.”

      I do agree with this when it comes to office jobs. I have mentioned before the headaches of organizing teleconferences to cover all 7 time zones in Canada where there are only 3 hours that overlap everywhere and someone will still have to work through their lunch.

      But, when you are meeting across time zones, it should be perfectly acceptable to do this from home if it is after your normal work hours. This way, you can have your 10 pm meeting and then go straight to bed.

      1. JFQ*

        If retail generally has two basic shifts–opening and closing–why not just have two meetings for each group of employees? The only person who eats it on the “extra” meeting is the person who has to be at both, which I’m guessing would be one person, the manager.

        1. doreen*

          Lots of places don’t have two basic shifts. My husband and both children have worked different retail jobs, and all of them have had people coming in and leaving at various times and different days. My son might start anywhere from 10 am to 6pm depending on the day and the season.

  5. Mrs Addams*

    #6 – I think the key is to use your Bible major/church leadership experience as evidence of what you can do professionally. Imagine you had the leadership experience in a secular volunteer organisation, and you majored in communications rather than Bible studies – you wouldn’t think twice about mentioning those, but you’d keep the focus on the skills and experience you gained that can be transferred to the role you’re applying for the. The same principle applies here – the fact your major is in Bible studies/your leadership experience is within a church should be secondary information to the skills and experience you gained from them.

    1. PurpleChucks*

      ITA! Just keep it focused on your skills and achievements and you’ll be fine OP.

      When I worked as a career counselor at a Jesuit university, I ran into this problem a lot with my students. I actually had a student have “spread the word of the Lord to community youth members ages 12-16” on his resume. My jaw hit the floor.

      After a spirited discussion on why that was inappropriate for secular jobs (and I was more floored that we even had to have said discussion), he agreed to change it to “Planned and implemented interactive workshops and community service projects for community youth members ages 12-16.”

    2. Elizabeth West*

      Agreed. There are lots of transferable skills here; frame them as business experience. I see no difference between this and putting volunteer experience on a resume.

      Think about anything you would do at a job you were applying to that you did at church. Did you manage a volunteer or auxiliary group? Do marketing for activities? Delegate tasks? I wouldn’t be bothered if I saw that on someone’s resume, if the focus was on the skills and not on where they were obtained (unless it was Westboro or something).

      1. Bwmn*

        I agree with what has been said – but as someone who taught after school Hebrew classes (with a synagogue) for a few years, it was a job I was happy to finally be able take off my resume. At the time I was applying for jobs that were in environments with kids, but it always felt that they didn’t come off the strongest .

        It was the one job on my resume that during interviews no one ever asked me about, and during situational questions if I used an example from that job – there was rarely follow up. It may have been just related to where I was interviewing or who was interviewing me, but I definitely felt like it ranked as “lesser”.

  6. LisaLyn*

    OP1, I had a former manager who had us all write our own performance reviews, so I feel your pain. As always, I think Alison is exactly right. Stick to the facts, especially since they clearly will speak for themselves. Good luck!

      1. ChandraNH*

        I write my own as well, and my manager puts the finishing touches on it (how well i performed, to what degree I succeeded). I look at it as my last chance to present what I’ve done and position myself for the best raise possible.

  7. Brett*

    #7 I temped for a long time, and found that the vast majority of temp employers were extremely understanding about interviews. They need the work done, but they understand that you are not in an ideal situation and should have the right to improve that situation.

    Who’s not okay with time off for outside interviews? The temp agency. They lose money, they might lose an asset, and they lose the opportunity to make a bonus for placing an employee in permanent employment. So, find out (from other temps if possible) your agency’s stance on outside interviews and do not be afraid to fire your agency and go to a different agency if they will obstruct you finding permanent work elsewhere.

  8. Chinook*

    Internal vs. External hire pay rates

    I was satisfied at the accounting firm where I was receptionist and tickled pink when I was “promoted” (there is no hierarchy in support staff there) to Admin Assistant on short notice (to cover a firing). But, they started to lose me as an employee when they were reluctant to increase my pay to reflect my new responsibilities and, when I pushed back and threatenmed to quit (leaving them short an AA and no one to train the receptionist), they made it sound like they were doing me a huge favour by giving me a small raise despite admin wages being frozen for the next 18 months (accountants got yearly raises), me covering 2 positions as they went through a series of receptionists and them recognzing I would be working directly with a woman who was bullying me .

    Does it surprise anyone that I jumped at an offer 8 months later when I was poached by one of their clients?

  9. Jubilance*

    #5 – I think the meetings like that are pretty common in the retail world, where you need to have all employee meetings before or after hours. I know its’ past your normal bedtime but can you make an exception for that night? Are you willing to run the risk of being written up?

    1. Jazzy Red*

      For part-time minimum wage, I wouldn’t bother attending. There’s always another dead-end low paying job around the corner.

  10. S from CO*

    #4 – Yes, WOW!
    I had no idea this was common practice at some companies. This has really opened my eyes! I have learned so much after reading AAM this year (since I found the blog) and I am so thankful that I found the blog.
    OP #4 – I hope HR will see it your way on this one.

  11. Jessa*

    Regarding number 1 the easiest thing to do is write about Sam the excellent employee and then search/replace Sam with your own name. Pretend you’re writing a note for your boss about someone ELSE instead of yourself. It’s the easiest way to get past the OMG I’m supposed to say how great I am? I can’t DO that.

  12. Mike C.*

    I’ve seen this comment a few times, but just because something is “the norm” doesn’t mean it’s the most effective practice.

  13. Anon*

    I’m not 100% positive, but I think this is the policy at my company. When I had a pretty significant jump in job title and duties at my company (went from being a receptionist to a position that required 3 years of experience and a bachelors) my new pay was an exact (small) percentage increase of my old one…. it could have just been a coincidence, but I don’t think so.

    I’m well aware that I make less than nearly all of my coworkers and I have to wonder if it’s because I started in a lower paying position. I know it could be because I have less experience but I still wonder. Policies like this are really unfair for overqualified candidates who take whatever they can get and then loyally move up within a company to a position that better suites their qualifications.

  14. Lily in NYC*

    #7 – I hire temps pretty often and I actually expect that they will sometimes need to leave during work hours for interviews. Maybe you can have the temp company ask their contact at your job assignments for you? I think there are many places that would be very understanding about your situation.

    1. Jane Doe*

      A couple temp agencies I’ve worked for actually had the policy that temps could not directly ask their on-site supervisor for time off, agree to overtime, etc. and that everything should go through the temp agency. I also found them pretty accommodating about interviews; I just told my temp agency rep that I had an appointment that I couldn’t reschedule – I’m sure they were aware it was an interview, but they probably didn’t want to pry into it.

  15. Anonymoose*

    I worked at a convenience store 100 years ago. Bossman held a mandatory staff meeting at midnight (!!) when the store closed. I was I was one of the opening staff, which meant 6 am for me. I tried to get out of it for obvious reasons – no dice.

    I fell asleep while sitting on my couch, bleary-eyed, waiting for it to be the middle of the @#%&* night. Woke up at 3am and went on to bed.

    Went to work the next morning and was promptly fired.

  16. some1*

    When I worked retail, we had store meetings before the store opened, and we always had inventory (which everyone had to do at smaller stores where I worked) after the store closed.

    Whenever you schedule it, you are going to inconvenience someone.

  17. Jill*

    #6…Definately include your theology related degrees. I work on a research team and we have a guy that was hired because most theology degrees require a ton of reading and analyzing, especially texts translated from other languages which is some pretty high level reading. Critical thinking, high level reading, and analytical ability are key skills in research related fields, regardless of the fact that the material was faith based. I do agree with Allison though, just make it clear that you’re not at work to push your faith.

  18. Frances*

    When I was temping, and at a long term assignment, I was able to be open with them that I was looking for a permanent position. I’d just let them know as soon as I had a scheduled an interview that I’d be out of the office for it. They were very supportive and always wished me luck on these! Obviously this depends on the culture of the office, but it’s something to consider.

  19. Acidartha (OP#1)*

    I’ve created general reference letters for myself before – but like AAM mentioned – it was an internal email to essentially say “job well done”. It was a bit jarring – I didn’t want to underplay what I did but at the same time his instructions were don’t be over emphatic. So, this morning I checked AAM and took her advice – wrote a short email saying I did A and employed B/C and that I’d be great addition for the future (I slipped that in there – why not – my 3 months are almost up). He seemed fine with it and sent it off. Thank you, AAM and everyone on the forum for your comments.

  20. Cassie*

    I spent much of my autumn writing recommendation letters on behalf of my boss. For the majority of the letters, my boss doesn’t even read them before he signs. There are a few that he will actually put effort into, although he’ll use another student’s letter as a basis (format-wise, not content-wise). For letters of support (grants, award nominations, etc), he’ll ask the person to draft something and he’ll edit/add to it.

    I have also had to write my own evaluations. The only in-depth evaluation was several years ago, and I wrote it because he asked me to. The next few years, he wrote the evaluations himself, but they tended to be very brief (two sentences). I got the exact same two sentences two years in a row.

    I preferred to write my own evaluation, because at least I could highlight my accomplishments.

  21. AG*

    For interviews while temping, you can probably schedule phone screens during off hours at least. I was interested in a candidate recently who had a foodservice job so I understood it was hard for her to be flexible, so I did the phone screen at 5:30 pm. However once she passed the phone screen I needed her to come in at normal business hours for her in-person interview because several of us were meeting with her. I gave her several day/time options to give her some flexiblity. Glad I did because we hired her!

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