how to screen out candidates who just want a cool job, birthday cakes for some but not all, and more

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

1. How can we screen out job candidates who just want to work here for the “cool” factor?

I work at a small (8-person) creative media company that is considered “cool” in our industry and tends to attract job candidates who want to be associated with our brand and company. But when they realize it’s not all fun and games, they either lose interest or discover they aren’t a good fit or that they don’t actually possess the skills that they said they did.

After one such hire, we’re trying again to advertise for our first receptionist / office manager position, a crucial yet junior role in our business. Leaving aside any potential issues with our hiring policies or company culture, what sort of questions/puzzles/brain teasers can I ask in our online application form or phone interview that can potentially screen those candidates who are motivated by providing great work and service, rather than those who want a “cool” name on their resume?

This isn’t really the place for puzzles or brain teasers. You might, in certain hiring situations, use those to test a candidate’s critical thinking, but they’re not suited to ensuring that people are interested in your company for the right reasons. Instead, you’d be better off probing into their past experiences — what have they done successfully in the past that’s hard? Do they have a track record of the skills and traits they’ll need to be successful in the role? What do their references say about them? That’s going to give you far more useful information than letting them define their own interest level for you.

In addition, make sure you’re being explicit about the reality of working for your company — even overly playing up the downsides if people are typically blinded by the upsides. Talk about the hard or boring or unglamorous elements of the job and gauge their reactions. No one is going to say “oh, then I’m not interested,” but you’ll be able to tell a lot from how they do react: Are they really processing what you’re saying or are they clinging to their blinders about your work?

2. I don’t like to share my personal life with my coworkers

My question is probably a strange one, but here goes: Early on in my career, I had a couple of very bad experiences with forming friendships with co-workers. After those experiences, I decided that I wouldn’t befriend my coworkers anymore. I consider myself friendly and outgoing, and I have a lot of friends outside of work, but am starting to feel that it is hurting me in my career. I try not to let my coworkers know too many details of my personal life, but I am still friendly, if that makes sense. Another reason I don’t share too many details is because I have been unfairly judged (i.e. young and unmarried, childless, religious) in my past jobs.

My manager asked me recently why I don’t like to share my personal life, and I gave him an honest answer (i.e. bad past experiences, unfair judgments against me, etc.), and I have the feeling that he thinks I’m weird. Am I being too cautious, or is this a smart strategy?

A bit overly cautious, probably. You certainly don’t have to share details about your personal life if you prefer not to, but if you don’t share anything, you do risk coming across as cold or odd, which can impact things you care about at work. Why not share things that are innocuous and unlikely to cause you problems — such as that you went to the beach with friends this weekend, or that you follow a particular sports team or that you share your coworker’s love of a TV show? You don’t need to open up about religion or your relationships; just stick to neutral topics of the sort you might discuss with, say, your dental hygienist.

3. We’re not allowed to call out our managers for breaking rules

This week, my manager came up with new rules that supposedly applied to everyone, including managers. One of the major rules is no online browsing or looking at pictures or videos or any social networking, and if you are caught it’s an instant write-up. The other rule is that you can’t “call out” a person who’s ranked higher. For example, if my supervisor got on Netflix while on the clock, I can’t say anything to him about it; for him to get in trouble, his manager has to see him. But if I told him to get off Netflix I would get written up.

Is this legal? I can’t tell them to stop breaking the rules and work? This is a very small department; it only has usually 6-7 people working, so one person, slacking off is a big deal. Also, it happens that the next day my supervisor was on his phone browsing the Internet and the manager got there and they both started talking about the celebrities on the website and no one got in trouble. I want to know if not being able to call them out is legal?

Yes, it’s legal. No law requires your employer to treat everyone the same or fairly or not to have double standards for managers versus non-managers. And no law requires you to be allowed to call someone out for breaking a policy.

The concept you’re looking for is “unfair” and perhaps “silly,” but not illegal. Although I wouldn’t even really call it unfair — it’s pretty normal not to be expected to tell your manager what she can and can’t do; that’s part of the relationship. The silly part is that they felt the need to codify it.

4. What does it mean that my interviewer gave me copies of the employee handbook and benefits plans?

I have gone on 3 different job interviews for one particular company in the past week and a half. At the beginning of the third interview, the HR manager hands me the employee handbook and the benefits guide (breakdowns of medical, dental, and vision insurance and their prices) and then tells me to familiarize myself with these because it took her two weeks to thoroughly read through them.

Is this a for-sure sign of getting the position? Is this common to give these types of confidential documents out to interviewees?

No, it’s not a sign that you’ll be offered the job at all. Some companies do this for all candidates at this stage of the hiring process — which is smart, because it broadens your understanding of what policies and benefits you’d have if you ended up working there, which is info that should be hugely relevant to deciding whether or not to work there (and far too often companies don’t offer that information up at all). But don’t read anything more into it than “we are now at the third interview and we give you these documents at this stage.”

5. Some coworkers get birthday cakes and other celebrations and some don’t

I work for a fairly large company, but my “team” is around 30 members. We tend to celebrate life events, like birthdays, weddings and baby showers. My issue is that there’s a big discrepancy between certain employees (and it has nothing to do with hierarchy or seniority). For example, it was decided that we (as a team) would throw a baby shower for an employee. The employee got a ton of gifts and a very expensive cake (nearly $100) was purchased. Another co-worker is expecting now, and as far as I know, no one is planning a shower for her.

Another example: Some people’s birthdays are celebrated and some are not. (If the person has expressly said they don’t want to be recognized, that’s fine – but that’s not what I’m talking about here.) Usually, a cake/cookies/pie is purchased from a bakery and a card is given. This year, an employee’s birthday was totally forgotten. To add insult to injury, that person was asked to coordinate the “A-list” baby shower, which was the same day as the forgotten employee’s birthday. Ouch!

Do you have any thoughts on how to handle this?

Yeah, unfortunately leaving this stuff informal can lead to exactly what you’re describing — and hurt coworkers who feel like they’re not as much a part of the team than other people. It sucks because it would be nice to be able to be informal about this kind of thing, and it seems silly to have to introduce bureaucracy into it … but based on what you’re seeing, you should probably put someone in charge of coordinating all of these events so they can make sure stuff like this doesn’t happen. (And that person would ideally be given guidelines like: Check with people to see if they want a celebration before you plan one, make contributing money for this stuff opt-in and not opt-out, and so forth.)

6. Including company descriptions on your resume

I’ve seen some resumes with company descriptions on them. An example would be:
XYZ Company
Nonprofit organization whose goal is…Received award for “Being Awesome,” 2011, 2012.

What do you think of adding company descriptions? If I kept my descriptions in, my resume would be three pages. I know enough not to send a three-page resume out and only send out a two-page resume, which is edited to suit the job I’m applying to. Are company descriptions necessary or helpful for hiring managers?

Nope. They take up space and they’re not needed at this point. An interviewer certainly might want to know more about the places you’ve worked at some point, but the time for that is in an interview, not on your resume. Your resume should be about you, not your company.

An exception to this if if you’re including something about the company that better explains your role or achievements there — but don’t include company descriptions for their own sake.

7. I lied on a job application and now face a background check

My cousin made me a CV with false info on it (school, job experience) and now I’m facing a background check in my application. What happens if the employer finds out I didn’t go to the school and have these job experiences?

You will have the job offer pulled and be ineligible to work there in the future. (Or, even worse, if they find out after they’ve already hired you, you’ll be fired.) Most places verify employment and check references, so this is likely to happen again. Stop doing it.

{ 305 comments… read them below }

  1. Anonymous*

    #4: They aren’t handing out business plans or anything. Sure they may not post their benefits package on their website, but it’s not competitive intelligence.


    #1 Don’t be so egotistical, some people are applying for the job to have a job, not for the cool factor. Some may believe they have 90% of the requirements hoping to learn the other 10%. Yes do a better screening and you can weed out those that do not qualify. And yes, I have said “oh then, I am not interested”.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      That seems … rude. I didn’t read anything egotistical in that question. There are indeed organizations that attract applicants because of the “cool” factor, who aren’t as interested when it turns out not to be as glamorous as they were imagining. The OP has described seeing that happen, and we have no reason not to take her at her word.

      1. WWWONKA*

        That is… honesty. How does he know that they are applying to the “cool” company for the “coolness” rather than the need for a job? That’s egotistical and a bit pretentious in my eyes. I apply at companies for the job, and if it is a really good company that is a plus.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I assume she can tell based on how they behave in the interview and/or after hiring. I’ve worked for places that attracted applicants because of their idea of what they thought we did, rather than what the work really is, and you can usually pick up on it fairly quickly.

          You might not apply for jobs for that reason, but certainly some other people do. I saw it especially in younger applicants.

            1. Anna*

              I live in a city with a lot of “cool” companies. Even people who aren’t in the industry of those companies know they’re cool. I can imagine exactly where the OP is coming from. It has nothing to do with ego; it has to do with knowing your reputation in the industry.

          1. WFM Kyle*

            I agree… I recently had a recruiter from Google reach out to me about a job on Linkedin. It would have been a demotion and a relocation I really didn’t want, it’s unlikely I would have taken it, but I was pretty tempted to go through the process just for the experience… they might evne fly me out for a tour of their headquarters! All my friends think I’m crazy, but I politely declined… I just couldn’t waste their time…. but it was tempting.

        2. Kelly L.*

          You know if you get certain responses from people. I used to hire for a position that had “Fashion” in the name but was actually an assistant-to-an-office-assistant position, and people would cite their modeling credentials when applying. Nope, it didn’t matter in this particular position if you could model, as long as you could use Office and make a copy here and there.

            1. nyxalinth*

              It’s not about luring so much as letting possible applicants who are at least half-savvy about the industry know what they’re in for. Fashion isn’t all frocks and fun: it can be a very harsh, very competitive business. If you like fashion but don’t have the right mindset, you won’t last.

              Having said that, the models shouldn’t be applying if they don’t have the needed skills, which I would hope is something that someone will explain to them.

            2. Anna*

              Because people might want to know what industry their applying to work in. It gives you an idea of what you might be asked to do. So for me, I work in marketing and outreach. If it said “fashion” in the job description, I would know what sort of marketing and outreach I would need to do and I may or may not apply based on that.

              1. AMG*

                Or if the job poster wants soemone with that background. Like ‘Telecom’ or ‘Retail’ expereince as it related to the job function.

          1. abby*

            I agree. We recently completed recruits for two administrative assistants. The job titles clearly stated “Administrative Assistant” and we posted the full job descriptions with all the details. We still received applications from people with graduate degrees, with cover letters expanding on their leadership and other high level but irrelevant experience. No mention of why or how they would excel as an administrative assistant. The other point I should mention, most of these were already employed, but did not explain why they wanted to take a huge step down. Big red flag for me.

        3. Lacey*

          *Teeny* bit egotistical to assume that because you apply at companies for the job, everyone else does the same, perhaps?

      2. abby*

        I agree with AaM. I work for a land management nonprofit organization and we get applicants like this all the time. We always provide a detailed job description and emphasize the un-cool but needs-to-be-done aspects of the job. Still, some slip through that think they can write their own job description, particularly applicants who started with us a volunteers.

          1. Anonymous*

            A nonprofit organization that provides land management services, primarily habitat restoration and invasive species removal, for a number of landowners.

            1. Jazzy Red*

              That sounds cool, but then I’m all about being green. I worked for a year at a company that made above ground mining equipment and learned about played-out mines being put back the way they were before. Of course, the government had to force the mine owners to do it, but the fact that it could be done was news to me. I found it all very interesting.

            2. Kou*

              Yikes, I used to do that and it was neither cool nor something I would ever imagine drew in people by concept alone.

              I mean I liked it and all, but isn’t it an obviously mucky and difficult industry?

              1. abby*

                Really hard work, lots of repetition, but it attracts a lot of mission-oriented people. Or a lot of people who think it might be fun to pull a few invasives and plant a few natives, not realizing how much hard work it really is. Or worse, design their own job description based on what they would like to do, not necessarily what’s best for the land. We get a lot of satisfaction out of our work, but it’s not for everyone and we need to carefully screen.

    2. FD*

      Some people are, but given that they’ve had bad hires before for this reason, it’s a reasonable concern. In my field, some cruise lines have this issue–people think it’d be ‘fun’ to work on a cruise ship, but you’re fundamentally still in a customer service position. (Not that it can’t be fun, it’s just that you need to be realistic about what the job entails.)

      With respect, it’s been pretty clear from your comments recently that you’re frustrated with your own job search, and that can be extremely aggravating and can really make you question your own worth. But being rude to other people isn’t a good way to handle it. It isn’t productive, and frankly, it’s really unfair to project your frustration onto managers who are doing their best to be good managers and write to Alison for advice.

      I do understand how frustrating the hiring process can be. It can be doubly frustrating when you don’t have a job, or when you have one that you hate, and you’re desperate for someone better to give you a chance. You might even know that you can be a badass employee if they’d just give you that chance, particularly because you want it so badly. Right now, I’m trying to get my first management job, and it’s endlessly frustrating because I’m young and don’t have a management background yet. It can be galling to see other people get offers on jobs that they don’t seem to take seriously, or throw away opportunities. It’s frustrating to see managers hire badly or pick candidates who are clearly not going to work out.

      Here’s the thing, though. I don’t know if you’ve ever worked in customer service–I’m guessing you probably have because I think most people usually have done at least a few months as a summer job. If so, you’ve probably gotten THAT customer. The one who might even not be a huge jerk in general, but some small thing–the sale not being what they wanted, their credit card not wanting to read, etc.–just makes them blow up and take out all their pent-up frustration on you. If you’ve had this happen, I’m sure you know how small and hurt it makes you feel.

      All of use here honestly wish you the best, I think, and I know I really hope you’re able to find a good job soon, one that uses your skills and has a good culture. And I’m sorry if any of this comes across as passive-aggressive; I tried to make it both as direct as possible and as compassionate as possible without assuming I know exactly what you’re going through.

      1. Confused*

        I don’t comment a lot but I found your 2nd reply to Alison’s comment (@12:42) especially disrespectful. Take it easy.
        True, not everyone applies bc of cool factor but some do. I’m sure people have applied thinking it’s going to be like the Google or Facebook campuses we see in the news sometimes. But it’s not all buckets of free M&Ms and ping pong tournaments. The OP is looking for advice on how to weed them out. I work in an industry people think is “glamorous.” Most people don’t realize how hard we work or that at times, as in all industries, things can get tedious.

        OP, I think you should be looking at your hiring policies not just a question or two. The hiring process doesn’t need to be cool or edgy. Asking what kind of kitchen utensil they feel best represents them (you’re welcome Home Improvement fans) is not going to help you figure out if they want/can answer phones, take notes, and order toner. I’ve heard they ask weird questions at Google but I’m sure they also do the things AAM suggested. I agree with Alison on “being explicit about the reality of working for your company.” Maybe doing a phone interview will help the OP get a sense of the person’s interest level for the job vs the cool company. Good luck!

          1. WWWONKA*

            Many of you may not be thinking that people are desperate and will take any job. Some with hopes that they can get in and possibly move up. Some people are applying just to get their resumes into the company data base. To even think that people are applying for the coolness factor is just an ego rush to me. Some apply at Facebook and Google because they are good solid companies and not for the M & M’s. Sorry if some don’t see it like I see it. I blame the OP for not having the ability to sort through them and get the right candidate.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              Of course some people are desperately applying for any job they’re remotely qualified for. The OP’s concern, though is about people who are applying with her specifically because of the cool factor, which is a different concern. She’s not saying she distrusts anyone who applies with her; she’s saying she’s concerned about the segment of her applicants who are blinded by the cool factor.

              1. WWWONKA*

                Not bitter. I just express myself with the honesty that I feel, and will not waiver for political correctness. Just how does the OP know they are applying for the “coolness”? Are these people putting it in their cover letter that that is the reason why they are applying?

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  It’s not about political correctness. What people are pointing out is that your comments recently have sounded pretty angry and bitter — at times even jarringly so. And now it’s spilling over a bit on to letter-writers here. Both of those are worth being aware of.

                  I’m not sure if it’s something you hear in yourself when you write or not, and I hope it’s useful to have it pointed out.

                2. WWWONKA*

                  I guess you pulled the reply button below? I don’t sugar coat things and if people can not see the opposition of things then so be it and I refuse to jump on the smiley face bandwagon when I think differently. If the OP thinks it’s a cool factor situation then don’t post the company name and go as confidential. I bet the apps will be the same. This coolness thing is just arrogant.

                3. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  I don’t pull reply buttons; I have no way of doing that. It stops nesting after a certain point.

                  I don’t think you’re hearing what people are telling you about how you’re coming across, and it’s possible it’s coming across in your job search as well (which would be harmful, so it’s really worth considering).

            2. AMG*

              You can certainly express your opinion without being rude or disrespectful, especially to Alison. I sincerely hope you are not showing this same attitude in job interviews.

            3. Forrest*

              My boyfriend is a fully and happily employed IT person but would apply to google in a heartbeat because “its a cool place.” I’ve applied to nonprofits before because they’ve got the name and reputation as a cool place.

              So don’t assume just because you’re not applying because a place is cool sounding/seeming means that others aren’t.

                1. Forrest*

                  But thats not the problem the OP wrote in about.

                  Wonka, maybe you should take a step back for a little bit. Its very clear you’ve have problems in your job hunting search and with management in general. And its understandable.

                  But people shouldn’t write in to AAM in order to learn how to be better at their jobs (and better managers) and get attacked by you.

                2. WWWONKA*

                  ↓↓↓ Again, what has been failed to be seen is the fact that the OP has absolutely no way to confirm that people want to work there for the “coolness” Again, if he wants to absolutely stop this then don’t post the company name. Also, if the OP can’t understand that a very large percentage are applying to every job. And oh please if I wanted to attack I wouldn’t be so nice. Sorry I’m not on your bus. A lot of people calling me bitter and attacking my thoughts is not an attack? FYI I used to be a manager so I do have insight, and I do not have to return to work if I don’t want to.

                3. Forrest*

                  The OP totally has a way to know is someone is just in it for the coolness factor, as has been mentioned and described to you repeatedly – body language, what they say, etc.

                4. Forrest*

                  But the question is, whats it to you? Several people have said they apply to jobs because they sound cool – not everyone is desperately applying to jobs. Why are you assuming because you’re not, no one is?

                  If the OP wants to go the extra mile and weed out people that only want it to the coolness factor, opening up more chances for people who really want the job, I’m not sure how you’re even able to argue against that.

            4. Amy*

              You say, “I blame the OP for not having the ability to sort through them and get the right candidate.” But the OP’s question to Alison was “How can I sort through them and get the right candidate?” So you blame the OP for not already having the answer to a question s/he wrote to an expert advice columnist to try to get the answer to? Do you also blame OPs who write in asking how to stop sexual harassment for not already knowing how to stop sexual harassment? Do you blame OPs who write in asking how to negotiate salary for not already knowing how to negotiate salary? Your complaint that someone who has a question doesn’t also already have the answer to the question is sort of odd.

          2. Vicki*

            I wish more people realized that this is important when they write the job descriptions.

            I have read far too many descriptions that go on and on about the free M&Ms, the drinks, the beer, the ping pong tables, the lunches, the “fun”. No wonder some people only see that when they apply for the jobs!

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I agree with the advice to the OP. And for a receptionist / office manager position, you’re not looking for a creative personality, just someone who can get the job done. No matter what the business, that particular job is just day-to-day office stuff. Even Tony Stark’s receptionist still has to answer the phone and order office supplies.

        2. Anna*

          For reals about the “cool and edgy”. And sometimes “cool and edgy” means “we’ll treat you like trash”. For a prime example of this, see if you can find the job listing for Rogue Breweries in Oregon that posted maybe a year ago. Holy smokes, every line was code for “we’ll work you to death for not much money, and only jerks want money”.

            1. fposte*

              I’ve never seen that–that’s just horrible in so many ways. Adding to Anna’s point–“You must believe we are super-awesome for no particular reason, because we do.”

                1. Anna*

                  I think two types: one is the person who thinks it will be cool to work for a well known brewery, in which case they’ll take what they can get for the cache. The other is someone who is desperately seeking a job, in which case they’ll take what they can get for a paycheck.

                2. Confused*

                  I am going to fwd this to Mr. Shrute,
                  Good Worker
                  Hard Worker

            2. Heather*

              That ad might as well have been in flashing red text that says DOUCHEBAGS ONLY NEED APPLY. Would have saved them all that typing…

              1. HR Competent*

                Rogue beer is delicious and they do some great labeling.

                And yes, I do think they are cool.

                If I saw an ad for an HR person I’d be interested, until I read the point about weak pay.

            3. AnonM*

              …e-blasts? You’re not allowed to say ‘dude’, but you can say e-blast? :P Hahahahah. Oh man. Douchebags indeed.

            4. Gjest*

              They are trying way too hard. They do have delicious beer, but I just lost a little bit of respect. I’ll still drink their beer :)

          1. Elizabeth*

            Wow… I’ll agree that it’s a good quality to be “willing to shun titles and personal financial success in pursuit of the greater good,” but only when “the greater good” is something like curing cancer or caring for orphans… not selling beer. I’m all for beer, but it’s not a charitable cause.

  3. Anonymous*

    I also am a very private person and would prefer none of my coworkers knew anything about me. I use the perfect human Ron Swanson as a guide. No, I will not tell you my address, or my birthday, or let you take my picture, but I will tell you I enjoy woodworking so that you go away.

    1. Rebecca*

      I too use Ron Swanson as my role model. I like to keep my office door shut and have as little interaction with people as possible during the work day. It’s less stressful that way.

      All joking aside, though, I was hired to do a job and compensated for doing it. I am courteous to my coworkers, but IMO, that doesn’t mean I need to share my private life with them.

    2. LisaLyn*

      I’m the same way. It’s hard sometimes when you have particularly pushy people, but for the most part, people are happy to chat away about themselves and their lives and often don’t notice that you aren’t saying much about your life.

      Although, having a void of information out there can on occasion cause some rumors or whatever to crop up, but it’s never been anything too terrible.

      I guess I just feel that work is such an important thing — it’s how we survive in this world (food, shelter, etc) — that I don’t really want a bunch of stuff from outside to interfere.

    3. Anna*

      I think the phrase you’re possibly looking for is “I am a misanthrope”. And I’ve known a lot of very lovely misanthropes.

    4. Jamie*

      Even if Ron’s co-workers didn’t know his birthday they did know all about both Tammys, more about his intimate relationship with Tammy 2 than they probably wanted to know, his views on government, what he likes/dislikes when it comes to food and art, that he has a cabin in the woods, that he invests in gold, they know about Diane and the girls…

      If Ron were as much of a closed book as he claims they wouldn’t know any of that…and they probably wouldn’t like him as much because they wouldn’t know him as well.

      You can’t really like people you don’t really know. But you can dislike someone without knowing them at all.

      1. Audrey*

        You can’t really like people you don’t really know. But you can dislike someone without knowing them at all.


  4. Angelina Retta*

    #3 – It burns my biscuit too when I see this happening but it’s not a situation where you can do anything about it. Just keep your own nose clean and don’t think about anyone else’s.

  5. Lindsay J*

    #7. Take responsibility for your actions. Maybe your cousin made the resume with the false information on it, but you’re the one who used it (or allowed it to be used on your behalf) to apply for jobs. Any consequences you face for this are entirely your own fault because allowing this to be used is a reflection on your integrity.

    1. Jessa*

      Exactly. This is likely to come back and bite you big at some point and even if it doesn’t in the beginning it could turn around years later. I cannot remember who but I remember a pretty big scandal surrounding a fairly highly ranked corporate guy who was found out about years ago falsifying his resume and education and he got fired and I doubt he’ll have an easy time getting work because everyone knows. 10 years from now somebody could look this stuff up or someone who was supposed to be in one of your classes or an alumna of your uni could show up.

      1. LisaLyn*

        There was a football coach … if I remember correctly … that the same thing happened to. Maybe at Notre Dame?

    2. Ruffingit*

      +1 million!! Exactly the reaction I had. The cousin having made the resume isn’t relevant information at all. What’s relevant is that the OP chose to proffer a false resume for jobs. Why on earth anyone would do that is beyond me, but there it is. Take ownership of this and do not do it again.

    3. KC*

      Right. Unless his cousin worked at the company, OP sent the resume to his cousin to hand over to the hiring manager or HR, and the cousin took it upon himself to falsify information (which the OP didn’t find out until way later in the process)*, then this has NOTHING to do with the OP’s cousin and EVERYTHING to do with the OP.

      *This scenario is brought to you by Grasping at Straws, Inc., purveyor of fine far-fetched scenarios.

      1. Camellia*

        *This scenario is brought to you by Grasping at Straws, Inc., purveyor of fine far-fetched scenarios.

        I am so stealing this. :)

  6. PEBCAK*

    #1 The very fact you are talking about puzzles and brainteasers in the initial screen makes me wonder about your entire hiring process. If you want someone who is going to do primarily receptionist tasks and be happy doing them for a long time, that’s pretty much the opposite of how you should be interviewing.

    1. FD*

      I noticed that too! If it’s a receptionist job, you’re probably screening out the kind of candidates you want, because most of the people I know who’d like that kind of job would think that’s totally weird in an interview.

      1. nyxalinth*

        I applied at a call center job that had, as part of their initial screening, one of those “What 3d shape will this 2d shape be?” tests. I have issues with spatial judgements, so I almost always get them wrong. But seriously, wth? I’m going to be resolving customer issues, not answering questions on how a dodecahedron will look in 2d. So I guess I don’t get what they were looking for.

        1. Elizabeth*

          My boss has always used them. He was surprised that we didn’t ask him anything like that when we interviewed him.

          I told him that I always fail those “tests”, because I can’t translate 2-D figures to 3-D figures, a spatial analysis trait that can’t be taught and is simply an inborn ability. He was shocked to find out that being able to do it isn’t some great marker of success, just that your brain is wired in a certain way.

          He has quit using those tests. I think we’re getting better at hiring for getting rid of them and actually talking to the people we’re interviewing.

    2. fposte*

      I wondered that too. To me, the problem isn’t that you’ve hired a fan, it’s that you’ve hired somebody who doesn’t have the experience you need. That’s an obstacle every organization faces, and I’d let go of the worry about the cool factor and look through the AAM archives about good interviewing practice generally.

    3. nyxalinth*

      Yup. Also, brain teasers etc. don’t always show how good someone is at critical thinking. I’m pretty good at it, in daily life. But when you throw “If Bob is twice as old as Jane, and Jane’s alligator is two feet tall, when is it Tuesday on Pluto?” type stuff at me (I exaggerate for effect, of course) my brain goes into “This is freaking stupid.” mode and shuts down. It’s just how I am, though I’m trying to correct that so I can at least give an answer.

      1. Bluemeeple*

        Alternatively, you can get people like me, where it doesn’t give information for the opposite reason. I took a bunch of aptitude tests a few years ago and they were worthless, because apparently I am good at everything! Even stuff I’m really bad at!

        No, I’m actually just good at taking those kinds of tests. I always have been. It does not necessarily translate to the real world.

  7. Blue Dog*

    #5 – We set aside the last Friday of the month to celebrate all Birthday’s for that month, usually with a couple of different small cakes or pies. That way, everyone is treated equally and you are not having a birthday celebration 3 times a month. The birthday person(s) pick the type of dessert (in addition to a monthly pumpkin pie — the boss’ favorite). :-)

    1. Jen in RO*

      That’s a really good idea! (Though, from a personal POV, I like having cake lots of time in a month!)

    2. Elkay*

      Why not just ditch the pretense of birthdays and have cake the last Friday of every month? Mmmmm cake….

      1. guest*

        Most of our farewell cards and gifts are paid through employee collections. The admin asst passes around an envelope for the collection and a card for everyone to sign. Sometimes the card does not even make it to everyone to sign. Our dept has 70 employees.
        When I noticed every one was not being treated equal, I stopped participating in the collections. Instead, if I know the person well, I bring a card or gift for them on my own.

    3. Elle D*

      My last company did this as well and it was perfect. Nobody felt left out or like anyone else was getting special treatment, and it was easy for the office manager to coordinate (she would send the birthday people an email asking what kind of dessert they would like, and they had the option to respond with their preference or “I’d rather not celebrate my birthday” if it wasn’t their thing).

    4. periwinkle*

      My husband’s department does this. No one gets forgotten or hassled, depending on how you view recognition of your birthday. Everyone gets cake. Perfect.

    5. The IT Manager*

      I agree. My old boss assigned his secretary to be responsible for it. She had the list of all employee birthdays so no one was left out. We celebrated only once a month covering all the birthdays in that month. A cake, ice cream, and cards were puchased. The cards were passed around. Meeting invites are sent out. We gathered, occasionally sang “Happy Birthday,” and then stood around chatting for a few minutes while eating cake.

      I think the boss usually covered the cost of the card and snacks; there was not hat passed to employees to pay for it. My current job doesn;t celebrate birthdays and I am fine with that, but if you want to celebrate at work then to treat employees equally you got to make a plan and assign a person to be in charge I think.

      I’ve seen a only couple baby showers at work in my career, but that seemed to be organized by a friend of the mom-to-be and not by the office; although, the party was done during work hours (lunch time I think) in a conference room.

      1. Lily in NYC*

        As an executive assistant, this is why I hate birthdays at work. Why is it my responsibility to buy a card, cake and collect money for someone else when I don’t even celebrate my own birthday at home? I actually took a stand in my office. I don’t attend or help organize bday parties. I’m normally a fun-loving, outgoing and friendly person, so people tend to leave me alone about it because they know I do my job well and am not crotchety in general.

        1. The IT Manager*

          I don’t know about your office, but in the office I referenced the secreatary/assistant did it because the boss asked/told her to do it. And it seems to to most like job – keeping track of everyone’s records, performance reports, etc than anyone elses.

          That said, I am a woman and have had to take a stand before and refused to decorate or plan social events just b/c there was an assumption that women want to, are better at it, or it’s woman’s work.

          1. Lily in NYC*

            I find it absolutely demeaning. I’m not paid to be an event planner. When I took my stand, I just said “no” the next time someone came to me and asked me to start a collection. I said I’d be happy to sign the card and give them money but that since I don’t celebrate bdays, I would not be doing the planning. I got a shocked look but I was so sweet about it that no one gave me crap. My boss LOVES birthdays but he is cool with the fact that I don’t because he grumpy about weird things as well (he hates Halloween and makes fun of my tacky decorations).

              1. Lily in NYC*

                You are so right. I’m good at my job and never complain or gossip. So when I take a stand (very rare), they pay attention because they don’t want to lose me and know I wouldn’t be bringing it up if it weren’t a dealbreaker for me. I think it also helps that I am higher level than most of the people in my dept. even though I’m an admin.

    6. LisaLyn*

      We had to do that at the last place I worked because there were just getting to be TOO MANY CAKES. I know, it’s hard to believe that there can be too much cake, but there was!

      1. AdminAnon*


        In my current office, there are four people with September birthdays (including me), as well as 2 right at the end of August. We were drowning in cake by the end of September and, as a result, are having a joint birthday celebration today (with adorable Halloween cupcakes) for our 2 October birthdays.

    7. Sadsack*

      Departments where I have worked in the past had monthly celebrations for everyone. My current department’s tradition is that if it is your birthday, you bring in food. If you don’t want to celebrate and you don’t want to bring in food, you don’t. No one expects it and there is no pressure. My favorite tradition yet! Some years I have brought goodies, other years I haven’t. No big deal. Having goodies in the office is nice, but we seriously do not need all the stuff that gets brought in, especially if it is a large group.

      1. Cassie*

        This! My sister’s office used to handle birthdays this way (they now do quarterly birthday celebrations). I’d like it if our office implemented this because it puts the responsibility on the person celebrating the birthday. Just like it used to be in elementary school (although in that case, the parents would bring in stuff for their kid to share with the class).

    8. Chewbecca*

      My department designates one day a month for birthday celebrations. The honorees get to determine what kind of food they want, then we all pitch in and bring something.

      I do understand the OP’s concern. For some reason, the past two years I haven’t gotten a card for my birthday, while everyone else has. It upset me the first year, but last year I just shrugged it off. I don’t make a big deal out of it, because I’d rather have no card than one I had to ask for. And, I still got to eat the food, so there’s that.

        1. Kat M*

          At my old job, we got 15 extra minutes of lunch break for our birthday, and were paid for the time. It may not seem like a lot to the salaried folks out there, but it was a much-appreciated gesture to all of us whose time was normally tracked to extreme degrees. :)

    9. Anda T*

      That’s a great idea! I will say, in the past, I was that one person planning for the department. It made it a bit odd to be plan my own birthday (and later baby shower). This solution fixes that up nicely!

    10. cecilhungry*

      At my last office, the office manager brought donuts/pastries to the Monday morning meeting (which everyone attended) the week of someone’s birthday. No one was allowed to eat them until the honoree(s) had arrived. It was low-key, didn’t take up any worktime, and brightened up Mondays. Win win win.

    11. Heather*

      Wow, question 5 really hit home for me because we’ve had this issue in our office.

      When it first started, there was one birthday lunch for all of that month’s celebrants.

      But then, some people started getting cakes and songs on their birthdays. Some people get their whole offices decorated and take out to their own lunch.

      And other people didn’t. I was one of them, as well as our very hardworking and well-liked office manager.

      I’ve been trying to think of a way to bring this up to someone, because it’s hurting the feelings of a lot of very kind people, and I don’t think it’s right. Either everyone gets a celebration or no one. And I also want to make sure that no one thinks I’m bringing this up because I was one of the people who felt really awful on my birthday.

      Good advice, Alison-I’m going to use it TODAY.

      1. Jamie*

        The people that are getting taken out to lunch – are you sure the company is paying for that and it’s not just their work friends? Same with the office decorations – is that an official thing that they are doing on behalf of the company or something their buddies take it upon themselves to do?

        I just ask because you can’t legislate anything not sanctioned or paid for by the company.

        1. Heather*

          No, this is not paid for by the company…cakes, lunches, are all coworkers.

          I get that, and legislation is not the solution I proffered. Really, I think it’s just a matter of consideration of your coworkers’ feelings. If there are “extra” celebrations, they should be done quietly so that those who don’t get them feel like garbage. I mean, the woman who opens up her home to us to host baby showers was roundly ignored on her birthday. Regardless of who is paying for it, that isn’t right.

    12. Al Lo*

      I work in a small office (~10 people), and for birthdays, the boss brings a cake in to our weekly staff meeting (and someone else typically volunteers to buy a cake for her birthday). It’s nice and low-key, doesn’t take extra time out of the day, and everyone is treated the same. We sing Happy Birthday (and we’re a music organization, so the song is always in harmony), and eat cake while we have our meeting.

      We actually have a pretty even birthday distribution, so it works out to cake about once a month (once you factor in other, non-birthday cake events, like farewells or other celebrations).

    13. Ursula*

      In our office, we have Birthday Bunnies. Each person (regardless of position) draws a name at the end of the summer and is that person’s Birthday Bunny. A BB brings a treat for everyone and circulates a card. Sometimes there are balloons, one person included a lottery ticket with the card. I did handle it for the Medical Director last year, but he paid for all the ingredients I used to make the treat and I love to bake.

      Yes, Birthday Bunny is a corny name, but we’re really into alliteration.

    14. ThursdaysGeek*

      At LastJob, it was optional, but our team would go out for lunch on birthdays, with the location selected by the birthday honoree and that lunch paid for by our team lead. I never mentioned when my birthday was, but another team member had pretty good google-fu, and found it online.

  8. chikorita*

    #7 Sorry OP7, but that’s just a natural consequence of your actions.

    Even if you do get the job, do you really want to spend your whole time working there worrying about if you’re going to be found out? If co-workers making small talk ask where you want to school etc, you’re going to have to lie to them/ evade questions. Do you really want to live like that?

    Also, think how it’s going to look if you get fired and have to go job-hunting again. In smaller industries/ areas, these things get around… What if the person hiring at this place lets slip that you lied? You could find yourself blacklisted from every place in town, if said town is small enough.

    tldr: for God’s sake, don’t do it again. This isn’t high school.

    1. Lisa*

      OMG, OP comes off as this is something that happened to them and not them doing it. Did your cousin submit this ‘fudged’ resume without your knowledge?

      If yes, you prob should have addressed the wrong information at your interview.

      If no, and you submitted this resume, you deserve to be fired for doing this. If its a pre-employment check, the only recourse you have is to tell the company that you are not permitting them to do the background check as you are no longer interested.

      If you work in a small industry, even a mid-large one and plan on staying in your geo / area – this WILL get around. You are going to be THAT person, and you will be stained with that lie for a while.

      NEVER lie about a school.
      NEVER lie about non-existent jobs.
      NEVER lie about jobs at companies that you never worked at.
      NEVER lie about years of experience / add more years to a job you only worked at for 2 months.

      People fudge titles when there are no titles given, and appropriate a title that conveys their scope of work. That is the only thing that could possibly be considered ok.

      Wow, just wow.

  9. Lacey*

    #4 – I sympathise with your thought process.

    I am currently madly trying not to read too much into a hiring managers actions – eg, saying “I would want you to do X”, and “tell me what type of [junior employee] you think we should hire to support you in your role”. This kind of talk just completely makes me feel like the job is mine, even though I know it is not and I musn’t read anything into it.

    There are lots of good threads on here about not reading too much into what an employer does before actually offering you a job, this is the best one:

        1. Anonymous*

          I actually have a friend who knows a VP in the company and he recommended me for the position. The VP just called me about 30 minutes ago asking what was going on. He said he would do some investigating and make sure the team lets me know what’s going on. This definitely should help my chances out right?

  10. LadyTL*

    I’ve actually never seen a workplace yet that didn’t have at least a few people who weren’t content with just the minimal information about a person and judged you harshly if you didn’t share alot, usually with one manager who was like that. Inevitably, my talking just about movies, or hobbies or whatever else will be nitpicked too since they can’t nitpick my life. My strategy is to resign myself to career hinderment in either case since if I don’t share everything I get judged nastily on what I do share and get judged nastily on if I share as much as the busybodies want. Hopefully you find a better solution, I just made that choice because I felt it wasn’t worth making myself miserable doing things I didn’t like to satisfy people as to having an “acceptable” lifestyle.

    1. Anony1234*

      Inevitably, my talking just about movies, or hobbies or whatever else will be nitpicked too since they can’t nitpick my life.

      That’s true. Everyone has an opinion on something, and even the neutral things Alison mentioned in your answer to the OP are not always so neutral. Sports teams – definitely not neutral. Movies and TV shows can make or break a conversation, especially if someone says they do not like a show someone else does. Someone has since held it against me because I don’t like the same TV show she does. A friend likes to collect fantasy items (think LOTR), and another friend told her that sort of hobby is stupid. People internalize their likes and dislikes and can feel offended if someone doesn’t. So while I understand the neutrality of that sort of stuff, it isn’t so neutral after all.

      1. Elizabeth West*

        A friend likes to collect fantasy items (think LOTR), and another friend told her that sort of hobby is stupid.

        Now, that’s just rude. It’s not about who likes what; if they don’t like it, they can say “That’s not really my thing,” but they shouldn’t call what someone else likes stupid, even if they think it is. Regarding coworkers, it doesn’t matter if they like everything we like. We’re working with them, not marrying them!

        1. Jamie*

          Regarding coworkers, it doesn’t matter if they like everything we like. We’re working with them, not marrying them!

          Even if we were we don’t have to like everything that like. If I had to feign interest in the auto show, or Stargate (any of them), or John Wayne movies I’d be single faster than I could turn on any of the million sitcoms he hates.

          But totally rude to make pronouncements on someone’s interests.

  11. FD*

    #1. “Leaving aside any potential issues with our hiring policies or company culture, what sort of questions/puzzles/brain teasers can I ask in our online application form or phone interview that can potentially screen those candidates who are motivated by providing great work and service, rather than those who want a “cool” name on their resume?”

    I think this is your problem right here. So, you’re in a creative and media field, which means most of your positions probably need off-beat people who think out of the box, I’m guessing. So the odd problem-solving questions and brain teasers might work very well for hiring that kind of person. It’s not going to work at all well for hiring an administrative assistant or office manager.

    Think of it this way. You might have a team of creative people who think outside the box, but a receptionist /office manager’s job is fundamentally to work in the box. Taking calls, directing them to the right person, keeping things organized, setting up a system and then keeping it running smoothly. If you try to stick a creative type who always needs to try out new ideas or try to invent the next big thing into that kind of job, they’ll be bored out of their mind. You want someone who’s good with people and can handle the unexpected but who can also cope with a certain degree of routine.

    Generally speaking, look at their background. Does this position seem like it makes sense with their career goals? Have they held similar positions before, and if so, for how long? Ideally, if you’ve had some trouble finding candidates who did well with this kind of work, you might want to look for people who’ve had 1-2 years of experience in a somewhat similar role. (Whether that’s as an administrative assistant, receptionist for a hospital or hotel, or so on.) If you aren’t getting people with experience, why? Think about how you’re advertising the position. Are you advertising it primarily in a medium where people who want to be in the creative side of your field will see it, instead of people looking for the kind of job you really have?

    In the phone interview, how do they sound on the phone? Remember that they’ll be fielding calls for you on the phone, so do they speak clearly? Do they sound friendly? Do they seem like someone you’d like to see as the voice of your company?

    Ask them straight up how this position fits in with their career goals. And along with that, ask yourself how this position fits in with your company goals. Do you want a long-term office manager who’ll be the face of your company to visitors for the next 10 years? Do you want someone you can eventually promote to a supervisor of other receptionists? Look for someone whose career goals fit with what you need.

    1. bobothebiker*

      Original Poster from #1 here just wanting to chime in to thank you for the insightful reply here. I definitely think you’ve tapped into the direction that I need to go here with regards to more straightforward questions, but more especially in terms of the cultural challenges we face.

      I think it’s really tricky for businesses such as ours, which is relatively small at >10 people, in terms of getting the proper advice with regards to hiring. I always find it funny that when you’re dating people, it can take hours and hours days upon days of talking and getting to know that person before you decide to make a mutual commitment, but when it comes to hiring, you really only have around 3-4 hours tops, and in some cases are making a much bigger decision!

      I turned to management books and such in these cases, but it’s so difficult, as most of the books are written for much larger organisations, or assume that you have an HR department. When one person is HR, Senior Management, Marketing, IT, and Waste Management (At times!) – it’s hard to know where to start – hence where I started going down the road of the more oblique questions, but I think your comment, as well as some of the other general sentiment here has definitely pointed me in a new direction, another reason I love these discussions :)

      1. fposte*

        AAM archives, especially on interviewing. I think the org size is a red herring, though–you generally need to hire your own people even at larger places, and organizations where HR takes a huge part in the selection are often impairing the process.

        So what are you doing now? Are you paying attention to cover letters? Have you identified characteristics and experience you’re wanting to see in resumes? Can you look at what led you to hire the poor choices in the past and see where that could have gone differently? I’m hiring a lot from people who don’t necessarily come from the exact field, which you may be too–I do a lot of sample situations drawn from real life and a lot of “tell me about a time when” questions in interviews and I get plenty of information about transferrable skills and general confidence and authority level that way.

      2. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Not to self-promote, but in addition to the hiring archives here, try my book for managers — it assumes you’re doing all the management and hiring yourself and was written in part because we hadn’t found anything super-practical and focused on “here’s how you actually do it / what it sounds like” out there:

      3. Lily in NYC*

        For a receptionist position, you should only look at people who already have admin experience. Otherwise you will have more of a chance of getting stuck with someone who is there because of the cool factor or who will expect a promotion in 3 months.

      4. FD*

        I know, it is weird, isn’t it? Especially since most people probably spend more time at their job than with their SOs.

        It might help you to think of it this way. When you develop a piece of media, you have to think about your target audience and use that to figure out what kind of media to use, how to frame it, and where it should be shown, right? Think of hiring in a similar way. Figure out what job you want done and craft the hunt around it.

        I hear you somewhat on the organization size though. It’s also possible part of your issue is that the people who have heard of you already are the ones who want to be associated with your company reasons other than wanting an office manager type job. You might need to do more marketing, in a sense, than a company who’s famous outside the industry since it’s possible a lot of awesome office managers aren’t paying attention to your job ads because they’ve never heard of you.

  12. Sandrine*

    #1 : Please, review your hiring process. As others said, puzzles, and brain teasers… nope. Questions, yes. You have a need. You have to figure out if the person fits your need. No matter the industry, some people will embellish the job posting in their head, and you need to make sure you can distinguish the ones who do that. One good thing is to talk about the “negative” or “boring” or “repetitive” aspects of the job, and see how the person reacts.

    Caveat: If you’re doing this too much, the person might end up thinking you are not being honest with them. I had this happen to me. I had this interview for a pretty nice job, but I knew that the task I could have been doing had its ups and downs, but I needed a job and where would the fun be if there wasn’t anything boring, right ? My interviewer put so much emphasis on the “boring” aspects of the job that, after reviewing the interview in my head, and after she called me to tell me I wasn’t chosen, I realized that she knew right away I wouldn’t be a fit so she made the job seem as bad as she possibly could.

    My mistake then ? I agreed with stuff she said. Yup. Apparently that seemed off. Problem, I was *really* in agreement, because the mission statement and her ideas fit exactly with mine u_u .

    #2 : You don’t need to share all your life story with others. But being a little friendly might not be as bad as you make it out to be. It’s as if your reaction is a little too extreme. I’m not saying this because I don’t think your reaction is important, but you say yourself “I am starting to feel this is hurting me in my career” .

    You may have gone through something quite traumatizing. If yes, I hope you got the support you needed to deal with it. But maybe it’s starting to hurt your career because people like warmth. And sharing absolutely nothing doesn’t make you appear warm. Maybe you can decide on a list of things you can share, and go from there only. I have many, many coworkers (heh, call center!) and while I’m a babbler, there are many I know very little about, yet we’re still quite friendly with one another. I respect that quite easily, because I like to take my cues from them to adjust my own attitude :P .

    #3 There’s a difference between different kinds of rule breaking. Managers don’t have the same attributes as “lower” employees do. Sure, it can be annoying, but tell you what: you can’t tell your manager what to do. There’s a reason why this person is the manager and you’re not.

    I will agree, though, that’s it’s kinda unfair, especially in a “small company where every employee matters and if we’re short one person someone will have to do their work” environment.

    This, and you also have to examine why the policy was created. Was it because the manager was “reported” so often that it ended up slowing everything down even more than if said manager was left alone ? If yes, then you need to switch the blame to the nitpickers, not on your manager.

    What you can/should do however, is to do your work, and then go above that if possible, document every accomplishment you can, and use that at raise time to negotiate for one.

    #4 You don’t have an offer until you have one. Sometimes, companies may do things in a particular order for non-obvious reasons to you. In this case, I think it’s rather smart. Because then you know exactly what you’re getting into, and it’s much better than getting the job and being disappointed because something doesn’t work you thought it did.

    #5 That actually sucks. I mean, everyone should get a similar treatment. Things should be scaled down if it can’t be done for everyone. Have you noticed a trend in how the employees for which you have noticed different treatment are perceived ? Are they liked ? Are they friendly ? Maybe the office “shuns” naturally, maybe it doesn’t, maybe someone is being ostracized for no reason… Totally agree with Alison on that one.

    #6 Company descriptions ? Wait, what ? The only part where I put that on my resume/CV/noideawhichwordtouseanymore is for the internships I did, but other than that, if an employer wants to know what my company did, I just reserve that for a phone screen or actual interview.

    #7 I would go even further than Alison. Withdraw your application ASAP. Clean up your resume, make it real, and go submit it elsewhere.

    1. bobothebiker*

      #1 OP here – Thanks for the feedback here – I definitely see a common thread and going to be looking more closely at our hiring processes. As mentioned upthread, it’s really tricky to find some resources that deal with these at a micro (or SMB) scale, but this definitely helps!

      One thing that someone else recently pointed me out to was the site where you can send out and make skill tests – Nothing myers-briggs or anything intensive like that, but it’s something I am considering that might be a bit more straightforward. Does anyone here have any experience with that site or anything similar? Both from the management and applicant side? I’d be curious to hear if it’s not de-railing the thread!

      1. Elysian*

        OP #1 – Based on your comments about skills tests and brain teasers, I feel like you’re trying too hard. Either you’re making your hiring process unusual on purpose or you’re really dug into the idea that you draw skill-related information from non-skill related questions. Myers Briggs and all that stuff is interesting, but unless the job is “administering Myers-Briggs tests” its probably doesn’t tell you as much as actually watching the person interact with others would.

        I don’t know your industry, but I would suggest trying to re-create real work scenarios and having the applicant walk you through what they would do. For software development you might ask “We are interested in having an existing program modified to do x using y language. Here’s a whiteboard – how would you code it?” For your office manager, maybe “What kind of system would you use to make sure our tutu-designers never run out of rose-colored tulle?” I understand the urge to be nontraditional, because job interviews, etc, can be dull and your company doesn’t sound dull, but I think ultimately I don’t think you’re going to find a “challenge” that gives you more information than just testing their skills would.

      2. fposte*

        Seconding Elysian–you’re looking at shiny stuff that’s distracting you from the actual work.

        This is not a tech problem. This is a you-learning-to-read-resumes-and-ask-good-questions problem.

      3. AVP*

        Agreeing with the other commenters here – I also work in a “cool” place with a bit of an industry name/reputation and I hire our receptionists or assistants, who are often excited about what they think the job will be and end up disillusioned. Puzzles, quizzes, etc don’t really work – you want to see their reactions and, as Alison said, really probe into their motivations and past experiences. Nothing where you’re leading them toward an easy answer. And as Alison recommends, I also kind of over-emphasize the downside of the job, the hours, the drudgery of paperwork, etc etc., and make sure people REALLY consider those factors. Then, at the end of the phone screen, I say something like, “So, with all of these considerations, is this still a position you would want to dedicate yourself to and feel you could excel at?” And I hold them to a good answer. Honestly, I would guess that I weed out about a third to half of our applicants right there. Since I started doing that (and reading the rest of the AAM advice arsenal) our hires have been MUCH better than they used to be.

        Oh, and since they’re often entry level, I try to ask as much as I can about their college experience – not just about classes, but whether they had any serious activities and responsibilities, what those were like, how they balanced friends and fun things with jobs and internships. I’m looking for the type of people who spent 20 hours a week slinging burgers or doing work-study or internships or editing the school newspaper than someone who watched a lot of tv and went out every night.

        I know this is the wrong thread to reply to the conversation about this above, but in small companies like this you really don’t want to hire someone who just wants a job, either. Often this is a position where you’re hoping the candidate is going to be promoted through your system, so you want someone great that you can work with for a long time.

      4. Lily in NYC*

        Your still tests should be for something tangible, like Microsoft Office or specific software. I feel like maybe you are trying to emulate the start-up world’s old interview model (like google). They don’t even ask those brain teaser questions any more because they realized they are completely useless. We do “case studies” during interviews. We’ll give someone a quick overview of one of our projects and then ask them to how they would handle it from start to finish. It is hard as hell and weeds out people who can’t hack it. But for admin roles, just go with a skills test (typing tests are useless) and be wary of job hoppers.

      5. LeeD*

        If you want to test their reasoning and skills, ask them decision making questions about things they will actually encounter at their jobs. I am an admin, and if I was hiring my replacement, I might ask questions like:

        – A client calls asking to speak to the Big Boss, stating that it is crucial and time sensitive. What would you do?
        – You are the only one in the office and you get a call from a member of the press. How do you handle it?
        – What factors do you prioritize when booking travel?
        – What kind of clients are the most difficult for you to deal with?
        – Tell me about a challenging project you completed using Excel.

        In addition to their answers, I would also look at the kinds of followup or clarifying questions they ask.

        No puzzle, game, or personality test will give you the data you want to know, which is about how the person actually functions at work. In order to get at that, you need to ask questions about the work the person is expected to perform.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I would tweak this a little to ask about how they actually have handled those situations in the past — so, “tell me about how you handled X” rather than “tell me how you think you would handle X.” The former is harder to BS.

          1. LeeD*

            Good point! I have never been the primary on a search, but that’s something I will keep in mind for the future.

      6. A Teacher*

        Ugh…please no. I teach a careers class to college level kids and they don’t love when I have them do it and just for class and awareness purposes. I want them to have a self-awareness about what might and might not be a good fit–but I’m not an employer and all of the personality stuff is on a continuum anyway. Depending on a set day I may act more one way than another. I myself failed Gap/Old Navy’s “personality” test when I was in college and couldn’t figure out why.

        1. Elysian*

          I failed Blockbuster’s (when they still existed). I still can’t figure out whether they wanted me to prefer working alone or in groups. But… movie rentals… so I’m not sure it mattered either way.

    2. Anonymous*

      #4 OP – do you feel this is a good sign though? This all happened Monday and I have yet to hear anything.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        It’s not a sign of anything. From the post: “Don’t read anything more into it than ‘we are now at the third interview and we give you these documents at this stage.'”

        I know it’s tempting to want to try to read tea leaves, but there’s no way to do it and no point.

      2. fposte*

        It’s a sign that the company likes to give information to its candidates. It’s not a sign that you’re likelier to be hired than any other candidate.

        A good sign is “We would like to offer you this position.” The rest of it is just tea leaves. Keep hunting in the meantime–it’ll help you avoid overinvesting in this possibility (which will also stand you in good stead if you need to negotiate pay) and avoid falling behind if this doesn’t work out.

        But I hope it does work out for you–good luck!

  13. Jen in RO*

    #6 – On the local job boards I frequent, the template offered by the website includes a “company description” section… and you can’t leave it blank :(

    #7 – I hope you’re young, because I can’t imagine why you could ever think this was a good idea.

  14. Amy B.*

    #5 Birthday Celebrations:
    Ok, who else immediately thought of Angela Martin on The Office when Alison suggested putting someone in charge of coordinating the events?

  15. AmyNYC*

    1) Some job ads are blind ads – company and position description but no company name – and I could see that being helpful here. You’ll get replied from people interested in the JOB not blinded by the “cool factor” of the company.
    As a job seeker, I had a love/hate relationship with these ads. Love – if you’re not given tons of information about a company, you can (sorry Alison) take it easy on the cover letter; hate – I might be applying to the company I left last year because they were dysfunctional.

    1. FormerManager*

      My only concern with blind ads is that when I see one I immediately assume it’s from a recruiting company/temp agency as I’ve been burned in the past that way.

    2. bobothebiker*

      I really like this idea, thanks Amy! I think there are definitely ways to word things in a way that makes it more clear we’re not recruiters. Thanks for that!

      1. B*

        Nope. If I do not see the name of the company I automatically think it’s a recruiter. Many people will not actually read the ad especially for one that is an admin position.

        Keep the company name in. Since you seem to really want to ask questions, then ask on the application why they want this position. why they want to work for the company. If all they say are because it would be cool, then that is your answer. But if they delve into it a bit more that’s fine. Just don’t expect a big paragraph essay type of thing.

        1. Former Agency Recruiter*

          things that point to an ad being a recruiter:

          1. It’s actually posted by a recruitment agency (you can usually see the name of the posting company on ad posting sites like, or you have to apply through the agency website/email address). Most agencies that don’t post the client name will make their own name as visible as possible so that other potential clients can see what they are recruiting for. When I recruited for an agency I was contracted for a few roles based on the fact that the hiring manager did a search and saw which agencies had recruited similar roles in the recent past.

          2. They use phrases like “Our client…”

          If you read carefully, it’s pretty easy to tell when a job has been posted by a recruitment agency.

          1. EB*

            There are 2 types of recruitment agency ads I’ve seen in the bay area –
            1. The honest ones that put their name on it and use word like “our client” and
            2. The vast majority, which just post the job ad without a company name, but it reads like a real ad.

            This ad “shell game” for recruiters has been going on since the 90s when I first started looking. As a result, I, and almost everyone I know, will not respond to blind ad.

            Heck, in the last 5 years the blind ads have doubled because you are getting not only recruitment companies posting blind ads, but scammers (generally the scammers follow up you sending them your resume with a request for more of your personal info, though last I heard now you get redirected to a information harvesting website).

            As a result, the rule smost of my friends follow are
            1. Don’t respond to blind ads
            2. Make sure the ad is also posted on the company website (as opposed to just entering you info into any old web form which could end up being a spoofed application website)
            3. Research any company you don’t know, make sure the company exists
            5. Scammers are getting more and more sophisticated, if something pings your radar go to a web forum and ask

            Somedays it seems like at least half of all job and real estate ads posted on free or low cost sites are scams (I include recruitment agencies with blind ads in this group because 75% of the time they seem to run the same ads over and over so you’re pretty sure there’s no job)

    3. Rindle*

      FWIW, I don’t even read an ad if the company is not named. I put a lot of thought into the companies and positions to which I apply, and a lot of work into an application. (I know Alison says not to spend long – maybe 20 minutes? – on a cover letter, but it takes me longer to craft something that satisfies me.) I’m not going to waste my time on something that has a minute chance of fitting my needs.

    4. Betsy*

      I would be hesitant to do blind ads, because I know many people (and I’m one) who never applies to them. I have qualifications that match lots of jobs, and I don’t want to waste my time writing up cover letters and tracking applications if I don’t believe the company is a fit for me before I start the process.

      It sounds like your company brand is an asset, in that people want to work there. You have the capability to attract the best people out there, if you can weed out the chaff. Do you want to throw that away to get the people who will apply for any receptionist job they see?

    5. Elizabeth West*

      Oh man, that happened to me. I replied to a blind ad (I usually don’t, but I needed something to fill out the UI thing), and when someone phoned, it turned out to be a company I was FIRED from.

      It was on my resume–on the second page. I’m thinking this person did not turn the page before she called me!

      1. nyxalinth*

        I had this happen with an agency I’d told off for their shady ways. the ad didn’t mention their name, I sent in my resume…and got a call from them. I had to explain why it wouldn’t be a good idea to proceed with an interview.

  16. Jen*

    #6 I have had exactly one instance where this was helpful; I relocated internationally, and a recruiter asked me to add a very short company description under each job, because the places I’d worked were entirely unfamiliar to anyone in this area. It helped give a bit more context to my experience, and saved the hiring managers from having to google each former employer and try to understand what the business did, and how I fit in there.

    1. cecilhungry*

      I have a lot of very similar, nationally known companies on my resume, but my last, longest job was at a local startup (in the same industry). I put a little tag in my cover letter indicating what kind of company it was (At Chocolates Inc, a local chocolate teapot design firm, I…) for context. I thought it was helpful since the rest of my jobs were at Big, Chocolate Coffeemaker firms. Same skill-set, different application, and you wouldn’t necessarily realize that I would be a good fit for a teapot place just scanning my resume. So, #6, if you’re really wedded to company descriptions, maybe put them in your cover letter?

      1. Plynn*

        I have company descriptions on my resume – they are one-line summaries under the company name so they don’t take a lot of room. I added them because if I’m applying out of the design/advertising field, not only do people not recognize the names of where I’ve worked, they usually don’t even know that the kinds of jobs I’ve had even existed. I’ve found that I have to do the elevator speech EVERY TIME, so I ended up incorporating it into my resume.

    2. Tina*

      I agree. I have also recently immigrated from a third world country to Europe. While the institutions and companies on my CV are mayor in my country, no one have hear of them elsewhere.

      For each company I have worked for, I include a 1 or 2 sentence description. For example, I worked for a university:
      “The University of X is teaching and research university with more than 50 000 students. It is country Y’s leading university in terms of research output per annum and produces the most PhD students in the country.”

      I do the same with my degree, since the degree name (Multimedia) is a bit meaningless. Instead I add something along the lines of:
      “B.I.S Multimedia combines Computer Science with Visual Design. It focuses on web design and development, graphic design, human-computer interaction, animation and film, computer game development and computer programming.”

      My CV is still less than two pages. Is all of this too verbose?

  17. Janey*

    #5 We have a committee– the social committee– that is in charge of recognizing birthdays and other such life events. The same type of thing is done for everyone. The social committee asks for a $5 donation from all employees at the beginning of the year. The donation is optional, of course, but there is a general good feeling about it amongst staff. Sometimes staff members have a co-worker as a friend and he/she does something a little bit extra for a birthday. But, everyone gets the same base level acknowledgement and celebration for a birthday.

    I do thing that baby showers and other non-birthday events are a difficult situation and can become unfair. We had a good-bye party sponsored by our boss for one of our colleagues that got a job somewhere else. It was announced many times over email, lots of presents and food were brought, tears were shed during lengthy good-bye speeches at the party, etc. 2 days later it was another colleagues last day. Because she was not a close friend of the boss, no such party was held, although an email went around reminding everyone to sign a good-bye card for this employee. Even though she was a long-time employee with many good relationships with other staff members, she was largely unacknowledged. It created a very awkward situation, primarily because the boss was involved, and I felt bad about it.

    1. Elkay*

      Similar thing happened to me when I left my last job,which I’d been at long enough to be getting long service awards, previous leavers had parties arranged in meeting rooms, food, multiple presents, anyone they’d ever worked with/come into contact with invited. I had my boss hover next to my desk half an hour before the end of my last day and thrust a card at me. Mainly I was just pleased to be getting out of there but it does smart a little when you witness/experience the obvious disparity.

      I have experienced it the other way too, a job I wasn’t even in for a year arranged a tea party in the garden for me, it was so unexpected and wonderfully sweet.

  18. MousyNon*

    Re: OP #1.
    Allison’s totally right. Personally, I think brain teasers/riddles/puzzles would actually do the opposite of what you might be thinking OP, and really aren’t very useful predictors of anything. I recall reading an article (will try to dig it up) where companies like Google are (finally) eliminating these types of questions because they, frankly, don’t tell you anything about a candidate except how good they are at puzzles. Sure, they make the interviewer feel clever and sophisticated, but you may well alienate amazing candidates who either a) just aren’t very good at puzzles but would be amazing employees or b) think that line of questioning is irrelevant and/or smug (I’m one of these, admittedly) and says so. (Yes, I said so, at an interview with one of those ‘cool’ gigs. Interestingly I still got the offer but I turned it down.)

    The best way to test somebody’s creativity/critical thinking is to ask for work samples, or give them a task to complete that requires the skills you’re looking for, or give them real work situations and ask them what their hypothetical response would be. Leave the brain teasers for a happy hour where you can poke fun at each other about not knowing how many buildings there are in NYC (while I have a beer and call you lot crazypants).

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Yes! Google, which has been famous for using brainteasers in hiring, studied their hiring practices and results and found that brainteasers weren’t actually useful. Instead, what they found works is drilling down into past experiences, with lots of “tell me about a time when…” questions that probe how an applicant approached real-world situations in the past, as well having candidates simulate work similar to what they’d be doing on the job (so they still, for instance, ask interviewees to write code to solve real-world problems).

      Article is here:

      P.S. Please note that this is what I have long recommended here!

      1. MousyNon*

        That’s the article that I was thinking of! I think people underestimate how useful ‘tell me about a time when’ questions can be–if the questions are framed right, it’s not the “deliver a 100% positive anecdote about yourself” it may seem like on the surface. A well framed question is/should be an “interpret this question in such a way that you’ll deliver the information most relevant to me, the employer, about you, the candidate regarding this specific set of circumstances” and that’s HARD (as it should be).

        1. AnonAnony*

          I am laughing out loud at my desk, thank you for sharing this piece!

          OP#1 – A long time ago, when we still used Thomas Guides, I was new in town and landed an assistant/PA job. I was passably good at my job because I have a great sense of direction, but I didn’t know all of the local resources yet, and it made my life (and my manager’s lives) more difficult.

          As with so many things, now you can always “just Google it” but the vital skill is to know WHAT to Google, or even how to conceive of the problem. When something is on deadline, you don’t want to reinvent the wheel of finding out if there’s a 24-hour copy shop, hiring an overnight courier, or contracting with the most reliable chocolate teapot delivery service. A great admin will work with you to anticipate these situations and be supported in creating these relationships in advance.

      2. anon..*

        How would you suggest handling the ‘tell me about a time when’ questions when you haven’t had the experience the interviewer is asking about? Is it ever ok to just say you have no/limited experience or do you have to come up with something even it is not entirely true (to show you have an understanding of what or how something should be done/handled?

        1. NutellaNutterson*

          Ideally you’re able to shape the response to show a similar experience or understanding of the intent of the question – “While I haven’t ever calibrated teapot flow rates, in my last job, careful monitoring of the overflow from the bubble gum vats allowed me to prevent the drowning of Oompa Loompas while maintaining the quality of our trademark product within 1.21 gigawatts, a higher consistency than had ever been achieved at the Scranton branch.”

        2. fposte*

          It’s generally not good to let “I have no experience of that” be your only answer, because you’re still going to have to tackle such challenges, and I want to know what you’d bring to bear. So if it happens, what experiences have you had that would affect how you responded? Were you nearby when somebody else dealt with such a situation, and would you deal with it the same way or improve on it? If you’re early in your career, it’s likely your interviewer expects you to be drawing on different experience anyway.

          But just saying “I’ve never done that” and leaving it there suggests a person who might do the same when they’re in the actual situation. You don’t want to suggest that.

  19. AdAgencyChick*

    #7 — “My cousin made me a CV”? Yeah, and YOU chose to use it. Pull your application and start over somewhere else, telling the truth.

    Not only will an offer be pulled if it’s found out at the background check stage, even if you manage to get into a company that doesn’t do background checks, the minute someone finds out, you could be fired. And if the school you claim to have gone to ever finds out, they can send their lawyers after you. I used to work in the technology and trademarks office of the school I went to, and they were very serious about cracking down on that kind of fraud.

    1. iseeshiny*

      That part stuck out to me too. I don’t want to beat up on the OP too much, because they sound very young and I’m sure they’ll learn better, but the lying and responsibility dodging just sets of all the terrible employee alarms. Just… yuck.

    2. Jane Doe*

      Also, you never know who knows the hiring manager and HR reps. If you withdraw your application now, they won’t bother with the background check. If you don’t withdraw, there’s always the chance that sometime in the near future your name will come up in conversation: “Oh, you’re thinking about hiring John Smith? I hope that’s not the John Smith I interviewed six months ago who turned in a completely fake resume!”

  20. Yup*

    #5 Are you in charge of the department, or have influence over these events? If yes, I beg of you:

    Nix the baby/wedding showers and life event celebrations. When someone has happy news, give them a card signed by everyone and your hearty best wishes. The coworkers who are close friends with them are probably already invited to their outside-of-work celebration.

    Pick one day a month (or every other month) to celebrate everyone’s recent birthdays then with one cake and a verbal “happy birthday to Steve, Sharon, and Micah!” announcement.

    When people leave the company, their boss should send a nice all-staff email thanking them for all their hard work and wishing them well. A coworker can organize an independent happy hour or lunch/dinner outside the office where anyone who wants to show up can.

    In other words, please stop the madness. The more you can move this stuff out of the office, the more peaceful your workplace will be.

    1. Tim*

      Seriously. I am gay and live in a state w/o gay marriage. I also have no children. And constantly being expected to contribute gifts to these types of events is seriously taxing. I cannot legally marry my boyfriend, but I am expected to contribute gifts for a coworker’s fourth marriage. Give me a break. And god help you if you’re single…

  21. J*


    I have my fingers crossed that you have the job offer pulled, get fired, etc. You may have edged out an honest candidate who was actually qualified for the job. Pathetic.

  22. K-*

    #5 – would like to know everyone’s take on my situation. I order the birthday cakes for everyone here. I am also responsible for wedding cards/gifts, etc. When by birthday rolls around, there is…nothing. I feel silly saying anything about it, because what would I say? “HEY!! Where’s my CAKE?!” or do I order my own? That just seems sad. Do I stop doing this for everyone else? That seems vindictive. Next year I’m taking the day off, and my husband and I are going to go out to lunch and go see a movie.

    1. fposte*

      I think that’s pretty common. I’m assuming this is happening from an organization fund, so it’s not a question of people spending their own money. I’d say that your options are arranging your own cake, getting exactly what you please, and telling people cheerfully that it was your turn; openly asking a colleague to handle the cake order for you (which if done straightforwardly is perfectly sound–people don’t generally question cake acquisition); or doing as you planned and taking a day off. Not an option: really wanting cake and hoping someone will show up with cake for you without being asked.

      I think what’s happening here is that what you’re doing is perceived to be a job function by others–you do it on office time and with office money and without regard to your feeling for the recipient–and then it feels very personal to you when nobody does it for you. But because of the way your organization has worked it, nobody thinks of it because it’s not their job. So it’s not personal, even though it may feel that way.

      1. The IT Manager*

        K, why are you doing this? Out of the goodness of your heart or is it part of your job?

        Either way, fposte is right. You’re doing it for everyone. You’re responsible for all birthday celebrations – by default by now even if it is not an official job duty. If you don’t want to plan it yourself, you should appoint someone else to do it for you. Getting upset about your birthday not being remembered when its your responsibility to remember everyone’s birthday seems silly.

        1. fposte*

          And there are worse things than getting to order the exact kind of cake you crave on somebody else’s dime.

          1. K-*

            Thank you fposte, that was very helpful & kindly stated. I think I was just looking at it from the wrong perspective.

            1. Colette*

              I think it’s important to remember as well that often the person who ends up organizing cake (or whatever) is the one to whom it is important. Others go along because they like cake, but if the cake stopped appearing, they wouldn’t be more than mildly disappointed.

              In other words, it’s not important enough to them to put in the effort.

              What that often means is that the one who organizes the cakes doesn’t get one herself – and she’s the one who cares.

              So yes, if you want cake, take care of it yourself. No one will think twice about it, because they like cake. :)

          2. Elizabeth West*

            Yep. I had to do this too, at Exjob. I picked out the cards that were sent around, made the poster/email announcing birthdays, and ordered the cake for the quarterly meeting (we did birthdays then, although people got their cards on their actual birthday). I got to pick the card I liked and get chocolate cupcakes with Batman things on them. :D

            1. K-*

              Thanks folks, you were really helpful to me. I’ve already decided to take your advice and I feel better about it already! It’s definitely not part of my job…I do it because I think everyone deserves to feel special on their birthday. So Colette is correct in that. I appreciate your helping me to see it a different way.

  23. BCW*

    #1 I think you are looking at it wrong. Maybe that cool factor your company has is a great way to get better applicants, but you are just not that great at choosing the right one. As someone who has worked at a few “cool” places myself (like whenever I tell people they are like “that must have been so awesome” which was true in 2 out of 3 places), I think there is nothing wrong with being enamored by it. Chances are they probably know a lot about your organization already, which is more than many people can say about their jobs before they start. If they are a “fan” then they may very well be a great asset. But, if you aren’t asking the right questions, you’ll never know. I wouldn’t want to immediately weed them out though. Maybe before you make an offer, you can have them come in for a couple of hours and really observe what a day is like there, so that way they are making an informed decision. Also, sometimes hires just don’t work out for a variety of reasons.

    #2 What you do and don’t share is your business, but honestly, people like that are somewhat obnoxious to me. I don’t need to know everything, but if I’m seeing you more than my family or friends, I’d like to at least think you are making an effort to be open. And yes, I think that could impact you later down the road. If I was a manager, if there were tasks that involved working on a team, I’d look at how the team chemistry would be, and think that there is probably a good chance you would be a detriment. You are probably great at solo work, but sometimes having a good personal rapport with people can make a difference.

    #3 Seriously? You are mad because you can’t call out your boss when they are breaking the rules? have you had a job before. In any hierarchy its absurd to think that you can tell the person above you what they should or shouldn’t do. Did you tell your parents that “Its not fair that they got to stay up later than you did?” Probably not. Similar stuff here.

    1. Jamie*

      What you do and don’t share is your business, but honestly, people like that are somewhat obnoxious to me. I don’t need to know everything, but if I’m seeing you more than my family or friends, I’d like to at least think you are making an effort to be open.

      I think part of the problem is the phrase “personal life” means different things to different people. If you asked me if I share my personal life with co-workers I’d say no. Because to me personal life is icky medical things, my sex life, money issues, whether or not I’m fighting with my husband, dysfunctional extended family…to me that’s personal.

      Because I’m defining personal as stuff I wouldn’t tell those with whom I’m not close.

      But funny anecdotes about my family (and the make up of my family), where I live, sports my kids were in, pet stories, certainly interests and entertainment stuff I love…that’s all fair fodder for the office when it comes up.

      Because I don’t consider that personal – if you could glean this information by bumping into me in Target shopping with my husband or kids on a weekend it’s not in my top secret file.

      The stuff I consider too personal to discuss at work are things that are private, painful, or financial.

      So while I wouldn’t find it obnoxious if a co-worker didn’t want to tell me all about her family dysfunction or sex life (in fact, I’d appreciate it), I too would find it odd if I worked with someone who did a “no comment” on basic stuff.

      Why aren’t you married or when are you getting married? Those are rude questions (ditto children). Are you married or do you have children are just questions – no judgement.

      1. Colette*

        When I hear people say things about not wanting to share personal stuff, I picture them thinking “I spent Saturday afternoon watching a movie. THEY MUST NEVER KNOW.”

        I completely agree that I don’t want to know anything about their sex life, family drama, or anything else that’s really personal (and certainly questions about why you aren’t living your life according to your co-workers values) are far over the line.

        1. anon..*

          This last saturday there was an ‘aliens’ marathon. all 4! in a row! on the same channel! I did stay home and watch all (well, part of the last one.. it was clear that one was ridiculous/bad and I ditched it). I did think to myself that i was ‘wasting’ the day and didn’t really want anyone to know! LOL. now my dirty little secret is out. i feel so much better now ;)

        2. Jamie*

          “I spent Saturday afternoon watching a movie. THEY MUST NEVER KNOW.”

          I will not rest until I use this out loud as an answer the next time someone asks me about my weekend.

          Thanks for the laugh!

        3. AnonAnony*

          I wonder if it has a bit to do with people’s line of work, too. I recall a friend in academia telling me that during grad school she felt as if she couldn’t ever share that she spent a moment doing something “frivolous” like reading Vanity Fair.

          In my day job, most of my life is private from clients. It’s difficult to be a blank slate all day. So I’m doubly grateful to have coworkers with whom I can share mundane personal details.

      2. Kelly L.*

        Pet stories are the standard currency in so many situations. I have huge swaths of people I can’t talk about anything with, except “My dog ate this! My cat shredded that!” :D

    2. Scrooge*

      You clearly didn’t think your post through

      If managers don’t respect the rules, how can they expect wage slaves to do so?

      1. BCW*

        I completely thought it through. Its the reason high ranking people in companies can take the day off to go golfing when they want, and I can’t. Thats life, the higher the chain you go up, the more benefits and flexibility you have, and the same rules don’t apply.

      2. Jamie*

        And managers are often under a whole different set of rules to which their employees might not be privvy.

        Maybe exempt managers have rules which stipulate responding to work issues outside of office hours within a certain time, or whatever. If someone charged with IT for example jumps out of bed to deal with work issues in the middle of the night, as long as that ball is never dropped, maybe it’s not the same scrutiny of web usage as someone who is paid hourly and doesn’t take work home.

        There are just different rules.

  24. Max*

    #3, or at least the company-wide rule in #3, doesn’t seem unfair to me at all. “Calling out” other employees you don’t have authority over – and ESPECIALLY employees that have authority over YOU – accomplishes nothing and is just rude and unprofessional. If a supervisor is breaking the rules in a serious manner, the proper response is to report it to their supervisor or manager, who is capable of actually making productive efforts to resolve the behavior. Employees not being able to openly admonish their managers for perceived misbehavior is the standard in the working world, not the exception.

    Of course, sometimes the supervisor’s manager doesn’t address the misbehavior, which can be unfair depending on the severity of the misconduct, but in that case you’re just out of luck. If managers refuse to punish misbehavior or act fairly, there’s very little you can do about it. You can try escalating the issue to an even higher manager, but doing that over a little bit of internet browsing risks being seen as petty, and if that manager doesn’t decide to step in and hand out punishments either then you have no options whatsoever. There’s no check or balance to ensure that the behavior of managers is fair except for the supervision of their managers (who can also be unfair), and if management decides to be unfair then there’s absolutely nothing that can be done about it.

    1. Scrooge*

      Well said

      An unmotivated surplus population who resents their employer for their hypocrisy is the way to go

  25. periwinkle*

    #1: Skip the brain-teasers – but don’t focus the job posting and interview questions on how boring and mundane the job is. A good administrative-type person takes pride in his/her ability to perform those tasks to a high level, and it takes a lot of skill to be a top-notch office manager/receptionist! Just because it isn’t creative or analytical doesn’t mean it isn’t vitally important to how well your company functions. In fact, it might be wise to hire an experienced office manager who will set up administrative processes and keep things running smoothly (which leaves the creative types free to focus on client work). Make the position temp-to-perm so you can test fit.

    #7: Seriously, take responsibility here. Someone else wrote the resume, but *you* chose to use it even though you knew it had false information. If you used this false information when filling out the company’s official employment application… just withdraw your candidacy now. Fix your resume.

  26. Mike C.*

    #7 The only honorable thing for you to do is withdraw your candidacy now, burn that resume and never, ever use it again.

  27. Josh*

    Thanks for answering my questions. Also I’ve learned so much from the other questions you’ve answered! You have a great blog! Thanks again!

  28. LivelyDiscussion*

    I am the OP for #2. I probably should clarify a few things about my original question. My “bad experiences” with co-workers included getting let go from a job early on in my career because a former co-worker (who was discharged for lots of reasons) went to court because she was denied unemployment benefits. She then told her (our) former supervisor that other people were really unhappy at Company X. Because I was “unhappy,” the supervisor let me go. (And yes – I was awarded unemployment because the office felt like her decision wasn’t justified).

    The second instance happened a couple of years later in another job. I because friends with a girl who I worked with, and the girl spread terrible (untrue) rumors about it, to the point that my boss found out. I slowly distanced myself from the “friend” and it worked out okay and I actually stayed at the job for a few more years after it happened.

    In my current situation, my co-workers (who are well-meaning but a bit noisy) asked me on a daily basis when I’m getting married to significant other. I finally had to tell them that “it’s going to be awhile, but I’ll be sure and let you know if/when a proposal happens.” They also enjoy going out together and getting toasted (I don’t drink anymore, so what’s the fun for me?). I get lots of grief for not wanting to “hang out” with them.

    Over the years, I’ve learned how to sort out the bad apples from the good, so to speak, but these experiences have just left me scared.

    1. fposte*

      To me, those don’t really make much difference to your overall question, especially since you say you now are confident about sorting the bad apples from the good. I’m a private person myself, and it does sound like you’re in a pretty extroverted office right now, so I understand that you’re working across a bit of a behavioral language barrier. But if the message you’re sending to the people you spend 40 hours a week with is “I don’t trust you or like you” in an office that prides itself on comradeship, then yes, that could hurt your career. I think there’s a possibility that it’s not just that you aren’t sharing about yourself, it’s that you’re perceived as generally unengaged with your colleagues. And I think that if that’s so, there are things you can do that aren’t going out drinking or baring your soul–you can prioritize catch-up lunches among the crowd, for instance, or establish yourself as the office’s great listener, who remembers what everybody’s current struggles are and asks them how they’re doing with the tax audit/spousal cardiogram/etc. and really listens to the answer. But I think you have to take an active role in creating the kind of connection that’s going to work instead.

      Additionally–and I speak as somebody who’s been there and often is there–being guarded is generally a position of weakness and not of strength. (Somebody will probably post the Brene Brown TED talk about vulnerability around here.) It’s easy to forget, when you’re in self-protective mode, that there’s risk in shutting out as well as opening up, so that you’re not actually risk-proofing yourself by not engaging.

      (And just to be clear, getting unemployment doesn’t mean that the commission believes the termination was wrongful or unacceptable. It just means that you didn’t render yourself ineligible because of your own actions.)

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      I’d add to fposte’s excellent answer that the thing that led to you getting fired wasn’t sharing personal details with coworkers — it wasn’t talking about hobbies or TV or so forth. It was talking about being unhappy at work, which can indeed be a bad thing to share, because it can cause problems if it gets back to your manager. But if you use “would I care if my manager heard this?” as your litmus test, that still leaves you tons of topics to talk about, if you want to.

    3. A Teacher*

      I had a boss once tell me, and I don’t completely agree with it but I see his point: “their perception is your reality.” Like I said, that’s not completely true but within the social context if you make zero effort to find something in common that you can talk about its really hard for me as your co-worker to have a good way to respond. I’m pretty introverted but as a teacher I definitely give out a few personal examples–none of which go into the topics that Jamie mentioned above as really personal–because you do have to establish rapport with your co-workers/clients/students along the way. I kind of think of it as networking in a way and you never know down the road when a former co-worker’s connections may come in handy–do they remember you as someone that was unstrusting and constantly on guard or as someone that shared basic details–a favorite tv show, hobby, pet stories, etc…nothing that gives away who you are but lets people have a small lens into your world.

    4. Charm City Law*

      Hi OP#2,
      I just wanted to say that I really feel where you’re coming from. I’m currently 2.5 years in to my first job out of school and I had a group of friends that I regularly socialized with here. A few months ago, one of them completely blew up at me in front of other people because of a misunderstanding. At the time it really hurt my feelings because I considered him a friend, whereas if someone who I wasn’t friendly with did it, I would have just shrugged him off as a jerk I have to work with. Since then I’ve been trying to gradually separate myself from that group. I don’t organize happy hours any more and I only attend those that other people organize sporadically. I’m looking for a new job now (not because of this) and I’m looking forward to having a clean slate with coworkers.
      I admire your ability to pick the good apples and be more reserved. That’s definitely something I’m going for!

      1. LivelyDiscussion*

        Thank you for your kind words. I sincerely hope your situation gets better. I recently moved to a new city myself – like you, I needed a change. :) One thing I’ve learned in the past few months is that if you don’t connect with someone pretty quickly, don’t waste your time trying to “friend” them – just move on to someone else who might better connect with. There are still a lot of “good apples” out there, I promise you! :)

  29. Mike B. (@epenthesis)*

    #1 – Rather than just posting an ad and waiting passively for applicants, you might benefit from trying to recruit via LinkedIn or employee contacts. A career office manager would be less prone to starry eyes.

    #3 – If I didn’t read AAM at work, I’d say that “Is it legal?” should be a drinking game.

    (I would hope any manager who had been caught breaking the rules by an employee would have the good sense to turn a blind eye or issue an informal warning when the situation was reversed, though, assuming it wasn’t part of a pattern of misbehavior.)

  30. Frances*

    Q1 – I’d also think really hard about what future the admin person will have in your company. Is it a stepping stone to other positions? Or will there not be room to move to design/accounts/etc? I think either way is fine, but you should be very clear about that with your job candidates. Although I would mention, that if you want a receptionist to stick around and isn’t interested in is moving on to other types of opportunities, you’re probably best hiring someone with experience and paying them accordingly. So many times I see companies hiring fresh college grads who want to do other things, paying them 35,000/year, and then acting shocked when they get other jobs. If you are ok with a revolving door, that’s fine. If not, plan accordingly.

      1. voluptuousfire*

        +1. Looking for a career admin is a better fit. Tailor your job ad to reflect that this is a straight admin position and that you’re looking for a candidate who is interested in admin work long term, setting up roots, that sort of deal. There’s plenty of career admins who would love to work at a “cool” company but that may not apply due to what could appear as the transient nature of a start up. Many places see admin work as a stepping stone to something else.

    1. Elizabeth West*

      Very good points. I’ve heard too many times from employers that their receptionists have advancement opportunities, when that couldn’t be further from the truth. Yeah, maybe into sales or something. Not everyone wants to do sales (or is good at it) and some people are happy where they are. So it pays to be honest about it.

      If you do have advancement tracks for those positions, that’s great but remember that when you do move someone up, you’ll have to start the hiring process all over again.

    2. Lucy*

      Definitely agree you need to be clear about advancement opportunities (of lack of). I work at a perceived ‘cool’ organization and I often struggle when hiring for entry level admin roles. The trick is finding the right balance of someone who is legitimately interested in the field but at the same time wont be pouty when they aren’t included in some of the more creative and industry specific tasks.

    3. Kerr*

      I wholeheartedly agree with this comment. Figure out what you want, and then make that absolutely clear to your candidates (and pay accordingly). Either way, look for someone with at least some experience, and ask lots of questions and test their software skills.

      FWIW, I take issue with the idea that one can’t be both creative and a great admin at the same time. Based on past employers’ enthusiasm about me, I’m a good admin. However, I’m also an extremely creative type. I have no interest in being a receptionist or admin assistant for 10+ years, but I can happily and competently do admin work for a while, if it means I can get my foot in the door with a good company and move up in a couple of years. The two aren’t mutually exclusive, but you want to make sure that your creative type can also do admin work properly.

  31. SD*

    OP #1, it looks like you’re getting some good advice in previous comments, and I wanted to chime in with a recent interviewing experience I had where I later realized the hiring organization had handled something similar very well.

    I was interviewing for a position that had a lot of “cool” factor on the tech side- I liked the organization itself and the position, but for the so-called right reasons. After all the skills and experience-based questions, I was essentially asked where I felt that cool tech factor fit into the field in general. At the time, I was in the interviewing zone and answered completely sincerely that I felt that tech element was really neat, but that it was only important insofar as it made an actual difference for the people who needed to use it. As I said, I later realized that question was very well set up so that I could have hung myself out to dry by going in a fannish direction– you know “Oh, [tech] is the best thing since sliced bread, it’s going to totally revolutionize [field],” blah blah. (Full disclosure: I did get the job.)

    Basically, I think above comments are right to say that you’re getting a little off-track by looking for assessment tools to tell you who’s good for the job. I think (but keep in mind I only know this from the applicant side!) that you need to look for applicants that do a good job explaining their experience in the areas you need, and that don’t spend a lot of time raving about how they would apply for any position at all with your company. Sure, if you have a reputation as a “cool” place to work, it’s not unreasonable that they might have a sentence in their cover letter about how they’ve heard positive things about you and think they’d be a good fit for the culture there. I think the people who are only after the “cool factor” will make that pretty obvious if you stay focused on what they are telling you (sometimes unintentionally), and don’t get distracted trying to figure them out with tests and puzzles.

  32. The Other Dawn*

    #7: “My cousin made me a CV”

    Your cousin may have made the CV, but you chose to use it. You made that decision. Own up to it. And pull your application so that honest candidates have a chance.

  33. Alan Wexelblat*

    I disagree with your response to #6. I’ve worked at companies that are leaders in their specific industries but if you’re outside that industry you probably would never have heard of them. In addition, I’ve worked for start-ups that no longer exist. I wouldn’t do this for a Fortune 2000 company, but I can’t reasonably expect hiring managers who read my resume to know all the names of places I’ve been.

    What I do is have two paragraphs, the first of which is my role/accomplishments/key items describing the job I did, then a separate paragraph of 1-2 sentences explaining the company. Frex:

    1999-2005, Lead Designer, Chocolate Teapots, Ltd

    Built blah-blah. Led project that did awesome-thing.

    CTL was a top-10 firm in the teapot marketplace. In 2002 they were purchased by Global Teapots.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      But it’s wasting real estate on your resume that could be used to talk about you/your accomplishments, and potentially making you look a little out of sync with resume conventions (which might not matter or might read as slightly naive). If it’s relevant to the work you did there, work it into the blurbs about what you did instead — for instance, “Led XYZ Project at top-10 teapot manufacturer.”

      1. Felicia*

        I’ve worked for a company that most people outside of the industry have never heard of – but i’ve done some moderately impressive things there – i’m always asked what that company does (and how to pronounce the name !) in interviews, but the accomplishments I list are probably what gets me the interviews.

      2. anon..*

        Just a bit of an aside here – I went to my state Dept of Labor last week and the FIRST thing my job counselor said to me was regarding adding an Objective. She even told me word for word what it should be! I thought of you Alison. I told the counselor that I didn’t want to use up ‘real estate’ with an Objective. She seemed surprised. .. sigh. BTW, I’ve been in the work force for several decades and so the objective is even more pointless than it might be for someone with little to no experience.

        Disappointed but not surprised that a State employment agency is giving such outdated advice.

        Thank you for what you do Alison! And to all those that commenter too!

    2. Jen in RO*

      Well… who really cares what the company did? You can be a sucky employee at an awesome company or a great employee at a sucky company.

  34. Ruffingit*

    #7 – why not remove yourself from candidacy for this position? Write a quick email withdrawing yourself from consideration. You lied to get to the background check point to begin with, if you get caught it’s going to look really bad. Remove yourself from being considered and apply to jobs with your real resume.

      1. Anonymous*

        I’m so tempted to make a “that’s what she said” joke….though I suppose I just did. Apparently I am a 13 year old today.

  35. PPK*

    #5 — Is management involved or is this entirely employee led? If it’s employee led, that’s the breaks, I’m afraid. At my work, any non formal celebrations are handled by self made volunteers (weddings, babies). The managers only coordinate company run things (like 25 year anniversary where you get a plaque and some party money). Doing a card or something for someone is pretty arbitrary (aka, do you have a coworker who decided something should happen). I initiated cards a couple times, but stopped because I had no interest in being the one “in charge” of that. Nowadays, we happen to have a department without any said events (babies, weddings) so we don’t have much need anyway.

    For Birthdays, people bring in their own treats. Same for promotions, work anniversaries, etc, you bring in treats for your coworkers. Yes, it’s a bit weird, but it’s what we do. I guess then you can’t complain that someone else got cake and you didn’t.

    1. CupcakeGurl*

      I’m the one who originally asked the question. In the baby shower situation, it was actually manager-led. Long story short, the manager wanted throw Sally a baby shower. She used to manage Sally, but doesn’t anymore. The person who was asked to coordinate Sally’s baby shower (Tina) is actually on said manager’s team. Tina’s birthday was the same day as the baby shower and no one made reference to it, no “Happy Birthday, Tina”, nada. It was actually kind of sad, because Tina had spent a lot of time planning the shower.

  36. Anonymous*

    #1. I just don’t see how you cannot get across to prospective applicants that the work is tedious and undesirable? Perhaps you are somewhat complicit in using the ‘coolness’ factor of the workplace to lure candidates, deliberately blinding them to the reality of the job. Try not revealing the name of the company until you select candidates for interviews. That will for sure ferret out those candidates wholly interested in doing the real job.

  37. Lily in NYC*

    #7, I don’t care if you are young; you are every employer’s nightmare. Your “cousin”, sure. I bet you also have a “girlfriend in Canada”.

  38. Anonymous*

    #5. Unless you’re 5 years old, who cares about birthday cakes at work? Also, when you get of a certain age, sooner for women than for men, who wants attention brought to their age?

    1. Jen in RO*

      Lots of people, actually. You spend more time at work than awake at home, it’s nice to feel that your coworkers care at least a bit about your existence.
      (And this is why I don’t understand attitudes like OP#2’s either. I see my coworkers for 9 hours a day and my boyfriend for 4! I’d go nuts if I didn’t have some sort of personal relationship with my coworkers.)

    2. The Other Dawn*

      Lots of people care about it. I do. It makes me feel like people care and it’s something to look forward to when work starts to feel like drudgery.

      1. Anonymous*

        We’re overburdening the workplace with too much personal/social needs and wants. We’re there to work and get things done. It’s not kindergarten.

      1. Loose Seal*

        Well, to be honest, I don’t like cake. But I agree if some employees get cake provided by the workplace, then all employees should.

        [But if they forgot my birthday, I wouldn’t be sad at all.]

    3. RJ*

      The issue doesn’t seem to be about birthday cake as much as it is about unequal treatment. If no one had cake at work, then it’s not a big deal. But if two of out three peers get cake, and one is excluded, that can be hurtful to many people over the age of 5.

  39. Rich*

    OP1- I don’t think it’s egotistical at all to feel this is an issue (in response to a few posters above). Some companies have a better brand associated with them, and yours is probably one of them. I agree with Alison: play up the parts of the job that will likely turn people off from it. The genuine ones will stay interested.

    OP3- Just follow the rules, because their unfair policy is eventually going to get called out and you don’t want to be the one doing it. They’re going to abuse the rules, especially since they make them; keep calm and carry on until their own abuse bites them in the rear (which it will, if everyone’s work is so crucial).

    OP5- I’d say that maybe you should change the birthday thing a bit. Maybe everyone who wants to be acknowledged gets a card, but you guys only do a cake every 1-3 months and celebrate everyone who had a birthday since the last time. That way, nobody really can feel left out in a case like the one you described.

    OP6- I think that if the name is really something big, it’d be something to bring up on an interview, which negates the need for a description on your resume. The only time I could ever fathom needing a description might be in the case of the company’s name sounding like the antithesis of what you do , but even that falls into the realm of omit/abbreviate. (Example: my wife temped for Company X, but for tax purposes, it called itself Company Y; Company Y’s name almost sounded like my wife was a unionized street walker. She was lucky to have 2 different names and just put the less questionable one on her resume.)

    OP7- At the risk of sounding negative, you very likely will not be getting hired for this job. You could own up to it, but it won’t necessarily help you, and if you point out someone else wrote it, it’s still on you for not making it an honest representation of you. Take it as a learning experience and do better next time.

  40. Brett*

    #3 I am curious how you write such a rule to prevent managerial abuse. Yes, you don’t want your employees calling out a manager over browsing the internet. But does the rule apply to a manager breaking labor law? Violating workplace safety? Committing crimes on or off company time?

    And how do you draw the line then? If an employee believes they are legitimately reporting an OSHA violation, but the company thinks the report is unfounded and just “calling out” the manager and disciplines the employee for it, is the company still following OSHA whistleblower protections?

    1. Max*

      The rule only prevents “calling out” managers directly to their face – like, going up to your manager while he or she is browsing the internet and telling him or her “Hey, you’re not supposed to be browsing the internet during work hours!” The rule doesn’t cover reporting the manager to other people, only directly confronting the manager.

  41. Interviewer*

    #7 Here’s a little mini-scene what I go through when I get the background check results like this:

    “Huh. Let’s see, the school says no one by that name ever went to that school. We have the full name, birthdate, and social. Still no match. Good lord, I hate this part of the job. Now I have to go tell the hiring manager we can’t hire him because his background check didn’t clear, and the hiring manager is going to assume he’s a criminal. Plus, I really fought to hire this guy, and our other top candidate took another job already. That hiring manager is going to be a bear to work with now. Great. I have to start the whole hiring process over again! New ad, more resumes, more phone screens, ugh. Candidates are going to think we’re ridiculous posting ads for the same job all the time, like we can’t keep employees. And poor Susie has already started on his orientation schedule and setting up his office. Now I have call this guy, who already knew this call was coming … even when I told him right up front in the phone screen that he would have to pass a background check. Why didn’t he drop out then & there?”

    (more whining & moaning, plus extra doses of caffeine & chocolate)


    1. Another Emily*

      + a billion

      OP#7, prove to yourself that you do have some integrity and withdraw immediately from this job candidacy.

    2. ThursdaysGeek*

      Ok, but if the school says they don’t know of that person, can you at least give them a call and let them know? Because my college does that — I’m in the dark past where they didn’t computerize the records, and the person answering the phone is just a student helper and doesn’t know that there are records that can’t be looked up on the computer. I can work around that now, but it sure was nice that the interviewer called and let me know my college claimed they hadn’t heard of me.

      In other words, that alone perhaps should NOT be a reason to fail a background check.

  42. Annie*

    Ugh, #5. I worked for a year and a half at a fairly small family-owned company which was obsessed with us employees all feeling like “part of the family”. Except on my 27th birthday, when I was told “Oh, we only do celebrations for ‘big numbers’ like 25, 30, or 40” and handed a card signed by like 3 of my coworkers. Yeah, I really felt like a part of the family after that.

  43. MiddleOfNowhere*

    #5 – I hated celebrating birthdays at my old job. I worked at a small nonprofit and was very poorly paid. To celebrate birthdays, a coworker would buy a present with no input from the majority, and then would just tell you how much you needed to contribute to the birthday present. So someone would walk up to your desk and say, “Hey, you owe $15 for your share of Sally’s birthday present..” Wha???
    People at my NGO loved celebrating birthdays, so there was no hope of reducing that. But I was able to change the system – I put a file folder on my desk and asked people if they were interested in contributing, and to do so by X date. People gave what they could, or didn’t give at all. I didn’t care. I then bought a gift, card (and made sure everyone signed it), cake, etc with the money that was donated – I stayed within the budget. The budget for items dropped significantly, to more reasonable $5 or so.
    My new office does nothing, but I organize my coworker friends to go out to lunch. Others just bring in cake on their day.

  44. JCC*

    #7: Lying on resumes is a reaction to credentialism and “purple squirrel” syndrome.

    Nobody in their right mind would apply for a job as a bicycle courier if they did not know how to ride a bicycle, because the skill is obviously necessary for the job.

    On the other hand, when a bachelor’s degree (in no particular field, mind you) is seen as required to do what is essentially secretarial work, or when several years of experience in a software package is required when the scope of the job duties does not involve anything that needs more than a basic working proficiency, it becomes easy for the qualified-but-not-overqualified to feel tempted to “get their foot in the door”.

    1. anon..*

      THIS. Does anyone who hires have any insight into WHY a degree is needed in basic receptionist/admin/customer service jobs? And I love when a posting lists tuition reimbursement as a perk but and then they require a degree! Drives me nuts/depresses me.

    2. periwinkle*

      You’re talking about two separate issues here:

      It is short-sighted for a hiring manager or HR department to require a bachelor’s degree for positions in which a degree is irrelevant. It is short-sighted to require expert-level proficiency in MS Access for someone who will just run the occasional report from a database someone else designed and maintains. It’s not unethical to do either, just foolish.

      It is short-sighted, unethical, *and* foolish to lie on your resume about having earned a degree if you did not.

      Yes, I understand the temptation because I didn’t get around to finishing my bachelor’s; it wasn’t an issue when I was in IT, but became a major roadblock when I changed fields. The alternatives to lying on the resume are to apply at companies that accept “equivalent experience” or to finish the blasted degree already. (I chose the latter – there are many degree completion programs out there that are designed for working adults)

      1. Lucy*

        I choose to think that if a company thinks my lack of a degree to be more influential in their hiring decision than my many years of industry specific experience then I probably don’t want to work for them anyway.

      1. Green*

        It also depends on the employer. For state or federal jobs, or jobs that are for federal contractors (etc.), there may be even wider consequences (barred from all federal employment, etc.) and legal consequences in some positions.

  45. anon..*

    Not sure if those replies are for me, but for the record I wouldn’t ever lie about having a degree.

  46. Tara T.*

    I once brought in 3 boxes of Krispy Cremes for my boss’ birthday, and most people walked by refusing to take any, because they said they were on Weight Watchers, which had been started at the company. A few guys from a different floor finally came up and finished them off. I decided that was the last time I will ever again be part of the Donut Brigade. Then there is the situation with the 10 cakes a month because so many people are having birthdays at the same time. Or, you have 2 cakes, everyone comes to the kitchen once a month, eats birthday cake in honor of all the employees with birthdays for that month, and gains 20 pounds. I think birthdays should NOT be celebrated in the workplace during the workday. If some employees want to go to lunch together to celebrate another employee’s birthday, that is fine – but not at 10 a.m. or 2 pm at the workplace when employees are supposed to be doing their work.

  47. Tim*

    Seriously. I am gay and live in a state w/o gay marriage. I also have no children. And constantly being expected to contribute gifts to these types of events is seriously taxing. I cannot legally marry my boyfriend, but I am expected to contribute gifts for a coworker’s fourth marriage. Give me a break. And god help you if you’re single…

  48. MR*

    For No. 7, I’d immediately withdraw from whatever position you are currently in the interview phase for. It’s better to back out now, then apply for positions with your correct credentials and save face.

    Employers who have seen your fake credentials may not remember them in a year or so if you were to back out and they never verified the information – but they will remember if they catch you in a lie.

    Stop with this now, and don’t let your ‘cousin’ put together your resume anymore.

  49. Nonymouse*

    Re: #6
    I put a short description. Just a little info actually. I started doing this after numerous interviewers in NYC ignored my six years of experience at a company I worked for in the midwest because they hadn’t heard of it. However, it is a huge NASDAQ traded Fortune 500 company who just doesn’t happen to do business in the NYC area, so they are not aware of it. After explaining it to multiple people, a recruiter suggested I put “Fortune 500 company” and their NASDAQ symbol on the resume. Very soon after making the change I started getting calls for interviews at the larger companies I was applying for.

    1. cecilhungry*

      I agree. I think this is helpful if you’ve worked in local businesses and are applying out of state, especially if the business name doesn’t necessarily tell you what kind of company it is.

  50. Cassie*

    #2: I’m pretty mum about my life too – I like to keep my work and private lives separate. Sure, if my coworker asks mundane questions like “do you watch football?”, I’ll answer. But if he/she asks “what did you do this weekend?”, my default answer will always be “nothing”. It doesn’t matter if I went to the dentist, went to Disney World, got married, whatever. It’s my life and I’ll share it with whomever I want to.

    On the other hand, we still do have to work together and be cordial, so I’d be inclined not to just clam up in these small talk situations. Vague, innocuous answers are best – if they think you are boring, not hiding something, they’ll be less likely to pry. For me, I am just that boring in real life.

  51. hi :)*

    #3 I totally disagree with the site owner. I may not have HR background, however that is unfair. You are being discriminated due to your status in the company. The company is obviously not very transparent. Their morals are wrong. The people “up top” are meant to be role models for the rest of the company. How could anyone listen to a hypocrite? Why are you working for them? Go somewhere they’ll treat you fairly.

  52. Bea W*

    #7 – WHY? Why do people do this? Even if they don’t think it’s wrong, do they not realize it’ll be damn obvious they’re not qualified when they actually have to do the work. This is why employers started doing background checks in the first place, because a small subset of people lie and then get caught only after they’ve really fudged up big time.

  53. ECH*

    #5: At my workplace, we each bring in a treat for our own birthdays. Some of my colleagues think this is not a good idea, but I think it’s brilliant. Solves the problem of people forgetting or people ignoring! And then people tell you happy birthday!

  54. toni*

    About putting a company description under a job on your resume–I sometimes think that’s a good idea, if it’s a brief, one-line explanation, if the name of the company isn’t descriptive of what it does, and the company does something interesting that might intrigue a recipient.

  55. Working Girl*

    #2 I agree with AAM comments – share some unimportant stuff, let them know you have friends outside work and you do regular things like regular people or they may start making up stuff

    #4 I agree with AAM comments. Have a look and see if you want to work for this company or if you have any questions for your next interview in case they want to know if you read it. Check out the company you want to work for.

    #5 celebrations – see this all the time. Some don’t get recognized by th group for birthdays but then the people who snub want everyone to come to dinner to pay for their meal.

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