I don’t want to be an employer’s second choice, manager doesn’t care that our new coworker is horrible, and more

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

1. I don’t want to be an employer’s second choice

I got an interview for an internship, and the interviewer told me they would get back to me on a Tuesday (interview was on Friday). I hadn’t heard back from them on Tuesday so I sent a follow-up email. Interviewer replied back, saying it’s taken a bit more time to meet with all the candidates (even though I knew they interviewed my “competition” on the same day I had my interview), so they would get back to me on Thursday/Friday. Friday came and no news. So the coming Monday, I sent a follow-up email. Before the end of the day, I got a call from the interviewer that they were moving forward with another candidate. I asked for feedback, etc – the reason that I didn’t get it was because the other candidate had IT background, which I don’t have. So I totally accept defeat. After the call, I still sent a thank-uou email for the call and the opportunity and said that I look forward to be considered for future opportunities at the company (I really liked the person who interviewed me, so I was still happy despite the rejection).

So the Thursday of that week, interviewer replied to that thank-you email and asked if I have time for a second interview. Thinking it was another opportunity, I said yes. He called me to give more info. And I found out that I was being interviewed for the same role. Over the phone, he gave me some tips on how I can do better in the interview. Given that I was already rejected, I asked if there was a problem. Interviewer said he felt like he lacked info about me that they are unable to make a decision. Really?

I am done with the second interview but I honestly wanted to cancel the interview all together if I had the chance. Am I making assumptions too early that they just want to interview me again because their first choice rejected them? Am I wrong to feel demoralized to work for a company that only thinks of me as second choice?

Lots of people get hired for jobs as the “second choice,” and there’s nothing wrong with that. This isn’t like dating, where you probably wouldn’t want a date with someone who only asked you out after someone he liked better turned him down. This is employment; it’s not personal if they originally preferred someone else to you. Really, the only relevant question is whether you want the job if it’s offered to you.

I also wouldn’t be too put off that they want to have a second conversation with you. It’s not unreasonable to interview someone twice before hiring them, especially if you still have outstanding questions. In fact, it would be a very bad idea to hire someone when you still have outstanding questions, so it makes sense that they’re asking to talk again — and you can probably get a sense of what those questions are by whatever his “tips” to you were.

2. Our manager doesn’t care that our new coworker is horrible

I work in a small office where we recently added a new position due to our growing business. Our jobs entail a lot of complicated tasks and requires sharp memory and attention to detail. Our new employee has been with us for four months. She does not like to follow directions, argues, and makes mistakes frequently. She always has a bad attitude. We have tried re-educating her on things she makes mistakes on in the nicest way possible, but she still makes the same mistakes and is basically rude. Our manager is pushing us to give her more tasks to learn when she is struggling with the little we have given her. When we told our boss our concerns, she turned everything back on the team like it is our fault she can’t retain anything. The team morale is very low now. What can we do so that our boss address the issue which is the not-so-new employee?

Your manager sounds like she sucks, which might trump anything you try. However, I’d push your manager to recognize what’s going on by continuing to push the problem back to her to deal with. Keep it dry and factual — you don’t want to sound your assessment of your coworker to sound personal — but do go back to her with what you’re seeing, and don’t pull any punches. For instance: “We’ve tried X, Y, and Z to train Jane to handle these projects, but she hasn’t caught on. She sent the wrong proof to the printer this week, and when the client complained, she told him it wasn’t her problem and then left for the day. When Bob tried to coach her on fixing the problem the next day, she told him not to talk to her. All three of us who work closely with her have serious concerns about her ability to do the work she’s charged with. How would you like us to handle this?” If she tells you that you need to give Jane more training, then say, “I’m certainly willing to, but I’ve tried X, Y and Z. Can you help me figure out what else to try?”

But ultimately, you can’t make your manager be a good manager. If she’s resolved not to deal with performance problems, there might not be much you can do to change that.

3. Applying for jobs when I have a specific requirement of the company

I am trying to get licensed as an accountant. My state requires working experience under an active licensed CPA in order to get licensed, and my current manager(s) are all inactive CPAs, which will not fulfill the work experience requirement as mandated by the state. I have decided to start job searching to find a company that is eligible to sign off on my work experience, but how do I convey that in the application process without coming across as snooty/pretentious (“I only want to work for you if you have an active CPA in your company”)? I’d rather not waste their or my time.

I suppose you could say something in your cover letter about this being the reason that you’re looking, but I think you’d actually be better off waiting until a company reaches out to you for an interview or phone screen and asking at that point. (You don’t need to go to the interview to find out; it’s fine to ask over the phone at that point and explain why.) You’re going to be sending in these applications either way, so I’d rather you not get into it in your cover letter and just wait until you’re actually talking to someone.

(You could also try using LinkedIn to figure out if a company has an active CPA on staff, which might help you narrow down your applications.)

4. Resumes when you don’t have much to put in the Education section

I understand that there shouldn’t be any mention of high school on a resume. However, what if you never attended college or had any specialized training of some sort?

Just skip the education section on your resume altogether. It’s not required to put it there.

5. My old manager keeps emailing me job listings that don’t fit what I need

One of my supervisors from a past internship emails me about job openings in my field once in a while. Unfortunately, the jobs have all had an hour and a half or more commute if I drove to them (which I can’t because I don’t have a car), and the jobs don’t pay enough that I’d be able to afford to leave my parents house and move closer. Basically, they’re jobs I can’t apply to. The first time my old supervisor emailed me one of these, I thanked them for keeping me in mind but told them I couldn’t apply because it was just too far away. I didn’t want to seem ungrateful or discourage my old supervisor from emailing me about jobs in the future, so, after that, I started emailing back a thanks for the heads-up and not saying anything else.

Is this a good way to handle it? Or should I let my old supervisor know about my current transportation/living limitations? I’m afraid I’m going to see them/talk to them at some point, they’ll ask if I had any luck with the jobs, and they’ll want to know why I didn’t tell them I wasn’t applying to any of them.

Well, when people send you job listings, they’re not generally expecting that you’ll apply to each and every one; it’s more “here are some listings to look at.”

I don’t think you should keep reminding your past manager about your transportation situation since you’ve already told her one; if you continue bringing it up in response to these emails, it risks coming across as “do a better job of finding me suitable postings.” Instead, just thank her when she thinks of you, and disregard the postings if they’re not right for you. And if she asks you about any of them at some point, you can simply say, “I so appreciate you forwarding me postings that you see! It’s been challenging for me to find something close enough to where I live since I don’t have a car, so the more listings I’m able to look at, the better.” (Note that that’s not a commentary on her specific listings, but rather a broader statement about the challenging you’re facing in your search.)

{ 97 comments… read them below }

  1. EngineerGirl

    #1 – This is so bizarre. Would you walk away from the Olympics if you achieved second place?
    Here’s something you’ll need to know if you want to be successful – there are always going to be people better than you. Always. This will continue to happen for the next 30+ years, so you need to get used to it. All you can focus on is being the best you can be.

    The employer called you back and actually coached you a little bit about interviewing. This is so amazing in itself, especially for an internship. You clearly have someone interested in you who is willing to help you. If you take this internship it most likely will continue.

    A little harsh here , but you need to decide if your ego/disappointment is more important than being employed. The company isn’t there to validate your feelings, and this will harm you if you walk every time you experience a disappointment. It’s the “ouch” part of being an adult. If you want to be successful you’ll need to pick yourself up, dust yourself off, and trundle on forward. Keep doing that and you’ll get to some amazing places.

    1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

      Yes, #1, please get over this now and save yourself the trouble of having to get over it later.

      There is seldom just one perfect candidate for a job. There’s usually a handful of not-perfectly-perfect candidates and the hiring manager has to choose which one to make the offer to. Being the #2 choice could come down to as small a factor as location, 30 minutes from the office vs 10 minutes from the office.

      The job often goes to the second offer made, with happy results all around. One of my most valued employees was the #5 choice in a pool for 3 openings. We did a 3rd interview and extended an offer a month later after one of the new hires didn’t work out. (Unusually strong pool, that one, which is one of the many reasons you can’t worry about your number in line. You can’t control how strong the pool is at any time.)

    2. PEBCAK

      But even weirder, she doesn’t even know that she was the second choice. It could just as easily have been that they were looking for X, Y, and Z, and during the hiring process realized that nobody has all three of those things, so they are now hiring for X and Y.

      Or everyone liked her, and one senior member of the hiring group wanted to hire his nephew instead, and the other six people are trying to talk him out of that.

      Or a dozen other things that can/do go on in the hiring process. It’s best to put it all out of your head and focus on whether this job is a good fit and so on.

      1. anon-2

        Probably WAS the second choice, but as was stated, there was someone else who was #1 — and it didn’t work out (salary wanted wasn’t offered, candidate #1 was counter-offered by his current employer, candidate #1 changed his mind about leaving, etc.). It’s business.

        AND – the “second choice” must have made a great impression – usually, a firm just presses the reset button, and starts the process over again.

        AND – the “second choice” may have been someone else’s FIRST choice after all…

        1. Bea W

          Exactly, being “second choice” this situation is no insult. If there are 2 awesome candidates, the fact of the matter is that there is still only one position open, so the employer has to choose. This doesn’t mean they don’t want you, just that they could only offer the job to one person. If that one person doesn’t work out, they would only call back the “second” if that person was also a strong candidate and a good fit for the job.

          Getting a call back when you didn’t initially get the job, is actually a good reflection on your candidacy, because if they didn’t like you to begin with, they wouldn’t be calling you back at all.

          There are no “sloppy seconds” in employment, especially in this economy where there are more candidates than jobs.

    3. Elkay

      It might be that they’ve decided to run two internships, or that the other person turned them down. One job I applied for when it was first created, didn’t get an interview, it came up again about a year later so I applied again and got an interview and a phone rejection (rather than email because the hiring manager wanted to tell me just how close it was), about a month later I got a call from the hiring manager to say their first choice had dropped out, was I still interested? These things happen and unless there are huge red flags just take the good things as good and get over the bad.

    4. tcookson

      Also, OP#1, they must see something in you, since they have someone who (it seems) better meets their criteria on paper, yet they are still interested enough in you that they’re not willing to seal the deal with the other person until they’ve talked to you again. That is a good thing.

    5. Gjest

      Don’t worry about being “second.” I worked one place where we had to hire our 4th choice for a technician position- and he was awesome. He really was great- great work ethic, perfect personality for the job (even keeled in the face of some pretty weird work dynamics). He stayed with us for 5 years and we were all really bummed when he moved on.

      So, you can be that person! If you want the job, don’t turn it down just because you are second. Just do your best so that you are the person they are so glad they hired after all.

      1. Bea W

        +1 !

        If I like the opportunity and want the job, I don’t care where I ranked or how many people turned down the offer before it got to me. I just care if I get the job! That is the only thing that matters in the end. Once you are in the door, you can put any imagined doubts to rest.

    6. Ruffingit

      +100 AMEN! Don’t turn it into something personal about you. It’s business, they like your credentials/education/whatever enough to bring you in again. Be happy about that and I second what EngineerGirl said about coaching you for the interview. That is rare and should be celebrated when it happens. OP, you’re in a way better position than 99% of job seekers who receive no help or feedback. Take that for what it’s worth, which is a lot!

    7. Marcy

      I totally agree! I was the second choice for my job. Since then, I’ve been promoted twice and doubled my salary. They’ve forgotten all about old whats-her-name that left 6 months after taking the job.

  2. Chocolate Teapot

    Alison has often discussed timelines on here, and whilst it can be frustrating when an interviewer says “We will contact you on X day” and doesn’t, it may well be that something more pressing came up.

    1. Anonymous

      Right. We are hiring for a position on my team and would liked to have it done by now but things keep coming up that are more urgent (internal website went down, huge project came up…) + boss (hiring manager) was off for a week.

      I know candidates were wondering what’s going on so my boss reached out to those in the running to let them know what’s going on.

  3. PEBCAK

    #3) Some states let you look this up online, too…I’m not that well-versed, but you might be able to research with the state registry online or via phone.

    1. De Minimis

      I think most states do have a CPA license lookup, so that can be useful assuming you know a potential manager’s name. LinkedIn can be pretty useful here.

      #3’s issue is pretty common for people who work in accounting jobs outside of public accounting. I would think that larger companies might be more likely to have a licensed CPA on their financial team, although sometimes CPAs go inactive if they leave public accounting.

      I probably wouldn’t talk about it until the interview stage, unless you are looking at switching to a public accounting firm. It depends on the situation, but employers may get the wrong idea that you are just looking for someone to sign off on your license and don’t have any interest in sticking around after that.

  4. Jake

    I wasn’t the first second or third choice at my job. I’ve been a top performer since they hired me.

    Don’t get caught up in the hiring process, it is like college… employers forget about it as soon as you are hired and employees should do the same.

    1. tcookson

      Hiring is definitely not a perfect process. Even at just my current job, I’ve seen the following situations:

      The first-choice candidate had amazing credentials but talked about wanting a federal job eventually. The PTB really, really wanted to hire her, but they were afraid that she was so good that she would probably be offered a better, higher-paying federal job shortly after accepting a job with us. So they went with the second choice, because she seemed to really want the job she was applying for. She has been with us for seven years and has won service awards for her performance.

      The first-choice candidate for another position started the job and worked for three weeks, then she accepted another job somewhere else on campus. We called up the second-choice candidate and she was still available. (The hiring manager had had trouble choosing between the two anyway, so it wasn’t as if the second-choice candidate were a distant second; it was more like there was a 1a and a 1b).

      Several first-choice candidates have turned out to be pieces of work (mostly in the receptionist position). One seemed really personable and efficient, until she started keeping a folder in which she tracked everyone’s comings and goings (she was compiling “proof” that she was mistreated, because everyone else had more leeway in their arrival and departure times than she did). One wowed us with her great personality and then quickly became completely rude and sullen because she resented having to do a job that she was overqualified for.

      I don’t think being the first-choice candidate guarantees that someone is the best person for the job or the best fit with the team; hiring is an imperfect process and sometimes the second- (or fifth-choice) candidate turns out to be the long-term, valued employee.

      1. Jen in RO

        I have a similar story with an acquaintance of mine: she was candidate 1b (because candidate 1a could start sooner). Woman 1a got hired. Less than 3 months later, woman 1a quit, and my acquaintance got the job (and woman 1a was a pretty obvious bad fit from day 1).

      2. AdminAnon

        “One wowed us with her great personality and then quickly became completely rude and sullen because she resented having to do a job she was overqualified for.”

        That describes the exact situation we are having in my office with our current receptionist! She is a great person and seemed like a great fit…for the first 4 months. But now she is snippy and unpleasant almost on a daily basis because she is (very genuinely) overqualified. But hell, I’m overqualified for my job too! And we both knew it going in.

        1. Ruffingit

          That is so ridiculous. When you know you’re overqualified going in, you don’t get to be a jerk. You have a job, do it. If you don’t like the job for whatever reason, then move on so someone who is happy to have the job can do it. Geeze.

          1. tcookson

            I think they start feeling that, after a few months, someone should recognize that they are overqualified and can bring more to the job. Then they want to drop their core responsibilities in favor of more interesting work and resent it when that can’t happen. And with some of the people, we have recognized that they are, indeed, capable of higher-level work, but hey, the phones still need to be answered, supplies ordered, the office machines maintained . . .

            1. Ruffingit

              Yup, you’re right that is likely what is happening. People apply for the job they want, not the job that is being offered. It’s the once I get my foot in the door, I can move up syndrome. That may or may not be true, but one shouldn’t expect it unless it’s explicitely stated as in “We’re looking for a receptionist right now, but there’s definitely room to advance in the areas of…” or something.

              I should admit to my dirty lens here in that I’m sick and tired of people and their bad attitudes when it comes to work. Jobs are hard to find, quit your bitching is sort of my mantra lately.

              Obligatory disclaimer – this doesn’t apply to workplaces where you’re being abused or where there’s been bait and switch, etc. I’m just talking the garden variety job situations where people want to get upset about things.

              1. Marcy

                This is the problem I am having with one of my new employees. I was very careful to mention over and over again in the interviews that this is basically an entry-level data entry and proofreading job. Six months later he is complaining that he is bored and wants to do the work two levels above him. He isn’t even doing his work well yet and he’s bored. Grrr…

        2. Windchime

          This is the reason that employers generally don’t want to hire people who are over-qualified for a position. Some, like you (AdminAnon) are happy to be doing the work they were hired for (or at least able to maintain a pleasant, cooperative attitude), but others grow restless and surly after a short time because they feel that they are doing work that is beneath them. Many people say that they would be happy to do work they are overqualified for, but I think it’s probably more difficult to be content in such a role than they imagined.

          1. AdminAnon

            I spent a solid 7 months working part time retail and looking for a job, so I’m just happy to be here! Plus, as I mentioned, I knew what I was signing up for when I started.

            I understand wanting additional responsibilities and/or higher-level work, but I don’t think the way to get it is by constantly whining that you have a masters degree and shouldn’t have to deal with this problem or that person. But I suppose if that’s the hill she wants to die on…

        3. tcookson

          Also one of our best receptionists ever was completely overqualified for the job, but she didn’t wear it as a chip on her shoulder. She was cheerful, pleasant, helpful, had a wicked sense of humor, and got the job done with no ego interference. We were all very proud of her (and devastated for ourselves) when she left us to complete her doctorate in divinity.

    2. Anonymous

      I have a friend who was a pretty distant second. The company hired the first choice who was a very bad culture fit and left after 30 days. So they called my friend up and basically said they were going to take a chance because he was a great culture fit. He’s since become a top performer and learned all the programs he didn’t know going in. He loves the job, and they love him.

      1. voluptuousfire

        Situations like this just prove how much culture fit can make or break a position. Sometimes even more than skill set. I’d wager a good portion of many jobs can be trained/taught but someone who gets along with everyone and understands the company mindset is priceless. You have to think “do I/we want to work with this person 40+ hours a week?” If it’s no, you’ve got your answer.

  5. Malissa

    #3 Go ahead and say in your cover letter that you are a CPA candidate. This is assuming you’ve taken and passed at least one part of the test. That will clue anybody in with a CPA that you’re going to need to meet the experience requirement. For those not familiar with the requirements of becoming a CPA having that phrase in there will make the conversation easier.
    But if I were you I’d limit where you are applying now to CPA firms. Because that’s really where you need to work to gain the experience and existing CPAs will know exactly why you are applying.

    1. De Minimis

      That’s the common roadblock for people who are doing something else in accounting…the traditional path is to start at a CPA firm, pass the exam, get your experience requirement, then usually make the transition from public accounting to other fields. Going the opposite direction is possible, but can be tough to do. I went to school with a guy who was already working in accounting with a private company. He had the same issue, no CPAs on staff where he worked, so as far as I know he decided to just focus on cost/managerial accounting and not pursue a CPA.

      There are certifications for cost/managerial accounting, but they definitely lack the name recognition/value of the CPA. But a person can certainly have a good career in accounting without being a CPA.

        1. De Minimis

          A lot of schools really push public accounting and the CPA, I think students are more or less indoctrinated that any other career path is second-rate. Which is really a shame, since most people’s time in public accounting ends up being a small portion of their career and they often end up working in industry anyway.

          I used to belong to one of the management accounting organizations, it seemed like a lot of their journals were focused on how they could get greater exposure for the CMA as a credential.

        2. Malissa

          CMA is a good credential, but limiting. It’s mostly for people who want to work in medium to larger businesses. It doesn’t have the emphasis on taxes and tax law like the CPA. If an accountant wants to stay in corporate for their entire career, it’s actually a very smart move to get the CMA. But if an accountant wants mobility then they have to know taxes. And with the IRS ruling that only enrolled agents or CPAs can file taxes for others with-out extra certification, having the CPA makes it easier.

          1. Jamie

            That makes sense. I’m neither, but my accounting responsibilities are cost accounting (inventory valuation, job costing, labor breakdowns, forecasting labor and materials based on sales, P&L, etc.) So when I briefly toyed with the idea of going back to school I was looking at a CMA and that was what I found most applicable…but I don’t touch taxes or the 401K financial stuff.

  6. Sabrina

    #5 – I have a similar problem with a friend of mine. She means well, but keeps sending me postings that are 1. in our current city, which I realize is where she wants me to stay, but I want to move, 2. Not related to either what I or my husband do. For instance she’ll send me programming jobs for my husband, who works in IT but is not a programmer. But I realize that’s probably because people who aren’t in IT often times think that it’s all the same, which it isn’t. At least she means well.

  7. Diet Coke Addict

    I think #2 may actually be in my office–the timeframe, small office, woman being utterly resistant to learning how to do things our way, etc….but our boss is a man. But it’s literally the same exact issue. It’s frustrating that she is constantly telling us she knows how to do things because she’s in college (returned to school as a non-trad)–when two of us went to university and earned Masters.

    But considering that the boss took three months to fire my predecessor who was SMOKING WEED IN THE OFFICE, I think we’re stuck with her for the long haul.

    1. Jake

      If we weren’t instantly fired for getting a positive drug test (let alone doing it at work) we would have dozens of people getting high at work. Some of our best people have made the comment “the only reason I don’t still smoke is I’d lose my job.”

    2. Windchime

      Oldjob didn’t fire a guy who was caught in a wiring closet watching videos with his pants down, so I can totally relate. We were all astounded that wasn’t enough to get the guy canned (on top of all his other antics).

      1. ExceptionToTheRule

        I thought it was pretty hard to get fired from my company, but even WE fired the guy we caught in that situation.

  8. Mary

    #2 I am having some issues the same as this, but I am the manager. Our new hire started in September and it was only on Friday that I started to get some negative feedback from my team. So far nothing concrete but I want to handle it straight away before it becomes a serious issue. Without going into a she siad, you said scenario what is the best way to approach it.

    I was thinking of saying

    “Well Jane you have been with the team 3 months now and I am beginning to get some feedback that your attention to detail is not as expected in this department. After training in our systems and processes I would fully expect you to be up-to-speed now. How can you address this going forward.”

    My only concern is that I have no specific examples to give her.

    1. The Other Dawn

      I’d go back to the team and ask for concrete examples. If they can’t give you any, then maybe the issue is them getting along with the new employee or not liking the fact that she approaches something differently. Don’t go to your new employee without examples, though.

      1. Sadsack

        I agree with TheOtherDawn, it is extremely difficult to take a criticism without an example. How is she supposed to know exactly what she’s doing/not doing wrong without one? It will be impossible for her to answer, “How can you address this going forward,” if she has nothing to go by.

      2. Vicki

        Here too. If it’s “nothing concrete” it needs to be nailed (cemented? :-) down immediately.

        I’ve been on the other end of “I’ve had a vague no-details complaint about you from an unnamed source” and it makes the employee lose all remaining respect for the manager in one 5-minute conversation.

    2. Long time no see

      I’d also start by first asking her how she thinks it’s going. If she knows she’s struggling, that’s a different problem than if she thinks she’s doing great.

    3. Ask a Manager Post author

      Yeah, go back to your team and get specific examples. Also, if you can, now that you now there’s a problem, try to poke around in her work yourself so you can get a feel for her work quality firsthand.

    4. Ann Furthermore

      Please give her specific examples. One of the most difficult and upsetting work experiences I ever had was the result of very negative feedback from my manager who refused to provide me with examples of my alleged performance issues.

      And just because you have to deliver negative feedback doesn’t mean that it has to be a negative conversation that leaves the employee upset. If you have specific examples, you can say something like, “Well, I’ve been told that you’re struggling with [specific process]. Can you tell me why you’re having trouble with that, and let’s see if we can come up with a solution?”

      Without specific examples, she’ll just get discouraged and think that she can’t do anything right. This will in turn cause her to start having more performance issues.

      1. anonymous

        This is exactly right. I have never gotten feedback face to face. My group ALWAYS waits until my review time to unload, and I’m always blindsided. Top of that, I don’t get much POSITIVE
        feedback.

        The result of all this is that I am depressed, and a part of me is convinced that I’m unemployable, and that’s why I’m not able to find a new job. (I have been looking quite actively for a long time!)

        Don’t do this to your employee, PLEASE!

        1. Another Option-Karin

          Try flipping this around: rather than waiting for feedback decide what you want/need to know about your work performance and go out and ask for feedback. When we get negative feedback dumped on us our natural defences get pretty active quickly and that is hard to move on from. When we make the decision to go ask for feedback we can ask for the good stuff and the ‘needs work’ stuff to get a realistic picture of where we stand. It also allows us to prepare ourselves to simply listen to the feedback, ask good questions to get better information, and then take it away and analyze it. This is one way of getting around a workplace culture in which ongoing, consistent feedback doesn’t happen-we take control of our situation. And having the information and taking action helps how we feel about everything.

    5. Lily

      Is it possible to leave out “After training in our systems and processes I would fully expect you to be up-to-speed now.”? if this is the first conversation on performance issues? Or am I too soft?

    6. Another Option-Karin

      For a new hire to wait three months to find out the co-workers think they are not meeting performance expectations is pretty hard on that person. The first conversation with this employee might be best served as a ‘how are you doing?, are you getting everything you need to do your job, do you have any questions about the work so far, what are you feeling most challenged by–type of discussion. It might be far more helpful to learn from the employee first what their perspective is at this point. The answers likely will offer a few surprises and some insight to the situation.

  9. Lily in NYC

    #1 – I can’t help but laugh at this – seriously, get over yourself. If I had that attitude, I would have lost the best job I’ve ever had. I was rejected and told that they told me although it was close, they went with someone with more experience. Two weeks later, they called me to say she was a bad fit and asked if I was still interested. I ended up there for 5 years, and only left because I moved out of state.

  10. Trillian

    A couple of suggestions for #2.

    Try changing your mode of instruction and feedback. If you’ve been giving her instructions and corrections verbally, try giving them in written form, or vice versa. In his essay on “Managing Oneself” in the Harvard Business Review (Google it; it’s available), Peter Druker talked about the distinction between readers and listeners, and what an impact it can have on performance and reputation – and the fact that most people have no insight into their own preferred mode. He takes Dwight Eisenhower and Lyndon Johnson as examples.

    If you are attempting to give corrections in ‘the nicest possible way’, but at the same time getting together to complain about her to each other and to the manager, consider how that appears to her. She will have noticed. While it doesn’t excuse the rudeness and defensiveness, it’s not going to help getting the message across if she feels excluded and unable to trust you.

    1. Clever Name

      This is a really great point. I’m the type of person who is really direct, and I have difficulty reading between the lines. I genuinely appreciate it when others are direct with me. So, if someone tries to give me feedback “in the nicest way possible”, I’d probably miss the message entirely. Your coworker may need someone to sit down with her and say, “You are doing things XYZ, which is wrong and needs to change. You need to do ABC instead.”

      1. Windchime

        Such a good point! I’m also a direct person who has trouble reading between the lines, and yet it seems like so much business communication is done in a vague, touchy-feely way. When someone says, “Have you considered doing task XYZ like this?”, that sounds like a question to me, NOT a directive. If you want me to do it like that, *tell* me, don’t just ask a vague question and expect me to understand that you are giving me a directive.

        1. Vicki

          “Yes, I considered that, but it’s not the way we did it at OldJob”.

          “Yes, I considered it but didn’t like it.”

          “No, I didn’t. Why are you asking?”

  11. Audiophile

    As someone currently in the midst of a job search, I’d love to be an employer’s second choice. I used to take rejections really personally, until I realized it wasn’t worth my time and sanity, to get so upset. Plus, there’s always a silver lining – the job’s too far away, it doesn’t pay enough to live on, etc.
    Thanks to this blog and many of the commenters here, I’ve learned to just roll with the punches.

    1. Felicia

      I figure if I get the job, even if I was the second or third choice, they liked me enough to offer me the job and when i’ve got the job it doesn’t matter

    2. Ruffingit

      Rolling with the punches is such a great life skill. It’s just not worth getting upset about stuff that doesn’t really matter at all. Good for you!

  12. The Engineer

    I was second choice for my current position. Been here for over five years now. Work closely with the first choice candidate and know why they didn’t accept, but it really doesn’t matter. I have a great job that was a career advancement with better pay, benefits, and shorter commute.

  13. Cthulhuchick

    I would be delighted to be an employer’s second choice if it meant I got a job I wanted. It’s not like they’re “settling,” you’re #2 out of X people who applied. Right now I’m one of 2 or 3 people doing the final interviewing for a job. That’s out of however many others they phone interviewed and even more that applied. While just getting that far might be a letdown if I don’t get it, it wouldn’t be a letdown to come in second to someone AND still get the job!!

    This isn’t being a backup prom date.

    1. Cthulhuchick

      (To clarify abt the prom date–once you’re hired I doubt your employer’s going to spend time pining for the “one that got away.” They’ve got other priorities.)

  14. JCDC

    #1: Was this one of your first interviews? If so, I can understand the concern. Being the “back-up” in other areas of life isn’t fun, so you’re probably assuming that the same applies in employment. But that truly is not the case. People end up in jobs for which they were the second (or third, or fourth) choice all the time, and it’s not going to affect your experience once you’re there. The tiniest things can separate Candidate A from Candidate B, and they wouldn’t hire you at all if you weren’t right up there. And even if you were not the tip-top candidate, very few people even will know that, and they’ll forget about it as soon as you start doing well. In one of my first full-time jobs, I knew for a fact that I was not the top choice — it never came up after that fact, and I had a great relationship with my boss. So don’t fret!

  15. Ruffingit

    Being second choice reminds me of something I heard from an Olympic athlete once:

    “I didn’t lose the gold, I won the silver.” Right on. It’s a medal, take it and go with it. It’s a job, take it and go with it.

  16. OP #5

    Thanks for answering my letter Alison!

    I think I was under the impression that she was expecting me to apply to all the job listings she sent because when my relative send me job listings (ridiculous ones, like for jobs I’m not at all qualified for or that are in other states!), they ask me if I applied to them when I see them and are then disappointed that I didn’t.

    I’ll definitely use your response that about how challenging finding a job has been and that the more I look at the better.

    1. Green

      It’s also worth thinking whether you are placing artificial “restrictions” on your job search and whether those things are NECESSARY or just preferences, particularly if you’re looking for your first paid position.

      Is it really that expensive to live where the jobs are? Are you sure you can’t afford it, even if you have a roommate? Are you sure you can’t purchase a car? Buying a beater may be an investment in your career.

      1. OP #5

        I used most of my savings to pay for school so I wouldn’t have to take out loans, and I’ve done a bunch of unpaid internships, so I really don’t have money for a car (and maintenance for it) or to move right now. And the entry level jobs I’m looking at pay from about $8-$15 to start, so they aren’t paying so much that I’d suddenly/easily be able to afford a car or to move.

  17. fposte

    OP #1, keep in mind that organizations often won’t hire at all if they don’t like the candidates–they’re always free to declare a failed search and repost the opening. They’re not going with you because you’re least worst, they’re going with you because they liked you and thought you’d bring something to the organization, otherwise they’d likely just repost and start over.

    I’ve hired close second choices and been delighted to have them; I’ve also had first choices where the difference between the person getting the offer and the person nearly getting an offer was purely a taste call because the competence was equivalent. There’s no reason to assume you’re a grudging compromise.

    1. A Bug!

      You can also be an employer’s first choice, but not their preferred choice. Some employers do settle for a candidate that they might not have otherwise even considered, just because they’re not getting applicants of the quality they’re seeking.

      You really don’t know, unless the employer tells you. The only thing you can do is look at the offer on its merits, and do your best to be the right choice even if you might not have been the first choice or even a preferred choice.

  18. A.Y. Siu

    It’s funny–I’ve been on the hiring end of jobs, and I’ve also worked in admissions (secondary and post-secondary). The idea in either that being a second choice means you’re inferior or less desirable in some way has absolutely no foundation in reality.

    In fact, for school admission, there are often solid “accepts” that are not as desirable as certain “waitlist” candidates. The whole decision process is very complex. People who think it’s just pick the candidates with the most “merit” have obviously never worked in admission before.

    For work hiring, it’s usually even fuzzier, as most jobs wouldn’t find any kind of test scores or grades to be useful in the hiring decision-making process at all. I’ve been in situations in which we’ve hired someone we thought we were settling for, and the hire amazed us with above-and-beyond day-to-day performance. I’ve also been in situations in which a supposed “rock star” hire turns out to be a dud who does nothing useful and, in fact, creates more work for other people.

    In my own job-seeking life, I’m rarely the first pick, and it hasn’t been an ego blow at all! My first major full-time job, I was looking for an English position, and the school had hired someone else. I got an English-admission hybrid position at that same school, and when I met the person they hired for the position I’d originally applied for, I immediately thought “I’d have hired her over me, too!” Still, at the last three jobs I’ve had, I was not the top pick, but I’ve been praised over and over by supervisors and co-workers for how well I do the job.

    Just think about it for a second from the hiring manager’s perspective. All she has is a piece of paper listing your accomplishments, a brief introductory letter, and a 30-minute or full-day interview…. well, and a few references. Those are good indicators, sure. They are not, however, a guarantee on how well she can read your future performance.

  19. Sophia

    Hope this doesn’t come off as spam (I’m not her!) but here is a piece that would be of interest to everyone here: Rivera, Laura. 2012. “Hiring as Cultural Matching: The Case of Elite Professional Service Firms” American Sociological Review 78(6): 999-1022. May be common sense to commenters here!

  20. OP #1

    Thank you for posting my question and your feedback, Alison! And to everyone who has commented on Question #1, I really appreciate it. It has been an eye-opening experience for me and many of you raised really valid points. I guess I just felt that they are only considering me because either or all: 1) “first choice” rejected the offer; 2) they are desperate to hire an intern because their current intern is leaving to go back to school and that they need a replacement ASAP; 3) assuming 1 & 2 are right, they have no other choice.

    I recognize my attitude on this matter was not right. I guess if I can just say, another factor that might have added to this is because I have a couple of interviews lined up by a company that I really really want to work for (first choice company). I am not exactly a super stellar candidate and know that there are many who will always be better than me.

    But again, I understand that I was wrong and as Alison said, it boils down to whether or not I want the job if I do get the offer.

    Regardless, I want to say thank you to everyone for the feedback and am really grateful for it!

    1. EngineerGirl

      You just demonstrated a highly desirable characteristic – a teachable spirit with the ability to self correct when new data is presented.

  21. Kou

    #5 Somewhat related, is there a good way to redirect people in your network who send totally off-base job listings? Or should you just leave it alone?

    I don’t mean something that’s due to a misunderstanding, either, but listings with just strange problems, as if they didn’t read the whole thing. This happened to me a lot last time I was job hunting and this letter reminded me again how weird it felt to have people seem to go out of their way to help you but then not even read the ad. People would send listings for jobs requiring advanced degrees I didn’t have, in cities I wasn’t close to– one person kept sending listings for physicians for some unfathomable reason. I didn’t know how to say “I appreciate it but I’m not a doctor” without sounding snippy, so I usually just said nothing.

      1. HeadShrinker

        LOL! Yeah, people and their help indeed. It’s nice they want to assist you, but it’s been my experience that most people do not understand the nuances of professions (that they are not in themselves) enough to really help. I have a master’s degree in counseling and I’ve had people send me job listings for school counselors (entirely different license than I currently hold), psychologists (you need a Ph.D. for that) and even for a psychiatrist (that would be an M.D.). It’s nice they want to help, but they don’t have a clue about the profession and the different licenses and what those licenses mean/entail.

        I just generally thank people for the assistance and delete the unhelpful emails.

    1. OP #5

      One of my relatives would just google something like “chocolate teapot maker New Jersey” and then send me whatever came up, which was always just way off-base stuff. Good to know this type of unhelpful helpfulness isn’t only being directed at me.

      1. Kou

        Nope. It’s weird, it’s like some important part of people’s brain shuts off when they try to do this.

        1. Green

          I’m sure some people send some truly unhelpful links, but just thank them for the thought. It’s like getting a bad Christmas present — you don’t tell them all the reasons why it was a crappy gift, you appreciate the thought, and move on.

          Also, not saying this is the case for anyone in particular, but they may also be trying to tell you that you need to adjust your expectations regarding the narrowness of the field you’re seeking, your minimum salary, your geographic location, your exact job duties, etc. Nobody wants to hear that, but if you don’t have a job, you should be open to some honest self-reflection.

  22. Anony

    This is farfetch but I like this advice you gave under #1:

    “This isn’t like dating, where you probably wouldn’t want a date with someone who only asked you out after someone he liked better turned him down. ”

    I’m going through the exact same thing. Thanks for the reassurance.

  23. AnonyT

    Wow, #2 is the same deal I had with my last job, but at least our manager isn’t blaming the team for her failures. He’s still a big softy though, and hates…managing.

    For some of the issues, I got it in writing. She was a terrible bully and I took it up to people over and over, and when it continued, I filed a report.

    As more people got alienated by her, less people tolerated her. Just keep encouraging other people to talk to the manager. Sometimes people have to come down instead of letting coworkers deal with it.

  24. Cassie

    #1: One of my friends was the 2nd choice for her position. The person that was hired before her lasted all of 3 days. My friend got a promotion after a few years, followed by another promotion (to a management position) a few years after that. Sure, it stings not to be the top pick, but a job is a job. If the job fits your criteria, why not?

    #3: My state has a searchable directory for CPA-licensed individuals and firms. I just typed the state I live in and the acronym CPA into google. I imagine most states have some sort of searchable database.

  25. De Minimis

    I think a lot of states are obligated to do it so the public can research licensees, see if there are any complaints, etc.

  26. Anonymousdr

    Responder “Trillian” (#2): Well said, and thank you for articulating the employee’s side of this issue. I know I’m not the only one who has been – at least somewhat – clueless about my performance being up to standard within an incredibly short time frame (3 months is too long?? Or is it just specific fields that have a low tolerance for the learning curve?) and, just as well as I knew that “something” wasn’t going right (even with polite, professional requests for feedback that yielded no major concerns), my perceptions of the team were that they were catty, spiteful, competitive, and antagonistic to new staff (not just me). The main thing I took from all that was that the environment was toxic, which, by the time my manager gathered enough feedback from the gossip mill to feed back to me (that I took VERY seriously), had become my greatest concern about my workplace. So Trillian is right – the employee will make his/her own interpretation of the staff’s behavior, and it will likely lead to a vicious cycle where no one is happy and no actual work can be done productively. You may be surprised by how welcome direct feedback to the employee can be!

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