red flags when interviewing, asking to work remotely, and more

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

1. Am I right to be concerned about this job prospect?

I am getting ready to graduate with my bachelor’s degree in two weeks. A networking contact of mine recently arranged for me to interview at a Fortune 500 company where he works. He is a director at this corporation, and I met with him and a fellow director in the same department. I liked what I saw in the company; they have a vision that I am in agreement with, and at a high level, I was excited about the projects I saw underway and how this department worked with (instead of for) the business to facilitate its goals. The meeting went very well, so it was decided to proceed to a formal interview.

When I arrived for the interview, the first person I was supposed to meet didn’t show up; they were out of town and had been inadvertently scheduled. Then HR arrived and began discussing burnout issues in the company and how stressful the work environment could be. I certainly caught the hint, and was a bit concerned, but felt that I had worked in similar environments before, so if I had a good manager, I should be able to get up to speed quickly.

The manager came in next. It seemed difficult to establish rapport with him. I wasn’t getting any feedback from my responses and that flustered me (really, more than I should have allowed it to). When it came time for me to ask questions, he was unable to answer what my responsibilities in the position would be, what my priorities would be, or how what a successful team member looked like to him. He also mentioned that he was a new manager.

In short, I’m seeing several red flags here. I think the major concern would be that this would be my first professional position and I am still unclear what the expectations would be, and my short time in trying to communicate with the person I would be reporting to was not as productive as I would have liked. Balancing those concerns is the state of the current job market and a probable case of impostor syndrome on my part. So, I’d like your opinion – am I over thinking this, or should I hold out for a better opportunity?

A manager who can’t answer questions, describe what work you’d be doing, or what success would look like is a huge red flag. What was his demeanor about all this? If he seemed to get that this was problematic and indicated that it was due to him being new to the role himself but that he’d be ironing these details out in the near future, that could be a mitigating factor — in that case, I’d want to check in with him on what had been solidified before accepting the job. But if he seemed nonchalant about it, as if he didn’t realize or didn’t care that what he was saying was a big problem, that is a glaring DANGER sign.

2. Asking to work remotely

For the last year, I’ve worked in a small department that has gone through some changes recently. Onsite, we have the VP, myself and one other employee. We also have two employees who used to be onsite but now work remotely since relocating with their husbands. Another full-time employee is due to come in a month, and a part-time employee may come on if it fits the budget.

I’ve also been in a long-distance relationship for the past 4 years and although everything’s going well, I’m getting tired of delaying the next step (wedding bells) and fully enjoying our relationship because our jobs haven’t allowed us to get remotely close to one another. It’s also a strain on our time and finances to fly to see one another every 3 months or so. Relocating to his town would be wonderful, but it’s very small and I haven’t had any luck in my job search there. There’s a small possibility he could relocate here, but it hasn’t happened as expected. He makes double what I do and loves his job, unlike me (due to issues with my only on-site co-worker).

I would love to have the option of working remotely and, since we have two remote employees now, I figure there’s at least a small chance of it being a possibility for me. How can I bring this up to my VP? If he says yes, then great. But if he says no, I don’t want to be out of a job or for him to think I’m trying to get out of here. Is there a way to word it so I can have the best of both worlds?

I’d float the idea as something that you don’t have definite plans for, and that you’re not planning on doing in the near future. As in: “I don’t have any immediate plans for this, but in thinking long-term, if I ever wanted to move to be in the same city as Bob, would continuing to stay in my role, but from Montana, be a possibility?” (Of course, if you take this approach, you can’t come back the next day and say you’ve decided to move … but you could do it in some amount of time less than a year.)

3. Can I ask to have my title changed?

I was hired at a company five and a half months ago as a Junior Copywriter. Upon my hiring, my boss was promoted to Senior Copywriter. He was subsequently fired a few months later. I’m now the only writer on staff, and would very much like to simply be titled as “Copywriter.” I’m six years into my writing career and believe this makes sense, plus my workload has increased two-fold since the shift. Is it appropriate to ask for a change of title?

Theoretically, sure … but you’ve only been there five and a half months, which is very early to ask for a title change, even though your workload has shifted. And I’m especially wary of you doing it after the person who presumably hired you was just fired, since you don’t know what might be going on. I’d hold off for a little while, show that you’re awesome, and then raise it in a few months. (Also, are they replacing your boss? If so, you’d want to wait for that person to start and get the lay of the land first.)

4. When should I ask my contact to put in a good word for me?

I recently came across a job that sounds absolutely perfect for me, and I’m incredibly excited to apply. Using your cover letter tips, I think I’ve written a decent cover letter, and I certainly feel I’m qualified. However I am nervous, as all job seekers are, that my resume and cover letter will be thrown into a pile with all the others.

I have a contact who works in the same field who knows people at this company I would like to work for. At what point should I ask them if they would be willing to put in a good word for me? When I submit my application? If I get an interview? I’ve been unemployed since graduation in May and REALLY want this job!

Ask them right after you submit your application, to increase your chances of being called for an interview. Once you’re being interviewed, it’s really going to be all about your own merit (unless your contact knows your work really well and knows the interviewer really well and can vouch for you), but at the resume-screening stage, simply having someone they know and respect say “Hey, you should take a look at Rosamund Bloopfly, who just applied for your XYZ job; she’s smart and talented and would be a good fit” can be what gets you called for an interview.

5. Can I explain to interviewers that my current company doesn’t care about employees?

When job searching, if someone asks why you’re leaving a company, is it a bad idea to tell them my current company doesn’t care about its employees and doesn’t seem to reward hard work? (I’ve heard from various people that top management doesn’t care about employees and the attitude is pretty blatant through the review system and interactions I’ve had).

Yes, that is a bad idea. Badmouthing a previous employer is a deal-breaker for many interviewers.

{ 72 comments… read them below }

  1. Colleen

    Alison, the first sentence of your answer to #4 doesn’t make any sense. I think you missed some words there.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      “After you submit your application, to increase your chances of being called for an interview” was intended to mean “Ask them right after you submit your application, to increase your chances of being called for an interview.” I clarified it in the post. Thanks!

  2. PEBCAK

    #1) How close is this “networking contact”? Is this someone you could go back to and discuss your concerns? If “networking contact” is a euphemism for “mom’s best friend” or “uncle” or something, and you could be candid with that person without any risk to your relationship, I would see if I could get him to weigh in.

  3. Ex Mrs Addams

    #5 – I’d you want to be honest, but also avoid the stock “looking for more opportunities” answer, I would be inclined to answer a slightly different question to the one that’s asked. Don’t explain why you’re leaving your current job, but do explain why you applied/why you want the job/company you’re interviewing for. E.g

    “why do you want to leave Wakeens Teapots?”
    “my work there focuses on mainly spout design and I know Chocolate Teapot Company have exciting research going on in using candy canes as teapot handles and I’d love to be a part of that.”

    1. Felicia

      That’s what i have done in the past! Past company sucks and has really high turn over because of it, but i just talk about what about the new role that id really like to be doing that i wasn’t doing before. So instead of why you don’t want to work at your old company, you say why you’d prefer to work at new company

    2. Anonymous Two

      This is really good advice, and a nice positive spin. It puts the emphasis back on why you’re a great fit for the new position, which is what you want the hiring manager to take away from the interview.

      I will add, however, that the OP should not underestimate the importance of the advice from Alison and Sarahnova – I’m a hiring manager, and I would not hire someone who followed the course OP #5 outlined in the question. That would be the case even if I personally knew what the interviewee was saying to be true – it’s such a huge departure from accepted professional norms that I would reject a candidate on those grounds (not understanding and following the “rules” for interviewing) even if the former employer deserved the negative assessment.

      I’m not saying that these things are never discussed – they are – but they should never be raised in a job interview.

      1. Not So NewReader

        I feel that actions speak louder than words. If life at Old Job was dreamy then the applicant would still be there.
        For the OP, assume that the interviewer already knows why a person would leave your former employer and totally skip mentioning the negative stuff that was there.
        I have had interviewers say “OMG you worked for Dave at ABC for 4 YEARS??? HOW did you do that? Oh never mind, you have to have something in place or you would not have lasted that long.”
        I just smile and change the subject. My point has been made for me. No need to expand on it.

  4. Sarahnova

    LW #5, here’s why you can’t say “because my company treats people badly”, even if they really, honestly do and it feels unfair:

    The people interviewing you know that companies sometimes suck. They also know that there are two sides to every story and that, for every genuinely sucky company, there is an employee who is a diva, entitled, or suffers from delusions of grandeur. In an interview situation, they know that they have no way of determining successfully whether you are the problem, your employer is, or a bit of both. What they DO know is that they barely know you, and in a formal situation with clear boundaries around what’s to be shared, you are already complaining. You see what I mean? The situation forces them to err on the side of your being the problem, because simply trusting that you’re a levelheaded person is too big a risk.

    1. Rachel

      While I agree with this, I do feel that in the job search companies in general are more likely to side with your company than with you – meaning, if you complain about the company, they vacillate because they don’t know whether you are the problem, but almost never will a company doubt your current supervisor’s or company’s assessment of you. The whole reference-check process is kind of a double standard when you think about it in that vein; if you complain about your boss, you are immediately cast into suspicion, but if when they check references your boss complains about YOU, they will almost NEVER say, “oh, gee, I wonder if this boss is the actual problem.” Some may, but in general they’ll believe your boss immediately and not question whether or not he was difficult to work for, HE was the problem, the COMPANY was at fault, etc.

      At least, that’s how it seems. But maybe I’m wrong. I’m not a hiring manager. Perhaps someone who is can weigh in. If a boss gives a negative reference on a candidate your interviewing, do you suspect that the boss may be the problem rather than the candidate at all?

        1. IronMaiden

          Rachel makes a good point about this being a double standard.
          Some time ago I interviewed for a new position in my organisation that seemed like a great fit. In fact they told me after the interview I was their best candidate and offered the position on the spot. Due to office politics and meddling, I was unable to take the position at that time but I always had it in the back of my mind. Recently a colleague told me they were interviewing again, so I called them and had a mini interview and was again offered a position which I accepted. I asked my boss at the time for a reference which she said she was “delighted” to do. Well, her reference was not good. She said she “didn’t know” if she would hire me again, that I didn’t handle change well and that there was an issue with sick leave (it is true that this year I had rather more time off than ususal after being diagnosed with a chronic condition that she knew about and I am now managing well. The irksome thing is she didn’t raise it with me if it was a problem.) My other reference said I was a clever person, communicated professionally and was a responsible team leader. In this case, the immediate boss who gave a poor reference was the one who looked like the problem because her assessment didn’t accord with the assessment of the interview panel or my other referee.

          1. IronMaiden

            I have been working in the position for 4 months now and am up to speed, enjoying the work, and managing sudden and rapid change well.

      1. Laura

        Yes, but in both cases they’re actually erring on the same side. They’re not concerned with “is the speaker honest” but “will the candidate be a good employee” – and if they are concerned that the answer might be “no” they will not hire.

        If your boss is the problem and gives you a bad reference, they have not lost much, they just hired another candidate. You lost out, but unless you’re miles above everyone else, they didn’t.

        Part of the hiring process is risk management. Any new employee is a risk. The hiring process is an attempt to reduce the degrees of uncertainty and the risks they carry with them, specifically regarding only one case – the case where that person is hired. If the end result still has too much risk relative to the value they think you’ll bring, then they’re not going to jump.

        And remember, the “value they think you’ll bring” is not (usually) weighed against the position being open, but against the value of a different choice from their candidate pool. In rare cases – with a small or poor candidate pool – the top candidate may be weighed against the risk of leaving the position open for a while longer while hunting, but that’s not often what’s happening.

        1. Cat

          Yes exactly. And if the boss who trashed a former employee in a reference check then interviews with that same person later, the tone of that reference may well come into play whe considering the boss as a future colleague.

      2. CAA

        Well, you mostly do get to choose who you use as references, so if you’re not able to give me the names of three people who will say you do good work, then I am going to be concerned about your ability to do the job I’m hiring for.

        I don’t ask to speak to your current supervisor (I know some companies do insist upon it though), but I would like* at least one reference to be someone who supervised you in some previous position. If everyone who’s ever supervised you would fail to give a good reference, then that is also going to make me wonder about you. If you’ve had one boss who was unreasonable and didn’t like you, then just don’t give me his name as a reference.

        * I am flexible on the “must have a supervisor as a reference” requirement. If you can’t accommodate this, then you just have to be able to explain why without saying “all 5 of my previous bosses hated me.” Acceptable reasons are along the lines of “he is deceased”, “he now lives overseas and we’ve lost touch”, etc.

        1. IronMaiden

          Because it was within the same organisation, they wanted to speak to my immediate supervisor. I would have no problem finding other references who would say positive things about my work.

          1. CAA

            I was actually responding to Rachel, but I agree that there are exceptions where you might be required to give a reference who has a negative opinion of you, and this is one of them. It sounds like it did you no harm though.

      3. Ask a Manager Post author

        As Laura says, it’s about risk management. It’s not about a desire to be perfectly fair or to draw absolute, flawless conclusions. It’s about minimizing the chances that the candidate will be problematic.

        Additionally, reasonable reference-checkers look at the totality of the references. If you have two great references and one bad one, I’m not going to automatically discard the two great ones. I’m going to look at the full picture.

        1. Sarahnova

          Wow, interesting discussion!

          I agree, it’s not and never has been about absolute truth, it’s about risk management. Badmouthing your former/current employer, or a bad reference, are both things which significantly up the risk that I’m interviewing a candidate who will be more trouble than they’re worth, and both for the same reason, to a degree – that I have a very limited ability to judge the veracity of the claims, so I have to err on the pessimistic side.

          Even if you badmouth your employer in an interview and I happen to know it’s deserved, it still tells me that your judgement about what’s appropriate for an interview situation is poor.

        2. Anonymous

          Would this also be the case with a first or second job out of college? Say you started a job and it’s not a good fit. But you have part time work/professors that give you a good reference.

      4. Anonymous

        As a hiring manager, whether I suspected an issue would depend upon the nature of the negative reference – what was the tone (relieved, cautious but concerned, vindictive, panicked?) and the nature of the criticism.

        “Sarah can’t fill out [government form] to save her life,” will be received differently depending upon whether I have tested Sarah and am comfortable she can do this required task.

        “Sarah can be a passionate advocate for her point of view, and there were times when that presented some challenges on team projects” is the kind of thing a professional – with no ax to grind – would translate as “Sarah doesn’t know when to quit arguing and tries to cow her co-workers into to doing things her way. This stifles input from other team members and can be very disruptive.”

        Now, maybe I should be interpreting the last to mean that Sarah is leaving because the manager is a micromanaging martinet who has everyone else beaten down and Sarah is leaving because she is tired of being the last advocate for common sense and sanity in a madhouse run by a clueless incompetent.

        I probably won’t though – the odds favor the first interpretation (unless there’s another giveaway), so the answer is that I’m not likely to suspect the boss unless they do something to raise that suspicion.

      5. Ruffingit

        You make a good point about the double standard. I’m not a hiring manager, but I think if I got a bad reference from a previous boss, I would take it into account as part of the whole. In other words, if all or many of the previous work references were negative or just “meh” about the candidate, I’d be more likely to believe the candidate was the problem. If the references were glowing except for the one boss who complained about the candidate, I’d be more likely to believe the boss was the problem. I think it’s more about the whole of the situation rather than just the one reference.

        But that said, I’d love to hear from hiring managers about this too. What do you think when a boss gives a bad reference?

        1. IronMaiden

          This raises questions with me about why a boss would want to give an unfavourable reference. Obviously if an employee is unsatisfactory the boss is better rid of them. If an employee is satisfactory, even though it might be a hassle to replace them, the workplace is not a prison and it makes sense to allow people to move into jobs and roles that the ywill grow in. It they are not allowed to grow and develop, they will become stagnant or bitter and not be such good employess.

          1. Anonymous

            The reference-giving boss is also an individual with his or her own reputation. I don’t think I know anyone who would give a falsely positive reference to get rid of someone. You will be found out, and you will get a reputation for being either an underhanded, back-stabbing liar or hopelessly incompetent (if you’re given the benefit of the doubt about knowing your reference was wrong). Neither of these will help your career.

            The more ethical approach is to give an honest reference that focuses, where possible, on fit. For example: “Jane is a real expert at Excel, and does a fantastic job with very detail oriented tasks that leverage her analytical skills. However, she has struggled a bit in other areas of the job that require extensive team work and time in group meetings. If this position is one which requires intensive computer time with strong technical and analytical skills, Jane would be a good fit.”

            This is an honest reference that highlights both strengths and weaknesses. If Jane is applying for a job as a team leader or program manager, it is a negative one. If Jane is applying for a job that requires someone sitting alone with a computer making the data dance, it’s very positive.

            Good managers must get rid of people who can’t perform in the role, but not at the cost of our integrity. Some of us also genuinely care about our employees, and want them to find (other) positions where they will be successful and happy. I say this even though I can, and have, exercised the obvious option to eliminate the problem from my team – no lies required.

            1. IronMaiden

              Nowhere was I suggesting that anyone should give a false positive reference just to get rid of someone. On the other hand I don’t see why bosses have to be snarky because someone wants to leave. They could be honest and say “Jane is my righ hand woman and I’m devastated that she’s moving on” or at least be neutral, saying that Jane has worked here for X years and has excellent attendance, punctuality and grooming (supposing she does).

          2. Ruffingit

            I’ve seen many stories on here about people whose bosses were bitter that the employees had the audacity to leave them for another job. I’ve also seen stories of just generally crazy bosses here (and in my own life with myself and friends) so I can see a boss giving a bad reference because she’s bitter the employee left or wouldn’t put up with her crap or whatever. Sad, but true.

            1. Lillie Lane

              My current boss is a true psychopath. I am not using that term lightly. I will not use him as a reference because I know that he will say something negative, even though it would be a complete lie. He knows that I will stay here if I can’t find anything else, so he will either a) outright lie to a reference checker, or b) make some comment that he knows will make the reference checker question me as a candidate. Also, he has an incredible ego, and any compliment he gives is back-handed, because no one can outshine him in any respect.

              So yeah, it can be really unfair.

        2. IronMaiden

          This raises questions with me about why a boss would want to give an unfavourable reference. Obviously if an employee is unsatisfactory the boss is better rid of them. If an employee is satisfactory, even though it might be a hassle to replace them, the workplace is not a prison and it makes sense to allow people to move into jobs and roles that the ywill grow in. If they are not allowed to grow and develop, they will become stagnant or bitter and not be such good employees.

  5. Anonymous

    #1 – You just described my most recent interview. Like you, the VP who I interviewed with couldn’t provide any details/specifics about the job, milestones/goals for the position, etc. – all the VP would ever say is, “I need someone that can get stuff done.” When I asked the VP what he had accomplished at the company since he had been there (he had been there about a year at this point in time), he said, “Nothing.”

    I know the job market isn’t the greatest right now, but if I were you, I would wait it out for something better. Unless of course you just want to gather stories you can share with us. ;)

    1. Anonymous Two

      Seriously? He admitted he had accomplished nothing? Maybe that was the reason he was hiring, to get someone to actually do his job.

      We’re in the season of performance reviews at my company, and I’m flabbergasted that anyone (VP or not) couldn’t come up with something that they at least claim to have accomplished in the previous year.

      One more example of reality that, while true, seems less believable than ordinary fiction. :-)

      1. Anonymous

        Yup, @Anonymous Two – the VP actually admitted that he had accomplished nothing in the time that he had been there. Then he proceeded to tell me how he couldn’t get anything done around the organization, what a mess the department was and (again) how he just needed someone to come in there and “get stuff done.”

        This dude’s behavior is worthy of its own post, I’m telling you.
        It was definitely one of my, um, most interesting interviews ever. Needless to say, it’s been a few months since I interviewed with the VP and I’ve heard nothing. (Not that I’m sad!)

  6. Barbara in Swampeast

    Daisy, glad you can read it on your phone. On a computer monitor it doesn’t look very good and there is no way to reply to replies….

    1. Barbara in Swampeast

      Ok, now it popped back to it the old way… weird. It came up in smartphone mode on both Firefox and IE for me.

      1. Ribiko

        I am also getting some wonky pages (I’m using Chrome)…this post snapped back to normal web view, but I can’t seem to get the ‘how can I convince my boss I don’t speak Spanish?’ page to the normal browser view.

    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      Hmmm, I’ve disabled the new mobile version for now since it certainly shouldn’t be coming up on that way on non-phones. I also noticed that in the new mobile view, there was no way to reply to comments — only to leave a new, non-reply one.

      I’m going to keep working on this, though, and I think we’ll have a more functional mobile version soon.

      1. Carrie in Scotland

        I found the blue to be a bit garish, it definitely wasn’t the nice shade of blue you get on here usually. But much thanks on providing a mobile version!

      2. Laura

        It would be awesome, when it comes back, if there was a way to switch to the full site while on a mobile device. I love reading this site on my phone; I can see it fine. Most of the time, but not all, I find mobile redesigns to be more difficult to use on the phone and require more scrolling and fuss.

        1. Anon

          I agree. Mobiles sites annoy me most of the time. I’m almost always on my phone or tablet when reading this site, and it works fine on both as is.

          The mobile version I was getting earlier today made it infuriating to try to read. I didn’t realised it was intentional, it was so bad I assumed it was a glitch, and I ended up giving up and hoping it would be fixed by the time I tried again.

        2. Anon

          The version I was getting earlier did have mobile/desktop options at the bottom – but it wasn’t working.

  7. Lora

    5. Possible variations:
    “I’ve been at Choco-Pot, Inc. for X years now, and I would like to become more well-rounded in the Chocolate Potmaking field”
    “At Choco-Pot I’ve had the opportunity to manage the spout-making department, and I’d like to grow further into handle-making”
    “Choco-Pot is a small company/I manage a small group there, and now I’m ready to take the next step forward in my career by working in a larger company/with a larger group like SweetSugar Ceramics Worldwide”
    “Through networking, I’ve heard such wonderful things about SweetSugar Ceramics (name some nice things) and I would love to be part of that. ”

    Just focus on what you like more about this job.

  8. Anonymous

    #1 I would suggest asking more indepth questions about the burnout issue. I just left a company after 2 months because of employee burnout. I wish the company had shared that information with me before I took the job. Employees were leaving in record numbers because of the stress and new employees like me were plopped down in the midst of chaos with no introductions to staff and no training on how to navigate systems. Taught me to ask more probing questions during interviews.

    1. Felicia

      Sounds like the temp job i currently have! i’m only there until mid Jan so there’s an out for me, and they like me and think i’ve done well. But i learned quickly that many employees leave after about 6 months because of burn out, and i’m starting to get burned out too, i think i can stick it out until the end of my contract , but that’s it. I’m not sure how i would identify that there was that problem with burnout in an interview though…the problem at current workplace is they need about 5 more people to accomplish what they’re expected to accomplish so everyone is way overworked and still not getting it all done.

  9. Kimberlee, Esq.

    On #4, I agree completely. Having someone to vouch with you can get you an interview when otherwise you might not have gotten one, but they can’t get you a job you otherwise couldn’t get. Involve them early in the process; possibly even before you apply, as they might say “oh! Send me your application and I’ll give it to so-and-so myself.”

    1. MJ of the West

      I agree with Kimberlee on this one, and have to respectfully disagree with Alison a bit.

      I strongly advise that you reach out and get connected to a current employee (if you have such a networking contact) before applying, for several reasons:

      1) It gives you an opportunity to discuss the role, and your intent to apply for it, with that contact. This can be valuable to get insight and have them help vet your suitability. They might also suggest other roles.

      2) It firms them up as a possible internal reference, and might make it easier to call upon them for follow-up. I think it’s somewhat less awkward to say “Hey Bob, I just applied for that job we discussed! Do you know if the hiring manager has seen my application?” than to start with that type of question out of the blue.

      3) Many employers have internal referral bonuses for current employees who refer qualified candidates. In lots of situations, that person would need to submit your application themselves in order to be eligible. And if they have skin the game, you’ll be doing both of you a favor.

      4) Even if the employer doesn’t have a referral bonus program, having your resume come from an existing employee can carry a great deal of weight in many companies. If this contact is willing to recommend you (even an unqualified recommendation based on their efforts to screen you), you might find yourself getting a leg-up here.

      Just my 2 cents, from an active hiring manager.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        The contact that the OP has doesn’t work at the same company she’s applying to; they just know people there. So she’s not calling them and saying “Hey Bob, I just applied for that job we discussed! Do you know if the hiring manager has seen my application?” She’s calling to say, “I’ve applied for X at Y Company. I know you know A and B there. I’d love it if you’d be willing to reach out to them with a word about my application.”

        (Which I think is what Kimberlee is agreeing with also.)

  10. Elizabeth West

    Rosamund Bloopfly–hahahahahaha!

    I wish #2 had been me. But that situation blew up in my face. :'( Ironically, I do have a job now where I can work remotely. Arggh.

    For #1, I absolutely would think twice about accepting this job. I see two screaming crimson flags here. One, you would have to work under a new manager who, even if he does care, will need time to grow into his role (this could be quite bumpy). Second, HR actually warned you about burnout. They did you a favor, IMO.

    1. Ruffingit

      Agreed that HR totally did you a favor here. You’re going into this with eyes wide open, which is more than I can say for a lot of people who interview. You know exactly what you’re in for. I’d say that’s a plus in that you can now decide if you can handle that or if you want to keep looking.

    2. Anonymous

      I don’t think working under a new manager is necessarily a red flag. Everyone has to learn at some point. They’ve been straightforward with you about the circumstances. If you are a mostly self-sufficient worker, this could be fantastic. If you rely heavily on managerial guidance, then you probably ought to look elsewhere. If you can handle it, though, this is a great opportunity to “train” a good manager. I have a manager who is doing his first stint at management, and it’s been a wonderful arrangement.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Yeah, it’s not a reason on its own not to accept a job — but combined with the way he was in the interview, the whole package is alarming.

        (Although in general, it takes new managers a while to learn what they’re doing. That can be disastrous for the people under them or not a big deal at all, depending on the circumstances.)

        1. Not So NewReader

          This. I am working for two new bosses now. People themselves that are new to their jobs.
          What I liked about them:
          1) Even though they did not have the job down pat, they both have a vision – a direction of where we should go.
          2) They can clearly articulate some of the problems and how I would be helping them with those problems.
          3) They were also clear that “other stuff could suddenly pop up”.
          4) They found resources for me OR I already had resources for cases where I get stuck and do not know how to proceed.
          5) They both use their own struggles with their jobs as reminder notes that I am struggling, too. I get lots of forgiveness when I make mistakes and I get lots of gratitude for what I do right. (I told one boss I did xyz wrong. She said “you only did it wrong ONCE? I have done it wrong FIVE times!!” We fix it, life goes on.)

          OP, this guy wants you to support him BUT he has NO intention of giving you the support you need to do you job. Big red flags here.

      2. Elizabeth West

        No, it’s not, but if he isn’t invested in learning to be a good manager, the job may end up as a nightmare. And it doesn’t sound to me like he is. I’m willing to bet, if this company has problems so bad that HR felt it necessary to warn a candidate about them, that the new manager is seeing the nuts and bolts of those problems now, which may be freaking him out. He sounds totally disengaged, and that is not a good sign.

    3. Stephanie

      Yeah, I interviewed at a big consulting firm once and EVERY interviewer I had told me the hours were crazy. I talked to like eight or nine different people in the practice group. On the one hand, I appreciated their candor. On the other hand, it was kind of intimidating (especially when they’re trying to sell the job/company!).

  11. OP #!

    Alison and Everyone,

    Thank you for the validation. To the commenter who asked about the networking connection: no, they are not related in any way. I think that having settled the fact that there are in fact huge red flags concerning my fit for this position, the thing I am going to focus on at this point is the way I allowed myself to be flustered in the interview, to the point where I found myself struggling to answer questions I really knew. I’ve had a professional interview now. Time to get my feet under me and realize what I can control – which is my confidence and ability to handle whatever curve might be thrown at me, so that I don’t have any more stories to share (although I’m ready to read – and learn from – any of yours) :).

    1. Anonymous

      I wonder if they were at the point of interviewing for hires, or if it was something they were instructed to do. Though that wouldn’t excuse anything, it would account for quite a bit.

  12. AB Normal

    OK, this is the first time I comment after reading just one of the questions, just to make sure I don’t forget.

    OP#1: what you describe is very similar to what happened to two college hires who asked me to mentor them in my last job. They had a TERRIBLE time in the large company we were working for — like me, both have fortunately moved on to better jobs, but only after 2 years of suffering, and a lot of effort applying to jobs and trying to find time during the day to go to interviews once they figured out the situation was not going to improve.

    My advice is, be very aggressive with networking and applying to other jobs. See if you can get other offers to compare. Don’t ignore the red flags in hopes that things will get better, and don’t expect the directors you felt in sync to make a difference. If you do accept this job, let it be because you were convinced that there wasn’t anything better available, and that you have proof that your manager is going to be minimally competent, rather than making your life miserable. Good luck!

  13. OP #1

    @Anonymous – I was told they were a growing company with several openings, so I tend to think that isn’t the case. Answering the other commenters who noted that full disclosure occurred with the burnout rate and new management, I agree completely. It would certainly be informed consent on my part, and I appreciated the honesty. I think that for me, the more concerning thing was that I felt that with a first position in a new field, a rapport with my manager-to-be would be something that I would really value while I continue to build my skills.

  14. guest

    Op#1 “A networking contact of mine recently arranged for me to interview at a Fortune 500 company where he works. He is a director at this corporation”
    Is it possible the director is using his power to push OP’s candidacy. Others in the company might feel OP does not qualify or the company has other/better candidates. So they might be trying to scare off OP.

  15. Jocelyn

    #2 Work from Home

    Do you always take personal time when visiting your significant other?

    If so, request to work remotely for a week or so at a time. “I’d like to visit family/Bob/friends but understand I’m low on personal time, can I work remotely the week of Dec. 9-13?” Then you can prove that you can work remotely and stay on top of your game, and can point to those instances when you do ask to
    work from home.

    Also, I would bet your chances are good if you are going to be in the same time zone as your team. If not, make sure to address your plan to change your schedule so that you’re on the same schedule as your team. In addition, if you know any of your colleagues have planned vacations coming up, state that you’re prepared to come into the office for that week, if it’s necessary. It will show that you have thought your plan through.

    1. Anonymous

      An interesting idea, but I think this one is a little risky. As a manager, I want to know people work productively away from the office under ordinary circumstances first – I don’t think I would be comfortable with a new employee who wanted to work remotely while visiting family out of town, in Paris, or on vacation. Let me see if you can perform when there’s only the laundry to tempt you away from the computer first.

      Fortunately, we have a blanket policy against this during the first year on the job, which is a good length of time to make sure the individual understands the job and the manager understands the employee’s work ethic. Written telecommuting agreements are also required.

      This wouldn’t apply in other cases (working from home waiting for the repairman, for example – or I personally worked from the hospital once to stay with a family member) but visiting friends and asking to work remotely because you’re low on personal time? Not an emergency, and not likely to impress me with your work ethic. However other managers may react differently.

      1. AB Normal

        I agree with Anonymous. If a direct report told me, “I’d like to visit family/Bob/friends but understand I’m low on personal time, can I work remotely the week of Dec. 9-13?” , I’d be thinking, “so, you were hoping to take personal time and just have fun visiting family/friends, but are willing to work remotely just because you don’t have personal time to take?”. I’d be wondering about the OP’s commitment to actually work during the period, whether she would even have a quiet place to work from, and so on.

        To me it would be a much better proposition if the employee asked first to work one day a week from home, until there was proof that she was being reliable (answering IM promptly, being on time to all conference calls, being highly productive with the work, etc.). Later, when you have proven yourself, it’s much easier to ask to work a week from a different place (after reassuring the manager that plans were made to ensure there would be an appropriate space to work).

  16. Jocelyn

    Anonymous,

    What if this employee were to be upfront about her end goal and, to ease any doubts, do a test drive working remotely? This could help the employee to confirm she is able to perform at home and allow her boss to determine if he/she would be satisfied with her productivity? Under what circumstances, from your perspective, would this proposal be well received, if at all?

  17. Jocelyn

    If I wasn’t clear in my comment above, by “test drive” I mean the employee could propose that she work from get home for a week here and there, to see if it would work for the manager and everyone else if and when the employee moves.

  18. Another Anonymous

    #1 — I asked “What will I be doing on a day-to-day basis etc.?” and knew it was a huge red flag when the person I thought I would be reporting to couldn’t answer. I took the job anyway because there was a lot to like about the organization and program. However, after a year and a half here, I am often left feeling like what I have ended up doing on a day-to-day basis isn’t valued, even though it’s work I enjoy. The supervisor who couldn’t answer the question ended up leaving shortly after I started, and now I am thinking about leaving, too. So, yeah, HUGE red flag and something I will definitely push on in future interviews. If your would-be managers don’t know what your responsibilities and priorities are or what success will look like, why are they hiring you in the first place?

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