how transparent should I be with new hires, is emergency contact info a privacy violation, and more

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

1. How transparent should I be with new hires about a blow-up that preceded them?

One of the teams I supervise consists of two people and the two recent incumbents had a personality conflict that totally blew up and resulted in both of them leaving back to back. The positions will be refilled soon. As these two new people start, I’m concerned that they’ll hear mutterings from other staff about the previous situation and immediately become concerned that they’ve stepped into a bad situation–that the job is structured as a no-win situation or that the boss is a monster (if anything, I’m learning not to be a wimp, to put it in your terms). I don’t think those things are true: the positions really are just open because of a personality conflict between two particular people who aren’t around anymore. Should I address this head-on? Only if the new people ask? I know that I will have confidence in the interpersonal and job skills of the new hires, so I don’t want them to feel threatened or worried by rumors, but I’m also concerned that if I bring it up myself, it will inadvertently come off as threatening and backfire.

When in doubt, err on the side of transparency. I’d be straightforward with your new hires — let them know the background and how it might affect them (for instance, that it means that both spots on that team are vacant at once, so you’ll be doing more of the training yourself, rather than relying on another team member to help them, and so forth). You can even tell them that you’ve taken a look at some of the questions the situation raised for you (for instance, whether it was just a personality conflict or whether the way the job were structured played any role in it and what you’ve concluded), which will (a) answer some questions that they might not feel comfortable asking you, and (b) signal that you’re thoughtful and not oblivious.

Ideally, you would have done this at the finalist stage before hiring anyone, because you want anyone who’s going to be uncomfortable with this to self-select out before they take the job, not after they’ve started, and you don’t want anyone feeling like you weren’t up-front with them. Plus, when people are walking into a situation with a sticky history, they usually feel better if they knew about it before accepting the job. (“Oh, two people didn’t get along. Great, that means the job is open for me.”) If they find out afterwards, they’re more likely to feel blindsided and a little freaked out. (“There was a scandal here! No one told me about it! Have I walked into a hornet’s nest?”) But it’s not too late to do it now; just be sure to do it in a calm way, because people will take their cues from you — so be matter-of-fact and direct; don’t whisper it in a scandalized tone.

2. Did this recruiter really submit me for a job or didn’t he?

I came across an online job posting (direct hire) that was perfect for me and I bookmarked it temporarily. The same day, a third party recruiter called me, and proceeded by asking me what jobs I was considering. When I declined to answer that question, he asked if I was interested in Company A, the same job posting I had bookmarked and planned to respond to. Long story short, for reasons I wont go into, I made the mistake of allowing him to submit my resume to the company on my behalf. This was on December 26, 2013. Now it is January 11, 2014, and the last time I spoke to the recruiter was a few days ago. He assured me he would get in touch with the hiring manager and get back to me. Several business days have passed since then, with no response. I need to move this guy out of the way, but I don’t want to risk contacting the company directly if there is a possibility that he really did speak with the hiring manager. It seems to me that time is of the essence. So my idea is this: Contact the recruiter to ask for the copies of the materials and correspondence he used to submit my resume. If he can’t produce it, I will assume that it hadn’t been done, and I will proceed directly with the employer. That’s the best I can come up with. What do you think?

Ugh, you might be up a creek here. The recruiter may or may not give you those materials, and it’s likely to strike him as an odd request. Moreover, if he has submitted you to the company, he now “owns” your candidacy and the employer probably won’t proceed with you on their own (because they’re contractually obligated to pay him a finder’s fee if they hire you). That said, even if that’s the case — and certainly if it’s not — you don’t really have anything to lose by contacting the company directly. If he didn’t really submit you, then you’ll be taking care of it yourself. If he did, it’s not the end of the world if you submit your resume to them yourself, as long as you don’t accompany it with an explanation of the whole saga (which is likely to make them just not want to be involved). Either way, you might or might not hear back from the company, but there’s nothing wrong with ensuring your materials get in front of them by sending them in yourself. It’s not ideal to risk a double submission, obviously, but it’s not the worst thing you could do.

3. Is it bad to mention my boyfriend in an interview?

I was interviewing for an internship about a month ago that I was really, really excited about. The internship is with an institution for whom a major focus is supporting K-12 education, and a major responsibility of the position is contributing to the resources they offer.

It happens that my boyfriend is finishing up an M.Ed to teach in that field, and the kind of resources they offer are resources that he’s mentioned before as being great tools for teaching and things that he’d love to use when he has a job. The interview went fairly well, and I think I articulated why I wanted the position and why I would be a good choice for it well. However, toward the end, I mentioned that my boyfriend is going into teaching in that field and that the work was even more interesting to me because I’ve heard him talk about how he can use similar resources.

It was really just a single sentence in an interview that lasted about 20 minutes, but when I left, I had a moment of panic about whether the comment was unprofessional. I didn’t mean to mention him – it just kind of slipped out because of how we were discussing the work. It doesn’t seem to have hurt me, since several days later, I was offered the internship (which I happily accepted), but I’m still a little freaked out. How bad was that slip? Did it not hurt me as much because this is an internship and they don’t expect me to know any better?

Well, first, stop being freaked out — because you got the job! Clearly they didn’t consider it a major issue.

And that’s because it’s not a major issue. In general, I’d say it’s better to avoid mentioning a boyfriend or girlfriend in an interview, because it can read a little … young? Off-topic? I’m not even sure how to explain it exactly. (Maybe it’s that I mainly only hear it from younger, less experienced candidates, and that’s why it reads that way to me; I’m not sure.) But “not ideal” is different from a disaster or something that you should agonize over afterwards. It’s very much not those things; it’s not a big deal at all. Congratulations on the internship!

4. Am I violating confidentiality by collecting emergency contact information for employees?

Each year, my company’s admin collects updated emergency contact information for all employees. She asks the managers to collect this information for her. One of my employees is arguing this is confidential information only HR should have. Am I violating confidentiality by asking for a name and phone number to contact if something happens to an employee in the workplace?

Nope. There’s no such confidentiality law that prevents you from asking or even requiring that. People have really weird ideas about confidentiality laws (most of which don’t actually exist). That said, I’d talk to her and find out what her concern is, and how she’d like you to handle it if she has a medical emergency at work.

5. Can I change my title to something more accurate on my resume?

My title is long, and specific (Manager, Meeting, Events and Trade Shows). I handle a little bit more than the title suggests in the realm on Communications (e.g. content, collateral, marketing plans, etc.) So, I’ve listed Corporate Communications Manager as my title on my resume.

Technically, it’s true…I do work for Corporate Communications as a manager but it’s not my official title. Is this a no-no., or in the grand scheme of things no one will even care?

Unfortunately, no. When the prospective employer calls to check your references, they’ll likely uncover the actual title and it’ll raise a red flag for them about your honesty. They’ll also wonder what else you may have inflated. However, make sure that the description of what you’ve done in that role reflects your actual responsibilities. Good hiring managers look at the responsibilities, not just title, and know that titles often have their own internal meanings that don’t precisely translate to the outside world.

{ 182 comments… read them below }

  1. MJ of the West*

    Alison, out of curiosity, for #1: Would you feel the same way (about youth/maturity) if the reference were to a husband, wife, or domestic partner instead?

    1. Ex-Mrs Addams*

      I’d be interested in this too. I think “husband” or “wife” demonstrates a commitment and societally is more grown-up. The terms boyfriend/girlfriend tend to bring to mind teenagers and prom dates rather than a full-blown commitment. Maybe age is a factor too – a 23 year old describing her partner as a boyfriend may appear less committed/juvenile than a woman in her 40’s, say.

      Personally I think “partner” is probably the best term to use regardless of relationship status/sexuality. It conveys the idea that this person is someone to whom you’re committed and sharing your life with, but goes no further than that.

      1. Ex-Kiwi Chick*

        Ex-Mrs Addams, what country are you writing from? I ask because, as someone who used to live in New Zealand (where one says “partner” as the default term – for any kind of long-term couple) I’ve found in the U.S. this word normally is understood to mean either same-sex partner -OR- business partner. Having described my own husband thus (I’m a woman; he has an ambiguous-seeming, ethnic name) to my colleagues, they were all pretty surprised when a man showed up to join me at the Christmas party! I was asked where my “partner” was and when I said “Uh, here he is!” I got all sorts of astonished looks. Finally, the wife of a friendly colleague there from a satellite office (she’s an Aussie married to an American) explained the confusion to everyone.

        Neither myself nor the kind of folks I work among would feel bothered by whatever presumptions of a relationship composition implied by “partner,” but you never know when you are interviewing with a new company. Plus, should they presume of the other expected meaning for the word—that you have a *business* partner—they may confusingly think you have your own business AND are looking for a job (which you may not have time/energy to devote oneself fully toward.)

        1. Ex-Mrs Addams*

          That’s a good point – I’m in the UK. There might be an assumption that partner means same-sex here but it’s certainly not a universal assumption, at least in my experience.

          For my own part, if/when I use the term partner, I’m typically quick to expand on the topic and it becomes clear within a sentence or two what gender he is.

          I can understand it may not be a perfect solution, particularly in regard to how different cultures respond to the word. However, I can’t think of an alternative for long-term committed partners that isn’t boyfriend/girlfriend.

          1. Anonymous*

            Whenever I feel the need to mention my boyfriend in an interview I keep it vague and say family member.

        2. LisaLyn*

          I do think “partner” does tend to connote a same-sex relationship to a lot of people in the US, but it’s my preferred term. If I want to be clear, I just follow up with a pronoun along the lines of, “My partner … he works at …” or whatever. We aren’t married and at my age “boyfriend” just jars, IMHO.

          1. Zillah*

            I was the OP for #3, and I can totally see that! If I was a few years older, I’d probably be a little more uncomfortable with the term.

          2. Emily K*

            Yes, I use “partner” exclusively. When I was growing up in the 80s and 90s I remember it being a euphemism for same-sex partner, but when I got to college and moved into more academic and counter-cultural subcultures, everyone and their brother uses “partner” for all sorts of romantic relationships. I get the feeling that only older and more conservative types still associate it exclusively with same-sex relationships, while folks under 30 and probably more liberally-minded folks over 30 wouldn’t assume same-sex without further context.

            1. sunny-dee*

              I have to admit, I both assume it to be and have only heard it used as a same-sex partner for a romantic relationship. Maybe it’s a regional thing. I’ve heard “significant other” most frequently for a boy/girlfriend or cohabitating partner. (Then again, I have no problem with using the term boy/girlfriend, regardless of age.)

        3. class factotum*

          I’ve found in the U.S. this word normally is understood to mean either same-sex partner -OR- business partner

          I saw a classmate at a college reunion. He introduced the woman with him as his “partner.” I knew he was a doctor and I wondered why he would bring his practice associate with him to a social event. I only think of “partner” as a relationship term when it is a same-sex couple.

      2. Nikki J.*

        I feel that as less and less people are getting married and choosing cohabitation instead the term “partner” is becoming more accepted in the mainstream. The assumption that someone with a wife or husband is more stable is crap.

        1. Ellie H.*

          My impression (I’m 26) is actually that “partner” has become increasingly mainstream to describe a male or female partner. Quite a few friends my age who are in longer-term committed relationships use it to describe an opposite gendered partner. I’m not a huge fan for me personally as it just strikes my ear as a little clinical/formal but it no longer connotes “same sex partner” to me.

          1. pgh_adventurer*

            As a lesbian who almost always says “partner”, I tend to think partner means a same-sex partner–but I certainly don’t assume that anymore, as I’ve been surprised on several occasions!

            I’m not a huge fan of the word partner (it sounds too business-y) but it’s a good alternative to declaring your gayness to whoever you’re talking to.

            1. Felicia*

              A lot of my friends in both same sex and opposite sex relationships use the word partner now (i’m 23). I like to use the world girlfriend to “declare my gayness” when I want to do that because it’s the easiest way without making a big deal about it, and if i don’t mention girlfriend people eventually make incorrect assumptions

          2. Ex-Kiwi Chick*

            Yes, Ellie H, it’s true *younger* Americans (especially in less conservative places) may be now thinking of “partner” more as the gender-neutral description for part of a couple.

            But remember, the big bosses doing the hiring for most jobs (unless it’s a tech start-up founded by 24 yrs olds) are likely to be 10-30 years older than you are, being 26. So I would say it’s rather important for 20-somethings to be well-versed in what is mainstream for those a generation a head of them – not just your own :)

        2. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Yes, the assumption is absolutely crap. But as Kelly L says below, it’s the word “girlfriend” or “boyfriend” that’s the problem, not so much the concept. It sounds younger than it often means in practice.

      3. Kelly L.*

        Yeah, I think it’s just the word boyfriend or girlfriend that sounds young and unserious, since it has “boy” or “girl” in it, and unfortunately we haven’t come up with a great substitute yet other than “partner,” which causes the aforementioned confusion if you use it in the US. There really needs to be a word for “not married but committed partner” that doesn’t carry connotations about what sex the partner is, doesn’t also sound like a business arrangement, and doesn’t sound like you’re passing notes in study hall.

        1. anon*

          “gentleman caller”? “gentleman friend”?

          oh, let’s just call a duck a duck and say “lover.”

        2. Sadsack*

          Can I just ask why it matters how committed of a relationship the OP is in? She brought up her significant other because of their shared interest in the work, so who cares how serious is their relationship? Is someone less of a person or a viable candidate because she is not in a relationship or is in a relatively new one? Also what difference does it make if it makes her sound young? She is sitting there looking at the interviewer, he can probably guess pretty near her age. I am not sure how young equates with her not being serious enough to have the job.

          1. Carpe Librarium*

            A Buffy quote just sprang to mind:
            Xander to Cordelia: “I prefer to think of you as my witless foil. ”

    2. BCW*

      I was wondering the same thing. I mean I’m in my early 30’s, and while I don’t see myself bringing up a girlfriend in the interview, I don’t think it should be frowned upon since I’m certain that other guys my age would have no problem mentioning a wife. Its that thing that was mentioned earlier about how people are judged harshly for not being married by a certain age.

      And I agree with the others about the word partner. If I hear that, I assume its a same sex partner (not that there’s anything wrong with that), or possibly business partner. I wouldn’t use that term in an interview because you just never know the type of person you are interviewing with.

      1. Just a Reader*

        And this is interesting, because I have female friends who ditch their wedding rings for interviews because they don’t want their marital status to affect their consideration.

        When I was interviewing, I wore my ring but never mentioned my husband. There’s just nothing to say that’s relevant to my candidacy.

        1. Jen in RO*

          My boyfriend was and is pretty relevant to my career. He works in my field (software) and he has about 10 years more experience than me (in a different position), so he knows someone at pretty much any company I apply to. He’s very useful like that – it only takes a day to find out about the working environment in 90% of the software companies in the city! If he hasn’t worked there personally, he knows someone who did.

          I had to mention him as my boyfriend in an interview, but it didn’t hurt me. (I got the job.) The interviewer asked why I wanted that particular job, and I said that the company has a good reputation. I claimed that “a friend” told me about this, but they insisted and I had to fess up that it was my boyfriend. It does sound a bit childish and it does not reflect the 6+ year relationship, but “partner” makes me think of business partners, “lover” is too much, and we’re not married.

    3. AmyNYC*

      I almost suggested replacing it with “friend,” but talked myself out of it when writing my comment.
      I agree that boyfriend sounds young, but it also shows a certain familiarity. I’m not interested in a “friend” that studies something similar, but if a spouse or boyfriend does that I assume you have a working knowledge.

      1. Ivy*

        what about SO (significant other) – it’s the term of choice in my company, and doesn’t seem to have gender-specific connotations

        1. BCW*

          I think in a group context that works, such as “Feel free to bring any significant others”. However if one of my friends or co-workers mentioned they were hanging out with their significant other, it would just seem weird. It feels like too formal for conversation if you know what I mean.

          1. Zillah*

            This is my feeling, too. I think the term “significant other” is great when you’re referring to a group, because it encompasses a wide range of romantic relationships in a simple way. However, while I will occasionally use the term to refer to my boyfriend, it’s just too long and unwieldy to do so on a regular basis.

            And, like you, “partner” to me tends to make me think either same sex relationship or business.

        1. Zillah*

          I don’t know – that term more than any other makes my skin crawl, though I can’t quite put my finger on why.

        2. Liane*

          In my opinion, “My better half” is fine for casual situations, which might include coworkers/direct supervisors I am close to. I wouldn’t use in an interview or if I was introducing my husband to someone significantly higher-up at the Company, nor in a serious social situation, like introducing a relative from my side at a funeral.
          That said, I do think it’s a fun term in the right place. I sometimes even introduce my husband as “this is my other half–we haven’t decided which of us is the better one yet.”
          But I fear we may be in for a long wait before coming up with a term suitable for business & other more-formal situations. Since before I discovered her in college 30 years ago, etiquette expert Judith “Miss Manners” Martin has been searching for such a term, and hasn’t had much success.

            1. Cath@VWXYNot?*

              Before we all got married, my group of friends used “spousoid” to describe our serious-but-not-married romantic partners. I wouldn’t use that in an interview though :)

            2. MH*

              How about using the term ‘life partner’ which at least clears up any confusion about business partner.

              1. sunny-dee*

                It still has the “same-sex” connotation, though. Which can be troublesome in some couples — my husband and I both have gender-ambiguous names. :)

        3. jennie*

          You definitely don’t want to use that in an interview where you want to sound professional and, it seems silly, but it may be unwise in this context to refer to anyone as “better” than you. I hate that term but I hate “my other half” even more for some reason.

  2. MJ of the West*

    On #2: I’d say just assume the headhunter did not submit it, and do it yourself directly. It’s not that unusual for many employers to get the same resume through two different channels anyway. If they really do ask, just tell them that you didn’t know if the headhunter had sent it in.

    1. majigail*

      I disagree. We’ve had an unusually long holiday season with Wednesday Christmas and New Years. Typically, I would say that everyone was back to work on the 6th, but with the storms and Polar Vortex (I’m assuming you or the recruiter or the company are in the affected areas), last week seemed like a wash too. It’s possible that the hiring manager isn’t returning calls promptly because of all of this and so there’s been no contact because of that.
      If by the end of this week, with no contact, I’d call again. But really, this person has nothing to gain by getting your materials and doing nothing with them.

    2. Ex-Mrs Addams*

      Curious – why would you assume the headhunter hasn’t sent it in? What would the headhunter have to gain from not sending in the OPs materials?

      Bearing in mind we’re only two weeks into the new year, with horrendous weather conditions I’d say a more likely scenario is simply that there have been delays and hold ups over the Christmas/New Year/mad weather periods and that’s why the OP has heard nothing yet. It has been less than three weeks since OP submitted her materials – which wouldn’t be an unduly long time in normal circumstances. Add in the factors above and it really isn’t that unreasonable.

      The OP can submit her materials directly for sure, and most employers won’t raise an eyebrow at two applications (unless they are substantially different). However, automatically assuming the recruiter hasn’t submitted her materials seems unfair on the recruiter.

      1. Piper*

        Sometimes recruiters just don’t do what they say they’re going to do. I had a recruiter contact me about a job, tell me he submitted my resume and made me sign an exclusivity agreement, meaning no one else could submit for that job. Then, a few weeks later, a different recruiter from a different agency contacted me about the same job. I told her I thought I had already been submitted by another company and she said she’d check on it.

        Turns out, I hadn’t. The recruiter who told me he had submitted me never did. This new recruiter did submit me and the company ended up offering me the job. I didn’t take it because I relocated to a different city for a different job, but still, I would have missed out on this job if I hadn’t moved forward with the process with a different recruiter.

        This is pretty common with a recruiters from what I can tell. I’ve worked with them a lot because my field likes using recruiters and it’s so frustrating. I say submit the resume on your own and be done with it.

      2. AB*

        There are a number of reasons a recruiter may not submit you for a job when they say they are going to. One reason is they want to push a different candidate. Another is they don’t actually have plans to submit you (perhaps they submitted someone else or they have no plans to submit anyone) and simply want to get your resume for their portfolio. Some are simply that disorganized.

        I’ve worked with good recruiters and bad ones. There’s no telling.

  3. Anne 3*

    #4 – I can kind of see why an employee would want to keep this info for HR only and not disclose it to their manager, ex. Say the employee’s emergency contact is their same-sex partner and they would rather keep this information private from their management for whatever reason.

    1. FiveNine*

      But it is so common as to border on universal for U.S. companies — through H.R., through management, etc. — to request emergency contact info that I can’t really side with the employee with hypotheticals here. I don’t see it, employee is being unnecessarily belligerent.

      1. The Other Dawn*

        I agree. I don’t see the issue with giving out a phone number or two. It’s so standard to give this information these days.

        1. sunny-dee*

          My company has a form you fill out, and they even have a relationship option just for “friend” and then one for “roommate.” Which made sense when I relocated — all my family was over 200 miles away, and it was easier to have a friend be my primary emergency contact, and family as secondary. So, you don’t really have to disclose a personal relationship if you don’t want to.

    2. AnotherAlison*

      Seems like most forms request the name, phone number, and relationship for your emergency contact, but even if you were concerned about revealing a same-sex partner, couldn’t you just call them “friend” or “roommate” and leave it at that?

      I have an uncle who didn’t marry until 40 and rented out his basement, therefore having several male roommates, while my hair stylist uses the term for his domestic partner. It wouldn’t raise any eyebrows for me, anyway.

      1. Judy*

        In my past experience, HR handled the emergency contact information, for if you have an emergency at work.

        What our managers/department admins wanted was the contact information for you when there’s an emergency.

      2. some1*

        +1. I’ve compiled Emergency Contacts before and didn’t give a flying hoot who people put down or wonder what the “real” relationship was.

        One co-worker was a single, straight female and put her cousin down, because her immediate family lived and across the country and her cousin was local. Another co-worker put down her mother because her husband frequently traveled for work, so it was just more practical.

      3. Confidential*

        It wouldn’t raise my eyebrows, either, but if the information is going out to a large group of people, some of whom the individual may not even know, I don’t think it would be unreasonable to be concerned that someone in the office might have a problem with it. Unfortunately, people can and do lose jobs over their sexuality, and others may not lose their jobs, but experience harassment and poor treatment. While I do not think this would happen at my office, I cannot blame someone for wanting to protect themselves or someone else in the office.

        1. Emily K*

          It seems counter-intuitive that someone trying to conceal a same-sex relationship would draw a lot of attention to themselves by being the only person who refuses to give emergency contact information instead of just fibbing the nature of the relationship on the form.

      4. annie*

        I have been the emergency contact person for several close friends through the years and it seems common to me. I live in a large city though so a lot of people who live here are not from here and therefore don’t have a local family member, especially if they are single.

        My parents have had jobs in the past where even if it was an emergency, it would take a while to track them down, so I always put my sister, aunt or best friend down as an additional emergency contact. No school or job has ever questioned it.

    3. Confidential*

      I’m the OP. This was my thought, even though I don’t think it applied to the requestor. My office has multiple out employees, including on the management team, but I could still certainly understand a person’s apprehension in outing themselves to their entire team–and ours is so large, you typically don’t know everyone on it–thanks to management broadcasting their emergency contact information.

      I don’t think the employee was being belligerent or even reluctant to share information on their own behalf. I think the employee is just a cautious, conscientious person and wanted to make sure we were doing the right thing.

    4. SM*

      So what if Mary lists Jessica as her emergency contact. It could her sister or cousin or anyone. Geesh. I’m single. Should I be seeking some random male friend as an emergency contact rather than a close friend just to give the impression that I’m not gay? What if I were? Who cares?

      1. Zillah*

        Unfortunately, many people do care… but there’s still no way to know what exactly the relationship is with someone you’re listing as an emergency contact.

  4. coconutwater*

    #4. I can think of several reasons to not give the address where you physically live. For me, I stopped provding it after moving into a new apartment after having been the victim of a violent crime. I provided it directly to my two managers but would only provide my mailing address for the office/HR contact list. Nosy bully receptionist harassed me for it until my supervisor put an end to it and told her I was not required to give it to her. This receptionist had a habit of showing up at peoples homes, even vacation homes, uninvited. (I still have her on video tape showing up at my (last) house while I was out of town on vacation.)

    1. Tina*

      What on earth was wrong with that receptionist? What possible reason could she give for repeatedly showing up announced at people’s homes uninvited? I’m glad your manager put a stop to her nagging.

      Anyway, I can see why someone wouldn’t want to give their home address, but in this case, they’re not asking for it, just the name and phone number. I can see the point of Anne 3 above about why people wouldn’t necessarily want to share that, but I’d worry that adding an extra middle man like HR just adds a step that could delay action in cases of real emergencies. If anything happened to me at work, it’d be much faster for my boss to call my husband than find a contact at HR to call him, and at least he knows my co-workers names and would recognize them.

      1. Not So NewReader*

        That was the first thing that hit me. I pictured myself laying on the floor in a medical emergency and my manager has to call HR to find my ICE contact. Okay, so HR is having a busy morning and they don’t quite get to answering the phone or finding the info…. So I am on my way to the hospital and none of my family or friends know where I am. Scary.

        If an employee does not trust a manager with their emergency info then there are bigger problems going on.

        As to same sex partners- the relationship itself is no one’s business. If I write down another woman’s name she could be my relative, my neighbor, a good friend,a babysitter or a partner. Likewise for a man’s name.
        The nature of the relationship is no one’s business but mine. The point of the paperwork is to be instructive, “in case of emergency call Jane at x or y number.”

        I think that if the employee is determined that the manager should not have this information then it should just be explained to her that there may be delays in notifying the contact because of the additional steps involved. Some people might be okay with that. Hopefully she has an ICE on her phone and has a coworker that she trusts to call someone.

        1. Lizabeth*

          My ICE contact information is on my bulletin board next to my desk at work – names and phones only. It’s also next to every phone at home.

        2. Confidential*

          I’m the OP. I think the concern was more in how the information would be stored, if it would be public or restricted to a limited audience.

          1. Yup*

            I was actually wondering if that was the concern. If that’s the case, you can reassure the employee by explaining where the info is stored, who has access to it, and the occasions where it’s allowed to be used. Your employee might, like me, have had a weird past experience where everyone’s personal info & emergency contact were emailed to the entire small company “for reference.”

          2. ExceptionToTheRule*

            We keep ours on note cards in a small recipe box tucked into an unobtrusive corner. It’s employee name, contact name & phone number only. Technically anyone can access it, but we’re a 24/7/365 business and management isn’t always around to have a key.

            We went to this method when one of our employees had a diabetic seizure on a Saturday afternoon. There’s no management in the building on the weekends, so that meant no way to contact his family and let them know he was being taken to the hospital.

            We learned a second lesson that day. You have to dial 9 before you can dial 911.

            1. Anonymous*

              Was this some years ago? I’m under the (perhaps mistaken) impression that modern, computerized, phone systems have a sort of ‘override’ that lets 911 calls through even without a prefix.

    2. Christine*

      I had a job where people had an overactive sense of urgency when it came to production problems. My manager was awesome and I had no concerns with giving her any information she wanted/needed, but there were others in the organization who wouldn’t hesitate to call a medical emergency contact or show up at my house late at night if they were having trouble reaching me for five minutes…I routinely received calls on my cell from 4 am to midnight and half of them were unnecessary. I didn’t want my alternate contact information readily available for just anybody, because it would be used for purposes other than what it was intended for.

    3. Tiff*

      Coco – that receptionist sounds totally crazy. Did anyone file a stay away order? That would be my first thought.

      1. coconutwater*

        She eventually quit because they wouldn’t promote her. She returned a year later wanting her job back and harassed the h*ll out of the person who replaced her….to the point the new receptionist had a panic attack and took a few days off to regroup. The bully receptionist was told to stay away. About a year later the bully receptionist crossed over into criminal behavior and I don’t have all the details but know for sure she was “tresspassed” from ever coming on the property again.

    4. Confidential*

      I’m the OP. The emergency contact information did not include home address or even personal contact information. It was just for the name, relationship, and phone # of an emergency contact.

      I would never bully someone for their personal information if they were unwilling to share it with me.

      1. Kate*

        Maybe people would feel more comfortable if there was no space for relationship? Does that even matter? If I write “John Smith” do you need to know “John Smith” is my husband, uncle or neighbor?

        1. sunny-dee*

          It can matter for a medical emergency, actually. I mean, it’s not a huge deal, but only your near relative has a right to make medical decisions. Like, I have my husband and then my brother listed as my emergency contacts. If they can’t get hold of my husband, my brother can come to me, but couldn’t give consent for a surgery (for example). Only my husband can do that. All that to say, even if they call contact A, the hospital or that contact needs to be aware that they may need to contact other people, too.

      2. coconutwater*

        Oh, I didn’t think you would bully. Sorry, I guess I went into flashback mode when I read your question.

      1. Jean*

        LOL at your response.
        =:O at the chutzpah of the receptionist, who desperately needs a new hobby that keeps her away from other people’s homes.

    5. Heather*

      Well, you’ve just managed to make my ex-coworker (who was so good at spying we thought she should have gotten a job at the NSA) look pleasant and unintrusive. She SHOWED UP AT YOUR HOUSE?! While you were on vacation? And she still had a job after that?

    6. Vicki*

      I worked at as company where HR was worried about “confidentiality” issues regarding creating a vehicle license plate/make/model database (e.g. in case a forklift drops a load of wooden palettes on a car, as happened at a previous workplace.)

      (The company with the palette accident not only didn’t claim confidentiality issues, they required the info to give people a parking sticker.)

  5. The RO-Cat*

    #1: my experience is that transparency is a tool to attract and select the best fit. When recruiting (both as a hiring manager and as a HR consultant) I never downplayed nor stressed the bad bits (long hours, quirks in the culture, management style etc). I saw candidates I liked opting out on their own and I regretted it, but a good, likeable candidate who cannot cope with crazy hours or micromanagement is *not* a good hire, in fact. Best candidate on paper (or even in person) =/= best fit (=best results in the long haul).

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Well said. I just took a temp job under similar circumstances. I was told before my first day of work. I knew what I was walking into.
      I have had no problems. I attribute that to the boss’ candor from the start.
      Oddly, I was also grateful for the insight because it gave me a better idea of how to handle the job. And the boss role modeled the level of openness she expects from me. This opened the door to many productive conversations because we are able to address issues while the issues are still small, as opposed to incubating the issues into something larger.

      Part of holding down a job is to be able to talk through tight situations. Any job is going to have rough spots but if you have a boss/subordinate that knows how to keep the lines of communication open then the rough spots aren’t so rough.

      1. S*

        Yes, I think that it is very important to share any insight with the new hires. This information will be helpful to them in the long run and they will appreciate it (I know I would)!

      2. OP #1*

        Thanks, this is a good insight–by disclosing the background info, I can demonstrate that I’m also willing to listen to any concerns.

        1. Bwmn*

          From personal experience, I have found this type of situation in an interview – particularly when I was interviewing with less professional experience – really forced me to stop playing the role of “I desperately want any and every job”. While I’ve always known that finding a job that’s a good fit is important, when I was younger and then changing fields – often the overriding feeling of “I just need a job” resulted in more of a people pleasing performance in my interviews.

          By having a moment of the interviewer say “you should know your boss will be very difficult to work with” or “we are in the very beginning stages of x so a lot of processes are still in development and in flux” forced me to think about whether or not I’d be good in that situation.

          In the case of “your boss will be very difficult” – when I accepted the job and then experienced that reality, it was something I was prepared for. At the worst times I would just remind myself that I would stick with the job for 2-3 years, get the experience, and then move on. Though there were times when it was really frustrating, it was a frustrating choice I knew I’d made for solid personal reasons – and not just a bad situation that had happened to me.

    2. Windchime*

      Wow. I don’t necessarily think I would be a “bad hire” just because I don’t want to deal with crazy hours or micromanagement. I would call that being a good steward of my life.

        1. The RO-Cat*

          Yes, this is what I meant. As I see it, “good/bad hire” isn’t an absolute qualifier. It depends on a lot of details, some of which are critical (corporate culture, corporate values, management style, direct manager etc). Maybe I should have said “best fit for that company, in that moment in time and with that particular version of management style and corporate culture”, but that would have been cumbersome :-)

      1. AVP*

        Agree with Elizabeth – you might be a great hire in general, but if a company demands 80 hours a week and you aren’t able or willing to give that, you’re not a great hire for that particular company. (although probably more sane than the people who might be great for them!)

      2. S.K.*

        If you wouldn`t want to deal with the stresses of a position, it would be a bad idea to hire you for it (and a bad idea for you to accept it, obviously). Pretty straightforward, I think…

  6. Allison (not AAM!)*

    #1, I’d also address it with remaining staff. They have to know that moving forward, with the two conflicting personalities both gone, that there is no reason to think that the problems would continue, so there is no reason to throw the bad experiences into the new situation. Gossip IS going to happen, but as long as people don’t equate the vacated positions to the previous negative issues, but to the former employees themselves, it shouldn’t be a problem.

    1. OP #1*

      I think the other staff that witnessed the trainwreck are pretty clear on what the issue was, and are just as happy as I am to make a fresh start, but I think I can engage them in a conversation about how they want to work with the two new people, which will hopefully make them feel included, and in a new/different version of the team.

  7. Chinook*

    OP #4, Canada does have privacy laws and asking for emergency contact info is standard. For reasons mentioned by others, managers have access to this information though not home addresses or other personal details. The assumption is this info is to be used for emergencies (including a regular employee not showing up and not answering their home phone, especially if they are single). If this information is abused, then it is an issue of misusing confidential information and should be dealt with accordingly.

  8. Piper*

    #5 – I’ve had the unfortunate opportunity of being grossly mis-titled with titles that either didn’t match what I did or were so unique to the organization that anyone on the outside world would have no idea what they mean. This has happened for almost all of my career. How I’ve handled it is by listing it like this on my resume:
    Manager of Teapot Knowledge and Organization (Teapot Content Manager)

    And then I’ve been really clear in the descriptions, usually in the first sentence about all of my job entails using standard industry terms followed by accomplishments that clearly demonstrate what I know and have done despite the title weirdness.

    1. Audiophile*

      I retitled positions based on recommendations from HR recruiters and friends. I’ve never run into issues, as I explained in the interview what I did.

      For instance, I worked at a school for almost two years, that served special needs students and for a long time, I had a hard time combating people’s assumptions that I was the classroom teacher. Most interviews I had around that time went the same way every time: “WHY do you want to leave teaching? You’re the teacher, right? Why do you want to be our [insert job title here]? Education is such a strong field.” Lol. I wound up retitling my job, in a last ditch effort of sorts to get a better job. It did result in an interview for a position with a media company.

    2. KellyK*

      Yeah, I’ve done the same thing for titles too vague and generic to mean much. When I started at my current company, I was a Documentation Specialist, which can mean anything from copyeditor to tech writer to the person who manages a document library, and probably another three or four things that I’m not thinking of. So I put Technical Writer and Editor in parentheses after it.

      1. Jen in RO*

        I am actually looking for new job opportunities right now, and I’m getting tired of guessing what companies want to call technical writers! “Hmm, maybe I should search for “documentation specialist”… or “information developer”… or maybe “content writer”?”

        1. Elizabeth West*

          I’m an admin who does technical editing–it might be a good idea to put that somewhere after my title, or at least make sure it’s the first thing in the description. Otherwise, I’ll be pigeonholed.

          I’m not looking because I like my job, but in this economy, I’ve made it a practice to update my resume often because you never know what might happen (layoffs, an internal opportunity, marrying someone and moving to Alaska like one of my friends did, etc.–although I could do my job from Alaska!). So those of us who are happy at work should still heed this kind of advice, I think.

    3. AmyNYC*

      Ugh, how about companies with various thoughts on what a title “means.” I’m an architectural designer, I can’t legally call myself an architect until I pass a butt-load (technical term) of exams. But my last company called me a “Junior Architect” and when I went in for interviews I was reprimanded for pretending to be licensed!

      1. Anonymous*

        That’s strange to be reprimanded for using the title a previous company gave you. The company should be reprimanded, then, not you.

        1. Anonymous*

          Well if your company called you “Junior Doctor”, you won’t go around saying you’re a doctor right? Same idea, I suppose.

      2. Clever Name*

        This explains why my dad has maintained his Registered Architect license even though he hasn’t practiced in 20 years.

    4. Anon*

      If I’ve been given titles that are too vague to mean anything, I either go with the title listed in the job description, or a succinct, general title that aptly describes what I do. So rather than listing, “Student Hourly” three times on my resume, I titled one “[Name of Discipline] Laboratory Technician,” which I would have a hard time believing anyone would take issue with, and use the job description title for the other two.

      As far as checking references goes, even my previous work places understand that “Student Hourly,” the official title, only denotes how to classify me as an employee for HR purposes. I can’t imagine my previous supervisor taking issue with the title I listed.

    5. KH*

      My title includes a “brand name” for our internal IT department instead of calling it what it is, “IT.” So instead of “IT Manager, Regional Operations” my title is “Teapot Manager, Regional Operations” – which means nothing to anyone outside the firm. I guess I would put on a CV as “Teapot (IT) Manager, Regional Operations…” or even asterisk it “Teapot* Manager, Regional Operations (* IT)” …?

  9. r*

    Mind if I spin off of question #5? Earlier in my career, I worked for one company and was promoted rapidly. My titles were something like “Chocolate Teapot Helper,” “Chocolate Teapot Maker,” “Chocolate Teapot Chief Maker.” All in all, I held four titles with similar job responsibilities.

    Since then, I have worked in a related, but different field, and it’s where I want to continue my career. Is there a way to consolidate all of my titles to something like “Chocolate Teapot Staff,” or would that be seen as title inflation, etc?

    1. Piper*

      I’d probably still list them separately as it shows career progression and promotions, which is always a good thing.

    2. Elizabeth*

      You could list them all, but put them on the same line, like this:

      Alison’s Chocolate Tea Accoutrements, Inc., June 2004 – April 2008
      Chocolate Teapot Helper (June 2004 – March 2005), Chocolate Teapot Maker (March 2005 – August 2006), Chief Chocolate Teapot Maker (September 2006 – April 2008)

      Then list the bullet points for everything together under that.

  10. KellyK*

    For #4, legalities aside, emergency contact information seems like something your manager and/or an admin in your building should have. My company, for example, has multiple offices, and it seems silly to be calling someone in another state because one of your employees is on the way to the ER. Name and phone number for an emergency contact doesn’t seem intrusive to me (though I can see where it might get sticky for some people).

    That said, the best way to deal with this is probably to ask her specifically what contact info she has an issue with providing, be up front with her about how it’s used, and see if you can allay her concerns. If not, I wouldn’t push it, as long as she understands that it might make things harder on her if something does happen to her at work, because it will take longer to reach her contact.

  11. summercamper*

    Regarding #4 – it seems like asking for an emergency contact person is standard, but what about collecting other information (on a voluntary basis) about coworkers? My boss is a bit paranoid about the possibility of someone having a medical emergency at work, and he’s starting to rumble about the feasibility of collecting other information as well – like “Jane is allergic to bee stings” and “Jim has diabetes” so that if someone collapses on the job you’ve got an idea of what to tell the paramedics. I’d like to know a) if this is mildly bizarre and can be ignored or super-bizarre and should be protested fiercely and b) if he does insist on doing this, how can I word this request for information in a way that makes it truly voluntary and confidential?

    1. Graciosa*

      I hope it’s not mildly bizarre because we have a system to enable the provision of this type of information. I know of a situation in which a manager lost consciousness, leaving no one available who knew anything of value to the paramedics (emergency contact information, medicines, significant conditions). This is not in the individual’s best interest.

      That being said, presumably most workers are adults and get to make these decisions for themselves. Everyone on my team has a bright purple folder at their desk which contains key work information to be used if they’re not available (projects and calendar). This is required – it is part of everyone’s job to make sure work can be covered in an unexpected absence.

      It is optional to include an “IN CASE OF EMERGENCY” sheet in that folder, and each individual decides what, if anything, to include. Mine has emergency contact information, allergies (medically speaking, this can be critical), and the name and phone number of my primary care physician. He would have an updated list of my medications and any medical conditions, and could provide it to the proper individuals in an emergency without my worrying about leaving it lying around the office.

      In the event of an emergency, any member of the team would know to run to that person’s desk and look for the purple folder. What that individual chose to include or not include is up to them – and they will be responsible for the consequences.

      Now that I think about it, it would be possible to have people leave this in a sealed envelope (signed across the flap) so that it is not visible unless the envelope is opened – and would show if anyone had opened the envelope. I have done this in other situations (contact information during my vacation when I don’t want to be reached unless it’s really an emergency) but I suppose it could be used for ICE information too if it made people feel better. A sealed envelope won’t stop someone unethical from opening it inappropriately, though – all it does is reveal that fact.

      You could ask each individual to provide such an envelope to be given to emergency medical personnel in case of an emergency. If they want the office to contact anyone, that name and phone number could be written on the outside of the envelope – no one sees the contents which go straight to the EMTs. What each person chooses to include or not include would be up to them.

      1. Chriama*

        I like the signed envelope idea, especially for people worried about disclosing certain medical information. But it should still be kept in a secure area (with HR or in a locked drawer) in case someone decides to be nosy. If the information is spread around the office, knowing someone opened it unnecessarily isn’t going to help you deal with the aftermath (social stigma, gossip, etc).

        1. Judy*

          That’s how we handle medical information for adults on Girl Scouts outings. There’s a medical form for the girls, and a fairly similar one for the adults. Each adult has a copy of the girls’ forms on them during the outing, and we all know that Jane has a tree nut allergy. It’s up to the adults to share that information for themselves, but we need to have a form with medications and allergies in an envelope to be given in case of an incident. My allergies are drug related, so I have never shared, but another leader in a troop with do things with has a bee sting allergy, and she shows the adults where in her backpack her epi-pen is each outing.

    2. Confidential*

      I know when it comes to requesting medical information about employees, you do butt up against legal issues. People with health issues, severe allergies, and taking medications should always keep this information–along with their name, insurance information, and emergency contact information–on their person. I strongly recommend keeping it visible and easy to locate in your wallet or billfold.

    3. Nikki J.*

      That’s touchy because having health information if it doesn’t relate to the job description could cause ADA issues if ever came up down the line depending on what it is.

    4. Chriama*

      If you’re big enough to have a central HR, they should keep it on file since they’d most likely be involved in any situation where outside medical help was called to the office.

      In terms of the actual request, just state the facts clearly. Something like “This information is optional and will be kept confidential. It will only be used in the case of a medical emergency occurring on site. “

      1. Elizabeth West*

        That might be helpful if your HR is onsite, but what if it’s not? I think the best place for the information is in your wallet or phone or both. Allergies, medications, and if you’re supposed to wear a Medic-Alert thing, actually wear it.

        After going through this thread, I made an ICE group in my phone, which I hadn’t done before. I do usually carry something with my info on it, but I switched purses and don’t have it. I shall do it as soon as I get home this evening.

    5. GeekChic*

      I wear a Medic-Alert necklace to provide information to EMS and the hospital. There is no need for anyone in my office to know that information (my current supervisors know the broad sweepings of my health issues but not the details) though I will share food allergies with others since food is quite central to all offices I’ve found.

      I would probably bristle at the question no matter how “voluntary and confidential” you claimed it was (because frankly, too many times it has been anything but voluntary and confidential). Staff (including HR) love to gossip about people’s health issues. Not going to provide any fodder for that.

    6. Natalie*

      Eh, IMO it’s appropriate to collect this kind of info about kids because they can’t really be trusted to manage the information themselves. But presumably at work one is dealing with adults who have determined their preferred way of handling their own medical condition, whether that’s with medic-alert jewelry, telling co-workers, or something else. I don’t really see a compelling reason to assume otherwise.

    7. KellyK*

      I think having it be truly voluntary and confidential is about a lot more than how you word the request.

      If your boss ends up wanting to pursue this, I’d ask him how the info would be stored and who would have access, focusing on how to have it actually be useful in an emergency while still maintaining confidentiality. I’d also ask how it would be handled if the information was used inappropriately–if suddenly Bob’s diabetes or Joe’s psych meds were the subject of office gossip.

      Honestly, it might be a better idea to encourage people to do it themselves and keep it in their wallet than to try to organize it as an office.

  12. John*

    #5, I work on Corporate Communications and that title would be misleading given your chief responsibilities as you explain them.

  13. NylaW*

    #4 – IMO, if you don’t trust your manager with your personal and emergency contact information, or don’t trust your organization as a whole with that type of information, you have a much bigger problem and probably need to start looking for work elsewhere. While this information should be kept somewhat confidential, and necessarily publicly posted for everyone in your company, it’s not as if someone can’t look you up in the phone book, yellow pages, Google you, whatever and find where you live. Let’s not be naive.

    1. Confidential*

      I’m the OP. I work on a very large team with over 100 employees. I don’t know the majority of the people who work on my team. Even if I trusted my manager or the general management team, I might not trust people I don’t know. And this wasn’t about collecting personal contact information. This was collecting information about whom to contact for the person in the event of an emergency.

      1. Chriama*

        Why wouldn’t you want them to know? What concern about privacy do you have that’s so significant you wouldn’t want people to have as much critical information as possible in an emergency? (serious question, sorry if it comes off as snarky).
        You don’t have to disclose the relationship of your emergency contact, so couldn’t you just provide a name and cell phone number without further explanation?

        1. PoohBear McGriddles*

          A guy who worked in my office died while on a business trip a few years ago. Sometimes crap happens while you’re on the job.
          Still, if someone doesn’t want to say “Call Jane at 555-1212 in an emergency”, for whatever reason, that should be their right. They just shouldn’t expect Jane to be rushing to the hospital any time soon should something happen (unless Jane is clairvoyant).

        2. BadPlanning*

          I think it’s not that the information can’t be given to someone — just who is going to have regular, easy access to it. Some people are not good at recognizing when something is really important and needs a call out. Some people don’t have good boundaries in general. If your number is easy to get and you’ve been burned before (I have), you might be paranoid about who has what numbers when. If phone numbers are easy, some people will use them at stupid times, “Hey ICE, I’m trying to track to Bob to get him to look at this thing that could wait until morning, but I’m a Chicken Little so I want it done now.” If you have to get the manager/HR to give the number, people are less likely to go to that trouble unless it’s an actual emergency.

          My guess is that the OPs coworker has had a bad situation in the past.

      2. Anonymous*

        Fair enough, but it’s still someone’s personal information, even if it’s not yours. What others seem to be saying or implying is that this information should only be seen by those who really need to see it. If something happens to you on the job, it should be your manager or HR that contacts your emergency contact.

  14. The IT Manager*

    For #3, it may have been better if you had referred to him as a family or friend in the field of education, but obviously it didn’t hurt your candidcacy.

    Spouse/husband/wife even fiance conveys more stability than boyfriend since it is supposed to be a life-long partnership. There something more immature about boyfriend just because of the “old-fashioned” life trajectory in that people married just out of school and stayed married so only young people boyfriends and girlfriends hence the words use “boy” and “girl” as the base. We don’t really have an alternate term for “boyfriend” or “girlfriend” for mature couples not made up of boys and girls.

    And as mentioned above in the US “partner” is usually used for same-sex-couples in a long term relationship that up until recently have been unable to marry so there’s a good chance partner would cause an incorrect assumption without further explanation.

  15. Confidential*

    I’m #4. I checked with the admin to make sure we weren’t violating any company policies and asked how the information would be stored. Once I cleared it with her and determined it would not be publicly broadcast information, I shared that with my employee and explained the information would be available only to the admin and the management team in the event of an emergency. That seemed to resolve the issue.

    1. Chriama*

      Whoops, you can ignore my reply to your comment above. I thought you were the one who didn’t want to share your information. People don’t like the idea of giving others too much knowledge for all sorts of reasons (potential discrimination / social judgement, identity theft, stalkers, etc) so if you let them know there’s some layer of security and accountability (e.g. it’s in a locked drawer or password-protected user account) they’ll probably be ok.

  16. themmases*

    I have a terrible job title. My employer has a slightly skewed hierarchy in my field, where they’ve added an extra level above entry-level and below the standard level that most people in my field would have. So while, at most employers, you might advance from assistant > coordinator > senior coordinator > manager, at my employer you advance from assistant > associate > coordinator, etc. My job would be coordinator anywhere else, but I can’t re-title it, even in parentheses, without exaggerating or downplaying my title here. I honestly have no idea how they get salary data for this position. The worst part is, my job title does exist in our field: as a regional person who works for the type of companies we would contract with, a type of work I know I don’t want to get into.

    All I can really do is be specific about my job duties, display the employer’s name prominently, and break out the assistant position I was promoted from so it’s clear what track I’m on.

  17. some1*

    Re: #4, I probably have a different take on this than the majority of posters. I live alone and am not in a relationship. My family and friends would not necessarily think anything is amiss if they didn’t hear from me for a couple of days, but they would if my boss called and said I no-called, no-showed for work.

    If I didn’t show up for work and my boss couldn’t get ahold of me, I’d rather she contacted my ICE on the very rare chance something happened to me than not out of violating my privacy.

    1. The IT Manager*

      I agree. I usually speak to my family on the weekends. Although I get out and do things in evenings during the week, it’s not the kind of close relationships where people would hunt me down if I didn’t show up for an event so I would really hope that if I don’t show up for work that my boss would make a point of calling me and if I didn’t respond she would reach out to my family to check on me. My family is not local, but if I missed work without warning and didn’t respond to their phone calls, texts, or email, they’d get someone out there to check on me.

    2. Elizabeth West*

      Me too. I sometimes go weeks without speaking to my family, although someone might notice if I wasn’t online for more than a day or two. Unfortunately, it probably wouldn’t be any family members. It would be people in my G+ circle, and friends on Facebook. But yeah, my boss would definitely notice if I didn’t log on and she would probably call me.

  18. Erin*

    #2 – This might depend on the industry. When I was job hunting in the legal field, I was told to keep meticulous records on where any recruiter had submitted my name. The reason is that firms don’t want to get into a dispute over whether or not they owe the recruiter a fee and so they will simply discard any materials submitted twice. Does this mean they might discard a great candidate? Sure. But in this market, who cares? There are a hundred more perfectly good candidates who *don’t* come with potential recruiter issues.

    1. Anon*

      Yes. This.

      We recently had to disqualify a candidate because their resume was submitted by two recruiters and they submitted themselves (total of 3 resumes). Both recruiters had signed consent to submit the candidate for the role.

      Rather than deal with a potential legal battle, we chose to not pursue the candidate, even though they looked like a great fit for the role.

  19. some1*

    Another thought on #4, if the admin answers the main phone line &/or opens the mail, there’s a very real possibility s/he already knows something as personal as who your Emergency Contact is and have kept it confidential.

    When I had opened mail and answered the phones I found out things about my co-workers that I would die of embarrasment if the situation was reversed.

  20. glg*

    Ug,I feel you LW #5 with the title angst! I curse titles because my last two jobs I haven’t really had them. My previous job I asked my bosses if I could use x, y, and z titles and they were basically like: yeah, sure, use whatever, we’ll back you up! (They are my go-to references.) But my current position I don’t have that kind of relationship with my bosses, plus I don’t want them to know I am job hunting, so I use generic titles. (Asking them what my job title is didn’t work: they basically said “oh I don’t really know, it doesn’t really matter”.)

    1. Ethyl*

      My partner and I both have had jobs where our titles were these weird generic titles, like Staff Specialist I or Technology Consultant, and where those terms could apply to anyone at the same level across multiple disciplines throughout the organization. I chose to just use the “standard” term for my job on my resume based off what I know about the field and how other companies title jobs (Field Teapot Inspector, Staff Teapot Inspector, Teapot Projects Manager), figuring that when my references were called they would not remember me as Staff Specialist II but as Staff Teapot Inspector. Seems to have worked fine so far!

      1. glg*

        Yes, that’s what I figure. I mean, it would be obvious if I was referring to myself as CEO or something, but Administrative Assistant & Bookkeeper is pretty generic and no one is going to blink. My previous job had more specialized titles (I worked in film) but the various titles I had in the credits of the projects only described part of my my day to day work at the company.

  21. PoohBear McGriddles*

    For #3, given that it was an internship she may be at a stage in her life where she is more likely to have a “boyfriend” than a fiance or husband.
    I’ve heard the terms gentleman-friend and lady-friend used, but they don’t roll off the tongue as easily. I guess that is why I’ve heard 70 and 80 years olds use girlfriend and boyfriend. The English language just doesn’t give better options.

  22. StellaMaris*

    LW1 – The greatest gift you can give a new hire is honesty. This creates a culture of good communication and that benefits everyone. I would up in a new job where a very significant fact – that my assistant was married to my boss – was deliberately concealed from me. That overshadowed everything else and I was gone in a year.

      1. StellaMaris*

        Frankly, it was pure hell on Earth. She had serious mental issues that profoundly affected her job performance and there was no way I could take any action about them. Years later, former co-workers from that job told me how they had wanted to help me out, but couldn’t, and they were sorry.

    1. AVP*

      I had a job once where the person hiring me (my direct supervisor) never mentioned that she was in a romantic relationship with the CEO of the (very small) company.

      There was a significant age difference, so it wasn’t immediately obvious, and it took me about a week to figure out and confirm it. It didn’t turn into a problem, but it was just weird that there was this big dynamic going on that everyone else knew about but me.

    2. OP #1*

      Yikes! That sounds like a mess. I think one of the reasons that I should be upfront is that the situation is NOT a deep dark horrible secret, at least not an ongoing one, but by not talking about it, I could allow new staff to get the impression that it is.

      1. anon*

        Also, if you say nothing and the new staff first hear of it from other people, who knows what they might be told/ overhear? Everyone will have a different opinion on the matter, and a co-worker might (accidentally or not) make the situation seem much more dramatic/ problematic than it really was.

        Not to mention, if there’s this big secret about a new staff members predecessor that their boss never told them about and they only catch whispers and hints about it, they could well end up thinking, “What the (bleep) happened here? What kind of dysfunctional place IS this?” when the reality is much more mundane.

  23. Jeff*

    Alison, thank you so much for your thoughtful response to my question #2, and thanks to MJ of the West, magigail, Ex – Mrs. Addams, and Piper for your awesome thoughts.

    Alison, I agree with you that submitting my resume twice would be risky, and based on the way I decided to proceed, likely hazardous. Yesterday, I did ask the recruiter for the materials he submitted and he sent them to me in minutes (except for the fee agreement). The resume he submitted on my behalf omitted my contact information (except for my name, which – as Alison pointed out – he “owns”), and replaced it with the logo and contact info of the recruiting firm. (Now I understand why he asked for my resume in Word format.)

    Magigail and Ex – Mrs. Harris, just to clarify my thinking, my concern about whether or not the recruiter submitted my resume speak to Piper’s comments about the seemingly strange things that can happen with recruiters because they’re constantly under intense pressure to produce. More specifically, my concern was that the recruiter saw the company’s job posting, and then cold-called the hiring manager to make his pitch. This would effectively eradicate the only real benefit of going through a recruiter in this situation – his relationship with the hiring manager.

    After reading the recruiter’s email to the company, it seems to me that this is exactly what happened. Evidently, the recruiter had initially called the hiring manager, who redirected him to send the fee agreement and resume to someone else. Given that, and the fact that the recruiter hasn’t been able to get in touch with anyone at the company, I am reasonably convinced that there is no relationship there – or if there is – it needs work. So, given the degree of competition for this type of position, how likely is it that the company will hire someone with a fee attached?

    I’m not sure there’s much more I can do with this one, although I learned quite a bit in a very short time. That said, feel free to share your thoughts. Thanks!

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      The resume he submitted on my behalf omitted my contact information (except for my name, which – as Alison pointed out – he “owns”), and replaced it with the logo and contact info of the recruiting firm. (Now I understand why he asked for my resume in Word format.)

      This is actually very normal with recruiters. They don’t want the employer to be able to contact you directly at this stage, since they earn a commission by submitting you, if you’re hired.

      1. Jeff*

        Not to mention the fact that if I (#2) choose to re-submit my resume, I can’t very well use a different name. So matching them up results the shredding of both. That said, there isn’t really a horrific downside to submitting my resume directly.

        Does it matter if the fee agreement has not yet been signed? If it hasn’t, does the employer have any liability to said recruiter? I suppose, if I’m an employer, why would I even get involved unless I was looking for a 5’9″ tall pastry chef who is fluent in French, German, and Urdu, with a Ph.D. in Physics and experience as a professional hockey player. And red hair. Yep, I’m screwed.

        So I’ll probably submit my resume directly anyway. It doesn’t seem like I have much to lose.

    2. S.K.*

      I am quite surprised at the idea that recruiters might `cold call` a hiring manager – is this common? It feels like something that would have an insanely low success rate, especially since without an agreement in place there is nothing stopping a company from contacting the candidate directly after first contact and cutting the recruiter out. But then, I`ve only worked with recruiters with decently well-known companies – so maybe I`m just not up-to-speed on the practices of the sketchier half of the profession.

      1. jennie*

        It’s very common to get cold calls from agencies about open positions. And unfortunately it’s very common that the agencies claim to have the perfect candidate but don’t, and they start recruiting after the cold call. Usually they won’t submit a candidate until there’s an agreement signed.

    3. CAA*

      This sounds so familiar. I’m a hiring manager with several open positions and I get cold calls from recruiters all the time. I hate this and I always send them to HR, as per our company policy.

      Nine times out of ten, they talk to HR and say “I just talked to CAA and she’s really interested in talking to my candidate. I’m sending a resume for you to look at.” Of course my HR guy knows this is totally BS, and he’ll just decline to do business with these guys; but that candidate is now out of the running for any position we might have. If your resume got sent to my company this way, it won’t hurt you to resubmit, but you’re already not getting hired any time in the next six months, so it won’t help you either.

      The only way I could see it not hurting to have a recruiter cold-calling on your behalf would be if you had incredibly unique skills and I had no other viable candidates for that position.

      1. S.K.*

        Ugh. Well, that`s the kind of info I come here for. If a recruiter calls me, is there anything I can do to be sure I`m not getting railroaded in this way? Or am I always going to be rolling the dice, with all but the best-known recruiting firms?

        1. jennie*

          You could ask if they are the exclusive agency working on the position, but there’s no guarantee they’ll be honest with you. I’d say your best bet is to check the company’s website to see if the job is posted and if it is, apply directly through the company. But, then, some agencies won’t disclose the name of the company on the first call for this reason. If you apply directly, they don’t get paid.

          And the “best known” recruiting firms can be the worst offenders. Your best bet is to develop a relationship with a recruiter you trust but that’s not easy. If you have in-demand skills and an excellent track record, that gives you an advantage.

          1. S.K.*

            Thanks! Looks like I unknowingly dodged some bullets, since I spoke to quite a few recruiters this past summer and fall when I was on the hunt. I ended up getting this position through a recruiter, even. This makes me want to e-mail her and simply thank her for not being slimy…

          2. Jeff*

            In the absence of trust (I worked with a recruiter I trusted implicitly), I wouldn’t move forward without the name of the company. If he wants the business, he’ll “whisper” it to you. I would offer a contingent commitment to the recruiter if I were able to conclude that I’d have a better shot at the job working with him. Notwithstanding the propensity to lie, I would try to satisfy myself that the proposed transaction is legit. I would ask some very difficult questions about how the opportunity came to him, from whom, how long has he been working with this particular hiring manager, as well as with the company. I would want to know how many candidates he has placed with this company/individual in the past. I might ask around about him. Quite frankly, I don’t see why he shouldn’t be able to provide me with references. Those are just a few ideas that came to me AFTER I agreed to work with him.

    4. CEMgr*

      Whenever I get a call from a recruiter touting a new position, I make sure to ask during that first conversation whether they are retained or not. If they’re retained, they’ll say so immediately and then almost always provide detail on how they know the hiring manager, their background with the hiring company, in-depth insight into the position, etc.

      If they’re NOT retained, typically they’ll dance around the question. And I take that as a No.

      I’ve never had anyone admit to not being retained, i.e. being a cold call recruiter. Cold calling to offer candidates is analogous to throwing a pot of spaghetti at the wall and seeing if anything sticks. I don’t want to be the spaghetti.

  24. Another Cat*

    #1: Slightly different situation, but I was really grateful when an interviewer warned me that the incumbent’s immediate supervisor had an ego and would resent someone (like me) with a higher degree, and that I would need to play dumb in the role. So I would say please, by all means, lay stuff out in the open or you may be resented later.

  25. Brett*

    #4 It is rare, but sometimes states do have a constitutional right to privacy that could have a bearing on emergency contact information. In general though, state do not have this or have a limited application for personnel files. The easiest way to find out is to check out the state’s sunshine law rulings on public employee personnel files. In most states, this is fully public information (names, addresses, phone numbers, birthdates, names and birthdates of dependents, etc) except for social security numbers.

    Also, if your company executes contracts with local or state government, it is worthwhile to check into that state’s definition of quasi-public. This rarely applies, but when it does it opens up all of your personnel records to sunshine law, which could affect how you collect emergency contacts. (We had a stupid case of this locally where someone successfully sunshine law requested all the emergency contacts for subdivision pool memberships. That got very icky quickly.)

      1. Brett*

        You can get a summary of the state with constitutional rights to privacy here:

        Some, like Alaska, could probably be used in civil actions. Others, like South Carolina and Louisiana, would only apply against state actions. And many have exemptions for compelling state interests.

        Florida has the most interesting constitutional right to privacy. They have a full constitution right to privacy that provides strong protection, except that public records are specifically exempted from this right to privacy. They make every part of the personnel file public record except the SSN (and that is only because of federal law), even employee reviews.

        My home state of Missouri does not have a right to privacy but protects some of this information beyond just the SSN. Many states put in specific exemptions for law enforcement, social workers, and judges (but this does not help quasi-public companies).

  26. Sharm*

    #3 – I’m the rare example where mentioning my boyfriend WAS a plus. I moved to a place where employers struggle to find talent and then retain them (being on an island thousands of miles away from anything would do that). I forget the exact line of questioning during an interview, but basically, I had to give evidence that I wasn’t just moving here on a whim and would leave in 6 months. I first mentioned that I had family on the island (which was true), and also that my boyfriend’s work is directly tied to this geographic area. The director of the department I was hired for was visibly relieved at this and I got the job. I don’t recommend this in most cases, but for my unique geographic situation, I have found it is a bonus to mention your ties/roots to the place.

  27. OP #1*

    Thanks for your answer! Sorry to come to the discussion late but I think I’m in a different time zone than most readers.

    My gut feeling *was* to be upfront about it, but someone else suggested to me that saying anything about how one of the prior people wasn’t a good fit might come off as threatening, and vague.

    It sounds like it’s all in the wording: I need to explain that there was a personality conflict between the two previous people (one of whom had, shall we say, a unique style that did not work in our culture). I can say that I’m confident the new people will be a good fit because we made it part of our interview and reference check, but if they have any questions about the workplace culture, they can always come to me and ask.

  28. Tara T.*

    A couple of interviewers asked me, “Are you from this area?” I wondered why they were asking, since I have approximately 20 years of local work experience on my resume, so obviously, I live here! I have been job hunting for awhile and live in an apartment rather than owning a house, but still, that is no reason to assume I will not stay after living here so long. And my address is at the top of my resume! I thought later that they might be asking for illegal, discriminatory reasons, to find out personal things from candidates, like if they were born in a foreign country. Sometimes they ask where your family is from or if you have family members in the same area – maybe it is an attempt to find out if someone has little children or is a single mom and might have attendance problems at work?

    1. Anonymous*

      I don’t suppose you went to some faraway school? It strikes me as perhaps just awkward conversation, but who knows.

  29. SAF*

    #4 – I have a friend who objected to that sort of information being collected at a previous job.

    Upper management was controlling and not trustworthy. They made strange rules like, if you went home sick, someone had to accompany you. And they would contact your emergency contacts inappropriately.

    In general, she wouldn’t object to it. So, ask. Make sure your staffer hasn’t experienced misuse of that data.

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