a recruiter emailed me a dozen annoying interview questions to complete, Phi Beta Kappa on a resume, and more

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

1. Recruiter emailed me a dozen annoying interview questions to complete

I had a phone screen with a large corporation for a program manager role. After a 10 minute conversation, the recruiter emailed me over a dozen interview questions that he asked me to complete, including:
• Share with me some of your areas of improvements or strengths
• Tell me about a time when you had significant obstacles to overcome in achieving your goal. Were you successful?
• Salary history and/or expectations
• On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate yourself in the basic and preferred skills in the job description

I can’t put a finger on it, but it makes me really uncomfortable to answer these questions via email. I applied through a strong referral, and my referrer told me that the hiring team put a note on my application asking the recruiter not to pass on me, so this seems unnecessary. How should I respond?

That’s incredibly annoying; if they want to interview you, they should interview you, not sending you a bunch of written questions that are more typically asked in an interview. If you have a really close contact there and you know them enough to know that they’d think this was BS, and they want you more than you want them at this point, you could check in with your contact about it (with a note like, “Hey Jane, your recruiter asked me to fill out 12 fairly lengthly interview questions that seem better discussed in person — do you mind if I hold off on these until we meet?”) … but if your contact there isn’t particularly strong or you don’t know that they want to woo you, then you’ve got to suck it up and fill it out.

But recruiters who make strong candidates jump through hoops, particularly when the employer has already indicated they want to meet with the candidate, are recruiters of questionable quality. (On the other hand, it’s possible that this is the hiring team’s process, not the recruiter’s. Who knows?)

2. Interview questions that don’t match my experience

I am having problems with initial phone interviews, usually conducted by HR. For over 9 years, I have worked at inbound call centers. My job was to take calls all day. Nothing else.

I have been applying for other call center jobs, but lately I am hitting a roadblock with HR professionals who know nothing about the industry yet are interviewing people for an inbound position. For example, someone asked me what kind of projects I worked on, when I take calls all day. There is seldom time between calls. Another asked me how I dealt with a coworker with a different work style than my own. Call center agents don’t exactly work with coworkers. They work with callers. You may occasionally ask a manager a question or ask a coworker about a call, but more often than not I did not even know the name of the agent sitting next to me let alone their work habits. How do I educate the person interviewing me without offending them because they are asking irrelevant questions?

Just straightforwardly explain it. But also think about what they’re looking for with those questions (which is information about how you get along with others) and answer that however you can. For instance : “My call center jobs kept me on the phone with customers all day, close to every minute of the day. I worked with customers rather than coworkers, but I can tell you about how I handled customers with difficult styles.”

3. Can I ask not to have to use vacation time to attend a week-long program for my master’s degree?

I’m taking classes part-time as part of a master’s degree program, while working full-time in the same field. So far, I haven’t had to adjust my work schedule at all to make this work. However, this summer there is a week-long session that is part of the degree program. It is a one-time only thing, which I’m required to attend. I have already requested the time away from work and am prepared to use vacation time to cover my absence; however, I’m wondering how off-base it would be to ask my work to consider allowing me to count the time as job training (and therefore not have to use vacation time).

On one hand, the degree program has already made me a much more skilled employee, which the organization benefits from, and my organization does occasionally pay for employees to attend conferences (obviously, in that case the employees are not using vacation time to attend). On the other hand, the advanced degree is something I pursued on my own, without prompting from my employer, that I will ultimately benefit most from.

(Also, if it matters: I am a non-exempt employee, but am not in the type of job that requires me to find a replacement or be there set hours. I have worked at the company for several years, and have about 10 years in the field.)

If it’s truly work that’s significantly benefitting your workplace, and if your manager would agree with that, there’s no harm in asking. I’d say something like, “Is there any chance I could do all or part of the week-long session on Topic X without charging to my accrued vacation time, since it’s professional development that’s helping with X, Y, and Z at work? I understand if I can’t, but did want to ask.”

4. Was this an awkward way of making a job offer?

I had a rather long interview (approximately 2 hours) recently with three different managers showcasing different job aspects and a facility tour. A few hours later, I received an email asking me to give a call in the morning and was told in it that my interview “went very well!”

When I called, I was offered the job. I did end up accepting, but I couldn’t help but think how awkward that call would’ve been if I even needed some time to think about it! Is this normal?

I am confused about which part of this seems odd to you! It’s very normal to make a job offer over the phone — more common than any other method, in fact — and it’s not that odd that they emailed you and asked you to call them at your convenience. If you wanted time to think over the offer, you would have just said that on the call — as in, “Thanks so much for the offer. I’d like a few days to think it over. Can I get back to you by Wednesday?”

5. Should I put Phi Beta Kappa on my resume?

After 15 years as a co-owner of a retail business, I left to attend university. Not only did I receive a bachelor of arts at a prestigious school, I earned membership in Phi Beta Kappa. I am extremely proud of my achievements but I’m unsure about what to include on my resume.

I am applying for entry-level administration jobs in corporate offices. Does including Phi Beta Kappa on my resume give employers an assurance that I can also function successfully in a corporate atmosphere? Or does it make me overqualified for entry-level, which is all that my work experience supports? Or does it make me look overly boastful?

It does none of that. It’s good to include it on your resume, and it won’t seem boastful. It will seem like a marker of academic achievement, which it is. But it also doesn’t make you overqualified for entry-level jobs, because it doesn’t give you work experience, which is what would make you overqualified, or indicate that you can function successfully in a corporate environment, because Phi Beta Kappa has nothing to do with functioning in corporate environments. It’s more similar to, say, having a high GPA — it reflects well on you academically, you should be proud of it, and having it is better than not having it.

{ 162 comments… read them below }

  1. KaliaC*

    OP-1, Just curious, would that large corporation be the biggest name in online auctioning services? Because about a month ago I had been contacted by a recruiter for them concerning a Campaign Manger role and they sent me well over a dozen questions to fill out, almost 20 in fact.

    A lot of them weren’t the run of the mill weed out questions either like “Rate your experience with ‘x’ software.” It was more along the lines of “Tell me a time you dealt with a difficult coworker” or “What would you do if you disagreed with your boss on an important decision?” Definitely the types of questions you would want to look someone in the eye for or at least talk to them on the phone about. Not give them time to fabricate/perfect an answer.

    I filled out the 20 some-odd questions and ended up moving to the next round but the position ended up getting put on hold. It all worked out in the end though, I got an even better job offer from one of my dream companies. I am glad it worked out the way it did though even if I did waste a good 90 minutes of my life on that form.

      1. AB Normal*

        I had the same experience in another tech company (also not in online auctioning). I think it’s not that uncommon to have this sort of screening in our industry.

  2. EngineerGirl*

    #5 – I’m concerned that the OP thinks that Phi Beta Kappa would allow her to bypass entry level positions. This seems wildly out of touch with reality. I’m concerned that her first job is going to be rough because expectations aren’t aligning with real life.
    Grades get you in the door (maybe). After that it is performance, performance, performance.

    1. Dan*

      I guess you are using the term “first job” a bit loosely because the op states that they have been co owners of a retail establishment for 15 years. I suppose owning a business isn’t quite the same as “having a job” but I digress…

      What is stranger to me is how much the op is emphasing academic creds. With that kind of life experience under their belt, methinks that degree is significant only if the field of study demands it.

      1. EngineerGirl*

        I did skip over the 15 years bit. But I’m not sure what that entails. Co-owner of a physical shop with employees is different than co-owner of an Etsy type site. I’m inclined toward the latter because she feels she isn’t qualified for beyond entry level admin. It is a bizarre combination.

        1. Ruffingit*

          I agree, I find it odd that this person is looking for entry level admin jobs after having 15 years experience as a business owner. I’m inclined to think the business was an at-home small sort of thing otherwise, as a previous business owner, she’d have quite a bit of business experience that would translate into more than entry level admin. But hey, I’ve been wrong before, totally willing to think I am now – OP can you clarify what the business was that you co-owned?

        2. Chinook*

          To me, OP #5 is right in thinking that 15 years experience is not equal to 15 years experience in an office. She understands basic job expectations but dodesn’t have experience with the jobs she is applying to, which is why she is not overqualified for entry level ones. Now, her experience may mean she moves beyond entry level quicker than average, but she is still going through a career change and you really should start “at the bottom” to get a feel for the job.

          1. Gjest*

            If the business she ran was an Etsy, Scentsy, Mary Kay, etc. type of business, yes, maybe. But if it was a real retail business, I would think 15 years of running that would give her skills above “the bottom” and certainly more than an entry level admin position, though.

            1. Coach Devie*

              Selling items on Etsy is not like Scentsy or Mary Kay though. The two latter supply the product etc but Etsy is usually created and marketed by the shop owner themselves (as well as handling refunding and upselling etc), all additional advertising and marketing materials outside of being visible in search is created by the shop owner, this translates a bit differently than a “sales” job with Scentsy or Mary Kay (where all the marketing materials and brand recognition is done already, and you just have to get the sale — which of course includes some marketing, but in a different fashion) Etsy is the marketplace but branding and recognition and customer service is the job of shop owner (just like owning a brick and mortar business, that isn’t part of a franchise) and as such can be translatable in a different way other than sales.

          2. OP #5 PBK*

            Your thoughts are the closest to my situation. I am applying to job descriptions that I can match most closely to my previous experience. It is hard to convince a hiring manager (in the few seconds that it takes to scan a resume) that my experience transfers directly to their requirements, especially with so much competition from job seekers already in the field. I was wondering if mentioning my scholastic success would make a difference in those few seconds.

            1. Dan*

              What kind of retail business were you actually involved in? That answer would give you better advice.

            2. Laura*

              I think that’s the exact case where a really good cover letter makes all the difference. There’s lots of great cover letter advice on this site!

            3. jordan*

              People are hitting on an interesting point here in regards to PBK which is that if the person reading your resume DOESN’T know what it is, it could sound like a sorority or fraternity, which comes with its own implications. I would perhaps list it as “Phi Beta Kappa Honor Society” so those who aren’t aware of it don’t write it off as something non-academic.

              Congrats on that accomplishment by the way – from a fellow PBK!

        3. Dan*

          I have to admit that I know nothing about what kind of career path an entry level admin person pursues. My previous employer had about 150 employees, mostly providing software engineering and analytic services to the government.

          The entry level admin person will forever be the entry level admin person. We had a handful of folks in accounting and finance, but the admin person is deluding herself if she thinks she has much of a career “moving up” in that company. I mean, those folks would have to quit or retire for her to even think about filling something, and even then, she’d have to have the right background.

          Her work certainly would not qualify her to move into a technical role.

          1. MaggietheCat*

            “deluding herself” about moving up, wow. I’m glad that my company encourages everyone to grow and improve with them. That is a really depressing take on an entry level position, and quite frankly a little aggressively stated. I feel bad for your admin!

            1. MommaTRex*

              I don’t think Dan is totally off with regards to most companies. My advice is that if you want to be an Administrative Assistant, you can find a great career! If you want to be something else entirely, don’t take an admin job for “experience”. It is very tough (possible, but tough) to get away from that title. I’ve seen it happen too many times. Focus on the field you want.

          2. Noelle*

            It all depends on what kind of career the OP is looking for. If she wants to stay in the administrative track, there’s a huge potential to advance. I know people who have started as entry level and end up being executive assistants to CEOs. However, you’re right that an admin job would not qualify the OP for any positions outside of admin, and taking the job if s/he wants to do something else is a bad idea.

      2. Michele*

        I am with you Dan. When people lists academic and GPA information on their resume I pay little to no attention to it. I would be interested in hearing about their experience in owning a business.

      3. Laura*

        I thought that was strange too – if you’ve been working for 15 years, what does it matter what you did in university? What kind of employer would even ask about it?

        I actually had no idea what Phi Beta Kappa is and had to Google it. It’s not really a thing in Canada, and there is no equivalent – I have also never heard of the concept of an honour society. From what I can tell it’s exclusively an American thing? Anyways no useful advice for that except if you ever apply to a job outside the US take it off because it’d be unheard of.

        1. KarenT*

          There are many Phi Beta Kappa chapters in Canada, though the organization only seems to have traction in larger universities.

          1. Anonymous*

            Which universities? I’m genuinely curious because I can’t seem to find UBC, U of T or McGill on the PBK directory that someone linked to here.

            1. Laura*

              I looked through the PBK directory from their website and couldn’t find any mention of any Canadian chapters. From personal experience, there are no chapters at University of Guelph, McMaster University, York University or Queen’s University. Not sure how much larger you can get than that? I’ve also never heard of the concept of honour societies in general.

        2. Chinook*

          There is sort of a Canadian equivalent – the Governor General’s Academic Medal. You can earn the Bronze if you are top in your high school (regardless of class size – I got mine by being the top of 7 but I am still earned it), Collegiate Bronze at the post-secondary, diploma level; Silver at the undergraduate level; and Gold at the graduate level.

    2. Lynn Whitehat*

      Yeah, I’m not sure where they’re getting the idea that Phi Beta Kappa is so amazing it would make employers not consider them for entry-level. OP, did you do anything with them, like plan events or at least attend them?

      1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

        Yeah, that wasn’t cool. There is unfortunately a little bit of attitude among commenters here. Not nearly as much as most sites, but I’m sorry that you had to experience it!

        As a person who has hired a lot of entry-level folks (although none with 15 years of retail and business-owning experience!), I can tell you that including the PBK on your resume will get you a split second of additional attention…. but that’s it. Don’t focus on it. Focus on the skills and experiences you have developed.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          I guess it just depends on how you interpret it, but I don’t see it as “attitude” so much as “unvarnished feedback on how something might be coming across” … which is really useful in workplace stuff, because that’s where you really need unvarnished, to-the-point feedback on how something could be coming across.

          (That’s not to say there are never comments here that are more harsh than is warranted. There are, just like any time you get thousands of strangers together. But out of the thousands of comments made here every week, the ones in that category are a very small percentage of the total … which makes me think it’s an unfair characterization of the commenting community overall.)

          1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)*

            I’ve seen you respond to comments like mine with a comment like yours before. And I agree – the comment section here is generally AWESOME.

            But there are a couple things that drive me a little crazy about the comment community here.

            One is an over-extrapolation that some commenters make; it sometimes seems to me that nobody is perfect enough to be employable to some folks. (For example, the thread the other day in which some folks were outraged that an employee didn’t have an acceptable-to-them backup plan for a flat tire. The extrapolation was: this person isn’t reliable, doesn’t plan ahead, can’t be trusted with important work products, etc.)

            The other is a strain of snobbish “how could you not know that?” This is something I recognize in myself – I’ve internalized a lot of the lessons you’ve given us, and I sometimes find myself wanting to roll my eyes at LWs that ask questions that feel obvious to me. But I don’t – at least I don’t comment about it. What good does that do anyone?

            Anyway, apologies for being a little grumpy. I think you know that I strongly value the work you do and the input of the comment crew. It may be imperfect but it’s still the best comment section on the internet (and, for me, the only comment section in which I participate).

            1. Sandrine*

              You do not seem grumpy, but I will agree with Alison.

              I have no idea what Phi Beta Kappa is (other than greek letters) and it does feel like sorority or something, which might be interesting at an academic level, but not much more.

              I am not one to downplay accomplishments, but it does not seem to bear that much professional worth.

              Since it still carries worth of some sort, however, I would try to use it in interviews or cover letters in one way or another.

            2. Jake*

              You hit the nail on the head.

              “it’s still the best comment section on the internet”

              I agree 100%, but that is still a low standard to meet. Would any of the “harsh” commenters be willing to say the things they say on here directly to somebody they just met in a professional setting? Or in any setting outside of the internet? We come here to hone our professional skills, but we end up doing things here that we’d strongly frown upon if we heard about it happening in “real life.”

              That being said, I guess my point isn’t all that valid since anybody who writes in to this blog knows they can be published here, and trying to apply professional standards to a blog (even one about professionalism) is not realistic.

            3. Tinker*

              I’ve seen the same thing also.

              My thought on the matter is that there’s a strain of thinking with respect to work that is harshly judgmental — very concerned with people “knowing their place” and with identifying “bad apples” or avoiding identification as same based on what can be the flimsiest of signs. It’s endemic in places like comment sections on mainstream news articles (and yes, when I read that I get what I deserve) and in other online general conversation venues when the subject of work comes up — I’ve also encountered bits of it in person.

              This site actually stands out to me as being exceptional in the degree that it manages to avoid that pit, which is a credit to Alison and the folks here and a prime reason why I read this blog. Given the prevalence of that mode of thinking, though, I think it’s not surprising and quite understandable when some of that still shows up.

        2. Laura*

          Since the OP is Canadian, I’m not sure PBK will get extra attention, other than of the “what is that?” variety

      2. Penny*

        Honestly I have no clue what PBK is, sounds like just a sorority or frat to me so it wouldn’t garner any additional attention from me.

      3. Kate*

        OP#5 – i agree with Alison’s advice as far as your resume is concerned (maybe nice to mention but not really that important), but i also just wanted to say that i know what PBK is and congratulations, you must have done very well!

      1. ~anon...*

        wow.. this showed up no where near what I replied to! My reply was to this: “#5 – I’m concerned that the OP thinks that Phi Beta Kappa would allow her to bypass entry level positions. This seems wildly out of touch with reality. I’m concerned that her first job is going to be rough because expectations aren’t aligning with real life.”

  3. Ann Furthermore*

    #1: I guess I’ve been out of job interview circulation for too long. I think being able to answer interview questions via e-mail, which would let you think about your answers and say exactly what you want to say, would have some big advantages. It’s also a chance to demonstrate your written communication skills. If they’re strong, that could tip the scales in your favor if there are other strong candidates being considered.

    Is the OP irked because s/he applied through a referral and so this doesn’t feel like it’s adding any value? Or does it feel like the recruiter is just doing this to be able to cross an item off on a standard check list? Just curious.

    I usually prefer communicating through e-mail because I rather enjoy writing. So perhaps I’m in the minority of people who wouldn’t mind being asked to do this.

    1. fposte*

      It also allows people to draw on other resources in creating their answers (to put it very nicely). I wonder if they thought about that.

    2. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s that it’s a bad use of candidates’ time. It takes a lot longer to write out answers to those questions (and people will presumably put a lot of effort into making sure they’re really good because it’s a written document), and those questions should really be asked as part of a conversation, not an essay prompt. When those questions are the most useful is when the interviewer can ask follow-ups — “how did you handle X, what was your thinking behind Y, did you consider Z, what did you do then, what was the outcome,” etc. Essays don’t allow for that, so it just feels rote and silly.

      1. Dan*

        Yup, I sure don’t want to invest a lot of time in you if you aren’t interested in me. I have a background in aviation, and even for “professional” track positions, airlines sure like to ask for your ten-year work and residence history. I moved around a lot in my 20s, so I have a lot of addresses (fewer jobs though). It would be one thing if I could attach a word document, but with everybody having their own ATS, it takes TIME to input all of that info. It really sucks to spend that kind of time without knowing what the mutual interest is.

        One airline sent me a list of three screening questions. I must have bombed the one asking about pay, because they got thoughtful answers to the second two. That also pissed me off, because if you are actually asking for a time commitment of sorts from me, the least you can do is follow up and tell me that my salary expectations are way off base, or “blah blah state is much less expensive to live in compared to the big east coast city you live in. Would that have an impact on your salary expectations?”

    3. Anonymous*

      OP1 here. I was irked because I thought the recruiter was being disrespectful of my time. The email read like a list of question he should have asked me in the phone screen. In fact, he did ask some of those questions, then had me write the answers again. I checked with my referrer, and it’s unlikely that it’s standard practice, so my answers may not be shared with the hiring team at all.

      I ended up answering the email, which took me 2-3 hours to do well, and I decided it was actually great prep for future interviews with the hiring manager, so maybe he did me a favor.

      1. Dan*

        One of the things that I have found is that when I apply to professional jobs at a blue-collar heavy company, they make you jump through a lot of extra hoops.

        As I mentioned above, airlines need to do some level of background checking on their airport employees for obvious security reasons. It’s a DOT requirement. But there’s really no reason to ask for what can be extensive info until an offer is likely going to be made.

        During my last round of applications, I also applied to two railroads. They both made me take at-home skills assessment tests lasting about an hour. I could tell they were geared toward the blue-collar workforce, because in addition to basic office math, I had to answer questions about my attitude towards safety rules and what not. These tests each took an hour. I passed them, but never got invited to interview. These things are annoying, because a graduate level college degree really needs to suffice for these kinds of evaluations.

        Compare that to the professional services firms that I applied to, and all I had to do was turn in my resume. I put up with the BS when I’m unemployed and need whatever job I can find. But when I have a job, I don’t waste my time — if I can’t find an “in” with a connection, I won’t apply.

          1. Elizabeth West*

            He said attitude toward basic safety rules, though, not basic safety rule knowledge. I took it to mean that a graduate degree meant that you could answer most of the questions on such an evaluation.

            Although, it’s no guarantee of the math. I have degrees and I can’t answer those questions at all!

  4. Amy*

    #1 – THIS. THIS!!! has happened to me too, just once – and never again. I was applying for a mid-level project management position and they asked me 12 questions on paper, just like yours.. except I had one better question than you: “Do you consider yourself lucky? Please explain.” – WHAT?? I do not remember how on earth I answered that.

    Suffice to say that the employer who send this questionnaire has a terrible reputation in the industry, and also pays below market. Hopefully your situation won’t be as bad as mine was!

    1. College Career Counselor*

      Well, if luck favors the prepared (Louis Pasteur), then you can tell ’em that “Yeah, I’m lucky, because I pride myself on being prepared.”

    2. Dan*

      I actually do consider myself lucky in that I’m good at something that pays well and has a great quality of life. I’m also “doing what I love.” So yeah, I’m lucky. If what I loved (and was good at) required long hours for low pay, I’d be pretty pissy.

      I’ve actually said this to people long before I even saw your post. Other people have tried to convince me that I got where I got through hard work and whatever. That’s true, but when I looked at the other person (someone who studied psychology) and said, “I’m good at math and you’re not. Isn’t that luck?” I got no argument.

      1. Anonymous*

        Math skill is almost entirely hard work. I’m not sure if you’re implying it’s luck or not.

        1. Judy*

          I’m pretty sure math skill (not arithmetic, but trig, calculus, differential equations) may be about hard work for some, but for most of us that are “good” at it, it’s not that hard.

          I’m one who in elementary school hated math. Memorization, having to do it the way they wanted me to. Started algebra in 7th grade, and never looked back. I spent much more time preparing for freshman English composition class in college than I did for any of the three years of math courses I took for my engineering degree. Those courses started with Calculus I.

          1. dahllaz*

            I’m the opposite. I loooooooved math as a kid, was in an advanced math class at the beginning of middle school. Could do lots of multiplying and divison in my head, fractions were fun.

            Then came algebra and geometry and man, I struggled so much. Went from easy A’s to struggling to get a C and that was having a tutor too boot. Plus, I forgot how to do so much of what I used to love.
            Tried to take some ‘easy’ math classes in high school so I could get the base skills back, but they wouldn’t let me take less advanced classes.

    3. Judy*

      That doesn’t seem like a question that is that hard to answer, to me. I was born in the US. My parents valued education. My mom was kept out of higher math courses in high school because “the boys would need it in college”, so she was determined I would take the courses that I had the aptitude for. They saved some for my sister and I to pay for college, so we were able to work some and graduate with no loans. My father (82 years old) didn’t have electricity at home until he was a junior in high school, yet used the GI bill after Korea to get a college degree.

      Lots of hard work, but lots of luck, also.

      1. Judy*

        And when I say luck, I mean many of the major issues some friends have had didn’t happen to me. A friend since Kindergarten lost his leg in a farming accident on his grandpa’s farm in 2nd grade. Another friend in high school was hit by a car in at the park and will never walk again. Another friend from high school was shopping in a convenience store in the late evening and was killed by a robber when she was 22, leaving a husband and two small kids. A friend from birth was diagnosed with cancer at 30, and died of it at 41.

    4. MommaTRex*

      Some say luck has to do with how you handle opportunities presented to you. People who seem “lucky” tend to be folks who jump on odd chances or who just seem to have optimistic attitudes.

  5. Amy*

    #5- Would you put your GPA on your resume if you had a 3.8? a 3.9? a 4.0? YES, you would. Just like you WILL put that Phi Kappa Whatever on your resume. Be proud of this accomplishment where it is recent, because once that Phi Kappa Whatever becomes more than 5 years old, you’ll probably drop it off your resume. (just like you would a GPA).

    1. Graciosa*

      Phi Beta Kappa,yes, Iget it – but GPA for 5 years? That is way too long to keep being proud of something that doesn’t matter once you have work experience.

      I’m currently reviewing resumes for a position that requires 2-5 years of experience (depending on education) and I’ve noticed a big dichotomy in the way applicants include information about their education. The resumes I pass on usually have a lot of educational information on the top – not just degree but GPA, class rank (both numerical and with”top [X] percentage of the class just in case I can’t do math), etc. The ones I’m interested in are highlighting relevant experience and accomplishments first, with education at the bottom of the page (usually just degree and institution).

      Too much emphasis on GPA by an applicant with work experience can be one signal of an applicant who doesn’t understand what’s really important to a hiring manager. I’m sure that there are exceptions, but I do observe a very clear trend.

      I would probably not have the same reaction to a resume that showed that the degree was granted “cum laude” or “summa cum laude” or whatever as long as the educational information was in its proper place (usually at the end of the resume after the relevant experience). This could be a way to tell the hiring manager how impressive the scholastic achievement was without making the mistake of highlighting a GPA after holding a first job.

      1. Ruffingit*

        Overall, I think people need to realize that your work experience pretty much trumps everything else. It’s fine if you graduated summa or magna or that you had the highest GPA in your class or whatever. But that only goes so far. That information basically tells your potential employer that you’re a dedicated individual who can work hard. Good traits to be sure, but even those may not translate to the working world in that you might be the most dedicated, hardworking individual ever, but you still need to be able to grasp what the employer needs from you and do that. Maybe you’ve got the school thing down, but does it translate into the working world? Not always. Just depends.

        TL:DR: It’s really work experience that makes the biggest difference. GPA/school honors is fine, but doesn’t tell the employer a whole lot about how you’ll do in their business.

    2. Laura*

      I had a really high GPA (it’s really a percentage average here, not on a 4.0 scale) but I’ve never but it on a resume, even immediately after I graduated, and no interviewer has ever asked about it. Used to kind of annoy me because it’s so good, but they really only care about experience, and maybe skills because they usually had a writing test or asked for writing samples.

    3. LibrarianJ*

      I would second this, and also add that while I haven’t encountered this in my job searches personally, my understanding was that PBK has potential benefits in the networking sense too. Sure, it’s expensive, and won’t matter in all circles, but it’s reasonably well known at least in the US (my mother, who never even attended college, instantly recognized it when I got my letter) and it does connect you to a network of PBK alums some of whom are quite well-known. My GPA is about ready to come off my resume, but PBK is probably going to stay on there.

    4. Karowen*

      So, here’s a stupid question: I graduated 5 years ago and, while I don’t have my GPA on my resume, I do state that I graduated Cum Laude. Is it ridiculous to have that on there? It doesn’t have any sort of prominence (it’s literally the last line on the resume) but it honestly never occurred to me to remove it.

  6. Anonymous*

    5. Ok, I’m sorry if this is the stupidest question ever asked on here, but seriously what on earth is phi beta kappa? Aside from the fact it’s a string of greek letters, I have never heard of it?

    1. PBK*

      It’s a honor society for the liberal arts and sciences in the USA, widely considered the most prestigious such society.

    2. Anon PBK*

      I was a Phi Beta Kappa in college as well, but other than getting a little wallet card and a congratulatory form letter signed by the school president, it really did not mean much to me. I don’t believe I even had a choice in joining, it was more of a “you got good grades, so here is a wallet card and a pamphlet with kitschy logo-ed junk you can buy.”

      Putting it on my resume was something I never dreamed of doing, as I had been working full time since leaving high school and my work experience seemed far more relevant than a greek society in which I never participated.

      1. Sunnie Dee*

        You have to pay money to join Phi Beta Kappa. I think that was why I did not join when I got the letter inviting me to do so. So you actually do have a choice – I seem to recall it cost around $100?

        1. LAI*

          Yes, there is a membership fee and it should be voluntary. I had the same experience as Anon PBK where I sent them a check, received a congratulatory letter and it didn’t mean much to me. But I work in academia and it does mean a lot to people here, so I keep it on my resume.

      2. Grace*

        I am a Phi Beta Kappa member (for having an ‘A’ GPA). It is also put on your college transcripts by the college. PTK students have access to many scholarship opportunities (there are tens of millions of dollars worth for PTK members), colleges invite them to apply and it paves the way for many opportunities.

    3. Leah*

      I had to look it up too. If I was doing the hiring, I would have no clue why the applicant listed their fraternity/sorority on a resume. Including something like “Phi Beta Kappa honors fraternity” instead of just the name could avoid that.

      1. annie*

        Me too. I was inducted into a couple of honor societies when I was in college, and I did include them on my resume when I was about to graduate and searching for jobs, but I did what you suggested and included (X honors society) or whatever as an explanation behind their name. I also dropped them after a few years, although I think I still have them on my LinkedIn profile.

        To be honest, the only thing they’ve ever gotten me, besides a certificate and some cookies post-ceremony, was discounts on my car insurance!

    4. Laura*

      It’s not a thing outside the US, so I’d never heard of it either, but I’m Canadian:)

      I think it’s also mostly a thing at private colleges in the US? We don’t have private colleges that aren’t seminaries here, so I was never clear on the differences.

      1. danr*

        It’s not related to private colleges in the US. Plenty of students from public colleges and universities can earn it. Your college or university has to be recognized by the group, then you need a certain GPA, and it has to be in a wide range of subjects.

        1. Laura*

          Thanks! Some of the articles I googled just gave me that impression. Like I mentioned, non Americans will have never heard of it:)

            1. LAI*

              Theoretically, you can get involved with Phi Beta Kappa just like you would with any other honors society or student organization – serve in a leadership position, organize social events or philanthropy events, etc. However, only 5% are nominated as juniors; the rest are nominated as seniors, meaning that you don’t join until shortly before you graduate. So really, most members don’t do anything unless they get involved as alumni.

    5. OP #5 PBK*

      Phi Beta Kappa is linked to GPA levels at universities across the country. It represents the top 1~2% of graduates for the year, excepting law school. Unfortunately this is pretty much useless unless hiring managers aren’t aware of why it is awarded.

      I am Canadian too and I’ve always been aware of it – perhaps its a generational thing?

      1. Laura*

        Possibly? I graduated in 2012, and know people who went to several different universities in Quebec, Ontario , Alberta and BC, and have never heard of Phi Beta Kappa. So I strongly suggest not including it because I imagine most Canadians would have never heard of it. I actually was in the top 2% of graduates in my program , and have never heard of it (and unfortunately, no employer has ever cared about that so far, but maybe because I had internships and part time jobs). Also in looking at their website, it seems like it’s mostly an American thing – I was trying to find if it existed in Canada, and I couldn’t find anything. Not to say it doesn’t exist in Canada, just to say that that probably means it’s as unknown as I suspect.

        1. KarenT*

          I think it’s fairly well-known in Canada as well. They have chapters at almost all the big universities.

          1. Laura*

            I haven’t been able to find evidence of any big university in Canada having a chapter of Phi Beta Kappa (I’ve been googling)? Not that I don’t believe you, but if it was a big deal I thought i’d find evidence of a chapter at U of T or McGill or something

            It’s certainly unheard of in Ontario for those of the age group typically going for entry level jobs

            1. KarenT*

              I can’t find it either! I’ve googled today and I’m not finding anything. I went to UofT and Dalhousie and I remember it at UofT for sure, and I thought at Dal.
              I was just coming to retract my statement above (and chalk it up to a fuzzy memory) but I see the OP is also Canadian, so now I’m unsure.

              1. Laura*

                Maybe it used to be a thing at Canadian universities and isn’t anymore? The OP presumably would have graduated over 15 years ago? – which would be a reason to not include it. Maybe my friends who went to U of T just weren’t smart enough to be included? ;) I totally texted two of them today asking them if they’d heard of PBK and they said no.. My little sister is in her first year at U of T and has also never heard of it, but she doesn’t get top grades. If it does still exist, they don’t advertize it and people who aren’t a part of it don’t know about it. Not sure when you graduated but if it was a long time ago, that might explain it! Haha I also texted someone who went to UBC and someone who went to McGill because I’m too curious for my own good.

                1. Anonymous*

                  I’m the anon above who commented about U of T, UBC, and McGill. I did a bit more googling and came up with something called the “Golden Key International Honour Society”, which apparently has chapters at a bunch of Canadian schools. Maybe that’s what Karen was thinking of? I’ve never heard of it before today, that’s for sure!

                2. Laura*

                  Seems likely anon! I’ve probably never heard of the Golden Key International Honour Society because it’s not at the two university I went to (University of Guelph, and University of Western Ontario). And the people I know who went to the schools it appears to be at didn’t get great grades:)

                3. KarenT*

                  Makes sense! I graduated U of T in 2005, so it’s possible it was removed. The Phi Beta Kappa thing is what I remembered, but who knows? Golden Key is possible.

      2. fposte*

        To be honest, even if hiring managers know why it’s awarded it’s of limited use, same as a GPA is. Once you get past that first real job the college performance becomes pretty insignificant. Since it’s an honor it can hang on longer without being as obvious as including a GPA, but it doesn’t translate that much into a workplace advantage.

        I think you’re right about its being generational–I think it hit its heyday in the twentieth century, and by the time I was in college in the 1980s it was pretty low-key, if you’ll pardon the pun.

      3. EE*

        I’m from Ireland, currently living in Australia, and the image we have here of Greek letter Greek letter Greek letter is “oh, that weirdly sex-divided thing in American universities where they eat goldfish in hazing rituals and girls get slipped date-rape drugs”.

        That’s what the media has told us about those societies. Probably there is more knowledge in Canada.

        1. Jen in RO*

          This is a very good description of how the rest of the world sees them. ‘Omigod you guys’ from Legally Blonde the Musical started going through my head when I read the letter… Before the explanations I had no idea some Greek letter societies were about good grades.

  7. Anonymous*

    NINE years in call centres? You poor soul.

    Are you one of those mythical people who actually likes it?

    1. "Call" Girl*

      I don’t mind the callers. I dislike the silly policies that people who do not work on the phones force people who work on the phones to follow. I am not making this up. For a week before customer complaints forced the change to the script, poor agents had to say this (exactly, no paraphrasing) “Did I satisfy your needs today?” It was worth 17% of your QA so if you did not say it, you failed the audit no matter how good the call. Someone up the food chain thought this was a good closing to a call.

      1. SA*

        This reminds me of how the employees at Walgreen’s are now forced to say ‘Be well!’ to every customer.

        1. Gjest*

          Terrible. That would make me avoid going to Walgreen’s, which I assume is the opposite of what corporate intended.

        2. ArtsNerd*

          Oh no! I haven’t stopped into my local Walgreens recently but I would be surprised if they actually complied with that.

        3. fposte*

          My local supermarket has a big push on with huge signs about “Did we give you AWESOME service?” And I think that’s so horrible for the staff, because for heaven’s sake, it’s a supermarket, so of course you didn’t give me awesome service; I am not awed by people’s ability to slice me chicken and tell me where the broccoli got moved to. Why make anything short of a heart transplant with the Oxo tools seem like a failure?

          1. Elizabeth*

            My supermarket has a policy of saying goodbye to you by name at the end of checking out if you used your member card. Only a) this involves them glancing at the receipt, sometimes taking a few seconds and b)I share a membership with my former (male) roommate.

            So every time I get groceries, the interaction ends with the cashier holding my receipt hostage until they say, “Well, have a nice day, uhhhh… Mrs. Notyourname!” Without making eye contact the whole time. I’m not married to anyone, let alone my (gay!) friend. It doesn’t really meet what I’m guessing is their goal of making me feel like some valued regular.

            1. Sunnie Dee*

              I have a really unusual first name and my last name is a little difficult as well. When I check out at the grocery store the cashier stares at the receipt for a minute and then says “Thank you and have a nice day Mrs. ummm mumblemumblemumble”. So personal!

      2. Tris Prior*

        I shudder to think what sort of responses that question might get from customers who think it’s funny to mess with the call center reps. :/

      3. Sandrine*

        OH MY. I feel you. I really do.

        Fellow call center person (but only two years and a half) and my head is exploding already o_o

    2. ChristineSW*

      Yeah really….I thought my husband being a CSR in a call center (before we met) for 5 years was a long time!!

    3. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      NINE years in call centres? You poor soul.

      Are you one of those mythical people who actually likes it?

      IDK, does call center work have to be disrespected as an automatic? If I met somebody who worked in the Zappos call center I’d be all “Cool! Tell me about your job!”

      The stigma rankles me as elitist. I love speaking with a helpful, pleasant, problem solving call center rep and I trust that those folks are taking pride in their job since they are executing it so well.

      1. Anonymous*

        I’m the anon who wrote that…i wasn’t disrespecting the op, I’ve worked in a few call centres and they are universally miserable. You’re reading something into my comment that isn’t there.

        1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

          Right, and I’m not trying to make a thing, but if I spent a decade of my life getting good at something it wouldn’t feel good to have people say they feel sorry for me before they even asked how I felt about my job.

          The OP has worked in call centers for 9 years and is looking for another call center job which makes the default assumption, for me, that she likes what she does for a living until she says otherwise.

          1. Wren*

            I’ve done call center work of various kinds for longer than that and I am really good at it, but I don’t know anyone who does it (including me) who wouldn’t rather be doing something else. It sucks almost universally.

      2. Kathryn T.*

        I’ve done call center work. It’s not that it’s disrespected; it’s that it’s hard, wearying, and often made both harder and more wearying by terrible anti-worker policies. It’s incredibly worthy work, IMHO, I just wish the people running the call centers agreed.

        1. Dan*

          It’s the management that sucks, not the phone operators. I have yet to see someone who works for a call center write in and say they like it.

          1. Sandrine*

            *nods to Dan*

            I’m one, and I hate it. It’s not so much the customers (though sometimes you really want to tell them the problem is actually between the keyboard and the chair on their end!) but the general policies.

            And sometimes, sometimes… you’ll be good at your job, you’ll know the policies, the product, in and out, you’ll do your best, fulfill the promises, be told you’re the best thing since sliced bread, and nothing comes up. First time, you try, nope. Second, third, fourth time, and then you give up and write to an AAM open thread for tips about how to avoid exploding before reaching the three years mark…

            1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

              Do you work for an outsourced call center or for a call center where the people are employees of the actual company (ala Zappos, LL Bean, etc. )?

              I’m curious about the culture difference. My impression is that outsourced call centers are normally dreadful and that company ones can be a better experience.

              1. Sandrine*

                Nope! I’m in France but I work for the actual company, and it’s just not cool.

                Worst thing is, for some reason the product itself is cool (I use the mobile service as well as the ISP but working for your ISP has its perks >:D ) but the way the call center peeps work… not so much.

                When you think about it, everything put apart is nice (the pay for the job we do, the coworkers, the hours, the comfort, the benefits) but when you put it all together, it’s as if some parts didn’t fit at all (namely the objectives and the reality of “good customer service” ).

                I’m one to obey directives, but quite frankly I’m tired of “your job is to do what the “powers above” deem good” . I want to do a good quality job *period* , not something that’s “good enough” and I’m not able to do that at the moment :( .

                1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

                  Empowerment is a big deal to me. I wouldn’t be able to stay happy in a job where I had to follow rules or decisions that I didn’t agree with (in large quantity).

                  Given the other positives in your job, though, another person who isn’t you or me might be satisfied.

                  I know a woman who works in the QVC call center. She’s quite happy with it and the way she is able to schedule with her family. Her husband is embarrassed by her job (they are a “professional class” family) and that, frankly, bugs the shit out of me. He tells everybody it is just temporary where, she’s planning on staying there indefinitely, because she wants to.

                2. smallbutmighty*

                  I’m finding this whole conversation incredibly interesting.

                  I work for corporate in a knowledge base role for a company that uses outsourced call centers. We work pretty closely with our call center, and my group creates a lot of the scripting that they use for more technical questions; we create the troubleshooting flows, the suggested explanations, that sort of thing.

                  One of the most challenging aspects of our job is actually dealing with the more tenured agents who do really know their stuff and want to do a good job. Sometimes they’ll come up with a solution to a consumer’s technical issue that’s actually really great, and they’ll submit a suggestion to the knowledge base team. And we’ll have to come back with, “Yeah, well, that’s incredibly creative and smart, but you’ve been here for three years and you just GET this stuff. If we tried to get one of the noobs who’s been here for three months to follow the process you just described, though, it would be a train wreck. So we have to keep the script as written because it’s for the whole team, and we can’t bring the whole team up to your level of skill, confidence, and intuition about this stuff.”

                  It stinks. I can totally see why the good people quit.

                  A colleague and I have been brainstorming about creating career development sessions to teach the call center folks about corporate environments, including ours, to create a more defined on-ramp to getting a job in our organization. We know there’s a lot of talent at the call center that’s never going to get used to its full potential there. We’re really interested in helping those people polish up and have a better shot at the elusive better job.

                3. Colette*

                  It’s tough. We want our call center employees to be more empowered – but we need to make sure they act in the best interests of the customer and the business. That’s a tough call when you’re hiring people for a repetitive, restrictive, relatively poorly paid job.

              2. Colette*

                I work with both. Companies whose business are call centers are more focused on the letter of what is in the contract, and they also move people between accounts. I would suspect they are worse to work at – if only because there are few career paths that will get you out of that environment. Internal call center employees can move on to other jobs more easily.

    4. cajun2core*

      I spent 10 years doing tech support via phone, email, etc. I enjoyed every minute of it. I got laid off from the company. I would gladly go back to tech support or even some sort of call center. However, I would not go back to a place where “If you don’t close 10 calls per hour, you are fired.” Those places are not about customer service just about numbers.

    1. PBK (the one above, not the one below)*

      It’s a honor society for the liberal arts and sciences in the USA, widely considered the most prestigious such society.

      1. The IT Manager*

        Is entrance just based on GPA or something else too because it sounds like a less clear way to say one has a high GPA.

        1. OP #5 PBK*

          PBK means the student maintains a high GPA over a variety of subjects, not just those in the major. That is why I thought it would indicate that I would be as successful in a different job field as I was in my previous one.

          1. the gold digger*

            My husband is one of the rare (I think) engineer PBKs, as is my college boyfriend. They are both EEs who took and did very well in liberal arts courses.

          2. fposte*

            That’s asking more of it than it can really deliver, though. It says you did well in school. The problem for graduates is always that doing school well doesn’t translate to doing work well, because it’s a very different milieu and skillset.

            That doesn’t mean a PBK is going to be dismissed, but I think you’re looking at it like it’s the work equivalent of a high school AP class that allows you to skip a level at the next stage. And I’m afraid it’s not that at all.

        2. LAI*

          It’s a high GPA within liberal arts courses specifically, and also requires a faculty nomination, at least at my school. I’ve served on a PBK nominating committee and sometimes students with slightly lower GPAs are added to the list because of a faculty recommendation. Schools are also very strictly limited in the number of students that they are allowed to nominate. It has a very good reputation within academia but I don’t know how much hiring managers in industry will care.

  8. PBK*

    It’s a sort of college honor society–only a top percentage of students at each college or university are eligible.

  9. Juli G.*

    I don’t know that HR is clueless in the call center situation. I’ve worked and managed in call centers and many reps got the opportunity for special projects and there was definitely time and reason to interact with coworkers (especially during trainings or the rollout of new tools or initiatives).

    I’m not saying this is the case everywhere but it is normal enough that these questions will continue to come up. Allison’s advice is great for how to answer.

    1. "Call" Girl*

      Sadly, the last few places I’ve worked have been chronically understaffed and very small departments, even to the point where managers were forced to take calls for several hours just to help cover agent’s breaks and lunches. Suffice to say we never made our SLA.

      I once took a picture of the gang at work and someone noticed all the empty desks asked “Where is everyone?” and my answer was “That is everyone.” The perma queue and hiring freeze drove people away faster than they could be replaced.

      One day a co-worker was pretty depressed over the situation so at lunch I bought some balloons and drew happy, sad, angry faces on them and taped them to the empty desks. We called all the balloons Bob. If something went wrong, we vented to Bob. He was an excellent listener!

      I agree, Allison’s advice is excellent.

      1. LAI*

        I have to say, working in a call center doesn’t sound like my idea of a dream job but you sound really awesome, OP. I love your balloon idea! I hope your manager and coworkers appreciated your positive attitude and willingness to try to improve a bad situation.

  10. Milly*

    #4. It seems pretty common but it threw me off the first time it happened to me too! The interviewer asked me to call her to go over a few last things. I assumed that she was going to ask me more questions but she promptly offered me the position. I was totally unprepared to ask even basic questions about the offer. I asked for some time and called her back later.

    This happened again to me more recently. An interviewer set up a time for me to call them after the interview process and then offered me the position. This time I was prepared for both more interview questions and the possibility of an offer.

    It occurred to me later that instead of wondering, I could have asked what the call would be regarding. It might have saved me some mental anguish. But yes, you are not the only one who found it strange at first.

  11. Brett*

    #3 I’m actually going to a conference next week that my employer has never been able to afford to send me to, despite it being a premier conference in my field.

    And my employer has a hard rule. If they are not paying for it, I cannot do it on the clock. So, I am taking vacation time for all of next week to go to the conference because someone else is paying. The reasoning for this is that allowing someone else (even if it is me personally) to pay for work I am doing for my employer creates the appearance of impropriety.

    1. lonepear*

      That is crazy. I work at a nonprofit–we’ve got a really tight budget this year, so we’re not getting much travel paid for. There are a few that are somewhat expensive but are also very relevant to our field that I am paying my own way to (having been sent to them by the org last year). I admit I want to go personally. But I would be upset if I had to use my vacation for it–it is work travel. Ditto for my colleagues who’ve gotten grantors or conferences to fund their travel directly.

      1. doreen*

        It’s not that crazy in the public sector. I couldn’t even go the conference on my own time if someone other than I were paying for it. I can attend on the clock if my employer sponsors/promotes it – which doesn’t always include paying for it and never includes paying for travel (only mandatory travel gets reimbursed) My employer does have a way around using my vacation time for non-agency sponsored training and conferences , though- we actually have a separate leave category of “professional leave” used for this. I am technically on leave, but not still not using my vacation time.

  12. nyxalinth*

    #2 is a toughie, but Alison’s advice is really spot-on. I get the one about the time where I had a conflict with a co-worker and how I resolved it. I usually say “Being on the phones all day with maybe 1-2 minutes between calls doesn’t leave a lot of time for interactions with my co-workers, but there was one time when a co-worker and I both requested the same day off, and only one of us could have it. Our supervisor told us to decide who should get the day off, so in the end since he was taking it for a family event, and i just wanted to run errands, we agreed he would take that day, and we would trade a shift on a day of my choice.” But it always feels weak to me, I’m very easy going and conflict is rare for me.

    1. Dan*

      I’ve had interviews like that and never got job offers from them, so I’ve come to accept that if they want to spend all of their time asking about backgrounds I really don’t have, then so be it. I learned not to get my undies in a bunch. I also want to know why if those things are so damned important, why they aren’t discussed in the phone screen.

      Questions I got, coming off of jobs that were non-exempt and I worked over time every day. I was transitioning from a blue-collar job to a white-collar job in the same industry, so my interviewers certainly had some clue what my previous work entailed:

      1. Tell me about a time you worked over time at Job X. (They literally called out a specific company.) Well, I got paid time and a half for overtime, so I worked it whenever it was available, which was pretty much every day. What do you want to know in particular?

      2. Tell me about a time you missed a deadline at Job Y. Job Y didn’t have deadlines, I showed up and did the jobs that were required.

      3. Tell me about a time you had to stay late on a Friday at Job Z. Job Z was a contract position where I was paid by the hour and told there was no budget for more than 40 hours per week. I never stayed past 5 any day of the week because there was no budget for it.

      I went through stuff like this for an hour before one interviewer looks at my resume and says, “Oh! You have experience in our industry! Let me ask you about…” and I got one question about my actual resume.

      I finally realized when they were done interviewing that they were trying to assess how I’d deal with rapidly shifting priorities and presumably a lot of last minute “I need this really quick” or on a Friday at 2pm, “Oh crap, we need this for a Monday c-level meeting” type of thing.

      But my 7 years of blue collar experience in that industry simply did not lead to appropriate answers for the behavior they were trying to assess. What really got to me was that they were more interested in assessing whether or not they could jerk me around and be at their bidding, and not interested at all on what unique experiences and insights I had about the job itself.

      I can beat around the bush for a question or two, but there’s simply no way I could give them compelling answers to establish the “theme” they were looking for.

      1. Broke Philosopher*

        My very first interview, when I was in high school, used a list of questions that assume a lot of previous work experience (which was weird, because it was an entry-level retail job). I had done some baby-sitting but otherwise had no work experience, so I really wasn’t sure how to answer the “tell me about a time that your employer…”

        I can’t remember the specific questions, but there was one that was specific to retail jobs, and I couldn’t think of anything relevant to say. When I pointed out that I only had experience as a baby-sitter, my interview said, “well just think of SOMETHING” and wouldn’t let me move on from the question. I guess she wanted me to make something up? Definitely didn’t get that job.

        1. Dan*

          I wanted to walk out, but the next interview was “lunch with an analyst” and I never turn down free food. Worse, it was out of town so I still had to wait for my flight home. God I wanted to walk out so bad.

      2. Cat*

        I don’t know – those don’t actually seem like bad or unanswerable questions to me. For over time, you know that that’s not universal in non-exempt jobs because of your experience at Job . You could say “actually, over time was a regular event due to the workload involved. I was often asked to stay after my shift or to come in when I wasn’t scheduled, and I always did so unless I had another firm commitment [or whatever]. One time, for instance, there was a storm and I was asked to work 48 hours straight, and was happy to pitch in to deal with X, Y, and Z. [Or other relevant anecdote.]”

        For the deadline question, you could say something like “I was given jobs on a day-to-day basis and always worked to ensure I finished them within the time expected. However, one time emergency Y forced me to divert from task Z; I made sure that task Z was in a place where someone else could pick it up on the next shift.”

        For the contract work question, why not say “that job was very strict about not having workers stay past their scheduled time. But at Job X, over time was a regular event. One Friday, I . . . .”

        1. Dan*

          They aren’t bad questions when the person who has to answer them has office experience. They are bad questions when it is pretty darn obvious that the interviewee doesn’t have that kind of experience and it wasn’t discussed during the phone screen.

          The subtext you are missing is that the “dedicated employee” they are screening for is much harder to represent when I am directly being compensated for that extra time. I did work 20 hours straight at one job once, and subsequently got my ass chewed by HR. But it was worth it because California compensates employees at double time after working 12 hours straight. Betcha that answer would go over well.

          If I knew “the script” ahead of time, sure i could have played ball a bit better. But when it took them an hour to pick up my résumé, well, that’s just not the job for me.

          Oh, and all of those jobs gave me “projects” in 15 minute increments, if that, and it was my boss’s job to do task scheduling. Not mine. Which is why I was non exempt and he wasn’t.

          Contrast all of that to the jobs where I’ve gotten offers – they actually look at my résumé and ask me questions based on my experience. Imagine that.

          1. Cat*

            I’m not necessarily defending that job, which I obviously know nothing about, but I am going to defend asking behavioral questions of people even when they don’t have directly transferable office experience. If I ask someone to tell me about a time they worked late, I don’t care that they’re being directly compensated for it (in salaried jobs, they’re being indirectly compensated, often much more in total than people in non-exempt jobs). Nor do I care that it’s precisely the same kind of situation they’d face in their current job. I want to hear about how they deal with a variety of situations and I can think about how that would transfer to our environment myself. You’re right; I wouldn’t choose to use an example where you got yelled at by HR for it, probably, though. But it also doesn’t need to be exactly the kind of thing that would come up in the job you’re applying for either.

            Asking questions about the resume can be useful too, but it’s not the only useful thing to do in interviewing.

            1. Dan*

              I understand what you are getting at, and I don’t object to behavioral questions in moderation. My objection is to the totality of the interview at that particular job.

              1. Interviewing is a two-way street. I’m interviewing you as much as you are interviewing me. I’m talking to you to find out what it is I’m supposed to be doing at this job, and whether or not I’m going to like doing it.

              After an hour of behavioral questions, all I know is that you want somebody who can work late at the last minute without complaining about it. I know that you want somebody who can deal with management who doesn’t want to follow through with tasking that they originally gave you. (“Shifting priorities” is the buzz word. Shift too much, and you can’t get anything done.)

              2. I really, really wanted to talk about how my industry (and personal, for that matter) experiences might be relevant to the job. Would I be able to make the contributions that I hope to? Additionally, if my background *doesn’t* matter, I need to know that, because it’s not the job for me.

              3. The feeling I came away with was that the company was most concerned about process, and TBH, keeping HR happy. They certainly weren’t concerned about selling themselves to candidates. My takeaway was that if the interview was that bureaucratic, what would it be like to work there?

              FWIW, I stopped with this “dream job” crap after interviewing for two very different positions at this company. On paper, they looked like an awesome match with my background. In reality, I walked away saying to myself, “what a buzz kill. No way am I working here.”

  13. Lucy*

    #3, I’m in the exact same boat. My supervisor told
    Me that the week-long course I’m taking in another city is directly related to my job, but the operations director insists I have to take PTO. It’s frustrating but at least my work will help with some
    Of the tuition- hopefully yours does too!

  14. Geeri*

    I’m totally a life long US citizen who went to a state university for undergrad, grad, post grad cert, and I’ve heard of pie beta whatever, but I thought it was a sorority house. I had no clue u til today it was grade thing. And I look over resumes and decide who to interview, so maybe don’t assume people looking at your resume k ow at all what phi beta whatsiez is.

    Nobody cares about gpa at all!

    1. Laura*

      Fraternity or sorority was my first thought too because of the greek letters . I looked through their website because i’m fascinated by the whole concept, and they mentioned they only have chapters in 10% of universities, with no mention of chapters outside the US, so how well known can they be with those numbers?

        1. fposte*

          I think it got more respect fifty years ago; my parents’ view of Phi Beta was very different than how my college approached it, and I’ve never even heard it mentioned at my current university. I’ve checked, and they have a chapter, and it’s a very big university, but it’s just not venerated enough to be heard above the noise.

        1. Anon scientist*

          Associated social circles? Wow, that rubbed me the wrong way. Also, I went to a top 10 liberal arts school (the sort of school that is catnip for these sorts of things) and we probably had a chapter, but nobody I knew cared. One of my friends was pretty high powered (magna cum laude, Fulbright scholarship) and she certainly didn’t care. She didn’t need to pay money to show how smart she was.

          I grew up in an obnoxious social environment (ivies all the way, or you were dumb/low class) and I didn’t hear about PBK until college.

      1. Dan*

        I have two degrees, never had more than one day worth of interviews, make just shy of six figures, and I completely forgot about it. I think my undergrad had a chapter but , whoop dee do.

    2. Lily in NYC*

      Well, that’s not remotely correct (that no one cares about GPA) – when you work in certain fields, it is a definite weeding tool during hiring. My office would definitely perk up at seeing Phi Beta Kappa on a resume and we require very high GPAs in order to even be considered for an entry level Project Manager job here.

    3. anon PBK*

      At least at my school (a so-called junior ivy), and I’m a recent grad, you had to be nominated for election by faculty. And you were only eligible for nomination based on grades. So it’s related to GPA, but really also related to the work you did with your professors, who are the ones able to nominate you for election. And yes, it is prestigious.

      I think for the OP, I’d leave it on; it’s an honor/award, and congratulations on your hard work. For academic settings, I would imagine at least some folks would be familiar with it, even if it’s just from coordinating the chapter or something. Might be more of a chicken soup thing for outside of academia: can’t hurt, might help.

  15. snarkalupagus*

    #3 and #5 combined response…I just finished my MBA in January, in a blended program with three mandatory six-day residencies per year at the end/start of each semester. My employer did assist me with about a third of the tuition, but I was expected to use PTO or flex my time during the residency periods. (I am local to the university I attended, so I had it a bit easier than most of my cohort, who came from all over the US and some internationally.)

    Even if the company had paid full freight, the policy was that class time that interfered with work time was to be charged as PTO. Ultimately, the degree benefits both me and the company, but if and when I leave the company, I’m taking it with me. The way I see it, part of the price of that portability was making sacrifices to achieve the degree, including burning most of my PTO for three years to attend residencies. Presumably, while I provide the degree’s benefits to the company, the reward to me is greater upward mobility and a higher salary, so I see it as a completely acceptable tradeoff. If it doesn’t pay off that way, when I leave, other employers will benefit from it instead, and I’ll be choosing those employers partly based on how they value it.

    With regard to #5, your degree and Phi Beta Kappa do matter, but as one dimension of the overall picture. List it at the bottom of your resume as the standard one-liner, and let your years as a business owner do the talking in terms of experience. My MBA is from a very good school and my GPA was high, but as a hiring manager, I don’t really care about GPA much, so I don’t list mine (though I do pat myself on the back, in private, with the curtains drawn, on occasion). I want to know how your experience, in work and in school and in life, is going to enrich my group and how the opportunities I can give you will enrich your working life. Phi Beta Kappa doesn’t tell me that, but a great cover letter is the start that will get you an interview to tell me more.

    1. Dan*

      When you put it like that, yeah, I think in the US it’s generally accepted that a true credential benefits the employee more than the employer, although the employer does recognize some benefit. So I guess the standard has become that the employer pays for the tuition, the employee pays for the time.

      If I were pursuing something less than a full degree at my employer’s direction, they’d have to pick up the cost of the tuition and pay for my time, otherwise I’d say no. (Unless they were going to fire me otherwise.)

  16. HM in Atlanta*

    #1 – This is an ongoing battle I have with recruiters on my team (they are a third party contract, not my company’s employees). They aren’t supposed to do this and actively try to hide it from me and my peers. They like to do it because it’s easy and it keeps their numbers really high (I “interviewed” 47 people this week).

    I would pick a couple you thought were key to the job (as you know it), and answer those via email. Odds are that will give them what they want before passing info on to the hiring manager.

  17. AnonSally*

    I always hated the question, “Where do you see yourself in five years?” I never really know how to answer and any answer could virtually be bad since we don’t know the interviewer. How do others handle this question?

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