my coworker won’t stop interrupting me while I train her, going by a middle name, and more

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

1. My coworker won’t stop interrupting me while I train her

I work in an in-house legal department and manage a billing system that is used by the attorneys and their admins. I worked with this system in a previous job and was hired because I am an expert. The training for the system users has gone well with the exception of one admin in a different office. We sometimes talk on the telephone and sometimes use the video conferencing equipment. She asks a question and then interrupts me as soon as I start to answer it. She doesn’t listen; she gets defensive. I’m trying to be very careful to not blame her for mistakes but instead use the mistakes as learning opportunities for the future. Instead of listening to the answer to her questions, she starts to tell me why what she did wasn’t wrong or that it wasn’t her fault or that she had been instructed to do it that way.

I have been very careful to not snap at her, but I’m sure she can hear the annoyance in my voice once I have tried to explain something for the fourth time because she won’t stop interrupting me. I’m going to guess she thinks I am annoyed that she hasn’t mastered the system, but I’m annoyed because she is being so rude.

How can I stop her from interrupting me without sounding like I’m her mother scolding a toddler? It’s not my job to teach her manners, but at the same time, she is being rude and wasting my time.

From least direct to most direct, so you have some options, depending on your comfort level: “Oh, just give me a minute to finish what I was saying.” “Please let me finish.” “I’ve noticed you ask me a question but cut me off before I can answer.” “I don’t know if you realize that you often talk over me. Please let me finish what I’m saying.” You can try the softest of these and then escalate as needed, or you can start right with the most direct.

That’s for when it happens in the moment. You might also consider a bigger picture conversation with her that goes something like this: “I’ve noticed a pattern now that you talk over me when I’m explaining the system to you. This is preventing me from relaying information you need to learn. I need you to stop interrupting me when we’re talking. Will you do that?” If she gets defensive and argues with you, repeat, “I need you to stop interrupting me when we’re talking. Will you do that?” And if that doesn’t solve the problem, then you really need to mention this to her manager, who should know this is happening.

While you’re right that it’s not your job to teach her manners, it’s also not your job to coddle her and prevent her from feeling bad when she’s called on chronic rude behavior.

2. A contact where I’m applying for a job suggested I “pop by for a visit”

I recently applied for a job that I am extremely interested in. I think I have a pretty good shot at landing the position, but I do understand that I am in no way entitled to an interview. The job I have now puts me in regular contact with clients who are employees of this potential employer. One of these employees vaguely suggested I “pop by for a visit.” I have a feeling that stopping by for an unscheduled visit would be bad form and, ultimately hurt my chances of getting hired, but I am also very eager to work for this company. I’m going to follow up with the client and try to get something more concrete, but I was wondering what your thoughts are on this situation.

Well, don’t pop by for a visit with the intention of asking to see the hiring manager. But if this person is suggesting that you drop in to see her, at which time she’d find a way to introduce you to the hiring manager, that’s not a terrible idea, as long as she’s willing to play it that way — meaning that she’d manage the visit and make the introduction happen. I’d get clarification about exactly what she has in mind. (And if it turns out that she’s just advising you to drop in and ask for the hiring manager without an appointment, don’t do that.)

3. Will going by my middle name confuse background checkers?

I go by my middle name in all aspects of my life, and always have. However, all of my legal records (and official employee records) are always under my first name. On the header of my resume, I typically just have first, middle, and last. But I am starting to wonder if that could be confusing or even pretentious? However, I am worried that if I don’t include my full name, that any sorts of background checks or employment verification would NOT be found under my middle name and that would be a mess. Advice to include my full name while making it clear that I use my middle name?

I’d list it as first initial, middle name, last name. For instance: X. Percival Montblanc. And when you’re at a background check stage, you can explain it to employers so they spot it.

4. Who can I use as references after a long freelancing career?

I’ve worked at the same company for four years and have been promoted twice. Prior to that, I was a part-time freelancer for 18 years. While I could ask a few people I worked with in the past for references, the ideal reference would be my current boss. She knows me, has gone to bat for me, etc. But obviously I can’t use her since I don’t want her to know I’m looking for another job! My references from the past might not even remember me, plus the nature of my job has changed a lot since I went back to a full-time office job. What does one do in this situation?

I’d explain the situation and offer clients from when you were freelancing (the more substantial the work you did for them, the better, and as recent as possible), as well as any coworkers from your current job who you trust to be discreet (most reference-checkers won’t want to talk with them since they’re peers, but it’s a gesture of good faith to offer them in this context).

5. Listing several short contracts at two companies on a resume

In my first year out of grad school, I’ve been bouncing back and forth between two companies for short-term contracts (currently pretty normal for my field). Now that a year has gone by, I’m struggling with how to format my resume. It seems silly to me to list each 3-month term separately, since they fall under only 2 companies and my job title didn’t change between terms (just different projects). It also makes my resume longer than I think it needs to be. I was thinking about listing these jobs on my resume like this:

Junior Teapot Maker, Company A, 08/2013 – 04/2014
Teapot Repair Technician, Company B, 02/2013 – 02/2014

Rather than:

Junior Teapot Maker, Company A, 01/2014 – 04/2014
Teapot Repair Technician, Company B, 11/2013 – 02/2014
Junior Teapot Maker, Company A, 08/2013 – 11/2013
Teapot Repair Technician, Company B, 02/2013 – 07/2013

Does this make sense or will the overlap in dates raise too many red flags for employers?

I would actually do it this way so that you’re not claiming to have been there when you actually weren’t (which could raise red flags in a reference check), but still keeps it streamlined:

Junior Teapot Maker, Company A, 08/2013 – 11/2013, 01/2014 – 04/2014
Teapot Repair Technician, Company B, 02/2013 – 07/2013, 11/2013 – 02/2014

{ 98 comments… read them below }

  1. Levois

    OK, don’t drop by to speak with hiring manager for appointment. Is it appropriate to either give the hiring manager a call or a quick e-mail?

    1. TheSnarkyB

      I don’t think this is a great idea either, because the OP has already applied through the normal channels. OP should deal with their contact only and leave the hiring manager out of it, unless the contact pulls them in.

    2. Graciosa

      TheSnarkyB is right – please don’t do this.

      I think job seekers are often looking for a way to make sure that they are considered – there’s an element of “please notice me” in all these requests, coupled sometimes with the fantasy that if only the hiring manager [attractive movie star] met the job seeker [fan] in person, he or she would realize that the job seeker [fan] was the only one for him / her – an instant case of employment [true love]!

      It doesn’t actually work this way.

      As a hiring manager (unfortunately not an attractive movie star), I have a process for screening applicants and selecting the ones that I want to interview. What I don’t have is a lot of extra time. When an applicant tries to go outside the process, the message seems to be “I know better than you do who should get an interview (without having seen the applicant pool)” or “I think my wishes should override your standard process” or “I have no respect for the value of your time.”

      It’s a little ironic that actions that are probably prompted by insecurity (as the applicant obviously doesn’t think that they will be noticed based on the cover letter and resume alone) read as arrogant, but this is still not a good message to send. If you want to be noticed, invest your time in crafting your resume and cover letter – that’s all I need.

      I will say that this is not intended to prevent co-workers from recommending specific applicants. I do pay attention to these – an internal recommendation from someone who knows our company, culture, and function has value – but note that they are not coming directly from the applicant. Applicants need to follow the process more than they follow up.

  2. Cheryl

    #1
    I work in a call center where people call in for help with their taxes. When I ask how I can help them, I get their full life story and then they interrupt me nonstop and talk over me. I finally got to the point where I said, “When you interrupt and talk over me, I cannot hear a thing you are saying nor can you hear me which doesn’t help you resolve the questions you called in with”. I have also been known to say: When you are constantly interrupting me, that tells me you are not listening to what I am saying and since you called in for help, I don’t know how I can assist you in this manner. I have repeatedly asked people to stop interrupting me and each time they start to interrupt, I call them on it. And many times, I have had to warn them that if they continue to interrupt and talk over me, I will have to disconnect the call.
    I think this goes back to the discussion we had recently about others talking over us like we didn’t exist. Some cultures seem to welcome the interaction of everyone talking at once and others do not. I feel that it has become a product our culture with all the social media, in that no one seems able to carry on a face to face conversation anymore. I also get the feeling at times that people do not feel validated in their lives and once they have the ear of someone else, talk nonstop.
    Since you are face to face, the only suggestion I can make is to address the issue and each time the person interrupts you call her on it as it will not change overnight. I usually give a warning 3 times and after that, I am done. And when the call is disconnected, I tell them to call back when they are able to listen. It is time for this person to sink or swim and if she cannot accept the help you offer then so be it.

    1. FiveNine

      I think the scenario is a bit different as OP is training a coworker, and you’re in a scenario where you’re either dealing with a customer or a taxpayer.

      I too have worked in a call center — people calling in for assistance are (1) already frustrated and (2) really are trying to convey to you what they think you need to know about their problem so they can get it resolved. I’m just pointing this out because it’s true even with a cable TV problem that people feel the need to fill in a certain amount of back detail so they know you understand the problem. I can only imagine this is exponentially compounded when a person is seeking assistance about taxes, already a confusing area, and is trying to describe their back story scenario to you that they think might be relevant for you to know to help resolve their problem. I’m just putting it out there; I honestly only once in three years had to disconnect a caller (for hostility and threats). I understand that some people can go too far afield in providing the back story, and there was only once on a holiday when I received a call from a lonely person wanting to just talk about movies. (I have a hard time imagining this many people are picking up the phone to call the IRS or an H&R Block call center for the conversation.) If you’re warning this many people and actually disconnecting people calling in for tax assistance, please put yourself in their shoes and consider whether it’s possible you’re the one interrupting without listening for what they’re trying to tell you — it’s scary to not know the tax law and whether you have a situation that could get you in trouble with the IRS or whether you’re handling it correctly, and you want the person helping you to know the details, even if you don’t know whether all of them are relevant.

      1. Kelly L.

        There’s also the factor of the phone–I think I read once that cell phones throw off the timing of conversations in a way that land lines don’t–something to do with lag, I think? So people interrupt when they didn’t think they were about to.

        And then there are people who are just lonely. My BF’s mom will tell her life story to anyone at any time, and it’s annoying but I try to be compassionate, because what’s really going on is that most of her friends have passed away and she gets lonely. :(

        1. Nodumbunny

          I do think cell phones exacerbate this problem, which is why I try to do long calls from my land line (I’m a freelance consultant, so not sitting at a desk most of the time). You can’t both speak at the same time on a cell phone, it cuts out – so if someone is trying to jump into what they think is a lull in the conversation they start speaking and the cell phone is relaying only them, so they may have cut off the first speaker without really knowing it. At least, I think that’s what’s happening.

          1. Nodumbunny

            And I agree with FiveNine. Cheryl, you sound pretty burned out – I say that not as criticism, because you probably wouldn’t choose, all things being equal, to be working in a call center answering tax questions. I’m sure you’ve heard it all and long ago exhausted your reserves of patience, but yeah, you sound burned out.

          2. Lynn Whitehat

            No, you can both talk at the same time on a cell. I think there were some early cell phones where you couldn’t, but I’d be very surprised to find one today. The lag might be longer than a landline. On a phone of any kind, you’re missing the non-verbal cues that someone is about to start talking, and it causes more interruptions no matter how polite people are trying to be.

            1. Cheryl

              Forgive me for trying to help. This is not about me, this is about helping someone else figure out a way to resolve a similar problem. And I was only giving examples of what I do in the situation I am in case it will help them.

              For those telling me I am burned out or that I should place myself in someone else’s shoes as the issue may be me interrupting them or that all things being equal this is probably not the job I want to have.
              I did not give enough information about my job for anyone to actually assume correctly that I am all the things previously stated. Yes I work in a call center, but I am NOT in customer service and the laws, procedures and rules that I must follow dictate what I can and cannot say. And how calls are handled when people will not stop interrupting or continue to talk over the agent on the call is written into the manual.

              So as much as I would like to assist someone with their tax questions, I am not in customer service and therefore not allowed to advise or really provide the “customer service” I would like to.

              And Kelly L, you are correct, I get many many calls from the older folks that really just want someone to listen to them. Their kids are gone or they feel like a burden, or whatever. I understand, I just cannot help them in this instance.

              1. Mallory

                Are you not allowed to go off script? This is interesting to me, because I once called a customer service helpline (I do see that you aren’t in customer service, so maybe this is too different from what you do), and I could tell that the person was reading from a script in response to my questions. I would ask a question, and he would start to read an answer at me. The answer would be something kind of “near” my question, but not exactly related to what I had asked. So I would jump in and try to refine the wording of what I had asked, and then he would start reading to me from some other almost-but-not-quite-related answer. It was kind of surreal, and he would not go off script at all. All the passages he was reading at me even started with, “Well, ma’am . . . “

                1. Cheryl

                  The answer to your question is different depending on the Mission Statement of the call center. I have been in Customer Service or Technical Support call centers most of my life. Those types of call center jobs were much more scripted than where I work now. Depending on the reason for the call, there was a script you had to use, like a one size fits all, which it rarely did. In Customer Service you basically do anything and everything to help the person you are talking to reach a resolution.
                  Where I work now we do not have a script per se, but there are a number of highlights that we do have to hit in the conversation, how we word them is up to us. We are also prohibited from discussing extraneous things which many times would really help the person we are talking to in educating them, in calming them down, in giving suggestions and on and on.

  3. The RO-Cat

    #2: popping in for a visit

    Tempting as it might seem, I’d stay away. As I see it, the visit can only go down well if the purpose is to see the client, period. Were I the hiring manager, I would see my colleague coming to me with a candidate who already sent in the application as a little pushy. There is potential for misunderstanding the visit as provoked by the candidate.

    One good way to manage this contact would be perhaps to schedule a short visit and, after that, the contact to go to the hiring manager and reinforce the candidate’s stand. But face to face with the HM… I wouldn’t do that.

  4. Purple Dragon

    #1. My coworker won’t stop interrupting me while I train her
    I do a lot of training and I find the people who do this need the most training. I’ve found that chronic over-talkers do better with a Cheat Sheet and then going through it, without reference to any specific error in the past.
    You could also try going through a small chunk of the procedure and asking things like “What situations can you see where you’d use this”, and probably more importantly “When do you think this wouldn’t work so well”. If you become collaborative, especially in designing the documentation she’ll hopefully have more buy-in and be less defensive.
    When you ask what wouldn’t work so well it doens’t mean you have to agree, you can then address that and try and bring her around to agreeing with you. It’s also an indication of when she’s not going to use the correct procedure.

    1. Sydney Bristow

      A cheat sheet could be useful. It might be most useful if the trainee points out specific areas she is struggling with and then also including a few other things the trainer notices as trouble areas if they aren’t on the trainee’s list. I typically make these for myself with things I’ve struggled with or made a mistake on. It’s hard to get defensive to a cheat sheet, especially one with info you’ve requested.

      1. AndersonDarling

        On the other side, I’m wondering if the admin is just looking for an acknowledgement. She may think the trainer is in a position of authority above her and will tattle-tell is she does something wrong. So she keeps trying to explain why she did something to justify her actions. (If she is in a backstabbing department, this would be likely.)
        She may just need to say, “OK, I understand why you did that. Let me show you what to do next time.”

        1. teclatwig

          +1. I have learned that I will talk at my husband more and more until I just get an acknowledgement, already. I think OP should start by developing some short stock phrases which reassure and redirect. (I also love the idea of the cheat sheet, and of reconsidering whether using mistakes is the ideal teaching tool with this coworker.)

        2. myswtghst

          I was going to suggest something similar. :) One of the things I’ve found most helpful as a trainer (and working in customer service) is moving the conversation along by acknowledging what the person is saying (“I understand why you feel that way / did the thing / etc…) then making a statement (“so let’s see if I can explain the thing a little better…”) to try and move things along.

          If you don’t acknowledge what a person is saying / feeling before trying to press on, they tend to get even more hung up on making sure you understand, which often leads to more interruptions and longer tangents.

  5. Ann Furthermore

    #1 – Interrupting Co-Worker

    I’ve found that a simple, “Please let me finish.” can be effective, repeated as necessary. Sometimes just being called on impolite behavior is all people need to get them back into line.

    Another thing you might try, when you actually do get this person to listen, is to have her repeat back what you’ve just explained to her. The act of actually talking through what you’ve just learned can be helpful in getting it to stick. Plus, if she knows she’ll be quizzed on what she learned, it might make her think twice about opening her mouth.

    1. Elizabeth West

      If she’s not taking notes, you can encourage her to do that too. And be patient while she takes a few minutes to write them down. That really helps me when I’m training for something–I make copious notes and then neaten them up later. Besides highlighting questions I might have, the rewriting also helps cement the procedures in my head and gives me something to refer to.

      The point is that it makes the instructions tangible and sharpens my focus. She might have trouble concentrating on what people are saying (different learning style?), and taking notes could help her. Listening to a lot of new information at once is like trying to catch birds for some people.

      1. Ann Furthermore

        Yeah, that’s a good idea too. Normally people are very accommodating when you’re taking notes, and ask them to give you a minute to finish writing something down. And I think they’re that way because they appreciate that you’re actually listening to what they have to say.

        I take lots of notes too, especially when I’m in training for something new, or in a meeting covering subject matter that is new to me. And even if my notes don’t make perfect sense later, the fact that I’ve written something down helps me retain it in my memory. If I’m just listening — and even participating in the discussion — but not writing anything down, I have a much harder time later remembering the finer details of the discussion.

    2. B

      Be very selective with the repeat back to me. Sometimes it is useful but other times it comes across as very demeaning. That is especially true if other people are around. Much better to have them take notes or a cheat sheet that you can then look over.

      1. Ann Furthermore

        You know, you’re right. Having someone do that constantly would be so annoying!

        If someone did that with simple stuff, like “Tell me how to log into the system,” then I’d think the person doing the training thought I was a moron and I’d be really ticked off.

        But if it was something like, “Tell me how you hire someone as a contractor, end their assignment, and re-hire them as an employee,” if I was getting trained on how to use an HRMS system, I’d find that useful. This example popped into my head because I did an HRMS implementation a few years ago and this particular process was quite tricky and we all spent quite a bit of time hashing out the details.

        1. Julie

          Or you can ask the trainee to DO what you just taught them – if the material lends itself to that.

  6. GemLDN

    #1 Ack! I used to be an interrupter. For me, it stemmed from anxiety and insecurity.

    Sometimes, my boss tried to explain something to me that I was already very well versed at. My thought process went like this:

    Why is she telling me this?

    She must think I’m stupid.

    I must show her that I already know this.

    And then I cut her off. The last time it happened, she kind of pleaded “please let me finish.” (which, of course, then made me feel even worse – due to my issues.) I got help for anxiety, and now practice mindfulness.

    I know you can’t force anyone to change, but maybe you can try and get her to calm down? Does she seem anxious in general?

    1. In progress

      Yeah I’m thinking anxiety too- not that I want to diagnose strangers but whenever I’ve interrupted people it’s been out of nerves. I was raised to never, ever, interrupt people. So when I interrupt I feel like I need to do some face-saving or pass along some information that isn’t being listened to. She should be called out on her rudeness, but is it possible that it is insecurity? Maybe let her know she’s doing okay and you’re okay with questions.
      Of course, call out the behavior. She might not even realize she’s doing it. It does need to stop. I do like to assume the best of people, so this reads to me as wanting to be good enough instead of disrespect.

      1. L McD

        I agree, especially in a training scenario, anxiety was the first thing that came to mind. It doesn’t make it any less rude, but it does cast the behavior in a different light. Defensiveness is very common with anxiety too.

        I think the interrupting itself needs to be addressed – a calm “please, let me finish” is fine for this – but the underlying behavior also needs to be addressed, too. If I were the co-worker, I’d want to know that the OP is genuinely okay with me making mistakes, and understands it’s something that is going to happen at this stage. I’d want to know that they are not assuming there is something wrong with me, or I’m stupid, because of the way I’m choosing to do things. A simple “I understand that you’re doing things the way you’ve learned in the past, but when you interrupt me in the middle of answering a question…” etc. etc. could do wonders. Especially if there is some (legitimate) frustration starting to seep into your interactions at this point.

      2. L McD

        Oh, and another thing – as annoying as this behavior is, I think the OP does need to make sure that the coworker isn’t actually trying to convey important information. Most of it may fall into the category of “well this is how I always used to do it,” but there may be some valuable information in there about her thought processes, and/or it may indicate something she has misunderstood, or hasn’t been taught, or has overlooked. If she’s doing something “the wrong way” because she is trying to mitigate what she sees as a problem or shortcoming in the system, that’s worth discussing to figure out why.

        It’s just very difficult, because her communicate style is obviously interfering with the process. I think bucketloads of patience are called for, even though it SEEMS like she’s the one not being patient – she’s in a very overwhelming and anxiety-inducing scenario, and is probably trying to manage it the best she can right now.

    2. PB

      #1 in particular hit a nerve. My boss called me out on it today (in the nicest way possible). He noticed that it was a fairly recent thing and kept forgetting to remind me to wait and listen before I jump in.

    3. AnonAnalyst

      I definitely have this tendency too, and I really, really try to curtail it, but it can be tough. I can’t tell from the original question if the coworker is just asking the question without any background and then interrupting after the OP starts to answer or if she’s already explaining what she did and why prior to asking the question. If it’s the former, I wonder if asking her what she’s tried or asking her to explain the approach she took would help with this? Since the OP said that she’s interrupting and is defensive as soon as the OP starts trying to answer the question, it makes me wonder if she’s trying to explain her thought process and possibly abbreviate the length of the new training (like, but skipping over the stuff she already knows and instead focusing on what she should have done differently). I definitely like the “please let me finish” approach if it keeps happening because it’s also possible she doesn’t know she’s doing it, and just bringing it to her attention might make it stop.

  7. In progress

    For #1- is there a way to let her demonstrate her knowledge to you? Since she asked, I assume she wanted an answer, but maybe she felt like it was a stupid question. Asking for practical results might 1) make her feel like she is being successful and resolve her question or 2) make her more humble and see for herself where the problems are?

    1. Chinook

      In Progress, there s another reason to have the interrupted demonstrate her knowledge – it will show where she is having an issue. Her logic, which she is interrupting with, may be where the problem is and not her actual process. By having her walk OP #1 through what she is doing and why, which may then show a misunderstanding of the “why” which influences her “how”.

  8. Mary

    #1 I wonder if examples of where she made mistakes are helpful in a training situation. She may feel you have judged her already as being wrong and using her mistakes only adds fuel to the fire.

    I would draw a line under past mistakes and just work forward.

    Teach her a, then if she makes a mistake in a subsequently you may use that as an example of an incorrect procedure. If she persists in telling you this is the way she was trained then you can refer to the line in the sand and say “all training prior to this is not valid due to business changes etc. the only correct way to progress is a which I have demonstrated. In what way did you not understand a which has lead to this current mistake and we can go over it again”

    Of course constant interrupting may be her way of disrupting the training so she can plead ignorance in the future of what you taught her.

  9. Jamie

    The interrupter. Complaints about the system is a classic way to derail training. I always tell people I’m happy to discuss how they feel about the system another time, but we need to work with what is and what what would be ideal.

    There are two kinds of interrupters ime. The ones where it’s out of insecurity and they are defensively showing me what they know and how x isn’t their fault. I have a lot of sympathy for this, used to be prone to it myself as a kid, so I do what I can to put them at ease and diffuse that. The other kind, who are interrupting because they aren’t listening or because their need to express annoyance with X is overriding everything – no sympathy just irritating.

  10. Jamie

    On the name thing, most of my family goes by their middle names – so not a big deal. Alison is right just use the initial so they know and make sure HR or whomever gets it right when they put you in the system and issue IDs and whatnot.

    And HR people, just because you know people’s full names doesn’t give you the right to use them when you’re trying to be funny. If we liked our first names we’d go by them – you’re not embarrassing us, just making yourself look like a giant jerk.

        1. De Minimis

          My MIL is a Hortense….although she is Hispanic and it is much prettier sounding in Spanish.

  11. The Other Dawn

    1. My coworker won’t stop interrupting me while I train her

    In regards to the coworker getting defensive, explaining why she’s not wrong, etc., I once had someone like this. She would browbeat people until they backed off. And she was an interrupter, also. I found I had to be very blunt and forceful sometimes. She just wouldn’t stop unless I did that. I’d say things like, “You asked me a question. Let me answer it.” Or, “Please stop talking until I can finish this thought.” One time my boss just said point-blank, “Susie, stop talking!” A little over the top, but we had to do that sometimes with this particular person.

  12. ClaireS

    Do you have a list of hilarious names to use for examples, Allison? I sure hope there is a list on a bulletin board in front of your desk.

    As for the advice, my brother had this same issue and treats it as Allison recommends.

  13. Sunflower

    #2- I would tread lightly with this because there are a lot of people who don’t know the etiquette of things like this. My friend was the hiring manager for a job and one day one of her employees walked into her office and asked if she had a minute. She said her friend had applied for a job, happened to stop in today and was wondering if she wanted to talk to her. You can imagine what my friend was thinking. The employee clearly should have spoken to my friend earlier. Like Allison said, make sure you clarify with the contact what will happen when you pop by for a visit. If she doesn’t indicate that she is going to set you up with the hiring manager and that she has already spoken to her about this, then don’t go.

  14. CH

    #3–Middle name user

    My husband has gone by his middle name since birth and does as AAM suggests on his resume and in as many other places as will let him get away with it. However, not all online application systems will allow it and that can be a problem. There have been many instances (not just in applying for jobs) when using his middle name has caused a mix-up that he has had to resolve. I blame his parents for giving him a first name they knew they weren’t going to use.

    1. Rebecca

      I’m also a middle name user. When I am applying for something online, I put my full legal name. If I am contacted and/or go in for an interview, I mention that I go by my middle name. For example, when the person calling asks for FirstName, I say, “This is she, I actually go by MiddleName.”) No big deal. My email signature uses Middle Last, as does my outgoing voice mail.

      On my resume, I have First “Middle” Last, which makes it clear that the middle name is what I prefer to use.

      I have personally never had any issues with this, nobody seems to bat an eye that I use a different name than my “legal” name. And it makes it easier for background/reference checks if they know up front that my legal name is not the name I prefer to go by.

      1. Jamie

        I do the opposite – although tbf I’ve never applied for a job online through an application – only resumes.

        My resume has the name I go by (middle and last) and then when it gets to the point of an background check I fill out that app with my legal name and just mention it then.

        I’ve found it’s easier for people if their first introduction (even in writing) is with the name you use.

  15. Poohbear McGriddles

    #3 – I go by my middle name, too. Actually it’s a derivative of my middle name. My full name is Maximilian Poohbearly McGriddles IV. It was fun in high school when half the teachers knew me as Maximilian, and the other half as Poohbear. I figured it kept them from talking about me to each other.
    In my professional life it hasn’t been that much of an issue, though. I’ve had background checks and security clearances done with no issues. Some of them ask for aliases, which not only gives me an opportunity to clear up the issue but also makes me feel all cloak and dagger-ish.
    It’s worse for my wife, though, since she also goes by her middle name but also has to deal with a maiden name and married name.

  16. VictoriaHR

    #1 – I have had success with stopping talking immediately when someone interrupts and/or talks over me. When they stop talking, I then start my sentence over. If they interrupt again, I stop again and wait. After a few repetitions of this, they usually get the picture. Of course, in a call center environment this wouldn’t work because it would take too much time.

    #3 – just make sure that HR is aware of the name that your criminal records would be found under. Putting A. Abram Anderson on your resume doesn’t tell them what your first name is and so if they search for that name, they might not find all pertinent records.

    1. Lefty

      #1 – That’s funny. I just said almost the exact same thing. I posted it and then refreshed to check the new comments and saw I must have been typing mine at the same time you were typing yours.

    2. the gold digger

      the name that your criminal records would be found under

      Which is exactly why I would not give them my nom de criminal. I wouldn’t want them to find that I rob banks in my spare time.

    3. HM in Atlanta

      Re #1 – I do exactly the same thing. I stop talking immediately and don’t engage in whatever they are talking about. When they eventually pause to inhale – I’ll point out how long I’ve been prevented from speaking. Usually the person is shocked (because they don’t realize and they aren’t trying to be rude). At that point I’ll ask that we agree not to interrupt each other. That works 90% of the time.

  17. Lefty

    I have two chronic interrupters in my office that I have to deal with on a daily basis. They come to me with questions and then, when I try to answer them, they start talking over me. It makes it even worse that they both talk at extremely high volume, so I can’t even hear myself if I continue to talk.

    Recently I tried something new that has been working pretty well. As soon as one of them interrupts me, I immediately stop talking and just wait. Once the interrupter has no one to talk over, they stop – confused. I then pick up where I left off as if there had been no interruption. If they interrupt again, I stop again, wait, etc… I’ve had to do this no more than twice in any recent conversation before they just stop interrupting. My guess is that this makes them actually aware that they are interrupting, plus takes all of the joy out of it because you can’t shout down someone who isn’t speaking. I even got a “Sorry, what were you saying?” yesterday. Progress maybe?

    1. TL

      Yes, this tends to work pretty well. My dad’s a chronic interrupter and if you just stop and let him speak, then when he’s done, start again, with “Okay, let me finish and I can explain all of it.” (He tends to interrupt halfway through because he doesn’t understand.)

      Start from the beginning each time, not where they interrupted you, and they’ll learn really quickly that it is so much easier just to let you finish your thought the first time than to have to sit through you repeating the beginning 3-4x before you get to the middle/end.

      1. teclatwig

        +1 I am a chronic interrupter, and this would work well. Both because it draws my attention and because I don’t end up in a shame spiral where I apologize profusely while interrupting even more.

  18. Katie the Fed

    That first letter makes my blood pressure rise just reading it. I HATE interrupters. It breaks my train of thought, throws me off balance, and really just pisses me off.

    Sometimes I find it useful to revisit the principles I learned when I adopted my very insane dog. Yes, dog training isn’t a great model for dealing with humans, but sometimes they are useful. Basically, to train a dog to walk on a leash, you have to remember that the dog wants to go on the walk and you can either allow that to happen or not based on the dog’s behavior. So every time the dog pulls, you stop walking immediately, and only start when the dog stops pulling on the leash. The dog very quickly learns that every time it pulls, the walk stops.

    The same principle can work well with interrupters. If they want to have a conversation with you, then they can’t interrupt you. So this is where I stop immediately, look at them, and say “please let me finish” then I continue with what I was saying. Everytime they interrupt, I stop talking, tell them to let me finish, and return to what I was saying. If they continue, I’m done with the conversation and I might say something like “I really need you to stop interrupting me if we’re going to have a conversation.”

    Most of the time this works. Remember, they can’t have a conversation without you, and this woman can’t get this training without you, so eventually they’re going to have to accept the terms of the conversation.

    And my dog walks really well on a leash now.

    1. AnonEMoose

      Actually, I think the basic principles of dog training apply to humans pretty well. Patience, consistency, a willingness to be firm, breaking things down into manageable chunks, and finding ways to reward the behavior you want are all applicable to human and canine…you just apply them somewhat differently.

      1. Katie the Fed

        Ha! My management book will be called “Everything I Learned About Managing People I Learned From Training an Insane Dog”

        1. TL

          I took a dolphin training day course and the trainer was like, “These methods work pretty much on everyone – husbands, cats, dogs, dolphins, fish…”

          And I often use it to “train” people! Good behavior gets rewarded and bad behavior gets ignored.

          1. AnonEMoose

            Anyone else remember the movie “If a Man Answers” and the mother’s secret to a happy marriage?

            1. Katie the Fed

              are you going to share it with the class? Some of us are getting married soon and need all the help we can get!

    2. Alex

      Oh my gosh, I was JUST about to type up about training the dog to walk! I’ve been doing this exact process for my adopted dog and it reminded me of the suggestions for “training” an interrupter. Love it.

    3. Ann Furthermore

      Also related is that some of the principles of parenting and taking care of children often apply to adults as well.

      I really do enjoy my job, and my company’s line of business is something I find very interesting. But one thing about the culture that just makes me twitchy and aggravated is the idea that policies are not, actually, set in stone. You try to roll something out, and then someone who doesn’t like having to follow a new set of rules (or any rules at all) lodges complaints up the food chain until they get to someone who grants them an exception. It happens all the time, and I wish the people in leadership positions would just put their foot down and say no. It would make things so much easier.

      In a meeting once I compared it to having a child. If your kid asks you for something, and you say no, what’s the next step? Run to the other parent and ask for the exact same thing, hoping for another answer.

      If people know that all they have to do is keep whining until someone says it’s OK for them to be exempt from this or that policy, what motivation do they have to adhere to the rules? But if policies are applied consistently, then eventually they’ll get the message and stop trying. Just like with kids — if both parents consistently give the same answer, the child will learn that trying to play his/her parents against each other doesn’t work.

    4. Gjest

      To continue this analogy, and make a new point, when my insane dog was a puppy, I also realized that training could only occur after he had run around like a mad fiend and gotten a good amount of energy out. So I had to find a large fenced in place for him to go insano (technical term), then I could work on walking normally on a leash. Before that, his crazy dog brain just would not let anything sink in.

      So, on with the analogy: It could be helpful to remember that some people, especially while training, need to talk things out for them to sink in. Sometimes you need to let them get their thoughts out. This isn’t to say that you have to continue to let them interrupt all the time, but it may help to sometimes stop and listen to what they are saying when they interrupt.

      1. PJ

        Actually, I think this is a good strategy with pets and children, and perhaps spouses. In a business setting, however, I lean toward insisting that the person conform to the larger good — that means not interrupting.

        1. Gjest

          That’s probably true, but thinking about why some people interrupt may help get them to stop.

  19. Elizabeth West

    3# going by middle name

    I use my middle name but the school, my job, my doctor’s office, etc. all have my first name in the system. If I had a nickel for every time I’ve said “Please call me Elizabeth or Liz; I don’t go by [Name],” I could retire today.

    When filling out forms, if there is a place to do it, I’ll write “Liz” in parentheses or use the first initial. But there isn’t always. I put Liz and Elizabeth as aliases on my passport application, because there are places where no one knows me as [Name].

  20. JMegan

    #3 – I go by my middle name as well. My birth certificate, drivers license, health card, passport, and mortgage all have my full name; everything else, including my resume and job info, use only my middle name.

    My strategy has been to treat it as a non-issue as much as possible. I never use my first name, so I just…never use it, you know? On the few occasions where “full legal name” is required, of course I’ll fill it in, but other than that I figure it’s on a need-to-know basis.

  21. CanadianWriter

    I wish I could go by my middle name, but my mum would be too sad. My first name is literally the most common female name every year for a 25 year period but she still thinks its beautiful and original.

    1. Me Too!

      I have the exact same problem! My first name is weird and masculine but my mother thinks it’s the best and so I use it because she’d be crushed. I actually experimented with using my middle name (which I LOVE and feel is much more fitting for my personality) for about a 6 month period after I graduated and moved to a new city, but it failed because 1) I felt too guilty even though she never found out and 2) I’d gone by my first name for 24 years and it was just too much to change at that point (references etc.).

      I realize that this isn’t terribly germane to the topic at hand but I wanted to tell you that you’re not alone!

    2. Trillian

      I know someone who goes by her very common middle name among family and childhood friends, and by her slightly more unusual one at work and among people met in adulthood. It wasn’t planned, but in the social media era it means her professional identity stands out more, while at the same time she’s not immediately googleable across the work-social divide.

  22. Bluefish

    #1. How frustrating for you. It’s one of my pet peeves when people can’t handle being wrong. Even worse is someone that can’t handle being wrong, but also can’t handle to be taught something that they don’t already know. How people come to think they should know everything all the time, and always be right is beyond me. If I were dealing with this type of personality, I would be direct, and up front about how she comes across to you and that I needs to be addressed. You’d only be doing her a favor. Of course, you should preface the conversation with: “I need to talk to you about something, but its very important that you listen and let me finish before responding. Nothing I’m about to say should offend you. I’m not accusing you of anything, I simply think that we’re having problems communicating and I’d like to fix that.”

    1. Jess

      I’ve also noticed there are certain people who have a compulsion to negate everything anyone else says, even if they know they’re wrong. If you tell them that some cats have spots they’ll say they’ve only ever seen ones with stripes. It drives me up the wall. And for some reason it seems to go hand in hand with incessant talking. Maybe it’s a way to keep the conversation going?

  23. LeeD

    #3 – I have seen X. Percival Montblanc, but just as often people seem to use the form Xavier “Percival” Montblanc. I prefer the latter, because I don’t have to search out what the first initial stands for, which is sometimes necessary for various reasons. When I have two documents with two different names on them, having the full name on at least one of them makes my life easier.

    1. Gilby

      #3
      This confuses me a little as I am not sure what the real problem is.

      Do you want people to immediately call you by your middle name? So if a company call’s for an interview to say ” Hi I am looking for ( middle name)?

      Resume says Crepe Suzette Smith. When you meet/ get a call whoever for the first time you say, ” Hi I go by Suzie. ”

      This is no different then a Thomas being called Tom (or sticking with Thomas) or asking someone to call you AJ, Will for William or Scooter for Mary Lou. People won’t know any different until you tell them.

      If all documents are the same, resume, tax forms, loan apps, background checks etc are the same name it seems that will eliminate any issues like the one the OP is talking about.

      If I am putting in data for an employee and I see 2 different names I am going to wonder which is right.

    2. EvilQueenRegina

      One of my ex-coworkers came from a family where it was a tradition for them all to go by their middle names – one of her brothers eventually had enough of his hated middle name and came down for breakfast when he was about 15 and said “Right, from now on I’m First Name.”

      When she started at that job she said from the start she was Consuela Bananahammock rather than Princess, and she was Consuela on the computer system, but was then given an ID badge in the name “P Consuela Bananahammock” as someone had just assumed that was what she wanted, and didn’t like that – when it expired she asked to be just Consuela.

  24. Karowen

    #3 – I actually work at a background check company. From that perspective, you shouldn’t have anything to worry about. You’ll have to fill out a form that asks for all the information to perform a check including first, middle and last name, plus you’ll be given the opportunity to provide other names by which you are known. If employment verifications are being done by a screening company they will likely ask for the first name/last name by default.

    Of course, this all assumes that you’re from the U.S. If you’re not, please disregard :)

  25. Celeste

    #1 Interruptors

    These interruption strategies are great! I’ve always thought that people do it out of anxiety, but of course it’s possible that nobody has ever been straight with them about it. I’d love to hear an update from OP#1.

    1. teclatwig

      Also, if you’re familiar with the concept of cognitive Executive Functions, “inhibition” is one of them. This, many people with ADHD are blurters or interrupters. I happen to be someone whose learning style requires me to talk things out (also maybe from Executive Function issues — I have to chase down concepts and facts that are filed all over the damn place in my brain), and an interrupter. I work very hard on this, but even if I am someday able to develop all the necessary strategies to avoid giving in to my cognitive processes and successfully not interrupt, I will still be an “interrupter.”

      1. teclatwig

        Oops, I meant to finish that by saying that I am working on my own strategies, but am grateful when others have strategies that minimize my ability to tick them off. (In school, I really appreciated the first teacher to approach me and say that she saw my hand up, and knew that I probably had a good comment or knee the answer, but that she was going to call on others a majority of the time. We had a nice talk, and I came away with a personal strategy to count to 5 before raising my hand.)

  26. OP#5

    Just wanted to say thanks to Alison for answering my question, and so quickly!! It’s always these little things that stress me out. Perfect timing, as I’m submitting a job application today! :)

  27. Erik Hammarlund

    “1. My coworker won’t stop interrupting me while I train her”

    I find it is always best to set expectations before I even start:

    “I’m about to explain [complex subject]. Because this is a complex subject, it’s going to take about ____ minutes of uninterrupted talking before it makes any sense at all.

    Now, I [lecture/teach/talk/answer client questions] about this all the time. I have found that pretty much everyone wants to ask questions as soon as I finish the first sentence. That’s normal! But many of those questions won’t make sense until later on, because the answers rely on other aspects of what I need to explain.

    I hope that you’ll trust me when I say that you will learn much more in our time together if you let me get through this in a particular order–many of your questions will get answered. I promise that I expect questions and that I’ll do my best to answer of yours after I’ve gone through the framework. Can we begin?”

    That said, the above lecture only works if you are ACTUALLY an effective and well-organized teacher.

  28. Liane

    5. Short term contracts on resumes.
    I have this problem too, with a past job that is relevant to some freelance work I am applying for. Over about 12 years, I did essay scoring projects for GoodCompany, ranging in length from a couple weeks to several months. But I cannot recall most projects or the dates. I can narrow down to 2 separate time periods, several years apart, where I did most of them. Is it sufficient to list as
    Essay Reader, GoodCo 1994-1996 (by project)
    Next job…
    Next job2…
    Essay Reader, GoodCo 2001-2007 (by project)

  29. Mints

    #3 middle names

    Maybe this was a throw away line, but “pretentious” really struck me on the question. Does anyone really find full names pretentious? Because now I’m wondering if I should change mine to middle initial on my resume

    1. Anonymous

      Mints. I’ve never found using a full name pretentious. And this is coming from someone who has never once used their middle name for anything. Even when filling out legal docs I just leave the middle name option blank bc It doesn’t feel like its part of my name. So to answer your question, I’ve personally never found it pretentious. I wouldn’t change your ways :)

    2. Rindle

      For me it depends on the name and whether it “sounds” pretentious. To use the example from our friend above, if I get a resume from “Maximilian Poohbearly McGriddles IV,” I’m going to raise an eyebrow. It wouldn’t keep me from calling someone in for an interview, but it would be a little factoid in my head at a time when I don’t have a lot of factoids yet. “This person had umpty choices for how to list his name on his resume, and he chose the most – well, pretentious. Why?”

      Other people’s full names wouldn’t cause me to think twice. “Buffy Anne Summers” doesn’t sound any more or less pretentious than “Buffy Summers.” Maybe it’s a function of number of syllables, how common the name is, number of names, and presence of a suffix.

      1. Mints

        Now I feel like telling you my name, but I don’t want to post it. I think this is sort of linguistically similar: Emma Valerie Peterson
        I guess I’m safe, since my name doesn’t sound like British royalty haha

        1. Rindle

          Haha – I had a hard time writing my response without giving my friends’ names as examples!

  30. OP #1

    So many helpful suggestions!! Since asking the question, I have spoken to a few other people in the department and we are all experiencing the same issues. If each of us works to put a stop to the interrupting and it doesn’t get any better, I will feel more comfortable going to her manager with a recommendation that “putting on her listening ears” could be an area of professional development.

    She doesn’t come across as high-strung, but perhaps anxiety isn’t something others can easily see.

    Anyway, thank you to everybody for offering such terrific suggestions!!

  31. Melanie

    #1 Just as an FYI, interrupting like that is also a symptom of ADHD. Making them aware in a nice way is always helpful but as an ADHD sufferer myself, it took time to recognize that I was doing it and it takes practice to stop. For me it’s just an impulse to speak as soon as something comes to mind, no matter who I am talking to and for folks with ADHD it can be hard to wrangle in.

  32. OhNo

    Re: #1

    I’m coming at this from a different perspective here, but would it be at all beneficial to ask what she did, first, before answering the question? I’m a reference librarian, and that is one of the key things I try to do every time I start a question. Give the person a chance to explain and talk themselves out, then answer.

    So if she has a problem, you might ask what she did, and where it stopped working. That also gives you a chance to include a positive note in your response (i.e.: “You clearly understand step X, but it sounds like you ran into trouble with step Y. Let’s go over that.”) As someone mentioned above, sometimes people get anxious over showing that they know something, or they want to complain a little bit, so letting them wear themselves out talking first might help.

    This won’t solve the rudeness problem, so it might not work long term (or even at all – some people just love to interrupt no matter what). But it’s another option you could try.

  33. Tinker

    #3 — My practice now is that the name I go by goes on all the documents that are part of the professional interaction, and my legal name goes on all the documents that are part of the administrative interaction. So, resume, LinkedIn, business cards — the name I’m called. Job application, background check form, employment verification form — legal name.

    So far I’ve found that the administrative side of things tends not to be terribly confused by the “Hi, I’m Rob, I signed the NDA here with my legal name, Katherine Roberta Jones”, whereas the other way tends to make all interviews start out with stumbling over my name. Or calling me “Katie”, which means that it’s time for the wood chipper and pig farm again. So inconvenient! The key for me is that in a personal interaction, folks want a simple interface — so a name, not an analysis of naming practices in the Southern US.

    The first initial thing probably does work to put people on notice that a name variation is coming. I don’t do it myself because it looks oddly formal, especially when juxtaposed against my less formal use-name, and that seems to work out okay for me.

    For me, any attempt to investigate me without more disambiguating information would cause one to conclude that I’m dead, selling real estate, an elderly woman, two other people who worked at my former employer who are not me, and a football player. So there’s that. But in any case everyone I’ve run across has asked for a separate form consenting to any checks, which includes stuff like birthdate and sometimes former addresses and stuff.

  34. amaranth16

    So, I actually have a question related to #4. I’m at my first job out of college. I’ve been here for several years and I have received a series of promotions. When I start job searching next year, I’m worried that the time that’s elapsed since then means that my references (mainly internship supervisors and perhaps a professor) don’t know my current work well and may not have the clearest recollections of my work (I have stayed in touch with them, and I’m confident they remember me and my work warmly, but I’m not sure how much they’ll be able to say in detail about the work I did, or whether their recollections will be pertinent for the levels of jobs I’ll be applying for).

    When I contact them about being references, should I gently remind them of some of the work I did while I was there, or send them my current resume + additional context? And is it a disadvantage that my references will be from a few promotions and several years ago?

    1. amaranth16

      (eta: In that last paragraph, the “or” in sentence 1 isn’t meant to be exclusive – I know I can do both things, but am wondering if I should also do other things!)

  35. MR

    My grandfather, my father and I all have the same first name, yet different middle names.

    My grandfather went by his first name, and to avoid confusion, my father went by his middle name (and still does to this day). I went by my first name and still do.

    My father has always used his full name for legal documents/job applications/whatever, but whenever anyone asks, he just says “I go by ‘middle name.'”

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