should I tell my employer if I file for bankruptcy, using speaker phone during a phone interview, and more

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

1. Should I tell my employer if I file for bankruptcy?

I am a relatively new hire at a law firm. I am seriously considering filing for bankruptcy due to a large amount of medical debt, as well as a much smaller amount of non-medical debt (I would not be filing if that were my only unsecured debt). Even with my new salary, I am really struggling, since I also have student loans and a mortgage to pay.

What are the pros and cons of telling/not telling this information to my supervising partner or someone in HR? On one hand, I don’t think it’s anyone else’s business, but on the other hand, I don’t want to look like I have something to hide. I should also mention that I’ve done my research and I know that it won’t impact my professional license.

I don’t see how it’s your employer’s business at all. I can think of zero pros for telling them about it. This is a private financial matter that has nothing to do with them. After all, would you report other financial happenings to your employer, like making a bad investment or buying property or borrowing from your 401K? None of that is their concern, and I can’t see how this is either.

Moreover, it’s illegal for your employer to take any adverse action against you (like firing you, demoting you, or taking away responsibilities) because of your bankruptcy, so that’s a pretty clear reinforcement that it’s none of their business.

2. Can I ask employers to email me instead of calling?

How should I phrase in my cover letter/accompanying email that I would prefer if employers e-mailed me in lieu of calling? Due to my office location, my cell reception is almost completely blocked when I’m at work. I do not have an office line, and even if I did, I would not want prospective employers calling my work line, as my boss does not know that I’m looking. I thought including something like “Please email instead of calling” looks tacky without reasoning – and adding a reason just makes it worse. What do you think?

I think you’ve got to leave this one up to employers. Some prefer email, some prefer to call, but most have systems and ultimately they’re going to prefer to do it their way. The most you could do would be to include a line at the end of your cover letter saying something “email is the easiest way to reach me” … but I think people who prefer to call will still call. As for the phone situation, you definitely aren’t expected to use your work number on your resume; in fact, that would reflect poorly on you if you did, since you shouldn’t be using your employer’s resources for job hunting. Just give your personal number (cell or land line), and call people back when you’re able to. This is how it worked in the days before cell phones, after all; people received messages and called people back. Same thing here.

3. How to help my manager after a coworker was fired

I got a new manager earlier this year. Before she was hired, we believed that she would only manage one person (me), but the agency quickly decided it would be a good idea to merge a second employee whose work was loosely related into our department. This coworker was… difficult… to work with. Very nice, easy to talk to, impossible to get results or information from her.

A couple of days ago, my coworker was let go. My personal opinion is that this was a good move, however I’m not sure how I can be useful to my manager during the transition. A lot of the coworker’s work was client facing while mine was internal, so it’s not like I will be asked to take on any of her responsibilities. Additionally, the coworker was very disorganized and I’m so tempted to organize files and “fix” things.

What would be a useful way to help my manager at a time like this? Just keep my head down and do my work well? Jump in and take an active role in the transition? On the flip side, what should I NOT do at a time like this?

I wouldn’t jump in and take an active role without talking with your manager, since you and your fired coworker had pretty different sets of responsibilities and since it’s possible that your manager has plans to cover things during the vacancy that you don’t realize. The best thing to do is to say, “If there’s anything I can help with while the position is vacant, please let me know!” Also, if there’s something specific you want to propose (such as organizing those files), offer it.

4. Can I ask to put my phone interviewer on speaker phone so I can take notes?

I have a phone interview coming this Saturday. When the interviewer calls me, I want to ask up-front whether I can put him/her on speaker so I can take notes during the interview. Is this appropriate? Will he/she think it’s weird? Will it leave an odd, negative impression and jeopardize my chances for the job?

I wouldn’t use speaker phone because (a) it will often make the sound quality worse, and you want the sound quality to be as strong as possible, and (b) some people (like me) hate speaker phone and will be annoyed that you’re using it. But you should still be able to take notes even while holding the phone (or if you can’t, try a headset!).

As for taking notes in general, it fine as long as it doesn’t delay your answers or create weird pauses. In phone interviews, it’s more important that you don’t have weird pauses than that you jot down every detail; because this is a first impression, weird pauses can create an odd vibe on the phone, and you’re going for rapport here more than capturing everything that’s said.

5. Recruiter emailed me with confusing details and set up an interview, and then I received an automated rejection

A month ago, I had applied online to Job X through the company’s job website. Last week, an HR recruiter from the company contacted me about my interest in Job X – basically asking if I would be interested in hearing more about the position and adding that “If this is not the right time in your career to make a move, I completely understand!” I was a little thrown off by this last statement because I had clearly applied for this position. How else could he see my resume, if not through the online application? (It is not posted publicly anywhere.) I enthusiastically replied, stating my interest. I mentioned that I previously applied for the position a few weeks ago, and then asked what date/times would be best to speak.

He replied with a proposed time and then included a link to a position for Job Y (not Job X). I replied with other times I was available to talk, and said: “Also, I noticed your email referencing Job Y; I just want to confirm that my candidacy is being considered for Job X.” Note: The subject line of his email was for Job X, not Job Y; and the body of his first email to me was for Job X, not Job Y.

That was last night. This morning, I received an automated email from the company’s job portal stating that my candidacy was no longer being considered. I’m very confused. Should I just take it as a rejection email, even though we were scheduling a phone interview? Or do I follow up and email the recruiter to confirm that I am no longer being considered? If so, how to word this email without sounding pushy or confrontational?

It’s possible that the confusing stuff in his email was because he was copying and pasting from emails to other candidates (I do this all the time and it’s very easy to forget to change details if you’re not vigilant about it). It’s also possible that the automated rejection email was a mistake; this also happens sometimes. I’d check back with the recruiter — but frame it as confirming that your interview is still on (explaining that you received a rejection email and weren’t sure), rather than confirming that you’ve been rejected, since the former is totally reasonable to do and will sound more confident than the latter.

{ 133 comments… read them below }

  1. Chrl268*

    Alison, in the header to #3: “3. How to help my manage after a coworker was fired” should it be manager rather than manage?

  2. LAI*

    In the first sentence of your reply to #2, I think you mean “their way”. Sorry to nitpick but there/their/they’re is a pet peeve of mine and your grammar is usually excellent!

      1. Laufey*

        It says something about the quality of your blog that a two-typo day is “typo city”. I wish some other blog writers cared as much as you do.

  3. Andrew*

    In regards to #2, would it be a bad idea to say something like, “I can be reached most easily be cell phone after X p.m.”? Of course, this might not solve the problem if the time the OP can be reached is after the company’s office hours.

    1. ClaireS*

      Eh. I don’t think this is necessary. Most hiring managers will understand if you don’t answer their call during work hours and will happily leave a voicemail. I also think it’s often in a candidates best interest to get a voice mail and call back on their own terms when they are prepared.

      1. Joey*

        Nope. Most hiring managers understand people have jobs. I don’t mind an employee calling me back after hours. But, its best to call back that night. If you wait till the next day the HM is probably going to be anticipate that the process with you will be substantially slower than she wants.

        1. Colette*

          It’s totally reasonable to call the hiring manager back out of hours – but it’s not reasonable to put the onus on the hiring manager to only call you after hours. They may be willing to interview after hours, but expecting them to go out of their way earlier in the process might just result in them moving on to the next candidate.

          1. Joey*

            Depends. For a Lower level position or if you’re mediocre, yes. If you look great on paper I probably wouldn’t mind at all as long as it doesn’t sound like a demand, but more solution.

            1. Ask a Manager* Post author

              If it was just “please call me after 6 p.m. at XX” and the candidate wasn’t fantastic or very senior, I’d think they were out of touch about how this stuff works. But if it was something like “I’m teaching a workshop during the day for all of April, so the best way to reach me is by phone after 6 p.m. or by email anytime,” that would be fine; it’s providing the context that helps.

              But if it was just “I’m at work during the day and take be reached by phone then,” that would be odd because that’s the case for tons of candidates and it’s not really something you have to call out.

              1. CEMgr*

                Typo: “I’m at work during the day and take be…” –> “I’m at work during the day and CAN’T be…”

              2. Vicki*

                Is this still true?

                Or, in these days of always-on cell phones, has the assumption flipped?

                (my cell phone is nearly always Off, but I’m an eccentric incongruity.)

  4. LAI*

    Regarding having prospective employers email rather than call, I don’t think most interviewers expect a response immediately – my personal rule (as an interviewer and interviewee) is that a response within 24 hours is fine. Even if a prospective employer emailed me, I wouldn’t see it and respond until the end of the day because I usually don’t have time to check my personal email at work – and wouldn’t want them to think I was doing that anyway.

  5. Char*

    Hi, I recently encountered a situation something similar to #5. While I think checking back with recruiter would be the best, what if a recruiter doesn’t get back to you?

    For my case: I received a job offer and the recruiter gave me a week to think through. Today is the day I have to give an answer. The problem is, few days ago, I sent an email negotiating about the salary. I received a prompt reply the next morning and when I email back, there wasn’t any answer. I sent another email to follow up last evening, and till now I received nothing. Should I move on? I understand recruiters are busy people but wouldn’t it be nice if they would let me know they have moved on at this stage? Also, I didn’t call them because the recruiter said he’ll be overseas, so the best way is to email.

    Any advice from anyone?

    1. Bea W*

      In this case, I’d pick up the phone and call if even to leave a message asking if he has received your email about negotiating on salary. If he has left back-up information (on his outgoing message) while out of the office, you can contact that person.

    2. Lily in NYC*

      How frustrating. I wouldn’t necessarily think they’ve moved on – maybe the recruiter just isn’t responding as promptly because he’s out of the country. However, if there are other people that work with the recruiter, it couldn’t hurt to call and ask to speak with someone else to see if they can find out for you. It just seems so odd that an offer would be pulled for no reason.

  6. HR “Gumption”*

    #4- Pick up a headset, even the cheaper ones come through clear, they just don’t last as long. You hear better, they hear you better, win-win.

    1. Darcy*

      Or if you’re on a cell phone, you can always just use your headphones and then set the phone next to you on a desk/table so your hands are free, but the sound quality won’t suffer.

      1. LBK*

        Some headphones even have a mic build into the cord (the ones that come with the iPhone do, for example).

        1. Elizabeth West*

          Question–if it says the mic works with iPhone, does that mean it won’t work with any other phone? I ask because when on calls, I would like to do this with my fancy headphones (that do have that mic), but my phone isn’t an iPhone.

          1. teclatwig*

            Hands-free headsets work with any phone that has a compatible jack. If your phone’s headset outlet is non-standard, then you will need a set specific to your phone. It
            My iPhone 4 uses a standard headset setup, BTW, so if yours do too, I think you will be fine.

            I think you should limit your note-taking on the phone screen call, though, since at this level it should primarily be about getting to know you.

      2. HR “Gumption”*

        Setting the phone down is important. I was on calling into an office meeting on my I Phone and the whole conference room could hear me every time I moved. They (jokingly) accused me of doing some plumbing work!

  7. Brisvegan*

    Re Question 1: I am a lawyer in another (non-US) jurisdiction. Our legal professional bodies need to be informed about bankruptcy. Not informing employers and/or professional bodies might have professional implications. The OP might want to check, especially if the are a lawyer or want to be one in the future.

      1. De Minimis*

        Given that she did check, I’d go with Alison’s advice.

        I think if the OP were an accountant there might be more complicated rules depending on the type of work she was doing [you can’t work on an audit for one of your creditors if you owe them more than a certain dollar amount, etc] but I don’t think attorneys have those type of rules.

        1. Nusy*

          There could be a conflict of interest, should OP need to represent one of his creditors, or someone in a lawsuit against his creditors; although it’s unlikely, unless he’s in a practice area where such could easily happen (e.g. business litigation, fraud prosecution, etc.)

      2. Nusy*

        It shouldn’t affect your license to practice law; but it does in fact affect your malpractice insurance.

        If you work for a firm, you’re generally covered under their insurance. If I were a partner, I would damn well want to know if something will or will not have a change in my policy – it could increase premiums, or drop coverage overall if there is a history of financial issues (commingling, etc.)

        1. Marie*

          In my country (South Africa), it does affect your ability to practise law, but only if you are quite senior: an unrehabilitated insolvent may not be a director of any company, including a law firm. But even in a senior role, I would only disclose this if I was up for promotion to director.

    1. Grace*

      OP #1 may also want to get some support from the members of a free organization called Debtors Anonymous about how to handle the bankruptcy. www dot debtorsanonymous dot org
      They have in-person meetings, telephone meetings and Skype meetings. I refer people having financial problems to them.

    2. Green*

      There are states in the US where financial issues/creditor issues will impact your eligibility to practice law. (The bar is very concerned about financial issues in some states, because those are viewed as an incentive to steal from clients.) There are also issues with working on some cases and/or for some clients if you have financial issues and whether it is responsible of the firm to allow you to access/manage client funds held in trust. If you work in a biglaw firm, it is absolutely relevant for firm’s reputation and insurance, and you’re better off affirmatively telling the big bosses rather than letting them find out on their own, particularly when you’re defaulting on debt against creditors.

  8. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

    3. How to help my manager after a coworker was fired

    Organizing the files sounds like a god send. I have had employees help me out in similar situations and my loyalty knows no bounds to people who roll their sleeves up and help sort.

    Ask first, maybe help your manager strategize. Giving her the feeling that she’s not left alone with the big mess alone will help.

    1. OP #3*

      Wakeen, thanks for commenting! She actually had me go through all the files to find all the statistics for our quarterly reports (due this week!) so I got to do some of the sorting already. Oddly enough, all the current data was hidden under piles of old paperwork, so it was quite a project.

      We had a small team meeting yesterday with all the staff involved in cleaning things up, so I got a better idea of what my part in the process is. My former coworkers work is being split between two people, and my role is more like a fact finder if they have any specific questions whose answers might be buried in the paperwork.

      1. en pointe*

        Sounds like you’re already finding some direction on how you can navigate the transition! Hope it all goes well.

  9. De (Germany)*

    #2: I included a line in my cover letter that I could not be reached by phone during work hours because I am now allowed to bring my cell phone to work. So it was “Because I work in research & development where I am not allowed to bring in my personal cell phone, I can be reached via e-mail and will be happy to call you back as soon as I can.” (Not that exact phrasing, of course – my cover letters are not in English ;)) All prospective employers had no issue with that. I would then agree on a time to call them and go to the parking lot to make the call.

    1. Not So NewReader*

      Many good employers out there that appreciate a person who says they cannot job hunt on company time. This telegraphs to the perspective employer how the candidate conducts herself. My husband impressed his interviewer when he told the interviewer that he had to set up an interview after hours. Later, this boss told my husband that he was impressed by my husband’s loyalty to his former employer and figured he (the new boss) would be treated in the same manner.

      1. De (Germany)*

        Neither calling a company nor going to an interview during standard business hours translates to a “job hunt on company time”, though. I have always used breaks and comp time for that.

      2. Joey*

        Or they might think he’s a primadonna and the company needs to work around his schedule. Depends on the delivery.

      3. the gold digger*

        I took PTO so I could go to one set of interviews and just worked from home that evening after another interview. I am not a recruiter, but if someone said he could come to a FTF interview only after hours, I would wonder why he didn’t just take some time off or finish his work later. (Assuming someone salaried, of course.)

        1. Dan*

          “Salaried” doesn’t necessarily mean a person has schedule flexibility. I know some places still want you to work a set set of hours, even if you are exempt.

          Heck, in my line of work, we usually do have the options you describe, but every so often we host multi-day client meetings that require set hours, and usually much earlier in the morning, which I personally hate.

          1. the gold digger*

            Good points and I agree. But I still would not think someone a superhero for wanting an interview after work hours. I would think he just didn’t want to take PTO, which would be the main reason I would want to do something after hours. (And I think it’s a perfectly legitimate reason!)

  10. Anonymous*

    Wasn’t there a discussion on #1 when that guy who didn’t want to look for work outside his field was also considering bankruptcy? I seem to remember commenters were saying what you did (that the employer can’t take any adverse action) and got mowed down pretty hard about it.

    1. FiveNine*

      I don’t recall that thread, but if someone is actively looking for a new job anything on a credit report could torpedo any prospect for an offer (federal and state lawmakers are starting to question credit checks as a screening for jobs well outside high finance etc, especially in this economy). Not only would bankruptcy be on your credit for years, depending on where you seek employment it’s going to be checked — you don’t have the same control over whether to disclose it on your own. OP 1 here is asking about disclosing to the current employer, who generally is never again interested in pulling the credit report and I think would need permission to do so each time anyway.

      1. Bea W*

        Yes, in order to run a credit check on someone you need their express signed permission to do it. You can’t just run a full credit report like that on someone without their knowledge.

        1. De Minimis*

          If someone were considering federal employment they might have trouble getting a sufficient clearance with a bankruptcy, depending on what they were wanting to do and on how they presented it to the investigator.

          1. Dan*

            Not all jobs require a clearance though… in my line of work, we do a lot of stuff for DOT agencies, and I don’t think anything there is classified/requires a clearance.

            Also, BK’s aren’t an absolute bar to a clearance, particularly if the candidate has resolved the issues that lead up to the filing, and even more so if the filing was “significantly” in the past.

  11. Pip*

    #4: Depending on local laws, you may be allowed to record the phone conversation without the consent or knowledge of the other party. And if you take the call on a smartphone, there are apps that you can use for that.

    1. AmyNYC*

      Eh, even if it is legal asking to record an interviewer comes across as strange behavior.

    2. Colette*

      Taking an occasional note makes sense, but recording the call sounds like something that could go really badly, even if the interviewer never finds out.

    3. Graciosa*

      This is probably a good example of things that are legal in some places but which are sufficiently outside social norms to be offensive to a lot of people.

      I would be very put off by a candidate recording a conversation – this seems unnecessarily adversarial, although I could also make an argument that it’s a sign of incompetence. It would pretty much have to be without my consent because I’m not giving it absent a pretty good (ADA type) reason.

      What the heck does the candidate think is going to go on that would require a transcript of the call? For a phone interview, I probably haven’t even met the candidate yet and they need a detailed record – for what, exactly?

      This applies a bit to my competence comment too. If detailed notes are that important, they can be created after the interview while it is still fresh in the person’s mind. During the interview, we should be having a conversation. I have jotted down brief notes during an interview, but the emphasis was on brief as this should not disrupt the flow.

      As an example, a quickly jotted “STL” should be enough to prompt me to remember the details of the discussion I had with an interviewer about how the team didn’t travel to company headquarters in Atlanta as often as they had to travel to visit a related function in St. Louis (hence the STL) as part of the regular reporting process on Teapot Spout conformity.

      I am looking for certain levels of confidence, competence, and communication skills as part of the hiring process. I would expect to hire people who can manage to get through an interview with pretty limited note taking and still remember enough detail to supplement the notes after a call or meeting has concluded. This could be somewhat specific to my function, but I think I would still give the nod to candidates who have these skills over those who don’t in other areas (I also participate in panel interviews for other teams).

      I am in favor of the headset alternative where extensive note taking is required, but the OP should be very careful not to let the note taking become so important that he or she ends up with a great record of a failed interview.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        Totally agree. And I wonder if the OP maybe hasn’t done many phone interviews and doesn’t realize that extensive note-taking isn’t going to be necessary?

        1. Lynn Whitehat*

          I wondered about that. I don’t know what you would need to write down that would be so extensive.

          1. LAI*

            I was once in an interview where the candidate wrote down every question, sometimes asking the questioner to repeat it because she had been writing down the first part and missed hearing the second part. After she finished writing, she would then proceed to think for about 15-20 seconds before responding. 15-20 seconds of silence with an interview panel staring at you is a looooong time.

            1. Bea W*

              I wonder if that particular candidate had a neurological or cognitive deficit they were compensating for.

      2. Pip*

        Good points, especially about the communication skills, and thank you for explaining them. I just got so used to seeing students record lectures in college that it just feels like another kind of note taking to me now.

        Also some anecdata: I just went through a Skype interview where the company had one person in the call whose only task was to take notes. I’ve never done a phone interview before, so I kind of thought extensive note taking during phone interviews was more normal than it apparently is.

        1. Bea W*

          A hiring manager might take more notes or have an actual form they have to complete as part of the process. I can’t imagine a candidate would have to take down much info aside from maybe jotting down a name or key information that pertains to the position like working hours, location, any specific documents or qualifications they will need to produce, maybe some key words about duties. For a phone screen there really isn’t much worth writing down on the candidate side. I think the most I’ve ever written down are names, contact info, and maybe thr time frame they will be conducting interviews. In mosr cases I’ve taken no notes at all, only during the actual interview and then, very limited. Often the things I need to know are already in the job description or the informational packets companies like to give people outlining benefits and extolling the virtues of working at Company X.

  12. AB Normal*

    I recently received an automated reject message after an interview had been scheduled. I wrote back to HR to confirm and they told me it was a glitch in the system and the interview was still on (I did get an offer soon after the interview as well).

    So, to anyone who receives an automated rejection out of the blue after being contacted by a recruiter: know that it’s very possible it’s a mistake from the software they are using.

    1. Sunflower*

      Systems are so touchy. Different scenario but yesterday I was running a report and meant to hit 5 to export data. Instead I hit 6 and an email got sent to the entire list. So it’s very possible a dumb system is to blame

  13. Bea W*

    #1 – Not anyone’s business, and your employer will likely think the same thing. “Why is she telling me this? WTH?” While it may feel like one, declaring bankruptcy is not a crime. Good luck to you. A number of people close to me have had to go that route, and although it sucked, it allowed them to eventually get back on their feet.

    Yes it does stay on your credit report for 10 years. Yes, it can create problems with getting credit, renting, or any situation where you are subjected to a credit check, but sometimes it’s the lesser of two evils. It gives you a means to get your debt to a place where it is manageable, and you can start rebuilding your credit so that even within a few years it’s less of a hindrance than if you continued to default on your debts. Defaulting stays on your credit report for 7 years, and if you have a lot of it over a long period of time, it’s just as bad, if not worse than just filing bankruptcy and getting it over with.

    #2 – Set up a Google Voice number. It’s free, and when employers leave you a message you can be notified immediately by text and retrieve the message online. This will allow you to respond quickly during work either by calling them from your desk phone or moving to a spot where you have cell reception.

    #4 – If it’s possible with your phone – headset!

    #5 – It could be a mistake on his part. I’ve encountered this before, actually with a candidate that I had referred to a position with my employer. It was a misreading of two job titles (Think “Chocolate Teapot Operations Manager” vs. “Chocolate Teapot Manager” that were very similar but had different duties.

    What happens is that resumes go into a big database and in addition to being associated with a specific application, they are available for searching on the HR recruiter/hiring manager end for people who are trying to fill other positions. So you will have other people with other positions to fill looking at your application, and you could be contacted about those other positions as well. When this is the case, in the system you will be a rejected candidacy for the actual position you applied for, but also a new candidacy for the other position, assuming you’ve expressed interest in applying after the initial conversation about it.

    1. Jubilance*

      Good call. I also use Google Voice and it’s the number I list on my resume. When I was last job hunting, I worked in the basement of the building and could never get cell service. Google Voice emails with the transcription of the voicemail helped me keep in touch with recruiters.

      1. Andrea*

        I helped a friend with her job search recently and I recommended that she get a Google Voice number to use, especially for job-search sites and LinkedIn and such. She didn’t do that, and she did put her resume (with her cell number) up on a few reputable sites for job seekers. She was immediately inundated with calls about insurance sales and fast-food franchise opportunities and dozens of others that had nothing to do with her background or any kind of work she wanted (and she had specified—no part-time, temporary, or contract positions, but the calls kept coming for that stuff, too). So yeah, this is something I think job seekers really need.

        Plus, the transcriptions that Google Voice emails are hilarious.

        1. hayling*

          I wouldn’t put any personal information (address or phone number) up on a public job site, period. Actually I wouldn’t recommend using those, they don’t really pan out.

        2. Bea W*

          Another reason to use Google Voice. I do put that number on my resume also for that reason. My last job search was the first time I really used it, and it made it really easy to keep in touch with recruiters and hiring managers during the process.

      2. HM in Atlanta*

        +1 to using Google Voice that way. That let me keep up with my job search while I was traveling with limited accessibility.

    2. danr*

      #1… It’s a law firm and they deal in court filings of one sort or another all the time. As a law firm, there may be conflicts of interest that the OP may not know about, but the supervisor will.

  14. Stephanie*

    #1 – if you have any type of security clearance, you are required to tell your security officer.

    1. Bea W*

      I wonder if there would be anything in the employee handbook or new hire paperwork the employee could also check that would mention these kinds of obligations.

      1. KellyK*

        For people with clearances, yes, there’s tons of training. (Though I’m sure some contractor companies do a better job of it than others.)

    2. V*

      I’d just clicked through to comment on this. If you have an existing security clearance, a bankruptcy is the sort of thing which you *must* report to your security officer (and it’s always better to self report than have something turn up on a recheck).

      The clearance may be revoked due to the bankruptcy, in which case you could lose your job. Having a bankruptcy on your credit history will also make it harder to obtain a security clearance in the future.

  15. Jeff G.*

    WRT #1: the answer could depend upon the nature of the firm, or this employee’s role within the firm. Someone who has access to money, or is responsible for financial matters (for the firm or for clients) is usually held to a higher standard regarding their own financial matters.

    Just because their professional license won’t be impacted doesn’t mean that they shouldn’t tell the Managing Partner. In the firms that I’ve dealt with, this information would be disclosed just because of the appearance of impropriety.

    1. Public Manager*

      #1 – I agree with Allison – in general, it is absolutely none of your employer’s business if you bankrupt. Of course there are some caveat’s such as those previously mentioned. Intelligence agency workers in the NSA or CIA have VERY strict financial disclosure requirements for their security clearances, for example. However, I don’t feel like the idea that “it’s none of my employer’s business” fits all situations. Law firms are different, and have avoid the sense of impropriety.

      If you manage or work directly with public money (such as I do) failing to disclose a bankruptcy might not be illegal, and my employer would not be able to fire me, but it sure would leave a sense of distrust with them.

      If I ever had to file bankruptcy, I’d probably file out of the county I lived in (the newspapers print notices sometimes), but also tell my supervisor. It would go a long way in my organization towards saving at least some of my credibility.

      1. Grace*

        I would also urge OP#1 to reach out for help to organizations such as Debtors Anonymous (www dot debtorsanonymous dot org) which is free. There are in-person meetings, phone-in meetings,
        and Skype meetings. They have experience in dealing with debt
        and how to address issues related to debt.

  16. TotesMaGoats*

    #4-My comment is less about the speakerphone and more about the note taking. Try to keep it to a minimum. I had a candidate do it during an in person interview. It was to excess in my opinion and severely slowed down the flow of conversation. And we all sat there awkwardly watching the person write almost every word down.

    1. LBK*

      I wonder if that was a bad interview tip they got – “make notes of everything so you seem attentive” or something like that. I always thought the idea of always bringing a notebook to an interview is weird in itself. I have an almost photographic memory for spoken conversations, why do I need to bring a notebook that I won’t touch at all through the whole interview, therefore making it obvious that I just brought it for appearances?

      1. Dan*

        The only time I bother to try and take notes is if I’m trying to gather details or specific facts on something I’m unlikely to remember and I know it. This is true for any meeting in my professional life, not just interviews.

        Whatever notes I try and take during a meeting never make sense to me later, particularly if they are just one or two word “memory joggers”.

    2. Celeste*

      I agree completely. I would lean towards taking no notes, or maybe just some keywords to jog your memory. I’m not sure that anybody expects you to take notes during these. For example, I have never heard of offering the candidate anything to use for note taking in a face to face. I get that on a phone interview, you aren’t able to look around and take in as much as you could as in person. Whenever I’ve done a phone interview, I’ve felt like it’s hard enough to concentrate without the distraction of notes or as noted, tracking how long I’m pausing, etc.

      If you have some things that are absolutes you want to try to ask about, maybe you could have a chart made so that as you discuss them, all you have to do is make check marks. That would help you minimize your speaking downtime.

      1. Jubilance*

        Sure it may not be offered but generally candidates bring a notebook/notepad and a pen with them to face to face interviews. It’s useful not just for taking notes on things like the job duties but also in just jotting down a few key words when you’re asked a question and want to make sure you respond appropriately. I’ve always brought notetaking supplies to interviews and I’ve never been asked about it by the interviewers – I think it’s expected.

        1. en pointe*

          I’ve brought them but not really needed or used them because it feels distracting, like I could potentially disrupt the flow of conversation or something. I just like having them there in case I case I do need to jot something down.

    3. JustKatie*

      Some people really don’t know how to take good notes. I’ve noticed many students (high school through graduate-level studies) that think that noting down (or highlighting) nearly everything is appropriate because it’s thorough. Total waste of time!

      1. Dan*

        I never learned how to take effective notes. As an engineer, everything I need to know is in the text book, I just have to read it and do the exercises to get comfortable with the material. I can’t remember a single class where the prof lectured on anything of value that was not in the text. That made skipping class easy, too.

        My humanities/social science classes were different, particularly if the prof did field work and felt like opining on whatever. There, you better show up for class.

        1. JustKatie*

          My background is in the social sciences, so it makes sense that I’ve internalized note-taking. Back when I taught high school, I quickly realized that I had to show my students how to take notes. I remember learning in middle school, but I’m sure many students never formally learn note-taking strategies.

  17. BB*

    Maybe it’s just be but how many notes are you taking in a phone interview? Every phone interview I’ve had is mostly just me giving a basic rundown of my qualifications and the interviewer giving some extra background on the position so I’ve jotted down a few things but I wouldn’t call them notes. Also, for me, it’s hard to take notes and really listen to what he person is saying so if I’m writing something down, I might hear them say ‘This positon blah blah blah’ but I’m not really processing it

    1. Dan*

      Same here, the “pick two” rule applies: Listen, process, or take notes. Pick two, and the third one ain’t happening. Yes, that means if I’m trying to process what was said and write it down, I’m not hearing a word of what is getting said next.

    2. Dan*


      Google voice was mentioned up thread, although for different purposes. In addition to those, Google voice will let you record incoming calls.

  18. H. Rawr (formerly AnonHR)*

    #1- While I don’t think you need to alert management or HR specifically, if your repayment plan includes payroll deductions, giving your payroll rep a heads up might not be a bad idea. I always think it’s easiest when I can be on the lookout for paperwork, and I’m not the first one to mention it when I give them the notification of when the deductions are starting/when I receive paperwork or if I have any questions that may need answering.

  19. Mike C.*

    RE #4:

    Have you tried a handfree set of some kind that combines earphone(s) and a microphone? Most earbuds that are included with smartphones have a microphone attached and allow you to type or take down notes while maintaining great quality. Bluetooth headsets work for this as well.

    I use the former when I’m phoning into meetings because it’s easy to take notes, I can mute/unmute quickly and I can still be productive (well, let’s be honest, pseudo-productive) while participating as I need to.

    RE: #1: I had no idea that people filing for bankruptcy were considered members of a protected class. I think that’s wonderful!

  20. Kirsten*

    Not applicable in OP1’s situation, but if someone works for a financial institution, and has a loan from that institution that would be impacted by the bankruptcy, that may be something that you would need to address with HR. The employee handbook should specify that though.

  21. AndersonDarling*

    #1…The only implication I can see for Bankruptcy in the workplace is if you travel and are reimbursed for expenses. We pay for travel expenses up front then are reimbursed by the organization. If you don’t have any credit cards available, then you would have to make other arrangements with your employer on how to handle travel.

    I hope things work out for you.

  22. Overkill*

    I’m in the finance industry where credit checks are routine and bankruptcy, if too recent, can affect your chance of employment or promotion. I actually request and review these checks though I don’t agree with the reasoning behind this policy.

  23. danr*

    #1 … You’re at a law firm, and many law firms routinely download and scan all court filings, so someone will see it. Talk to your supervisor as a heads up.

    1. Corporate Attorney*

      I’ve never heard of this. Is this a small-firm thing? “All court filings” would be a pretty voluminous and costly thing for a law firm to download without a billable need to do so…

      1. rek*

        My state (and I would assume many other states) requires that a certain level of court filing information be available for public access. In fact, the court system here is required to supply an access method as well as the actual data. Companies, including a lot of law firms, mine this data for business leads. It’s why, if you ever get a ticket for a moving violation you will – like clockwork! – get a ream of letters offering to represent you.

        1. Corporate Attorney*

          I suppose I’ve never worked at a firm for which this would be at all useful as a business-development technique.

      2. KCS*

        Agree. I’ve worked in small, medium, and large firms, and never heard that the firms downloaded and scanned all court filings.

        Having *access* to all filings through a web-based search tool, yes; but not an active downloading/scanning of all filings.

      3. danr*

        Yep, I talked with a lawyer at a mid-sized firm and they regularly went through the court filings. Once computers and online systems came along, it got easier. Fast readers can scan the summaries very quickly looking for familiar items.

        1. Corporate Attorney*

          Huh. Even in a mid-sized city, there are multiple layers of trial and appellate state courts, as well as applicable federal trial and appellate courts, bankruptcy court, and all the surrounding jurisdictions (other states and counties). Unless you were using data-mining software, this seems…inefficient.

  24. Joey*

    I would bet most employers would want to know about a bankruptcy if large sums of money or transactions pass through your hands.

  25. Joey*

    I’m going to disagree with you, alison. Being in debt to the point that you have to have a court step in to help you handle your debts is far different from making a bad investment. This isn’t my argument, but I’ve heard arguments that having monies pass through your hands when you have creditors after you for unpaid bills is far too big a temptation to steal.

    I’m not saying I support this, just letting everyone know this is a common issue employers raise. Personally, I think its really hard to make blanket rules like that without considering specifics, but I know there are employers out there that do.

      1. Joey*

        I agree, but it’s not easy to convince companies that a track record of being chased by creditors isn’t predictive of future behavior. And frequently its hard to go to bat for someone in this situation when there are candidates without this issue.

      2. Dan*

        It depends. From my understanding, it’s actually pretty easy to run up debt again, but after the filing, you CANNOT file again within a certain time frame unless some really strict criteria have been met. So creditors will be likely to lend you money (particularly at high profitable rates) because they know you’re stuck with it. What happens if you didn’t learn your lesson the first time? And trust me, lots of people don’t. There’s a segment of society that has mastered living a financially unstable life, and blaming others for their own poor choices.

        A BK isn’t going to stop you from getting a clearance, if you can prove that the circumstances that apply to it no longer apply or have otherwise been mitigated.

        The DOD publishes all clearance appeals and findings (just google “security clearance adjudication” and click the first link) going back many years. Reading through gives a really good feel under which circumstances the board will grant an appeal of a denial, and when they won’t. My reading indicates it really is a fair process.

      1. Joey*

        Well then you run the risk of “hiding” info from your employer that they would want to know which is a whole other problem. So the question becomes do you want to take on more risk by hoping it won’t be a problem if they find out?

        1. Cat*

          I disagree. You’re not obligated to tell your employer everything they may ever want to know and reasonable employers won’t expect it. If they’ve set up a rule that you have to inform them of things like that, that’s one thing. Otherwise, you no more should tell them this than any other piece of information that carries some sort of social stigma and might consciously or unconsciously affect your employer’s treatment of you were they to find out.

          If you are working for a crazy person, they might penalize you for not telling them about stuff in your personal life that they find stigmatizing but I think that’s the outlier.

  26. Too excited*


    This has nothing to do with anything but I still want to share with y’all

    I finally got a job interview after 9 months of applying to everything. The only thing is that it is very far off from my field and also in another country (I moved to the U.S about three years ago but spent the first 21 years of my life there)

    But, i’m still excited. YAYYY

  27. books*

    #5 – I once received a rejection email for a job I had accepted and was supposed to start in two weeks, while I was on vacation in another country! I sent a polite email back confirming that this message was in error as we had already agreed to x, y & z. The HR recruiter emailed back immediately and apologetically.
    Therefore: these things happen, assume it was in error when you ask versus that it was correct and you’re out.

    1. Clerica D. McClerkykins*

      I would have panicked so hard between the reading of the email (which would probably be about 2 in the morning) and them getting back to me. Yuck.

  28. JenTheNiceHRGirl*

    #5) It could be an issue with the applicant tracking system. With mine, I can automatically send out an e-mail or I can customize the canned verbiage first and then send it out, the buttons for both options are literally right next to eachother so I can totally see how someone in their haste could accidentally sending out an e-mail to a candidate that wouldn’t make any sense. Also, with a previous ATS of mine (it always had technical issues and that is why we got rid of it) sometimes candidates would apply for one job and it would end up in a bucket for a different job. Very frustrating. So anyway, what I am saying is that it could have been a honest mistake or a technical issue. I agree with “books” above that positioning it as a possible mistake might be the best route.

  29. Meg*

    #2 –

    I often get an influx of recruiters calling and calling and calling and calling and calling and calling and calling so that even when I do use Google Voice, it’s still very distracting. I’ve included things like “Please email first to schedule a time to chat.”

    I don’t know if it’s a common thing or not, but in my experience (I’m a web developer), I *only* get phone calls directly from foreign recruiters, usually Indian, whether I suggest email or not. I very rarely respond because it’s typically not within my skill set (totally different programming languages) or not within my location or they don’t have the client at all, and hoping to present a candidate to get some sort of recruiting fee for it.

    All of the other employers or recruiters for employers have emailed me wanting to schedule a phone interview/screen. If I don’t schedule a phone screen and they call me all randomly , I’m not going to answer, or call them back to schedule one. Email me for initial contact please.

  30. Jerry Vandesic*

    Interesting to read about how something we take for granted came to be. Nice piece of writing.

  31. OP #5*

    Just an update – I did follow up with the HR recruiter within 24 hours of the “rejection” email from the job portal (last week). When I hadn’t heard back, I assumed it was a true rejection and mentally moved on.

    This morning, the HR recruiter emailed me & confirmed that I was applying for Job X – the one I originally applied for. He then said that my candidacy was no longer considered for one posting of Job X because it had been updated and replaced with a new job posting for Job X. (I compared the two job descriptions and they’re virtually identical.)

    He also responded with an interview time that works with my schedule, so we’re back on! Thanks, Alison & everyone!

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