my childhood friend just took a job at my office, my reference is upset with me, and more

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

1. My childhood friend just took a job at my office and is being inappropriate

I’m an entry-level employee in a very casual office. We just hired an intern who I happened to be very close with as a child. I wasn’t her connection to the firm, but I did put in a word for her when I found out she was coincidentally being considered – though we’d lost touch, I still knew her to be smart and hardworking through social media/mutual acquaintances.

Since her internship started, she has “stuck” to me – asking to get lunch twice a week, frequently visiting my desk, etc. This would only be a minor disruption if she didn’t habitually a) talk far too loudly and b) make marginally racist jokes – nothing that would even approach hate speech or harassment, but definitely uncomfortable in an office setting. Selfishly, I’m concerned that my affiliation with her (it’s widespread knowledge that we were childhood friends) will taint my reputation among colleagues and higher ups. But beyond that: I want to raise her inappropriate behavior before a supervisor does, but I don’t know how to because we’re “friends.” What should I do?

Talk to her. You’re both entry-level, but you’ve been there longer than she has, which positions you well to have a “hey, here’s what I’ve figured out about what this office wants from us” conversation, in which you can address modulating her voice. If it makes it easier for you to do, you can even use framing like “I’ve seen other people corrected for this” or “I had to learn this myself when I started” or “I’m realizing we both need to do this differently.” So, for instance: “It stands out here when people are talking loudly to each other, so I’ve realized we both need to use quieter voices when we talk.”

And please shut down the racist jokes, outside work as well as inside work. Shut it down both in the moment (“that’s actually offensive, Jane” or “eeww, I don’t think you realize how that sounds”) and more broadly (“hey, some of those jokes you’re telling me are not appropriate, and they’re going to impact the way you’re seen” and/or “I’m not okay with the way you’re talking about ___”).

You should also feel free to create more distant boundaries with her if you want to, like only getting lunch occasionally rather than weekly, telling her that you can’t chat with her when she stop by your desk, etc. But you’d be doing her (and your office) a big favor if you address the other stuff with her.

2. My reference is upset that I didn’t send her the job description for the position I’m applying for

Recently I found out I was in the final stages of interviewing for a position I’m very excited about. One of my references who I’m closest with alerted me that she had received a call from the hiring manager. I quickly gave my other references a heads-up they would also be receiving calls. (Although I am one of only two candidates being considered for the position, all of my interviews have been on the phone. I did not think my references would be checked until a face to face interview.)

One if my references who I consider a mentor became very upset with me. She told me I needed to send references job descriptions for all positions I apply for. She also was upset I didn’t ask her if I could use her (I did ask a month prior when I became unemployed, but she has memory issues occasionally). Is it normal to send job descriptions to references?

It can be helpful to provide references with the job description for the position they’re going to be contacted about — but certainly not for all jobs you apply for. That would a huge amount of information that will never become relevant to them. But for jobs you’re at the reference stage for, sure, because it positions your reference to be better able to talk about things that are especially tailored to the work you’re being considered for.

But it’s certainly not rude not to do it, and your reference is being weird in getting upset with you for not doing that (and I wonder if the memory issues you mentioned are playing a big role in her behavior here than you realize).

3. My reference is my bitter ex-husband

My last job was working for my now ex-husband for 17 years. He is bitter and hostile. It was an abusive and unhealthy situation for me. He knows that he can have “off the book” conversations with anyone who calls him about me. He will not speak well of me. How do I address this reality without lying on my resume or to a perspective employer? I am also concerned that when I get a job that he might call and cause problems for me. I know that sounds paranoid, but I know how he operates.

All you can do is tell the truth — concisely and unemotionally. “My manager at that company was my now-ex-husband, and the relationship is strained.” And then proactively offer other references for the employer to call — coworkers, clients, vendors, anyone who can speak about your work. (These aren’t ideal choices, but they’re better alternatives than your ex.)

4. Explaining the work successes I had while battling cancer

I went through cancer. My prognosis was never fatal, but it was a demanding experience. In addition to surgery, months of chemo, radiation, and everything that went with all of it (being a bald woman, chemo makes you dumb, etc.), I worked steadily and earned a massive promotion.

I’m really proud of this. Is there anyway to talk about this in future interviews?

You should be proud of it. But no, I wouldn’t bring it up in an interview — bringing up anything health-related during an interview is too likely to make your interviewer uncomfortable, because there are legal restrictions around what they can say in response and it’s been drilled into most interviewers’ heads that they’re not allowed to consider the information.

5. Zappos replaces job postings with something that sounds like it will become a massive time suck for all

I thought you might be interested in this article about Zappos’ new hiring strategy. My initial reaction was revulsion – I’ve applied for about 70 jobs this past year and I’m sure as heck not going to spend weeks sucking up to each company with some “membership” nonsense for a shot at a job. I suppose I could see this model working for sales jobs where being excited about a particular company and its products is a necessary part of the job, but I don’t think I need to be that pumped about each and every company I apply to in order to be an excellent operations coordinator or admin assistant. Anyway, that’s just my initial reaction, and I’d be curious to see your (and your readers’) thoughts!

Yeah, this seems silly. Zappos can do it because they’re a wildly popular employer that tons of people want to work for, but I don’t think this is something that’s going to become widespread.

{ 181 comments… read them below }

  1. PEBCAK*

    #5) I really wonder how Zappos is going to recruit IT people going forward. I don’t know many techies who would stand for this sort of thing.

    1. CAA*

      This is just a way to whittle down their candidate pool to more manageable numbers. They had 31K applicants last year for 300 jobs. So if they need a new IT person, they’ll look in their new pool and see if they find anyone. If they don’t they’ll go troll LinkedIn or job boards and start spamming people they think meet their criteria.

    2. Bea W*

      The submitting a video resume part is a huge turnoff for me. I play with data and databases all day. Is it really necessary for me to convince someone of my “creativity” in that kind of role?

      1. Audiophile*

        I saw a job posting last night that wanted the applicant to submit three videos and also said a traditional cover letter would be mocked and disqualify you if submitted.

          1. voluptuousfire*

            Yeah, if anything I submitted to an employer is going to be openly and admittedly “mocked…” no dice.

            That had to have been a start up. That explains the videos/snarkiness of the ad.

            1. Audiophile*

              I’m not sure how new they are. Another posting requested GIFs, as part of the app.

                1. Audiophile*

                  Lol, no. But I did apply for a job there and they didn’t have that many hoops to jump through.

    3. Sabrina*

      Zappos’ offices are not in any city that I’d like to live in, and now I’m kind of glad. I like them as a customer but I think I’d hate to work there.

      1. Julie*

        I was just thinking this the other day regarding Weight Watchers: excellent weight loss program, not so great as an employer (I’ve never worked for them, but I’ve heard about it from others, and there was a letter here in AAM a while ago).

    4. Vicki*

      “This is, after all, a company that pays new employees to quit.”

      (The article also comments that Zappos ” did away with job titles and managers” but they’re far from alone in that one.)

    1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      I don’t hate the new Zappos approach for Zappos.

      They *are* the cool kids clique for jobs, at least that’s how they brand themselves as a workplace. It works for them to get and keep employees and it works for them to have a stellar reputation in customer care.

      Maybe it’s a bridge too far and then they’ll find that out.

    2. Traveler*

      Yeah. From everything I’ve heard and read, they are supposed to be an amazing company to work for – great benefits, great environment, etc. Its not surprising they’d want to weed people out. I don’t know if this is the best way of doing it – but it will definitely decrease applications.

    3. EngineerGirl*

      I was thinking frat-boy hazing ceremony. But yes.

      “Prove to us how badly you like us by jumping through hoops”.

      Not the way to attract the best talent. The best talent always has options. I predict that this will lower the overall quality of the people applying.

      1. Us, Too*

        I don’t know about that. Zappos has a very unique corporate culture that is almost cult-like. This type of recruiting may actually be really good at helping weed out folks that wouldn’t fit in there.

      2. Piper*

        I don’t know. I sort of agree with this. I work in tech. I had multiple job offers within a month or so of looking and I get contacted on a a near daily basis by recruiters when I’m not looking. Despite how unique Zappos’ culture is, I’m not sure I’d be willing to jump through all of those hoops just to get a job there when I’ve got lots of other good options on the table. But that’s just me.

        1. Another Emily*

          If Zappos contacted you specifically they probably wouldn’t make you jump through all these hoops though.
          This is probably to limit people sending them applications, not Zappos’ recruiting process.

    1. Beyonce Pad Thai*

      And why is it not okay at work, but apparently tolerated in social settings?

      1. Leah*

        I was wondering that too. I’m hoping that the OP meant something like, “Even if you think that stuff is ok, anyone with common sense should know not to repeat it in the office.” or maybe she’s repeating jokes that she has heard friends of particular backgrounds make about their own backgrounds?

      2. #1*

        OP here. One example the other day was when she was telling me as a young child, she hated licorice because it was black. She chuckled and said “yup, racist even at a young age.” It wouldn’t necessarily be out of line if she were among a bunch of good friends, but it just elicits an “uh, what?” type of reaction among mere acquaintances, and especially among coworkers or supervisors.

    2. Chinook*

      I have an older coworker who tells marginally racist jokes and they do use coded words or use stereotypes that aren’t necessary for the joke to be funny. I grew up with my dad doing the same thing and I know both guys don’t always realize they are racist jokes (because they aren’t racist people in their actions). I usually call him out by saying “your red neck is showing” in a joking manner. This is doubly important because we have an office full of ESL immigrants who may not realize the joke is coded language and may retell them to someone who may want scalp them (Yes, I used that intentionally as an example of coded language – with some tribes, that would get a laugh and others would be rightfully p.o.ed and there is no way to know which they are in advance).

      1. Chinook*

        As for how do you think these types of jokes are ok but aren’t racist in other ways, it depends on who you heard the jokes from initally (and not seeing them as “other” but as just like yourself). Ex: a Newfie telling newfie jokes is quite funny (google it – they are usually safe for work). Tell those jokes as a non-newfie with a slightly different tone, it can be quite offensive. If you grew up surrounded by displaced Newfies, you may not realize the latter and, even without the condescending tone, thos who think of them as lazy bums playing the pogie will happily imply the tone for you.

        1. Joie de Vivre*

          So true.

          I grew up surrounded by displaced “Newfies” and as a Quebecoise learned quickly that re-telling these jokes is not always appreciated. Sometimes just the term “Newfie” would be considered offensive when coming from a non-islander.

          Another lesson learned – after making a very stupid and obvious mistake, “Geez, I must be having a blonde day!” also not well received.

          1. Kelly L.*

            Yeah, I had to stop making blonde jokes because, while I think I’m a blonde in my head, I get perceived as a redhead or brunette often enough that people sometimes think I’m mocking them rather than deprecating myself.

          2. Anx*

            In the grand scheme of things, I know blonde jokes aren’t the worst, with blonde hair being a key part of white beauty ideals.

            But what rubs me the wrong way about them is they are incredibly gendered.

            1. Del*

              They are very gendered, yes, and play into the “damned if you do, damned if you don’t” social standards women often have to deal with. You’re blonde, great, you’re complying with these artificial beauty standards that reward whiteness…. but now you’re going to be stereotyped as stupid and shallow.

        2. the_scientist*

          Only tangentially related, but I grew up in the Salvation Army church which is chock full of displaced Newfoundlanders, and I visited St. John’s last year for a conference. Newfoundlanders are some of the nicest, friendliest, most helpful people you’ll ever meet (even to an obviously tourist CFA like I was). Among my favourite groups of people, hands-down.

          1. Lady Sybil*

            Thank you so much for posting that. Glad you had a great experience! I love being a Newfoundlander, but I am shocked to see some of the posts mentioned here. Really shocked and a little sad. No need for it. Thanks again for the positive post.

        3. Mephyle*

          Indeed, when I grew up, (S. Ontario, 1960’s), Newfies were the go-to butt of any “those X people” jokes, to the extent that when I was small, I thought it was just a word for foolish people; I didn’t connect the term to Newfoundland until I was older.

          1. Hunny*

            I saw something similar with a roommate a couple years ago. She was so used to hearing a particularly horrible racist word at home that she didn’t think it was “really” racist, she thought it just meant “a bad person”.

            1. VintageLydia USA*

              Kind of like “gypped” when referencing being scammed. Racist/ethnocentric, but not on most (at least Americans’) radar.

              1. Vicki*

                I grew up knowing, hearing, and using the word. I had no idea it ever referenced Gypsies until I was in my late 40s.

  2. Fruitfly*

    #2) I find that it is odd that you can be in the final stages of an interview even though you have never been face-to-face with the interviewer. I never heard of a company that does that. Is there a time gap between the date the company announce that they will do reference checks and the date your mentor received the call?

    If there is a time gap and that you did tell your mentor immediately after the company announce that they are conducting reference checks, then the mentor should mention something to you about sending her the job description early on.

    I agree with Alison that is not rude not to send the job description. For my current job, I did not send my references the job description and they were all fine with it. I believe the combination of forgetting your mention of the reference check and the different view of workplace norms are the reasons your mentor is upset.

    1. Stephanie*

      If she’s a long-distance candidate, it’s not unheard of. I did three rounds of phone interviews for an out-of-town job earlier this year.

      1. Traveler*

        Yep. This. People don’t have the money to fly a candidate out all the time, and it can be awkward to ask them to pay for it.

    2. Ann Furthermore*

      For one job, it was all phone interviews. I didn’t actually meet anyone in person until my first day on the job. But it was for a consulting job, and I was travelling all the time.

    3. GrumpyBoss*

      I had an individual work for me remote across 3 different companies for 10 years. I only met him face to face for the first time a couple of years ago.
      When I first hired him, the company I was at authorized the role to be filled anywhere in the US. They had a travel freeze on so I couldn’t fly him in for an interview. The subsequent hirings, I didn’t need to bring him in. This is my guy, I trust him and know his work and that he will be successful in this position due to years of working with him. Face to face interviews were not necessary in those cases.

    4. Neeta*

      I did several interviews for a company where only the signing of the contract required me to be at their office. Otherwise, every discussion occured via Skype.

      It did seem weird to me as well, because the company had an office in my city as well (and I wasn’t asked to relocate), but they had this “weird” setup where HR was in city A, management in city B and then through the country they had several offices.

      I remember having asked about in-person interviews, though I didn’t explicitly say that I thought I should meet my direct superior face-to-face… the HR person assumed I wanted a tour of the office, which sounded weird to both of us.

      1. Hunny*

        I laughed over your last line… “the HR person assumed I wanted a tour of the office, which sounded weird to both of us.”

        During a phone interview I once asked, “Tell me what the office environment is like.” I was rewarded with a five minute description from the befuddled interviewer that they had several rooms, and a hallway, and there was a tree outside the window, which could be very nice in the springtime. I had no clue how to turn the conversation back to my actual goal–learning about company culture.

        1. Vicki*

          Hmmm. I would never have guessed your question was about culture. When I ask about the office environment, I want to know if it’s cubes, open plan, offices, noisy…

        2. Neeta*

          I did actually think of “office culture” when you asked about “office environment”, though for the jobs I’m interested in (IT) almost everyone replies with some variation of “work hard, party hard”. I’m already leery of it…

          What I’m getting at, is maybe you need to ask more specific questions, in order to find out something about the office culture.
          Eg: What happens when the client consistently demands products in an unreasonably short time? Do we do ____, or ______ etc etc.

          Not that you’ll necessarily get a truthful answer, but… maybe you can read between the lines. :)

  3. Stephanie*

    #5: This is kind of odd. I actually thought Zappos had pretty good job postings (written in plain English, clear duties and day-to-day tasks, etc), save for wanting video cover letters. Reading through the WP article and the original LinkedIn announcement, I see this as a less formalized version of submitting a profile when no postings match or sending a “cold” cover letter/resume to a startup. But the language does make it sound like you’re trying to get into the Plastics. Plus, I’m sure there is some job description (even if it’s informal) for an available position, so why not just post that?

    I’ve gotten invited to a couple of informal talent networks; I’m guessing these are the result of friends referring me to these companies. The language isn’t quite as cultish as Zappos (and there are still job postings!), but there are some similarities. “Come watch this webinar about Teapot, Inc.’s sustainability efforts!” or “Watch this video about how Chcoolate Teapots, LLP values diversity.” Around the New Year, I got an email requesting I update my profile and to share my New Year’s Resolutions.

  4. snuck*

    That last one… the Zappos one… reminds me of the opening of a new Hungry Jacks (Burger King is called Hungry Jacks in Australia) when I was a teen – they approached the local high school offering jobs – and then handed out ALL their training information and only those who could “pass the test” on that material were considered for jobs. This was in the late 80s.

    Many of us declined this ‘offer’ and carried on in other jobs in local cafés etc, we realised it was a cop out and they weren’t going to train us, let alone meet the legal requirement to pay us for training… all for a minimum wage job in an ugly uniform serving our ‘mates’ after school.

    1. Jessa*

      I wonder if someone had made a labour complaint for having done the reading and taken the test and not gotten paid for it, would they have won? It sure sounds like you’re right that they were trying to sidestep their legal requirements.

      1. snuck*

        I don’t know Jessa…. those who bought in to it were happy, those who didn’t were amused (and mildly horrified, this was in the late 1980s in very leftie pinko hard core union town Fremantle, West Australia) …

        I just feel like the Zappos is a similar thing “Spend lots of time on our social network (learning about our products, meeting our team, showing us your inner thoughts, proving your faithfulness) and we *might* offer you a job” … it’s the mark of complete disrespect in my mind for the time or intelligence of it’s target audience – prospective employees. Unless they are wanting to employ social media extroverted flirts who don’t think deeply about workers rights. Hrm.

  5. Stephanie*

    #4: In college, I was really green at interviewing and I answered “Describe a tough challenge” with a health situation. I bruised my femur (playing powderpuff all of things) and had a long recovery (there’s not much you can do for a bone bruise but wait for it to heal). So the “challenge” I described was figuring out transportation logistics when I couldn’t drive (I lived off-campus), getting to the library, working on getting my leg back into shape, and fighting with my insurance about what was considered in-network (insurance wanted me to come back to my hometown for treatment). So while this was a legit challenge, it was definitely not what the interviewers wanted to hear. It just made everyone uncomfortable.

    Btw, best wishes for continued health. :)

    1. Ruffingit*

      Not what the interviewers wanted (we’ve all been there when we were younger and had no clue what was appropriate for an interview), but still you met a difficult challenge so kudos for that. Fighting insurance companies is, by itself, a massive challenge.

      1. Mimmy*

        Plus, figuring out logistics when you can’t drive shows problem-solving ability–a very transferable skill. I deal with this all the time myself and it is NOT easy!

  6. Blue Dog*

    #3 – My guess is that your no matter how bitter your ex husband is, he is going to want you to have the best job possible to lessen any support he has to pay (or possibly receive support if you are a higher income earner). I would appeal to his own self-interest. My guess is that he won’t cut off his nose to spite his face.

    1. Sarahnova*

      With respect, I would guess #3 knows her ex better than you do, and there are plenty of exes out there that would rather punish and harass their former partner than protect their own interests. (ANY ex who harasses or stalks or commits violence against their former partner is not exactly protecting their own interests, after all.) There is no basis to question her judgement of the situation.

      1. A Dispatcher*

        Exactly, and there is nothing to indicate any type of support payments are even being made in the first place. Not that we should even need that information to answer the op’s question.

        And for what it’s worth, I wouldn’t put it past a controlling former spouse to sabotage a job because they actually want the control/power that comes with providing financial support. No need to speculate about the spouse’s potential motives and mindset, instead OP just needs to focus on the what she can do on her end regarding the reference issue.

        1. Sarahnova*

          I’ve known a lot of people who would willingly cut off their nose to spite their face. I would go so far as to say it’s a human specialty.

          I also had a rather crosser answer about blithely assuring someone who’s now out of a situation that sounded difficult at best and potentially dangerous at worst that the person involved will totally be reasonable and nice if you give them a chance, but this probably isn’t the place.

          OP#3’s job is to protect her employability and peace of mind, and we can advise her on that.

      2. KellyK*

        Absolutely. Assuming that he’s going to rationally pursue his own monetary interest and assuming that he’s paying (or could receive) support are both pretty giant assumptions. I’d say the person who’s lived with him might have a little better idea whether those are true.

    2. Rayner*

      Unfortunately, abuse is about control. If the ex was abusive and the OP left him, he may (and many abusive partners do) have vested interest in maintaining a form of a (twisted, wrong) relationship however he can. Giving him control over the OP’s job prospects hands him that on a plate, and is possibly the worst thing she could ever do. It invites him back into her life, tells him where she’s applying, possibly helps him find her again if she left, and gives him power.

      Self interest may apply. But that assumes that he is happy to let her go, and many abusive partners view that as something unacceptable – they value control and limiting their chosen victim. Reducing a victim from afar, ruining her job prospects, he has all the power there. Why would he want her to get a good job (and money, and her own place to live, and new coworkers and friends) when he can keep on creating havoc in her life?

    3. Ruffingit*

      That would be an unfortunate guess to make because people cut their noses off to spite their faces ALL THE TIME in contentious divorces and their after math. Practiced divorce law for several years and if you want to see some vengeful people who will go against their own self-interest nearly 100% of the time, just go hang out in a divorce lawyer’s office for a day. It’s truly astonishing.

      1. fposte*

        A divorce lawyer I talked to once suggested that “The War of the Roses” was a documentary.

        1. Ruffingit*

          Indeed. It was incredibly sad, stressful, and depressing to see the lengths people were willing to go to for revenge. They would ruin their own lives completely just for the satisfaction of hurting the other person. It was sick in so many ways.

    4. Bea W*

      In addition to what others have said, child support payments don’t work like that in many jurisdictions. Often support is calculated using only the non-custodial parent’s income (and is often a percentage), and does not take into account the income of the custodial parent.

      Truly vindictive abusive exes also just don’t think like this. The aim and goal is to ruin and sabotage the target as much as possible whether or not it actually results in any benefit to the ex bent on revenge. It does not matter if the target getting a great job would be beneficial in any way for the abusive ex. The thought that the target would have any success at all is unacceptable to the abusive ex. There are also more immediate and effective ways of stiffing the target on child support payments than raising their income and then going to court to ask for a modification based on that.

    5. Hunny*

      OP’s comment that she’s worried the ex will call her new office also rings alarm bells. That’s not the action of someone who has let go of the past, it’s just controlling and obsessive.

  7. ARo*

    #4: If the OP was taking time off for health reasons, I’m wondering if they could frame their accomplishment as, “I accomplished X, Y, and Z while working a reduced schedule of 35 hours per week …” or whatever the situation was. Thoughts?

    1. Harper*

      I was wondering about that, too, because being able to do a great job while battling cancer is amazing and does show that the OP is someone who can deal with A LOT. I can’t figure out how to bring it up vaguely enough to do it justice without sounding really mysterious … Maybe someone else has an idea?

    2. Ruffingit*

      I don’t think it’s a good idea to mention a reduced schedule because they will likely ask you why you had a reduced schedule. I think the OP is better off just not mentioning the cancer/health situation at all and rather mentioning the promotion and her work because those things on their own are enough to be impressive. And, it leaves out the difficult issues of health-related stuff.

      1. Mimmy*

        I completely agree, though I’d be worried about the possibility of any references from that job mentioning her health struggles in a reference check–maybe not necessarily specifying her condition, but highlighting her accomplishments and skills despite the illness. I supposed the OP could proactively ask a reference not to discuss the health situation, but that could be presumptuous.

    3. Thyroid*

      You cannot give any impression at all that you will less than 2×35 = 70 hours per week nowadays.

      That’s what competing coworkers like to boast about, that they have no time for family and friends, and they’re proud of it.

      You could actually be the most efficient worker, coming up with processes that enable you to do work in 50% of the time. Would they like to hear your ideas? No, they’d be resentful, jealous and even threatened.

      The common retort to requesting even the most tiny minute off from work isn’t welcome. Just note the gallons of disdain that result when someone says “I have to leave early to pick up my child” and sour body language replies “I don’t have a kid to pick up” or “I have kids and I don’t have the luxury of taking off.”

      Just let it be known you can do the job they need doing now. Recoveries from cancer are not their business. Besides they would never publish on an Annual Report “we are successful today because of our cancer survivor!”

  8. GrumpyBoss*

    #4: don’t do it. In a social setting, I’d say, “wow, that’s amazing! You must be so proud!” In an interview setting, I’m wondering, where is this person at in their treatment? Am I looking at bringing someone in who is still sick? What if it comes back and this person cannot be that productive the next time around? Since I cannot ASK these questions as an interviewer, I’m left to make assumptions or conclusions on what you have shared voluntarily. And you won’t like what those assumptions are. So you are essentially giving the interviewer potential reasons why they shouldn’t hire you.

    #5. I rolled my eyes at the Zappos program when I heard it, which immediately indicates to me that I’m not the type they are looking for. Which is fine, now we don’t have to waste each other’s time. But it reminds me of a very popular company that I worked for right out of college (pre Internet boom so they did things different, but it still resulted in proving you were one of them). They would hire an entire graduating class from a specific fraternity or sorority to get people who fit their model. When I was 22, I was so excited to be part of this company and felt that their social exclusivity made me special. I knew so many people who would come up to me as strangers (again, pre-LinkedIn), and want me to try to get them in. 20+ years later, it’s ridiculous and embarrassing how manipulated by social norms and peer pressure I was. But my point, for my job and for Zappos, is that there ARE people who will find this appealing, and if that is what Zappos wants, they’ll find them.

    1. Harper*

      I agree about OP4, because while it’s an amazing accomplishment and I understand wanting to bring it up, as I said in another comment, I can’t figure out how you could do that without completely leaving out the fact that it was a medical issue, which you would need to do for the reasons you’ve mentioned.

  9. James M*

    #4: I made the misstep of mentioning something medical in an interview (my ankle is held together by 7 pieces of titanium, courtesy of someone who ran a red light). It was a bit awkward to say the least.

    #5: Zappos seems to have narrowed down the type of employee they’re looking for and have made a tactical decision to dissuade anyone else from applying entertaining the thought of applying.

    1. Hunny*

      I checked out their new Jobs page and the Twitter stream is very entertaining. You see tons of nonsense, and then a couple of people taking it seriously as a job application.

      Example: Zappos asks “What would you do if you won the lottery?” Potential Candidate/Fan responds “It depends, I wouldn’t quit my job because I’ a hard worker and love what I do.”

      1. Stephanie*

        Bwhahahaha. If I won the lottery, there are many more things I could think of doing than selling shoes online.

        1. Dmented Kittu*

          I would say, “If I won the lottery, I will definitely buy more shoes! And guess where I’m buying it from?” :D

      2. Thyroid*

        In interviews, as in life, there’s the private response and the public one.

        The public one is the one the employer wants to hear.
        It’d be, “I love the company so much, I’d buy all the shares I could with my winnings.”

        The private one is:
        1. Estimate how many years I believe I’ll alive
        2. Divide the winnings by that number of years.
        3. Decide if that’s enough to live on yearly. If no, default to the public response.
        4. If yes, dedicate myself to a new line of work where I no longer care what any Employer ever thinks of me again.

  10. Blue Anne*


    Alison said exactly what I was thinking here: “I wonder if the memory issues you mentioned are playing a big role in her behavior here than you realize”

    If she’s having occasional memory lapses, she may be hyper-sensitive to situations where she feels like she doesn’t have enough information to handle it properly. In which case she might, actually, want all of that information every time, even if she ends up not using it. It might be worth checking in with her, pointing out that you would be sending her a ton of information, and seeing whether she wants it anyway?

    1. FiveNine*

      My reaction might be the opposite — there’s just potentially so much uncertainty now about how this person would handle an employer who would call when she is this thrown and upset by really common professional practice. I’d be somewhat hesitant to use her as a reference, but still value her as a mentor in different ways, and perhaps make anything else more a personal inquiry or concern and take my employment out of the picture.

  11. TychaBrahe*

    So Zappos wants to hire people who have nothing better to do than to hang out on their Facebook page. I predict they hire a lot of people who spend their time at work socializing on the Internet.

    1. GrumpyBoss*

      Somewhere in the recent past, someone decided that not only is social media savvy the sign of a good employee, but that employees are entitled to spend their day on social media. Worst, it seems that this notion is being perpetrated at our colleges.

      Last summer I was working at a Fortune 100 that is a household name. I was interviewing college juniors for an internship. I had 10 of them to choose from and these were supposedly the best and brightest (they all were Yale or Harvard students). When I gave them an opportunity to ask questions about the internship and the company, every last one of them wanted to know how much access they would have to social media while working. No savvy questions about strategy or growth or challenges, which I would expect from students with a 3.75 or higher GPA from an elite institution. Not questions about playing on twitter. I was flabbergasted. You are being given an opportunity for an internship and *that* is the only thing on your mind? If it was up to me, I would have scrapped them all and gone and gotten the kid coming out of community college who was hungry and wanted to work!

      Anyhow, what I took from the experience was that times have changed and that sitting on Facebook or Twitter all day is considered a marketable skill by many. And that I’m old and don’t get it.

        1. GrumpyBoss*

          I really hope that someone posts to tell me that I’m full of it and that this was a one off. Then my faith in humanity and the future of our culture can be restored.

          1. Jennifer*

            I wish, but I bet that won’t happen. If “playing on social media” is literally considered a job these days, I hate to say it, but they’re probably being reasonable.

            Though since I hate that crap, I’m pretty well disgusted right along with you.

          2. UK Anon*

            As someone from the same generation as them, I don’t have social media accounts on any of the common sites and would be astounded that somebody would want to pay me solely to mess around on them (even in marketing – where that would make sense as part of the role – I would expect someone to be paid to be doing more)

            So definitely not just you!

          3. Felicia*

            Well I am roughly the same age as them and so are most of my friends, and we wouldn’t dream of asking something like that in an interview. Even some people I know who are roughly that age probably would want to/try to play on social media all day wouldn’t ask that , because even if they would do it they know it’s not an appropriate or ok thing to do in a workplace, so they wouldn’t admit to it in an interview.

          4. Cat*

            We hire students straight out of similar schools and have never had that experience. The folks we get our as dedicated and diligent as older people.

          5. Mimmy*

            You are not full of it at all :) I’m not old but I’m certainly not fresh out of college either. I’m on Facebook all. the. time. and sometimes use LinkedIn, but even then, I don’t think being on social media all day should be the bulk of what you want to get out of a job. Sure, some jobs do require giving the company a social media presence, but you have to want to do more than just that.

          6. Stephanie*

            I’m slightly older than this age group and I’d never think to ask that. Unless my job was social media coordinator, I couldn’t imagine needing that much access to social media. There’s only so much time I can spend looking at baby photos, memes, and phone food photography.

          7. Anonsie*

            I don’t want to say you’re full of it because I believe you… But I’m also pretty sure I’ve never even met someone who would ask this question, unless they thought there would be a social media component to the job. And since they all asked, I wonder if something in the job description made them all think that it would be part of their work responsibilities, or somehow otherwise expected of them?

            Seriously, I’m supposedly in the target age range for these kinds of shenanigans and I have a Twitter account for exactly one reason: to keep in touch with my boomer-and-older family members, who all use it. People my age just text and call.

            1. GrumpyBoss*

              My company I was at was trying to position itself as very forward thinking via marketing on social media so that may have led to the universal response. But it’s easier to be crabby and tell at kids to stay off the lawn.

              1. Anonsie*

                I think most people need to get off my lawn. And if that ball comes over my fence one more time, I’m keeping it!!

      1. TotesMaGoats*

        Further proof that attending Harvard, Yale or any Ivy for that matter doesn’t prove anything beyond the ability to get admitted. Next time, go to the community college or your local state or small private institutions to get interns.

          1. sunny-dee*

            You probably want somewhere in between, like a private school or small-to-mediium state school. There is less of a sense of entitlement.

            1. Bea W*

              Or how about not making generalization about someone’s abilities or personality based on what school they attended. There are all kinds in all places.

            2. Tinker*

              Just hire people exclusively who got their degrees from Colorado School of Mines. That’s really the best way to go.

                1. Jerry Vandesic*

                  That’s a completely different school. Great libraries though — very quiet.

          2. TotesMaGoats*

            It’s not but my interpretation of what GrumpyBoss said was that Harvard and Yale students would be the super stars by virtue of being at Harvard and Yale. There are lots of hardworking superstars at your local community college or your smaller liberal arts places or your non-flagship state universities.

            1. Tasha*

              I took classes at the local community college in high school, attended a state flagship for undergrad, and now attend an Ivy. There were plenty of superstars in competitive STEM programs at the state flagship, but everyone I’ve worked with here, grad student or undergrad, is a superstar. (That’s obviously program-dependent and school-dependent.)

              In the community college classes, there were stereotypically unmotivated people, but there were also savvy students and people from underprivileged backgrounds trying to obtain an affordable education. Some were very driven and better workers than I’ll ever be despite having families and jobs on top of school. The ability differential is by no means as big as some people (though none in this thread) assert, but it seems to be real *on average.*

      2. LBK*

        I’m really confused by this…so they literally just asked “Do you have access to Facebook so I can sit on it all day instead of working?” I can’t picture how this question would be phrased that anyone with a remote sense of the working world would actually say it. Are you sure they weren’t asking about the company’s social media presence or strategy?

      3. Bend & Snap*

        To be fair–many brands encourage their employees to be social media brand ambassadors. It’s part of the culture.

        And social media IS a marketable skill IF it’s the job you’re doing. Having a personal Facebook account doesn’t count.

      4. C Average*

        It seems to me there are two possible things we’re talking about here.

        The first is actual social media jobs, which are definitely a thing. My company has a staff of nearly 50 people working social media channels in support roles, and then additional people working in these channels from a marketing angle. We support Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, and Instagram, and we have company-owned discussion forums that are moderated by our social media team. Most of the work in these channels happens in a proprietary consumer relationship management tool that pulls posts, tweets, etc., into a centralized location and then queues them to a member of the social media team. (The queuing is based on keywords and/or aspects of the consumer’s profile.)

        The people who do these jobs are articulate, brand-savvy, and adept at multitasking. Yes, most of them are young, too. It’s definitely a foot-in-the-door job here. The schedule entails evenings and weekends, and it can burn you out quickly if you let it.

        (I was our company’s first social media specialist and did the job for 4+ years, starting as a moderator for our company-owned forum and then branching out to Facebook and Twitter, so I know the role well.)

        The second thing we’re talking about is access to social media during work hours. A lot of people, especially young people, want to work in a place where social media isn’t blocked. It’s not that they plan to be on Facebook all day; it’s that they want the ability, if something interesting happens during the day, to jump on Facebook for a few minutes to say something about it. It’s not too different from those of us who visit this site during lulls in the workday. I think there’s a view (which I somewhat share, I confess) that an employer who would block access to these sites doesn’t offer the kind of open, manage-your-own-time-effectively environment that a lot of people seek, and that they may even be a little behind the times/in denial about the importance of social media as a communication tool. There’s also an expectation on employees’ parts that if you’re going to work 60-hour weeks (like a lot of people do and expect to do), your employer shouldn’t have a problem with you wasting a little time on Facebook from time to time during your workday.

        1. LBK*

          I think your second paragraph is something that a lot of companies are very uncomfortable with, especially older companies. There’s still a very big taboo in the working world about internet or cell phone use on company time regardless of productivity. I find it extremely unlikely that everyone was 100% productive all day every day before cell phones/the web – people just spent more time talking to coworkers, hanging around the water cooler, just staring into space, etc.

          Taking a short break every hour or so is better for productivity overall as it prevents burning out and lets the brain rest so it can re-focus on your new task. Trying to squeeze work-related activity out of every second of an employee’s day is a bad strategy.

        2. Bea W*

          This is true. That is my perception of blocking even though I stay off social media at work, that the employer feels the needs to treat people like children and police what sites they visit and what they do on their break times.

          It does not make me feel good as an employee when I encounter blocking software, especially when I stumble on it because I am doing something legit job related on a google search.

          Then there are just incident 1 minute things that are non-work related and not playing around on the internet either. I remember at lunch trying to look up a menu for a place down the street to decide if I wanted to go there and what I wanted for lunch, and that was blocked. Having social media blocked was not a big deal. Not being able to take a minute to call up a restaurant site for a menu….UGH!

          1. Stephanie*

            When I worked at the Patent Office (eh, too hard to anonymize it), we had a presentation about acceptable internet usage. It was pretty much what you’d expect. The presenter at one point is like “And adult websites are definitely a no-no. That is, unless you’re in Unit #3612, Adult Toys and Devices*. But we know exactly who is in that group and has permission to go to those websites, so don’t claim you were just doing work for a case.”

            *Groups there were organized by subject matter.

        3. Jen RO*

          This might mark me as a slacker, but I would not want to work for a company who didn’t allow social media or IM. As long as I do my job, my employer shouldn’t give a damn how I spend my time. I would much rather work an hour late but be able to take more breaks during the day!

          1. C Average*

            Yep, same here. Arrive early? Sure. Stay late? When I have to, sure. Work from home in the evening or on the weekend if it’s gotta be done? No problem. Stay on task nonstop for the entire workday with no mental-health breaks? I sincerely don’t think I’m capable, nor would I particularly want to try!

          2. Stephanie*

            Agreed. I take allowing recreational internet usage as a proxy for how much the company trusts me as an adult to get my work done.

            Although I do wonder how some of you comment on here so frequently! My excuse is that I’m job searching, but I’m amazed y’all can be fully employed and keep up with these comment threads.

            1. Jen RO*

              Well, this year I spent 5 months in a job where I did nothing (I streamed movies) and now I’m in training at my new job (meaning, I don’t do much, yet again). Plenty of time for AAM. (Also, different time zones and all that.)

          3. Mike B.*

            Yeah, I’d knock a couple of points off a company that did not trust me to manage my own workload absent these arbitrary restrictions. I don’t respond well to being treated like a child.

            But there are certainly better ways to glean this and related information than asking your interviewer outright.

          4. Bea W*

            It’s annoying and insulting, but it’s not the hill I personally want to die on. There are other ways to take quick breaks as needed other than internet.

            I also keep in mind that while on the company network, anything you do is subject to prying eyes. I would really rather avoid much personal use, except for an occasional email check or AAM or maybe reading a news article and checking the weather. I avoid social networking sites at work.

            1. Julie*

              My company has a disclaimer that you have to read and click past if you want to access Facebook or other social media sites. And there are some sites that are outright blocked, but you can always fill out a form asking for access and providing a reason. I don’t have a problem with this because mostly it’s used to keep malware off the network, not to police people’s Internet use. And once you click past the notice for a site, it stores the information with the browser, and you don’t need to do it every time.

        4. Kate M*

          Well yes, I don’t think there’s anything wrong in hopping on Facebook (or AAM) occasionally during the day during a break or lunch. But in my mind it wouldn’t be something that would ever be appropriate to ask about in an interview. That seems like someone asking “exactly how much time are you going to allow me to slack off?” Not that taking a break now and then is necessarily slacking off, but you don’t even ask about a pre-planned vacation or other benefits until the offer stage. I would be very wary of anyone who thought this was a good idea to ask, because I would expect them to be the ones to be slacking off when they actually had work to do.

      5. Bea W*

        This feels like a bad dream.

        No one has ever asked me that question when I’ve interviewed them, but I recent grads aren’t on our recruiting list. I can’t speak to that.

      6. Student*

        I don’t get it either, but it is now an extremely common job requirement of highly-qualified workers.

        Not just the intern-level people; lots of the mid-career-level superstars are doing this too. I know of several firms that are seriously and deliberately compromising their own cyber-security policies because they are that desperate for highly-skilled workers, and the highly-skilled workers demand 100% access to Facebook instead of extra vacation time. I think it’s a dumb trend that they will come to regret. These policies are reviled by the IT professionals I’ve asked about it. Usually it’s the C-level execs overruling the IT people because the C-levels want some talent they’ve identified and don’t understand the value of their cyber-assets very well.

      7. Tina Marina*

        If this job had anything to do with marketing or advertising I can kind of understand it. As a new grad I know I’ve brought up how I’ve used/am savvy with social media and asked if I can bring those skills to the table. But I held an internship where my job was using social media to draw readers to my bosses’ blog as they tried to promote a book they had just written.

        But that’s not the same as “playing” on Twitter — that’s about using it as a tool to say, increase traffic to your company website by X amount, or running a promotion for a free giveaway on your Facebook page. But their followup should have been how they’ve tracked their efficiency on Google Analytics or how posting at a certain time of day draws X more eyes then when your company is currently posting.

        Other than that, I can’t imagine anyone I know asking about that in a job interview, so I think you just got a bad bunch.

  12. Kiwi*

    You reference is behaving in an oddly demanding and inappropriate way. You already know that there are mental health issues (memory lapses). If you have sufficient alternative references, I would use them alone and strike her off the list. You don’t need potentially unstable and unreliable references.

    When you say “working for” your ex-husband, was this in a business you ran together? Was it a joint business? If so, surely you could correctly refer to that timeframe as “self-employed” and explain that the business went to your ex-husband in the divorce settlement. Hopefully you are able to offer employees/clients as references. That way, you may be able to avoid discussing the circumstances/bad feelings around the divorce – which you would be best not to, if possible. I doubt most sensible interviewers would push for an ex-spouse reference if it’s not offered and alternatives are provided.

    1. Harper*

      Yeah, to me, an applicant saying, “My manager at this job is my ex” would produce a “‘Nuff said!” from me. There would be no way to get any useful information there, in my mind, because I would suspect it to be biased one way or another.

    2. Headachey*

      While memory problems could be due to any number of reasons, including aging, dementia, medication interactions, or other physical causes, they are, in fact, cognitive problems. Framing possible memory lapses as a mental health issue, and referring to someone with possible memory issues as “potentially unstable” perpetuates the very real and very damaging stigma against those with mental illness.

      1. EngineerGirl*

        As the daughter of an dementia patient, I agree with this. Unreliable yes, unstable no. The former manager could need the job description so she can formulate an opinion on how the new job will be performed based on past performance (an assessment tool). But you should maintain close contact with this reference. At some point her memory will blow out. You don’t need her responding “Jane who?” when the reference checkers call.

        1. Kiwi*

          “Unstable” refers to the quick/inappropriate anger demonstrated and “unreliable” refers to the memory lapses. I could have phrased that more clearly.

      2. Kiwi*

        I meant no offence. Cognitive issues also come under the “mental health” umbrella – it’s a broad church which does not include only psychotic illness.
        See the latest DSV for more information. You may be surprised to see how many un-stigmatised illnesses, relating to the workings of the brain, fall under the “mental health” umbrella.

        The prudent job searcher would certainly need to seriously consider whether a person who is quick to inappropriate anger and has memory lapses is best used as a reference.

  13. Vanessa*

    My ex-husband has poisoned the well with any vendors etc. I have a list of personal references that have both worked with me in other jobs and know the truth of my situation with my ex. Any other suggestions? Thanks.

    1. Sarahnova*

      Hey, Vanessa – I’m guessing you’re OP#3?

      Congratulations for being out of that situation, and stay safe. The personal references sound like the best option if you can’t call on any customers/clients or other professional ones, although I would suggest that you, and they, keep any mention of the ex as brief and factual as possible. It sucks that you might need to do that, it really does, but most employers, if given too much detail about it, will primarily hear “ugly, complicated situation that could be trouble for me”.

      Good luck with finding a job.

    2. Broke Philosopher*

      I’m so sorry to hear about your situation and wish you the best of luck going forward. Did you do anything else professional-development related during that time? Volunteering, freelancing, maybe even taking classes? If so, maybe you could frame the discussion the way Alison did above, and then offer up references from those things.

  14. Anon*

    #4 I wouldn’t disclose something so personal. Like AAM said, it could make your interviewer feel uncomfortable, and it may even make them feel like they’re being guilted into hiring you. They might be worried about what may happen if they don’t give you the job in light of that information.

    Reminds me of a LinkedIn profile I saw recently. Guy listed, in the “experience” section of his profile, his membership to a support group he joined when his kid died. I felt bad for him, but 1) that wasn’t work experience (maybe he misunderstood what the section was for?) and 2) that’s not something potential employers want to know right off the bat.

    These experiences definitely play an important part in shaping the people who go through them, and they should be discussed – I certainly don’t think people who go through serious illness and loss should feel ashamed of what they’ve gone through – but there’s a time and a place for bringing them up.

    1. Ruffingit*

      I certainly don’t think people who go through serious illness and loss should feel ashamed of what they’ve gone through – but there’s a time and a place for bringing them up.

      Totally agreed. There are many things people go through in life that are difficult and they overcome them. But talking about it as an accomplishment at work just isn’t appropriate. I say the OP should focus on the promotion and her work product, not the health issues.

      1. Mike B.*

        I don’t think it’s inappropriate to discuss being a cancer survivor at work per se; the topic is certainly one that can come up naturally. It would then go without saying what a remarkable work ethic the OP has.

        In the context of an interview, though, it creates unpredictable complications.

        1. Ruffingit*

          Agreed it’s not inappropriate on the whole. I’m saying it’s inappropriate to speak of it as a work accomplishment in an interview. I should have been more clear about that.

  15. Tasha*

    Re: #2. I will tell my references the job title and say, “It would be great if you could talk about my skills/experiences with x, y, and z.”

  16. TotesMaGoats*

    #2-I would take the irritation with a grain of salt. You were in the right to assume that there was no need to send the job description since you hadn’t had the face to face yet. Most of us assume that references are checked AFTER the actual interview. You also did the right thing by giving your references as heads up as soon as you knew calls were going out. It’s just unfortunate that the first call went to this woman. And ditto what most have said about her memory issues being at the root of her displeasure.

    #4-I think I can go both ways on this one. On one hand, battling cancer and winning plus winning at work is an awesome accomplishment and you shouldn’t hide it. There probably is a graceful way to frame it that to not get too personal. On the other hand, I had an applicant share in an interview that the lose of her mother to cancer when she was 20 was her biggest obstacle and how it shaped her. It was a good answer but did make us feel vaguely uncomfortable. I would just be careful with it.

  17. LBK*

    #5 sounds a little like Apple. Their hiring process is more standard, but they want people who are 110% bought into the company before they hire them. They don’t want people who are just looking for a job, they want people who are looking specifically to work for their company. Going through this job pool BS is probably a way of self-selecting out a lot of people who are just mass applying to whatever positions sound interesting as opposed to people who are dying to work for Zappos specifically.

  18. AnotherAlison*

    #5 I might be the lone voice on the side of liking Zappos new hiring ideas. While right now, I’m thinking this is just something that works for them, rather than something that could be implemented everywhere, I think challenging the current processes is good. How many times do you see a job posting and think of how great you would be at that job, but your experience isn’t a direct fit? I think a process like this makes it easier for you to build your case over time, rather than just shooting off a cover letter and resume and crossing your fingers.

    1. Stephanie*

      It’s cliqueish, but I don’t think it’s a horrible idea. I’ll be curious to see how it plays out.

    2. cecilhungry*

      Yeah, if I were still looking for work, I might apply. There were a couple of companies that I wish had had more of a process like this, since I could have talked for ages about why I wanted to work for THEM. (And might also help mitigate my not-local problem for 90% of the jobs I wanted.)

      I am also interested about how this might play out.

    3. Anonsie*

      Agreed. This is something that is probably not a bad idea for a certain kind of company with a certain kind of culture and a certain kind of employee base.

      Though the way they’re selling it might be one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard. Job postings are the DEATH of conversation, eh? Get over yourself.

    4. Tina Marina*

      I agree that they are being progressive when it comes to weighing culture/fit more heavily, because I think that is really important to keep people at your company and avoid job-hopping, especially when the culture is so… passionate. However, on that LinkedIn article, she writes that they still have a list of qualifications/experience that they want, they’re just choosing not to share it with the applicants. That is bizarre to me.

    5. Hunny*

      I don’t see how the new “Be our friend and chat with us” process is really going to be better at determining if an applicant is a good fit for the role than the old-fashioned sending in a resume. It will be good at pre-screening for applicants who are excited to work for Zappos, definitely. But from what I saw on their forum when I took a look, it didn’t seem structured to “build your case over time”. Their advice was, literally, join the forum, send in your video, and follow us on Twitter.

  19. Pneia*

    #5 I may be showing how out of the loop I am, but I had to look up what Zappos was. I have never heard of them before reading this question. They may be popular and known to some, but others may only hear about them if they are job searching.

    1. Thomas W*

      Same here — I had no idea what Zappos was until the OP sent me this link and said “I need to send this to AAM.” haha

    2. Anonsie*

      You’ve never heard of Zappos, not even once? That’s honestly really, really surprising to me.

      I think the overwhelming majority of Americans would recognize the brand even if they didn’t shop there, like Amazon or Target. That’s part of why they can get away with a system like this.

      1. Laura*

        I know of them, but only because of one acquaintance who buys from them and adores them. Outside of her, I had never heard/seen anyone else _mention_ them until this post.

  20. Katie the Fed*

    I feel like such a luddite. I thought Zappos was just mail-order shoes. Why the cult-like following (or expectation of one)?

    1. LBK*

      They have an insane focus on customer service and a unique, semi-experimental work environment. They’re very Google/Facebook-esque in terms of office culture. For example, after your first month of employment, they offer you $1000 to quit, both as an easy out for people who aren’t a good fit and to test your commitment to the job. They also got rid of their hierarchy, so there are no managers anymore.

      1. Katie the Fed*

        Huh, that’s interesting. I’ll have to read more about it. My poor bureaucrat brain can’t comprehend no hierarchy – can you explain it on a powerpoint slide?

        1. LBK*

          I wish I could explain it but it doesn’t really make sense to me either. Google “zappos holacracy,” there’s some articles about it (don’t want a link to get eaten by moderation). There are no job titles, either, just “roles,” I guess. Sounds a bit too new age-y for me.

          1. Anon*

            Sounds like not having job titles and job descriptions has the potential to be bad for employees. Without a specified set of responsibilities, the company can ask you to do just about anything and, while people are asked to do stuff outside their job specifications all the time to some degree, employees have no recourse if it gets ridiculous. I can see companies exploiting that, maybe Zappos can be trusted not to, I dunno.

            Believe me, I’m not totally old school when it comes to the workplace. I’m pretty progressive when it comes to issues like flex time/working from home, workplace dress codes, social media policies, stuff like that, but I do think it’s helpful to define (with some “wiggle room”) what someone does and what they’re responsible for, both for the employee’s sake as well as the company’s.

            1. LBK*

              I think it requires a very specific type of employee, which is probably why they’re being so aggressive with their hiring process, too. They only want to hire people who will be happy with and buy into the way they operate.

      2. Groundhog Day*

        There’s nothing new about the no-hierarchy, no-titles experiment. I worked for a company that did this in the early 1990s, in the wake of the BPR (business process reengineering) management fad. It was a disaster.

      3. Groundhog Day*

        You’d have to be out of your mind to quit for a crummy $1,000, unless you had another offer lined up.

        1. Stephanie*

          That was the exact thought I had when heard about that policy. The payout would have to be way more than $1,000 and I’d want at least a neutral reference and job leads. Plus, their corporate HQ is in Las Vegas, which has high unemployment and not much industry outside hospitality and construction. That’s not somewhere I’d want to be without a job.

    2. Bend & Snap*

      Zappos is magical. I’m a VIP and get free next-day shipping. Customer service is absolutely phenomenal and it’s an amazing, amazing retail experience.

      I can’t speak to the work culture but it’s a very customer-centric, tech-forward company.

      Their call centers don’t use scripts or put time limits on calls, and employees are empowered to do whatever they deem necessary to delight their customers.

      1. Stephanie*

        I accidentally put the wrong apartment number down for a delivery. I called while the shoes were in transit, but Zappos just mailed another pair out (free of charge) and said I didn’t have to return the others. I eventually got the second pair and ended up selling them on eBay.

        1. Sabrina*

          I did the same thing. We moved and six months later I ordered shoes and didn’t realize I hadn’t update the address. They called up UPS and re-routed the shoes. I also have size 11 wide feet! They are absolutely wonderful and 365 day returns. Which is a procrastinator’s dream.

        2. Julie*

          That kind of customer service, plus the free shipping, is why they must have a lot of repeat customers. That’s why I keep looking there first when I need new shoes (and it is usually difficult for me to find shoes that fit).

      2. Julie*

        After I had purchased a few pairs of shoes from Zappos, they told me I was a VIP shopper,. I was (pleasantly) surprised that that was all it took.

      3. Hunny*

        This is a weird mix for me because I really disagree with the wisdom of this hiring strategy, but I love what you’re saying that they have happy customers and do their work well. My workplace is very driven by the principle of doing everything you can for the clients and being the best at what we do, so that resonates with me.

    3. Stephanie*

      They were a godsend for me back in high school as nowhere carried cute 11Ds and they had overnight shipping. Physical stores have gotten a bit better (and my feet have gotten narrower and I can wear most B-width shoes), but I’m a huge Zappos fan for that reason.

      This corporate cult sh!t is strange, though.

      1. Kerry (Like The County In Ireland)*

        I worked for Nordstrom, and they have a similar philosophy and emphasis on customer service and salesperson empowerment. Additionally, all their management starts on the sales floor, and if you’re a good fit you can wind up doing different things in the company and moving around. In terms of workers, they really try to get their type of people and then find slots for them rather than match people to the slots. And yes it seems culty, but it can work to create a cohesive company culture.

        1. LQ*

          I’ve had very similar experiences to what people talk about Zappos having with Nordstroms (specifically shoes) but only in their physical locations. (If I was Nordstroms I’d try to buy Zappos and make that the online version, their online stuff stinks something awful.)

          But I think the idea that it is really a huge focus on the customers and a love for the brand is part of why it seems culty and why it seems to work.

    4. Anonsie*

      The customer service, really. The problem with buying things, especially shoes, online is that you can’t try them so there’s the issue of returns and exchanges. They made it super easy by having really fast free shipping, free returns, and sending out your new shoes before you even return the old ones if you have to exchange.

      So you order a pair of shoes. Shipping is free and it arrives within a day or two. You try them on and they’re a half size off. So you ask for an exchange and they mail the new shoes to you immediately, plus you have free return shipping to send the first pair back. The whole process takes under a week. It takes all the most annoying things about online shopping out of the equation, basically.

  21. Molly*

    Hi Folks,

    I’m #4 and appreciate the feedback! It was a huge win for me, but it’s not my only win. I’ll draw on other experience as needed. Also, all of my references know what happened and will be able to reference that time in an appropriate way.


  22. Student*

    #1) Talking overly-loud may be a sign of a hearing problem. Encourage her to get her hearing screened, if you can. It’s actually very difficult to tell independently that you have a hearing problem. I have hearing problems, and I talk too loud like this sometimes because of it – and I didn’t realize it until someone else pointed it out to me in college. My husband still has to give me cues to keep my voice down occasionally.

  23. Adam*

    Re #4: I agree that the mentioning your cancer struggles, while certainly something to be proud of, is out of place in an interview context, but now I’m pondering.

    Suppose the candidate was applying to work within the field of cancer research or perhaps health fundraising/advocacy; would mentioning your personal history overcoming the illness be more appropriate, and perhaps even beneficial, in that instance or still too much information too soon?

    1. OhNo*

      Oooh, good question. My gut reaction would be that it would be good to mention, just like you would mention why you were interested in the mission of any nonprofit or mission-focused organization.

      But with the added complications of health issues and possible discrimination, I wonder if it would be different.

    2. Cath in Canada*

      I’ve worked in cancer research labs and associated departments my whole career, and I could definitely see this being appropriate in response to some interview questions. We’ve had candidates tell us they want to work for us because our organisation took such good care of a relative, for instance. I wouldn’t say it’s a super strong positive, but it’s a neutral-to-positive for sure, and definitely not a negative.

  24. reneeflower*

    #4 – I personally don’t think it would be bad to mention if the question was something like “What is your greatest accomplishment?” and you considered your promotion while undergoing chemo to be one and added how long ago it was. For the past few years when I’ve been interviewed, and they ask me what my greatest accomplishment was, I used the example of the year I studied for all four parts of the CPA exam, and passed each on the first try while working full time, pregnant, and caring for a 1 year old even though I know you’re not really supposed to mention family status in interviews. I do this for two reasons, (1) because it took a lot of discipline, organization, and hard work to study for the exam with everything else I had going on and (2) because I’m in the fortunate position of not needing to work and I want to work for a company that is flexible and understanding about family obligations (i.e. I want to be weeded out by people that are concerned that I have young children because I want to work for a company where I’ll be happy). So far, that strategy has worked for me and I’ve been lucky enough to work for family-friendly companies.

    1. reneeflower*

      And I forgot to say that after going through chemo while working, you would probably want to work for a company that was understanding if a health-related issue came up in the future.

  25. Charles*

    I started a job a month ago and received some very valuable training for the first three weeks. On the last day of training, my trainer was fired, and I’ve found that the company I had been preparing to work for is a sham. How do I include this marketable training in my resume, but address the very short time working for this company without raising red flags?

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