my former boss was detained by police for stalking me, repeating words on a resume, and more

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

1. My former boss was detained by police for stalking me — what if she’s called as a reference?

My previous employer from 12 years ago has a police record because of her behavior toward me when I quit working for her. She had been cutting corners, not abiding by company policy, just barely getting away with things that ultimately harmed the clients, and it certainly seemed like she was very close to breaking the law (or, in fact, breaking it). So I quit and moved. She tried to contact me to get some assurances that I wouldn’t turn her in, and I refused to talk to her when she called. So she started following me home from my new job and would stand outside my home. It was physically threatening and very disturbing. I called the police. She promised the police that she would leave me alone, but she didn’t. The next time she came to my home, my friend called 911 and a few minutes later the police came swarming. At least a dozen police officers were there. They detained her.

Fast forward 12 years. I have an interview next month for a great job. However, I’m concerned about what will happen when the hiring manager calls my previous bosses. I’ve been working for the same employer for 12 years now, and everything is fine here. But what about when they call her? She is the one who broke the law, not me. I didn’t do anything wrong. But, of course, I expect that she will say something awful about me if the hiring manager calls her.

What should I do? This is really not something I want to mention to the hiring manager. After all, if he has a choice, he’d probably rather hire someone who doesn’t have any issues with separating from their previous bosses (just like he’d probably rather not hire someone who is unlucky). I would be kind of relieved if the hiring manager specifically asked me about it, but I don’t want to introduce the matter into the hiring process (which seems to be going well for me so far). It was just a messy, unpleasant situation. I don’t even think it will come up. But I’m afraid of what will happen if the hiring manager calls my former boss without talking with me about it. Abusive bosses can seem so normal to outsiders.

When you’re at the reference-checking stage, say to the hiring manager: “My former manager from XYZ Company ended up stalking me after I left, so I would prefer you not contact her. I can provide you with the records from the police if you want to verify this.” (They probably won’t take you up on that, but offering it lets them know that you’re not just making this up to avoid a bad reference.) Say this calmly and dryly, which is always the key to not sounding like the crazy one in an obviously crazy situation.

I think this will be fine. And most reference-checkers won’t be that interested in talking to someone from 12 years ago anyway — but it’s worth raising with them to give you peace of mind about it.

2. How can I explain why I’m leaving my job after less than a year?

I’ve only been in my current role since November, but I need to apply for new jobs already, because my position is funded by a grant that ends in September. (We applied for more grants, but we won’t find out if we’re awarded them until mid-June.) Generally speaking, when applying for a new position, I’d say “excited about new opportunities!” and nothing bad about the job I’m leaving – but since I’ve only been in this role for seven months, I’m sure that’ll look like a red flag to an employer, and will probably require a more concrete or candid explanation, right?

Is there a way to explain this situation, and more generally, is there a level of mismanagement where it’s acceptable to mention briefly if asked, and won’t reflect badly on me? For example, we have a major grant app for half a million dollars due in five weeks, and the outgoing ED told the board it would take a hundred hours to write; the board chair asked if it could be done in five. (Because wildly unrealistic expectations, mismanagement, and micromanagement are typical of our board, we’ve had four executive directors in the last 12 months; our current ED put in his two weeks notice last week, and he flat-out told me to apply for other jobs and get out of here too.)

Like another reader whose question you answered recently, I’m at a four-person organization, and I am very much a people person, so I could potentially use that explanation, but it’s not really why I’m leaving. What’s the best way to explain this situation?

The rule about not badmouthing a previous employer doesn’t prohibit you from stating objective facts that the organization itself wouldn’t disagree with. You could simply say (unemotionally and without disdain), “The organization has had four executive directors in the last 12 months, so I’m looking for something more stable.”

3. Repeating words on a resume

People keep telling me not to repeat words on my resumè, specifically at the beginning of sentences. The problem is that I’ve been doing work such as writing, editing, and proofreading, so those words appear on my resume a lot. I agree that repeating words sometimes does not scan well when reading but starting consecutive bullet points with “Wrote” seems to me like the best way to describe what I did. I don’t think writing “acted as writer for …” or “Ensured accuracy and consistency by proofreading…” simply to avoid first word repetition is helpful. It’s verbose and passive.

Eh, it’s fine to start a bunch of bullet points with “wrote.” It would be worse to come up with convoluted ways of saying the same thing, and in trying to do that, you’d probably end up looking like a bad writer.

It’s bad to keep repeating words that aren’t quite so specific — for instance, having a bunch of bullet points that started with “responsible for” would be bad. (Although that would be bad for an additional reason to — “responsible for” is a pretty weak construction on a resume since it’s about what you were asked to do, not what you actually did.) But “wrote”? It’s fine.

4. Is my boss trying to guilt me into staying?

I’m the only employee for a husband and wife at a financial company (I only work part-time since I’m also a student). There used to be another person working with me, but she left about a month ago and was never replaced, thus leaving me to do the work of two people by myself. This setup has been stressing me out lately, and I think it shows, because today my boss gave me a thank-you card from him and his wife, with a $100 check enclosed as well.

I really appreciate their kind gesture, and they are nice people overall, but now I feel even more confused than before. For lack of a better word, it almost feels like a “bribe” to keep me happy, so I don’t go looking for another job. I’ve been wanting to discuss the workload issue with them for a while, but I feel like it’s not my business to ask them to hire another employee to help out.

I feel like I’m being guilted into a sense of obligation to stay, and that they would think I’m ungrateful if I complain about work and/or gave my two weeks notice in the upcoming months. When my coworker left, my boss told her that he took it personally. Do you think I’m right to feel awkward in this situation, or should I only be focused on what’s best for me and my career goals, without any regard for what my bosses might think? Am I right to have this “bribed” feeling, or should I just take it at face value as them thanking me?

Also, on a side note, should I get them a gift in return? I don’t know what the proper etiquette in this case is. I want to show them my appreciation, but at the same time I don’t want to mislead them into thinking that I might be here to stay for the long-run.

It’s not a bribe; it’s a thank-you. (And really, $100 is not likely to convince anyone to stay in a job they’re unhappy with.) And sure, thank-you’s are ultimately a part of retention, in that people who feel unappreciated are more likely to start job-searching — but (a) it in no way obligates you to stay longer than you otherwise would, and (b) you can take this at face value as a thank-you and not worry that by accepting it you’ve forfeited your right to talk about your workload. In fact, you might even use it as a lead-in — “I really appreciated that recognition of what my workload has been lately, and actually I was hoping that we could talk about how to manage it going forward.”

While you’re right that whether to hire another employer is their decision, not yours, they can’t make a good decision in that regard if they’re not clear on how high your workload has become. Moreover, you absolutely have standing to say, “I can do X and Y within these deadlines, but not Z” and “I can do A, B, and C, but I’ll probably need to cut corners on C, and B will be back-burned until I’m through the other priorities.” Or to generally ask for guidance on how to prioritize, while pointing out that you can’t get to all of it.

And no, no need to get them a gift in return. This isn’t a gift exchange; it’s a recognition of and thanks for your work.

5. Do cover letters need to be signed?

Do cover letters need to be signed (e.g., printed out, signed, then scanned as a PDF)?

No. If you’re mailing a cover letter through the postal mail, you sign it. If you’re sending it electronically, there’s no need. (Similarly, there’s no need to use the traditional formatting that you would on a printed letter, such as date, recipient address, etc.).

{ 101 comments… read them below }

  1. De (Germany)

    Can’t #2 just say that they are looking for a new job because their grant will run out in September? Seems like a good enough reason to look for another job.

    1. Adam

      That’s what I thought. Stating the period of the grant will end at the point seems perfectly self-explanatory to me.

    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      It might not be true though — the grant could be renewed. I suppose she could just say she’s looking because the grant might not be renewed, but (depending on specifics, and depending on how familiar the interviewer is with their grant context) it might not reflect totally well on her that she took a position she knew was grant-dependent without being okay with that set-up, especially if it’s the type of role where you’re expected to stick around for a while. Whereas 4 EDs in less than a year is pretty universally understandable.

      1. Rachel

        Depends on the field. In some scientific research, ecology, environmental restoration etc. labs or companies it’s not all that unusual to hire on a project basis. You get a grant from NSF or NIH that lasts 1-3 years, hire people for the project, and then lay them off at the end of the project unless you happen to have more money coming in, which you don’t always have in small labs. You’re not expected to stay on because they have no way to pay you. Sadly, this has been most of my professional life, which is why I’m trying to transition into larger hospital or biotech labs with more permanent staff. “My grant is ending so I’m looking for my next job” would definitely fly in a lot of research situations.

        1. Victoria Nonprofit (USA)

          Yeah, that’s what I was thinking: It’s not that she’s planning to leave if the grant isn’t renewed; it’s that she will lose her job if the grant isn’t renewed.

        2. Dulcinea

          I am in a grant funded position as well. Once the grant ends, I don’t have a job anymore. Of course, I knew that when I took the job. There is talk of a renewal but it depends partially on the results of this year’s elections. My attitude is that until they tell me that they know for a fact the grant HAS been renewed, then I need to assume it won’t be, and thus apply for jobs.

        3. KnitWorthy

          Exactly the reason why I’ve decided to avoid job searching in the ecology field. Just too tenuous. Luckily I’ve found something else, but it’s not research related.

      2. Monodon monoceros

        I’m a little confused by this- seems like it would be totally normal to look for a job when there is a real possibility that your grant funded position is possibly ending. Unless the employer is telling her they will keep her on even if the grant ends, why shouldn’t she start applying for jobs?

        1. majigail

          The concern might be more that she’s not a serious candidate, she’s only applying because the grant might run out. The question of whether or not she would stay or go if it was renewed would likely come up, thus leading her to the 4 EDs in 12 months. (how do they hire EDs that fast?)

          1. Monodon monoceros

            I guess I see your point, but to me the “only” is not necessary as a qualifier to “applying because the grant might run out”. To me, that is a perfectly acceptable reason to apply for other jobs. It’s no different than if your company said “you may be laid off in 3 months.” You may not be laid off, but you might be, therefore, I would think its perfectly acceptable to apply for other jobs.

            1. Colette

              I think the “only” is pretty critical – it makes it seem like her interest in the new job is dependent on the grant position ending. She’s not looking (in that case) because she wants a particular job, but because she wants any job.

          2. Monodon monoceros

            And in this case, I agree that the ED situation may be a better explanation to use, but I was just surprised that others would think the grant possibly ending would be a bad reason to use.

      3. MW77

        I agree that it’s possible the funding could be renewed, but at least in my field (public health), grant funding is very common. Everyone understands when someone looks for another position when continued funding is not assured. I think the “looking for something more stable” is a great way to frame the search, but including that the project funding is ending wouldn’t hurt the OP and would be understandable as the only reason. As with many things, this is probably context dependent. Funding has been cut so much in public health that many of us have been in that situation and understand the need to look in advance for something definite rather than hoping a new grant appears.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Yeah, I think it’s context dependent. I’m used to an environment where grants are pretty regularly renewed, so if you took a position knowing it was tied to a grant that was renewed every year but then started looking after seven months because it was grant-dependent, that would raise eyebrows.

          1. Monodon monoceros

            This is interesting- I am more used to working under grant situations where it is more likely that it will not be renewed. I guess in the future I will make sure I say “I am looking because my grant funding is running out *and* it is not likely to be renewed.” I just assumed the first part was enough!

          2. Asked #2

            Thanks, Alison and commenters! Really helpful conversation.

            It’s hard for me to judge if grants are usually renewed in this field or not – I’ve been here only 7 months, and doing post-college work for three years – but I’m guessing the four EDs in 12 months will reflect badly on us in the grant application, too.

            Thanks again!

    3. Anonathon

      Personally, I would be fine with this reasoning. At my partner’s organization, grant-supported positions are often tied to certain projects and/or campaigns, so it’s not unusual for someone to be hired just for a single grant period. Similar to being a contractor. That is less the norm at my organization, but I’m aware that it’s the reality elsewhere, so it wouldn’t throw me and it wouldn’t make me think the person was flaky (just pragmatic.)

    4. Len Lovett

      # 1 I feel your pain. I left an employer over two years ago and the Vice President still stalks me, he contacts my current employer occasionally, calls my home and bad mouths me to potential employers. It’s rather pathetic. Just be honest tell your prospective employer what happened, provide a police report if possible. We’ve all had to deal with nut jobs at one time or another.

  2. Coco

    #5 “If you’re sending it electronically, there’s no need. (Similarly, there’s no need to use the traditional formatting that you would on a printed letter, such as date, recipient address, etc.).”

    Oops. I just did that. Not in a cover letter, but I had to send in a written statement to the chair of my academic program. I sent it by email and included date, recipient address, and even a digital signature. I tried to follow the format they used when they emailed me an acceptance letter (which included date, address, and signature). Now I’m a little worried I looked pretentious or naive or something…

    Oh well, nothing to be done now.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      Eh, I wouldn’t worry about it. It’s more that it’s unnecessary than that you’ll Appear A Fool if you do it.

      (One exception: If you include that traditional header in a letter that’s in the body of your email — as opposed to an attachment — then you will indeed look a little … unfamiliar with our era’s technology.)

      1. Mimmy

        LOL I think I had one guy send an email like that to me a couple years ago. It looked so clunky!!

      2. lindsay

        One of my coworkers does that! Like in the body of an email:
        “To: XYZ Business
        From: Coworker
        Date: 5/28/2014
        Re: Proposal”

        I can’t understand it. It’s repeating everything in the email header. If someone printed it out, all of that information would be there anyway. And she doesn’t do it all the time, just some of the time. It’s confusing, but not big enough to do anything about it but express my confusion in comment threads.

    2. Shell

      Not sure how you sent your letter…if you’d PDF’d a document in Word and sent it as an email attachment, then I think business styled letter, with the address block and everything, would look fine since it basically looks like a scan of a hard copy letter. Heck, I’d think it’d look a little odd without it.

      It’d really only look odd if you wrote the address block and what have you in the email body. I’m not sure which kind Alison was addressing when she said “sending it electronically.”

      But…it’s over and done with, and I doubt it’d make or break your application.

      1. AmyNYC

        I do this – I write the traditional business style letter (address, date, etc) and attach as a PDF. If I have one handy, I’ll sometimes use a jpeg of my signature in the letter.
        (by writing this out, I’m thinking this might be overkill….)

          1. LJL

            Thanks! I have done that too; what a relief to stop stressing about the proper block/semi-block format!

    3. Eden

      I work in an academic setting, and this is the preferred way to send written statements that need signatures. It’s clunky, but it’s the culture here…

      1. Mallory

        I work in an academic setting, too, and this is just How It’s Done for us. Everything is formatted exactly as if it is going to be sent via snail mail, but then it’s just attached as a PDF. If I ever leave academia, I’m going to have a LOT to unlearn about how the rest of the world conducts digital business.

  3. Ali

    I do No. 5 in my cover letters so I’m guessing this is my OK to not do that anymore? Should I still include a header with my contact info, though?

  4. Artemesia

    #4 Having a boss, especially in a small mom and pop, who expresses that s/he takes it personally when an employee takes another job is reason all by itself to leave. Unprofessional operations are not good for your career. Doubling the workload and then trying to paper over that with a very chintzy ‘gift’ of a check does not suggest good management or a good place to work.

    #1 This is a delicate situation. The word ‘stalker’ strikes fear into employers. How many people have been murdered by the enraged stalkers of employees? Having a ‘stalker’ may make someone radioactive to an employer. I understand the need to pre-empt that potential negative reference, but I’d almost risk them not going back that far for a reference than having them categorize me as that dangerous person who has a stalker.

      1. OP #1

        How far back do you check former supervisors? 5 years? 10 years? 15 years? I’ve only had one employer in the last 12 years, and I’d rather the hiring manager not contact them. The next in line is the stalker.

        1. Lillie Lane

          Out of curiosity, OP, what did you tell your current employer when interviewing there 12 years ago? Did they contact your old boss, or did you have other references?

        2. Wait, what?

          OP #1, you don’t want them to contact your current manager either? Is that because you don’t want them to know you’re looking? You can’t really give them neither.

          1. OP #1

            The current employer didn’t contact previous boss.

            And I don’t want my current employer to know I’m looking.

            1. majigail

              So you’ve been there 12 years, but have you had the same managers the whole time? If there’s been turn over there, you have people to list. I don’t think this is an extraordinary amount of time to be employed somewhere. I’d rather see someone stable than a job hopper with a ton of references to choose from. If you’ve been there that long, you’ve seen others come and go and you have contacts that know your work.
              Also, is the stalking manager still at the previous company? If not, I really don’t think you have anything to worry about. If you’re looking at 12 years back, they’re probably only calling to check that you were actually employed there. If I knew that person was no longer at that workplace, I wouldn’t even bring up the incident.

          2. TheSnarkyB

            I totally agree with this. I think this is part of the danger in staying somewhere so long, too.
            OP, I don’t think they’ll like not being able to contact either. I’d be prepared to address such a long stint at one place, especially if there wasn’t internal promotion (depending on your field), and I would also start figuring out either a way to break the news to your current employer or a way to get recent references. (Peers, clients, etc.?)
            And regarding your question above about how far back employers go, I would imagine that is related to how many jobs are covered. For instance, I may have a policy of going back 10 years or 3 jobs, whichever is longer- which would be totally reasonable but in your case would mean they’re looking back more than 15 years. (It sounds like.)

            1. FiveNine

              Twelve years with the same employer is generally not something a person has to explain as though it’s a bad thing.

              1. FiveNine

                (For crying out loud, there have been posters with year-long *internships,* or internships with the same employer that lasted for 18 months.)

                1. LBK

                  Is a year-long internship not normal? That sounds pretty standard to me…maybe a semester is more standard but a year isn’t out of the question.

                2. TheSnarkyB

                  Yeah, but there’s a big difference between 18 months and 12 years. I wouldn’t have pointed it out if it weren’t potentially hurting this person now. If this were someone who sought new opportunities every 4-5 years, they’d have 3 options for post-stalker references, not 1. (Of course, OP, I don’t know your job or your life so I’m not saying you should have done that. Just pointing out a difference that looks like it might be having a consequence here.)

                3. Cat

                  I know that it can be difficult to job search after 12 years, but leaving a job you’re happy with because you’re worried it might eventually be harder to find another job seems like cutting off your nose to spite your face. Granted, I’m at an older-school place where most of the senior folks have been here 25-30 years, so my norms are probably a little different, but isn’t it better to make sure you are (a) growing and taking on new challenges; and (b) have a variety of people who can speak to your skills, even if they’re not your current manager instead of prophylactically leaving a job that you love?

              2. Colette

                I don’t think that it’s necessarily a negative, but it does mean that if you don’t want your employer to know you’re looking, you may not have any recent references.

                1. fposte

                  Yeah, I think a hiring manager is going to be more concerned about having no references from the last 12 years than any issues with references from before it. And you really don’t want to combine “You can’t talk to anybody from the last twelve years or from the job before it.”

                  OP, start identifying your strategy to get references from people who have worked with you in your current position–it’s important.

                2. AB

                  Isn’t there a middle ground? I mean, yes, a manager would be ideal, but if that simply isn’t possible, couldn’t you have a co-worker or business contact or mentor or head of a volunteer organization that you work closely with give a reference? I worked a bunch of odd jobs and temp placements (not with a temp agency) to get by. It left me without a manager I could really use as a reference. Either I wasn’t able to keep in touch with the manager or I didn’t really have one. I reached out to co-workers who could give a reasonable account of my working style and to the volunteer coordinator for the charity I do a lot of work for. Neither was really ideal, but when it came time to do reference checks, I explained the situation and it didn’t end up being a problem.

                3. Colette

                  @AB: Absolutely, sometimes you have to find the best references available to you – but you need a better explanation than “I’ve worked one place for 12 years and I don’t want you to talk to anyone there”. As Fposte says, it’s really important that the OP work to identify people who can be references, since the most common choices (current manager, previous manager) are not good ones for her.

                4. AB

                  Colette, This wasn’t meant to be in reply to you and FPoste, but to a thread above. I agree that you do need a better line than “I have no one you can talk to”. I guess my point was to amend it to… “I don’t have a current manager you can talk to, but here are the people I have worked with and/or have supervised my volunteer work” and that it worked out without a great deal of questioning in my case.

        3. GrumpyBoss

          Did you have any other references to provide? I think most employers understand not wanting to contact your current manager.

          I generally don’t contact someone from that long ago other than for employment verification, and that’s usually done at an HR level.

          Personally, as a hiring manager, I wouldn’t want to hear about the stalker, even if you say it calmly and dry as was suggested.

          1. Lynn Whitehat

            Yup. I had a stalker a long time ago, and unfortunately when people hear about it, they hear “being around Lynn could bring chaos and drama into MY life. No thank you.” Well, not so much anymore, but when it was more recent and I still lived in the area. It is unfair and crappy, but it’s how the world is, and the smart stalk-ee avoids mentioning it, especially as a present-day concern.

            There must be someone from the current employer you could use. Former manager? Other managers you did projects for? Team leads?

        4. Laura

          Have you spent all of those years under the same manager, and if not, do you have contact information for any of your prior managers? Especially any that are now working elsewhere or retired.

          Peers or clients also, but prior managers would be your best option here, if you have any you can reach.

          1. sunny-dee

            Or maybe even people at a similar level from another department. I’ve thought about this myself, and while I wouldn’t want someone contacting my direct manager, I have several project managers and team leads whom I have worked closely with, and I would feel very comfortable using them as a reference (and trusting them to be discreet).

        5. Marcy

          Can you have them contact HR at your old job? My employer doesn’t allow anyone but HR to give a reference and all HR will do is verify dates of employment and salary. Nothing else. It wouldn’t be wrong to give them an HR contact at your old job.

    1. AmyNYC

      I send previous supervisors at Current Job
      Do you have any references outside of work? Volunteer work, community organizations, that kind of thing.

  5. Confused

    #4
    I used to work for a husband and wife owned company. Everything was personal and they guilt-ed me into staying with the company and taking on more and more for a lot longer than I really wanted. I think it’s the nature of the beast.
    But you can’t put your life and career on hold for other people. You may want to express how much you have appreciated working for them etc. Ultimately, once you move on they will have to hire someone else and move on as well. Really they will!

    1. Rat Racer

      Just to add on here: and although it sounds like these folks are quite fond of you, and appreciate your competency and hard work, replacing you if you went elsewhere should not spell disaster for their business.

  6. Cheesecake

    I always sign reference letter and make it look formal (add address, etc). It only take a minute to put those things (and there is an easy way to sign docs on Mac without doing it manually and scanning). I feel it looks really professional, like you care and put your thought in it.

    1. Amy B.

      I would imagine it looks better when printed out and placed with all the other applicants’ paperwork, also.

      1. fposte

        We don’t print out and store paper for employment, and if we did it would be to satisfy legal requirements–no one would ever look at it. I don’t think we’re alone in this.

      1. Sadsack

        So I am taking from this that it is perfectly fine to just have the date, name of the company, and a reference to the open position title at the top of a letter, and a closing with no room for a signature, such as,

        Sincerely,
        Sadsack

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Yep. I like a line space like I’m doing below, but it doesn’t really matter.

          May 28, 2014

          Sadsack
          The Teapot Company

          body of letter

          Sincerely,

          Alison Green

          1. hildi

            Curious about your preference for the line space between your name and the sign-off — is that a personal preference or is there another reason to consider doing it that way (versus Sadsack’s example above)? I would have never thought about the difference, but often overlook details so am curious.

  7. MR

    While stalking is certainly very serious, being detained by police is not the same as being arrested or convicted (I’m not an attorney, but without a conviction, I’m pretty sure there would be no ‘record’). What about some type of PFA? It seems as though this detainment was enough to get the former boss’ attention and to back off and based on the OPs letter, seems to be the last incident.

    I’m also finding it hard to figure out what exactly illegal was going on. Were there financial shenanigans going on? If the stalking was egregious enough, why were no charges pressed?

    Given the time that has elapsed since this happened, I wouldn’t bring up this person as a potential reference at all. I’d just focus on references that are available from the most recent employment experience.

    1. Just an additional note on records and age....

      There would be a ‘record’ for at least some time (I know in at least one state it is 7 years; I do not know if 7 years is specific to that state or a federal requirement, it may be the latter) of any police activity/call/case even if there was no conviction. After 12 years, that record may or may not exist depending on state regulations and whether the department purges old data when they can or simply continues to store it.

      Unless OP #1 actually _has_ records of this activity, received at the time and stored, I would first attempt to obtain them before promising to provide them.

      I would omit the reference as well, and explain if they ask – and if explanations were necessary, I’d also assure them (assuming it’s true), “But I haven’t seen her for 12 years now; after that, she left me alone”. (If OP #1 does have a copy of the paperwork they can easily find, I would also have that handy in case I needed it – but I wouldn’t trot it out unless asked.)

    2. A Dispatcher

      Even if no arrest was made, it’s not uncommon for officers to write an incident report for this type of situation at all. Whether or not that would be easy to obtain 12 years later (if OP doesn’t already have a copy) is a separate issue. This is not the same as the individual having “a record” as many people refer to it, but there is most certainly a record of the incident itself even if no report was written (again, the ease of obtaining said record and how detailed it may be is highly dependent on the department).

    3. Emma the Strange

      Does it really matter what kind of illegal stuff Former Boss was doing? OP#1 has told us enough to show that they have excellent reasons for not wanting potential employers to talk to Former Boss. The issue at hand is how they can ensure that without raising red flags for potential employers.

      Also, regarding why no charges were pressed for the stalking. I’m guessing that OP#1’s goal was to get Former Boss out of their life ASAP, and it sounds like the second encounter with police accomplished that goal very effectively. At that point, pressing charges would just have kept OP#1 entangled with Former Boss for however many months it took to finish the legal proceedings, which was probably not what they wanted.

      Also, the OP never said they were planning to use Former Boss as a reference. I think they’re more concerned about potential employers who will ask/try to contact previous supervisors as a matter of course.

    4. Brett

      Most states you can get the police report even now. They are kept for a very long time.
      Also, the OP likely has a copy of the original police report anyway.

  8. Oh Happy Day...

    #1
    This is so irrelevant but what does this mean: (just like he’d probably rather not hire someone who is unlucky.)

    1. KellyK

      Just that people tend to want to avoid people who seem to constantly have bad things happening to them, even when they know full well that it’s not that person’s fault.

      1. Colette

        And sometimes “bad luck” means “fails to think ahead/take care of issues before they become major problems”.

        1. fposte

          Right. Or “contextualizes their narrative to overdramatize universal setbacks.”

          I don’t know anybody who genuinely thinks that somebody could be prone to bad luck in a way that would make them a bad hire (there may be such people, but it’s a pretty bogus concept); what they’d be worried about is a tendency to make life decisions that lead to such things. However, I don’t think an aggressive boss from a dozen years ago is a data point that would suggest that.

    2. Student

      It means that the OP believes that luck is an innate personal quality, or a quantitative attribute tallied by cosmic accounting department that a person can build up and lose. It also means the OP believes that hiring managers are likely to share this belief.

      Some people refer to it as karma instead of luck. Many people do believe in it, but I would tentatively guess that the majority of American hiring managers do not think like this about job candidates.

      It is a common idea in Eastern religions and belief systems, and it comes up in some newer non-Christian religions that have originated in the US. It’s not a solely religious concept, though, so one can find subcultures that believe in this concept of luck without the religious component, or while following Christianity or other major Western religions.

      I don’t personally believe in luck. I believe in statistics and quantum physics.

  9. Anons

    My first boss (at my high school and college part-time job) was arrested for stealing something like $30k from the company, so I also was in the position where I had to be all, “Uh, so this is my experience but I don’t have a reference because my boss went to jail?”

    It was rough at first but by the time I had five years of work experience elsewhere nobody cared about that job at all, and eventually it fell off my resume. I wouldn’t worry much about references from a job 12 years ago, even if it was a place you stayed for a while and did a lot of good work at. A decade is a long time.

    1. Ann O'Nemity

      I know someone who worked at a telemarketing call center that was busted for fraud. Several people, including my friend’s boss, went to jail. Like you said, it was rough at first for my friend to get another job. But eventually enough time passed that it wasn’t a big deal. In fact, it’s become quite a good story.

  10. anonyMOOSE

    #5 – Is there any rule about shortening a cover letter if you are sending it via email as the email message? Or should it be the exact same as what you would physically send?

    I ask the question because I think the general rule of thumb when writing something that will be read on a screen is to keep it shorter rather than longer.

  11. danr

    #3… You are not writing for English class. You want the reader to know what you did. Bullet points should use active language, since you don’t have words or space to waste. A hiring manager is looking for keywords, not prose.

  12. Ann Furthermore

    #3 “Composed” might work if you don’t want to keep repeating “wrote.”

  13. Mom&Pop Annon

    #4 – As a Mom and Pop employer, the $100 is a gift. Write a thank you note. Do not gift back.
    Take Allison’s advice about discussing priorities.
    Ask about their time frame for replacing the second person. It takes us 6 weeks minimum to find suitable candidates (2 weeks for resumes, 2 weeks for interviews, 2 weeks notice). Be prepared, that if they cannot answer priority questions or replacement of the second office person questions; you have your answer.
    If you feel like they are disfunctional then run.

  14. Fabulously Anonymous

    #5 – I read about a few library directors that have pitched cover letters if it didn’t include the address, etc. with the justification, “this candidate does not know how to write a business letter.” I just shrugged and thought, “I wouldn’t want to work for someone that old-fashioned.”

    1. Sharm

      I’m all for getting rid of stuff that is antiquated, but I really don’t see the big deal about the traditional cover letter format. I don’t sign the letter or anything, but I like the standard letter because it puts me in the frame of mind to write a cover letter. It’s been expected at every place I’ve worked, and I’m a-okay with it.

      So I suppose I am one of those old-fashioned types myself. Who knew!

    2. Verde

      Depending on the field you work in, you might at some point have to write an “old-fashioned” business letter, and it’s important to show that you know how to do that. Maybe the new cover letter format is not the place, but in HR-land I often have to send formal letters, even if they are sent as a PDF, in order to cancel an insurance policy, respond to a government verification request, and so on. Personally, I like knowing that candidates for admin roles know how to do that so I don’t have to train them on something so basic.

      However, a big[ger] pet peeve of mine lately is people not putting a return address on any communications and/or their resume. I can dig it out of their application form or something else if I have to, but it’s nice when it’s right there so I can drop it straight into their offer letter without having to rummage for it.

  15. Cuddly Porcupine

    #1 – You could just say, “My boss from X job got into some trouble with the law and is therefore not available to serve as a reference.” As long as you can provide other references, it probably won’t be a big deal. It was 12 years ago. A lot happens in 12 years.

  16. AF

    OP #1 I have to ask – is your former manager still employed with the company? Many of my former bosses are no longer in their positions, so I just give company info for background checks, and my manager if necessary. When possible, I note that they’re no longer there and offer another person to contact (usually in HR). I would hope that she was fired for her behavior, but of course that assumes a lot about your former employer. I’m sorry you had to go through such a scary time.

      1. Ruffingit

        Wow. So she’s been able to get away with questionable and/or illegal activity for over a decade? Dang. That is sad on so many levels.

      2. AF

        That is really horrible. Presumably the employer knew about this and didn’t fire her? You should never even have to think about this woman ever again. So so so messed up. But best of luck to you in your job search!

  17. Ruffingit

    I think #4 with the boss who gave the thank you cash needs to take a crash course in business vs. personal. Your boss could give you all kinds of bonus cash, cards, etc. and that still wouldn’t obligate you to stay. Your career trajectory should never be informed by guilt or hurt feelings. Your boss told the employee who quit that he took it personally. That means something is wrong with your boss, not with the co-worker’s decision to leave.

    Do what is best FOR YOU. Loyalty to your boss has no place in your choices no matter how many thank you cards with cash you receive. Please learn this lesson now – it is business, not personal – otherwise you will find yourself having a very difficult time in the workplace being guilted into all kinds of not good for you scenarios.

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