what if my coworker fails a class I teach, hiring the long-term unemployed, and more

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

1. Interviewers who make no effort to sell you on the job

Over the past few years, I keep experiencing interviews where the company makes no attempt to sell me on the job. Is this a trend?

Last week, I foolishly went on an interview where there was no job description – I kept being promised that the recruiter would get it to me, but it never appeared. I assumed I’d have a chance to ask lots of questions in the interview to figure out the job, but I had no time to even ask a question about the interview process! No time was spent selling me on the job or the company either, just softball management style questions. What is up with that?

What’s up with that is bad interviewing, and interviewers who forget that part of the point of the hiring process is for candidates to decide if they even want the job; it’s a two-way street. But if you’re ever offered a job and haven’t yet had a chance to get your own questions answered, it’s perfectly fine to say, “I really appreciate the offer. I have some questions about the job that we didn’t have a chance to cover when I interviewed. Is now a good time to ask those, or could we set up a time to talk in the next day or two?”

2. What if my coworker fails a class I teach?

In addition to my regular job, I also adjunct teach at a local university. My classes are technically an upper undergraduate level, but are a mix of graduate students, current professionals, and researchers at the university. I have a regular job peer who also is also an adjunct in this same department, and both of us have had several of her subordinates as students.

If a coworker does well in our classes, we generally both know about it and it definitely helps them in the workplace. But what happens when a coworker does poorly? What if a coworker fails my class or one of her subordinates fails her class because they simply failed to do the work?

We can discuss this as faculty and try to help the student with any barriers they may be having. Neither of us, though, knows if there is anything more we should do as coworker and supervisor.

FERPA probably does matter here, and maybe even good performance in the classroom should not reflect on the workplace. As coworker and supervisor, are there any workplace-related actions we should take relative to this? Can we let classroom performance affect how we view workload and new assignments? Or should we try to act as if this never happened and separate workplace from classroom?

Oooh, tricky. I think the cleanest way to handle this is that someone’s performance in your class is a whole different thing than their performance on the job — after all, someone could do well at one and not as well at the other (which actually happens all the time). Moreover, if someone is stretched thin, they might put more effort into work (since that’s their livelihood) than into school (where no one else is counting on them), so it seems wrongly to penalize them at the former for their performance in the latter.

That said, your coworker is actually managing some of the people in her class, which complicates it. If I were her, I think I’d talk to those employees/students at the start and explain that I try to keep a strict firewall between work and class — which might assuage worries that they might have (or should have, if they’re being thoughtful about this) as well.

3. Do employers not want to hire the long-term unemployed?

I’ve been reading a lot lately about the longterm effects of unemployment on hirability, and I was wondering if you could write a blog post offering an inside look at how managers view those who have been out of work for more than six months. Does this Washington Post article feel accurate to you?

I want to tell you that it’s not accurate, but in reality … yeah, that’s generally correct.

Because of that, if you’ve been out of work for a while, the more you can engage in work-ish activities, the better. Volunteer, serve on committees, try to take on some freelance work in your field — whatever you can do that’s as close to working as possible. (People often put “take a class” on this list, but I’m not convinced it’s the same.)

4. Wearing the “uniform” of a company to an interview

A friend of mine has an interview next week that he is very excited about. The company is well known for it’s high end and fashionable brand profile, although it is not a fashion company per se. Anyway, the culture there is for employees to wear all black. My friend thinks he should wear all black to the interview and is stressing about finding an appropriate all black ensemble. I think that just because the employees wear all black, does not mean that interviewees should, and that he should stop stressing and just wear a nice suit. But maybe I am off-base. What advice do you have?

I don’t think he needs to wear all black, just like you wouldn’t wear scrubs to interview at a doctor’s office, even if you’d be wearing them once on the job. (Although so many business outfits are all black that it wouldn’t be odd if he did end up doing it anyway.)

5. Writing a cover letter to a company where 8+ former coworkers now work

I am looking to apply for a position at a prospective company that happens to employ quite a few roll-over’s from the company I am currently with. There are at least eight people there who would be quite familiar with me and my work. I have contacted most of them via LinkedIn and all have given me their blessing to use their names as referrals. How can I use that in my cover letter? Do I list them all out, only use one or two names?

Listing them all out is going to seem weird and like overkill. I’d name just a couple of them — the ones who can best speak to your work — and say something like, “I worked closely with Perseus Mulberry, Lucinda Skeetmoore, and others from XYZ Company who now work for you.”

{ 199 comments… read them below }

  1. Fucshia*

    #4 – Your friend may have the right idea. I have friends that work for Sephora (cosmetics and beauty supplies). Their work uniform is to wear all blck and they actually encourage interviewees to follow that trend. At minimum, it shows they understand that part of the culture.

    1. Sara M*

      I agree. I was surprised by this advice. I definitely think dressing for the culture helps prove you know/like what they do there. It shows you did your homework.

      1. LV*

        It strikes me as a bit gimmicky – like fposte’s example below of wearing khakis and a red polo shirt to interview at Target. If an interviewee really did their homework on the company and demonstrate that during the interview, then it would hardly count against them that they didn’t show up wearing all black. If they didn’t do their homework, then the all-black wouldn’t help them much.

      2. DJ*

        Yeah I think to a large degree this really depends on the business and its culture. I work in financial services, and for many front office positions (especially at the entry level), the uniform for an interview is simple: charcoal suit, white or light blue shirt, black cap toes, and a conservative tie. Literally 3/4 of successful applicants are dressed this way. Somewhere between a third and a half of these are specific down to the brand (Brooks Brothers and Allen Edmonds if you’re curious).

        If you work in an industry that is similarly obsessive about image and the ability to ‘fit’, then playing ball is what you need to do. It shows that you understand what they’re about and that you’ve done your homework. Of course, there are plenty of people who flaunt convention and will still get hired; but why not play the percentages here?

    2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

      Yeah, I’d do it. It’s a visual cue right off that you fit in.

      1. fposte*

        I think this is an “it depends.” If you came to a Target interview in a red shirt and khaki pants, that seems weird to me.

        1. NK*

          I think it depends. I have interviewed with Target corporate, and of course I would never have worn the red shirt and khakis – it’s suits all the way. But if I were interviewing for a Target cashier job, I think it could be a wise move to wear what you would wear on the job to show the personal presentation that you would have at work.

          1. LBK*

            But wouldn’t wearing a suit also show that you know how to dress professionally? I would think they would only be concerned about your appearance in the interview if it was *less* than what was expected on the job (ie you showed up in a hoodie and jeans), not more.

    3. Celeste*

      I’d do it just because it might break some ice. Couldn’t hurt, might help. Good luck!

      1. ryn*

        Yup. I wore all black when I had an interview with MAC and it helped, I think. I got offered an on call position, but didn’t take it (REGRET OMG), but it was nice to know that i had passed the culture test haha.

    4. LV*

      Off-topic, but I absolutely love the Sephora uniform for women. The black shift dress with the flash of red at the sleeves. It looks so elegant and I wish I could have one of my own without having to quit my job and get hired at one of their shops!

    5. Ellie H.*

      People sort of vary in terms of ease of doing this, but in the circumstance I would probably not wear all black, but close to it, like all black except for one charcoal (or other shade of gray) item. So you visually fit in, but don’t necessarily look like you did it on purpose.

      1. JMegan*

        Exactly what I was going to say. I think all black would be a preference, but not something your friend should stress about if it means buying an entirely new outfit.

        She should definitely wear dark, neutral colours for this one in any case, since that is clearly part of the culture there.

      2. Felicia*

        I’d probably do the same like Ellie H, just because I’d be concerned about looking gimicky. However I’d try to look as fashionable as possible, because I think being known as a fashionable company is a bigger deal than the all black thing in terms of culture

    6. Calla*

      Agreed. I worked for Lush a while back, who also has their employees wear all black (with colorful accessories encouraged). That’s what they encouraged interviewees to wear and what I did for mine.

    7. AVP*

      Do they manage any particular brands, or have specific brands as clients? I’ve heard from friends who work in fashion that it’s considered de rigueur to wear the related brands to the interview – and your interviewer will notice and mark you on it if you don’t.

    8. Professional Merchandiser*

      Re wearing all black to the interview: I say yes. When I interviewed to work for Procter & Gamble I wore an outfit in varying shades of blue (their company colors) when I went to work for my present employer I wore a purple shirt. The team I was being hired for was “the purple team.” I got both jobs, and I was complimented on “getting it” for company culture. (To be honest, I didn’t know about the “purple team”. I wore it because purple is my favorite color, and it makes me feel confident.) I know it sounds gimmicky, but it can help.

  2. abankyteller*

    2. That’s a really tough situation.

    3. I agree with Alison that “take a class” doesn’t hold as much weight here. I’d definitely do some volunteer work.

    4. I’d go with all black. It shows you understand the office culture.

  3. Adam*

    #3 is a struggle as if you have no job one mindset out there is that looking for another job should be your concern for eight hours a day. I don’t know of any person that actually does this unless you start on main street and apply at every McDonald’s, book store, and car dealership you pass by. But if you haven’t found one in a long while to many employers they seem to think it means you’re being lazy.

    That’s why it’s imperative you find something official to do with your time when you’re not job hunting. Unless you left work to be a stay-at-home parent or go to school filling your resume up with appreciable volunteer activities is probably the best bet, and can be very rewarding besides! My volunteer gig has been a small part in keeping me sane about my crappy job.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      It’s not so much that they think you’re being lazy. The concern is more about why no one has hired you — they worry about whether there’s something “unhireable” about you that other employers have spotted — and about whether your skills have grown stale from being out of the workforce for so long.

      (I’m not supporting this point of view, just explaining it.)

      1. Adam*

        To be honest I’ve heard both points of view. I’m not sure how prevailing the mindset is but I do know that while there are managers out there who worry that someone’s who has been out of work for X period of time means they might be unhireable or rusty, I’ve also met managers who think if you haven’t accepted ANY job (i.e. jobs that people who follow this blog probably aren’t aiming to get, your fast food joints and what have you) after a certain period of time they think you’re lazy, entitled, “sponging off the government”, etc.

        Granted most of us probably wouldn’t want to work for someone with that perspective anyways, but I can’t deny it’s out there.

      2. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

        The concern is more about why no one has hired you — they worry about whether there’s something “unhireable” about you that other employers have spotted.

        This is my experience. Personally, I push my people to consider longer term unemployed on equal footing with other candidates, but I don’t control the initial decisions. I don’t jump into the process until second interview — before that it is the hiring managers and internal recruiters. I’ve heard them say what Alison wrote, pretty much word for word.

        If I were advising a friend, I’d say get any job on your resume. Can you get any kind of consulting work? If you can get money to change hands enough to truthfully say you’ve done jobs for XX and YY, then you can at least fill that slot with freelance consulting. Or temp. Or work for a friend for min wage part time. Just get something on there.

        1. Felicia*

          I have two fairly substantial volunteer roles now, with big, well known organizations and I use the skills in those roles that I’d need for the paying job I want, but I worry I am still running into “The concern is more about why no one has hired you — they worry about whether there’s something “unhireable” about you that other employers have spotted.” Since I haven’t had a paying job in more than a year. I mean volunteering can’t erase that entirely, though entry level in an extremely competitive field where entry level jobs are disappearing might help people understand. And I did need to get hired for both of my volunteer roles….they were moderately competitive, I believe for the one at the more recognizable organization there were 100 applicants for 4 volunteer positions. But then some employers don’t realize some volunteer roles are competitive (and some volunteer roles aren’t) so I don’t know how much that helps.

          1. JM in England*

            I’ve now accepted it as a fact-of-life that employers will tend to see the long-term unemployed as lazy; like many things, it’s the few that genuinely are lazy that has caused all others in this boat to be tarred with the same brush. Others have said to get “any” job, even volunteering. However (here in the UK at least) the competition for even the most menial of jobs is extremely fierce. Thus, for many LTEs, they are in this situation through no fault of their own.

            Personally, I’d like to see long-term unemployed as a protected class, up there with sex, race and religion and to be treated with the same respect as any other candidates.

        2. Pennalynn Lott*

          I’m late to the party but wanted to say that having *any* job on my resume (a stint at Home Depot) has hurt my [tech sales] career much, much more than my periods of unemployment. Hiring managers are like, “What, the best you could do is retail? There must be something really wrong with you if none of my competitors would hire you.” It worked much better for me to stay unemployed and just tell the HM’s that I had the luxury of being very selective about my next gig.

          1. JM in England*

            Pennalyn, when interviewing whilst unemployed I’ve had the reverse situation in which HMs asked why I didn’t take any job going.

            There’s just no pleasing some people “sigh”!

            1. JM in England*

              PS I did try to get “any” job going but I was either overqualified or competing against those with experience.

      3. C3PO*

        That sounds like a weakness in HR training… I collect certain items as a hobby, and if I were to rely on what other collectors were paying for an item, rather than examining the item itself for flaws, I would always overpay.

        Is there another reason that an HR person might use this tactic other than not having the skills to make an assessment themselves?

        1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.*

          Hiring managers are often doing initial screens, not HR, and sifting through a big stack of resumes to come up with candidates is done mostly by impression, not science.

          I’m talking about what actually happens vs what should happen in an ideal world.

        2. Celeste*

          I think it’s an easy way to cull a big stack of resumes down to a smaller pool. I feel it’s as arbitrary as filtering to discard all of the ones with a female name, history that shows you are over 50, addresses that are not local, military background, and so on–really any group you can think of.

          1. Joey*

            Depends on the job. There absolutely are job where being out of work in and of itself negatively affects your skills. Take obamacare. If you work in benefits and have missed all of the implementation of obamacare that’s not going to compare well to someone who has first hand experience keeping up with the emoter requirements. I imagine that’s the case with IT and any other jobs that change significantly in a short period of time .

              1. De Minimis*

                Public accounting is another one–I haven’t worked in it for nearly 5 years and that door is more or less permanently shut to me now. Rules and laws change every year, and it does not take long for your experience to grow stale.

              2. Julie*

                I was just about to look up “emoter” because I couldn’t figure out what that could mean in this context! :)

                1. Evan*

                  Hmm… One of the political pundits on either side who seem required to persistently emote about the good/bad effects of Obamacare?


          2. Colette*

            Some people have been unemployed for months because they liked not having anyone tell them what to do and didn’t get motivated to look until they were running out of money. Even if their skills are applicable, the “you can’t tell me what to do” attitude is likely to cause problems.

            Some are unemployed because they took one or more jobs and quit after a couple of weeks. Maybe it was an awful employer, but maybe they just don’t want to adjust to a new workplace.

            Some people did everything right, but just didn’t find a job.

            It’s hard to distinguish which group someone falls into from their resume.

            Should employers give people who have been out of work for a while a chance? Absolutely.

            Should they do it at the expense of people who have more recent experience? Maybe, if they truly are as qualified.

            1. Anon1234*

              And some people are unemployed because they were laid off and the job market sucks right now. Some people are unemployed because they graduated from school and entry level jobs want 2-3 years experience, and there are few enough entry level jobs. Face it, it’s not people being lazy or unmotivated or not wanting to work. People are unemployed because the job market is really, really, really, REALLY bad right now.

              1. fposte*

                I don’t think Colette’s disagreeing with you–she’s just pointing out that a hiring manager can’t always tell the difference between somebody who’s unemployed because they’re a problematic employee and somebody who’s unemployed for reasons beyond their control.

                1. Colette*


                  I think it’s important to understand that what some of the reasons for the bias could be so that you can try to take steps to mitigate them (i.e. try to find freelance or volunteer work to keep your skills current, write a compelling cover letter, etc.).

                  I also think people get stuck on “well, employers should hire people from group X” without thinking it through – employers aren’t going to hire more people so hiring people from group X means people who aren’t in group X will get hired less often. In this case, if employers hired in favor of the long-term unemployed, people who were recently unemployed wouldn’t get hired … until they had been out of work long enough to be long term unemployed.

            2. Mike C.*

              I hardly believe this is a significant root cause to higher than normal unemployment. There’s a lot of “just world fallacy” going on here.

              1. Colette*

                Can we agree that there are more people looking for jobs (in general) than jobs waiting to be filled?

                If so, employers can be pickier than they would be if there were more jobs than people looking, correct? As long as they’re not being picky about something that is illegal, they can choose to hire whoever they want to hire and choose to take something like “not having a job for an extended period of time” as a red flag if they want to.

                In some cases, being unemployed for a long time is truly a red flag. Not all – probably not even most – but in some.

                Let’s say the market were different – there were two jobs available for every person working. In that case, would you wonder why someone was unemployed for a long time? The people who couldn’t find or keep a job in that market don’t go away because unemployment goes up.

                1. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  Yes, exactly. I know this feels really, really unfair, and it often is — but it’s not crazy or utterly illogical behavior on the part of hiring managers who are faced with an overabundance of qualified candidates. If you’re unemployed, it helps to understand these concerns so that you can be particularly strategic in how you shape your candidacy to respond to it.

                2. RCA*

                  “Let’s say the market were different – there were two jobs available for every person working. In that case, would you wonder why someone was unemployed for a long time?”

                  Wondering is good — that’s a good first step. It shouldn’t be the only step.

                  If I find an antique at a garage sale selling for a dollar, I will wonder, “Why is this being sold so cheaply?” For those who simply enjoy antiques, it makes sense that they might think to themselves, “This seems too suspicious. Maybe it’s a fake? I won’t risk it; it’s worth the extra cost to buy from an antiques dealer I can trust.”

                  People have that same worry when hiring employees — however, that’s the entire point of hiring a trained HR professional to help them make the decision. They are the antiques appraisers of the employment world. If they don’t apply those skills, where is the added value in having them participate in the hiring process?

                3. Ask a Manager* Post author

                  HR people aren’t really trained appraisers, actually. Hiring managers are generally much better at hiring for their teams; HR people function more as initial gatekeepers.

                4. Colette*

                  @RCA Hiring is about finding the best candidate for the job, but that’s not an objective process. People are complex, and so are the skills needed for a given job. Sure, the hiring manager may want to dig deeper on a candidate whose resume shows a potential issue if there are not a lot of good candidates, but in the current job market where there are a lot of good candidates, why would they do that?

                  It’s much more effective for the candidate to look at ways to avoid raising those concerns I n the first place, if they can.

                5. Anx*

                  I do think it’s logical. The problem is that when employer after employer passes you over, it’s a loss for society. More depression, more anxiety, more poor health, more suicide, more hunger, more skill loss….

                  It’s not any particular employer’s responsibility to be a good member of society…I think that ship sailed a long time ago. But it’s incredibly frustrating to have your long-term prospects reduced and wonder how you’ll feed yourself and pay your bills. That’s not an employer’s responsibility, but we still collectively blame the unemployed for their hunger, poverty, and illness.

      4. evilintraining*

        Could part of it also be the idea that maybe a candidate is only showing enthusiasm because they want any job at all and not necessarily the one they’re interviewing for? I’ve often wondered about that as well.

      5. fiat lux*

        Hi Alison, may I ask a slightly-off topic question? Let’s say my last date of employment was February 28th, 2014 – could I list my dates of employment as January 2013-March 2014, or should I list my dates of employment as January 2013-February 2014? I don’t want to be deceptive and give the impression that I worked through the month of March…but I also don’t want it to look as if I left my job on February 1st, thus making my period of unemployment look a month longer than it really is and potentially making myself less hire-able.

        1. Joey*

          One month isn’t going to matter since you’ve been there over one year. List Feb to be safe. It could look deceptive if you list March and they verify Feb, not enough to do any harm, but being precise reflects better on you.

          1. fiat lux*

            That’s what I was concerned about – I definitely don’t want to appear deceptive. Thank you!

    2. Eden*

      Here’s what I don’t understand, quite, in this conversation.

      Say you’re a hiring manager, and you receive tons of bad resumes and cover letters. You get potentially hundreds of applications for the same job. So you’re aware that there are lots of competing applicants out there for each position, and lots of them are following bad advice, making them look worse on paper than they really are.

      So I guess I can understand having a bias against folks who have been out of work for years, but a few months? It took me a couple months to even figure out that I was doing it wrong. It doesn’t mean there’s something wrong with me, other than I was following crappy advice. But hiring managers also appear to be aware that there is a ton of bad advice out there, even provided by “experts” (Blue Sky, Susan Ireland).

      I’m a little sensitive to this because due to the fact that I spent 3 months looking for work, I have to have my dad co-sign on my home loan. The kicker is that had I been FIRED from my last job, everything would be hunky-dory. And that 3 months somehow negates the fact that I have been continually employed full-time since 1990.

      1. Ask a Manager* Post author

        I don’t think a few months is considered long-term unemployment, so it’s not really the group the article is talking about. A few months is no big deal. The only issue there if you say you quit your last job (as opposed to being laid off), a hiring manager will wonder what the real story is, because few people quit without something lined up unless they were about to be fired, actually were fired and are just saying they quit, had a personality conflict with the manager (which they may or may not be at fault for), etc.

        1. De Minimis*

          I think in recent years it’s considered long term if you’ve been out of work over a year, although I have also seen articles that use six months as the dividing line.

  4. soitgoes*

    #1 comes up a lot when answering job ads on sites like Craigslist. Companies are as vague as possible when writing the ads because they don’t want to be hounded by recruiters and spammers, and when you send off your resume, you have no clue what job you’re applying for. If you get a call for an interview, the person on the other end rarely remembers to even say the name of the company (just giving the address), and the applicant doesn’t want to look like an idiot who’s applying to every listing by asking “By the way, who exactly are you and what is the job?”

    Most of the blame falls on the employers for this one. If you write a vague ad, it’s on you to REMEMBER that you’ve written a vague ad when you call people for interviews.

    1. My Scintillating Pseudonym*

      Especially when they don’t even mention the name of the company and then act offended when you need to ask. If I were psychic, I wouldn’t be looking for work in the first place.

      1. nyxalinth*

        Yup, exactly! I have often said in my mind “If I could read minds like that caller seemed to want, I would have won the Mega Millions ages ago!”

    2. Koko*

      This doesn’t seem to make sense. Why would a company be more likely to get spammed or hounded by recruiters if they list the company name, unless perhaps they’re one of a select few companies that have really strong name recognition that might attract more attention than others, like Google or Apple. And if I were Google or Apple I’d definitely consider the advantage of “We’re Google” attracting more and the most highly-qualified candidates to outweigh the disadvantage of getting more spam/annoying recruiters.

      When I see job ads that don’t list a company name, they’re actually usually fake jobs made up by agency recruiters who are looking to build a pool of candidates. They describe a typical entry-level position that might exist at any number of companies, but isn’t a specific opening at a specific company. (The horrible, horrible temp firm Careers in Nonprofits does this, placing job ads for “Membership Assistant” all over Craigslist when no actual job exists but they’re hoping to build a pool of candidates for that type of work so that if an opening does show up on their radar they can throw their pool at it right away.)

      1. Traveler*

        Because if a recruiter can bring an employee to the company – the company regardless of their recognition would have to pay a finder’s fee. The recruiter would have to know the company name and who to approach to do this, whereas if its just a link on craigslist they are less likely to approach – for many reasons including the one you stated, they have no idea if the company on the other side is real and if its worth their time.

        1. Joey*

          #2. I’m actually kind of surprised the op wrote in. If you’re a manager you probably already know (or should know) that how well you do in school isn’t a very good indicator of how well you’ll perform at work. Prior work performance is what you should be basing your decisions on.

        2. De Minimis*

          In my experience it’s smaller companies that tend to use Craigslist, and those are the ones that are least able to deal with a large volume of calls from applicants—I’ve interviewed at many of these while I was looking for work, and many times they only have maybe 1-2 front office staff. If even a small percentage of the people who saw the ad call, it can negatively impact their ability to conduct business, so it’s considered best to be vague as far as the employer.

          I used Craiglist a lot during my years of unemployment, replied to several ads that did not give a lot of info up front, and ran into a scammer only once.

          1. Prickly Pear*

            I must be extremely easy to fool then, because out of every, say, 10 applications I apply to on Craigslist, 3 are scams. I’m at the point where if I get a response in the same week, I know it’s nothing but trouble.

        3. Koko*

          Wow, I never would have considered that. I guess if I find myself job-searching again in the future I’ll have to remember not to assume everything that doesn’t list a company name is a scam.

      2. Anon1234*

        I don’t apply to anything that doesn’t list the the name of the company. For one, the same reasoning you list. Another one: this is a two-way street here. I’m checking you out as much as you’re checking me out. If you don’t give me a name… how do I even know I WANT to work for you? How am I supposed to craft my cover article explaining why I want to work for $company when I don’t even know which one it is? I won’t waste my time and yours.

        1. John*

          Except sometimes the search is to replace someone who doesn’t know their job is coming to an end. That is a legitimate reason for a blind ad.

          1. De Minimis*

            I know if I’d had a policy of not responding to anonymous ads, I would have had a very tough time in my job search. Both my wife and I found jobs through ads that did not give specific employer info, and one of those jobs was a solid state government job.

      3. OriginalYup*

        I work in the nonprofit sector, and a lot of the big foundations in my geographic area use outside agencies for hiring, even for non-executive positions. The agencies almost never list the name of the organization — they just say “private foundation focused on community health” or whatever — because they don’t want to get the volume of unqualified applications that would come with listing a high profile place. I don’t have a strong opinion either way about the effectiveness of the approach, but I’d be out of luck as a job seeker if I didn’t roll with it. Definitely makes the initial cover letter more difficult, though.

        1. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Also, if it an outside agency doing the hiring, they often won’t list the employer name because they don’t want people to circumvent their process and apply directly with the employer.

          1. OriginalYup*

            Agreed. My one employer didn’t do any initial screening at all, though, so even if an applicant had contacted them directly, they’d have been redirected back to the agency. (They also did almost hires as temp-to-perm too.)

    3. Elizabeth West*

      I had a policy of not applying to blind ads, but toward the end of my unemployment, when I was getting close to running out of UI, I did apply to a few. One called me back for a phone interview–where I found out it was a place I had been fired from. That was on the second page of my resume! I’m guessing someone didn’t check that far back.

  5. CanadianWriter*

    #3 This situation really sucks because volunteer jobs can be just as hard to find as paying jobs. In my city, most places won’t accept volunteers unless they’re high school kids trying to meet their graduation requirements.

    1. Stephanie*

      Or the organizations have no shortage of volunteers.

      I’ve seen some orgs request crazy things like drug tests, background checks, and lie detector tests.

      1. PEBCAK*

        The key here is to find volunteer work that is relevant to your career. You should be able to do something more useful than the average high schooler.

      2. SevenSixOne*

        I ran into a lot of organizations whose volunteer coordinator was a volunteer. So when I’d ask about volunteer opportunities, I’d find out I need to talk to Robin… who is here Tuesday 8-3, Thursday 2-??? and every other Saturday as needed.

        At first I still made an effort to get in touch, but gave up after 3+ weeks of phone tag.

        1. Traveler*

          It’s frustrating, yes, but if an organization has a volunteer volunteer coordinator – it probably means they don’t have the money to support anything else. If you really want a volunteer job, physically going into the org can get you the attention you need. Those people tend to have a lot of demands on the time when they’re only there for a few hours, and its hard to know how serious a volunteer is sometimes.

      3. Tina*

        Depending on what the organization is, and the type of volunteer work, those aren’t automatically unnecessary requests. Volunteering with young children or in a medical environment? Those are some examples where I’d consider it reasonable to go through some of those checks.

        1. Traveler*

          + 100 It is illegal to have a volunteer working with children if they have not had a background check.

          1. Graciosa*

            This isn’t true in all cases / jurisdictions, although it is in some. That doesn’t mean organizations with a mission to protect children might not choose to do this even where not legally required.

            1. Traveler*

              Yes there are loopholes. If it is a one time thing and the person will be constantly supervised it can be allowed. However, it has nothing to do with a mission to protect children so much as the fact that in many places it is illegal, and even in places where its not you are exposing yourself to major risks if you do not check to make sure they are not a sex offender before you place them with children.

              1. Traveler*

                I should also mention that its not just children but any at-risk population, the elderly would be included in this as well.

          2. Colette*

            Is it really? I thought organizations wanted to protect themselves & the children they serve from people who have a history of abuse, but I didn’t think there was a law requiring them to do so.

            1. Traveler*

              It depends. I realized as soon as I wrote illegal I shouldn’t have – it is illegal in many states/jurisdictions but there is no federal law that mandates it.

              1. De Minimis*

                I worked at a non-profit where volunteers had to undergo the same screening as potential employees if they were going to be volunteering for any programs involving children or youth. But of course, we were in California.

                1. Julie*

                  When I volunteered for a mentoring program in a NYC school, they did a background check and took our fingerprints. It’s a legal requirement in NY.

        2. Stephanie*

          Ok, true. I definitely understand the point behind background checks for volunteer leads involving children.

          Lie detector test I thought was a little extreme. Drug testing I’m just opposed to on principle (less because I’m a drug user and more because they’re an invasion of privacy and don’t even seem that effective).

          1. Traveler*

            Yeah the lie detector thing is weird. Drug testing is because for that organization (or possible legal jurisdiction) they require volunteers to undergo whatever employees do. I’m not a fan of drug testing either for the same reason. Peeing in a cup while someone stands out side the door is humiliating particularly when you haven’t given anyone any reason to think its necessary.

    2. NW Cat Lady*

      I think a lot of it has to do with both what you want to do in the organization and what type of organization it is.

      Working directly with humans, especially kids, is going to require more information/discretion on the part of the organization than working with animals or stuffing envelopes for a social outreach group.

      Large organizations are generally going to have fewer positions and more requirements than small organizations.

      I was out of work for a ridiculously long time, and my volunteer work at one of the local animal shelters is what kept me sane during that time. I’d already been volunteering for them, but I ended up putting in a lot more time with them. They even hired me for a 6-week temp position.

      1. nyxalinth*

        With animal shelters, does it carry more weight with employers if you’re doing the admin sort of work, or does it still count with most of them if you’re walking dogs and cleaning litter boxes? I want to volunteer at the one that didn’t hire me–they invited everyone to do so–and as much as I’d love to, I don’t want to be volunteering if it won’t help, in addition to being rewarding for it’s own sake.

        1. EM*

          I volunteer with a couple of Lab rescue groups in my area (we adopted our dog from one of them) — have been doing so for about 6 years now.

          I list it on my resume, and you wouldn’t believe how many times an interviewer asks about it. My volunteer work doesn’t really relate to most jobs, but I think a lot of people just love dogs. Sometimes people even mention it in the initial phone conversation!

          My husband is an accountant and he’s been one of the rescue org’s financial advisor for several years now — he does their taxes, pulls together deposits, and consults on intake when a Lab needs a significant amount of vet care that is going to cost a lot.

          When he recently got promoted at work, his manager sent around a company-wide email with a SMALL blurb about how he does this “in his spare time” — my husband said people from across the company that he didn’t even know responded to chat with him not about the promotion, but about the rescue work!

          So I think you should definitely go for it. :)

        2. Sharon*

          This is just my opinion but I think if you can demonstrate your organizational skills in some way with the walking and pooper scooper/litterbox work, that might be okay. Or start with that and by being one of the best, most reliable volunteers work your way up into a leadership position, that would really look good.

          1. Anna*

            The volunteer work is not a quick fix by any stretch. Like Sharon implied, you have to invest some time. I know my combined 10 years of volunteer work doing what I enjoy and am good at is directly responsible for being in the career I am now. But it took investment of time and a LOT of energy. I also know that having that while I was job searching made it obvious that I was active and involved in the field I was interested in working.

    3. Al Lo*

      I was just at an event tonight called Timeraiser — CanadianWriter, which Canadian city are you in? It happened in around 7 cities across the country today.

      In any case, it’s a really cool initiative — an art auction geared toward emerging artists and young professionals. Corporations sponsor the event, which includes purchasing art from emerging professional visual artists. Attendees then bid on the artwork by bidding in volunteer hours.

      At the event, there are about 30 different non-profit organizations that you can connect with, mark your preferences to contact you for follow-up, and get involved with (and if you win the art, you can “pay” in volunteer hours with any organization, not just the ones represented, although they encourage connecting with those). The art hangs in the corporate sponsors’ offices for a year, giving the artists more exposure, and the auction winners have a year to complete their volunteer hours (up to 100 for any given piece of art), and then they get the art to keep.

      It’s a pretty fantastic initiative — and among other things, I understand it’s fairly competitive for the non-profits to get a booth, knowing that they’ll find motivated potential volunteers. Of course, some of the leads fizzle, but there seem to be a lot of long-term volunteer relationships built from the event.

      1. Al Lo*

        Having said that, I’m also in a very volunteer-oriented city. The culture of the city is very pitch-in-and-get-it-done — as evidenced by last summer’s floods. Much of the city shut down for several days after the worst of it, and people who were off work (because their offices were impacted) but not impacted themselves would just head to the worst neighbourhoods, find someone who looked in charge, and get instructions as to how to help.

        I know very few people who don’t volunteer in some capacity, and I know virtually no one who couldn’t find some sort of volunteer work if they wanted it. How substantive that work would be is always dependent on the organization and time commitment, of course, but it’s just part of the culture around here.

    4. Annette*

      It has been my experience that a good place to look for volunteer opportunities is the HandsOn Network. (Google it and you may be surprised to find a branch in your community.) Many of my volunteer jobs are either directly though them or with organizations I was introduced to through my work there. I went to the training and became a volunteer leader for them. I now lead a team of volunteers feeding the homeless each week.

      Although I have had a full time job this whole time, it has given me invaluable experience with what is called the “care and feeding of volunteers” and coordinating activities with an organization that I would not normally get to interact with.

      1. the gold digger*

        If you are a church-goer, your Sunday bulletin is a good place to look for volunteer opportunities. My church is always looking for people to help prepare and serve meals or otherwise volunteer at the homeless shelters.

        They also send groups to the basketball arena to work at one of the beer and snack booths during ball games and concerts – the church gets a percent of all the sales and the volunteers get great experience pouring Coke from a soda fountain, which I realized was possibly preparing me for my next career.

        I also got to see Mark Knopfler opening for someone else and halfway checked an item off my bucket list. It doesn’t count as seeing Dire Straits perform, but it was close.

      2. Anna*

        One of my many duties is to find volunteer opportunities for the students where I work. I use the local HandsOn calendar as well as VolunteerMatch. The nice thing about HandsOn is they have recurring volunteer opportunities listed so you can start building a relationship with one organization you’re particularly interested in.

    5. MaryMary*

      Try using social media to keep in contact with organizations you’re interested in volunteering with. I’ve come across a couple last minute opportunities through Twitter or Facebook that I wouldn’t have seen otherwise, even though I was a registered volunteer with the organization.

    6. SevenSixOne*

      I ran into more than one organization that wanted a huge and specific time commitment– like 20+ hours a week on a rigid schedule for a year! If your org needs that much of my time, PAY ME FOR IT.

      1. Sharon*

        I don’t entirely agree with this. I volunteer that much time to my animal rescue organization happily because it’s my passion and makes me happy. However, you can’t ask that kind of commitment from a brand new volunteer right off the streets. People need to start small and gather more responsibility on their own pace and terms. So I agree with you on that part of it.

      2. Traveler*

        I hate this too – but volunteer positions can be highly coveted depending on where they are and what the benefits are. They also can require a lot of training on the part of the org, and many people take them for the exact reason it was suggested in this post. If you’re looking for a job, and volunteer to “keep busy/look good” and then as soon as you get a job, quit, it can mean lots of wasted time and energy on the orgs part. That’s why some are so rigid.

    7. Felicia*

      I know the volunteer job I do have had roughly 100 applicants for 4 openings, because it is relevant to my career, and it is a pretty competitive career. I’m glad I have it, but there are 96 other people who didn’t get it, and I’m sure at least a third of them were perfectly qualified to. A lot of people (not necessarily here) , think you can get career relevant volunteering just by walking in and asking for it. For me there was a resume, cover letter and interview process, just like a job.

  6. Stephanie*

    I just finished a class and I don’t think it’s made me that much mor marketable. It’s given me something to talk about (if it’s relevant), but I don’t think there’s a lot of value added.

    It’s been a mixed bag as to employers giving any weight to my volunteer work. This could be because I’m in a more technical area, but I get a lot of “oh, that’s nice” to volunteer work. I’ve had trouble finding relevant volunteer work that isn’t STEM outreach (which I don’t think is taken too seriously by a potential employer). Of course, the alternative is to say I’m spending all my time on Indeed.

    1. Adam*

      I think local culture impacts it too. I live in a city where volunteer work seems to be valued highly, and while it’s never been relevant to my job search it’s always been a plus one at least. In the case of non-profits in particular they seem to like seeing it.

    2. AnotherAlison*

      Stephanie, this is just an idea, but my son’s high school participates in FIRST Robotics, and they have mentors who are actually adult engineers helping with team as technical advisors. To me, something like that would be a notch above STEM outreach. It wouldn’t necessarily knock my socks of as an interviewer, but it would be a concrete design/build project that you could discuss. Now, robotics is way outside my comfort zone, but you find other similar types of projects at high schools with pre-engineering programs.

      1. Judy*

        There are many robotics competitions around, LEGO has one, and I think there’s one called VEX too. Many schools have teams for the other competitions, even our GS council has a robotic “troop” that fields several teams to competitions. I’ve been at one competition that had 40 teams from the surrounding area, and a local company had grant money to give kits to novice teams.

        I’ve suggested to several early career female engineers that volunteering with those types of teams can be a way to meet others around the city who do the same type of work.

    3. Traveler*

      I think classes can be relevant if they give you a practical skill or a certification you didn’t have before, or network you with people that can help you land a job. If you just always like 15th century teapot design, and take a class in that… not so helpful (not saying you did this! but I’ve known people who think it will help them somehow)

  7. Carolum*

    #3 – Highlighting your leadership involvement in the community might help? Depends on your industry.

    Good news for longer-term unemployed is that there are now fewer unemployed people per opening than any time since the recession.

    #4 – I wouldn’t put too much stress on it, though it’s good that he’s trying to fit the culture.

  8. Chris80*

    #2 – As someone who has both worked and gone to school full time, there have been periods when I was struggling to keep my head above water in school while I was excelling at my job. Please try not to make work related decisions based on someone’s school performance – good or bad. There are some great performers that probably never really excelled at the school thing for varying reasons, and some mediocre performers who probably breezed through their classes with high grades. It’s just that most of the time, bosses don’t know anything about that part of their employees’ lives.

    1. Long time lurker!*

      Agreed 100%.

      Heck, performance in school isn’t even a good indicator of how you would do as a professor or teacher! I was a good but not amazing student – lots of A- and B+ marks – mostly due to my tendency to procrastinate and not take my schoolwork seriously enough. I ended up getting a terminal degree and now I teach as well as work in my primary career, and by all accounts I am an excellent professor. I am a much better professor than I was a student.

      1. Anna*

        + a million How many of us have had professors we know were great students but are lousy at teaching?

        1. Callie*

          I’ve thought about this a lot (my specialty is teacher training) and I really think that the very best teachers are people who are good at what they do but have had to work hard and possibly struggle a little bit to get there. I say this because I have seen so many people who have coasted through school and done well end up being teachers whose only solutions to student problems are “just do it again” or “try harder” which is usually unhelpful. But a teacher who has had to try various strategies to succeed themselves is often better at thinking up various strategies to help their students succeed.

    2. Not So NewReader*

      This. I know so many people who excel at their jobs but just do not do well in an academic environment. Some folks are just “hands on” people, to have to process a hypothetical situation (see it in their minds and no where else) is just too much for them.

      I would also like to point out that the student/employee should know who the teacher is and still signed up for the course. This person is going to have a raised awareness of how his/her participation in the course could impact their job/career. (Information in the course work would be of value to their careers/jobs.) To me, this means that very seldom will you encounter a real problem. If someone is lagging behind, I would see if you can talk to that person. It could be that the babysitter quit, or maybe a family member suddenly became ill – this type of thing could cause the person not to be able to keep up.

      OTH, some people may know by the second or third class that this is just not doable for them and they may withdraw on their own.

      Echoing what Alison said, I think that if you make it your habit to tell all of these employee-students that you keep school separate from work would be a good preemptive strategy that would probably set everyone at ease. Let them know where things are at before they ask or before there is any type of concern.
      This is one of those times where statements of the obvious can be reassuring. You may find it helpful to say “I am here to help you learn this material, that is my job.”
      People appreciate knowing where they stand. And they really appreciate it if they are told without having to ask the question.

    3. Kate M*

      Yeah, am I the only one who sees this as unethical? The OP has already stated that a student doing well in the classroom has a positive impact on their job. Maybe unethical is a little harsh, but certainly unfair. The coworkers who have the money and extra time to take a class might get a bump how their work performance is viewed, even if it has nothing to do with work? This seems like employers keeping track of what employees do in their spare time, which we all know by now is legal, but certainly probably not the proper or effective way to manage employees.

      OP, I would definitely not only tell the employees that their classroom work has absolutely no effect on their job, but actually follow through on it, whether the impact is good or bad.

      The only possible exception to this I think would be if it was a genuine requisite for the job, like training you have to fulfill on your own time or something. But that’s not the sense I get from this question.

      1. fposte*

        Yes, I’m not crazy about that. As is not uncommon in a university, several of my staff are students, and sometimes they end up in a course I teach. I hadn’t thought about it until this question was asked here, but I really don’t mix the two.

        I could see it splashing over if I found out something horrible or wonderful about the person generally in class, but actual class performance is its own thing separate from job performance.

      2. OP #2*

        It is a little hazy in the “requisite” area. The classes are not a strict requisite for the job, but the skillsets involved in the class are required for advancement.

        People from other employers take these classes because they are the quickest route to a promotion (and I have had a lot of feedback that good grades in the class sequence almost always leads to a promotion in other workplaces).

        1. Kate M*

          Then I would probably say to treat these coworkers exactly how you would if they were not your students, and you were hiring or promoting them without a teacher’s knowledge.

          So for example, if it’s something that they include on their resume or would report to a manager in order to be promoted, they would likely put that they took the class and got X grade. That’s the only information you should be working with, I think. I don’t think you should take into account that maybe they turned in a paper late once, or missed a few classes, if they were still able to pull out a good grade (since that’s the only information another hiring manager would have). If they take the class and do poorly, then they might not decide to put it on their resume at all. If that’s not something that they would share with other hiring managers, then I would feel uncomfortable with you using that information.

          I know Alison has said before that employers don’t and shouldn’t only use the information that you put on the resume (i.e. they can call a former manager that you didn’t list as a reference, or they can listen to feedback from shared contacts in the industry about you), but somehow I think this is different (although please correct me if I’m wrong). This doesn’t directly relate to job performance in my opinion, even if it does tie in to promotion potential.

          1. Judy*

            Well, at least when I completed my master’s, my company paid for it, and I did have to turn in my grade report. The agreement we signed said that if we didn’t get an A or B in the class, we would have to pay back the course. So each semester, I had to request my manager approve my course choices were valid for my job, and had to turn in to him my grades at the end.

        2. fposte*

          I’m rethinking this now that you’ve given more information, especially since it sounds like you’re talking about courses teaching skills that are directly relevant to promotion.

          What I think is kosher is to talk about the skills, not the overall failure or success; “Jane failed my class” is not mentionable in its own right, but “Jane was never able to produce successful code” (for a programming job) or “Jane stopped handing in assignments and never acknowledged my questions” could be.

        3. Jamie*

          But you said people who took your classes and does well it helps them at work. If it was about those skills why does it matter if they learned them in your class or if they acquired them elsewhere?

          Maybe it’s just the wording, but if you’re giving a personal bias to those who take your class and perform to your satisfaction that’s an issue – I’m not sure why you’re factoring that in rather than just evaluating the job they are doing.

          1. OP #2*

            It doesn’t matter where they get the skills (I teach internal workshops too). The classes just happen to be the most readily available avenue in the area to get that training. It really is pretty uncommon to have co-workers in my classes (maybe 5% of all studnets?).

            And, we honestly cannot afford to pay people with these skillsets so most employees leave within a year or so after completing the classes and getting some work experience. (That’s why the rest of us adjunct teach. We need the money.) We have never really hired someone directly with all of these skills, just trained our own through workshops and formal classes.

      3. LJL*

        I wouldn’t say “unethical,” but I would be very nervous about this if I were the instructor/supervisor, to the point of asking the student to sign up for a different instructor if possible.

        1. Dr. Speakeasy*

          I would be very surprised if your university doesn’t have a policy about this and if they don’t they absolutely should. We usually think of the conflict of interest language as applying to romantic relationships but it is often framed as “prior relationship” and “power differential.” These apply to both you and the manager – but in the manager’s case the conflict of interest is that much worse. Could a student fairly evaluate her if she’s also their boss? Would she be willing to fail a member of her team? Does the prior work relationships mean that you’ll favor your team members? Do team members just have more opportunity for contact with the instructor than others? And can students feel fully comfortable engaging as students who need to feel comfortable asking for help in order to learn instead of worker bees who need to impress their manager? I would have kittens if this was going on in my department.

          1. OP #2*

            I am certain the university and the department put up with this because we are their only options for teaching these courses. (Or at least the only options short of creating some tenure track positions in a related department.)

        2. OP #2*

          I’m not only the only instructor in this area employed by my university, the nearest school offering the same program is about 4 hours away and does not currently have an instructor for it (adjunct or tenured).

      4. Jamie*

        Yeah, am I the only one who sees this as unethical? The OP has already stated that a student doing well in the classroom has a positive impact on their job. Maybe unethical is a little harsh, but certainly unfair.

        It bothered me immediately, too. I am reserving judgement to see if there are circumstances I’m not taking into account, but the favorable to good students thing isn’t just putting them ahead of bad students, but students who didn’t need the class or took it with someone out of the OP’s circle.

        1. OP #2*

          Yeah, that was part of my question. That maybe we need to stop paying attention to classroom performance altogether. It seemed like less of an issue when co-workers were doing well in the classes. But having a contrast has made it more clear that educational performance might need to be completely ignored.

          And really the issue is putting these students ahead of workers who take no classes at all. If someone came to us from outside with these skills, we would be ecstatic!

  9. Apple22Over7*

    #4 – At first I was surprised by Alison’s advice and disagreed, but the more I think about it, the more I agree. OP – your friend should concentrate on putting together a look which is professional, polished and as fashionable/high-end as she can. If she can do that whilst wearing all/mainly black – great! But if she’s stressing about the correct outfit and the black outfit is going to look less put-together than an alternative, non-black outfit, I’d ditch the black. The ideal here is polished, professional and well put-together – not just black for black’s sake.

    1. KJR*

      Well stated. Just an idea – how about adding some gray in there to offset the black – a nod to the culture, but you realize you’re not yet part of the team. How about a black suit with gray tie or shirt?

    2. Celeste*

      Definitely agree–go with your best, and if that’s black, then fine. Do not invest in something that fits their culture just for the interview, though.

    3. Betsy*

      I agree completely with this. When interviewing, a professional, polished look is Thing One. Any culture nods you can make are a step less important. It is not worth buying new clothes for a single interview, and trying to figure out whether you can turn that black T-shirt into a professional look is a pathway to despair.

    4. Bwmn*

      I agree that putting together an all black but sloppy look would not be as good as presenting a polished/put together not all black look.

      Also – as the OP mentioned that the interviewer is a man – if this means putting together an all black suit, button down shirt and tie – then I’d really want to be sure that the jacket/shirt/tie all work together well regarding shades of black. Which I understand might be more difficult/expensive.

      That being said, if it’s more of a headache of some last minute shopping/dry cleaning – then I’d probably try to achieve the look if possible. I don’t think that it’s like showing up in scrubs, but more like if I was applying to work at a fashion label trying to include some of that label’s clothing into my interview outfit. That being said, have a good, polished, ironed option B ready to go in case the all black doesn’t work out.

        1. Jamie*

          And that was the argument I had with one of my son’s when it was what he wanted to wear for confirmation.

          It was sharp looking actually, but not venue appropriate.

          1. Bwmn*

            In this case, it clearly would be venue appropriate – but just make sure all those blacks match! (shade, texture, shine, etc.) Trying to do a Frankenstein monochromatic look could easily go poorly. And if this is a company that is style oriented, that might play far worse.

    5. Chriama*

      I think it really depends on what the company does and what the position is. People mentioned makeup stores above, where the “look” is part of the job. If you were applying to be a salesperson, I would say go for the black ensemble. Corporate office? Wear a suit.

      When in doubt I would go for the professional look only because you usually get brownie points for looking like you want to make a good impression.

  10. Alexa*

    #2 I would also add that even if you and your co-worker are adjuncts in the same department, it still may not be acceptable to share your students’ grades with her (depending on your university’s policies).

    Lots of places only the instructor and advising (i.e., students’ designated advisor) have access to students’ grades. You can talk about students in general terms with a colleague, or about ways to improve your instructional style to reach specific types of students, but I would be careful about discussing specific individuals’ performance.

    This is particularly the case if your co-worker is their boss – means they potentially didn’t sign up for a course with her because they didn’t want their performance to adversely impact them.

    I teach at a university, and an ancillary issue we run into is when student athletes’ coaches want to know their grades. The reason coaches don’t know is that they’re actually not authorized to access that information and students have to sign a specific release to share that information.

    1. OP #2*

      In most cases, we can share general performance issues, but not specific grades. My school gives students the ability to opt out of this though (in both directions).

      So, I can say, “Student X is having trouble in my class because they don’t get this concept, or they are not turning work, or they are struggling on quizzes.” but not “Student X is getting a 56 in my class because they scored 38 on the midterm.” Though, if I remember right, I cannot say, “Student X is not showing up to class.”

      Her courses are actually strict prerequisites for my courses, so everyone I have has had her as a teacher already.

  11. Traveler*

    #3 This might depress you all more, but if you’re job hunting and its obvious a lot of places where you can volunteer won’t want you either depending on the volunteer work. It’s sometimes very intensive to train a volunteer, go through all the paperwork, etc. and if they are just going to quit when they get a job in a couple months its not worth it. It may be better to look for volunteer opportunities that are for a specific project or time period.

  12. Diane*

    In relation to #1

    I had an interview earlier this week where it was in person. I didn’t have a phone interview. 15 minutes before the interview, I was given 5 questions on a piece of paper that would be asked. I was to adhere only to those 5 questions, and informed there was no room to ask anything further. The questions were very specific to the position and organization, and I couldn’t even answer 1 of them due to how specific it was. The interview itself was a panel of 3 people. They never changed facial expression, never looked up from the paper, just wrote what I was saying. I finished the 5 questions in 8 minutes. That was the entirety of the interview and interaction as a candidate. Besides the job description which I applied to online, I didn’t get a briefing of the job, expectations, golas, etc. The 3 interviewers weren’t even from the department I would have worked in. It was by far the most bizarre interview. They did not sell me on the job – I was relieved when I got the rejection notification!

    1. Graciosa*

      I completely agree about this interview, which was terrible. I would have been tempted to bow out before they sent the rejection! However – and this is a tiny point not just applicable to Diane’s comment – I am surprised by all the discussion of selling candidates on the job.

      I try to share information about the job – the good and the bad – so that the candidate will be able to make an informed decision if we extend an offer. However, I don’t think I have ever tried to “sell” even an outstanding candidate on the job. I want employees who will continue to be happy to be there and feel they “got a good deal” even after the new car smell has worn off.

      1. Jess*

        I think by “sell”, the context is exactly what you mention – share the good and the bad about the job. By giving a complete overview of the job, the candidate can make an informed decision.
        I wouldn’t think of selling a job in the same regard as selling a car – typically we think of salesmen as not always being forthcoming, and its up to the buyer to find any issues. When not given the opportunity to ask questions about the job, or not getting a job description, you’re shopping for the car without having had the opportunity to look under the hood or see if it has any scratches or dents. Probably a bad analogy, but my $0.02.

      2. Joey*

        Haven’t you ever had someone who wanted more money than you could afford? I sell extra hard in those circumstances. Let me tell you about all of the other things besides money that you’ll find valuable. Sometimes its great hours, gaining great experience, gaining access to key people, other times its things like all of the other benefits that might make up for a lower salary than you want.

      3. LBK*

        I think it would depend on the candidate – if there’s a great candidate that you can tell seems iffy, you probably do more to emphasize the perks and benefits of the position. But as Jess said, even just giving a full explanation of what the position entails “sells” it – more information always gives someone more chance of accepting, whether it’s good or bad. Think about it, are you more likely to buy a TV that’s just in a blank box with “TV” printed on the side, or one that lists all the specs and has a picture of the TV on the front?

    2. Tracy*

      Hiya –
      I perhaps did not state this clearly enough in the question. I have managed and interviewed a lot, and I believe an interview is for both sides to evaluate the other.

      Before I take a job, I do my own analysis of the position requirements and how much I think my experience matches.
      I am finding lately that the interviewers see the interview as just the company interviewing a candidate, and not the candidate interviewing the company – maybe they think that isn’t necessary and all candidates would love to work there?

      Which as Alison states, is bad interviewing. I am just wondering if it is a trend.

  13. MT*

    For #3

    One of the concerns with the long term unemployed is that if they accept a job that is below their last job that they will leave as soon as they find a job that better fits their experience. We had just filled a senior engineer position. We had tons of candidates apply. We had one that had the 3-5 years’ experience and the job would be a step up for them. And we had one that had 8-10 years and previously held a manager position. The position called for 3 years experience. The second candidate would be losing roughly 12k a year from his last job. We struggled with do we hire someone who has more than enough experience to fill the job and who could leave at any time. Or do we go with someone who’s tenure is better suited to grow into the job and wouldn’t be looking for the next step right away?

    1. MT*

      The manager canidate had been out of work for just over a year, while the other candidate currently had a job.

    2. AnotherAlison*

      1. I don’t consider 3 years of experience a senior engineer. I work in a field that requires professional engineering licensure (obv not all do), and you need 4 years experience just to get your license. Seems like you might not get people with ~10 yrs experience applying if you called it a mid-level job instead.

      2. Maybe the more experienced candidate was not a good fit for management, and wants a technical job, even with a pay cut.

      3. If you are basing the $12k per year only on his stated salary on your application, you are not considering benefits, schedule, location, advancement opportunities, etc. that he may be weighing in his decision.

      I think it’s worth talking to candidates and actually understanding what they’re looking for. Some will lie anyway, but if the guy says he hated mgmt and is happy being an engineer and individual contributer, he might not be the flight risk that you think it is.

      1. MT*

        1. In my field, a senior engineer title is given to someone who can handle a single facility on their own. There are no licensing involved. Most of our work is in house project related. The senior position is a 2-3 year position before the manager postion.

        2 & 3. We did give the person an interview. We could tell from their answers that they was looking for a role with a lot more responsibility, but they was aware of the postion requirements. They had brought up during the small talk, that they had applied to other manager positions with other companies, but in our field those positions are usually filled by an in house senior engineer.

        Our interviews are verry informal and tend to rely heavily on small talk. Most interviews consist of an hour facility walk around then lunch out. We learn more about the person in informal interview settings than we do in formal ones.

        1. AnotherAlison*

          With the extra info from the candidate, yeah, I’d definitely lean towards the less-experienced candidate. It doesn’t sound like your position is what the other guy is really looking for.

          1. MT*

            We really liked the guy with the most experience. But we knew deep down that he would jump ship as soon as he found a position more suited to his experience.

      2. Joey*

        Depends what kind of experience. What would be wrong with 3-5 yrs of experience doing sr.engineer level work?

        1. MT*

          The senior title is more of a pay reward for entry level engineers who have taken on more responsibility.

        2. AnotherAlison*

          With MT’s additional explanation, it’s a completely different type of work than the engineering work in my field.

          The sticking point in my field is that a “senior” engineer is usually a lead discipline engineer on a project and has to stamp the drawings, and wouldn’t be able to because they wouldn’t be licensed. At 3 years, you also would have likely only worked on a couple projects (power plant or process plant design/build jobs). You wouldn’t have designed the critical systems on your own yet or managed the multi-million dollar procurement specs yet, so you really wouldn’t have the judgement to sign off on those designs at the 3-year mark. Like I said, totally different field than what MT is talking about, but there are real reasons why it applies in my line of work.

    3. Graciosa*

      For me, these are situations where the individual candidate’s explanation of interest can really make the difference.

      If the former manager had credible reasons for wanting to take a step back into an individual contributor role, it makes more sense to take the person with more skills and a better understanding. Where it looks like that person would only take the role with reluctant resentment while continuing to search for something they believe is more suited to their status, it’s a no-brainer in the other direction.

      The trick is making a confident decision that you’re not hiring the latter doing a good job masquerading as the former.

      1. MT*

        Speaking with friends in other lines of work, the recession killed a lot of middle management jobs. Those middle managers who have been out of work now for a year are now competing with people who now have the same entry level requirements for the jobs that are now being filled. Manager has 4 years entry level and 2 years being a manager, but has been out of work for a year. The person who they had managed now may have the same number of entry level years as an in house candidate applying for the same manager job. Do you take someone off the street who has a little more experience or do you take the person with less experience but more in house experience and just hire in someone new for the entry level position? It is really a hard job market still.

    4. Mike C.*

      Anyone can leave at any time. If you’re so concerned about it, ask the candidate directly.

      1. MT*

        Yes, people are free to come and go as they please. But a person who is qualified for the job and who is qualified for the job one or two levels up is more likely to leave than the person who is only quailified for the current position.

        1. MT*

          Also the person who is over qualified is more likey to get bored with the position faster than the person who is growing into the job.

      2. MT*

        what job candidate in their right mind would say, I’m only applying for this job till I can find a better one. I know that every job seeker is already thinking that.

      3. De Minimis*

        I think that’s a big part of the problem, though, if there’s any question about a candidate they often are not even interviewed if you have a large enough number of candidates whose resumes don’t indicate any potential issues.

  14. LBK*

    Somewhat off topic: is there a footnote missing on #4? I see the * after “per se” but it doesn’t connect to anything.

    (Sorry for the unrelated question, this is totally just a grammar peeve of mine like unclosed parentheses.)

    1. cecilhungry*

      I noticed that, too! I assume it’s because there was a note in the original email–probably clarifying the company–that Allison cut out when it got published, but the * didn’t get removed. I looked for a footnote too, though.

    2. stebuu*

      Its irritating to grammar sticklers, that’s for sure.

      (grammar sticklers see what i did there)

      1. LBK*

        In the words of Strong Bad: “Ohhh, if it’s supposed to be possessive, it’s just ‘i-t-s’, but if it’s supposed to be a contraction then it’s ‘i-t-apostrophe-s’! Scalawag.”

  15. Robin*

    #2: I think everyone’s making good points about why there should be a firewall, but shouldn’t it matter *why* a person failed the class? I could see having very different feelings depending on whether they a) had trouble framing a coherent sentence in a paper, or b) sat in the back of the class and was disruptive or c) blew off class entirely, or d) really tried but had trouble with a concept that’s not really relevant to their working life.

    1. OP #2*

      Since my class is upper division, I’ve realized that students pretty much only fail my class because something else is going on that prevents them from focusing, e.g. they lost their job part way through the class, were ill, had a death in the family, had to leave the country, etc.

      But getting to this issue can be very difficult, especially if the student simply stops communicating. (Which, unfortunately, is often the case when a student starts struggling.)

  16. OP #2*

    So, I also was wondering about this question from a different perspective, which is helping the struggling student.

    Since we want our co-workers to succeed with their classes, can their supervisor approach them as a supervisor and say, “If you are having difficultly with your workload and courseload right now, is there anything we can do at work to help you until you finish the semester?”

    Or as a peer at a higher level, but not their instructor, can I approach them in a similar way? (I have some control over their task assignments.)

    Basically, give them the opportunity to take on less or make other adjustments, similar to how a high performing student would be given the opportunity to take on more.

    To add to all of this, all of these co-workers who take these classes are doing so on tuition reimbursement, so we almost always eventually know their grades in the course. And if they do fail, it is going to be very costly to them personally.

    1. fposte*

      I think you can say that to all students taking the course when they start. I think it would be discomfiting to say it only to the struggling students well into the course.

    2. Joey*

      As long as you’re not sacrificing the work the person was hired to do I don’t see why you can’t make adjustments that would help someone struggling In school.

      But I don’t think if you’re talking about reducing workload a a way to allow someone to concentrate more on school that’s more of a philosophical question that probably needs to be answered above the supervisor. Many companies don’t want supervisors reducing the workload of employees for any reason that’s not work related.

    3. Pip*

      If I understand you right, you are talking about giving people who are struggling with their studies less to do at work. In that case, I think the initiative needs to come from the student/co-worker, not the teacher/supervisor. You can, as a teacher, say to the student that they need to put some more effort into their studies if they want a certain grade, but then it should be up to the student to act on that.

  17. Riki*

    3 – I’d include “taking a class” here, but it depends upon the type of class. Is it something related to your line of work and/or skills development? Is it a one day seminar or a full semester (or part of a longer certificate or degree program)? If it was one day thing, then can you describe how you’ve been putting what you’ve learned to use? The key is to always relate what you did/are doing to the job you want to get. JMO, of course.

    1. Robin*

      Plus, if it’s the right kind of class, it might be a good networking opportunity.

  18. Ellie*

    I’m long term unemployed… I freelance, volunteer, take classes, etc. and I still can’t find a job!

  19. matcha123*

    With regards to long-term unemployment, this is something that’s put such a strain on my family.
    Parent can’t find a job, so does volunteer work while job searching. ManPower and other similar companies don’t pass on job opportunities because “You have a Masters and you probably wouldn’t like it.” This leads to no jobs. And the volunteering becomes a job that takes money from your pocket because all of the other volunteers are stay-at-home moms who live off of their husbands’ earnings and don’t have a problem putting down a lot of money for the PTA, the school’s XYZ, etc.

    And despite making lots of contacts, none are willing or able to help with jobs because their fields are completely different. And of course, the clock is ticking and the time unemployed continues to rise.

    I really wish the people who do the hiring would pay attention to the results and real skills in front of them rather than the number of years someone’s been searching for a job.

  20. A.*

    My job recently hired someone who’d been unemployed for two years. Needless to say, I am so happy for her. I was unemployed for 11 months before I got my job. Keep the faith, people! Stay encouraged.

  21. kas*

    1. This has been my experience with just about every company I’ve interviewed with. They jump right into “tell me about yourself” and keep going with the questions. At the end they ask for questions so I have to ask all the company and position related questions. It’s like they don’t care about choosing an equal fit. There’s no real conversation in most interviews, it’s just question, answer, question, answer …

  22. Befuddled Squirrel*

    #4 – Yes, your friend should wear all black! I work at a company with a strong brand. If a candidate did that, it would come across as a positive thing as long as they seemed genuinely informed and enthusiastic and went on to show they were well qualified.

  23. Adjunction*

    No way would I ever teach a co-worker or subordinate in one of my classes. That is just ripe for way too many issues at work and at school. I’d ask that they enroll in another class.

  24. Tara T.*

    M.T. writes about a choice between the over-qualified candidate who had been out of work for more than a year; compared to a minimally-qualified candidate for whom the job would be “a step up,” and that the minimally-qualified candidate might stick around longer. That seems to be the reasoning of some hiring managers, but there is a problem with that reasoning, because if the over-qualified candidate was out of work for more than a year and his job hunt is already taking so long, he would probably still not be able to find another job any time soon – therefore, both candidates might be equally likely to stick around.

  25. Sarah*

    “and is stressing about finding an appropriate all black ensemble”

    Go to literally any store, dude.

  26. RCA*

    “Hiring managers are generally much better at hiring for their teams; HR people function more as initial gatekeepers.”

    When I was trained to identify certain types of objects, I was started off by being exposed again and again to confirmed examples, all slightly different but essentially the same. This allowed me over time to identify what parts were the correct ones to focus on to make a correct identification. Then, as my skill at that grew, I was exposed to confirmed examples that were more and more different, until I could see what they had in common that allowed them to all be of the same type. Then on into a mixture of confirmed and non-confirmed, and then finally into the jumbled mass of the market, since identifying blind is the hardest.

    So I suppose it seems strange to me to divide HR up in the opposite way, since in my mind, the person who has to make the initial decision about qualifications has the hardest job, not the easiest.

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Nah, the early stages are about removing people who obviously aren’t a strong fit, which is pretty easy to do, and ID’ing the people who match basic requirements. The much harder part is in later stages, where you’re looking at more nuanced questions.

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