horrible boss’s farewell party, substitutes for cover letters, and more

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

1. Asking job candidates to do a short writing prompt instead of a cover letter

I’m currently writing a hiring ad for an entry level customer support position. In the past, we’ve required applicants to submit a cover letter in the body of their email, but I’m considering changing that requirement. If applicants remember to include a cover letter at all, there attempts are perfunctory and bland at best. Even the better ones struggle to capture their skills in a compelling way. I’m reluctant to continue asking applicants to invest time in a tool that doesn’t help me determine who is the best person for the job.

I was thinking that perhaps a short answer response to a relevant question (e.g., what’s the most valuable quality that you can bring to Chocolate Teapots, Inc.?) might yield more desirable responses. I realize that the best applicants should be able to craft a cover letter without being teed up, but it’s just not happening. What do you think?

Well, on one hand, I hear you that the generic, form-letter-type cover letters that so many applicants send aren’t useful, especially when they just summarize the contents of their resume (which is why awesome, customized cover letters stand out so much and why I recommend them so strongly here). But I really dislike the idea of asking applicants to write an essay response at this stage, because the reality is that you’re going to be rejecting 90% of them without even a phone screen (assuming you get a couple hundred applicants, which is pretty typical), and I’m not fond of asking people to jump through special hoops when so many of them are just going to get rejected pretty quickly anyway.

So I’d suggest a compromise instead. Say something like: “We pay a lot of attention to what you choose to tell us about yourself in your cover letter and hope that you’ll use it to talk about why you’d excel at this job particularly, including things that might not be obvious to us from your resume.” That way you’re leaving it up to candidates how much extra work to do, but you’re making it clear what you’re interested in. You’ll learn a lot from who bothers to do this and who doesn’t, as well as how they go about it and what they tell you.

2. What’s up with video interviews?

I was wondering what you think of using “digital interviews” for the first round of interviews. Basically, I had to download an app on my ipad and then video myself answering typical interview questions, with no interviewer there to talk to or respond to. The main issue that I have is that this process feels very awkward and strange (when the interview process already feels unnatural). Plus, I can imagine people who don’t have access to a computer with a webcam or a tablet due to a variety of issues.

Yeah, some companies are starting to use these and I agree with you about why they suck. I don’t think they’re ever going to become something the majority of companies use because too many hiring managers will dislike them — in large part because they don’t allow for the follow-up questions and the give and take that are part of the most useful interviews — but I do think you’re going to see more companies start using them.

3. Can I ask for flexibility in my horrible schedule?

I was hired part-time last August for a position that required me to work weekend evenings from 5pm-1am. There is only one other person who knows how to do this job, and they work Monday-Thursday. At the time of accepting the position I was desperate for a job, and while this job in particular wasn’t exactly what I wanted to be doing, it was somewhat in my field.

The problem is that I am beginning to get burnt out only working weekends. I am in my late 20s, and have a lot of friends with full-time jobs in the city that I live.(Something I would be grateful to obtain as well.) Anyway, my friends relax and hang out, mostly on the weekends, and with my schedule I never see them. My family lives a few hours away, and also work during weekdays also with free time on the weekends. I feel like I have lost a sense of community in the town I live since I also do not feel as if I have any community at my workplace.(While the organization I work with is a very team oriented one, I work independently within it.) I think that for my well-being I need to change my schedule, but I am not sure if it is appropriate to even ask since I was hired for working weekends only, AND accepted. I do not mind working weekends, but never having one off is exhausting. Is asking to change a schedule something I should even consider, or is it better to just suck it up and keep on going until I can find something that better suits me? I can’t afford to quit this job, but I am also feeling as if I’m letting life slip me by too fast, and losing friends and communities over it.

You can certainly ask, but if you’re the only person working that shift and you were hired specifically as their weekend/evening person, this might simply be the job. If you were new to the role, I’d caution you against already trying to change your schedule, but you’ve been there 10 months; it’s not crazy to ask if there’s a little flexibility. That said, I doubt they’ll be able to give you as much flexibility as it sounds like you’d like; one weekend off every few months probably isn’t going to cut it for you, and more than that sounds like it would eat into exactly what they hired you for.

4. Do I have to attend my horrible boss’s farewell party?

If you have been invited to your boss’s farewell party who has literally made your life a living hell, what should you do? I’ve reported her to HR, they reprimanded her, my coworker’s corroborated everything I said, and she got another job with a promotion. She even stupidly left her offer letter out for everyone to see her salary. I gave them 10 pages of documentation on her unforgivable acts, including not doing her job, but she got another job with our company. I’m thinking not saying anything is taking the high road as long as I don’t badmouth her. What do you think?

It really depends on how noticeable your absence will be (not attending a 5-person party will be more noticeable than not attending a 50-person party, as will not attending one during work hours versus after work). If it’s small and during work hours, suck it up and go, and consider it your own personal celebration that she won’t be your manager anymore.

5. Blog dislikes

I saw your mention last week of Ask a Manager’s seventh anniversary. Congratulations! What do you like and dislike most about writing this blog?

Ooooh. I love almost everything about this site and its commenters, but I’ll confess that there’s one thing that reliably drives me crazy in discussions about the posts: people assuming that their experience is universal and arguing that forcefully. In other words, they’ve seen some employers do X, so they assume all employers do X and advise people accordingly, in the strongest of terms. X tends to be something negative, which can lead to remarkably bad advice for people when they’re dealing with employers who don’t do X. For instance: “Never tell your employer that you’re dissatisfied with your job, because they’ll just tell you to suck it up or even fire you.” But at a good employer, this will sometimes lead to your problems being solved. Not always — but enough that it’s crazy to make a blanket statement like that as if it’s fact. (We saw this the other day, with some people arguing that you should never give more than a couple weeks notice, which is just not backed up by other people’s experience.)

I’m all for pointing out that some employers operate certain ways, but you’ve got to allow for other possibilities too rather than speaking in absolutes. You lose credibility and weaken your advice tremendously when you don’t do that.

{ 197 comments… read them below }

  1. Stephanie

    #1: Indeed’s job postings contain small tasks for the cover letters such as “In your cover letter, address your skills and fit for the job as well as briefly what you think are the most important aspects of quality assurance are.” Wasn’t anything too tasking and helped direct the cover letter. Maybe you could try something like this?

    #4: If it’s during working hours and your absence will be noticed, I’d go with a smile on your face. The motivation behind the smile could be “I’m so glad I’ll never have to work for you again.”

    1. Jessa

      Exactly, your happy demeanour can always be “soooo glad to see the back of you.”

    2. Gene

      And if you are asked to speak, here’s what you say, “The workplace will be very different without here.”

      1. Gene

        I forgot what this site does with certain symbols. fixed below.

        And if you are asked to speak, here’s what you say, “The workplace will be very different without supervisor here.”

  2. eemusings

    #3: My first full time job involved working weekends (every single week) which I accepted because it was an opportunity to learn and grow, being the sole person covering during those hours. Eventually (for all the reasons you mention) it started to wear on me; I wanted to work Mon-Fri, and 9-5. There weren’t many roles at the company with those hours though because of the nature of the work – for example a M-F 12-8pm job came up but I wasn’t super sold on those hours either so didn’t apply. Eventually I accepted a business-hours job elsewhere (and I know it was hard for them to find a replacement for me because of the schedule). I guess I would say be prepared to look elsewhere, but it can’t hurt to ask in the meantime!

    1. Cruciatus

      Similar story here. It was one thing to work weekends, but another to work 2:30-11:oopm every. weekend! But it did eventually lead to a better job within the same company (but it took 20 something months). On Fridays I would get so irritated at all the normal-houred people wishing me a good weekend as they left at 4:30. “I’ll be here, dammit!” I was full-time and my company offers vacation time so that helped a bit after a year. It seems this may not be an option for you. But definitely ask about having a weekend off. What if you were sick? How would they cover then? Surely there is some contingency plan in place that could be applied if you were unable to make it to work for whatever reason. A break just once ever few months might help with the burn out until maybe another position opens up at your company or maybe another one will catch your fancy. If it helps, many of us have been there and know how it is. There are better hours in your future!

      1. Amanda

        I work the weekends, and I feel the same way when people (even my supervisor!) tells me to have a good weekend. I think even having one weekend off a month would actually be better than none, but another issue I have is that I’m not really gaining any other valuable skills in the process of working this job, it’s a necessary job for the company I work at, and important, BUT it’s the same thing every night I am there. I think working the grind while trying to find something that betters suits me really is the best option. I have been looking insdie the company as well, because while I hate the schedule, the company isn’t bad at all.

    2. Felicia

      I actually just accepted a job that’s 2pm – 10 pm, Thursday – Monday, because I had no other option. I’m already worried about getting burned out from those hours and never seeing my friends/family. It’s an ok job, but not exactly what I want to be doing, which I think might make it worse. I think I will continue looking for the first couple weeks/months, pretending I’m not employed. But when you were interviewing other places, did you just say you were leaving because you wanted to work Monday-Friday, 9-5? I think that’s a good reason to leave, and to leave after only a few months, or at least understandable.

      1. Cruciatus

        Let me just say there are some things I miss about having weekdays off instead of weekends. For instance–going to the doctor’s without having to use sick time, getting errands done while everyone else is at work. And going to work so late made me exercise earlier in the day and I was often pretty productive before I went in to work (as opposed to now where, when I get home at 5, I’m like “nope, that’s it.”) And I could go to bed late and wake up late (I’m a night owl by nature). However, it obviously wasn’t enough to keep me working those hours. Unfortunately I can’t tell you what I said because I didn’t get any interviews until about 1.5 years later. I had one outside of my company and by then I had been there long enough so I could just say I was looking for more responsibilities (which was true. I was mostly a babysitter at the 2nd shift job). But then another position opened up in my company and, while it’s not my dream job, I got more responsibilities, normal hours and have been able to build up my resume more. I don’t know if I would have mentioned the bad hours though since I accepted the job knowing what they were. Maybe you could mention instead that it’s not the right fit. If you get another interview soon you could leave the position you just accepted off your resume so you’re not even asked about it. But I’m sure it varies by each person how they would react to leaving a job because of hours. The job you’re doing will only be “OK” but are there other jobs there that you could see doing? Because then it might be worth it to stay until something else opens up. Did you ask why the person before you was leaving? Perhaps they moved up in the company and they expect that others in this position will eventually do the same.

        1. Felicia

          I do intend to leave this position off my resume at least for the foreseeable future. The upside is that I can still interview during the day so don’t have to take time off for other interviews. There are a couple of positions there that I could see myself doing, which are actually more in line with my education/internships and have normal hours, but they’re in totally different departments, and I’m not sure I’ll be building the right skills in this job to get them. If they did open up while I was there I would totally try. It’s the type of position where there are a couple of people doing the same thing on the same shift, so I wouldn’t be totally alone, but I’d rarely see the friends I currently have and who knows whether I’ll want to be friends with the couple other people. A lot of people do these hours working part time, so are in school for other things, and I believe they were hiring because a few people left the company. I know a lot of people who do internships at the company tend to move up, and they tend to promote from within, so that is an option possibly. I read that jobs that work these types of hours have turnover that’s like 3 times as high, which is understandable. It’s a customer service job and I don’t think anyone stays all that long, especially at those hours but it seems like a cool company . I just kind of hate the hours because I’ll miss so much . Obviously I agreed to them, but I’m sort of dreading it. I think it’s understandable to say you realized that working consistently unusual hours was a bad fit, and the desire to work the same hours as most people is understandable, but i don’t know if that’s the right thing to say. I don’t think this job would be a bad fit, but the jobs I’d be applying to would be semi related but totally different, so I could say something like I want to be doing more of x but here I only do y. i think wanted to work 9-5 is one of those things that seems like such an obvious reason for leaving a job like that but something that may be bad to say.

          1. Cruciatus

            It might be worth it to tough if out then (unless you find something else immediately). After a few months you’re in that weird in between stage where the gap is starting to look too big so you have to put it on the resume, but then they can see you’re already looking after only 3, 4, 5 months (and they really could be completely understanding about why you’re already looking for a new position). People below have also given good advice–maybe your friends would be willing to meet up with you on Tuesday or Wednesday nights once in a while. And maybe the new people will be awesome! I didn’t have that at all. It was just me and the students in a library. And security walking by once in a while. Having someone else nearby might have made it more bearable, as I hope it does for you. As I said before, I’m not in my dream job now, but I don’t think I would have gotten this step up quite so quickly without putting the time in to the previous position. The other company I interviewed with ended up dropping the position after my 2nd interview (gah!) and my company was willing to take a bit of a risk on me doing my current AA position that I had almost zero experience in. Unlike what Alison would suggest, my company is more likely to hire internal candidates with less experience than to hire outside the company. And I managed to see my friends once in a while. No, it wasn’t as often as it is now, but I did still see them. And they were waiting for me when I switched to normal hours (in fact, we went out and celebrated!) So it might suck for a while, but the end results could be worth it. Best of luck to you!

            1. Felicia

              Thanks! i think the thought of toughing it out seems harder right now because it’s not the field I want to be in. If it was that field, it would be easier. And I will definitely try to see friends/family on a Tuesday or Wednesday night and Saturday or Sunday brunch might be ok sometimes. And then with certain people/activities, starting at 10:30 on a Friday or Saturday would occasionally be no big deal. If I go for jobs in the field I’m more interested in, maybe a few months at a totally different won’t be as much of a big deal.I’ll just apply elsewhere consistently and see what happens! I would like to make work friends that work the same shift, I think there would be like 4 of them, but I’ve only made one friend from a job before and it’s not easy for me. My ideal is to become friends with my same shift coworkers and have really fun Tuesday nights and Sat/Sun mornings, and like the job itself (I know I won’t love it because of the nature of the work). but I guess it’s impossible to tell how it will go!

    3. C Average

      I kind of think everyone should have a job like this at some point. It creates a general awareness that the stuff that happens during the off-hours doesn’t always happen automagically. It sometimes requires actual humans who have to forego normal social lives and sleep schedules to keep the wheels turning.

      As you’re finding, these jobs burn you out fast. The sense that you’re on a different schedule than the rest of the world is wearying and isolating. I think Alison’s right: The solution is probably going to be a different job. It’s really hard to fill these roles for any length of time, and if you’re in this role and competent, there’s a strong incentive on your employer’s part to keep you right where you are.

      I hope you can find something else soon!

      1. Canadamber

        Oh, yes, exactly! :o In my retail job, I’m all too aware that when I’m working 5-10:30 (in the evening), those who are still coming in have already gotten off of work, and generally run normally.

      2. A

        Thanks! I mentioned to him in my last review that the hours were getting to me, and I knew that it was what I was hired for, but that if something opened up more my skill-set (the job is essential but easy and I feel overqualified), I’d probably jump on the opportunity, and I think they know that’s realistic, but I’d even take a rotation (one month weekends, one month off) or a weekend a month off it I could take it. I think it makes a huge difference.

    4. Gene

      I really enjoyed my time working 2200-0600. It was quiet, I never saw the “suits”, I was able to get my work done without interruption, and I could play whatever I wanted to on the radio at whatever volume suited my mood.

      There are days I wish I could go back to that.

    5. anon-2

      One of my first jobs in IS/IT was working in a mainframe data center, on the overnight shift.

      I had a great boss. Often I worked alone, so I could study, and learn. In fact, in my 40-year career, the learning curve was the most tremendous during that 2-year-or-so stretch. Wonderful experience, I even find useful today.

      On the other hand — the hours practically (and literally) killed me. Toward the end of that time, I did say at first that I wanted a 9-5 job (or 8-4, or 7-3, y’know) . But .. but .. didn’t threaten.

      After four months of waiting – I said that I was out looking, and would probably be leaving. I had also been accepted at a master’s program at a university in other state and was going to leave for that if nothing happened.

      The day before I was going to resign, I was put on the day shift…

      1. anon-2

        I should have said (and literally) ALMOST killed me. If it had killed me, I wouldn’t be posting now, would I?

        Tantum, ergo sum.

  3. University admin

    #1 – I get why you want to receive higher-quality cover letters, and why you’d like to guide applicants as a way to do that. That said, I’d rather know who is going to write a crappy cover letter so I can reject them. I’m crazy about cover letters (people on search committees call me the cover letter lady), and I want to know who’s going to take the time to write a good one. Also, I want to know who’s taken the time to think about how their skills match with my position. If they’re going to copy and paste a different cover letter with the name of the wrong employer on it, I want to know that too. IMO, it’s one of the best ways to evaluate an applicant (before the interview stage, at least). They should know what to do! :)

    1. Jamie

      I agree – it’s a great screening tool.

      I’ve walked resumes/cls into the hiring managers offices based on good cover letters, because for the entry level jobs they were so few and far between.

  4. Nina

    #4: It’s probably better if you attend. If it’s crowded and held after work, you might get away with putting in a quick appearance (staying for 1/2 hour, maybe 45 min) and leaving. Your boss is leaving your department but she’s still involved with your company. I would play it safe and go to the party.

    1. Prickly Pear

      This. I’d worry that it would be super obvious that you didn’t come and why. Of course, it sounds like she maybe wouldn’t want to keep in touch with you either, so I’d give exactly enough time to be seen, send a general ‘good luck’ in her direction and peace out.

    2. Lily in NYC

      I think it’s a “know your work culture” thing. No one here cares if you attend good-bye parties (because we have them after work as happy hours). I didn’t attend the party for our despised division head when she left. She was universally hated and her party was very sparsely attended – no one from the president’s office went either, which was a very pointed snub. I’m still proud of myself for not writing “good riddance” on her farewell card.

    3. Not So NewReader

      A friend went to a party for a boss in a similar situation. Well, there was a number of people there so that helped. But the atmosphere was not what she expected. Everyone was laughing and talking with each other- I guess, an air of relief? Even the boss had a lighter attitude.
      She wished her boss well and that was it.
      I think it was good because it put old issues to rest. But this is not an idea for every setting. OP, trust your gut. If you need to suddenly have a doctor appointment or some other unavoidable matter, then do so.

  5. GrumpyBoss

    #3: I’m betting your employer won’t be surprised by your request, but if they are going to be flexible or not really depends on a lot of internal variables. Personally, I despise hiring a second shift position with weekend hours, even though I need to. What you described is not uncommon – you take the job thinking that you are OK with the hours and schedule, but after several months you start to feel the impact. I personally expect this conversation to come up sooner than later. If I really like the person, I may see if there is an opportunity to move them to a more traditional shift (but there’s usually not). I think the difference maker for me is how committed to the job and company the employee is. I’d be less willing to blow up my weekend coverage to accommodate someone who treats the position as just a job.

    #4: I’d go and suck it up. Make an appearance, take the high road. You’ve suffered under a horrible boss and this is your light at the end of the tunnel. I’d be more concerned about staying at a company that didn’t take my complaints seriously – assuming that your 10 pages weren’t frivolous. Frankly, I think the “oops, I left my offer letter out for you to see” type is one of the more obnoxious office personalities I have ever run across. But being obnoxious and being a hard ass aren’t necessarily the type of offenses I’d expect HR to take action on. Is this the culture you are OK in? Since she got promoted internally, the company obviously does not agree with your assessment if her. If this is the sort of person the company supports and promotes, I’d ask myself honestly if I could remain and be happy.

    1. bee

      Idiots often get promoted- it’s how they are managed. No one wants to do the work to get rid of them. So promotion, is not necessarily a sign of their good work.

      1. GrumpyBoss

        Never said it was, but it is clear that people in the OP’s company do not agree with her perspective on the boss. To me, that’s the real issue here – not something fleeting like spending a couple of hours at a party.

        Some companies employ the peter principle and promote idiots because they refuse to see them for what they are, or its easier than dealing with them in their current role. What the OP should be asking is if she’s OK with this.

    2. Anna

      Based on the letter, it sounds like she got an external job that was a promotion – not that they promoted her internally.

      1. tango

        It says she got another job within the company. That’s the dilemma. I’m sure if she got an outside company new job the OP would have no problem not attending a going away party.

  6. kas

    1. I am not a fan of short answer responses. Your example is pretty straightforward but I’ve seen some that I had no idea how to answer so I don’t bother applying. Plus, for an entry level customer support position, I don’t think you’ll get genuine answers for a question like that.

  7. Von Bomb

    #3 when you’re hired for certain hours to cover a swing or night shift I wouldn’t expect t or even hope for any flexibility in them. That’s why they specify what they are upfront. You can of course ask, but don’t be surprised if they’re just like, “ummm, no, that’s the job”.

    1. A Dispatcher

      Yep. Don’t get me wrong, I totally sympathize as someone who works 23-7 at at a 24/7 365 facility, but the schedule was made very clear to us when hired and we actually had to sign off on it as a condition of employment because so many people end up complaining about the hours (I love them and wouldn’t work days if they begged, but that’s another story). OP, your only way out is probably seniority or a transfer/promotion unfortunately but it doesn’t hurt to ask.

      That said, I think every weekend is awful and no one should really expect raft when if they make it clear when hiring. We have 4 days on then 2 off, so our days off always rotate and we do get weekends/holidays off sometimes that way. I don’t think it’s very realistic to expect someone to commit long term to no weekends ever.

        1. Jessa

          My main issue (and I always worked overnights weekends 11pm to 9 am Fri, Sat, Sun, Mon,) is that there’s never any attempt to cover to take a holiday. It was always a hassle to try and take PTO time. There was never ANY procedure in place to do this for even that long. It’s like if you work weekends you’re totally stuck and can’t go away.

          Even if it’s twice a year to try and take the whole week off it was a hassle. And the guilt trip if you called off ill. Sometimes it’s not the schedule that bothers you but the fact that you can barely if ever get time off at all. There’s a culture in some places where you work that kind of shift where it’s “you’re the coverage, you don’t GET coverage, you GIVE it.”

          And I think that needs to change. Knowing you can call off ill or take a holiday now and then, is crucial to morale.

          1. OhNo

            Thos, definitely. Knowing that you can’t ever call in sick or take a vacation is terrible.

            I don’t know how likely it is, but OP could maybe propose to split the weekend with the other person who does the job? Switch one of your weekend days for one of their weekdays. That way each of you has at least one day of weekend to enjoy.

            1. A

              It’s not that I’m opposed to working weekends, it’s the every weekend thing. The nature of my position requires me (and everyone else) to work weekends occasionally. It really is the guilt trips, the no vacations, AND covering others when no one can cover me when needed. It’s a lot.

              1. Not So NewReader

                And that is a flaw in the way the job is set up. I have seen a few places use that. The weekend person is stuck. It seems to me the boss should have a contingency plan. I mean what if a person doing your job suddenly ran away to Bermuda?

                My second thought is can you and the M-Th person rotate days? Actually, thinking about this, can you back each other up? Is the M-Th person in the same predicament?

    2. MT

      As someone who manages people on off shifts, and someeone who has worked the weekend shift (Friday, Saturday, Sunday 6am to 6pm) , don’t expect much flexibility. There isn’t much to be found. Where I work, people are hired to the off-shifts then move to the normal shifts when spots open up.

      Assuming that the person during the week is full time, they accepted that position knowning that weekends were not part of the deal. As a manager I would be hard pressed to forcably change a full timers schedule on a frequent basis to help out a part timer. If hours are killing you, then look for a new job.

      1. hamster

        My managed avoided this issue by spreading out the “bad shifts” so everyone got rotated through all of them. So you don’t have 1 person quitting every year because of burn out .

        1. MT

          This may work some places for some people. The issue i see a lot is that some people work the schedule they do is becuase their outside life requires them too. Is it fair if I hire a single parent for a 9-5 job, then a year later be like, you now how to work weekends for the next 6 months. That person will be just as unhappy as the previous weekend shifter. More than likely one of the employees will leave.

          The OP knew the work schedule that she applied for. If it’s not a good fit now, then they should consider leaving.

  8. Prickly Pear

    3-My current job started with evenings/weekends for what seemed forever (it really was around a year) so I sympathize at how much it sucks to never get to hang out with your friends. Sidebar- my BFF and I coped once by going out to lunch and her dropping me off at work, picking me back up 6 hours later and continuing on our merry way. I don’t advocate this approach.
    As I got better, my hours did too (and then I threw it away, silly me). Maybe at your review if all goes well, you can broach this subject then?

    1. A

      Thanks. I’ve definitely broached the subject. I’m looking within other departments in the same company. I think they know it’s not realistic for me to stay forever in this position.

  9. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

    1. Asking job candidates to do a short writing prompt instead of a cover letter

    May I throw in that, in our neck of the woods at least, getting quality candidates to apply for entry level customer support itself is hard. You have to cast a wide net.

    Your idea isn’t a bad one. I’d be interested to see if it produced any fruit for you. Alison’s approach is better but, with that job title, I’m curious as a cat to what results it would produce.

    Our experience in the suburbs of a major east coast metro is that we can’t get quality applicants for entry level customer support paying what you’d think you could pay for that job title. There aren’t a pool of people who can write decent cover letters sitting around waiting for a job like that.

    We’ve done a bunch of things including reframing the jobs and upping starting pay by 20%. What happened next was we were able to attract better candidates. My new favorite is recent English major grads.

    Let me ask you this: is writing important to you? It’s important to us because we are B to B and much of what our customer facing people do is via email.

    If you are set up so that written communication isn’t that important to you, consider that these lack-of-cover-letter-people may be the right candidates for your entry level customer support job. (Thrown out for food for thought only.)

    1. Happy Lurker

      Wakeen’s “May I throw in that, in our neck of the woods at least, getting quality candidates to apply for entry level customer support itself is hard. You have to cast a wide net.”
      This is also my experience.
      Thanks for mentioning your experience of reframing of the jobs (and upping the starting pay). I will be keeping that in mind on the next go ’round.

  10. James M

    #1: I think a mini-essay prompt is worth a try. Just provide enough information about the position so that an applicant won’t need to troll the depths of their imagination in order to rattle off a few paragraphs about their skills in X, Y and Z and how they might apply those skills if they are hired.

  11. Wander

    #3 – I also work weekend nights as the only person on my shift in that role. I actually chose this schedule, but most of my friends work more 9 to 5 kind of jobs.

    What we do is have one night a week – a weekday night after work hours – set aside as a time where we all get together, have dinner, play games, and hang out for a few hours. It does, in all honesty, usually result in less sleep than usual, but people seem to consider the trade-off worth it. It could work on the weekends as well, if you wanted to grab lunch with people.

    It’s probably not a permanent solution for you (I wouldn’t know what to do with people living a few hours away – in my case, my family lives 7+ hours away, so someone has to take a week off work to visit regardless), but it may be enough of a bandaid to get you through until you find a new job.

    1. A

      Thanks. My friends actually do try to accomadate me when they can, but honeslty, I can see it taking a toll on them too. They feel guilty when I can’t go to things, or I have to leave things – as much as I tell them – no, really.. I just want to spend a few hours with you guys, if I have to leave early, no worries, at least I got to hang out with you. I can’t expect them to work their social lives around my schedule, that’s unrealistic.

  12. UK Anon

    #3: “There is only one other person who knows how to do this job, and they work Monday-Thursday. ”

    Is there any chance that you could approach this person first and talk to them about the schedule? Just maybe if you could approach your boss with “Other Person is happy to take one of my weekends once a month if I do two of his days that week” they might be more amenable to looking at changing. I guess that depends an awful lot on your workplace though!

    1. Kelly

      This is probably the best approach, but in my experience, I don’t see it happening. The other person may have started out doing the evening/weekend hours and got burned out too. The day shift opens up and they get in there. They may have proposed the same solution and no one helped them out, so the likelihood that they’ll help you out isn’t very high.

      Those types of shifts are tough to hire for because most people either aren’t night owls or want to have a life outside of work. I know from working retail that there’s a lot of turnover in the positions that require mostly night/evening hours.

      1. Annie O

        It’s certainly worth it to ask, but I agree that the weekday person probably won’t want to take those weekend hours on a regular basis. And they may have weekend obligations.

        That was my dilemma when I worked weekends – my weekday counterpart had custody of his kids on the weekends and could *never* cover for me. Never being able to take vacation or call in sick sucked; I only lasted 6 months!

    2. Sydney Bristow

      Another option is to see if anyone with a regular day shift is interested in being cross-trained for the night shift to take occasionally. I worked they day shift at a hotel once and volunteered to learn how to cover for the night shift. In my case, the pay was slightly more for the night shift, so it was a benefit to me whenever I did it. There could be someone already working days who might be interested in covering sometimes.

  13. Jamie

    Am I the only one who thinks maybe the boss would be fine with the OP skipping the party? Usually when one is celebrating a happy event they don’t want to be surrounded by people who dislike them and think they are undeserving of their good fortune.

    Not saying the boss isn’t awful, but even awful people probably don’t want to celebrate with people who think poorly of them.

    1. Another Day

      Nope, I had the same thought. This may not be such a big deal to either the boss or other management.

    2. AnotherAlison

      I should have read more carefully before writing the same thing below. : )

      A friend of mine recently left & he specifically asked the party-thrower to *not* invite certain people. Not necessarily his direct reports, but same idea. . .

      1. GrumpyBoss

        I would have never thought of this… I left my very own horrible boss last summer. When the party was scheduled, I had a lot of people come to me to say they didn’t really want to come to the party and wanted to make sure I knew it had nothing to do with me, but because they knew my boss would be there (he doesn’t handle happy hour very well….). I just wanted to get through my last 2 weeks without incurring anymore drama from him, so it never occurred to me to plant the suggestion that maybe my boss shouldn’t be there.

      2. Monodon monoceros

        When I left my last job, I asked my boss not to make it a free-for-all with everyone invited. No one was specifically excluded, just certain people were on the definite invite list. I told her who I definitely wanted there, and said if other people heard and wanted to come I wasn’t going to object, but there were definitely people that I hoped wouldn’t come. Luckily most of those people didn’t come (probably because they disliked me as much as I disliked them) .

    3. CAA

      Yeah, this is what I think too. OP — if you were the honoree at a party, would you want the person who’s been doing everything she can to get rid of you showing up to celebrate?

      You’ve complained to HR; you’ve gotten your coworkers to complain to HR; you provided 10 pages of documentation to them. The boss and all your coworkers know you did these things. She is leaving your department, so you won this battle. If you want to “take the high road” as you said you do, then stay away from the farewell party. Attending would look like gloating.

      Also, consider that since the company promoted her, that is strong evidence that they don’t agree with your perception of the situation. It’s absolutely critical that you be the perfect employee and get along with everyone, especially the replacement boss, from now on; otherwise you will be perceived as the source of the problem.

      1. GrumpyBoss

        Thanks for saying this. I’ve been biting my tongue a little on this one while trying to offer some advice on the situation, but it’s hard for me to keep quiet for long. I just wonder how much of the problem the OP is. The 10 pages doesn’t sit well with me, as well as the statement that the boss didn’t do her job.

        The 10 pages: I’ve seen this before when people have a bad boss. They start to take offense at small things that on their own don’t warrant anything to be upset about, but in the aggregate, just become too much. So they collect all sorts of information out of context and dump it on HR like a stream of consciousness, then get upset when nothing happens. I had a horrible boss where all my coworkers tried to rise up and go to HR. I chose not to participate, because when I saw the multiple pages of emails and testimony they wanted to present, it looked very petty if you take a step back. Yeah, the guy was a jerk. He was demanding and had unrealistic expectations. He was unavailable when you needed his input. But none of that fits any legal definition of a hostile work environment. I watched as HR took no action on my coworkers’ complaint. However, when I witnessed my boss accepting football tickets from a vendor (explicitly prohibited by the company’s code of ethics), I made my anonymous complaint then. He got reprimanded for that, but nothing was ever said to him about the pages and pages of emails demonstrating that he was a jerk. Sometimes, you have to pick your battles.

        Not doing her job: I’m not saying she did or didn’t do her job, but this always bugs the heck out of me when I hear someone say this about their manager. How would you know? You are looking at the boss in the context of YOUR job. A boss has a whole other set of responsibilities and expectations from her boss that you may not be privy to. Usually when I hear someone make this complaint, it’s because the boss delegated something to the direct that the direct felt the boss should do themselves. But delegation IS an important part of the manager’s job. Ultimately, I leave vision of how well someone is performing as a discussion between them and their manager. I’ll sometimes look at someone I work with or for and say to myself, “this person seems like they may be in over their head”. But I would never presume that they weren’t doing their job.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          Yeah, I think “10 pages of documentation on her unforgivable acts” is a red flag that the OP might not being seeing this totally objectively and/or didn’t present it well. Complaining about a boss can absolutely be done, but it’s a delicate thing and it’s rarely a “10 pages” thing.

          And totally agree with you on your delegation point. There’s very little that a staff member is well-positioned to say that their manager shouldn’t be delegating to them; in general, work should flow downward to the lowest-level person who can do it sufficiently well.

            1. limenotapple

              Off topic, but I had never heard “bitch eating crackers” before and had to look it up. Might be my favorite comment.

          1. Ann Furthermore

            Having been in a position where I had a terrible boss, I can say this is 100% true. It is almost impossible to maintain any semblance of objectivity in a situation like this, and every little thing is exponentially magnified.

          2. LQ

            Tasks that shouldn’t be delegated would include things like performance reviews, disciplinary action, etc.

            I’m always surprised when bosses don’t delegate or when people get upset about bosses who do it. I’m glad when my boss takes something from his plate and puts it on mine (assuming the plate isn’t spilling over already), it shows he believes I can do it, and that he’s more likely to be doing the things I really want him to do. (Manage!)

            I’ve seen this taking a list of pages of things to HR repeatedly in a union environment and I wonder if that’s part of it…

          3. nyxalinth

            Yeah, I was like “Whaaaaaaaat?” and kept wondering how much was bad boss and how much was disgruntled worker. In any event, OP should now be happy that they won’t be dealing with this boss anymore, and also needs to take a step back and look at his/her words and actions on the subject.

          4. Chuchundra

            The flip side of this is that, once you get tagged as a “complainer”, all of your subsequent complaints just get tossed in the circular file.

            Years ago, my group had one super incompetent employee (seriously, I could tell you stories) and one employee that used to complain about Mister Super Incompetent all the time. After a while, he just stopped complaining because he realized that he had complained so much that his efforts were having the opposite effect.

        2. Ann Furthermore

          It could be that HR recommended that the bad boss be fired, but her higher-ups chose not to do that.

          I also worked in a group led by Very Bad Boss, who reported to Very Bad Director. It was awful, and people went to HR about both of them numerous times. Nothing ever happened.

          Then the glorious day came when Very Bad Director resigned. I had taken a position in another department (for many reasons, but mostly because I was sick of these 2 people raining misery into my life) but one of my friends still working in that group came to tell me the wonderful news. There was much celebrating in many departments, because no one liked this woman at all. In fact, when her boss, the CFO left, he tried to position her to get his job, and rumor has it that many people went to the CEO and threatened to quit if she got promoted. She did not get that job.

          Anyway, I ran into a friend from HR on the day this director resigned, and asked her if she’d heard the news. Her response was, “Oh, thank GOD!” She was very tactful and circumspect, but the gist was that HR had gotten many complaints about her over the years, and they had done what they could, but since her boss thought she could do no wrong, their hands were tied. She said that HR can make recommendations until they’re blue in the face, but unless the person is doing something illegal or clearly violating company policies, they can’t unilaterally decide to can someone. It was interesting to hear that perspective. Everyone (including me) sort of assumes that HR is all-powerful and can do anything, but that’s not actually the case.

        3. LBK

          I think there are some things that you can judge your manager on when they relate to your job – recognizing/rewarding performance, being available/responsive when you require their input, supporting employees, etc. Basically, when them not meeting their expectations makes it hard for you to meet your expectations. But when you start judging your boss on how they do things that don’t involve or impact you, that’s when you need to step back and realize they have other responsibilities that don’t involve you.

        4. Jamie

          I missed that on first read – but in thinking about it I’m kind of stunned by 10 pages.

          The worst audit I’ve ever documented was only 7 pages and that’s with all the minutia and bullet points of document locations for proof. I think the worst person with whom I’ve ever worked could be documented in 1.5 pages at the most if just sticking to work related facts.

          Not that I couldn’t fill a book with what I disliked about them personally – but I couldn’t have gotten to 10 pages with anyone and I’ve worked with some awful people over the years.

          However, if the ten pages included things like bullet points for dates of instance and witnesses – references to corroborating documents it could go long depending on formatting.

          1. Katie the Fed

            the 10 pages makes me think of that episode of the Simpsons when Marge and Homer go to marriage counseling and she lists all her complaints and it takes a full day :)

        5. Not So NewReader

          While I can see how a person could write ten pages about a toxic boss or coworker, I also know that all that writing tends to discredit the writer, not the subject of the writing.

          It’s gratifying to fill those pages, but if nothing happens next the writer is stuck. It’s going out on a limb, it’s a risk.

          My thought is if I have a boss that is doing 100 things totally wrong, then the company knows it. Very little goes unnoticed. It’s safe to assume that the company realizes about the boss and the 100 screw ups. Here’s the part that sucks: They are okay with it. Not nice to think about. That means reexamining the company I work for.

          Why would they be okay with it? Well, in some instances I have seen it is because there is corruption at the top. There are other reasons, of course. But when upper management is dealing with upper level corruption they do not worry too much about a nasty boss or coworker. They have bigger fish to fry.

    4. Prickly Pear

      This is what I was trying to address above. It sounds like there’s bad blood on both sides- OP doesn’t want to go, her soon to be ex-boss probably doesn’t want her there, problem solved.

      1. Jennifer

        Unless ex-boss wants to rub it in that she won, in which case… well, I think she who Just Happens To Leave Her Salary Letter Around is that sort.

    5. A Bug!

      I’m with you. It seems likely that the OP’s feelings toward her boss aren’t a secret to anybody else, either, even if the specific complaint to HR isn’t common knowledge. I mean, the OP’s letter is pretty short, but even through that bit of text her feelings come through loud and clear aside from the specific content of it.

      The OP’s not going to be fooling anybody by putting on a show of wishing her boss well. I feel like any attempt to do so would look like sour grapes.

  14. BCW

    #1 Let me preface this by saying I think cover letters are overrated (ducking for cover). I understand the point of them, but I feel like someone’s skills and experience, which is evident from the resume, is more valuable than them being a great writer (unless they are going for a writing job). Having said that, I also don’t like the essay idea you are asking for. At least if I have a general frame for a cover letter, I can make some minor adjustments here and there based on the company, since most jobs I’ll be looking at will be somewhat similar. So yes, it may take a bit of time, but nothing too time consuming. What you are asking IS a lot of work to do when there is a good chance the person will never hear a peep from the company, not even as a rejection. Not saying you do this, but I feel like its become rare that you hear back from companies if they reject you without even a phone screen. If you do it, make it short. When I was applying, some places had a question to answer, but it was like a 100 character max, which is fairly easy to do.

    #3 I can imagine how much that sucks, but I mean you did accept that position knowing that you’d be working those hours. I guess it depends on how desperate you were at the time, but I’ve seen jobs posted that were Tuesday-Sunday, and I immediately avoided them for the same reason. If I were your manager, I’d be a bit annoyed by your request. I mean, if you took a job working days then 10 months later they asked you to start working night/weekends, you’d probably be annoyed too. The good thing though is you have plenty of time to look and interview for a new job without having to take a sick day!

    1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

      I sort of agree with you on point 1, in that the best warehouse worker available at $14 hour isn’t necessarily the person who will write a good cover letter or even a letter at all. I think that expectations for cover letters are best tailored to the job, industry, pay level, etc.

      If virtually no one in your applicant pool is providing a cover letter, I think there’s a problem with either the pool you are attracting or your expectations.

      I don’t think the writing is too much to ask because, I expect, most people won’t do it for an entry level customer support position. It would be interesting to see what happens next.

      1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

        * I understand this wasn’t a warehouse position. I was just using that as an example of the kind of job that cover letters aren’t expected for.

      2. AVP

        I’m also curious about this. For the entry-level jobs I hire for, cover letters are the crucial step in getting an interview because, at entry level, everyone’s experience and skills are about the same (typically college grads with 1-2 internships*). But I can see that there are probably jobs, especially when you need a batch of people to do similar roles, where it might not matter and just getting people with resumes in the door is a step up.

        *I always feel bad judging people on where they’ve interned because in my field, it’s probably 60-70% based on who your parents know, and that’s such a bad measure of whether someone can do the job or not. Which is why the cover letter can save the day.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          That’s exactly what I was going to say. It’s not that you’re ignoring experience; it’s that you usually have a huge number of applicants who look similiarly qualified based on their resumes. You’re not going to interview 100 of them. It’s the cover letters that can set them apart.

          1. Joey

            Eh, For many non writing jobs I’d rather make those hundred phone calls than chance missing a candidate that doesn’t have good writing skills. That’s at most a half a day of phone calls since it usually takes no more than 10-15 minutes to know whether someone is worth interviewing.

            1. Ask a Manager Post author

              But you don’t have to evaluate writing per se, if that’s not needed for the job. You can evaluate what they choose to say about themselves.

              That said, I’ve never hired for a job that didn’t involve some amount of written communication, even when it wasn’t a main focus — and so in the hiring I’ve done, it’s always made sense to care about writing to some degree.

              1. Joey

                It’s not that simple. There are tons of folks I’ve hired who absolutely suck at selling themselves, but turn out to be some of the hardest working, highest producing folks I’ve ever hired. I wouldn’t ever want to chance passing them over just because I came across a candidate that was more eloquent.

                1. Ask a Manager Post author

                  Well, I think we all have our ways of evaluating candidates that work well for us. When faced with a slew of similarly qualified candidates, I’ve found cover letters are an effective way to separate out stand-outs from the rest of the pack. There certainly might be other ways as well, particularly for different types of jobs.

                  That said, I’m curious — what types of jobs are you hiring for? For jobs that are at least somewhat cerebral, I do think cover letters are revealing for most people.

                2. Joey

                  Job where most formal or higher profile communications are centralized. Everything from blue collar jobs in my earlier years to professional jobs now where most of the writing is cutting and pasting, copying, using templates, forms, etc. I’m not saying writings not good to have, but I’d rather take (and am equipped to take) someone that made better decisions over someone that had better writing.

            2. Persephone Mulberry

              Not to nitpick, but making 100 phone calls at 10 minutes each is still over 16 hours on the phone, not half a day.

              1. Joey

                Not all phone calls take that long. Frequently you know the “no’s” in less than 5 minutes. 10-15 minutes is for the folks who aren’t qualified or otherwise can’t do the job.

          2. hamster

            Omg. We had an entry level engineer ( in IT , related to databases and bi and required some experience ) that took literally AGES to fill. Basically we hired the first person who was able to do a ( quite basic ) tech test .
            Screening for cover letters would have been a dream

        2. OP #1

          Hi folks!

          Thanks so much for taking the time to give some feedback. I’m typically one to sing the praises of the cover letter, but my change of heart comes from the dearth of good letters and a sincere desire to give our applicants a break. Our hiring process is pretty rigorous as it stands: applicants have to submit a resume, cover letter, and support call voice recording in order to be considered. I know that’s a lot, but the job typically requires agents to answer 20-30 phone calls and emails a day. I need to know how these applicants write and speak, and it doesn’t make sense to wait until the interview to learn. That being said, if I were a candidate, I might be a bit frustrated to make such an effort up front.

          All this is compounded by the fact that management has been pushing to streamline our hiring process. Currently we spend about one week evaluating applications and setting up interviews, one week interviewing, and then we make the offer. If a candidate needs to give notice, it takes us about a month to get someone in the door. I think that’s reasonable, but our leadership would like us to be much more agile, to the point where they suggested that we hire a mass of people provisionally who meet basic requirements and then fire those who don’t succeed. I’m terri/horrified at the prospect of such a hiring practice, so I’m trying to brainstorm ways to make the process faster.

          It doesn’t seem like there’s much consensus here though – some think the short answer is just another hoop to jump through, while others are intrigued by the possibilities. I’ll have to give it some more thought. Thanks again!

          1. LBK

            Oof, that does sound horrible – do they not understand the costs (both time and money) that go into hiring someone? Getting one good person in the door a month vs. ten people who won’t make it past that first month is going to make more sense for the business 99.99% of the time.

            Do you think the support call requirement is something you could cut out? I imagine listening to all of those takes a lot of time. Customer service experience is usually something pretty evident from a well-written resume – do you find you’re consistently getting useful info from listening to those calls that you didn’t get from just reading that person’s resume?

            1. OP #1

              Believe me, you’re preaching to the choir here. I think the desire emerges from the fact that we periodically have swells of support inquiries that are difficult to anticipate. Having a more agile hiring process ostensibly would help us deal with such a swell, but it’s unrealistic.

              I actually wouldn’t let go of a recorded support call. It tells me so much valuable information: how a person sounds, their knowledge of typical support scenarios, even whether or not they have the technical acumen to record and send an audio file (you would be surprised). I typically open up the audio file and listen to it as I scan over a person’s application materials. It doesn’t slow me down much at all.

              1. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

                FWIW, I don’t know how you can get replacement down from a month if you are always right sized all of the time. A month from looking to hire to start sounds pretty agile to me.

                We handle fluctuations and unexpected leaves with cross training so that there are multiple people who aren’t customer facing regular who are trained in it. There’s always a spare to put in for X amount of time if need is high or we are short.

                *That* said, we’re not that big. If you have 75 customer support reps, dealing with staff fluctuations with a bench probably won’t help much.

          2. LQ

            Wow that sounds like a lot of work in a hiring process for entry level customer service phone people.

            If you are going to require that much commitment up front you really need to be a GREAT place to work so that people who are excellent are striving to get in, and stay.

            If you require a huge amount of work. (A support voice call? How can you even do that? I assume it isn’t a real call because so much private data, though admittedly lots of businesses don’t care about that…) And you aren’t a great place to work (have high turn over, low retention, low promotion, etc) then you’re not going to find good people, and putting more barriers in place is just going to make it worse.

            Is the issue really the speed of the hiring? Or the speed of the employee loss?

            1. hamster

              I don’t know . Some BIG software companies ( IBM , microssoft etc) have support centers in US Europ and across timeszone and up until 2nd or 3rd level you can discuss over the phone with the client. Technical issues are quite complex and with the rise of managed services and cloud operations and good old entreprise apps the “phone support” is not something rudimentary. You have IT/Consultant departments of very big clients calling and wanting to talk to a peer ( at skill level) or an expert .

              1. LQ

                I totally agree, but if you require that then you shouldn’t be running through people like water. You should focus on cultivating talent and going through an extensive but effective hiring process. That doesn’t mean a dozen more hoops before even a phone screen. Expecting people to put in hours of work before they even know if they are going to end up in a phone screen seems absurd. Who is reading all that content and listening to those phone calls? Why not do that after you’ve selected your top 20 candidates from phone screens?

                Say you get 200 applications. 100 of them don’t follow the rules, but 100 of them do and have an essay and a phone call and a resume and a cover letter. How much time are you spending on all that material? And if you are culling with the resume first then why are you expecting other people to do all that work when you aren’t? It seems so disrespectful, either of your own time (actually reading/listening to all of them) or the applicants (not actually reading/listening to them until they are further in the process).

            2. OP #1

              I absolutely get why you made the assumption about employee loss in the customer support industry, but I assure you it’s not the case. Our company has just been growing at an exponential rate, and we’ve needed to hire more representatives to meet our customer’s needs (and give our agents a break!). There are many benefits to working for us (decent pay, work from home, flexible hours, desirable industry, room for growth, etc.). No workplace is perfect, but I think we have a lot to offer.

              Also, I would agree with hamster’s point regarding the value phone support skills. In my experience, lots of people simply do not have the critical thinking skills to evaluate customer concerns over the phone in a cheerful, empathetic manner. It’s also tough to weed out candidates because you can’t use traditional signals (e.g., a BA/BS) to do so. I understand that strong candidates might balk at such a process, but I’m not sure what I could sacrifice without risking pulling in unsuitable candidates for interviews.

              1. LQ

                If you’re successfully holding onto people then one thing to do to get a better bunch of candidates is reach out to current staff. (Make sure they know you are hiring, it is easy for them to refer people, etc)

                If they can say to people that this place is worth it to jump through these hoops then you’ll be more likely to get people who are higher quality.

                1. OP #1

                  We regularly ask for internal referrals, though I will admit that I haven’t hired one of these referrals yet (though some get to the final cut, to be sure). I’m equally concerned about asking for so much material at the outset of the application. But if I were to change that, would the hiring process be too protracted? Wouldn’t asking for this material after receiving the initial resume simply take too much time?

                2. LQ

                  Depends on how you do it. Do you need a committee to make all the decisions? If the person on the phone screen is empowered they could say, we’ll move you onto the next round can you do these 2 things (and a job related task would be perfect here) by x date? I don’t think it would take that much longer. And you wouldn’t have that upfront time of trying to screen them. Plus you could have them be a lot more job focused. Instead of tell us why you want to work for us, tell us what you would say to a customer in X situation.

                  I do agree with everyone who says a month is a very good turn around time for hiring people. Just don’t let your leadership cut back on the 2 week period to let people give notice, I know some places do that thinking they can save time there but it is so critical.

              2. Kerr

                As a candidate, I’d be put off by the request for a voice recording up front, in addition to everything else. How are you doing this, BTW? Is there a number they call (easier), or do they have to record it via their computer (some people don’t have mikes)? Is there any way you can narrow down the list from the cover letters and resumes, then set up the recordings for a smaller pool, and cull from there? The letters may not be outstanding, but a boring-but-readable one should trump no cover letter, or a few poorly-written lines.

                I commented on this below, but do make sure you include the company name in your ads, and enough description for candidates to be able to write a good cover letter.

                Throwing this out there: you might consider that working from home may not be the perk your company thinks it is for entry-level customer support employees. (I’m not suggesting that it’s not good to be flexible, but it may not be a huge perk.) I’m guessing that most of these people are probably young, and housing may be crowded and/or noisy. There are jobs I’d like to do at home, but answering customer calls isn’t really one of them – I like having an office setup.

            3. Happy Lurker

              “Is the issue really the speed of the hiring? Or the speed of the employee loss?”
              This – but, unfortunately it is still LW issue to do the hiring.

          3. Wakeen's Teapots Ltd.

            Wow.

            If you can get people to submit voice recordings with their initial out reach then I don’t see how it’s much a leap to give them a writing prompt also.

            That’s not something we would be able to do successfully.

            I think that what you can ask for depends so much on your location and also how well known/known desirable an employer you are. (As well as the job and offered pay.)

            1. OP #1

              Never underestimate what people are willing to do for a job that lets them sit on their couch in yoga pants.

          4. Joey

            If I were you what Id do first is to provide a breakdown to management of how long each piece of recruitment currently takes and discuss goals/ expectations for each step. I’m saying that because frequently people not involved in hiring don’t realize how long each of the steps actually takes. 30 days from job posting to butt in seat is actually fast for most jobs given that you have to advertise, review resumes, schedule interviews, complete references, make an offer and do employment verifications and wait through a 2 week notice.

          5. Fucshia

            Wow! I work directly in a phone/email based customer support role, get great reviews, and enjoy my work. I would never apply to your company strictly because of the requirement to submit that voice recording. Too much to go through on initial application and I have lots of options for employment.

            If you pay well ($15 an hour or more) you might get some more people willing (still not me), but that is just too much work before you even know if you have any interest in the candidate at all.

            Short answer: it’s not the cover letter requirement that is the downfall.

            1. OP #1

              Thanks so much for your feedback, Fuschia! I really appreciate the opinion of someone who works in the field. How might you approach this hiring scenario, then? How can we make the process easier for applicants without wasting people’s time?

              1. Fucshia

                A quick phone interview would help you confirm phone skills for those who catch your interest from their documents. More so even, since they can’t rehearse or do multiple takes.

                Big things are the ad posting itself. Work from home is a line used by scammers and customer support can mean a call center type company additude where you are rated higher on how quickly you take the call or follow procedures than on the actual assistance that you provide to the customer. Unless you are either of those, you don’t want to appear to be one of those.

                Name your company, the type of calls handled, the pay range (not just “competitive”), how much training you provide, and any metrics you can on the average number of cases worked each day and the percentage of phone vs email time each day.

                Your hiring time frame of 1 month is actually quite fast, so I’d try to push back on going any faster than that. If you do hire a random 100 people and then need to fire 80 that don’t work out, you now have 80 people out in the world spreading the message on how things worked out for them at your company.

                1. Fucshia

                  First line of the second paragraph should say “…the ad posting itself and the job environment.” :)

          6. Not So NewReader

            Do you have a group of resumes on “stand-by”? People that you would want to hire in the near future.

            I am thinking of instead of waiting for a call for more people, why not have some already processed or half way processed ahead of time.

            It would also be helpful to know if they have any idea of what their hiring needs will be. Let’s say they anticipate 50 more people by August. Reality turns out that it’s 70. Well, at least you have some folks lined up to meet the 50 and while those people finish their process you can gather the remaining 20. (In other words, you can’t process everyone in one day anyway, so get some in the pipeline and find the rest.)

            The other thing I would say is that this plan of over hiring will work for a while. Then word will go around, “Oh, ABC always over hires the number of people they need, so don’t bother applying there because you’ll just end up canned anyway.”

    2. Anonalicious

      I feel like cover letters are overrated too, but maybe that comes from seeing so many bad ones and blah ones? The hiring decisions I’ve been involved in for IT jobs, it’s always been more about skill and experience on the resume that helped determine if we wanted to do a phone interview, or if they weren’t even in the running.

      I do think it can be different if you’re looking at positions further up the food chain, or in different industries or departments.

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        IT is often an exception with cover letters — although even there, a great one will still make a candidate stand out (again, assuming they’re otherwise qualified) so IT candidates would be crazy not to do a great one. (Assuming they’re interested in standing out in a sea of similarly-qualified people.)

        1. Jamie

          I was told that before my interview they wondered who wrote my cover letter for me – and they were surprised when they found out I did it all by myself. :)

          Yeah, the bar is set lower for us – use that to it’s advantage.

    3. LBK

      BCW, I’m interested to know what value you think interviews provide if a resume tells you everything you need to know about skills and experience.

      1. BCW

        I was referring to cover letters being overrated in terms of deciding who to interview. I think everything comes down to the interview.

        1. LBK

          Well, the point I’m getting at is that an interview isn’t just about your experience and your skills. There’s obviously other things you’re testing for in the interview, and those can also be sensed and determined from a (good) cover letter. That’s why I think they have value – if someone has a decent resume but you can tell from their cover letter that they have the right personality you want for the role, wouldn’t that be valuable when trying to determine if you should interview them? It’s not just about how well you write, just like an interview isn’t about how well you speak.

          1. Jamie

            Exactly. A resume is a list of facts – important to be sure, but not everything. A cover letter is a tiny window into who you are and how you communicate. If it’s well done and in your own voice it makes you a little more real.

            I’d rather have a tiny window than a collection of facts attached to a name.

          2. YALM

            Well yes, but at least in the tech world, a name and a resume give me multiple starting points for finding information about a candidate.

            Resumes will cite companies, projects/products, blogs, LinkedIn profiles, professional associations. If the resume doesn’t point me to a LinkedIn profile, I’m searching for one anyway, and I’m checking blogs and so forth…IF the resume hits enough of the things I’m looking for in a candidate.

            Using those sources to flesh out the picture of the candidate, I can fine-tune my interview questions.

            I’m not saying cover letters have no value. I’m only saying that there may well be other paths to getting behind the dry stats of traditional resume content. Besides, I have no idea if my US candidates write cover letters anymore. If they do, I never see them.

          3. Joey

            I don’t think BCW is saying they have no value, just not enough value to use them to rule people in or out. For most jobs, I agree, they usually don’t make me change my mind about whether or not I make the call.

            1. LBK

              Do you think that’s just because most people don’t write good cover letters? That would be my guess. If someone is just using a cover letter to summarize their resume then yes, I’d agree that cover letter makes no difference in whether or not you interview the person.

              1. Joey

                I just can’t think of a time where the cover letter has ever changed my mind or made me interview someone I would have not otherwise. It just makes me anticipate that they MIGHT be a better writer. But, a resume and cover letter isn’t necessarily the best writing sample as it relates to the job. No realistic deadline, they may have had assistance writing it, its in whatever format and style they want, etc.

          4. BCW

            Its fine that we have different points of view. I’m saying I have been the final decision maker and on an interviewing committee. If someone had a crap resume and stellar cover letter, I’m still not calling them. If I know what skills and experience I”m looking for, that info is on the resume. The cover letter, while it will give more context to certain things, won’t change the fact that they don’t have the experience I am looking for. However, if someone had great experience and other things on their resume, I don’t really care about their cover letter.

            1. Jamie

              I don’t think anyone is saying that a crap resume can be redeemed by a cover letter. The most brilliant of cover letters won’t make up for not meeting the requirements.

              But for positions with a lot of resumes coming in you’ll have many that are really similar in terms of experience and skills and it helps you stand out from that pool.

              A cover letter can also be an excellent place to explain how some skills transfer or how X might be similar to Y.

              For example if I need someone who is experienced in Specific Software and I don’t see it on the resume – maybe I put them into the no pile. But if the cover letter tells me that Unique Software – which is on their resume – is similar in X, Y, and Z and how they feel confident that they could make the transition now I will check out Unique Software to see if it is similar.

              And if you’re explaining how the skills transfer because the databases use the same type of architecture, or whatever, I know you’ve taken the trouble to learn about the software we use, have an understanding of the similarities and differences – now I’m impressed and your likelihood of getting a call just rose exponentially.

              There is nothing that will make up for lacking the skills or a lousy resume – but it’s important to remember you’re not just up against people with vastly greater or lesser skills than yourself – you’re also up against a lot of people with really similar backgrounds and those are the people from whom you need to stand out.

              1. Agile Phalanges

                I’m late to this post, but this is a great example, and applies to me, and is why I try to write good cover letters. I worked in accounting for many years, but the past two years have been spent in a role that looks completely unrelated by the title alone, and still fairly irrelevant even if they read the bullet points under the title on my resume. But I can use my cover letter to flesh out how I’ve kept up my skills in accounting while doing marketing research, and how my marketing research tasks have also enhanced my candidacy for accounting roles.

    4. A

      Yep, I’ve definitely taken advantage of the weekdays in order to do search for another position.

    5. Vancouver Reader

      Regarding your argument for not writing cover letters, I guess it really depends on the job you’re applying for. For me, my resume is very factual based but my cover letter reveals my personality and therefore whether the employer would consider me a good fit for their company.

  15. Bea W

    #4 As the target of one of these bosses (actually the Big Boss, not my direct manager, but she pulled all the puppet strings) i would’t suck this one up at all no matter how noticible it would be. I’d be coming up with some excuse I couldn’t attend. It’s a farewell party, which means she’s leaving so i’m not sure i’d give a FF how it looked not attend. Screw that. If it’s during work hours, I might suddenly become ill. My Bad Big Boss dud literally.make me ill. That’s legit

  16. Bend & Snap

    #4 you should take the high road and go.

    My horrible boss didn’t attend my farewell party and everyone noticed. It didn’t look good for him. And it was a crappy feeling for me that he couldn’t put his game face on for 15 minutes (he got my promotion approved right before I resigned–like an hour).

  17. B

    #1 – Essay question

    As others have said, just say no. 9 times out of 10 I will pass on an application when I see those questions. You never know what they want, how long they should be, what to include and not to include, etc. My other thinking is if you are trying to make me go through extra hoops now what lies beneath at the office and interview process. Yes, perhaps it is too much to think about it but that’s what applicants do.

    Stay with the cover letter, do the caveat, and evaluate people through that. This essay will not help you get better people.

  18. Anonaconda

    LW #3, I hear you. I’m in the same age bracket and I typically work one weekend night, and that’s more than enough for me. What helps is that I tend to get out of work by 10 or 11, so I can still sometimes meet up with friends in my neighborhood. Would it be possible to switch your schedule to 2-10pm, or even 3-11pm? If not, I think that weeknight dinners are your friend. And job-hunting, since it doesn’t sound like this would be a dream job for you even if the hours didn’t suck.

    As far as visiting family, why not go for a Monday-Thursday trip and just hang out after they get home from work? I’ve done this before when I was unemployed. It’s not ideal, but it’s better than not seeing people for months on end.

  19. AnotherAlison

    #4
    TBH, if I was the boss in #4, I probably wouldn’t want the OP employee to attend my farewell party. The employee that reported me to HR, and wrote 10 pages of documentation about how awful I was? No thanks. The OP’s absence at the party might be noticed, but I’m betting everyone kind of knows the situation would understand.

    1. AB

      To play the devil’s advocate, wouldn’t attending and being polite (so long as your attendance is warranted and your absence would otherwise be noted) be showing that, despite your differences, you can be professional? It’s a sort of “playing the bigger person” card.

      I had a boss who had (and earned!) a rather nasty nickname and reputation around the office. The guy made my working hours a living hell (and some of my non-working hours as well). He was the type of person who would lie and blame others to cover his butt, made every single assistant who worked in the office cry on a regular basis, and made more than one person quit as a direct result of having to work with him. Despite it all, and my complaints against him to the higher ups, I was unfailingly polite to him. He invited me to lunch on a regular basis and I always went and played nice. When he was transferred back to the home office, I attended his goodbye party and wished him the best of luck. My efforts did not go unnoticed by leadership, and I was commended for my professional demeanor even when they knew I had legitimate and serious grievances against him.

      1. AnotherAlison

        No, I agree with you, for the OP’s reputation, going and being the bigger person is probably the right choice, but in the big picture context, the party is in honor of the boss. It’s about the boss, not the OP. Rather than worrying about scoring points at work, I’d consider thinking about what the boss would want. They probably want a drama-free party with people they enjoyed working with. The boss might appreciate a reconciliation, but at the party isn’t the time to do it, imho anyway.

      2. Kai

        Yes, this. If it’s a political thing where people are going to notice and draw conclusions about whether you attend or not, I would go for exactly this reason.

        1. Elizabeth West

          Yes, and if OP has to go and it’s during work hours, she can just stay for a very short time, wish the boss luck in the future, and cite a heavy day as a reason to bail early. I don’t think anyone would expect her to stick around for anything more than a few minutes, especially if she’s busy.

  20. CanadianWriter

    #3 I like working nights and weekends but I guess it’s easier if everyone you know does the same. I don’t know any 9-5ers. If you’re miserable you should look for another job (and tell your company to hire me, ha!)

    For now, why don’t you ask the weekday person to cover for you one weekend so that you can go see your family? That’s not asking a lot.

  21. Lia

    #4, I think if you can go, not sulk or snark, and be seen by the people who matter, go, and talk to people you get along with. Circulate a bit, then leave after 45 min to an hour.

    A friend of mine refused to go to the farewell for a loathed co-worker, and people DID notice he was not there…and gossiped about it for ages.

  22. Allison

    For #3, have you tried being proactive with planning social gatherings when you’re free? I recently contemplated a similar issue in my life, where one thing I do often means turning down invites to hang out with friends, and then I realized that the solution was to stop waiting for people to invite me and start finding time to invite them to hang out. Even people who work during the week can usually hang out on weeknights, just not as late as they could on weekends. I’d think that friends who really like you will try to make time for you when you’re actually free to see them.

    1. MT

      I am surprised, this age brackett usually loves happy hours after work. I am guessing that the OP is in school or has some other obligation during the weekdays. Just a wild guess.

      1. Allison

        Possibly, I know grad students can have crazy workloads, especially during exam periods, so that’s a possibility. only reason I suggested it is because the LW didn’t really address why they couldn’t socialize during the week.

  23. Lily in NYC

    #3 – I don’t think “I only took this job because I was desperate and now I want to hang out with friends on weekends” is a very good excuse for asking for a shift change. You knew the hours when you accepted the job and the only thing that has changed is your willingness to work the hours for which you were hired. I get it – it’s hard; I worked 11:00 pm – 7:00am in my early 20s and all of my friends had normal hours and went out every night and I missed the fun. I’m so glad I sucked it up and didn’t complain, because I ended up getting promoted twice in three years in no small part because of my good attitude and willingness to do the grunt work.
    You can always ask, but I think it would be better to keep looking for a job with hours that work better for you.

  24. Crow T. Robot

    #4: Go to the party and tell your boss, multiple times, “I’m SO HAPPY. For you.”

  25. Adam

    #3. I totally understand where you’re coming from on this, as I used to work in bar and more often than not got swing shift (5 PM to 2 AM), sometimes more than seven days in a row. Anyone who has worked that shift knows that many people end up getting off work and are still up for several hours afterwards because it can be hard to go directly to bed afterwards. I missed BBQs, functions, and spent most of my day sleeping so I frequently felt that I had absolutely no life. Compound this with the fact that I was the only underage person working in a big casino bar (my aunt knew a guy), and I know all too well how it feels to be the really odd person out in a workplace.

    As others have said, there’s probably no harm in asking for an alteration to your schedule, but sometimes a job just is what it is. If you are stuck in your current schedule and feel your quality of life is suffering that badly, then it may be time to consider what other opportunities are out there.

    1. CanadianWriter

      That was my favourite shift. Staying up until 4 am, sleeping until noon… those were the days.

      1. Felicia

        I think that shift would get really lonely if everyone you know works 9-5, Monday-Friday

        1. Adam

          Yeah for me it was worse. I was living with my grandma then while on break from college and had absolutely no friends. And since I was underage I couldn’t really go out (I know that doesn’t stop other people, but I was “the good boy” [something I regret a bit]) and that’s about all there was to do in that town.

          So I’d work late, come home to a quiet house and play video games for an hour or two, sleep most of the day away to wake up in time to repeat the whole process all over again. Not the most exciting existence.

          It had benefits though. The tips were killer and working in a bar is the ultimate venue for people watching, especially when you were the cashier and thus had to sit one spot with not much to do for eight hours plus breaks.

      2. louise

        I spent a summer working in Alaska when I was 18 — worked 4pm-midnight. It was still light when I got off work, so I had a lot of trouble winding down. I’d stay up for a few hours, and by the time I was getting sleepy, I’d call my parents in the EST (four hours ahead of Alaska) and visit with them a bit before they left for work, then I’d crash.

  26. limenotapple

    Video Interviews…I think by having a requirement like this you’ll be missing some good candidates. This is a hoop I would jump through only if I were really, super-duper interested in the job, or was really desperate for a job. Of course, that is just my personal inclination, but I think I might lose interest pretty quick if I had to install some random thing on my device in order to apply. It would indicate to me that the company also had weird hoops for other things.

    1. BCW

      Having done 2 of them in my most recent job search, I’m actually more inclined to do them for a job I had only a passing interest in. For a phone interview, you have to schedule it, and if you are working, schedule around it since you probably wouldn’t be taking a full day off for them. For the video interview, you do it at your leisure, and it takes all of 10 minutes.

      Now to be clear, I’m not really a fan of them, but having taken more than my share of phone interviews for things that ended up being a waste of time for all parties involved, I think this is actually a bit easier.

      1. CTO

        The think about a phone interview, though, is that it also lets me as the candidate get a better feel for the position. Often a phone interview has confirmed to me that I’m interested (or not interested) in the position, and makes it possible to get on the same page about any deal-breakers like salary or schedule right away (as much as I would love those to be in the job posting they often aren’t).

        While a phone interview is less convenient for me as the candidate, I’d much rather have that two-way conversation than waste my time doing a video interview and come away still not knowing much about whether or not I’m interested in the job.

  27. LQ

    #4
    Taking the high road will need to include not sneering, not making rude gestures, not taking an attitude. Genuine congratulations and pleasantries are the high road.

    I understand that you’re very frustrated with this, but this person is leaving so the best thing for you to do is let it go. After the party go home and be frustrated and angry for 10 minutes, yell at your walls or cat or partner. Then celebrate your ability to move forward, because staying stuck on this person won’t do you any good.

    And just because something is on someones desk doesn’t mean you have to read it. Assuming the letter wasn’t simply 40pt font saying $150,000!!! you could have just not read it.

  28. Ann Furthermore

    #4 – I think it depends on the culture of your company. If things like this get noticed and become a Big Deal, then suck it up and go. If no one’s going to get too bent out of shape about it, then make up a previous commitment.

    Regardless of whether you do or don’t attend though, I would recommend that you reflect on your experience working for this person, and evaluate it with a critical eye. What were some things that you could have handled differently or better? Are there things you said in the heat of the moment that you now regret or wish you could take back? What would you say instead, if given the opportunity?

    No matter how big a jerk someone is, things like this are very rarely one-sided. Almost always, it takes 2 people to create a situation like this. And now, you have an opportunity to be honest with yourself and acknowledge what your part in it was, and learn something from it so you can avoid doing it again down the road.

    I say this as someone who once had a really terrible manager. I’ve mentioned him here many times. I could go on all day about all the reasons why he was the worst manager in the history of managing. But I was not blameless either. Yeah, the guy was a colossal ass, but there were some things that I did not handle very well, and a few times when I shot my mouth off and made some pretty caustic remarks. Not only did those incidents not improve the situation at all, they made it worse. I often wonder if I’d made some different choices, or kept my mouth shut once or twice, if it would have helped improve my relationship with that bad manager, and if things would have worked out differently. I’ll never know, but there were some lessons there that I have (hopefully) learned from and used to improve myself.

    I suggest you do the same. If you really are brutally honest with yourself, it’s an opportunity for growth and to learn more about yourself.

  29. JMegan

    #1, what if you created a “How to Write a Good Cover Letter” section on your general Employment page? Then you could include something in the job ad like “Please note that we consider your cover letter to be an important part of your application; see link for more information on what we’re looking for.”

    As others have noted, you’ll be able to tell a lot by who clicks the link and makes an attempt at a decent cover letter, and who doesn’t.

  30. Noah

    #2 – I’ve only done one video interview and I actually really liked it. They provided you with a question and then gave you 90 seconds to formulate an answer and then another 90 seconds to record the answer. Obviously it shouldn’t take the place of an in person interview but when combined with a screening questionnaire I can see it taking the place of a phone interview. It was also nice because I received an email saying “please complete this by x date”. I then could find a quiet time when I would be home to complete this instead of trying to work a phone interview around both my and the interviewer’s schedule. I guess ultimately it depends on how the company sets them up but my single experience with them was positive.

    #3 – I worked a variety of nights/weekends/holidays when I worked for an airline and later an ambulance service. It sucks feeling like the odd one out without a 9-5 job in your friend group. Honestly, I don’t think I could’ve done it if I was working by myself. In both cases I quickly became friends with some of my coworkers who worked similar schedules and understood. However, like others have mentioned I doubt you will get much support from the full-time day person on swapping schedules around. It is likely they covered the sucky weekend shift at some point and were promoted. The feeling will probably be “you took the job knowing the schedule, deal with it or leave”. Even though I’m in an office job with an airline now, I still do not have much sympathy when others complain about having to work nights/weekends.

  31. CH

    #1 – Are you trying to get more information from candidates by using a writing prompt or are you trying to assess their writing skills? Because if it is the latter, you can’t be sure it is their true work unless they write it in your office during an interview. As a professional editor, I get to read and chop up cover letters for friends and family. That’s one of the reasons I read this blog (along with all the charming commentators)–I want to give them good advice. Many of the letters start out bland and generic, until I ask pointed questions to get to the specifics and have them add those in.

    1. OP #1

      Little bit of column A, little bit of column B. Sure, someone could ghost write a cover letter, but they would likely get screened out during an interview, don’t you think?

      1. Ask a Manager Post author

        Depends. But if you need to hire people who can write well, I would not rely solely on the cover letter to demonstrate that. You should absolutely do an on-site writing test. Some people do get help with their cover letters or spend way longer polishing them than they’ll be able to do at work.

      2. CH

        Not necessarily. Some very fluent speakers are awful writers. I’ve worked with a few.

        1. fposte

          I think the OP is saying the other way around–if the cover letter is ghost-written to be better than the interviewee can manage, that is likely to be evident in the interview.

  32. Riki

    2 – I did a video interview not too long ago. It was a little awkward, but I enjoyed the novelty at first. That novelty wore off pretty quickly, though. There were uploading issues and when it was over I felt like I’d just made a video for a dating service. Also, I’m not that photogenic and I have to wonder how much of a factor that is in passing the screen. Over the phone, there’s two-way communication. In person, the interviewer is getting the full package. Both of these things are missing with recorded interviews.

    I have a feeling that companies use this because they think it saves time (no calls to schedule), but I suspect that it might make the screening process take longer since the hiring managers can watch the submissions whenever they feel like it (ever?). Anyway, I’d be really interested to hear/read what a hiring manager who has had to screen cam interviews really thinks of them.

    1. BCW

      I know of one organization who used it. Their process was the applicant had to have it in by a certain date, usually a Friday. Then the committee had a set number of days to individually watch it and score it on pre-determined metrics. The people with the best overall scores were called in for an in person interview. Seems like its an easy way for a bunch of people to have input without making everyone jump on a conference call.

    2. Teacher Recruiter

      As a hiring manager who uses this we love it. First off, it allows our candidates to interview at a time that’s convenient for them and we end up getting the screenings done quicker than when we were going back and forth trying to schedule a time that’s convenient for both. Second it helps us see a candidate’s presence which is important for most of the jobs we’re hiring for.

      It does save time as well. In most phone interviews we can tell if a candidate if off their rocker within the first five minutes, but it’s rude to cut it off at that point, so you end up stuck on the phone for an additional 20 minutes which is a big waste of time. And because it saves us time, it allows us to advance more people past the application review to the next phase – the online interview, which is actually a huge advantage to candidates.

      The other biggest advantage is it allows other hiring managers to review the interview at a later date. So typically our HR does the first screen and gathers additional data and then sends a package to the hiring manager – this online interview allows the hiring manager to see exactly what we saw instead of having to read phone interview notes (which they don’t or they do and misinterpret).

      If candidates can’t do the online interview then we do the same interview on the phone. It is true there is not a back and forth but this is not a final interview and we certainly do those in-person. We absolutely love it and have recommended it to several other companies.

  33. mel

    #3: Working weekends while everyone else gets banker hours is pretty hard, socially. That sucks. The only thing I miss about working only weekends is being able to get so much done during the week! My home was much tidier and could make appointments. But I definitely didn’t have fun with friends.

    That said, so what happens the entire day before 5pm? Doesn’t sound much like friends are relaxing and chilling if they’re unavailable until evening hours…

  34. Mephyle

    #1, how is the person you hire going to interact with the customers they will be supporting? In writing, over the phone, or in person? Is being able to express themselves well in writing part of the job duties?
    You will screen in people who are ace at representing themselves on paper, but it may not tell you much about how they deal with people face to face. More to the point, you will screen out people who are not good at writing, but might be very good at the job if it involves interacting with people verbally (phone or in person).

    1. OP #1

      Agents assist customers via phone and email, but not in person. We’ve toyed with hiring people for one and not the other, but we are reluctant to do so (for most agents, email support is highly preferable to phone support, and we don’t want to relegate some people to undesirable work solely because they are stronger at it).

      1. LQ

        This (not exactly but close enough) is something we’ve been struggling with. That what we really need is people who are great at phones, but phones are seen as punishment and Not Phones work is seen as a reward. Part of that is organizational, if your business rewards (promotes, etc) people who are on email duty but doesn’t for people who are on phones even people who enjoy phone duty will want out. Making sure people can get rewarded and supported in phone duty is important. (As is making sure that it is seen as organizationally important, but that might be way outside of your control.)

        1. OP #1

          Amen. We have ring groups and phone rotations to help keep things fair. We also have management get on the phones once a week to relieve agents and to remember how hard that job is (we haven’t done this in a few weeks – yikes!).

          We had a new agent talk to us and say he felt more comfortable on the phones and would prefer to focus on that. I almost kissed him on the mouth.

          1. LQ

            That is great, and make sure that if you can find ways to reward and promote people within the phone structure. Amazing call handlers are worth a lot.

            Making sure management get on the phones is good too (especially if they don’t complaint about it). Though I think it should be unnecessary (it is kind of a waste of a director’s time and skill, but they haven’t been well enough to have staff who can work without that negative attitude about some of the work), in environments where that kind of work is punishment it can help change the tone of the work.

  35. Jacob

    #5 – I seem to recall a bit of distaste on your part when answering work related bathroom questions. Am I wrong? I probably wouldn’t like those either. Thanks for the site. It gives me some good ideas for presentations I do. (Regular reader, first time poster.)

  36. Annie O

    #5 I agree with Alison’s comments about equating an individual experience with a universal truth. That said, I hope this doesn’t discourage commenters from sharing their own specific stories. I love hearing about different kinds of experiences. Especially since most of my own work experience has been in a single industry, and its norms are far from universal!

    1. matcha123

      I agree. I think everyone could do well to take a step back and remember that not every situation is the same. Not every person is the same. Etc. What works for one, may not work for another :)

  37. ThursdaysGeek

    #5 – You listed what you disliked the most, and that you like it a lot. But is there any aspect that you like above all the rest?

    Personally, in addition to the great advice (that I dislike only because I’ve come across it so late in my career), I enjoy the community. There are people here that I would like to meet in real life, and they post enough that I feel like I do know them a little bit. The other thing I most enjoy is learning about things I’d never even thought about, and seeing things from different perspectives, but in a polite manner.

    1. Ask a Manager Post author

      I adore the comment section. I don’t think I would have kept the site going this long if there were no comment section. I know that commenters are actually only a small portion of overall readership, but when I’m writing stuff, at this point it’s you guys who I’m picturing myself talking to (and the letter-writers, of course).

      There’s no other type of writing I can think of where you get instant feedback, and it’s pretty amazing. (And, frankly, addictive.)

      1. ThursdaysGeek

        Are there discussions where the readership in generally disagrees with you, and if so, were you surprised by that? How often does a disagreeing argument change your mind (or at least modify your position)?

        I seem to recall one discussion, some time back, where much of the readership disagreed, and that you publicly reconsidered your stance. But I don’t recall what it was.

        I’ve certainly seen both your initial replies and the subsequent discussion change my mind, or at least widen my horizon.

        1. Ask a Manager Post author

          I know there have been times I’ve changed my mind too, although I can’t remember any of them now!

          But there have also been times like this one, where loads of people disagreed with me on this post, and it didn’t change my mind but it did make me realize, “Oh, tons of people see this differently, so it’s extra important for managers who see this the way I do to be really clear with people about that rather than assuming it’s understood.”

    2. Ask a Manager Post author

      Also: I like the transparency that the site provides. If someone is thinking about hiring me — or working for me — here are seven years of a daily record of how I think and operate, so they can decide if our styles mesh. That’s pretty handy.

  38. Eudora Wealthy

    #2 These video interviews are presumably only done with entry-level positions, right? The recorded, digitized video can too easily be leaked by anyone in the penumbra of the hiring manager to other people outside the company (e.g., the applicant’s current boss or even youtube).

    Yes, applicants’ resumes can be leaked. That’s always been the case. But the videos are much more personal and are unalterable concrete evidence that the applicant is shopping for another job.

    Just the idea of this gives me the heeby-jeebies. Of course, the hiring manager and HR should be extremely cautious and maintain the applicant’s confidentiality anyway, but there seems to be something particularly risky about the videos for the applicants.

    Not exactly sure how to express this. It just seems that the employer and hiring manager should go to great lengths to make an application process a safe process, especially with these newer technologies. . . . Am I rambling?

    1. BCW

      I dont think its an unsafe process. I mean by that logic, someone could just as easily record a skype interview and post it. Not saying there aren’t some weird people who would do that, but I have never heard of it.

      1. Eudora Wealthy

        Actually, there are unethical people who do that. The Donald Sterling recording is a famous recent example of someone being hurt (not that I’m a fan of Sterling). There are lots of other recordings on youtube that were leaked in an unethical manner.

  39. jennie

    I don’t really understand the benefit of video interviews from the interviewer’s perspective. I had a vendor try to sell me video interview services by saying it would save us so much time in the interview process. But someone still needs to screen the videos so it’s not going to take that much less time than seeing them in person. I guess if the first question is a bust you can skip the rest, unlike in an in-person interview, but I don’t see it making things much more efficient. Especially when you account for technical difficulties, etc.

  40. DarthAdmin

    For #4, I agree that OP’s boss likely doesn’t want to see her at the farewell party given the (to me obvious) bad feelings between them. But I also agree that it’s in the OP’s best professional interests to make an appearance so as to be perceived as taking the high road.

    Given that, and presuming this is a large enough celebration to do it, I’d recommend: showing up 5-10 minutes after it starts so that there are enough people there to hide amongst; talking briefly to 3-4 people so as to make your presence known; and then excusing yourself to use the ladies room and never returning to the party.

    You’re seen, word will get around (“Oh yeah, Hepzibah came, I talked to her!”), and you don’t have to stay and make either you or your ex-boss uncomfortable.

  41. hayling

    #1 – as an applicant, as much as we all loathe writing cover letters, they are an opportunity to sum up one’s candidacy as well as explain any discrepancies or add anything that’s not appropriate for the resume. For example, I moved cross-country a few years ago for my SO’s job. So all my experience was in another state and I had obviously left a job without another one lined up. The cover letter gave me the opportunity to explain that in the introduction so there were no “does she actually live in this state?” “why did she leave the last job, was she fired?” questions.

  42. Tina Marina

    #1: Make sure there’s enough information about your company readily available. I’ve seen so many job postings that simply say “hiring admin for a law office.” If your company name isn’t on every posting, add as many details about you as you can.

    And if it is on there, make sure you’re easily Google-able, and your website has all of the important facts like how big you are, what type of customers you usually serve, and any recent achievements.

    This could be irrelevant if you’re at a very well-known company for your field, but you’d be surprised. I’ve sat down to write so many cover letters to realize all I knew about the position is that they wanted someone “organized and capable of multitasking with a thick skin.” Doesn’t really let me point out where I can shine.

    1. Kerr

      Came here to say this! Make sure you include the company name and website, and try to describe the day-to-day details of the job as much as possible. So many entry-level ads make it tough to write anything specific, so they get bland cover letters.

  43. Treetops

    I wanted to say something about the proliferation of “video interviews” that you discuss in letter #2. I think this is just a sneaky way of introducing more bias into the hiring process.

    When you vet a resume and other written materials you make a well-informed choice about whether to invite someone for an interview, at which point you can have a real conversation with a real person (hopefully) and (also hopefully) get a feel for whether the candidate is a good fit.

    When you get video submissions you can make an instant judgment about the person’s race, ethnicity, and general self-presentation (he looks fat, she looks like a lesbian, etc) and you don’t even have to bother watching the whole video. On top of all the other reasons this trend is lame, I think this one is really worrisome.

  44. Susan

    Can I ask a cynical question?

    Has anyone ever done a video interview, gotten the job, then not gone on to hate the company’s HR/management?

    When I was leaving my old company, they did the first round of interviews to replace me by video. And I think that company was traditionally distant in communication/too busy to put much effort into decisions anyway. I probably sound really snarky, but I actually had a great experience with my co-workers and loved the work, but management in general seemed like they had too much on their plate and made a lost of hasty decisions. It was hard as hell to get in contact with HR. I’m wondering if its these types of “difficult to communicate with/evasive” companies that are the ones to navigate toward this system.

  45. Cassie

    #4: In my workplace, we have a sufficient number of people that at least a handful of people are missing from any given event – some people never attend anything, some people are particular about what they attend, and some people attend everything. I’ve wondered about the same thing the OP is asking, in regards to a manager in our office – I don’t think I would go. I don’t want to deal with the pleasantries, I don’t want to hear her talk any more than I need to, and it would just be awkward.

    If I were the boss, I wouldn’t want anyone there that didn’t want to be there. Actually, I would only want people I like there – but it’s not like you can ask people NOT to show up.

    If we happened to be in an elevator or room together, I would probably put on a pleasant face and say congratulations and all that, but I wouldn’t go out of my way to attend a farewell party. (But I tend not to like parties anyway).

  46. Jazzy Red

    #4) I want to know more about the 10 pages of “unforgivable” acts that this boss did.

    I have a feeling the boss is breathing a huge sigh of relief at not having to deal with this worker any more.

  47. #4 Employee

    I didn’t end up going to the farewell party, but it wasn’t noticed. It wasn’t during my work hours. I’m moving on and am very glad to be looking forward to all the positive things that will happen in my life.

    As for me being part of our bad relationship, I can honestly say I wasn’t. Have you ever known anyone who insists that there is no other way to do anything than there’s, and is never reasonable?

    As for the 10 pages, HR literature states to document bad management, so that’s what I did, but I somehow feel it hurt ME in the end.

  48. Honeysuckle

    #2 I’m almost certain video interviews are the new “open offices”. They’re here to stay even though they suck. They’re probably more cost and time effective for employers and hiring managers and it makes interviews of long distance candidates possible.

    The problem I have with this is accuracy. Employers are likely to put more candidates through to a round of video interviews. Especially if it’s a one way type pre-recorded interview where the candidates would have to answer questions as if they were presenting. This lacks the natural flow and give and take of a conversation. It makes the process even more unnatural which could result in bad hires and bad fits because everyone’s putting on even that much more of a show as opposed to being their genuine selves. It also makes it easier for employers to pass judgement on a candidate’s appearance on camera as opposed to how they would really be. It could even scare away talent and introverts who would otherwise be great employees when in their own element.

    It’s just the whole dilemma of how normal people are not often all that comfortable or used to putting themselves in the spotlight as opposed to narcissistic personalities who are. With video interviews it’s even more about putting yourself in the spotlight and building barriers between yourself and the employers. With pre-recorded ones you can’t even ask clarifying questions. The way you appear on camera could come to overshadow your credentials and I’m bummed at how job interviews get turned into even more awkward and unnatural situations than they already are when they should be aimed at making both parties feel comfortable to get an accurate picture of a company or a candidate. There’s even a lack of eye contact if you are looking at your screen and not the camera sitting on top of it not to mention the possibility of tech failures affecting the mood.

    It would be nice if for once employers tried out their own interviewing methods and experienced how they come accross to the candidates themselves.

Comments are closed.