how long of a work gap is bad for your resume, my boss makes me do his grocery shopping, and more

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

1. How long of a gap on your resume is too long?

Your blog entries helped me get through a job search, and I just accepted a new position. I’m excited about the new job, but burnt out from the old one. Fortunately, my new boss is flexible with start date, and I am hoping to take some time to recover and travel before I start my new position. Will an employment gap of one month (e.g. leave old job in August, start new one in October) be a red flag on a resume in the future? On LinkedIn? How long of a gap is acceptable before it becomes a red flag?

One month won’t even be noticed. In general, gaps don’t stand out until they’re five or six months or longer, and they don’t become potential red flags until they’re longer than that. The concern on a hiring manager’s side isn’t “oh no, this person took a couple of months to travel / relax / care for family!” They don’t care about that. The concern is, “Does this person have a work gap because they were fired and unable to get re-employed in their field / went to prison / had some sort of spectacular flame-out / ended up being such a weak employee that they couldn’t get hired / lost motivation to work entirely and are only now returning out of desperation / worked as a pimp for that time / otherwise did something concerning?”

A couple of months? Totally fine and unlikely to raise any questions.

2. My job has evolved into doing grocery shopping and child care for my boss

I’ve been with my boss for a couple of years now and was hired under the title of receptionist (then later assistant) and knew that any errands I had to run were solely work-based. However, lately it has become more of me doing personal errands like going to grocery shopping (for the house), picking up their child to and from (many) places, taking the car to get washed, handling their personal home projects that has nothing to do with me or what we do, and even sometimes babysitting during my work hours. Any work that I have to do gets either postponed or I have to do it in half the amount of time.

It has been going on for quite a while now and I’m afraid I am becoming more of a nanny who happens to help at the office. Is this typical for those who are assistants? Or is my boss taking it too far? If so, how do I stop it? The company is just the two of us, which makes it very hard for me to say no or show that I am unhappy with work.

It’s not uncommon in very small businesses like this for the owner to blend business and personal work, and you’re getting dragged into that. A little of this might be the price of working for this particular two-person business, but it sounds like this has gone well beyond the occasional, emergency favor and has become a routine part of the job.

I’d try talking to your boss about the fact that you’d like to stay focused on business tasks only, saying something like, “I’ve been asked to help out with child care and household errands quite a bit lately. While I didn’t mind helping in an emergency, it’s become a regular part of the job. I’d really like to stay focused on assisting the business rather than becoming more of a household employee. Is there a way for us to keep those separate?”

In addition, I’m pretty sure that there’s a legal issue with them doing this — the IRS doesn’t generally allow household employees to be paid through a company payroll (because while businesses are allowed to write off some or all of the cost of employee salaries, individual household employers aren’t), and you might point that out. You could say something like, “In addition to wanting to focus my career on work like XYZ, I think we might be running afoul of tax laws too: The IRS says that businesses can’t take tax deductions for the wages of people doing household work.”

3. Telling a friend I’d get a referral bonus if she’s hired

Is there an etiquette to telling a friend about a referral bonus you could get if they’re hired? I told a very good friend to look at our website, she applied, I referred her, and now she’s got her second interview scheduled. I assume she’d find out about the bonus anyway if she is hired. When/how should I discuss it with her? Should I be expected to share it with her?

No, you’re not expected to share it. Companies use referral bonuses to encourage employees to refer good candidates. If she’s hired, you’re entitled to the full amount. It’s highly unlikely that she’d expect you to share it; you did her a favor by connecting her with the job, and if it’s a rational person, she’s going to be glad that you got a reward out of it. I don’t think you even need to make a point of mentioning it, but if you’d feel better about saying something, just work it in when there’s a natural opening.

4. How to reject internal candidates

I’m an HR manager working in an NGO. A few weeks ago I posted an internal posting for job vacancies we have within our organization. I’ve decided to reject some of the internal applicants because they just don’t fit what we’re looking for. How do I communicate the rejection to them positively? I don’t want to lose any of them.

You’re right that you need to deliver rejections differently when you’re dealing with internal applicants. I’d recommend at least offering to talk with them in person, and being as specific as you can about why they’re not going to advance in the hiring process — and also talking to them about what they might work on developing in order to be competitive for a promotion in the future. You want the basic message to be “we think you’re great because of X / this isn’t the role right now because of Y / I think you can work on Z and better position yourself for consideration down the road.” (Don’t blow smoke up their asses though — if they’re unlikely to ever be serious candidates for promotion, it’s not kind to mislead them.)

5. What’s the difference between HR and Employee Relations?

What is the general/basic difference between HR and Employee Relations? I realize that Employee Relations is usually an extension or leg of HR, but what is the basic difference in most companies?

Employee relations is a subset of HR. HR is a pretty general term that covers compensation, benefits, some hiring assistance, personnel policies, compliance, administration, and sometimes things like employee relations, training, and performance management systems (like evaluations and progressive discipline policies). So technically, employee relations is a piece of that — the piece involved with managing the employer-employee relationship, such as aiding communications between managers and employees, working with managers on disciplinary actions, and helping communicate employer policies. However, HR departments are known by a variety of names, and some organizations call the whole enchilada “employee relations.”

{ 132 comments… read them below }

  1. Sara M*

    #3: It is, however, a good idea to take your friend out to dinner with some of that bonus. She’ll appreciate it, it’ll be fun, and it’ll help you bond together.

    Dinner cost somewhat based on the bonus. If you got $100, go to a taqueria. If you got $5,000, you should be looking at the Melting Pot. Actually, how about you take _me_ to the Melting Pot? :)

    1. ClaireS*

      When my friend got a referral bonus when I was hired we went out for celebratory drinks.

      It was nice and completely unexpected on my part (I expected the celebratory drinks, not that she’d pay for them).

      1. Kara*

        Yep, I took a friend out for drinks to celebrate her making it through the probationary period and as a thank you for getting me the referral bonus. Win-win. (She didn’t expect to be taken out, and DEFINITELY didn’t expect me to share the bonus.)

    2. The Cosmic Avenger*

      This is what I was thinking. When I see internal job postings, the referral bonus is usually $600, so if I got a referral bonus I’d take the new employee to a very nice lunch ($50-$100) near the office. Besides, if I’m referring them, they are someone I know, and they may have been out of work, so I’d probably take them out to lunch anyway. :)

    3. Laura*

      I agree with this, but also, a slightly different point of view:

      My company offers referral bonuses; as a matter of course, I’d assume another company *might* (or might not).

      It would not bother me in the least if I was hired somewhere and my friend who referred me got a referral bonus.

      But telling me that *before* I took the job – well, depending on how it was handled/said, that might come across as “Oh, by the way, if you get an offer and accept, I get a referral bonus…so take the offer.” That is, I might feel like the goal was partly to make me feel guilty if I decided the offer wasn’t the best one on the table (or wasn’t acceptable, or I didn’t want to work there), thus taking a referral bonus from my friend.

      Again, depends on how it was said, but since I don’t see why it _needs_ to be said, anything at all awkward would probably make me wonder if this was the subtext.

      1. Kay*

        I hadn’t really considered that facet, Laura. That’s a really good point. I think the time to talk about the referral bonus is AFTER your referral gets the job and if they don’t (or choose not to accept the offer), then it’s not really worth mentioning.

      2. NoPantsFridays*

        Yeah, this is the first thing I thought, actually — that I wouldn’t mention it if I were the referring employee because my friend might think I’m pressuring her to take the offer if offered, or that I’m putting pressure on her to interview extra well, etc.

        Like you, it wouldn’t bother me at all to know that my friend got a bonus because I was hired — that’s good news for both of us!

      3. Liz*

        That’s a really good point! I didn’t even think of it from the angle that she might not actually want the job after she learns more about it, and the last thing I want to do is make it seem like I’m putting pressure on her.

    4. Liz*

      Thanks, Allison! I probably wouldn’t be thinking so much about this if it wasn’t such a good friend I referred. It almost makes me feel obligated to share it in some way, though I doubt she wouldn’t expect me too. I really like Sara M’s idea about going to a fancy dinner to celebrate – hopefully it all works out and I get the chance!

    5. ThursdaysGeek*

      I recommend this too, although it backfired on me once. I took the friend out to lunch, and said I was paying because I’d received a referral bonus. He decided the only reason I had referred him was for the money ($500 or so?!), and refused to be friends after that. However, he had other underlying issues, and most people will appreciate the lunch.

  2. Scmill*

    I shared a referral bonus with another co-worker once. She had worked with the person I was referring at a different company than the one I had worked with him at, and when I told her he had an interview scheduled, she went to the hiring manager to give him a glowing rec. She knew I already had the bonus locked up so she did it just because it was the right thing to do (he was really good). I thought I should reward that and gave her 10% of the $5k I got. She tried to give it back to me, but I insisted she keep it as her additional rec may have been the tipping point in the decision to hire him.

    1. Kimberlee, Esq.*

      If AAM had gold, like Reddit, I would give you gold.

      Actually, some kind of point-giving system would be super cool!

        1. Ed*

          A small consulting company I used to work for gave us up to $4K referral bonuses, depending on the position. They specialized in high-end, long-term contracts. For example, I worked a two-year contract for them that netted them about $160K after paying me (and I paid 100% of my benefits). Some of the contracts involving more obscure technology were usually filled by word of mouth as you pretty much needed to steal a relatively happy employee from somewhere else vs. just advertise.

  3. Student*

    #2 There are legal implications for YOU, personally, if you are taking on significant childcare duties. You may want to look into it, especially if you are acting as nanny a significant portion of your time. There’s a reason that daycare is expensive – it’s got lots of regulations.

    Who’s liable for the boss’s kid while she’s in your care? You, personally? Your boss? Your boss’s company? Kids tend to do risky things and get hurt – what would happen if boss’s kid broke an arm, had a severe allergy reaction, or needed some stitches while in your care? Would your job suddenly be on the line? Would the business reimburse you for costs, or would the boss reimburse you personally?

    1. NoPantsFridays*

      Yeah, I was wondering about this as I read the letter. If something happened to the kid while in her care, she could find herself not only out of a job or out money, but in legal trouble. This is personal liability insurance territory.

      Personally, if I had to take on childcare responsibilities for my boss or coworker’s child(ren), I’d start looking pretty fast. But that’s just me and my personality, and I don’t know the OP#2’s situation.

    2. OhNo*

      That was my first thought as well. Taking care of kids is tricky, and there’s a lot of hidden problems in there. If the kid gets hurt, not only could you get fired or possibly incur costs for treatment, but is your boss the kind of person who would sue you or pursue legal ramifications if the injury is severe enough?

      That’s the kind of thing that makes me extremely wary of any situation involving taking care of kids.

  4. #4 Question Writer*

    Dear Ask a manager,
    thank you so much for sharing this on your website. i really appreciate your answer.
    the problem is with employees that they take any rejection as a negative point and automatically thinks that this company is not appreciating me or Im not gonna grow here.
    I will do what you suggested and see how things will go.
    if anyone has any further ideas that can share with us that would be also great!
    thanks again

    1. Kate*

      Applying for some position internally will not automatically mean any applicant is suitable for it. This sounds obvious to me. Even though applicant thinks s/he is the greatest choice, there might be something s/he does not know about the position. And anyway, only one person is going to be hired.

      To me, it looks like the issue with taking rejection personally should be separated from the previous statement. It’s all about being genuine and explaining why applicant is not going to be moved/raised, so that really s/he feels there are options in the future if s/he improves performance/learns something/etc. Even if there’s a lot to learn (and you might think it’s impossible for him/er to learn), tell him/er! It will make them feel company appreciates them and is ready to allow them growing once they’re ready.

      Also, another point is that growing is not always just climbing the career ladder/raising salary. Growing is also improving knowledge, which may potentially help with the career growth in turn. So if there is possibility or if you see it may help, talk to applicant’s manager about some kind of training. That way employee can feel that company cares about him/er and his/er future growth.

    2. ClaireS*

      As someone who has applied and been rejected to internal jobs, I can assure you that not all employees will take it harshly. When I was rejected the hiring manager was honest about being the right for and encouraged me to develop in some specific areas. The more specific you can be, the better.

      It didn’t feel good but I never felt unvalued and I felt confident that if I grew in x area I would be setting myself up for the next opportunity (and I was!)

      1. Julie*

        I had a not-so-great experience with this kind of situation, but it made me realize that if the hiring manager talks with the internal person who is being rejected and is honest with her, that can go a long way towards creating good will. When I was rejected, there was no conversation at all (just – “we’ve decided to hire the other person”). My colleagues and I already felt unappreciated and undervalued by the company, so it felt like business-as-usua” for them. The person they hired changed her mind about the job, so I did get the position after all, and once I started, I discovered that there were some good reasons they hired her over me in the first place. I don’t understand why they didn’t just tell me that. I would have felt a lot less resentful, and I would have thought, “well at least there’s one manager in this place who is a decent, honest person,” and I would have felt better about staying, even though the general culture wasn’t very welcoming or positive. I think that even if your company is like that, you (as the hiring manager) can do this hiring process differently. You don’t have control over how people respond to you, but that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do your best in the situation to be honest and encouraging.

    3. LBK*

      Giving internal rejections is also a lot easier if the candidates are receiving consistent feedback in the first place. I got passed over for an internal promotion and when I asked my supervisor for feedback, he completely blindsided me by saying it was due to a glaring personality issue I needed to address. All I could think was why the hell hasn’t this ever been mentioned in the last year I’ve worked for you, including any of my quarterly reviews?

      A rejection shouldn’t be the first time one of your employees is hearing about something major that could be holding back their career. Just like an annual review, an internal rejection should more or less be a summary of feedback they’ve already received. They’ll be a lot less likely to get resentful and demotivated if the reason for the rejection is something they already know about.

    4. Frances*

      I applied for a couple of internal jobs that I did not get. Although my employer was large enough and the jobs in question were so far removed from my position at the time it was probably a bit less awkward, but I really appreciated the one where the hiring manager emailed me personally (they were in a different building 20 minutes away so it would have been kind of weird to meet in person for a rejection) and let me know that they were going with another candidate because they had stronger experience in a particular area. It wasn’t a long email, but it somehow managed to be both honest and kind in its explanation; it made me feel I had been given a fair chance at the job and also pointed me at an area in which I needed to improve to pursue those kinds of positions.

      The other job, now that I think about it, I never got a notice about it at all. What I learned in the interview made me a little hesitant to take the position (the only reason I didn’t withdraw was because my then-job was a soul-draining nightmare), so it didn’t bother me that I didn’t get offered the job, but I basically never heard from them again. Don’t do that.

  5. Chris*

    Ugh, number 4. My current job is GARBAGE with this. I had an internal interview, went great, heard nothing for weeks, then got a generic “we went with another candidate, thank you for applying to work for [organization]” email, which sounded exactly like what they would send to external applicants. Even though they could just type my name into their outlook and it would automatically find me for an individual email. And one of the interviewers was my former manager.

    I’m leaving CurrentJob to go back to school for a second masters, and I’m not sad about it. The people at my local office are amazing, but administration is not great, nor is HR

  6. Anx*


    What do you do if you’re such a weak employee that you were unhireable? In March I closed a 4 year work gap. The truth of the matter was that I wasn’t good enough to get a job anywhere. That’s the honest truth, but does that mean you’re forever unemployable? As desperate as I was, I still didn’t want to take jobs that I had any intention of leaving right away or that I knew I couldn’t do satisfactorily. A few months later I was laid off–kind of. They reduced staff for the summer (my previous job reduced staff in the winter) and I was off the schedule. I have a new job now again. So I’m very inconsistent.

    The thing is, I don’t mean to be flaky and have to hop around a bit. I would have liked nothing more than to stick it out for 2 years plus at any opportunity.

    Now I”m worried that if I can’t take time off to go back to school because the past 6 years look so bad. Then I’d actually choose to be job hopping and bailing.

    1. Anx*

      When I say such a week employee, I don’t mean in my actual jobs. While I was laid off I had made it through several rounds of lay offs and had good performance reviews through college. But I wasn’t worth hiring anywhere else.

    2. Kate*

      I would suggest to work on your resume. Sometimes it is worth removing some experience from it when it’s too old, irrelevant or worsens the impression. For example, if I’m hiring a cook, I might not be interested in applicant’s dancing experience etc.

      Talking examples, I personally had a few jobs during my studies which I do not state on my resume because of them being very short (just a few months each), having gaps in between (like a few months or even more) and irrelevant to my life path. Being a manager in IT, I am also not including my old junior positions. Basically, I am just stating few last workplaces.

      Saying that, I would never lie during the interview and would tell about all the experience whenever asked. To be honest, my waitressing experience normally is not interesting to potential employees when they interview me for Manager’s position.

      I am not sure if such approach is fine for US, but it definitely works for me here in EU.

      Once you finished your school, I’d suggest you to put up whatever is most important. If your professional experience worsens your resume, you might think of highlighting your education instead. I.e. you may leave all the experience there, just put education first to show it is most important for you.

      Ummm… And never say “I am weak”, “Unhireable” etc. Keep your enthusiasm ON. Often, passion is more important than your actual knowledge or experience. I would rather hire someone who is interested in working, learning and DOING DOING than someone really clever but apathetic.

    3. Elle*

      If you managed to find a new job after being laid off, then you are not “unhireable.” You are also not truly unhireable if you are choosing which jobs to apply to and/or accept. So, what’s the issue really? Do you just have the misfortune to live in an very economically depressed area where any job is hard to come by? Are you hoping to luck into your “perfect” job somehow? Have you given any thought to what you want to do for a living or, at the very least, the type of environment in which you’d like to work?

      I had a few years of jobs hopping, followed by an 8-month period of unemployment. I did find a new job that I love, BUT it took time and a quite a bit of self reflection. There were reasons why I was job hopping and I really believe that my ultimately successful job hunt was a result of sorting those reasons out. This blog is an amazing resource, but when you find yourself repeating patterns in work/career, it’s probably time to take a closer look at them. It’s not always just bad luck. Tl;dr, it is not impossible to find a new job even with a spotty employment history, but you will need to put in more effort than someone with a glowing employment history and a vast network.

      1. De Minimis*

        I lived in an economically depressed area, and had a gap of nearly 3 years before finding a part-time job as a bookkeeper [previous job was in public accounting.] It can be overcome, you just have to find the right opportunity…and sometimes you have to relocate, which I don’t usually recommend [having done it] but sometimes it has to be done.

        In my case, I don’t believe I ever went more than a month with no interview, but the competition was very tight and you had a lot of people with more experience who were getting the jobs.

        What I do wonder is how long before a past employment gap no longer matters. I was out of work for nearly three years, but have been working for the last two. I’m in the process of looking for something new, and may be relocating again, but am afraid my past will still be held against me.

      2. Anx*

        My issue is mostly that I can’t seem to support myself on part-time work and I don’t have any skills or experience to transfer into a full-time or at least steady part-time position. Even I just conflated not being able to break out of the service industry as being unable to get a ‘real job.’ I have had a few career path plans, but have spent years trying to get a foot in the door without any success. I do live in an economically depressed area, I suppose, but it can’t just be the economy. I’m the one consistently being rejected and I need to take responsibility for that.

        I think a large part of issue is that I don’t have an amazing track record and feel like every coverletter or interview has to make up for the past 10 years of my life. I get very flustered, worried that they’ll wonder how I didn’t have time to study for all the predictable questions to an interview if I’ve been so underemployed. I lack any special skills to sell to get someone to give me that first professional track job. Everything I’ve accomplished has been in positions that aren’t ‘real’ (they were student positions). The work felt real at the time, and I learned so much. Admittedly, a lot of that was through mistakes, but being outside of my comfort zone and thrust into new situations gave me a lot of confidence when I first graduated. Now I realize how silly those roles look to employers.

    4. Mimmy*

      Anx, I’ve been reading your posts and just want to give you a virtual **HUG** because I can relate to a lot of what you’re feeling as I too have had a multi-year employment gap and self-confidence issues. I’m still struggling with this :(

      As for going back to school–it is doable! Many schools offer programs that have the working adult in mind (night classes, part-time options). When I started my Masters degree, I had a full-time job. No, it’s not easy and it isn’t for everyone, but give it some thought if you think that’s something you can handle.

      1. Anx*

        Aww, thank you. I hope I’m not being too negative. I just constantly second guess everything because everything that I thought would be helpful hasn’t been. And the best thing I did for my job search so far has been answering those personality tests as if I didn’t care at all about the work that I did. So my instincts aren’t very trustworthy.

        Unfortunately night school isn’t an option for some of the career preparation tracks I’m considering. I was hesitant to live longer off of student loans, but I am going to try. Of course, who knows if I’ll even be accepted. I’m very nervous about investing so much time and money and hope into another career and worrying that that will be another that fails to launch. Or that I’ll still have that employment gap and not have any experience in the field. But I’m considering it more and more strongly. I’m not happy about having to start a lot of my classes over, because by the time I get through some of the pre-reqs, others will expire. I think that’s the worst part of going back to school. Not even being able to transfer your credits because it took you too long to get where you are.

    5. Sissa*

      I’ve been in that place where you think you might never find employment again.

      I have a 1,5 year gap in my history, straight after my first professional job, because I got pretty much kicked out and I was depressed for the longest time. I did however travel a little and ended up moving to another country, so I had a good “excuse” to tell in interviews. Finding another job was harder than expected though, and after 3 years I’m leaving this job to go back to school to get a Bachelor’s degree on the field which I love. :)

      You are not a weak employee or unhireable! You just need to figure out if the field you want to work at is the right one for you. Are you staying up to date about the newest trends on your field? Do you also learn new things about it on your free time? I noticed that in fields like web design or development, if you don’t stay up to date, you’re going to have troubles finding employment.

      The hardest bit is keeping your chin up when finding a job is difficult. :)

  7. Dani x*

    When I filled out the job referral form at my company I had to check a box that said I told the person I was referring there was a referral bonus and how much it was. But there was nothing about sharing and I wasn’t planning on doing that if it had worked out.

    1. Monodon monoceros*

      I’m curious why the company cares whether you told the person you referred. Do you know why they wanted to know?

      1. Dani X*

        I have no idea why they want you to tell the person who is being referred. It is an international company so maybe it is a requirement in some places and it is just easier for them to require it everywhere.

  8. TheOriginalVagabond*

    #2 – I feel your pain! I work for a small business and the boss was always having me do silly personal tasks for him and his wife. For example, he’d bring a pair of exercise shorts that she wanted to return to an online store, and leave them on my desk with a note and a shipping label. First of all, that’s gross to leave tried-on clothes on my desk, and secondly, it’s weird that he drives to work and probably passes like 5 UPS locations and can’t just drop it off himself. It’d also be tasks like selling his bike on Craigslist, finding a new part for his broken fridge, sending flowers to his mother for her birthday (and I had go write the card, too!), or even going through personal receipts for his taxes!

    I finally worked up the courage to say “Mr. XYZ, I’m happy to do this favor for you today, but from now on I only feel comfortable doing work-related tasks.” He almost finished my sentence too, like he knew those tasks made me feel uncomfortable but he asked anyways. He hasn’t asked me to do things like that anymore, so I’d say one awkward moment saved me from 1000 future awkward moments of being his “personal assistant.” Ugh, these bosses are weird sometimes!

    1. Mabel*

      I think I might have mentioned this on AAM before, but I used to work for a state legislator who had me getting his car washed, picking up dry cleaning, and waiting at his house for the repair people. I was a very recent college graduate, so I didn’t feel comfortable pushing back. I knew I was being taken advantage of at that job (in a lot of ways, not just the personal errands), but I didn’t know what to do about it. If that sort of thing happened now, I would look for another job.

      1. TK*

        For a politician, perhaps the most image-conscious profession there is, getting a car washed and picking up dry cleaning really doesn’t sound wildly outside of expectations for a personal assistant to me. Though I hope you’re one of the states where “state legislator” is actually a full-time job, because in most it’s not, and thus I would find it pretty hard to justify needing this type of assistance.

        I’m not saying this is your situation (especially as you say you were taken advantage of in many ways) but it seems to me that when we’re talking about working for an office-holder these things are a little different. Most people who work for officeholders get their jobs due to pretty intense personal loyalty to the individual, don’t they? Or at least said loyalty is required to take the job. So the normal employer-employee relationship is going to be a little fuzzier.

        1. Zillah*

          It doesn’t sound like the OP had been hired as a personal assistant, though – or am I missing something?

        2. Monodon monoceros*

          doesn’t sound wildly outside of expectations for a personal assistant to me

          Maybe she said she was a personal assistant before, and I haven’t seen it, but she doesn’t say it here. If she wasn’t a personal assistant I think it makes it a lot more iffy and probably inappropriate.

          1. TK*

            I realized after writing that I probably shouldn’t have said “personal” assistant– my whole point was really that in this sort of job I’d think the line between “personal” and “professional” assistant is often going to be a little blurry.

      2. TheOriginalVagabond*

        Yup, I am looking for a new job. I just can’t stand this small office environment much longer, especially when there’s one guy ruling over all of us like a dictator lol.

    2. AVP*

      There is currently a bag of garbage (recycling maybe?) outside of my boss’s door. I think we were supposed to intuit that he wants us to take it down to the garbage room for him? He didn’t say anything about it, just left it.

      I really want to just leave it and pretend it’s not there until he takes it out himself, or asks someone to do it.

        1. JMegan*

          I would absolutely leave it.

          He probably won’t ask why you didn’t take it, but if he does, all you have to say is “Oh, I didn’t realize you wanted me to!” (With the optional addition of “Is this going to be a regular thing going forward?”)

          1. The Cosmic Avenger*

            More to the point, maybe say something like “I didn’t know what it was or why you put it there, so I figured I should leave it unless you said otherwise!”

            (A polite way of saying JUST TELL ME WHAT YOU WANT YOU (*&@#$(@#&!!!)

            1. AVP*

              Heh, thats really the point. I don’t mind doing it, but IANAMR. (I Am Not A Mind-Reader.)

              Update: he move fit halfway down the hall toward the elevator, so now it’s totally in his hands.

      1. TheOriginalVagabond*

        LOL! We do the same thing. Much respect to janitors, garbage men, etc – but it’s not my job to be the janitor or garbage man (/woman), especially when it’s not MY trash. I don’t know why so many bosses have zero common sense and expect their employees to be their servants.

    3. Kay*

      Definitely. My (soon-to-be-ex) boss would have me pick up cakes for his wife’s birthday, wrap her Christmas presents, Fedex things to his (fully grown) kids and set up couriers to take things to his mother. I was also in charge of the RSVPs for his mother’s 90th birthday. Bosses are kinda crazy especially in small companies. My job is NOT personal assistant and is mostly accounting related.

      Thursday is my last day and he’s on vacation this week! I’m so excited!!!

      1. TheOriginalVagabond*

        The days my boss goes on vacation or doesn’t come in to the office are the happiest days of my life hehe :) I know, I need to find a new job… and I’m trying!

        1. Chocolate Teapot*

          All I can think of is The Devil wears Prada and the tasks the assistants were supposed to perform. But I always thought it was made up.

          1. Kay*

            YES! My favorite was when she had to track down the manuscript for the new Harry Potter book. I love how she was able to do it! Now I need to rewatch it!

          2. Ani*

            Oh no, that was pretty much on target. The entry-level position for journalists going into New York “women’s” magazines really was (and maybe still is) this bizarre secretarial-type of position as late as the 1990s.

      2. NewishReader*

        I remember having trouble with plane tickets while traveling internationally after college, and I didn’t know what to do other than call my mom for help. I was horrified to get an email from her admin who had been tasked with fixing the issue! I couldn’t believe that my mom would ask her admin for help with a not just a personal issue, but a personal issue that wasn’t even hers! (Although thank goodness for this admin getting the ticketing problem taken care of – she got a very lovely email from me.)

  9. Cat H*

    #4 I had once applied for a job at the company I was contracting at. It was the same job as I was currently doing just a permanent one. my initial contract was 3 months but it had already been renewed twice. I had a great first interview and then was called to a meeting with the hiring manager and HR with no real subject – I just knew it was about the job. I didn’t get it. I was told it was because I didn’t have the experience they were looking for. None of my first interview questions covered this and I had been doing the job successfully for 9 months. They even extended my contract again after they told me this.
    So I guess they didn’t think I would be a good fit permanently which is fine but to tell me that I didn’t have the experience really gave me a complex and for a long time after that, I didn’t believe in myself.

    TL;DR Alison is right – don’t blow smoke up anyone’s ass but I also maybe you can tell them they didn’t get the job and invite them to discuss it if they want to. It was hard to deal with such a rejection with people watching me.

    1. Taz*

      I’m sorry you went through that. On a smaller scale, in the early 1990s I had been interning for more than half a year in an editorial role. I was commissioning well-known writers and placing their work in addition to the regular intern role (and I was unpaid, which at the time was rather unusual). Suddenly they needed to hire someone to do basically what I was doing. I was interviewed, and the woman just sort of gazed above and past me the whole time, sighed, ran her hands through her hair. And didn’t hire me. Didn’t give me a reason why. Didn’t thank me for the months of work. Didn’t really even ask me any questions.

      I understand that no job is a shoe-in, but now with decades of experience behind me I’m still appalled by the behavior of the manager. It was a three-person office. She acted like my contributions were less than zero. The two full-time employees were mortified. I had not planned on leaving at that point, but after that I really saw no reason to stay. She continued the job search for several months more.

    2. Dan*

      I got laid off from my previous job. The reason given to my boss was a “skill set mismatch.” Never mind I was kicking ass on my project, had domain experience that wasn’t common, and sufficient technical skills.

      My was like, “he’s the guy I want to co-lead the project when I step down. How is it that if there’s a skill-set mismatch that I haven’t noticed it?”

      So I went and got a 23% raise.

  10. Sabrina*

    #3 I’ve worked at a couple of company that had hefty referall bonuses ($1K+) and I’ve been asked to share them. I said sure, I’ll share it, but then I want a cut of any future referall bonuses you get. >:)

    #4 I’m also glad that you’re actually telling them. I’ve applied to positions internally at my current company only to never hear ANYTHING. One job I got a “position has been filled” email but the other one I’ve heard nothing and it was recently reposted. That’s not the first time it’s happened either. Before I got hired on from being a temp I was told to apply because they needed me in the system and they sent me a rejection email. Said I wasn’t qualified to do the job I was doing! My manager had to do some backpedaling on that one. In short, the HR department at my company sucks.

    1. Sabrina*

      Disclaimer: Spelling errors due to being forced to use a substandard version of IE today.

  11. LBK*

    Grammatical nitpick in #1 – the examples of bad resume gap explanations start in past tense (“were fired”) and then switch to present tense (“go to prison”).

    1. LBK*

      (Unless I’m just reading it wrong, but something about that sentence was throwing off the reading voice in my head.)

      1. TK*

        Yeah, I noticed the same thing, but didn’t know if it was worth noting because it’s sort of just informal colloquial usage– but it does read funny.

  12. Contessa*

    #3, I would say it in a casual way, but I would definitely tell the person. I would feel uncomfortable profiting off of someone and not telling them I’m doing it. When I refer friends to my law school classmates who practice in other states, I always tell them that I may get a referral fee, but it will not affect how much they pay for the services.

    1. LBK*

      Well, you’re not really profiting off them any more than they’re profiting off you by using you as a connection to get a job that pays them a salary. Securing employment seems like the better end of the deal vs. making $1000.

  13. Allison*

    #3 If a company gives a referral bonus, I’d be willing to bet they also grant sign-on bonuses of similar amounts, and if that’s the case I doubt a referred candidate would expect a share of someone else’s referral bonus on top of what they’re getting. That seems greedy.

    1. Mabel*

      Not necessarily. My company pays a small referral bonus, but they do not give signing bonuses.

    2. Jen RO*

      I know of many companies that give referral bonuses (I actually assume that *any* corporate job comes with a bonus for the person referring me), but I know of zero companies that offer sign-on bonuses. I actually have no idea what that even means!

      1. CAA*

        They used to be common in Silicon Valley during the tech bubble. They’re still out there, but much rarer now.

    3. Sabrina*

      Yeah I agree with the others. Sign on bonus? Is that like unicorns and leprechauns? I’ve heard of them, never seen one in the wild or captivity.

      1. AVP*

        The only times I’ve heard of friends getting them were for finance or tech jobs, where there were a handful of companies competing to hire top graduates or poaching mid-career-level people.

        1. NoPantsFridays*

          Yeah, I’ve heard of very large lump sum signing bonuses for higher level positions in order to poach the employee from another company.

      2. louise*

        Truck drivers in the U.S. commonly get a sign on bonus. It’s one of the reasons truck drivers often hop from job to job. As a result, some of the bonuses are then structured to pay out a % at hire, a % at 90 days, and the final payout at 180 days or something along those lines. In office work? I’ve never seen one.

      3. Mallory Janis Ian*

        I’ve seen sign-on bonuses for certified nursing assistants and in-home caregivers, but they are structured to pay out only if the person stays on for a certain length of time. It’s a measure to combat very high turnover. I don’t think it’s helping very much, going by the people in my family who work those jobs and are at a new one at least a couple times a year.

      4. Sharm*

        They exist. My brother graduated from the top business school in the US, and he doesn’t understand that things like bonuses (signing or annual) aren’t the norm. Of course, he was worked to the bone when he was at a lower level position (he’d commonly work until 2am, and then go right back to work at 8am), so you are definitely put through the ringer for it. It just never seemed worth it to me. One of the many reasons I’d never go into banking/finance!

    4. A Teacher*

      Some physical therapy companies give sign on bonuses. I was given one as an athletic trainer when I started work at my first company right out of grad school. I think it was $1500 and I had to stay for at least 1 year or pay it back proportionally. Referral bonuses varied based on type of employee they were looking for and the person applying specifically had to mention your name in the interview for you to get them along with a few other hoops to jump through. In the end the company and a plethora of issues and still does, but they did offer a sign on bonus.

  14. HM in Atlanta*

    Employee relations (US) started as a partner role to “Labor Relations,” specifically in non-unionized employers (although some unionized employers used this term as well). In larger organization, it’s generally used in compliance situations (managing diversity programs, affirmative action, investigations, etc.), but I’ve also seen in organisations where they’re using it for the engagement function.

  15. Purr purr purr*

    This is kind of related to OP#1’s question but not directly related. I had some advice that a long-term unemployed person can take the months out of the resume for their work experience. I fell into this category as the result of redundancy and wasn’t getting interviews (I was made redundant in February) with my resume that included months so I followed that advice and just provided years. I was asked about it at interview but, of course, this meant I was getting to tell them in person instead of my resume going into the bin! They couldn’t tell from looking at my resume if I was out of work or in work. I got the job and will be putting the months back on my resume!

    1. Zillah*

      I think that the risk you run with that advice, though, is that it can look like you’re trying to deceive people. Alison’s mentioned that as a problem with just giving years in the past.

        1. Amy B.*

          I too only give years. I know it is not recommended; but it works for my industry. My reputation/skills/achievements get me the interview.

          I also don’t worry too much about gaps in potential hire’s resume’s. I know how devastating the economic meltdown was to our industry and I am not going to judge anyone for not being able to find a job within a few months. Most were out for one year, plus.

      1. fposte*

        Alison’s mentioned that for shorter-term stuff, but not overall. Nobody’s going to care whether you started in January 2008 or September 2008 for a job you left in 2014; it’s when you put down “2012-2013” for a job that lasted from December 15 to January 15 that you’re going to shoot yourself in the foot.

  16. Cruciatus*

    Regarding #4… On Friday’s open thread I feared that my coworker was going to find out she didn’t get the job when the new person’s photo (external hire from temp agency) was circulated. It was possibly slightly worse. No picture was sent out (which apparently they don’t do when hiring temps). Her friend/coworker had to tell her at lunch and she only knew because she’s the IT person and helped set up new person’s email and other IT-related stuff. The higher ups do value this person…but only in the role they’re in now. It’s one thing to be rejected, it’s another to be rejected silently. I can imagine it would have made a big difference if this person had just been given a simple notice like, “We’re sorry, but we’ve hired someone who is a better fit. We think you’re wonderful in your current position”. Something! Anything. A heads up at the end of the day would have been ideal. But really, any notification at all at this point would have been better than what she got. There’s a reason when people leave here we call it “escaping.”

    1. JMegan*

      Agreed. Just be direct.

      At my previous job, I was covering a maternity leave (in Canada, mat leaves are for one year). The person whose leave I was covering resigned, and I expressed interest in the permanent position. My manager told me that I needed to apply through regular channels, and that he couldn’t talk to me about it any more – fair enough. But the next thing I heard was that the position had been filled.

      Never mind not getting the job, I didn’t even get an interview – for the position I had been doing for a year. I don’t care that he didn’t want to hire me, whether my work wasn’t good enough or the role was changing or he didn’t like the colour of my hair, whatever. I assume he’s making the best decision for the business, and I don’t take that personally. But for him not to say anything at all – that really sucked. Even a generic “Sorry we can’t hire you, your work has been good but we’re going in a different direction” would have been polite, but he couldn’t even muster that.

      TL;DR – just tell them. Alison’s scripts are great. Most people will understand that this is a business decision and not a personal one, and that there are always more qualified candidates than available positions. They do need a bit of a different script than external candidates, but as long as you are polite and professional, they will most likely respond the same way.

  17. Brett*

    #3 I am actually curious what referral policy, if any, people have at their companies. My current company gives 5 days vacation (which is worthless since none of us are ever able to take our full vacation anyway), and the one before that gave vacation as well (I think 2 or 3 days?).
    I’ve never seen a cash bonus for a referral… is this all that common?

    1. Natalie*

      No idea how common it is.

      My company pays $5K, split in half – one payment at 3 months and one at 6 months. Senior VPs and above aren’t eligible.

    2. Sabrina*

      Depends on the employee.

      Non-Exempt $500
      Exempt $1,000
      Specialized Positions (whatever that means) $2,000
      Actuaries $4,000
      External Wholesaler $4,000
      Officier Level $4,000

      Pretty much everywhere I’ve worked has had one.

    3. Brett*

      My experiences could be because I have worked so much academia (at public schools) and public sector, where bonuses are already a dirty word.

    4. A Teacher*

      Healthcare it can be. Like I posted up thread, physical therapy companies, at least in the Chicago area and throughout Illinois and Indiana do. My sister has been offered one to come work PRN at a nursing home–she has never wanted to be a nurse in a nursing home so its turned down–and she got a small when when she started as a nurse at the hospital where she works.

    5. Liz*

      I work for a tech company, and the range is between $2-5k depending on the position. If they have an especially hard time filling one, I’ve seen them bump up the amount. They don’t pay it out until the person has been working for 90 days.

    6. Jen RO*

      $500 in my company (for any position). No idea if the policy is the same in all the offices (we have offices in lots of countries).

    7. Mike B.*

      Healthcare advertising agency here. We get $1000 for entry-level employees, $2500 for most positions, $5000 for VPs. Occasionally when we need to staff up they’ll double the rates or give a special fee for a specific position.

    8. JC*

      My nonprofit pays $500, $200 of it when the referral is hired and $300 when the referral has stayed a year.

    9. NK*

      Cash referral bonuses are common in all the companies I’ve worked for, but I’ve never heard of vacation days as a referral bonus! I love that idea (assuming you work somewhere that you can actually take them).

    10. Janis*

      Depending on position, how essential it was, and how long it has gone unfilled, the cash bonuses are about $500 to maybe $2500. The referred person must work 3 months, then the referrer will get the money added to their paycheck on the next pay period after that. As with other posters, I’ve also never heard of vacation time given as a referral bonus, nor have I worked at a company that didn’t have some sort of “cash” referral system.

      Maybe it’s more prevalent in big companies/big cities?

    11. Another Commenter*

      Non-technical: $2,000
      Non-technical, director level: $4,000
      Technical: $6,000
      Technical, director level: $10,000

    12. Sharm*

      My current company does cash bonuses. $500 upon hired; another $500 after 6 months of the referred employee’s service.

    13. AB Normal*

      $3,000 when someone we referred is hired. It’s a medium company in the software business, less than 5 years old.

  18. T. White*

    #1. What about a 2-year gap? I was downsized and was unable to find work for two years and believe you me, it was not due to a lack of trying.

    1. Liz*

      I was laid off from a financial institution and it took me two years to finally find a job. I specialized in web content management, so in interviews when they asked how I was staying relevant I told them about the personal projects I was working on, like helping my cousin with her website, writing a blog, and learning Java Script. It wasn’t so much that I had a gap, but what I was doing to fill the time while I was looking.

      1. T. White*

        Hi Liz
        Yeah, during the two years, while searching for a job, I was definitely staying current. I took Microsoft office classes and did some side projects (off the books) for friends. I would think that given today’s economic situation, a 2+-year gap between jobs would be considered “normal” now.

        1. fposte*

          Most of the time it’s not that it’s abnormal, it’s that it can be a competitive disadvantage.

          1. Liz*

            It’s definitely a disadvantage, but I really believe that if you make it to that interview, they like you, and you can show them that haven’t been idle on your skills, then you can close the gap a bit. At least you’ll have an advantage over the person who can only say they’ve been focusing on the job search, and at most you show yourself to be someone who makes the effort under less than ideal circumstances.

    2. Cucumber*

      List projects you worked on, as a self-employed consultant. Work with a nonprofit and help them with something tied to your expertise. No one needs to know that you did it pro bono or for a small fee. If you didn’t do something like this over the past two years, I’m sure there was something else you could list.

      1. T. White*

        How (and where) would you list the projects you did during your unemployment period on your resume? (sorry if this is a silly question). Thanks

        1. Shortie*

          I have seen people list this as the most recent experience. One “position” with the bullets underneath explaining exactly what was done and when–so that you’re not overstating what you worked on, but you’re also not making it look like you had a ton of jobs in a short time.

    3. JM in England*

      I’ve had interviewers roll their eyes at me when I tell them that, like it’s my fault that I’m not getting hired!

  19. Graciosa*

    #4 – It’s not clear whether the person who posted the question is also the manager of the rejected internal candidates, which can make a difference in the conversations. When I’m the hiring manager, I try to stay in touch with the current manager of any internal applicants so that the messaging is not accidentally inconsistent. This should also help the current manager in their coaching role understand how other managers view the individual’s strengths and weaknesses.

    I will add that having these conversations is one of those managerial skills that is not easy or intuitive – it takes practice. It is infinitely kinder in the long run to deal with issues directly and provide honest feedback, but many people shy away from this. There’s a huge difference between “Jane, you’re doing a great job programming and we’re thrilled with your performance even though we found someone who was a slightly better fit for the customer job,” and “Jane, I know this is tough to hear, but your people skills are just not at the level we need to put you in a role where you would be dealing directly with customers,” possibly followed by specifics and coaching advice.

    Many managers don’t want to have the second conversation, so they fall back to the first approach or dance around the issue. This really isn’t a kindness to the employee – it isn’t truly kind without candor.

    1. Owl*

      Yes, this! I was rejected from an internal position a year ago, and was told “you’re doing great at your current job and wouldn’t do well at this one”, which is great, but there was no “because of x, y, and z.” I get nothing from my one-on-ones and performance reviews, so I guess that’s what I get. It also did not motivate me to apply again when it came up two months ago, not that I would have gotten it anyways, they’ve wanted the guy that got it since the first position came up.

  20. Mike B.*

    #3 – I’d acknowledge the bonus as a potential conflict of interest when speaking to your friend. I’ve referred several people over the years who have not ended up being happy at my company (I love it, but it’s definitely not for everyone), and I felt better knowing I hadn’t sung its praises without informing my friends that I would benefit if they came on board. Buy them a drink when the money comes through.

  21. anon-2*

    #4 – to tell the person he/she is great at their current job – might be good. It might also be telling the unsuccessful candidate = “we have decided to pigeonhole you, and dead-end your career.”

    And if politics are involved in the “passover” – the candidate is going to KNOW this. “Do me a favor, JT, don’t hire Betty, I need her here. I can’t afford to lose her. Tell you what, you don’t take Betty, I’ll give that opening as a clerk to your niece when she comes in here, OK?” THIS HAPPENS.

    All it does is hurt the company — and people. And, if you pass over someone for political reasons, it’s a situation that is impossible to fix. Salary? You can fix that with money. But if you’ve passed over the best internal candidate – it becomes Wednesday at the Mickey Mouse Club.

    Anything Can Happen Day. Quite often the after-effects are not always thought out. You lose the passed-over candidate. As a manager, you may have to justify your decision with a higher-up – or, to put it into better terms, pay the consequences for your move. And even if the passed-over candidate stays aboard — if the external hire fails – how do you approach the passed-over person for help?

    All the while there’s laughter (at you, behind your back) and gloating.

    1. LBK*

      Yikes. This sounds like a pretty toxic environment. Not sure if you’re just giving a worst case scenario but I assure you not all internal hiring plays out this way.

  22. Mimmy*

    #4 – Rejecting internal candidates

    Ugh yes, please give those rejected specific information! Every time a question about internal candidates comes up here, I think of my experience at a previous job. I don’t think it would’ve been a promotion, but I wanted OUT of the department I was in. The HR rep emailed me to come to her office at a given time to talk about the job, which got me exited, only to discover that the hiring department had promoted one of their own. I do appreciate that I was rejected in person, but I wish it had been via the hiring manager, who I knew pretty well. I don’t remember if they’d given me any specific reasons for not choosing me, though.

  23. JC*

    #3: I knew someone at my current employer when I applied for my job (we had previously worked together), and I told her I was applying when the job was listed. Once I was onboard I saw that my employer offers an employee referral bonus. The person I knew never told me that she got a bonus when I was hired, and honestly, I think it would have been a kind of awkward conversation if she did. I do hope that she got the bonus, though, and would never expect her to share it with me. My benefit was that knowing someone on the inside likely helped get me hired!

  24. Ash (the other one!)*

    Spinoff on the referral bonus question: my grad school colleauge (we worked in the same lab, so more than just classmates) is also at the organization I accepted a position at. The organization knows this. But, technically, I applied independently of her and didn’t indicate I was referred by her (several folks at the org also knew me from my previous job). I’d love for my friend to get the referral bonus, but is that possible/right in this circumstance? She and I were both told about this potential by fellow staff when we went out for lunch (none of which I will be directly working with)…

    1. Janis*

      Well, at my company, that would not be possible. You would have had to proactively mention or submit her name in the application process. It could not be backed into after the fact.

    2. Liz*

      My company is the same – you have to let them know before anyone gets hired. They have a referral website set up and if you don’t post the referral through it, you don’t get the bonus. There is some incentive to it because if you do submit a referral, they absolutely will call them and follow up with you about it.

      You could always try and make a case to HR and see what happens.

  25. Case of the Mondays*

    #2 sounds over the top with the personal tasks but I just wanted to point out that there are industries where having your assistant do *some* of your personal stuff is the norm. I’ll give you an example. I’m an attorney and bill by the hour. If there was something that had to be done during work hours that could be done by an assistant, my firm would rather we have our assistant do it as they do not bill by the hour and we can continue making the firm money. Also, the attorneys usually took their lunches in their offices while the assistant usually went out. If it was a nearby outside of the building task the firm would prefer the assistant tack it on after her lunch rather than have the attorney out of the office for a half hour.

  26. Laurie*

    For the HR internal candidates rejection, I have been through that recently where I applied for a job and HR decided to reject me even though I was a great fit for all of the qualifications. Instead of letting me know personally, they sent me a form email that was very off-putting. It would have been better to get a call from the hiring manager within my company that I was not going to be considered. That would have gone a long way.

    1. Felicia*

      I was working on a contract and applied for an internal permanent position that was basically what I’d already been doing for a few months. They sent me an impersonal rejection email as well, but what’s worse (and that stings enough like they don’t care about my work or something) they sent that AFTER the new person who actually did get the position started. Hours after, but still.

  27. Depends On HR and Their Motives*

    #1 I had a gap of a four months because I moved to another state for my husband’s job. Years later, a young recruiter called me out on that. I’ve concluded that she made a big deal about it because she didn’t want to hire me for another reason or because she was truly to young and inexperienced to understand the stress of moving across the country, setting up shop and looking for a job. Unfortunately, either way, it was my loss but I also feel they lost out on a great candidate.

  28. Cassie*

    We have a position opening up and there’s one employee who is 100% confident she’s going to get the position (she’s let it be known that if she doesn’t, she’s leaving). I’m not the hiring manager but if it were up to me, I would tell her:

    1) You are welcome to apply. We will consider all qualified candidates for the position.

    2) Since you are an internal candidate, we will take that into consideration too.

    Realistically, she isn’t a shoo-in because her current work performance is average/mediocre. She’s made some major mistakes, repeatedly, and doesn’t seem to learn from them. She sees herself as a stellar employee.

    Also, she and the other employee in the work unit probably wouldn’t work well together – neither of them are problem-employees (they are both far from it), they just have differing personalities that wouldn’t mesh well.

    Lastly, the general sense of entitlement that I get from her is a huge negative for me (plus the attitude towards this opening doesn’t help). If she were a strong candidate, that would be one thing. For someone that is just mediocre, it makes me think she doesn’t know her weaknesses.

    Although internal candidates might get some leeway by being an internal candidate, there are also some major pitfalls – ones that the hiring manager might not necessarily pick up on during interviews.

  29. KH*

    #3 – I just lost my job and am in the middle of the job hunt. Relying on friends and my professional network is probably going to be how I find the next one.
    I would love that my friend gets a referral bonus if I’m lucky enough to be hired. It’s a total win-win situation. I get a job and he/she gets recognized for making a successful referral! It never even crossed my mind that getting a referral bonus would somehow impact our relationship.

Comments are closed.