I hate my promotion and want my old job back, horrid interviewers, and more

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

1. I hate my promotion — can I ask to have my old job back?

I have been with my current company for almost three years now, my first position out of college. The first two years, I was in another department. I really enjoyed my time there. I had a great reputation for being a hard worker. Every review I received was excellent, I enjoyed my coworkers, my boss, and the work. I was even promoted twice during that time period.

My company posted an internal position that seemed right up my alley in a different department. It seemed like the work would be exciting, and I would be able to utilize my degree. After telling and getting the blessing from my boss, I applied for and got the job. I even had quite a few of my coworkers recommend me for this position. The job is considered a promotion, and it came with a rather large pay increase.

Flash forward six months into the new job, and I hate it! I could write a book on everything I hate about it (the work itself, the psychotic boss, the lack of organization), but the point stands that this position is just not a good fit for me. I did not evaluate the job offer well enough at all, I just saw the money and the promotion and went for it. Lesson learned!

I have been actively looking for other work, but I really like this company, and my coworkers. I heard through the grapevine that my old position may become open again. Is there any way of approaching my current manager about going back to my old position?

Sure — although I’d start with your old boss rather than your new one. Talk to her, let her know that you miss your old job and that you’re regretting leaving it, tell her that you’re seriously considering throwing your hat in the ring for the opening, and ask what she thinks. If she’s enthusiastic, then your next step is to talk with your current boss. You’ll need to do a pretty serious mea culpa — as well as be prepared to deal with how this will play out if you don’t get the old job back — but it’s entirely possible that this could work out well.

That said, are you absolutely sure that you want to go back to that job rather than just getting away from your current one? It’s easy to feel pulled back to the familiar when you’re unhappy with a new job, but it’s possible that you should be doing a full-fledged job search for something totally new instead.

2. Interviewers who won’t allow real conversation

I recently interviewed for a position with a young manager who hadn’t been at the job for long herself, and it was pretty awkward. I tried using the typical strategies (make it a conversation, give examples about past job experiences that demonstrate strengths, ask questions about the job, etc.), but it was unlike any other interview I’ve had and felt so forced. She had a questionnaire in front of her and asked one question after another, and seemed impatient when I tried to expand upon an answer or even ask her a question (and I’m not that chatty!). I did my best to adapt, but there was really no chemistry between us and she seemed in a hurry to get it over with.

Is this poor interviewer behavior? How can I adapt when I come across an interviewer like this in the future?

Yes, it’s crappy interviewing. It might be because she’s inexperienced, but it also might be that the company is a fan of the BS style of interviews favored by some academic and government agencies, where — out of a totally misguided and wrong-headed sense of “fairness” — interviewers aren’t permitted to deviate from a list of questions.

If you encounter it again, there’s not much you can do about it. Interviewers who are determined not to engaged in a substantive, genuine back-and-forth and who seem annoyed when a candidate tries to are failing in such a fundamental way that they can’t be saved.

3. Bullet points in cover letters

What are your opinions on 3-5 bullet points in cover letters to match job description requirements to your qualifications instead of a block of text? For instance:

“My qualifications are a good match for this role:
* Experience with electronic materials: Worked for 5 years and published 3 journal articles on chemical deposition of semiconductor materials (C, Si, P) for electronic applications.”

There’s nothing wrong with bullet points in cover letters in general, but I have an objection to this particular use of them, because it looks like you’re just planning to use them to summarize your resume. Employers are already going to get this information from your resume, so don’t squander your cover letter by simply repeating that stuff. Use it to say something new!

4. I don’t want my address displayed on my time card for others to see

Where I work, we sign in our hours on a time card and are told to also put down our address every week at the top of the time card. My problem is that I’m not very comfortable with anyone who needs to sign in being able to flip through the time cards and see everyone’s address. Is this legal? Could I refuse to put my address where everyone can see it?

There’s nothing illegal about them doing this, but you could certainly explain that you’re not comfortable with it and ask for a different arrangement.

5. How do I list this on a resume?

In January 2008, I was hired by a temp agency to be a contractor at Company X, working alongside other contractors and employees of Company X. In January 2009, I was hired by Company X. Everything about my job responsibilities and who I reported to stayed the same. In November 2011, my whole department was outsourced.

How do I list this on a resume? I’d prefer to have 3+ years show there instead of 2+, and I’d prefer not to have an employment gap of a year to explain by leaving it off. However, Company X is massive and will definitely report my employment there as Jan 2009 through Nov 2011 if anyone asks.

Like this:

Company X                  Jan. 2008 – Nov. 2011
   Contractor – Jan. 2008 – Jan. 2009
   Teapots Administrator – Jan. 2009 – Nov. 2011

{ 76 comments… read them below }

  1. Graciosa*

    Regarding #4, I admit to a little frustration when people resort to trying to enlist the law to avoid having to solve problems directly. Why not just have a conversation about this? Start by saying, “I’m really uncomfortable with having my address available to so many people. Is there a way to avoid that?”

    If the response is along the lines of “But we have to have your address to verify that we have the right Constantina Charlotte Hermantrude Guenivere Mazie Margareet Ann before we process payroll!” then the counter is to ask about using an employee number instead (probably won’t happen if this requires creating employee numbers) or to ask if you can just add the address at the last minute immediately before you turn in your card in a secure manner (which might be workable).

    All of that said – and as much as I really, really hate resorting to a discussion of legalities, I’m wondering whether there might be any issues with the company sharing personally identifiable information about the employees depending upon the location of the business? Most of these laws were written with only electronic data protection in mind and would not apply, but I believe that some countries’ may be written a little more broadly. I am going to assume Alison meant “not illegal in the U.S.” but if anyone who is an expert wanders by and has better information about the state of international privacy law, I’d be interested to learn more.

    Intellectual curiosity aside, I think Alison is absolutely correct that having a conversation is the right next step.

    1. Noah*

      I agree, having a conversation seems like the best place to start here, no need to go running in telling your company what they’re doing is illegal. There is likely a reason this process is in place, perhaps all paychecks are mailed and payroll wants to make sure they always have a current address. It is also possible this is stuck in the organization’s bureaucracy because of a past issue but is no longer necessary.

      1. anonmouse*

        I think many people want to know if they have legal standing b/c companies won’t budge otherwise.

        1. Colette*

          The problem is that if you go in talking about legalities, you’ve lost the chance to have a friendly conversation about it – it’s automatically a more aggressive conversation.

          1. snuck*


            As soon as you legalease it you lose any chance of them responding in a simple manner. Suddenly they have to turn the grinding and expensive and annoying and slow cogs of their legal response – because they face risks if they don’t. Whereas if you just ask them “why is this process like it is? can we look at an alternative so my address isn’t out for all and sundry to see?” then there’s likely a good chance you’ll be able to find a loop hole.

            If you have a particular reason for your address to remain private (restraining orders, custody issues, child protection issues etc – all with paperwork and official documentation) then you might be able to negotiate something else based on that. Even if it’s just personal preference then that’s fine, but go in soft, not hard!

    2. Megan*

      I also think the legal question – which is so, so often raised on AAM – is an American thing.

      I’m Australian and ‘is it legal?’ is a question that is NEVER asked.

      1. Jazzy Red*

        Why not? Are people more satisfied in their jobs? (I really am curious about this. Maybe we Americans just focus on this aspect too much. I dunno…)

        1. Felicia*

          I think it tends to be a more American thing to jump to legality rather than focus on fairness/unfairness. It’s also more common to sue for more things than in other countires, I think. Though that’s weird too, because in the US, there are a lot of things that are legal that wouldn’t be legal in many other countries, most of which have stricter employee protections.

          1. Ella D*

            I don’t get why other countries would focus on “fairness/unfairness” and NOT legality. If something is merely unfair, there is no recourse, no right to expect justice. Legality provides a framework and consequences for actions. I can agree that Americans probably file more frivolous lawsuits than others, but for *legit* ones, then that exemplifies the ability to seek and expect a real possibility to obtain that justice. Otherwise… if your boss likes to grab your behind as you walk past him,… well gee, that’s “unfair.” But tough luck :(

            1. MK*

              Most people assume that their employer is not stupid enough to indulge in breaking the law. Perhaps that is naive, but then again consider how relatively few of the employers this blog is dealing with have done so. Also, in my country at least, workers do have recourse in cases of unfairness, though it has to be quite extreme.

            2. snuck*

              Maybe we have a lot more legal protections in Australia – a boss grabbing your butt here in Oz *would* be open to legal recourse (sexual harrassment) … and while it still happens there’s a simple but very visible variety of support networks for knowing your rights and getting recourse – unions, state government employee rights networks etc – not too many of these that you can’t sort through them to find what you need to know though.

              If we have an issue we don’t file a suit generally ourselves but access one of those two and they handle it – our laws place fines and punishments for the companies and generally don’t set (large) compensation amounts for victims but set a reasonable restitution (so if you’ve been sexually harrassed out of a job you might get back pay, future pay for a reasonable period of time/lost earnings and a small amount of a few thousand compensation – assuming it was a low level case) … the companies pay a hefty fine that goes into the coffers to pay for the state government department that stands up for your defence in this. (Often the companies also have to make public apologies etc in large state wide papers etc)

              This reduces the litigious nature of it – there’s no personal greed being fed, there’s fair compensation for what’s happened, punishment for the perpetrator and the service is self funded to a nominal extent.

        2. Kas*

          I think it’s because the culture is more about starting from the assumption that everyone involved genuinely wants the outcome that best suits all partied, rather than about stomping straight in with big adversarial boots on.

      2. Peachtree Girl*

        While I know nothing about Australian employment laws, I’d suspect that the question isn’t asked there is because the legal protections are already in place, and have been for some time. The US worker has only a few highly specific laws protecting them against bad acts by an employer; there is no longer even any pretense that the employer does not hold all the power. I worked in employment law for three years and routinely saw employer behavior that would have been criminal in other countries. We ask “is it legal?” because we generally look to the law to resolve disputes over issues that have such a significant effect on our daily lives.

        1. Felicia*

          That too…for a lot of the “is it legal?” questions here , it is legal in the US, but it’s not legal in many other countries. So maybe when you already have more legal protections, you don’t jump to legality.

      3. snuck*

        Yeah… the is it legal question here in Oz is a serious shot across the bow and anyone who asks it gets a serious sideways look – particularly in corporate roles.

        As a manager of a large number of people in a variety of roles over the years in heavily institutionalised large corporates I’ve generally found that the people who poke at what’s policy, what’s legal etc without actually trying to have a nice conversation about it first are difficult people to work with and there’s other problems. If they really want a different outcome for themselves usually they just ask nicely and politely and give a simple reason – the ones who aren’t a nightmare to manage that is.

      4. Jane Jones*

        I’m Australian and I’ve definitely at least thought to myself “Is it legal?” about certain aspects of jobs I have had. The most recent one was whether it’s legal for a workplace to not have a first aid kit, when the job involves working with box cutters.

    3. Apollo Warbucks*

      A simple conversation with your manager is probably the best place to start, but there are some notes below that relate to the UK legislation surrounding the use of data.

      In the UK the Data protection Act regulates the use of personal data, and the act covers ALL data that could be used to identify an individual, held on computer, intended to be held on to a computer as well as data held in a paper based filling system, if stored in such away that it is easily retrievable.

      The following are the 8 principles of the act

      Data must be:

      * used fairly and lawfully
      * used for limited, specifically stated purposes
      * used in a way that is adequate, relevant and not excessive
      * accurate
      * kept for no longer than is absolutely necessary
      * handled according to people’s data protection rights
      * kept safe and secure
      * Not transferred outside the UK without adequate protection

      (There is stronger legal protection for more sensitive information, such as ethnic background, political opinions, religious beliefs, health, sexual health
      and criminal records.)

      I would suggest keeping address records publicly accessible would breach the 7th principle of the act that requires data to be held in a safe and secure manner, but only if the information on the time cards is entered on to a computer and/or they are then filed in some manner which meant they could be retrieved if necessary, which I assume they would be.

      1. UK Anon*

        Beat me to it!

        It was in response to the Data Protection Directive (tho’ a quick Google suggests that this will be superseded by a new Regulation soon) so there should be similar provisions across the EU as regards data protection.

      2. Chinook*

        The UK law sounds very similar to the Canadian law and I know that we sometimes have to point out to our American head office that a blanket request is illegal in Canada. I also know that such laws grow out of both abuse and accidental releases of information. Heck, we just had a law become active that makes it illegal for companies and organizations to email you without explicit permission or business/legal reason.

    4. BRR*

      Adding to your paragraph about location, if the OP is in the US it’s relatively easy to find someone’s address. In most states, home ownership is public record. Even if you rent, a good portion of the time you can be found with other services*. Sorry to be a bummer about it, it’s just a fact. But I get your discomfort (I would have it as well) and you should just bring it up or if they won’t change and it really bothers you get a PO box which I know is unfair but I can’t think of another solution at that point.

    5. Meg Murry*

      I’m guessing they are asking for your address for 1 of 2 reasons:
      1) to confirm where you want your check mailed if you were to quit (or your W-2), in which case, could you ask if you could just write “no changes” if its the same as the previous time period
      Or 2) to make sure they have the correct Joe Smith to go with the timecard, in which case I agree with the above that an Employee ID number of some kind would make much more sense.
      If you can’t do either of those, can you ask if there is a place you can put the timecards when done for the week? That way you can just fill in your address after your last punch out and drop it in a box somewhere.
      Although if your coworkers really want to know where you live, it wouldn’t be that hard for them to figure it out – either by looking up real estate records or just by following you home after a shift.

    6. Pete*

      I admit to a little frustration when people object to questions of legality. That’s an indication they don’t care about legalities and/or don’t believe rules apply to them.

        1. Graciosa*


          Also, I don’t think every possible action and aspect of human behavior requires legislation.

          1. Ask a Manager* Post author

            That’s my stance — I don’t get why people go straight there before even speaking up to their employer and saying, “hey, could we do X instead?” It’s much more adversarial than it (usually) needs to be.

            1. Loose Seal*

              Is it possible that they intend to start out with a friendly question/request to their employer but that they want to know in advance whether or not it’s actually a legal requirement in case their friendly request gets denied? Otherwise, I’m imagining an OP asking a question, hearing no, and then having to wait to follow-up with their boss after they’ve emailed AAM again.

              I don’t necessarily think asking whether something’s legal means that the OP intends to go in guns a-blazin’.

            2. Pete*

              OP didn’t ask their employer if it was legal. She asked the wisdom of crowds that is the internets if it’s legal. At the worst she’s grasping at straws that would make them more confident in the conversation with the employer that will have to happen, regardless.

              Oh, now that I see Loose Seal’s comment below this box–what they said.

            3. Peachtree Girl*

              Because if the employer says no, there is no place else left to go. Since the employer is allowed to say no to the overwhelming majority of employee requests, it only makes sense to determine your options beforehand. A conversation assumes that there is some equality in the relationship, when in practical fact there is no such equality.

    1. Eudora Wealthy*

      And then tear up your time card, and go to HR and say, “Oops, it looks like someone destroyed my time card. Can you give me a new one with my correct address?”

  2. Sue*

    This is along the same lines of Question #2, but does anyone have advice on how to deal with a critical or nasty interviewer? I know interviews are supposed to be business like, but some of them are feeling like I am on the witness stand at a trial.

    1. Ruffingit*

      I don’t think there really is a way to deal with people like that that is outside what you’d normally do. Be polite and be respectful yourself. Also, keep in mind that you can end the interview early if you feel like the critical and nasty personality isn’t something you want to deal with either for the rest of the interview or in the job itself should you be offered it. You can always say “It appears that I would not be a good fit for this job, so I think it’s best if we end the interview now. I appreciate your time, have a good day.”

      I’m sorry you’ve had to deal with this. Interviews can be very stressful and adding negativity, criticism, etc. on top of that just isn’t pleasant.

      1. Sue*

        Thank you for your kind response. The nature of the problem is that I’ve had a lot of jobs, and my two most recent positions have been temporary. There is a good reason for that as these positions represent my efforts to break into a certain field. The questioning goes something like, “You haven’t had a permanent job since 2008?” and “You’ve had a lot of short stints. That makes an employer wonder.” As Alison advised, I’ve worked on addressing this, but one of my more recent interviews just had me feeling steamrolled.

        1. Laura*

          Is there any way to nicely mark in your resume that they were intended to be temporary, vs. job-hopping, or to include that in your cover-letter? That way, places that might skip the interview entirely might call you – and the ones that do interview you, at least if the interviewer pays attention to the information, they’ll know already.

          Granted, you learn something when they take that tone, but in this case addressing it up front – before the interview stage – might help?

          1. Michele*

            Any freelance/contract position I have had I include that the position was just that on my resume. Most people understand that the position was never meant to be permanent based on the notation. Freelance/contract are very common in my field so it is not a big deal.

          2. Glor*

            I agree with this — the last official job I’ve held was seasonal/temporary, and I was only with the company for a month. To cover this [and because my job title actually includes it], the info on my resume states “Seasonal clinician, assigned to [X] location.” That way, it’s obvious right off the bat that it wasn’t supposed to be a long-term job.

        2. fposte*

          It sounds like the tone is the problem in this case, but I think Laura’s got a good point in that this is something prospective employers are going to want to know about, so whatever you can do to make the narrative clearer is a good thing.

        3. Ask a Manager* Post author

          Hmmm, those questions aren’t inherently hostile or argumentative; they’re pretty normal things that an interviewer will wonder. I think your best bet is to (a) head off those questions preemptively by explaining the situation on your resume or in your cover letter (not so that you don’t have to field questions about it in the interview, but because if it’s a concerns for interviewers, you’re probably being screened out over it earlier in the process by other employers, so addressing it earlier might get you more interviews, and (b) have a good answer ready for questions about it in the future. But the questions themselves don’t strike me as problematic.

          1. Sue*

            Thank you for your reply! I am in my early days on this site :) I agree the questions were fair, but it was the tone and perhaps the rapid fire delivery of three pointed questions in a row that lent itself to a hostile feel. It wasn’t enough to walk out over, although it was enough that I decided that job environment wasn’t a good fit.

  3. Judy*

    #5 – it might be even better to be:
    Company X Jan. 2008 – Nov. 2011
    Teapots Administrator (contractor) – Jan. 2008 – Jan. 2009
    Teapots Administrator – Jan. 2009 – Nov. 2011

    1. Ruffingit*

      I had a similar situation where I was hired as a temp and then hired on full-time. I never made any distinction on my resume about the temp job because the job was exactly the same when I was a temp and when I was hired on. Didn’t occur to me to separate the temp portion.

      1. Artemesia*

        The only issue might be if down the road someone checked dates and your company reported the dates as from the time of actual hire. I had a similar situation with a merger; I reported my start date as 1976 but the merger in 1981 meant that in the new system my start date was 1981. I am going to look like a liar if my resume doesn’t make the sequence clear. In my case it was complicated by the fact that I was terminated in the merger, but then immediately rehired by the new company so there was no discontinuity in my work but in my official date of hire. Some people were carried through the merger, but my department was eliminated and I am the only one who was subsequently then rehired.

        1. Ruffingit*

          Yeah, in that case it might be a problem. For me, this was a job outside my field and one I worked at off and on for five years. In those five years, I started as a temp, went to full-time, got laid off, came back as a contractor, had another big break from working there and then returned as a contractor before the contract ended. So there was a lot that went on with that job. At this point, I generally list it under freelance work because the majority of my time spent there was as a contractor. It’s not a big deal at all for me because the field I am in now never asks about that particular job. It’s outside my field and it’s only on my resume to show continuity and I never use the job or anyone there as a reference. It wouldn’t make sense to do so in my current field. But yeah, if someone needed the job as a reference or whatever, I could see it being problematic to list it without separating out the time spent in specific roles – temp, contractor, etc.

        2. Jamie*

          This is what I came here to say. If I have to verify employment for a former employee I’m going off the system, which will have the “perm” hire date – so while I totally get that the reality is x years you have to list them separately.

          Besides – may not be a big deal but then it says that you temped and then they hired you – signal that people don’t just hire you cold but even after working with you they want to add you to the team.

          1. Ruffingit*

            Yeah, I get why people would separate it. It just wasn’t an issue for me because that particular job is well outside my field and no one ever called them for references. They used the people in my current field as references instead. I never actually gave any thought to listing the time spent as temp/contractor in that job separately because I knew with near certainty that no one would ever call them for a reference. At some point, I think I removed the company name and just put it under my freelance writing work as I’d worked for them and for some others during the same period of time as a contractor. It just doesn’t matter in my current field, but if it was a job I was going to use for references or whatever, then I could see it mattering. Just never even occurred to me to do a separate listing especially when they became a client of mine along with other clients for contract work. My resume would have been terribly crowded with the separate listings for each client at that point so I just put it under freelance work and left it at that.

        3. LA Saturday*

          It’s a problem for Contractors in general. I contract with companies all the time, but outside of the project team and team leader, if a future prospective employer (not in this exact field) called a company to check dates, NO ONE would have any idea, outside the original team, when or even IF I ever worked there – because they would only have such info for their actual staff members. Since said teams often comprise contractors and staff that is very mobile to different national and even global offices, I don’t really have a way to “prove” dates/time periods, other than by showing some media coverage on the public launch of said project.

          1. Ruffingit*

            Yeah, that is an issue. Also, as a contractor, I worked for a few different clients at the same time doing freelance work. At some point, I just changed the listing on my resume to freelance writer and left it at that. I didn’t even list the companies because it would have been rather cluttered to do so.

  4. Waiting Patiently*

    I’ve been interviewing with several government agencies lately and really hate those standard questions. One of the last places I interviewed handed me the list of questions and asked me to answer them. It was so weird because it felt like I was having a conversation with myself. I’d ask myself the question, then I’d answer. Finally after question #3, I stopped asking myself the question and just started answering the question in a statement fashion. After each statement, I asked her if she needed me to elaborate– each time she said no. So I kept going.
    So weird but I guess they can’t deviate from the lists and she was trying to be “creative”.

    I’ve also noticed that at least the government agencies I’ve interviewed with are really horrible about asking for more information or clarity. Maybe they are limited with the follow up questions and they choose to not ask? But I find it really odd that out of 3 different agencies and several different interviewer, they have never needed me to elaborate more. Maybe I either hit the mark or vastly missed it!?

    Anyway, even though I felt like I could have clarified a couple answer better, the last interview ended with an offer–(just not the right offer for me)

    1. Ask a Manager* Post author

      Government interviews often (but not always) work like this. They’ve (wrongly) decided that in order to be “fair” to all candidates, they’ll ask them all the same questions and never deviate from the list, which means no follow-up questions. Which leads to ridiculous situations like the one you describe. It’s terrible hiring.

      1. Gene*

        I’ve worked for government agencies for essentially my entire adult life, and I graduated from high school during the Nixon administration. While I agree that it is terrible hiring, it’s a direct result of attempts to eliminate corruption, patronage, and nepotism in public sector hiring. The first steps are designed to be as objective as possible; that’s why you’ll usually see a written test as the very first step for positions that will draw large applicant pools. For those that will have smaller pools, there will usually be a supplemental questionnaire that will be graded like a test. Only after those will an applicant move on to an actual interview, and the first interview will likely be the set question type.

        In the city I currently work for, after that the top three applicants are invited to interviews with the hiring manager, that’s where the real interview will happen. It’s inefficient, it’s cumbersome, it’s bureaucratic, but it’s the result of lawsuits and laws passed. Here’s a page that summarizes what we have to go through in Washington and some of the legal requirements.

        Trust me, there are times when the people doing the hiring hate it as much as any applicant.

        1. Anon*

          This makes a lot of sense, especially in light of the discussion about people asking, “Is it legal?”

          1. Liz*

            Hello Guys, Yes, my first response to #2 was that this person may just be inexperienced. While stiff, formal, completely scripted interviews are annoying, there are often some standard questions that need to be run through, to make sure every candidate on the list gets the same questions. As a hiring manager, I feel like I am NOT doing my job if I ask everyone different questions. The goal in the end is to compare apples to apples (sort of). For me personally, I always end a job interview with a chance for some freeform interaction, and I try to keep the tone throughout the interview comfortable and flexible. But, I can’t (and don’t really want to) escape that introductory list of questions. Also, some employers might save the more freeform “get to know you” questions for those people who made the first cut. If that stuns people, the are not going to make it to the next round. While the goal of interviewing is of course, to learn about the company at the same time, give an organization a chance. You might be writing a company off too soon in a first interview by being ridged about your perception of the interviewers rigidity. Good luck!

            1. AVP*

              To be fair, your job is to get the best person into the job, not to ask everyone questions, but I can see how one could hopefully lead to the otter for some interviewers. That said, are you able to at least ask follow up questions? For me thats the big divide between effective interviewing and not really getting the right information.

      2. inkstainedpages*

        I work for a non-profit and am currently getting my Masters in Public Administration. They taught us in class that we must have the same list of questions for every candidate, must ask them all, and not ask other questions, or else our interviewing practices could be considered illegal. (Many other classmates work in government.) Ugh. Good thing I know better :)

  5. Asker #2*

    Hah! Thanks for the answer! That’s a relief. It was actually an academic environment (one-year undergraduate fellowship at my department). I interviewed for two different positions with different managers, and the second interview experience was worlds different, very conversational and relaxed (and I got the job!).

  6. C Average*

    #1, a few years back I had a really awful manager who’d been stellar in his previous role. He took a demotion back to his old role and is still in that role.

    I hated reporting to him–he really wasn’t management material–but I respected the holy heck out of him for being aware of his shortcomings and taking steps to return to his old role.

    One thing, though: that guy is NEVER going to get another promotion. He will be remembered forever as the guy who tried to advance and couldn’t hack it. He’s really valuable to the business in his current role. He’s been there forever, knows it inside out, and is instrumental in onboarding new people. But he’s never going to get another shot at moving up, at least in our department. I also think the experience shook his confidence so badly that he’ll likely never try to move up.

    His spouse is the primary breadwinner in his family, and I think he’s made his peace with the idea that he’s going to retire in a fairly low-level position. He seems to enjoy his work day to day and have no ambitions of moving up or moving on. We’ll certainly keep him as long as he’s happy and wants to stay.

    1. Adam*

      I had concerns related to this for #1. If the OP does go back to the old job, that may be best for him at the moment, but depending on the office atmosphere that could very easily color his reputation in the eyes of the higher ups and effective stall any further opportunity he may have at this place of work. As Alison said starting fresh somewhere else very well may be the best option.

      1. MK*

        I agree. The OP is, more or less, going to ask for a demotion. It’s quite possible that ”I am not happy” will be interpreted as ”I couldn’t make it”. It will probably be viewed as lack of ambition. This is hardly going to look good on a resume.

  7. AnotherAlison*

    Ugh, number 1. I had a coworker in a similar situation, only no one wanted her to come back. She only lasted a few weeks in the other job, so her position was still open. The decision to allow her back was made by an executive 2 levels above her manager. And no one talked to her when she came back, and she never went to any team building or lunches with anyone else.

    If you want to go back, make sure they want you. Before she left, she outwardly didn’t get along with one person, but I don’t think she knew EVERYONE had a problem with her. Since she’s been back, she’s been miserable in this role too. Alison’s suggestion to do a new search might be best.

    1. Jamie*

      It amazes me that some people can’t read the room and are oblivious to the animus from other people. I’ve known someone where literally no one likes them, due to work related/ethical/personality reasons but doesn’t see it. And openly talks about how they left three previous jobs due to “personality conflicts” but speaks as if it’s a coincidence that he’s worked with so many people who just don’t like them.

      1. Ruffingit*

        God yes, I know people like this too. In fact, I’m working with one such person who refuses to understand that aspects of her personality and her distinct inability to understand workplace norms is the cause of many of her problems in the present and the past at jobs. She’s had numerous issues at various jobs and although she said she’s taking steps to understand why, there are some very basic things she just can’t seem to grasp. It is amazing.

        1. blu*

          I once interviewed a candidate who had left every previous job due to some version of personality conflicts or not being understood. We are talking multiple jobs over 15 year period including a company he started and was forced out of. He did not have a lick of self-awareness that he could possibly be the issue.

  8. mm*

    #1: About 7-8 years ago I took a promotion for the money and I also hated my new job. I gave it a couple of months then told my boss I was not happy in my new job. Since no changes were made I thought I was going to have to tough it out or find a new job. But a couple of months later they offered me my old job back with a new title and more money (equal to what I was getting with my promotion). Then they found someone more suited to the new job. I have stayed at that job and have been promoted again, into management this time, so it can work out to go back to your old job. Talk to your old boss. Maybe they can find a way to work things out.

  9. Anony*

    I wanted to comment on #2. I work for a very large global company and as managers we are forced to use their interview template and not deviate. I fought and fought but I’ve been told it was a must. It boils down to them being scared of lawsuits. I completely disagree with the practice but we aren’t give the option to open up to regular conversation.

    1. Heather*

      A small-ish company I worked for did this too. the director of my region had been the person who wrote the interview template, and was quite insistent that everyone use it and not deviate. Answers were scored, and the person with the highest score was the first person offered the position. When the director and I were interviewing people together, I was usually given the opportunity to ask questions of my own. The person being interviewed and my director would often compliment me afterwards for asking questions that were thoughtful and promoted discussion.

      i don’t know if this employer was scared of lawsuits or just didn’t have any interest in training people on how to interview. Could easily have been both.

  10. Buffay the Vampire Layer*

    Re: structured interviews like the government uses.

    I’ve encountered a number of these, which are usually panel interviews. Sometimes, you can sense that the interviewers would prefer to interview in a less rigid way. If that happens, I almost always use the opportunity to ask questions at the end to ask “Is there anything you’d like me to address which I haven’t already?” It gives them an out and tends to make everyone a lot more comfortable.

    Definitely do NOT do this if the interviewers are taking the list of questions very seriously. I would imagine it wouldn’t have the same result.

  11. Academic librarian anon*

    The interviews for my present position at a R1 University were just like that
    No discussion. When I took a breath I would ask….did that answer your question? and they would say yes.

    The phone interview started with- we have 5 questions. We need you to answer these 5 questions and if there is time you can ask us a question.

    The on site was an entire day of written questions read aloud. By the end of the day all I was thinking was, no way was I taking this job if offered. What a bunch of stiffs. What a miserable experience.

    One week later 5 written questions came in the email to complete. I sucked it up.

    I got offered the job. Accepted it. It was the right choice. Turns out all of those people were required to conduct the interviews in that format without divination.

    1. Simonthegrey*

      Yep. When I interviewed for a part time position at the community college I adjunct for, there was a rigid list of 10 questions, and then 5 minutes for me to ask questions. Luckily I had already been doing the basics of the job, and knew the people I was interviewing with, but if I had not it would have felt very confining and rigid.

  12. Academic librarian anon*

    Clarifying – the on-site was a day of 45 minute meetings each with a different administrator or a group of faculty and staff. There was a an afternoon “coffee” to meet the department but that was just as awkward.

  13. aewq*

    Re: 1. I hate my promotion — can I ask to have my old job back?

    OP, I was in the exact same situation you were in! It was my first job out of college, and I loved the company, my coworkers, boss and the job was decent for an entry-level position. A year later, I applied to an internal position with my current manager’s recommendation. I took the offer disappointed that I would be leaving behind a great team and boss, but happy that I was getting a “promotion” and raise. I realized I made a mistake and regretted taking this offer within the first few weeks but thought I just needed to give it some time. Fast forward a few months and I still wanted my old job back.
    Problem was, my old team gave a goodbye party and my old manager gave me a good reference and my thought was it would just be too weird to go back to what I was doing and seeing the same people again…. that I had left. I ended up leaving the company and although I am satisfied with the job I took after this disaster, I’m glad I got what AAM said, “a fresh start.”

  14. OP #1*

    Thank you all for the advice! I think it is time to just get a new gig going on. It is a good point that it will look strange to back peddle.
    I really think I just rushed into the job without thinking about it beforehand. I had that feeling in the interview that maybe something was not right, but I ignored it.
    Well, at least I have lots of advice for getting out there again! Thanks!

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